No Bake Fridge Cake

Happy New Year to all my readers both old and new! It’s my first post of the new year and among all the usual bombarding of ‘healthy’ January recipes, I’m bringing you the exact opposite with a sweet,buttery, no bake treat.

I love a good fridge cake every now and again. Whether it’s a rocky road or a chocolate tiffin, fridge cakes save the day for those times when you’re craving something sweet but don’t actually want to bake.  It’s so simple to put together and anything you’ve already got sitting in the cupboard is fair game to get thrown in. Kids love getting involved with bakes like these and you’ll have it ready in record time without any faffing about with the oven.

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I was left with a quite a lot of post Christmas dried cranberries and so I’ve used them all up here along with some white chocolate. This really is one of the reasons I love fridge cakes; there’s so much room to be creative and make it your own.  Play around with the dried fruit by experimenting with apricots, raisins or even dried blueberries which are particularly  yummy here. Nuts also add a welcome texture – I went with pistachios mainly due to their beautiful colour against the white chocolate. But honestly, use anything you have or love – pecans, toasted hazelnuts, flaked almonds or all of the above! Have a go at marbling some dark and white chocolate on the top, sprinkle on a bit of sea salt or just go crazy with some colorful sprinkles and edible glitter. This recipe is simply a guide – the rest is up to you.

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R E C I P E 

Ingredients

250g Digestive Biscuits
140g Butter
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste/Extract
Pinch of Salt
2 handfuls Rice Krispies
80g Dried Cranberries (Or any dried fruit)
400g White Chocolate
Handful of Pistachios or any nuts, roughly chopped
Handful Marshmallows
1 Tablespoon Freeze Dried Raspberries

M E T H O D

Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin into small pieces.
In a saucepan, melt the butter with the golden syrup, vanilla and salt.
Once melted, take the pan off the heat and add in the crushed biscuits and Rice Krispies. Stir until everything is fully coated. Mix in the half of the dried fruit.
Line a square or rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper and firmly press in the biscuit mixture making sure it’s evenly leveled.
Pop it in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm up.
Whilst the biscuit layer is chilling, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Pour the chocolate evenly over the biscuit layer and sprinkle over the remaining dried fruit, nuts, marshmallows, freeze dried raspberries and any other extras you’re using.
Leave to set completely before cutting into squares.

Pork and Cranberry Sausage Rolls

Got some more cranberries coming at you with another festive bake! This time I’ve opted for something savoury with my pork and cranberry sausage rolls.

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Everyone loves a good sausage roll. Buttery, flaky pastry wrapped around a hot salty nugget of meat. Very much a British classic, it could easily be the ultimate party finger food – because really, what’s a party without a few sausage rolls?

Now, I know it’s probably much quicker to pick up a pack of pre prepared sausage rolls from the supermarket but making them from scratch is just so much more satisfying! You get far more control with exactly what goes in them and it gives you the flexibility to be creative with flavours. To make these even easier to put together, you could use shop bought puff pastry and squeeze out the meat from your favourite sausages.

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For those of you feeling a bit more adventurous, I’ve included the recipe for a rough puff pastry that’s been seasoned with some fresh sage and black pepper. Making your own pastry can seem a bit daunting at first but just remember to keep everything nice and cold! If the pastry feels as if it’s getting a bit sticky or warm, stick it in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up before continuing.

So, back to the cranberries. They really do add such a pleasant sweetness to these sausage rolls which beautifully balances the saltiness of the pork. I took a pack of fresh, bright red cranberries and cooked them down with into a sticky sauce spiced with cinnamon and ginger – the perfect finger food for Christmas or New Years parties. Believe me when I say, you’ll be very tempted to finish the lot as soon as they’re out of the oven but try to resist! They’re equally as wonderful once they’ve cooled down.

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R E C I P E
makes 12-16 

Rough Puff
250g Plain Flour
250g Butter, cold and chopped into small cubes
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Fresh Sage, finely chopped
1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
80ml Ice Cold water

Cranberry Sauce
100g Fresh Cranberries
70g Sugar
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 tsp Ground Ginger
Pinch Salt
Squeeze of lemon
70ml Water

Filling
400g Sausagemeat
50g Fresh Breadcrumbs
Salt and Pepper
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Sage
1 egg, beaten, to glaze

M E T H O D

Rough Puff:
To make the rough puff, sift together the flour, salt, sage and black pepper. Work in the butter quickly with your fingertips. You should still be able to see some pieces of butter.

