Posts Tagged ‘gift’

I expect a lot of people will have already seen recipes for this fabulous Estonian bread doing the rounds on the net. I first came across it on Pinterest and found the recipe on Romanian cooking blog Just Loves Cookin which has a great step-by-step photo guide on shaping . It’s such a pretty loaf that I couldn’t wait long before trying to make my own. As you can see from the pics, I need a little more practice shaping the ring but I’m still quite pleased with the result. The taste is, unsurprisingly, as good as any cinnamon roll – rich, buttery and caramelised. The layers you create by rolling the dough fan out as they bake and turn into crunchy, dark golden ridges hiding soft, sweet bread rippled with spice. (more…)


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This is a cracking little recipe from the one and only David Lebovitz. A chef renowned for his sweet dishes, he’s also a dab hand at making simple, savoury ingredients shine. I frequently whip up a jar of feta marinated in olive oil, fresh herbs and chillis to consume over the course of the next few days in salads, on bread or, my current favourite, over baked sweet potatoes. At this time of year you can give it as a gift or keep it on hand for an impromptu nibble when friends come knocking.


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Walking down the chocolate aisle at my local store (always a dangerous task!) I noticed how many bars there are that contain fruit. We’re way beyond the classic Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut with bars featuring lemon meringue, banana, strawberry, cranberries and dates. I’m not sure I’m really too convinced by some of the pairings, I tend to find chocolate and fruit don’t always go but some are rather fab. Montezumas make the most amazing orange and geranium dark chocolate bar and the brilliantly named Sea Dog bar with sea salt and lime. And I love Divine‘s  70% chocolate dotted with tart raspberries. (more…)

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Since investing in a snazzy little cooking thermometer and being smack bang in the middle of summer I’ve been busy playing with lot of jam and preserve recipes which I never had the confidence to make before. I’m just itching to start making sweets now, maybe some caramels or fudge and I’m going to have a go at making Italian meringue method macarons too. If any of these endeavours come out well you might be hearing about them in the coming months but for now I’m busy jamming.


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Christmas Mincemeat

Well, if you belive the shops, adverts and media Christmas is upon us (it’s not even December!) and, as much as I dislike being harried into preparing early, some things do require a little forethought. This recipe for mincemeat needs two weeks to mature and let the fruit soak up all the brandy. If you make it now it will be perfect by Christmas.

As far as I can remember my mum has always made her own mincemeat from the same recipe. I’ve grown up with the recipe and, to me, it is the quintessential taste of Christmas; no shop-bought brand can match its flavour and richness. The recipe in question is from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a stalwart of British cooking that has been in kitchens since 1861. The secret lies in using the whole lemon – once zested and juiced the leftover rinds are boiled until tender, minced and added to the mix resulting in a delicious zesty tang. The only small adaptation mum makes is to reduce the sugar which allows the flavour of the fruit to shine.


(adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management)

The full recipe filled 3 Bonne Maman jars, a 500ml kilner jar and a 1 litre jam jar – far more than I need even with making mince pies for work/friends/family.  Fortunately, in an attractive jar, it makes a nice gift!

  • 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 3 large apples (I used Bramley apples but any cooking apple will do)
  • 450g raisins
  • 450g currants
  • 450g suet (vegetarian suet can be substituted)
  • 400g dark muscavado sugar
  • 75g mixed peel (citron, lemon and orange)
  • 125ml brandy
  • 2 tbsp orange marmalade

Zest the lemons, squeeze out the juice and set aside for later.

Boil the lemon rinds until soft, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, peel, core and slice the apples and cook with a little water until soft and pulpy. Bramley apples work well here as they break down easily when cooked.

In a large bowl mix the lemon juice, zest and apple. Chop the boiled rind finely and stir in. Add the remaining ingredients one by one, stirring after each addition.

Spoon into sterilised jars and leave to mature for at least 2 weeks.

There are so many things you can do with mincemeat besides the obvious pie, try as a filling for baked apples, baked in the middle of almond muffins or in one of my favourite recipes Barney Desmazery’s roly-poly pies.

