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Pineapple chutney: for that cheese on toast lover in your life…

There’s a recurring theme to my blog posts at this time of year…I’m all about helping last minute Larrys like me, who haven’t yet bought presents for their loved ones! If that’s you, please, please, please don’t be tempted to buy a last minute, ill thought out gift from a major department store…a homemade present might take a little extra effort but they’ll mean so much more! Ok, sorry, rant over! 🙂

If you need some last minute inspiration, last year I made (and blogged) Christmas Granola, red onion chutney and balsamic pickled shallots or for festive sweet treats you can’t go wrong with these chocolate coconut macaroons.

But today’s Christmas gift for the tardy is this amazingly addictive pineapple chutney…

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The perfect accompaniment to cheese on toast or delicious served on chunks of cheese, as we did at our ‘Childhood Memories’ themed Plate Lickers Supper Club

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So without further ado, to make 3 x 330ml jars (normal jam jar size) you will need…

2 tbsp sunflower oil

3 red onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds

1 tbsp black onion seeds

1 tsp turmeric

2 pineapples, peeled, cored and chopped into small chunks 

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

250g soft light brown sugar

175ml cider vinegar

Start by chopping and getting all of your ingredients ready, this is the most time consuming part, but it’ll be worth it believe me!…

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I recommend chopping the pineapple into fairly small cubes (approx 0.5cm-1cm square) as it makes the chutney easier to put in sandwiches etc…

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Now, Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan. Tip in the onions and spices and cook for 5 mins until fragrant…

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Add the rest of the ingredients plus 1 tsp salt…

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Simmer for about 1 hr until dark golden and thick. Don’t worry if after an hour, your chutney isn’t dark golden & thick, just keep it bubbling until you’re happy with it and it’s the right consistency for you…

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Pour into sterilised jars and put the lids on. 

To sterilise jars all you need to do is pop them on a hot wash in the dishwasher (if you’re lucky enough to have one) or…wash them by hand in hot soapy water, rinse them well and just pop them in your oven at 160 degrees (fan) for 10 minutes just before your chutney is ready. The perk of sterilising your jars is that it means that once sealed with the lid, your chutney will keep for up to a year!…however, once you’ve discovered how good it is with cheese on toast there’s NO way it’ll last that long! 🙂 

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Festive chocolate coconut macaroons…

I’m sure at this time of year, Google is swamped with people looking for festive baking ideas or inspiration for handmade gift to ply their loved ones with. I’m happy to admit that I am one of those people…eagerly looking for THE recipe that’ll make the perfect present!

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, look no further, I thought I’d share one such recipe with you…these chocolate coconut macaroons are easy to make, delicious and if you fancy getting creative, you can even follow my lead and make them look like little Christmas puds :)…

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To make about 24 chocolate coconut macaroons all you need is…

120g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)

3 egg whites

25g cocoa powder

150g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

220g dessicated coconut

200g white chocolate for decorating (optional)

Some green and red writing icing for your holly leaves and berries (optional)

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the dark chocolate (make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl). Once it’s melted set it to one side to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and whisk in until combined. Stir in the dessicated coconut and melted chocolate, making sure that every little bit of coconut has a chocolatey coating. When you’re happy that there are no escapees, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge to cool for about an hour until it’s firm.

Now, preheat your oven to 165 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Remove your coconut mixture from the fridge and taking a heaped teaspoon at a time, roll into balls between your hands. Lay each ball on the prepared tray a couple of inches apart so that they’ve got a bit of room to spread in the oven.

Once you’ve used all of the mixture, put them in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes or until the macaroons are shiny and just set. Remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle you can transfer them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. At which point you can either tuck in or…get decorating!

To make your macaroons look like little Christmas puds you will need to use the same method of melting chocolate that you used earlier, but this time with the white chocolate. Once it’s melted  you need to work quite fast and spoon a little onto the top of each macaroon before it hardens. Leave the white chocolate to set and then you can get creative with the writing icing to create your holly leaves and berries.

