This is a (fairly) traditional Simnel cake with the addition of pretty crystallized flowers. These cakes were traditionally made by girls working in service and they took them home to their mother’s on Mothers day. It was probably the one day in the year they could go and see their family so it must have been very special. The cakes were topped with 11 marzipan balls to represent the true disciples and I have added the pretty frosted flowers. I’ve managed to ‘convert’ many ‘marzipan haters’ to homemade marzipan so give it a go, it has a much more nutty taste without the chemical aftertaste of the marzipan flavourings used in bought varieties. If you want to use it for an Easter Cake instead of a Simnel Cake just leave off the marzipan balls and decorate with the crystallised flowers, fresh flowers or little eggs and chicks and finish it off with a ribbon.
NB re-reference to washing dried fruit -it used to be what you had to do years ago (and perhaps some ‘proper’ bakers still do). I remember seeing all the dirt & sludge that came off the fruit nowadays the fruit is of better quality….and then there were the trays of the fruit drying before it could be used (so it didn’t all sink to the bottom). The soaking did plump up the fruit, I suppose that the farthest I would go down this line, nowadays is to soak the fruit in brandy or whisky. She would also cut up each sultana with scissors so that the fruit was also of equal size. Apologies for my shortcomings mum x
This recipe for my special mince pies with orange pastry is my most requested recipe ever so I’m happy to share it again with you all! They are made with homemade mincemeat in a rich crumbly, orange flavoured pastry. The mincemeat is delicious, not oversweet and juicy with apples & nuts, it is nothing like many bought varieties which for me are too sweet & ‘pasty’ if you see what I mean. It’s very easy to make. It’s just an assembly job really, not really a recipe, so the most time-consuming thing is buying the ingredients.
If I can’t persuade you to make your own then buy a good quality one & add some chopped apple & nuts plus dash more brandy and it will improve it no end.!
Here is the mincemeat recipe from a previous post:
To make the mince pies I’m using a special Sweet Orange Pastry which is lovely and crumbly & rich with the addition of egg yolk and zest of orange. For the best pastry, you need to keep everything cool and don’t over-process or over mix. Cold hands help, mine are always on the cold side so that’s an advantage. I’m sure that I go with the ‘I can’t make pastry’ idea like everything else it is practice (and a good recipe), if you don’t have time or don’t enjoy making it then that’s different -ready-made ones are fine and readily available. (I don’t think you can get an orange flavoured one though!)
I love the smell of mince pies baking in the oven not just because I know they will be delicious to eat but it calls to mind all the happy memories of my childhood Christmas and memories that we have made of family Christmases over the years. I think if I said I was going ‘to do something different this year’ there would be ructions!
My fresh Salmon, Asparagus tartlets use my favourite fresh herb has to be dill and my vegetable garden is full of it and I’m always looking for ways to use it (you can search for Marinated Courgette with Dill -another favourite recipe). Fresh herbs make such a fab difference to your cooking and I try to fresh herbs when they are in season. Dried herbs just don’t taste like the real thing and I’d much rather cook something different & seasonal. I know that you can get basil in a supermarket in December but it just isn’t the same. All is not lost however if you can’t do this, some fresh herbs freeze very well including dill (hoorah), parsley and coriander. Just chop them up and put in a plastic bag ( a zip lock bag is good as you are going to dip in and out of it). Pat it out so the herbs are just in a thin layer and freeze. After that, a quick scrunch means that they aren’t frozen in a block and easy to use as you want.
I digress, these Salmon and Asparagus & Dill tartlets are delicious and look so pretty. They do take a bit of effort but you can’t always be a slouch and if you want to impress then give these a go. You can use all different sorts of fillings as long as it is previously cooked and bind it with the ‘basic tart mix’ and away you go. The cases can be made well ahead and frozen. If I have some leftover pastry I often use it for a tart or two (it’s surprising how little pastry they take), freeze it and then I can use them when I want. You can also do the same with sweet pastry (with fillings such as strawberries, raspberries or my favourite lemon tart). Lable them carefully, I have to admit that whilst testing this recipe I mixed them up and my son got a very strange tasting tart! It was a lucky dip 3 were with sweet pastry and three with ordinary pastry. Hmmm…
I’m not keen on the traditional Christmas cake so this is my alternative one -my Festive Cherry Berry Pecan Cake. Not surprisingly it is packed with cherries, berries and pecans. It’s also one for marzipan lovers that don’t like icing -me! I only make it a few days before Christmas but it keeps well loosely wrapped in foil and in a cake tin. I love to eat this on boxing day afternoon with a glass of something fizzy or perhaps a sloe gin. Lovely.