Add in the water and mix together to form a rough dough. Gently knead the dough briefly to bring it together and then wrap it in cling film. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Once rested, lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 40x20cm with the shortest side facing you. Fold the dough into three like you would a letter. Turn the dough 90 degrees so that the seam runs away from you. This is the first turn.
Roll the pastry out again into a rectangle and repeat the folding and turning process. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for another 30 mins to let it firm up.
Give the pastry two more turns – rolling out and folding as above. Wrap it up in cling film and store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat Oven to Gas Mark 6/200C

Cranberry Sauce:

For the cranberry sauce, place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow the cranberries to simmer for 8-10 minutes until softened  Transfer to a small bowl and chill until ready to use.

Assembly:
Season the sausagemeat in a large bowl and mix together with the breadcrumbs until fully combined.
Dust a clean surface lightly with flour and roll out the pastry into a long rectangle approx 15cm by 80 cm and the thickness of a pound coin.
Lay three quarters of the sausagemeat along the pastry a few centimetres form the edge. Use your finger to make a groove running along the centre of the sausagemeat.

Spoon the cranberries into groove gently pressing them into the meat. Cover the cranberries with the remaining quarter of the sausagemeat.
Fold the pastry over the sausage and use the beaten egg to seal. Trim off any extra excess pastry and slice the long roll into 12 -16 smaller rolls or 8-10 bigger ones.

Brush the top of each one with some more egg wash, sprinkle with sage and black pepper and place on a baking tray.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden and the meat has cooked through. Let the rolls cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Tis the season for…Cranberries

It’s usually not until we’re deep into December and gearing up for Christmas before the wonderful cranberry makes an appearance in our kitchens.  And even then, it’s often demoted straight into the cranberry sauce that barely gets touched amongst all the other more appealing offerings on the Christmas table.

This small but mighty berry packs a punch when eaten raw with an intensely tart, almost bitter flavour. But with the addition of a few simple ingredients, cranberries really work as a beautiful accompaniment in both sweet and savoury dishes. Over the next few days, I’ll be showing the cranberry some love by sharing a few festive recipes and giving you some ideas on how you can incorporate them into your Christmas spread.

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One of the many foods or bakes associated with Christmas is the humble shortbread. Whether it’s a novelty shop bought tin gifted from relatives or a big batch of the homemade variety, either must be consumed with a huge mug of tea in front of a classic Christmas movie. Most of the time, if I fancy a bit of shortbread, I’ll always gravitate towards the plain kind – no frills or odd combinations – just a thick wedge of buttery crumbly biscuit generously sprinkled with caster sugar. It’s definitely up there as one of my favourite biscuits. But as it’s Christmas, I wanted to inject some festive flavours and give this British classic a little twist. I’ve gone for  Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange. Oh my, these were good.Packed with juicy dried cranberries and a subtle orange flavour peeping through, I may have had a few too many whilst they still warm!  And I promise, they’re so easy to whip together with no fancy equipment needed and a pleasantly short list of ingredients!

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R E C I P E 

Ingredients

225g Butter
100g Sugar
Zest of 1 Large Orange
300g Plain Flour
2 tbsp Cornflour
75g Dried Cranberries
100g White Chocolate, chopped

M E T H O D

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy and then add in the zest
Sift together the flour and cornflour and fold it into the butter
Mix in the cranberries and white chocolate
Use your hands to bring it all together being careful not to overwork the dough
Roll out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and use any shaped cutter to make as many shapes as possible. Reroll the scraps and repeat
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F
Place the cut out biscuits on a baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm
Bake the biscuits for 15-18 minutes until very lightly browned
Let the shortbread cool completely before dusting with icing sugar or caster sugar

Stir Up Sunday

Christmas is coming! Well, in 35 days it is. Preparations have begun and I’m already planning what bakes I’ll be adding to the table. So get ready for a few festive recipes that’ll be perfect for all the gatherings and get-togethers which I’m sure are already filling up your calendars!

The first recipe I’ll be sharing is for my Christmas Pudding. Now, I know this may sound a bit keen but this is the perfect time to get started. Today is the last Sunday before advent, also known as Stir up Sunday, and this is traditionally the day when Christmas puddings were made in advance, allowing them plenty of time to mature before eating. Everyone in the family would get involved, each having a stir of the mixture before its long and slow stint in the steamer.

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In all honesty, I’m not normally a big lover of traditional Christmas puddings – I much prefer a fat slice of chocolate cake or some warm mince pies after gorging on our Christmas feast. But this year, I teamed up with BBC Songs of Praise and the lovely Rev’d Kate Bottley and gave my spin on a Christmas pudding. Adding a few not so traditional ingredients such as maple syrup and pecans, I also opted for Cointreau as my tipple of choice rather than brandy, as well as a good sprinkling of cinnamon and mixed spice.

