Egg Nog

 For the Holiday Gift Class last weekend, we started with this blender egg nog based on one from The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. If you haven't seen this book yet, it is full of amazing recipes and Amanda's introductions to the recipes will have you hooked instantly. If you haven't made homemade egg nog yet, well, now is your chance. Seems that people either love egg nog or they hate it. I'm definitely an egg nog lover, but I prefer to make it at home where it's like drinking a lovely custard laced with rum. The great thing about this recipe is it's speediness. I needed to make another batch to do a photo shoot with (yes, I did feel slightly guilty for drinking rum by myself, before 11am no less, on a Monday morning) and I had the nog ready in a matter of a few minutes.

Egg Nog

4 fresh eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup rum (our preferred brand is Mount Gay)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream

First off - divide this recipe into two batches as one batch won't fit into a standard blender. Crack the eggs into a blender and process for 1 minute on medium speed. Slowly add the sugar and blend for another minute. With the blender running, add the rest of the ingredients until combined. Transfer the nog to another container, preferably with a spout, and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to overnight.
Serve the eggnog chilled with fresh grated nutmeg on top.


Lemon Honeycomb Jelly

I think of church suppers as fertile testing grounds for recipes. I love the sign up sheets that go up on the kitchen bulletin board before big events. What will I make this time? For the roast beef dinner this past weekend, there was a sign up list to make jello salads, and I happened to have a couple of recipes that I wanted to try. This recipe is from More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin. I highly recommend both this book and her preceding book, Home Cooking.

The amazing thing about this recipe is the fact that you mix all of the ingredients together in one bowl and miraculously it separates into three layers. The bottom layer (which ends up on the top if you turn the jelly out onto a serving plate) is a yellow, clear jelly. The top layer is the "honeycomb" - a pale yellow, airy yet creamy layer that is very delicious. The middle layer is sort of a custard-y combination of the top and bottom.

Not only is this delicious, it's a great way for kids to enjoy "jello" without having the boxed stuff. It's been my experience that Jello makes my kids CRAZY. But this is purely anecdotal.

Lemon Honeycomb Jelly

3 eggs
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups milk (or half & half)
5 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Separate the egg yolks and whites. Whisk together the egg yolks, lemon zest, gelatin, sugar, and whipping cream. Heat the 1 1/2 cups of milk (or cream) to just under boiling and whisk it gradually into the egg yolks. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir the mixture until you have a thin custard. The custard will thinly coat a spoon when it is ready.
Mix in the strained lemon juice. Working quickly, beat the egg whites until they are stiff and fold them into the hot custard. Let the mixture stand for 4 minutes. Pour the mixture into a 1-quart mold or bowl and chill it, covered, overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the pudding, dip the mold in warm water for 10 seconds, and turn the pudding out onto a plate.


Roasted Purple Potatoes

How can I pretend to be a great gardener when I found myself digging up these stunning purple potatoes this week - in complete surprise and awe? Now I remember planting the little spuds, but that was so many months ago... And that area of the garden was also planted with an overabundance of carrots and lots of tomato suckers that seemed to pop up all over the place (except in the tomato area, of course). So, it's official. I'm a forgetful gardener. But next year I'll do better...

Roasted Purple Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash and dry potatoes thoroughly. Slice into thin wedges. Toss generously with olive oil and sea salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30-45 minutes, flipping occasionally with a spatula, until the wedges crisp up and turn a light golden purple. Serve immediately.


50 Pounds of Popcorn

We received a small package of popcorn in our veggie share last fall. It was really good popcorn. I'm not kidding. But was it good enough for my husband to order a 50 pound bag of the little golden kernels?? Apparently it was! I can't stop thinking about a little book I read in grade school called "100 Pounds of Popcorn". The kids involved had to come up with some crazy ideas for using all of the popcorn up. I think I need to find that book somewhere...


Stocking Up

I've been stock piling the fruit that I want to turn into jams and jellies when the weather gets a little cooler. These are the red currants that I picked, sorted, and froze yesterday. Don't miss the oh-so-small windows of opportunity that are here now!


Jemima Puddleduck

I just realized that Jemima isn't a duck at all - but her best friends are a couple of ducks that she shares a private pond with (thanks to Farmer Jones). She is one of the many birds and animals that we have been visiting this summer at all of our favourite farms!


Chocolate Fridge Cake

Here is one of the recipes I made for the Ultimate Afternoon Tea classes this month. Apparently Prince William is having a version of this type of cake for his Groom's cake - perfect timing if you want a little something chocolaty to enjoy while you are watching the Royal wedding on the 29th!

