On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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Rhubarb & Strawberry Jam

This is the second time I’ve made this jam in 2 weeks. The first was just days before Christmas Day. Both Jams turned out with the same great taste, but cooked a little differently.

It’s fair to say that when there’s no water restrictions, and you can water your garden in summer, the plants really do perk up. This year we’ve been so pleased with the berries, the flowers, and the rhubarb. In fact we’ve been so inspired that we’ve got several little raised, portable, gardens just planted yesterday. I finally have my herb garden, and our very first vegetables. Well lettuce and tomato plants.

The rhubarb was romping along. Even though I cut a lot of stalks there’s still so much. I’ve made Rhubarb Syrup from some of it, given some stalks to Mum, and then made this jam, again.


There’s few ingredients in here. I guess that’s typical of jam. Just let the fruit do the talking.


I decided that I had plenty of strawberries, having picked up 4 punnets as we were passing Raeward Fresh on our way to drop Kade and Randall at the airport, that I decided to make 1.5 times the recipe. Of course I decided this part way into preparing all the rhubarb. So I ended up with too much for the pot and saw sense into grabbing my monster stock pot from the garage to make it all more manageable.


And then say hello to Mr Strawberry.  I thought better of chopping all the strawberries into quarters. I quite like to see my fruit in jam.


Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam by Saveur


  • 5 cups rhubarb (about 1 1⁄4 lbs.), cut into 3⁄4″ x 1⁄2″ cubes
    2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries (about 1⁄2 lb.)
    2 1⁄4 cups sugar
    1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

My Notes: You wont quite need 2 punnet of Strawberries for 2 cups. Adjust sugar to taste.


  • Combine the ingredients in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat.
  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb breaks down and the jam has thickened, about 1 hour.
  • To determine whether jam has set, place a small spoonful on a chilled plate; if the dollop of jam holds firm and doesn’t get runny around the edges, it is ready for canning. If it runs, continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, submerge three 1-cup canning jars, along with their lids and ring bands, in a large pot of boiling water and sterilize over high heat for 10 minutes. Transfer sterilized jars, lids, and bands to a clean dish towel. Fill each jar with hot jam, leaving at least 1⁄4″ of space at the top. Wipe jar rims with a clean dish towel, place lids on jars, and secure ring bands.
  • Transfer filled jars to a canning rack; place rack in a pot of gently boiling water so that jars are submerged by at least 1″; let boil for 10 minutes. Transfer jars, set at least 1″ apart, to a dish towel and let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. To test that jars have properly sealed, unscrew bands and lift each jar by the edge of the lid; if the lid holds, the jar is sealed. If it loosens, jar is not fully sealed, and jam should be refrigerated and used within 2 weeks. Sealed jars will keep, in a cool, dark place, for up to a year.

My Notes: I was intending to give the jam away, and I am pretty sure it will be eaten straight away, so I used cleaned jars with screw-top lids. I didn’t heat the jars at all. Just poured the jam into a jug and then filled the jars and waited until they had cooled to place the lids on.

Here’s another of my “spread it until the reaches the edge” photos. Do not point out any part you see uncovered of I’ll be cross with my imperfect spreading (in other words I can already spot a section of butter void of jam).


I wouldn’t usually put jam on Raisin Bread, but it worked just fine, and I was killing two birds with one stone with this little photo set-up.



Raisin Bread

There’s nothing like an invite to brunch to get me in the mood for bread baking. And of course Simon’s wonderful Waffles (which were the star of brunch).  Thanks Louise and Simon!


And because this is a bread recipe, there will be oodles of photos. Brace yourselves. And you get to see my broken bread slicer, which sliced too thinly for what should be a decent slab of bread to give a good hearty slice of Raisin Bread. Of course there’s nothing better than draping still-warm raisin toast in butter.


Earlier in the week I’d come across this recipe for the Raisin Bread. I’m pretty sure while I was laying in bed reading the recipe my stomach had already decided it was breakfast time.

