Cocoa Rum Dessert

This boozy, moussy choco-oozy dessert is gorgeously decadent and quite unlike anything I have ever eaten. Crunchy amaretti biscuits on the bottom give way to a velvety chocolatey middle and then a silken caramel topping…all with a distinct but delicate infusion of rum – fabulous! (And it’s easy and you can make it ahead of when you want to indulge in it).

Serves 10

What you need…

1 x 1.5 litre loaf tin

1 x medium, deep-sided roasting tin

100g caster sugar

50g brown sugar

4 large, happy eggs

500ml full fat milk

3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder

50ml golden rum

200g amaretti biscuits (the crunchy ones, not soft), crumbled

Crème fraîche, to serve

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 160˚c / 325˚f / gas 3.

Melt the caster sugar in a small frying pan (I like to use copper for this sort of thing) over a moderate heat until you get a rich, chestnutty-coloured caramel – swirl the pan to help the sugar melt but don’t touch it or stir it!

Pour the caramel into your loaf tin and tilt it around until the base is evenly covered. Set aside.

Into your food processor tip the brown sugar and eggs and whizz for around 3 minutes or until the mixture is pale and slightly thickened. Tip in the milk, cocoa and rum and whizz for 30 seconds. Remove the mixing blade and then use a spoon to stir through the amaretti biscuits.

Tip the whole lot into your loaf tin. Pop the loaf tin into the roasting tin and fill the latter up with just-boiled water from the kettle. Carefully transfer to the middle of your oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove and leave to cool in the tin, then pop into the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, or until needed.

To serve, carefully run a knife around the edge of the tin and then invert the dessert onto a pretty serving plate, spooning over any caramel left behind in the tin.

Slice and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche – decadently indulgently delicious!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver who in turn was given this dessert by Baroness Susanna in Turin!

How easy…

Very and it looks and tastes like waaaaaay so much more effort was required.

Christmas Rocky Road

Wow! This stuff is just gorgeous and completely addictive. Crunchiness mixed with mellow, slightly melted mallow and the joy that is the mix of chocolate and golden syrup. Nuts, glace cherries and amaretti biscuits all combine to create something that can only be described as a seasonal joy! Just lovely!!!

Makes around 30+ bite-sized poppables!

What you need…

1 x 23 x 29cm-ish baking tin, lined with foil

250g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

150g milk chocolate, broken into chunks

175g butter

4 tablespoons golden syrup

200g amaretti bisuits (not the soft ones)

150g brazil nuts, shelled

150g glace cherries

125g mini marshmallows

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

In a large saucepan, tip in your chocolate chunks, butter and syrup and let the whole lot melt together over a low heat.

Meanwhile, in your food processor, fit the cutting blade and whizz the brazil nuts to rubble. Tip them out and set aside. Then do the same with your amaretti biscuits – it won’t take very long so just a quick whizz or you’ll get dust rather than rubble!

Once everything has melted, take the pan off the heat and tip in your nuts, amaretti, cherries and marshmallows. Gently stir the lot so that everything is evenly covered in the chocolate mix.

Tip the lot into your foil-lined tin. Run a spatula over the top so that it’s flatish. Pop in the fridge for 2 hours.

Invert your rocky road out of the foil-lined tin and cut into bite-sized ‘poppable’ squares. Stack up so it’s roughly rocky-road-mountain-like, dress with daft figures and dredge with icing sugar. Serve to everyone’s absolute delight! Just keep popping them in – it’ll be hard not to!!!!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Child’s play!

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

A great one this one if you’ve got friends popping around to lunch close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly)! This is the perfect festive dessert – it’d dead easy, really lovely and very Christmassy but light. You can knock it up in a jiffy and it cooks itself whilst you’re enjoying your main course. A bonus is the scent of Christmas that wafts through the house whilst it’s cooking!

Serves 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

60ml milk

60ml double cream

3 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c / 350° f / gas 4.

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the mincemeat over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating mincemeat sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the triangular sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and caster sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the Christmas smell as it’s cooking is wonderful.

Serve your Christmas mincemeat bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream and a whole bunch of festive cheer!

Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white – there are some lovely festive loaves in the supermarkets at the moment.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (this is essentially my version of her Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding but with the Marmalade replaced by mincemeat!

How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: an absolute gift during the festive season!

Spiced Poached Pears with Stilton

An absolute stunner this one: the combination of the sweet, festively spiced pears with the rich, creamy flavour of a fine Stilton is quite simply eye-rollingly, tastebud-partyingly good!!!!! Give them a try – spectacular – and yes, very easy and can be made ahead – my kinda recipe!

