Saturday, 13 January 2018

Sloe Gin


We made our first batch of sloe gin last September and left it to mature until early January (yesterday in fact!). Sloe gin sounds fancy, but it really was simple to make. I live in an area where sloe berries are easy to find, but if you don't, come Autumn, go looking at farmer's markets/online. Some supermarkets even seem to be stocking them! If you are foraging, the best sloes to use are ones picked after the first frosty night of the year. 

This gin takes around three months to make, but requires very little day-to-day effort. If you decant the finished product into small bottles, it's also an excellent gift at Christmas time.

Sloe berries
This recipe makes around 1 litre of sloe gin. It tastes delicious without tonic, but remember, it's very potent!

Makes 1 litre

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre of quality gin
  • 450g sloe berries
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 x 1 litre sterilized bottle

Method:

1. Rinse the sloe berries really well, then prick each berry multiple times with a needle/fork. This is time consuming but worth the effort.

2. Place the berries in the bottle and top with the gin and the sugar. Close the bottle and shake to start dissolving the sugar.

3. Place in a dark, cool room/cupboard, and shake every day for around a week. Then shake the bottle once a week for at least two months.

4. When you're ready to drink the sloe gin, filter the gin through a sieve lined with a clean tea towel. Pour into a clean bottle, or multiple smaller bottles and seal.

5. Enjoy!



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Sunday, 7 January 2018

Smoked Chorizo Jam

Smoked Chorizo Jam


Happy New Year everyone!! 2018 is going to rock! :) I made this jam to add to our cheese board at Christmas, and let me tell you, it's amazing! Spicy and smoky from the chorizo sausage, with a little maple syrup for a sweet kick. It's delicious alongside cheese, or just on toast/as a sandwich, and makes a wonderful addition to any hamper. This recipe makes around 300g of jam, which is enough to fill one 450g jam jar.

Ingredients:

  • 250g (one sausage/9 oz) smoked chorizo, chopped into 1-2cm cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • 40g (3 tbsp) light soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 50ml (3 tbsp + 1 tsp) strong black coffee (I used instant, but you could use espresso coffee)

Method:

1. Place a saucepan over a medium heat, and fry the chorizo for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it has crisped in the corners and is beginning to golden in the corners.

2. Move the chorizo from of the pan into a bowl, leaving as much of the chorizo oil in the pan as possible. Fry the onion in this oil for 10-15 minutes on a low heat, until the onion has become very soft.

3. Add the garlic clove, brown sugar, maple syrup, vinegar and coffee and stir through. Leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes (stirring every 5 minutes or so to prevent sticking) until the mixture has become very thick and syrupy.

4. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Pour into a food processor/high powered blender and pulse briefly. I kept mine fairly chunky, but you could make it finer if you like (I wouldn't recommend pureeing it, however).

5. Leave to cool then pour into the sterilized jam jar. This will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

6. Enjoy!

Smoked Chorizo Jam

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Sunday, 31 December 2017

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

So, a few months ago, I made two Christmas cakes (see the recipe for the cake here) - one 20cm, and one 15cm cake. For the 15cm cake, I halved the recipe, which results in a smaller but deeper cake. This was fed with brandy as with the 20cm cake. Around a week before Christmas, it was time to cover the cake. I then finished decorating the cake on Christmas Eve. Now I know I'm no expert when it comes to fondant work, so I decided to keep the design fairly simple. Firstly I covered the cakes with marzipan and white fondant. Then I added some royal icing decorations and gingerbread men. There's a more detailed recipe/guide below :)

Ingredients:

2 Christmas cakes (one 20cm and one 15cm) - see linked recipe above

For the royal icing:

  • 225g (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp glycerine

For the gingerbread:

  • 95g (2/3 cup) butter or margarine
  • 75g (2/5 cup) dark soft brown sugar
  • 40g (1 & 1/2 tbsp) golden syrup
  • 225g (1 & 1/2 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Other:

  • 500g ready to roll marzipan
  • 500g ready to roll white fondant
  • 75g ready to roll purple fondant
  • 1-2tbsp sieved apricot jam
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • Concentrated green gel food colouring (mine was Leaf green from Wilton)

Method:

1. A week before Christmas, the cake needs to be covered with marzipan and fondant. Lightly dust a work surface with icing sugar and roll out 1/3 of the marzipan to a circle roughly 25cm in diameter - this should be enough to cover the top and sides of the 15cm cake. Try to get the marzipan 2-3mm thick. 