The only gamble in making this (not that I knew when I’d make it) was the cinnamon. Mr Fussy and his distaste for cinnamon might have spoilt my fun making this. But since my plan was to give it to Louise and Simon I was feeling safe.


I was making this loaf in 29 degree Celsius heat mind you. So my proving time was done in no time at all. I’m sure in cooler weather the prescribed rising would be pretty accurate.

Raisin Bread by Averie Cooks


  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup milk warmed to 95 to 125F (see instructions below)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (half of one stick)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (remember the yellow lidded yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
  • 2 cups + up to 1/3 cup bread flour (I used High Grade flour)
  • 1 heaping cup raisins


  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg; set aside.
  • In a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl, warm the milk to temperature, about 30 to 45 seconds. Warm the milk according to the yeast manufacturer’s recommendations on the packaging (I didn’t find any instructions on the Edmonds yeast package). Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is recommended, but if you’re not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don’t kill the yeast.  (I didn’t use a thermometer even though I have one I just felt the warmth in the glass jug I used and when it was warmer than luke warm it was good enough for me).
  • Add warmed milk to the egg.
  • Add melted butter, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, optional salt, and stir to combine.
  • Add 2 cups bread flour and using a spoon and then your hands, form the dough. Turn dough out onto a floured work-surface and knead for 5 to 8 minutes, or until smooth and supple. Kneading may be done in a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment (knead for 5 to 8 minutes), but I kneaded by hand. If necessary, add up to one-third cup additional flour, for 2 and 1/3 cups total (12 ounces total by weight), in order for the dough to combine and become smooth. The more flour that’s added, the denser and heavier the bread will be; so add it only as necessary.
  • Mound the dough into a ball. Spray mixing bowl (the same one used to make the dough is fine) with cooking spray or lightly grease it, and place dough into bowl.
  • Cover bowl with plastic warp and place in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about two to three hours.
  • Punch dough down, remove it from bowl, and place on a floured work surface. Sprinkle raisins over the dough and knead them in, for about 2 to 3 minutes. Raisins may have a tendency to come out of dough but just poke them back in.
  • Flatten the dough into a large rectangle, about 8-inches-by-12-inches. I used my hands and just stretched it and finger-massaged it into the rectangle shape, but use a rolling pin if preferred.
  • Starting with a short side, roll dough up into a log. Pinch off ends and place dough log into a sprayed or greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, seam side down.
  • Cover pan with plastic warp and place in a warm, draft-free place until almost doubled in size, about two hours.
  • In the final minutes of the second rise, preheat oven to 190C. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden on top.
  • When bread is removed from loaf pan and tapped sharply on the top and bottom, it should sound hollow.
  • Place bread on a wire rack to finish cooling completely before slicing and serving. I wrap bread in plastic wrap, then place it in a large zip top plastic food storage bag, where it stays fresh for about 5 days. Bread freezes very well and can be made from start to finish, cooled, and placed in a freezer-safe airtight container or a zip lock for up to 3 months.


My Notes: I used the KitchenAid with the dough hook. I wasn’t looking for a workout when the kitchen was warmer than the 29deg outside temperature.  Remember the yellow lidded yeast is best used with bread NOT made with a bread maker. I used High Grade flour. I did hand knead the raisins in. I had several things simmering on the oven so placed the glass loaf tin next to the oven for the 2nd knead. That took just 25 minutes and it was already doubled in size. It scared me! I already had to ease the Glad Wrap to give it more “growing” room. Obviously a cooler day will slow the rate of rising and you’ll likely find the 2 hours to be closer to what is needed (I presume). My loaf was finished baking in 25 minutes. The recipe has been tweaked here and there to convert some descriptions of ingredients, and temperatures to metric.