What you need…

300ml ‘robust’ red wine (I used Chianti)

300ml water

110g caster sugar

1.5cm cinnamon stick

3 cloves

Juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange

6 firm (but not rock-hard) pears

A rather exuberant wedge of good quality Stilton

What to do…

Tip all the ingredients except the pears into a large saucepan and place over a moderate heat, occasionally stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stalks on and place upright in the pan – they should fit snugly.

Pop the lid on the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, spooning the red wine syrup over the pears a couple of times.

Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon and cloves. Spoon the syrup once more over the pears and then pop into the fridge overnight.

Take the Stilton out of your fridge at least an hour before you want to enjoy it and then, when you’re ready to indulge, remove the pears from the syrup and cut a thin slice off the bottom to ensure they will stand upright on the serving plates. Cut yourself a nice, fat slice of Stilton and serve with a pear drizzled with just a little of the the spicy syrup:  del-ic-ious!!!!

Tip…

Use 3 pears with the Stilton and follow by serving the remaining 3 pears with cinnamon ice-cream!!!!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Really easy!

Christmas Tear ‘n’ Share Soda Bread

This little number is scheduled for breakfast on the morning of Christmas Eve. Straight from the oven, it’s fabulous on it’s own or with a festively unhealthy slathering of fridge-cold butter. The lovely Christmas fruit and spices work wonderfully in this sweet bread that is ridiculously easy to make.

What you need…

1 x baking tray, dusted with flour

350g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

25g golden caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

30g pitted dates, chopped

30g dried cranberries

30g sultanas

30g raisins

30g pecans/walnuts, chopped

300ml buttermilk

½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste

A sprinkling of candied peel

A sprinkling of demerara sugar

A sprinkling of icing sugar, for decoration

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar, salt, spices and fruit.

Mix the vanilla paste into the buttermilk and then pour the whole lot into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to bring the ingredients together to create a dough.

Tip the dough out into the centre of your baking tray and use floured hands to roughly flatten it out a bit into a circle. Use your spatula to cut the dough into even slices, making sure you cut all the way through (the number of slices is up to you).

Sprinkle with candied peel and demerara sugar and pop into the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave the bread on the baking tray for 10 minutes before sprinkling with icing sugar. Pop your Christmas soda bread onto a festive plate and put in the middle of the table for much tearing and sharing!

Tip…

If you can’t get buttermilk, mix full fat milk with 3 tablespoons lemon juice instead.

Inspired by…

I watched Nadiya Hussain make a chocolate soda bread recently and substituted the chocolatey ingredients for Christmassy ones – had to make a couple before I got the recipe just right but we persevered (tough job – someone had to do it!!!!)

How easy…

Dead easy and really quick. For a bread it requires very little attention.

 

Bacon and Black Pudding Pasta with Scrumptious Ginger, Palm Sugar and Cream Sauce

We eat A LOT of pasta, but when I dished this one up, our son, Connagh, declared it as the best pasta he had ever tasted (he’s a 19-year old foodie, so his gastronomic opinion counts). How to describe it…..the sauce has a delightful, tangy sweetness that works spectacularly well in contrast to the earthy richness of the black pudding. I think it might also be slightly addictive: once the first mouthful passes your lips, you simply yearn for more!!!! What more can I say: try it and let me know!!!!!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 baking trays, foil-lined

8 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon

200g black pudding, chunkily sliced

Your favourite shaped dried pasta

for the sauce

50g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

75ml water

2 cloves

50g palm sugar

300ml double cream

200g baby spinach

What to do…

Starting with the sauce, pop the ginger into a large saucepan with the water and cloves. Bring to the boil and then turn down and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the cloves and add the sugar and dissolve. Tip into your food processor/blender and whizz until the ginger is reduced to small chunks.

Return the ginger mixture to the saucepan, pour in the cream, chuck in the spinach, whack on the lid and set aside.

Spread the bacon around on 1 baking tray and use the other for the black pudding. Pop the bacon in the oven and cook until crispy (15-20 minutes). Pop the black pudding in at the same time but cook for only 10 minutes, turning over after 5 minutes. Once cooked, remove both from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions.

When your pasta is nearly cooked, break up the bacon into little pieces and likewise, cut the black pudding into chunks.

Heat your saucepan of sauce over a moderate-high heat and stir whilst the cream warms up and the spinach wilts. Transfer the pasta into the sauce, tip in the black pudding and mix gently but thoroughly together.

Serve in warmed bowls and scatter the crispy bacon over the top. Absolutely bloody gorgeous!

Inspired by…

Most of the essential ingredients were inspired by a James Martin scallops-led recipe! Needless to say, from that inspiration, there has been quite a bit of mental mucking about for me to come up with this! Some people dream of holidays and other grand schemes; me: I wake up with recipes dancing around my head!

How easy…

So very, very easy and so spectacularly gorgeous!