You’ve got plenty of time to make this pud and then top it up with more alcohol each week so it’s ready for it’s after dinner debut. Don’t be put off by what might seem like an unnecessarily excessive cooking time. Yes, 6 hours is a long time to wait for anything but the beauty of a Christmas pudding is that you don’t actually do much. Everything goes into the bowl, give it a good stir, and then just let it do its thing. Give it another 2 hour steam before serving and you’ve got yourself a wickedly good end to Christmas day.

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R E C I P E

Ingredients

500g Dried mixed fruits
170ml Cointreau
100g Plain Flour
80g Light Muscovado Sugar
40g Dark Muscovado Sugar
150g Suet
125g Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 ½ tsp Mixed Spice
Zest of 1 Large Orange
70g Chopped Pecans
1 Bramely Apple, cored and finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped stem ginger
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tbsp maple syrup

Pecan Cranberry Sauce
80g butter
80g Light Muscavdao Sugar
2 tbsp Cointreau
Handful Cranberries
Handful Pecans

M E T H O D

Add the dried fruits and the liqueur to a bowl and leave to steep for a few hours or preferably overnight
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, suet and breadcrumbs and spices. Add in the zest, chopped apple and pecans and stem ginger.
Mix in the eggs, maple syrup and soaked fruits. Get the family round so everyone can have a stir and then transfer the mixture to a greased pudding basin pressing it down firmly.
If your basin doesn’t have a lid cover it with a layer of baking parchment and then a layer of tin foil tying it firmly with some string. Tie another piece of string across the top to make a handle and steam the pudding for 6 hours on an upturned saucer in a large saucepan. Fill it with boiling water that comes halfway up the pudding bowl and cover.
Once steamed, leave to cool and store in a cool dry place. When you’re ready to eat the pudding, steam it again for another 2 hours before serving.

For the pecan sauce:

Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan and then toss in the pecans cooking for about a minute. Stir in the cranberries and the liqueur allow to bubble for a couple more minutes. When ready to serve the pudding, spoon the sauce over the top.

Pumpkin, Chorizo and Fougasse

I got back from an amazing and restful holiday in Thailand a few days ago and after the longest journey home, it was fair to say that I was utterly unprepared for the bitterly cold weather that was waiting for me. After spending two weeks in the sun stuffing my face with the most delicious rice and noodle dishes for breakfast lunch and dinner, I really craved some soup. Just a big hearty bowl of something to warm me up. There was a lonely looking pumpkin hanging around on the kitchen counter, crying out to be put to use after failing  to make the cut for Halloween carving. I decided to put it out of it’s misery and came up with a quick and easy dinner of pumpkin and chorizo soup. Adding the chorizo really elevated this humble dish, bringing about a welcome spiciness and depth of flavour.

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Not being one to waste food, I also roasted the pumpkin seeds with some sea salt, olive oil and a bit of chili. They added the perfect level of crunch when sprinkled on the soup but they’re also great for a quick and healthy snack.

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In keeping with the chorizo theme, I also added it to some fougasse. A fougasse is one those breads that can be jazzed up in infinite ways. It’s such a simple bread to make but looks quite fancy and tastes absolutely beautiful. The perfect accompaniment to tear and dunk into my comfort soup.

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R E C I P E
serves 3-4

Ingredients

1 Medium Onion
2 Cloves Garlic
120g Chorizo, plus extra to serve
700ml Chicken Stock
450g Pumpkin, roughly chopped
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Dried Chilli Flakes or Cayenne Pepper
Pinch Nutmeg
Pumpkin Seeds

M E T H O D

Finely chop the onions, garlic and chorizo and add to a saucepan with a little olive oil
Fry until onions are softened
Pour in the chicken stock and then add in the chopped pumpkin
Season with salt and pepper, thyme, paprika and chilli if using
Cover and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pumpkin has softened.
Transfer the contents to a blender and process until smooth
Pour the soup back into the saucepan and cook on a low heat for a further 5 minutes
Stir in the nutmeg and serve with some extra chorizo, cream or Greek yoghurt.

For the roasted pumpkin seeds, rinse the seeds in some water and pat dry
Place them on a baking tray and sprinkle over some sea salt, black pepper and chilli flakes
Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven Gas Mark 4/180C/350F for 15-20 minutes until they’re crisp and golden