And for a series of photos, as promised:

I’m not quite sure what “supple” is meant to be like, but this is what I had after 5 minutes in the mixer. It pulled off the dough hook with it’s weight. It stuck a little more to the side of the bowl than the pizza dough I make does, but it wasn’t sticky and I managed to form it into a ball by gently pulling up the sides and wrapping it over the top and then turned it upside down (top becomes bottom):


This is how it started out, nice and soft enough that my fingers left an impression from lifting the ball of dough up and turning it up the right way (the folded up bits to form the shape of a ball are now at the bottom of the bowl). First rise. I left this for the full 2 hours:


Adding the raisins. As Averie described, those little dried up pieces of fruit wanted to part company with the dough, but for the most part they folded in easily, and stayed put:


And then “rolling” it out (I did so with my fingers/palm too) and shaping it into a rectangle, rolling it up, pinching the end to the rolled up dough as best I could and then squeezing it into the oiled (I used Rice Bran spray) loaf tin (seam down):


Second Rise – this is after 45 minutes. I couldn’t wait any longer and was afraid of what might happen if I gave it more time.  At 30 minutes I was heating the oven knowing it was time to bake it:


After 25 minutes of baking we had a loaf:


I haven’t made enough bread yet to truly understand what “hollow” really sounds like. I really wasn’t too sure if it was baked through. But after tapping almost every surface (sorry Louise!) I tentatively decided it was done. Of course slicing into it was going to be the only real answer.


The bread was really soft. It is such a light texture. And those juicy raisins were still looking for an opportunity to part company.

I toasted a slice or two, because that’s how I would eat it if I were keeping it. And because I have a few issues, here’s where you see that every millimetre of the toast gets to greet butter.


The bread tastes really nice. There’s a hint of sweetness. The Cinnamon was barely noticeable though. Mr Fussy liked it. So that makes it clear the cinnamon wasn’t that prominent.

I might play with the recipe a bit an add some other spices and some mixed peel and see what it’s like as buns, in preparation for hot cross buns, because this was a really nice bread recipe to make.

I’ll just have to wait for Louise and Simon’s verdict on the bread. I hope they enjoy it and didn’t mind that it was a few slices short!

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A few bubbles for a Happy New Year

There’s nothing like contemplating the New Years Eve celebrations to make one feel old. For the last several years NYE hasn’t really been a “big thing” for us. Usually we’ve made our way to bed and fast asleep before midnight. Oh to be young, drunk and finding Policemen (or Policewomen) to kiss. Okay my brother-in-law probably hates NYE and the women who drunkenly want to have a smooch.


One of my best memories of New Years Eve celebrations (other than a dress up we went to where I was Shirley Temple – I don’t look good as a blonde) was the year we had cocktails. And I’ve been talking about those recently since we have an abundance of cream left over from Christmas day. What better way to use that up (other than ice-cream).

Yesterday I picked a bunch of rhubarb. So much so that I had to find several uses for it. I’d recently seen some cocktails, Sangria and Mojito recipes. Now they all sound nice, but they’re not simple drinks and I’m just not fussed with mixing too many things together. Call me lazy.

However the Rhubarb Syrup, well it started out as Rhubarb Tea, did appeal to me. Not that I’m a drinker. But I like my wine sparkling, and sweet. So I decided this “syrup” would be perfect when matched with one of our favourite sweet sparkling wines.


The recipe is slightly adapted from one by Martha Stewart. It’s very basic, just stalks of rhubarb, water and a little bit of sugar. And believe me, the sugar doesn’t add any detectable sweetness at all. But adding the sweet sparkling wine ought to do the trick. And if not, I’ll just have to keep making up another drink with a little added sugar until it’s perfect. This could get very messy.

Once the syrup has boiled, then reduced to a simmer for an hour, it’s ready to strain. Then it’s ready to use, though you’ll want to cool it first. Of course you can drink it as is, as a tea. It smells wonderful.