Loathe marzipan? -Let me convert you with my homemade marzipan…it’s very different with a more nutty flavour rather than the tongue tingling aftertaste of artificial almond flavour. This amount of marzipan will give you lots of stars, crescents, holly leaves or whatever you have cutters for. If you leave them dry a little they will pack into bags as presents for your favourite marzipan lover.
Have a lovely Christmas and a very peaceful New Year.
Lavender shortbread thins-a little taste of summer..
Oops where did summer go? I’m hanging on to the idea that there is a lot more to come and crossing my fingers for an ‘Indian summer’-to be fair here in Cumbria we often have lovely weather in September ………once all the children have gone back to school. That is a shame
I love my garden and love the idea of using flowers in my recipes what could be prettier-delicate blue borage flowers in ice cubes or drinks, peppery nasturtium flowers & calendula petals in a freshly picked salad, courgette flowers stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese & fried and delicate rose petals to adorn a special cake….I could go on.
These lavender shortbread thins are delicate little biscuits perfect for serving with home made ice cream, mousses or something like a creamy lemon posset or with afternoon tea. I have used a ‘sausage’ technique for making them which easily gives thin biscuits with a good ‘snap’. You can use this method to make any sort of biscuits that require rolling out a dough and cutting out shapes. The biscuits are not perfect rounds so if you want that you will have to go back to the usual methods. You can also make these with finely chopped rosemary again take care as rosemary has a powerful flavour.
Simple oaty biscuits to bake at home? Simple is great and it’s a shame that simple is often thought to be boring.
My mother is a Scot and I was brought up eating lots of oats, porridge, oat cakes, haggis, muesli, flap jacks, oaty bread, oaty biscuits and a delicious pudding called cranachan, a creamy mix of raspberries, toasted oatmeal and whisky. I have to admit to preferring porridge made with rolled oats (not pinhead), milk (not water) and sugar (not salt). We were subjected to ‘proper’ porridge on visits over the border to see grandparents and I still shudder at the memory. Our rolled oats of choice was Scott’s Porage Oats. Who could resist the athletic, kilted Scots man on the packet about to release his shotput over the glorious highlands?.
Oats are healthy to eat, high in fibre, cheap to buy, nutritious and their slow release, wholegrain goodness will keep you going until lunchtime and beyond…what’s not to love?
This recipe for oaty biscuits comes from a Scottish (of course) friend Fiona, have a go they are simply delicious!
FIONA’S OATY BISCUITS
125g Plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
125g rolled oats
125g unrefined caster sugar
125g block margarine or butter
Generous tablespoon golden syrup
Splash of milk
Prepare a baking tray with baking paper. (It is helpful to have two trays if you have them as the biscuits take up quite a lot of space in the oven)
Put the flour, baking powder and oats in a bowl and mix together.
Melt the sugar, margarine and syrup in a small pan and then add to the dry ingredients.
Stir until incorporated. The mixture should be quite stiff but add a very little milk if it doesn’t come off the spoon easily. Drop approx. a small desert spoonful of mixture onto the baking sheet, it helps to use a teaspoon to push the mixture off the spoon.
Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium oven at approximately 160C, Gas mark 2. When golden remove from the oven, allows them to cool a little and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
NOTE: It is easy to put too much too much mixture on the tray, the biscuits need room to spread or you will end up with one large (but equally delicious) biscuit!
School holidays and sunshine (well it is here in the West, sorry East but it is usually us in the rain and cold!). Time to head out for a picnic-these portable, Sausage & Egg Picnic Pies are scrumptious. They are a bit more of a fiddle to make than a cheese sandwich but they don’t curl up around the edges when you leave them out in the sun and……………they are delicious. If you can get hold of a nice, meaty, sausage rather than a more processed one that is better.
So head off in to the great outdoors or just down to the bottom of the garden or local park and have fun in the sun! Toodle pip