 

Winter Pasta Sauce of Chicken Livers and Bacon, Port and Red Wine

This gutsy version of the traditional ragu is a fabulous combination of a rich sweetness provided by the port, perfectly balancing the silky, complex, intense flavour of the rosy-pink chicken livers. A definite favourite in this house, it’s the type of comforting dish you want to come home to on a cold, blowy Winter’s day – delicious! Oh, and the photograph doesn’t do it justice!!!!

Serves 4 hungry people

What you need…

A splash of olive oil

5 rashers of streaky bacon, roughly chopped

150g onions, chopped

2 bay leaves

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

150g minced beef

1 tablespoon tomato paste

75ml port

75ml red wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Knob of butter

125g chicken livers, roughly chopped

Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Your favourite pasta (choose a shape that collects lots of sauce!)

What to do…

Pour the olive oil into a large saucepan over a high heat and tip in the bacon, cooking and occasionally stirring for a couple of minutes until golden and crispy.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to kitchen paper. Turn the oil in the pan down to moderate and add the onions, cooking and stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or so, until soft and only slightly golden.

Return the cooked bacon to the pan together with the bay leaves, garlic, minced beef, tomato paste, port and red wine. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil before reducing the heat and simmering for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid has almost completely evaporated.

Meanwhile, cook your favourite pasta, following the packet instructions.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a moderate heat, add the chicken livers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-4 minutes or until they have browned but are still pink in the middle. Tip them into the mince mixture and cook for 1 minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Splash in about 75ml of the pasta cooking water into the mince mixture and then drain the rest. Tip the drained pasta into your delectable, gutsy sauce and serve with lots of freshly grated Parmesan over the top. A glass of red wine wouldn’t go amiss either – wonderful!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Very easy and so rewarding!

 

Halloween Black Forest Cupcakes

There’s absolutely no reason why Halloween treats should be restricted to children and these delicious little cakes with their naughty Kirsch-infused cherry filling within the dark chocolate sponge are quite magical. The fiendish dollop of sweet cream on the top completes the wicked trickery! Enjoy!

Makes 12

What you need…

1 x 12-hole muffin tin, lined with paper cases

180g unsalted butter, softened

180g caster sugar

3 large, happy eggs, beaten

130g self-raising flour

50g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

for the filling and topping

450g frozen black cherries

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 star anise

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Kirsch/cherry brandy

300ml double cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar

10g dark chocolate, shaved or grated (or one broken up Flake bar!)

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Into your food processor tip the butter and sugar and then whizz until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour in the beaten egg, making sure that each addition is fully incorporated before you add any more. Tip in the flour and cocoa, whizz to combine; add the vanilla bean paste and whizz again.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, turn to the filling. Tip the cherries into a pan over a moderate heat and add the lemon juice, caster sugar, star anise and water. Bubble gently for 15 minutes, until starting to turn gorgeously jammy. Stir in the Kirsch and set aside to cool.

Once everything is cool, scoop out a teaspoon or so of the middle of each sponge, popping the retrieved and superfluous sponge into your mouth just to check for quality! Fill the remaining holes up with the cherry compote.

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until peaks form and then pipe or slather the cream over the top of each cake. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings and serve – deliciously wicked!!!!

Tip…

The frozen cherries usually come in 350g bags so there are loads left over. My vote is either to stir them into a natural yogurt with maybe a little honey or….the favourite: tip them into a sterilised jar and pour Kirsch over them – let them gather flavours in there for a couple of weeks (in the fridge) before serving with ice-cream – delicious!

Inspired by…

Waitrose and Partners Food

How easy…

Childs play – does take a little time though, just whilst the sponges and filling cool down.

Delia’s Classic Christmas Cake

If you’re planning on making your own Christmas cake this year, then don’t leave it much longer: the cake – which is so easy to make and simply gorgeous – needs feeding (with brandy) every 10 days or so between now-ish and the main event in December. Moist, laden with fruit and festive flavour, this recipe – another one inspired by Delia Smith – is fabulous and again, the smell as it’s cooking is heaven-scent! Enjoy!

What to do…

For the full recipe, type ‘Christmas Cake’ into the search box in the top right hand corner of my home page

Makin’ Mincemeat!

Once you’ve tried homemade mincemeat, you won’t buy the shop versions again – I promise! Made last week, this recipe takes a bit of prep the night before you want to cook it and then you have to be in the house for the 3 hours that it nestles in the oven but…oh what a joy: the whole house is just filled with aroma of Christmas – festively fabulous!

Anyway, get your jars sterilised and make this gorgeous Christmas treat, a recipe that is courtesy of Delia Smith.

For the full recipe, just type ‘mincemeat’ into the search box in the top of the home page and Delia’s recipe of festive deliciousness will appear! Enjoy!

mincemeat uses w

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