Rhubarb Syrup – adapted by Martha Stewart

  • Ingredients
  • 4 stalks rhubarb, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
  • peel from one medium lemon (optional)
  • Instructions
  • In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb and 4 cups water
  • Bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Strain the liquid, add sugar to taste, stirring to dissolve, and allow to cool


I’m not wasting the rhubarb pulp. I’ve added sugar to taste and will be having this with cereal or ice cream.




Happy New Year!  May the year ahead be good to you.


My first “Cookie Bar”


I’d seen this recipe on Two Peas and their Pod’s blog a while ago and knew I’d make it at some stage.

This morning while laying in bed, again wondering why I can’t sleep beyond 5:20am, I was catching up on my Twitter feed and came across the Top 10 recipes on Two Peas and their Pod’s blog. These cookie bars were number 4.

I’ve also been looking for a reason to use up the last of the caramel sauce I’d made. It wasn’t so much a sauce having thickened after being in the fridge. I added some cream to it which sorted it out. The recipe calls for caramels, as in sweets, but I haven’t found anywhere in Christchurch you can buy caramel sweets, the soft type not made with a bunch of artificial flavours and preservatives. Of course I’ve come across a number of blogs with recipes to make your own. One day. But the “sauce” I had did the trick.


As well as using the sauce in place of the caramels, I used some Caramel chocolate bits along with some dark chocolate bits. It’s the first time I’ve used Caramel bits.


I’ve got to say that I’m very thankful for the sea salt on the caramel layer. Without it, the “bar” would be too sweet, even sweeter than what I can usually take.

In these parts this wouldn’t be called a “bar”, but a “slice”. I’ll stick with the bar since I’ve almost followed the recipe as written.




Chocolate Chip Salted Caramel Cookie Bar by Two Peas and their Pod


  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour (I measured 360 gm standard flour)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    12 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
    1 cup light brown sugar
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 large egg
    1 large egg yolk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 cups chocolate chips
    10 ounces caramel candy squares, unwrapped
    3 tablespoons heavy cream
    Sea salt, for sprinkling over caramel and bars

My notes: I replaced 1 cup light brown sugar for 1/4 cup light brown sugar and 1/4 cup Muscavado sugar. As mentioned I used a caramel sauce I had instead of caramels and I used only 1.5 cups of chocolate total. 2 cups just seemed over the top, even by my standards.


1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Spray a 2-quart baking pan (which is an 11 X 7 pan-I used a glass Pyrex dish) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugars together until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the caramels and heavy cream. Microwave caramels on High until caramels are melted, stirring every 20 seconds. This will take about 2 minutes, depending on your microwave.

5. Divide the cookie dough in half. Press half of the cookie dough into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula. Pour hot caramel over the cookie dough. Sprinkle caramel with sea salt. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough over the caramel and spread dough with a spatula until the caramel is covered. Sprinkle the bars with additional sea salt.

6.Bake cookie bars for 30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan. Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature. Cut bars into squares and serve.

My notes: I used a metal tin that was a little smaller, 11 X 6.5. I placed the cookie topping on, placing small bits of dough on the caramel layer. I felt it would be too difficult to spoon the dough on and then smooth other. There were a couple of holes where the cookie dough hadn’t quite covered, but for the most part using my fingers gave a better coverage (in my opinion – or at least created less stress that the top wasn’t perfectly/adequately covered). I didn’t add any additional sea salt on top of the cookie dough, only on top of the caramel layer. My bar only took 25 minutes to cook. The top cookie layer is lovely and crisp like you’d expect of a Chocolate Chip cookie. The bottom layer is cooked, but there’s no crunch like the top layer.


Because I don’t know what the American caramels are like, or their consistency with a couple of tablespoons of cream, I don’t know if the consistency of my caramel sauce would match. You can see that it’s oozing a little bit, but the bar wasn’t completely cool when I cut it.