The icing needs a while to set before you can package them up…this is the most dangerous part of the whole process…a true test of your self restraint…can you resist eating them all before they make it to their intended recipient? 😉

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Halloween baking: mini spiced pumpkin & chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

Now, if I’m honest I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Being a complete scaredy cat isn’t particularly conducive to any sort of Halloween activity. However, I love an excuse for some good old themed baking and made it my mission to use the pumpkins that arrived recently in my veg box to do just that!…

I find that pumpkins are a lot less tasty than their butternut squash brethren and need a lot of spice/ cream/ sugar adding to make them taste of anything at all, which set me another challenge, to find a recipe that does justice to the humble pumpkin.

After a bit of online trawling, I found a couple of tasty sounding recipes which called for pumpkin puree. So, I set about making my pumpkins into puree…

To do this you need to halve your pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and throw them away. Place the empty pumpkin halves face down on a baking tray…

Bake it at 180 degrees for 45 mins to 1 hour until soft (you can test whether they’re ready by inserting a knife into the skin, it should slide in with no resistance)…

Let them cool a bit before scooping the flesh into a bowl…

You need just 1 cup’s worth for this recipe but I recommend measuring the remaining pumpkin puree into cup portions and popping it in bags or containers in the freezer for next time you fancy a bit of baking.

Now the first time I made this recipe I followed advice on the ‘how to cook good food’ blog and used dark brown sugar and added a tablespoon of rum along with chocolate chips and the results were divine…a deliciously moist loaf cake with a subtle rum kick…what’s not to like!

In my mission to theme it up even more I decided to make the recipe into cupcakes.

To make 1 loaf cake or 12-14 cupcakes you’ll need…

1 cup (240ml) pumpkin puree

120ml sunflower oil

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin or line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cases in preparation.

Mix the cooled pumpkin puree, oil, eggs, water and spices together. I used an electric mixer but it would definitely be easy enough to do by hand.

Sift in the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda and mix until it’s all combined but be careful not to over mix. Finally add the chocolate chips (and 1 tbsp rum if you’re feeling frivolous :).

Pour the cake mixture into the loaf tin or fill each cupcake cake until two thirds full and pop in the oven.

The loaf will take 50 minutes to 1 hour and the cupcakes will only take about 30 minutes. You can check whether they’re ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean it’s ready. If not, pop it back in for a few minutes before checking again.

When your cake(s) are ready leave them to cool on a wire rack…

I used orange cupcake cases and decided I was going to turn my cupcakes into mini pumpkins by topping them with an orange coloured cream cheese icing…

To make the cream cheese icing you need…

450g icing sugar, sifted

75g butter, softened

200g cream cheese

Food colouring

Beat all of the icing ingredients together well and add as much or as little colour as you wish to get your desired effect. Then transfer the icing into an icing bag (I use disposable wonders, which are available in all good supermarkets) and using a large star shaped icing nozzle, swirl the icing onto the top of your cupcake. I finished my pumpkins off with a stalk made out of a chunk of dark chocolate.

And there you have them, the cutest little spiced pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing…

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Chocolate beetroot cake…1 of your 5 a day…

I’ve recently made it my mission to seek out and trial some new chocolate cake recipes…it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it 🙂

One recipe recce led me to this little chocolate and beetroot number on the Delicious Magazine website. To date I haven’t baked a cake using beetroot but if the success of using carrot in a cake is anything to go by I thought it was worth a try and either way, I’d definitely be getting one of my five a day :). 

I’m happy to report that the recipe was a good’un and produced the most amazingly moist chocolate cake. The only hint that it contained beetroot was when I came across little pockets of sweetness whilst tucking in.

