Friday, 28 May 2010

Looking for Elderflowers

For the last couple of years I thought it would be nice to make some elderflower cordial, so finally, this morning, off I went looking for some elderflowers.  Sadly I only found one elderflower head in full bloom, but I will try again soon.  We are considering planting two or three trees on our allotment.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Raspberry Vinegar and Brandy

Raspberry Vinegar.

Makes a great vinaigrette and also good diluted with lemonade or fizzy water!

Allow 1 pint of good white wine vinegar to each 1lb of raspberries. Using a glass bowl, crush the fruit and pour the cold vinegar over. Leave for 3 days, stirring now and again. Strain through a jelly bag, or muslin. Add 8oz sugar to each pint of liquid. Bring slowly to the boil, dissolving sugar, and boil for 5 minutes. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal down.

I don't think the first recipe I used required it to be heated, but I don't know which one that was!

You can use frozen raspberries.

Raspberry Brandy
3lb raspberries,
750 cl, a bottle of brandy.
1 lb sugar

Crush the raspberries, once again frozen can be used.
I put them in a large glass stoppered jar, add the brandy.
Leave for about 2 months, out of the light.
Strain off the fruit, squeezing to extract all the juice.
Add 1 lb sugar, stirring every so often to dissolve the sugar.
Filter again if needed.

Improves with keeping, but can be used straight away. My notes tell me that the first time I made it I started on 27th November and bottled it on March 2nd. This same first time we thought it might be good topped up with champagne! It was, but it's pretty lethal!!! We haven't done it since.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Christening Cake

I painstakingly cut out and dried hundreds of these little icing flowers from ready made fondant icing that I tinted in pastel colours, and in the end used very few, but as they have dried out very well I am going to use them to decorate cup-cakes!

For the cake itself, I made a 10" rich fruit cake in February, which gave it a chance to mature beautifully, dosing it with brandy a couple of times in the early days.

Here's a photo of the cake before it was put on the tea table. I was disappointed to find that Royal Doulton had stopped making the Beatrix Potter figurines, because I love the china figure of Hunca Munca and her cradle of babies for a Christening cake. However I was able to use these china alphabets from Border Fine Arts, which worked well with such a short name! You can see how few icing flowers I used.

Here is my recipe for a Rich Fruit Cake:-

For a 10” round cake or 9” square

1lb currants
11oz sultanas
6oz raisins
4oz glace cherries, quartered
4oz mixed chopped peel
4oz blanched almonds, chopped
grated rind of two lemons
3 tablespoons brandy
11oz plain flour
1½ level teaspoons mixed spice
¾ level teaspoon ground nutmeg
3oz ground almonds
10oz soft dark brown sugar
10oz soft stork margarine
1½ tablespoons black treacle
6 large eggs

Put all the fruit, lemon rind and nuts into a large bowl, add the brandy, cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for a while, overnight is good, at room temperature.

Prepare your cake tin, I like to use silicone paper.

All the other ingredients, at room temperature, except the ground almonds, are put in a large mixing bowl and beaten together until properly amalgamated. I do have a heavy weight mixer which makes it less of an effort.

Then stir in the fruit and ground almonds. Do not beat it now.

Bake the cake in the middle of your oven at gas mark 1 or 140° C for 3 hours. This is quite a shallow cake, and three hours is usually long enough in my oven. If you want a deeper cake use a smaller tin, cooking for longer, testing after 3 hours, to check when your cake is cooked, whatever size tin you use. By the time it has been marzipanned and iced the 10” size pleases me. Cool the cake in it’s baking tin.

I like to store this cake for about 3 months. I might give it a tablespoon of brandy once a month for the first two months. Wrap it in greaseproof paper, then aluminium foil, make sure the foil is not in contact with the cake itself. Put the whole lot inside a polybox and leave it in a cool place.

A week before it is needed cover it with marzipan, which I admit I buy ready made these days, and then 3 or 4 days after the marzipan use a good ready made fondant icing. I can still remember all the horrors of royal icing we used to use!

Sharon's Quilt

I had just begun to write about Sharon's wonderful quilt when I saw she had posted some photos on one of her blogs along with an explanation of her inspiration and method. This photo was taken in Imogen's garden about three weeks ago, the first warm day we had this year. Here also is a photo of Imogen's last hen, having outlived all her friends she seems quite contented living on her own.