2. Brush the 15cm cake lightly with the sieved apricot jam. This acts as an adhesive to the cake, letting the marzipan stick. 

3. Transfer the marzipan onto the sponge, and gently smooth down the tops and sides of the cake - try to be as smooth as possible. However, the odd rip doesn't really matter as it will be covered with fondant. After smoothing down the sides (using your hands or you could use a fondant smoother), trim off the excess fondant from the base.

4. Roll out the remaining marzipan to a circle around 30cm in diameter. As with the 15cm cake, brush the 20cm cake with apricot jam and transfer the marzipan onto the cake. Gently smooth the top and sides. Try to get the top as level as possible (as this is where the 15cm cake will sit). 

5. Place some cling film on your surface (enough to fit a 25cm circle of fondant), then dust with more icing sugar, and then roll out 1/3 of the white fondant to a 25cm circle. Keep the fondant 3-4mm thickness to help prevent rips. 

6. Brush the surface of the 15cm cake with a little water, then carefully transfer the fondant to the cake. The easiest way to do this is pick up the clingfilm holding the fondant, and then flip this onto the cake. Whilst the clingfilm is stuck to the fondant, smooth your hands over the top and sides. Then remove the clingfilm - this helps me at least to get a smoother finish/the chance of ripping seems less.

7. Repeat for the 20cm cake with the remaining fondant. Roll 1/2 of the purple fondant out to a long rectangle (around 50cm in length and 2cm in width). Cut into a neat 1cm thick rectangle. Lightly brush the base of the 15cm cake with a little water, then transfer these ribbon across. Roll the remaining purple fondant to a long rectangle about 60cm in length and 1.5cm in width, and gain cut into a neat 1cm thick rectangle. Transfer to the base of the 20cm cake.

8. Stack the 15cm cake on top of the 20cm cake, then set aside for 3-4 days for the fondant to firm up.

9. A few days before/on Christmas Eve, begin the other decorations. To make the gingerbread, preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of a baking tray with baking parchment.

10. Melt the butter, sugar, and golden syrup together in a saucepan, stirring regularly until the butter has melted. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.

11. In a mixing bowl, sieve together the plain flour, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter/sugar/syrup. Beat until you have a warm dough.

12. Dust your surface with a little plain flour, and then roll the gingerbread out until it is about 3/4cm/1/2 inch thick. Use gingerbread men cookie cutters (I had some funny "ninjabread" ones I used) to neatly make the gingerbread men, Depending on the size of the cutters, you should get between 6 and 12 men with the dough. My cutters were about 6cm tall.

13. Bake the gingerbread men for around 8 minutes, until the biscuits have become slightly more golden. Set aside to cool.

14. To make the royal icing, tip the egg whites into a grease-free bowl and whisk briefly until they have become frothy. Add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, and whisk after each addition. If you have a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment), you can leave it running whilst you add the icing sugar.

15. Add the lemon juice and glycerine, then whisk until the mixture forms stiff, glossy, white peaks. 

16. Take 1/3 of the mixture and set aside in a bowl. Dip a cocktail stick in the green food colouring and use this to colour this royal icing. Beat well to evenly distribute the colour.

17. Place a "Grass piping nozzle" (Wilton nozzle 233) in a piping bag and fill the bag with the green royal icing. Snip the tip off the bag, then pipe vertically downwards on the 20cm cake top (around the 15cm cake). Stand your gingerbread men up in the "grass".

233 Piping nozzle
Grass piping nozzle/Wilton 233
18. Place a 1M piping nozzle (open star) into another piping bag and fill this with the white royal icing. Pipe swirls over the top of the 15cm cake. Leave to firm up.

1M piping nozzle
1M Open Star piping nozzle

19. Enjoy!

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

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