I cut my bar up into 24 pieces, and then cut a piece on the diagonal, which gave me a triangle. That size is sufficient, believe me. Better to take a smaller piece and go back for seconds (when no one is looking!) than take a bigger piece and feel like you’re struggling through it and lose enjoyment of eating it.

So there we have it. My first cookie bar. I’m glad I made it. Wasn’t fiddly at all. Tastes good, but now that I’ve made it I’m satisfied. I probably wont make it again. Not having caramels plays a big part in that decision. Of course you could just buy a caramel sauce (a thick caramel sauce) instead.

I had every intention of having a bake-free weekend. We’re away for a few days next week so there’s no point filling the Tupperware containers. But I just couldn’t leave it alone.

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Saffron Spinach & Turkey Risotto

The day had come to make the Risotto with the left over Turkey, but more than that, to see if the Turkey stock I made was worth the effort. Yes, yes it was.


This is the second time I’ve made this risotto, a recipe I came across in my book Simple Pleasures by Annabel Langbein. I also found the recipe online so feel free to head on over there if you like. You’ll also find many other tasty recipes.


The Turkey Stock I packaged up yesterday had gone all jelly-like and I was hoping with a little heat it would liquefy. Another yes. And I splurged and used Parmigiano Reggiano cheese instead of the usual Parmesan.

I bought what I thought was Garlic, that’s what you see in front of the jug of stock. But it didn’t mince up the same and it didn’t smell the same. I added a little of what I minced not convinced it was Garlic. But if it’s not, what is it? It looks like giant garlic. The bulb only has about 3 or 4 clove.


The first time I cooked the risotto I used what I consider to be the usual method. Ladle a spoonful of stock and then continue to stir to massage it into the rice. But that’s not the method Annabel uses. This time I stayed true to her instruction and it turned out better. Last time the rice was just a little too under done, despite it having a “tiny, hard, white core in the centre”. However I did have to continue to cook the rice a bit longer than suggested. After 15 minutes there was too much liquid left and the rice seemed about the same as my first attempt, so I knew I needed more cooking. I also think my low heat perhaps wasn’t quite enough to simmer. So I turned the heat up a little bit, replaced the lid and left it another 3 minutes, then checked again and left it another 2 minutes more. I also thought more seasoning was required but I held off until I’d added the last ingredients knowing the type of cheese I was using was more flavourful than the usual Parmesan I use.

Saffron Spinach Risotto


  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1½ cups risotto rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 25-30 saffron threads
  • 5-6 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1-2 tbsp butter


  • Heat oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan and gently fry onion and garlic until soft but not browned (about 5 minutes).
  • Add rice and stir over heat for 2 minutes to lightly toast. Add wine, salt and pepper and cook a further 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
  • Add saffron threads to 5 cups hot stock, then add to rice mixture. Stir to combine, cover and simmer over a very low heat until almost cooked (about 15 minutes). At this point, test the rice – it should have a tiny, hard, white core in the centre of each grain, which means it is nearly ready. If the core is bigger, cook another few minutes. It needs to be almost cooked before you add the final ingredients. If the rice begins to dry out, add another ½-1 cup of hot stock or water – it should look very soupy.
  • Stir in the spinach, parmesan and butter, cover and cook another 2-3 minutes until the rice is fully cooked through but still al dente (it will continue to cook once removed from the heat, so take care not to overcook it).
  • Remove from heat and allow to stand for 2-3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.


I added the left over turkey at the time of adding the Spinach, Cheese and butter. I also halved the recipe since it’s just Mr Fussy and I at home at the moment. While I had 3 cups of stock I didn’t pour all of it in, I had probably about 3/4 cup left. How much of a simmer you have when cooking the rice will determine how much (or little) of the stock you need. I suggest holding a little bit back and adding it if you need.


We added more cracked pepper and a bit of cheese, and I didn’t need to add any further seasoning after the last ingredients had been added. It all came together beautifully. And the turkey made this dish a little more special. Yum!