Just check out that crumb…

If you fancy giving it a go yourself you need…

250g plain chocolate (I used 70%)

3 eggs

200g light brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

250g raw beetroot

For the icing you need…

150g plain chocolate

100g icing sugar

100g soured cream

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (180 if it’s not a fan) and grease and line the base of a 20cm or 22cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper. I used a 20cm tin, so if you’re using the larger size just bear in mind that it won’t need quite as long in the oven.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt. When it’s smooth remove the pan from the heat and set the bowl aside to cool.

Put the eggs, sugar and oil into a large bowl and beat using a hand held or stand mixer until smooth and creamy (approx 3 mins).

Stir in the vanilla extract and sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and gently fold in, along with the ground almonds. 

I highly recommend donning a pair of rubber gloves for the next stage as beetroot has the nasty habit of staining your hands bright pink!

First you need to peel them (aren’t they pretty!?)…

and then grate them…

before squeezing the excess liquid out. 

Now, fold the beetroot into your cake mixture along with the cooled melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated…

All that’t left to do it pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin…

The recipe says to bake it for 50 minutes to 1 hour, however I recommend checking it after about 45 minutes and testing it by inserting a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not then just pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then test it again. Repeat this process until you are happy that your cake is cooked to perfection! If you notice that your cake is browning a little too quickly just cover it loosely with some tin foil.

Leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing it from the tin and letting it cool completely.

To make the icing, break 150g plain chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt, as before. Once smooth, set it aside to cool before beating in the sifted icing sugar and soured cream until you have a thick and creamy but spreadable icing. Don’t over-beat it! The first time I made it I think I overdid it and was left with icing that just wanted to set quite quickly and was hard to spread. When you’re happy with it’s consistency (it should look like the pic below) spread it over the top and sides of your cake…

I took my cake into work to test on my colleagues and I have to say…it went down a treat!

My Riverford veg box arrived,whilst I was writing this post and I was very excited to dicover that it contained a good few beetroots…I know what I’m going to be making again this week!

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Orange cake with zingy orange buttercream filling & an orange glaze…

Sometimes the simple cakes are the best…here’s one I made recently using my classic Victoria sponge recipe but putting a little orangey spin on it with inspiration from The Primrose Bakery Book. Behold my orange sponge with zingy orange buttercream filling and an orange glaze…

To make the cake you need…

350g unsalted butter, softened

350g caster sugar

6 eggs

350g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

Zest of 2 oranges

Splash of milk

For the zingy buttercream filling you need…

125g unsalted butter, softened

150g icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

zest of half an orange

and finally for the orange glaze to top your cake off you need…

200g icing sugar, sifted

2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (180 if not a fan) and grease and line the bases of 2 x 8 inch cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs along with a little of the sifted flour and baking powder, so that that mixture doesn’t curdle. Add the remaining flour and baking powder and mix well.

Stir in the orange zest. At this point you need to use your judgement and if you feel that the cake mixture’s looking a bit thick, add a splash of milk until it’s smooth and of thick dropping consistency.

Divide the mixture between the 2 cake tins as evenly as possibly, level the tops and pop them in the oven.

Check on your cakes after 30 minutes by inserting a skewer into the centre of them, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not, pop them back in and check them after another 5 minutes.

As a slight aside, I recently invested in an oven thermometer and it’s changed my life! That sounds rather melodramatic but to be honest it’s definitely been worth the £5 (ish) investment. It turns out that my oven is 10 degrees hotter than the dial would have me believe and as well acquainted as I am with it, I know that the back left hand corner is hotter than the rest. I think this is a good time to say…my name’s Jo and I’m a baking addict 🙂

Right, back to the orange cake…when you’re happy that it’s cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

To make the orange buttercream icing sift the icing sugar into a big bowl and add the softened butter, orange juice and zest, prepare yourself for the inevitable icing sugar snow storm and beat well until smooth and fluffy.

To make the orange glaze simply add the orange juice to the icing sugar and stir well until lump free.

