GUYS GUYS GUYS. IT’S ONE WEEK TIL CHRISTMAS. One week until we can stuff our faces with turkey and bacon and mince pies (though it would be totally legitimate to have started this already…), rip open beautifully wrapped presents, throw back ill-advised quantities of champagne and sherry and then cry at the last ever episode of Downton. *Sob* (WARNING: to those who know me personally, I won’t be watching this until Boxing Day so approach me with spoilers on pain of horrific death). Below, in the “One year ago” section, are some appropriately festive recipes, but for now let’s celebrate a wonderful product of the season: the pumpkin. Pumpkins are for life, not just Halloween, so make the most of their time in the shops and do some alternative Christmas baking. I’ve posted a few pumpkin recipes in the past (spiced pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin pie with maple cream), so there are plenty to chose from if you really get into the pumpkin-y swing of things. The recipe for these delicately spiced and deliciously moist muffins is based onthis recipe from BBC Good Food, with just a few tweaks to quantities, spices and method. It’s very similar to a carrot cake batter, and in fact if you’re really averse to the pumpkin idea then you could do a substitution, though I encourage you to give this recipe a try as is.
While we’re on the subject, let’s clear something up: yes, “Halloween pumpkins” sold in the supermarkets are edible! Although grown specifically for carving, resulting in quite tough skin and possibly a more watery flesh and milder flavour, they are perfectly suitable for human consumption. I’ve used “Halloween pumpkins” in this recipe before and it worked like a dream, but you can get lots of different varieties of smaller pumpkins so if you see them in your local shop then give one a go (I used an Onion squash, also known as a Red Kuri squash, for this batch). You could also use butternut squash if pumpkins aren’t available.
One year ago:
– Mincemeat puff pastry swirls
– Sea salt and brandy truffles
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins) 250g coarsely grated pumpkin flesh (approx. 1 small pumpkin) 3 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 175ml sunflower oil 175g soft light brown sugar 80g sultanas Zest of 1 orange 1 tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp mixed spice ½ tsp ground ginger 200g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g full fat cream cheese 85g unsalted butter 100g icing sugar
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ Gas Mark 4. Halve your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a large spoon.
This recipe comes from my very lovely Auntie Rosie. My mum has had a hand-written copy tucked away in a folder for years, and it’s really the only go-to carrot cake recipe that you need. It’s very lightly spiced with cinnamon and comes out the oven dense, but deliciously moist thanks to the carrots and apples. A light, fluffy Victoria sponge can be absolute perfection, but sometimes your cravings call for a richer cake, one with the caramel flavour of brown sugar, the softness of cooked fruits and vegetables and small bursts of fudgy raisins throughout. The sourness of the icing on top helps to balance the sweet sponge. It’s a simple cream cheese affair, flavoured with lemon juice and, my own personal addition, orange zest.
Ingredients 115g butter 2 tbsp olive oil 250g carrots, peeled and grated 2 apples, peeled and grated 170g soft brown sugar 2 eggs 200g flour 7 tsp baking powder 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp salt 115g raisins
3 tbsp milk
60g icing sugar 250g cream cheese 1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter. 2. Melt the butter and mix with the olive oil.
3. Mix the fats with the sugar, eggs, and grated carrots and apples.
4. Sieve the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt) and fold into the wet mix.
5. Add the milk and raisins to the cake mixture and stir well.
6. Spoon the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean.
7. Turn the cake out and leave to cool while you make the icing.
8. To make the icing simply beat together the icing sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice and orange zest. Keep in the fridge until you are ready to ice the cake.
9. Once the sponge is completely cool, spoon the cream cheese frosting onto the cake and spread evenly. Leave like this, or decorate in whatever way takes your fancy: I dotted some orange food colouring gel around the top of the cake and then used a skewer to swirl it through the icing.
This carrot cake doesn’t need any extras, like cream, on the side whether it’s served up mid-afternoon or for pudding. All you need is a generous wedge of cake, and perhaps a cup of tea.
Thanks for the fabulous recipe Auntie Rosie! x
I’m back! March and April have been two of the craziest months I’ve ever had. It began with three birthdays in one week, immediately followed by Hen/Stag weekends. We moved into our first home and spent just two weeks moving, unpacking, drilling, painting and making multiple trips to Ikea, before we packed up again and sped up north for a fantastic Easter week in the highlands with family and friends. We left a day early to travel to Glasgow to see two of our loveliest friends tie the knot and enjoyed a glorious, fun, exciting and relaxed day celebrating with them in the Scottish sun. And then, this Easter Monday, BAM! No, not bus, but a nice double dose of spring illness. Blocked sinuses, runny noses, sneezing, sore throats: all of the fun. However, life is slowly returning to normal and I’m looking forward to May and June passing in a slightly more chilled fashion….wishful thinking?
Now I have a confession for you. A couple of weeks ago on Instagram I promised to put up the recipe for an Easter cake I was making. I fully intended to – an introduction was written, photos had been taken and the recipe was scrawled in my notebook. However, in the end I wasn’t satisfied with the result. The frosting (ohhhhh the cream cheese frosting), now that I could have eaten an entire bowl of. But the cake itself was just a little too dry. I don’t know if I over baked it or if the recipe needs tweaking but either way it needs another test run (or two). So I’ll save that recipe for another day, but if you’re still with me next Easter then I promise to perfect it by then and hopefully it will be worth the wait!
So today we’re moving on. And we’re moving on to something that I can guarantee you will work and be so ridiculously delicious that you’re actually tempted to go back for a second piece even though you know it will make you queasy. Last night we got to catch up with our old flatmate and dear friend for the first time in a year and half since he jetted off to work in Swaziland. Famed for inventing the greatest party game ever, Does It Float, and for his fish eye stew, he also has the sweetest tooth I know. Seriously, chocolate is not safe in your house if he is there. There was only one thing for it, so I present to you, Triple Chocolate Cheesecake…
Ingredients (serves 10-12, depending on how large you slice!) 250g milk chocolate digestive biscuits 100g butter 300ml double cream 600g cream cheese 300g white chocolate
Dark chocolate to decorate – I used dark chocolate chunks, but you could grate over dark chocolate, use a knife to make chocolate swirls from a large block or melt dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top
Method 1. Place your biscuits in a plastic freezer bag and tie the top. Select your weapon of choice (the trusty rolling pin is a classic, but without one I used the humble tin of beans) and bash the biscuits into small crumbs. Try not to take too much of life’s frustrations out on them or you risk the bag splitting. If you’re worried that you can’t hold back then wrap the bag in a dish cloth just in case. Tip the biscuit crumb into a bowl.
2. Melt the butter and pour over the biscuits. Mix well.
3. Firmly press the buttery biscuit base into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and place in the fridge to cool – I left mine for a couple of hours but 30 minutes should do it.
4. Slowly melt the white chocolate in a bain marie, ensuring that the bowl with the chocolate in it does not touch the water in the pan underneath. White chocolate can become grainy if it’s heated too much, so be patient. Remember that chocolate has a very low melting point so you can even take it off the heat before all the chunks have melted and it will still fully melt. Set aside to cool slightly.
5. Whip the cream cheese and double cream until thick, but not over whipped. Over whipped cream is a sin.
6. Thoroughly mix in the white chocolate.
7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the base and smooth with the back of a spoon. Chill for at least 2 hours, or longer if you have time.
8. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Remove the cake tin and decorate with dark chocolate.
We had the cheesecake with raspberries which I had taken out the freezer a few hours before and sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar. They went perfectly with the rich, decadent, creamy cheesecake.
Chocoholics, this one is for you!