We followed this with dessert (not that we needed it). Can you believe it was the very first time I’ve eaten fresh Blueberries without them being an ingredient in another dish. The Lemon Curd Ice Cream I’d made, with the Rich Chocolate Sauce warmed through, poured over the ice cream and blueberries made this possibly one of the nicest summery desserts I’ve had. So simple yet such great flavours.

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Turkey Stock. Waste not want not.

I wasn’t looking to make a stock, but I stumbled across a post just days before Christmas and it was dead easy. I had nothing to lose, but plenty to gain.

My stock didn’t quite finish off the same as the post I was using, but I’m ok with that.


Turkey Stock by Small Wallet Big Appetite


  • 1 turkey carcass
  • 4 Lt. (16 c.) cold water
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, quartered (do NOT peel)
  • 1 Tbsp crushed peppercorn
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tsp garlic powder


  • Strip the turkey carcass of all its meat. The turkey will need to be broken down so it can fit into your large pot so don’t be delicate. Breaking into the carcass will also help you find places where meat has been hiding all this time, again more food that previously had been wasted.
  • Once you have most of the turkey meat stripped off the bones go ahead and finish break up the bones and put them into a large pot; also put in the pot any turkey skin and all the other assorted “bits” that aren’t edible meat. I go ahead and throw in the turkey neck, heart and other bits seeing as how I don’t use this normally.
  • When you have the pot full of bones, pour the cold water over and turn heat to high; bring to a boil.
  • Chop up the carrots and onions; make sure to leave the onion skin ON as it gives your stock a lovely rich colour.
  • When the stock comes to a boil, add all remaining ingredients and turn heat down to a lightly bubbling simmer.
  • Simmer for 3 to 4 hours, stirring every once in a while. Until the broth has boiled down to half of its liquid, about 2 Lt. (8 c.)
  • Once the stock is ready, strain it through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl; if your sieve is not fine, line it first with cheesecloth; discard the bones and veggies you used to make the stock.
  • Refrigerate stock, covered, for several hours or preferably overnight; until the stock has congealed. Skim off the solidified fat before you either make soup or freeze the stock.
  • Because the stock is congealed I find it is easy to just cut the stock into cubes to put in a bad and divide into 2 bags to freeze. Or you can go ahead and make soup right away
  • My Notes: I assume by “other bits” we’re talking the liver and kidneys. I’d certainly not eat them. But they all went into the pot. As sometimes happens, I misread the instructions and sat their grinding a tablespoon of pepper from peppercorns. I have no idea how that might change the flavour.
  • The first photo below was taken straight after I’d poured the stock through the strainer, having first removed all the big bones. I left the stock on the bench until it had cooled enough to put in to the fridge. The second photo was taken this morning. I was expecting the stock to look an opaque white like the recipe showed, but I ended up with a congealed jelly type stock. But the Continental stocks come like that so I guess it’s still ok.


I was expecting the stock to have a layer of scummy stuff. It didn’t. I must have done a mighty find job of stripping off all that extra turkey. Unfortunately the carcass had been left out most of Christmas Day so I couldn’t make use of it.


I forgot to taste the stock after I had poured it into the bowl. It’ll be a pleasant surprise (I hope) when I use it tomorrow to make a risotto using the little left over turkey we have.

I’ll have to heat the stock to see if it might “liquefy” or I’ll have to add water which unfortunately will water down the flavour.

I’ll let you know one way or the other. I’ll be making the same risotto recipe I’ve used in the past, an Annabel Langbein recipe from her book Simple Pleasures.

I got 6 cups of jelly stock. But I had a really massive stock pot to use.

I came across this post from another blogger whose been to Culinary School and learnt some hard lessons about making stock. There’s some handy tips in this post about how you can save up scraps to add to a chicken or turkey carcass when you’re ready to make stock.