Now, it’s time to get assembling…sandwich the cakes together with the buttercream and top with the glaze, it’s as easy as that!…

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Homemade party rings…

Party rings have to be one of my all time favourite biscuits, even as an adult I can’t resist the super sweet crunchy icing topping and the fact that they fit on your finger (well at least they used to). The other day I thought I’d have a go at making them for myself and what fun I had!…

It turns out they’re really easy to make too!

All you need is…

250g plain flour

85g caster sugar

175g unsalted butter

2 tbsp lemon curd

250g icing sugar

1 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (fan) and prepare a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

If you have a food processor you can just whizz up the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture has a crumb-like consistency. If like me, you don’t have one it’s still very easy…just put the flour and sugar in a bowl, cut the butter (room temperature is easiest) into cubes and add to the bowl. Now roll up your sleeves and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have achieved the same crumb-like consistency. At this point you just need to squish the mixture together into a ball and knead briefly until you have a smooth dough.

Tip it out onto a floured surface (don’t be stingy with the flour) and roll it out to the thickness of approximately 2 £1 pound coins. Use a 5cm/2inch fluted cutter to cut out your biscuits. Lay them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving a bit of space in between as they spread a little when baking. To cut out the all important hole in the middle of the biscuits I used a piping nozzle but if you don’t have one, you’ll just have to scour your kitchen for a suitable tool for the job 🙂

Once you’ve made the holes just pop the trays in the oven for 10 minutes until the biscuits are pale golden. Transfer them onto a wire rack to cool completely and now you can start making your icing…

Mix the lemon curd with 2 tbsp of boiling water until smooth and then sift in 175g of the icing sugar, again stirring until you have a smooth icing. Now, you can either leave it au naturel or get out the food colouring and have some fun!

To make the contrasting icing your jam needs to be smooth, if your jam has pips or bits in it you’ll need to sieve it first so that you are left with a smooth puree. Mix the smooth jam with 2 tsp of boiling water, sift in the remaining 75g of icing sugar and stir until smooth before adding your colouring (optional).

Spoon the lemon icing onto your biscuits, using the spoon to spread it around, making sure the top of your ring is coated. Then use your artistic licence to drizzle the jammy icing over the top any which way you like! If it’s a little bit too thick just add a tiny dash more of boiling water.

And there you have them, homemade party rings! So much fun to make…and to eat 🙂

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Local & handpicked blackberry & apple crumble cake…

Last week I took a rare break in the middle of a busy day of baking, packed my lunch into a bag and ventured into my local graveyard to make the most of the sunshine. Now, you may think it a bit of a strange place to enjoy a picnic but Mill Road cemetery is a stones throw from my house and is a veritable sanctuary away from, well, everything! It’s so beautiful and peaceful and at the moment it’s also chocablock with blackberries…

Unfortunately, on that occasion I didn’t have the time or a suitable receptacle to take any with me but a couple of days later I went on a blackberry picking mission and after pricking myself numerous times and getting well and truly scratched up (I even managed to spike myself in the head, be warned, blackerry bushes are evil buggers) I ended up with a bumper crop…

Just a couple of words of warning…beware of picking from low hanging branches 😉 and before you get baking/eating, make sure you wash them really well to get rid of all of any little friends who may be camping out in your fruit!

I recalled a recipe I’d used a couple of years ago for a blackberry and apple loaf and decided I’d scale it up a bit to make an 8 inch (20cm) cake…

You can either follow the recipe in the link above to make a loaf or use these quantities to make an 8 inch round cake…

375g self raising flour

265g butter

265g light muscovado sugar

3/4 tsp cinnamon

3 rounded tbsp demerara sugar

1 1/2 small eating apple, quartered (not cored or peeled)

3 eggs

1 1/2 oranges, finely grated zest

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

340g blackberries

and then just follow the same recipe (here) to make the most delicious apple & blackberry apple crumble cake, even the better for having picked the blackberries yourself!

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