A rich chocolate mixture is combined with little pieces of digestive biscuits (McVities are my choice), soft raisins, candied cherries, and dried mango. It does sound a bit unusual but it really works. Enjoy the wedding!

Chocolate Fridge Cake

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup orange juice
300 grams dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 cup butter, diced
1 1/2 Tbsp Lyle's golden syrup or corn syrup
1 cup candied cherries (also known as glace cherries)
1/2 cup dried mango, diced small
8 ounces digestive biscuits
Icing sugar for dusting

Place the raisins in a small saucepan with the orange juice and simmer until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes while they absorb the rest of the juice.
Melt the chocolate, butter, and syrup in a large bowl set over a saucepan with a little simmering water in it. Stir until smooth. Stir in the raisins, the cherries and the biscuits, tossing until everything is coated in the chocolate mixture.
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spoon the mixture over the base of the pan. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface and press it level using your hands, though it will still appear slightly rough. Remove the plastic  and loosely cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Chill for 2-3 hours or until hard.
To serve the cake, remove the whole piece in the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Dust generously with icing sugar. Cut into small fingers or squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for up to a week, but you may need to sprinkle with icing sugar again.


Homemade Mincemeat

When cooking is your thing and a crisis hits, what else is there to do but cook? That was how I saw things last week when my friend Shaila was admitted to the hospital with a seriously nasty case of meningitis. One of my first questions was, "What do you want me to make you?" Her answer was short and to the point - Mincemeat tarts.

I immediately remembered, with a pang of regret, that I had used up my last litre of mincemeat the week before in a very delicious apple-mincemeat crisp. Oh, it was good. The mincemeat was from St. Alban's church in Harrow where they make large quantities of it and sell it as a fund raiser. For the last couple of years, I have bought enough to get me through the winter. I thought I was safe to finish it off for the year. But circumstances change.

With no previous experience in making mincemeat, I felt I needed to consult with one of my favourite UK cookbook authors, Tamasin Day-Lewis. Her book, Good Tempered Food, is a book I turn to often for inspiration of a culinary nature.

Perhaps the hardest part about making mincemeat is gathering the wide variety of ingredients you need to have on hand. Once that is taken care of, it's simple. And it tastes and looks like real mincemeat! The interesting thing about making something like mincemeat in March is that it will only get better with age. By this Christmas (if it makes it that long), it will be in fine form and I will be one step ahead with my Christmas baking. You might even say that it makes sense to make mincemeat in March.

For my friend Shaila, I would willingly make mincemeat any month of the year. Now I know I can.

Homemade Mincemeat

2 cups each golden raisins, raisins, and currants
1 1/2 cups finely chopped blanched almonds
3 eating apples, cut into dolls'-sized dice
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/3 cups mixed peel, finely chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons, and the zest of an orange
1 tsp fresh nutmeg, finely grated
1/4 tsp ground cloves and cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground mace and ground ginger
6 ounces beef or vegetarian suet
4 Tbsp dark rum
1/2 cup Cognac or Apple Brandy

Simply mix all the ingredients together really well in a colossal bowl. Decant into sterilized jars, cover, and keep at room temperature. Turn the jars upside down every so often so the liquid permeates the mixture constantly.


A Good Book in the Bath

It was a cold, snowy Sunday afternoon, last Sunday in fact, and I found myself alone in the house with a good book. More than just a good book actually, it was the latest in the Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith. Real comfort food. As I wrote to a friend not long ago, reading that series is like wearing flannel in front of a blazing fire place, or something to that effect.

As I read, I came to a part where Isabel spends a day working in her niece's delicatessen (everything being set in Edinburgh, Scotland). She walks home, smelling of salamis and cheeses, tired but content. She heads straight upstairs and runs herself a hot bath.

This is where I took my cue. I jumped off the sofa with my book, heading for my own tub, and proceeded to run a hot, soapy bubble bath. I folded a fluffy white towel to use as a head rest and sank into the steamy tub, book in hand. This was bliss - true bliss. I barely missed a beat as I continued reading, the hot water still flowing out of the tap. Needs to be a bit hotter, I thought. I brought my foot out of the water to nudge the faucet to a higher temperature setting, not paying much attention to the task at hand. The heroine Isabel was enjoying an evening with her much younger, and incredibly handsome, fiance Jamie, when I misjudged my toe placement and kicked on the shower instead. I moved the library book out of the way JUST after the first cold drops hit my relaxed body.

***You will be happy to know that the book was none the worse for wear (and in fact has already been returned to the library).