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Christmas Cake–a British tradition


Christmas is all about tradition. No one is going to pretend that it’s not. Most of the tradition is about the meal served on Christmas Day.

We used to have year about as to which family had Christmas Lunch. Christmas Lunch is always the “proper” traditional meal, one that we’ve had all my life, well, all of my life I remember.

This year we had a combined Paling/Munro lunch. Almost all my family was here in Christchurch. My sister and her family from Wellington, and my brother and his fiancé, Kade from Auckland. There were 17 people around two tables spilling from our dining room into the lounge. I was so thankful that it was the predicted 28 degrees, though inside it felt more like 30. Lots of cooking, lots of people.


Lunch is the big deal meal, and it’s always followed by more traditional Christmas food, the Christmas Mince Pies and the Christmas Cake.

I think there’s probably less people in our extended family that like some of these fruit filled Christmas delicacies. But for Mr Fussy it’s a time where he gets to overdose on all the fruit. He loves Christmas fare more than me. I could do without the Christmas Mince Pies, the Christmas Pudding and the Christmas Cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have some of each, but I don’t yearn for it and count down to the time where Christmas things begin to be mentioned and then the kitchen be taken over by pies, cakes and puddings that take time to mature and for their flavours to deepen.


I bake the pies, cake and pudding because I like some traditions, and I think there’s something more to add by making these things by hand rather than store bought. There’s that all-important ingredient, love, that’s added to the mix. And if there’s one thing I enjoy most, it’s making Mr Fussy happy, and it’s a small way in which I can show him how much I appreciate everything he’s done for me and us over the year. He sure puts up with a lot of dishes being loaded into the dish drawers for one.

Although making the Christmas Cake is something I’ve done ever since Mr Fussy and I have been together, I tend to change the recipe each year. It’s fair to say I’ve yet to find the cake that is perfect. It needs to be the right texture, colour, flavour, have the right aroma and slice perfectly. Not a lot to ask, right?

This year I sourced the recipe online. I don’t know why I take such huge risks on such an important cake. It’s not the sort of cake you tend to practice and refine over the course of a year. It’s a one hit wonder. And it does have to be wonderful.

The recipe this year is from About.com. One of the ways I whittle down recipes I’m eyeing up is by the photo shown. So imagine my dismay when, after making the cake, I then noticed the photo was not of this particular recipe, but a photo sourced online. I felt a little cheated. But the cake was made and all I could do was wait until Christmas Day to see if it was a good cheat, or a bad cheat.

(I feel a bit silly, as I type this and refer back to the original recipe I see a link for “step-by-step instructions, so probably a photo of the real cake, but then why wouldn’t you use that photo on the main page? (I haven’t looked through the step-by-step yet))

Traditional British Christmas Cake


  • 1lb 2oz/525g currants
  • 8oz/ 225g golden raisins/sultanas*
  • 8oz / 225g raisins
  • 4oz / 110g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  • 6oz / 165 glace cherries, halved
  • 10oz/ 300g all purpose or plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ level tsp mixed spice **
  • ½ level tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ level tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2½ sticks / 300g butter, slightly softened
  • 10 oz / 300g soft brown sugar
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp brandy, plus extra for feeding (I used the Cherry Brandy I had from making the BFC)
  • Instructions
  • Heat the oven to 300°F/150°C/Gas 2
    The temperature is low as the cake needs a long slow bake. It is packed with sugars, fruits and brandy and if the temperature is any higher the outside of the cake will burn and the inside be undercooked.