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Cheese and herb bread

The first blog I ever read on a regular basis was Chocolate and Zucchini. Now I read quite a few more but it was Clotilde who introduced me to the daunting but exciting world of food blogging. When her first book was published I has a weekend job as a bookseller and, rather cheekily, ordered in a large pile for the window display. In a recent post she wrote about bread being an ideal gift when you go to someone’s house for a meal. I fully agree with this and decided to channel my inner Clotilde by baking a loaf to take with me when I visited a friend last week.

Since February I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread and keep a starter in the fridge. It’s been a very interesting and rewarding project and I found a new confidence in bread making. Unfortunately, wanting to have this ready early on Saturday morning, I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to a sourdough loaf and ended up turning to the little box of dried active yeast sitting on my kitchen shelf. Fantastically useful when you want bread “pronto”. I started the dough off when I got home from work and had a lovely loaf by bedtime. 

The bread made a nice gift which we had for lunch with cheeses, chutney and a tomato salad, yum!




Herb and cheese bread

Recipe inspired by an Allinson flour packet, My Little Expat Kitchen and the contents of my fridge.

  • 350g strong plain flour
  • 75g strong wholemeal flour
  • 75g spelt flour
  • 7g sachet of instant yeast
  • 8g salt
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano or mixed dried herbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 300-350ml warm water
  • 250g cheddar cheese, grated
  • a little milk

Begin by mixing the flours, salt, herbs and yeast. Gradually stir in the water until you have a soft, workable dough.

Knead the dough for 10 mins, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and divide into three equal pieces (I find weighing them is a quick way to do this accurately).

Take one piece and shape into a log. Roll out into a rectangle where the dough is about 5mm thick. Scatter one third of the grated cheese down the middle of the dough leaving a gap around the edges. Brush a little milk around the edges and pinch them together to form a roll. Place seam-side down and repeat with the remaining dough so you have 3 cheese-stuffed rolls. 

Place the 3 rolls on a baking sheet Bring the rolls together at one end and form a plait. Tuck the ends under so the plait doesn’t come undone.

Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the baking sheet on top of the oven while it preheats for its second rise.

Brush the loaf with a little milk than bake in the middle of the oven for 10 mins and then lower the heat to 190°C to continue cooking for another 30 mins.

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Sloe gin

Yesterday I got home late, tired but happy, having been to stay with a very good friend of mine; a fellow foodie who is always ready to share a good recipe and a nice bottle of wine. The last time I saw her we picked wild blackberries on the windswept north Devon coast and I told her all about my sloe gin-making adventures.

This weekend we were lucky enough to come across a bountiful crop of plump sloe berries while on a ‘country’ walk (and by ‘country’ I really mean a quick wander followed by a pit stop at the pub). Ever-ready, I whipped a ziploc bag out of my handbag – much to the amusement of my fellow walkers – and we got picking. I left the sloes in my friend’s capable hands with the recipe below.

They say that sloes are best picked after the first frost, which, at least round my way, was this morning. The birds haven’t left many berries on the bushes near me but fortunately I picked some back in September. The first frost was easily simulated by popping the sloes in the freezer overnight. My gin has been steeping for about two months now and, as you can see in the photo above, has already taken on a deep red colour.

Sloe gin

Makes about 750ml

You will need a clean 1 litre bottle or jar, preferably with a wide neck.

  • 400g sloes, discard any that seem past their best and remove the stalks
  • 100g sugar
  • 750ml gin, nothing too expensive!
  • 2 or 3 drops of almond extract

Prick each berry with a fork or clean needle and pop them in the bottle. This can be a bit laborious and sticky but is necessary to get a bright red colour. If the berries are crushed the gin will go brown.

Pour the sugar over the sloes and add the gin and almond extract.

Seal the bottle and shake every day until the sugar is completely dissolved. Store in a cool, dark place.

Leave the berries to steep in the gin for at least three months and up to a year (if you can bear to wait that long!). Before drinking, strain the gin and decant it into a 750ml bottle or several smaller bottles for an attractive Christmas gift.

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