    • Line a 9 inch cake tin with 2 thicknesses of parchment or greaseproof paper. Tie a double band of brown or newspaper paper around the outside. This acts as an insulator and to prevent the cake from burning on the outside read more about why here.
    • In a large roomy baking bowl mix the currants, sultanas, raisins, peel and cherries with the flour, salt and spices.
    • In another large bowl cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the lemon zest. Add the beaten egg to the butter mixture a little bit at a time, beating well after each addition – do not try to rush this process as the mixture could curdle. If it does curdle simply add a tbsp of flour and mix again, this should bring the mixture back together. If it doesn’t come back together, don’t fret, the cake will still be delicious.
    • Carefully fold in half the flour and fruit into the egg and butter mixture, once incorporated repeat with the remaining flour and fruit. Finally add the brandy.
    • Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin making sure there are no air pockets. Once filled smooth the surface with the back of s spoon and make a slight dip in the centre (this will rise back up again during cooking and create a smooth surface for icing the cake).
    • Finally, using a piece of paper towel clean up any smears of cake batter on the greaseproof wrapping, if left on they will burn, and though it won’t affect the cake, it doesn’t smell too good.
    • Stand the tin on a double layer of newspaper in the lower part of the oven, if you have a gas oven ensure the paper is well away from the any flame, and bake for 4½ hours. If the cake is browning too rapidly, cover the tin with a double layer of greaseproof or parchment paper after 2½ hours. During the cooking time avoid opening the oven door too often as this may cause the cake to collapse.
    • After 4½ hours check the cake is cooked. The cake should be nicely risen and a deep brown all over. Insert a skewer or fine knife into the centre of the cake. If there is sticky dough on the skewer when you pull it out it needs cooking longer, if it is clean, the cake’s done and remove from the oven.
    • Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack for an hour, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely. Once cooled prick the surface of the cake with a fine metal skewer and slowly pour over 2 – 3 tbsp brandy. This feeding should be repeated every two weeks up until Christmas.
      The cake should be stored wrapped in greaseproof or parchment paper in an airtight tin.
    • My Notes: I made the cake during Labour Weekend, that’s toward the end of October in New Zealand. The mixture began showing signs it was going to curdle on me but took several tablespoons of the flour to bring it back into line. I stirred the fruit into the flour to coat it, this helps the fruit not to sink. I didn’t line the square cake tin as described, but you can see how it was lined in the photo. I used baking paper over several layers of newspaper on the inside of the tin. The more time you spend pushing the cake batter into the corners and sides the easier it will be to fill in the little gaps left by the fruit in preparation for decorating.
    • CC2

I have very little skill or patience when it comes to icing. In years passed I’ve pressed little fabric holly and a plastic Merry Christmas into the top of the cake. The Merry Christmas has seen better days, and despite having bought another plastic replacement I thought the iced Christmas tree I found at a cake shop was a step up. I’d also bought an icing nozzle that came as set. Having had a very quick look online I figured I could use the spare nozzle (the other was being used to flood icing onto Gingerbread men) to do something to the edge of the cake. I think you’ll agree I did something, not necessarily a good, something. Clearly I need more practice, and I accept that. I’ll give it another shot next year Winking smile


While we were in Auckland recently I dropped into Milly’s and found a pair of tweezers that were designed so that round things would be held securely while you placed them on whatever it was you were tarting up. I used them for getting the red “berries” onto the holly. This is a spruced up version over what I’ve adorned the cake with up to this point.

The biggest problem I had was remembering to keep my fat fingers out of the icing. As I was delicately placing the holly and berries my fingernails were digging into the icing. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Having baked and iced the cake all that was left was to decide if it ticked all the boxes in terms of texture, taste and aroma.


Mr Fussy gave a very energetic “yum!” and no one else said anything bad about it. Though there was the usual “bags-ing” the corner pieces, or at least a side piece. The colour is spot on. The texture is good, though it does seem to spew a good few crumbs as you cut it but it doesn’t crumble when you pick it up and take a bite. And it smells like it should. I think this recipe might be the closest to “good enough” that I’ve made so far.

I didn’t feed it every couple of weeks with additional brandy. I often find it makes the cake too bitter for me, not that it’s all about me.

Oh, and this is the actual cake, not some photo snatched off the internet and plonked on a recipe for a cake.