Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Who could not resist these quick and easy christmas trees to make with the kids over the holidays.  They were the perfect thing to make for the school christmas fair, and a favourite amongst the children spending their pocket money.

In a large pan melt 100g White Chocolate, 200g Marshmallows, and 3 tbsp Golden Syrup.  When they have completely melted, stir in 100g Rice Krispies.  Quick as you can start stuffing some waffle Cones.  You should be able to make about 8.  Be warned, this is a sticky job and as the Krispies start to cool the mixture gets really stretchy.

When they are filled, push a lolly stick into the mixture and leave upside down to set.  I've used an egg tray but glasses would also do the job.  Once they have set, coat the cones with green icing and sprinkles.


Friday, 14 December 2012

ROSCA DE REYES - Sweet Bread Crown

When I go on holiday I like to go off the beaten track and get a real feel for the place that I'm visiting, go to the  shops and cafes that the locals use and have an authentic taste of the country.  My family and I spent some time in Spain this year with a holiday in Lanzarote where we visited the volcano in the Timanfaya National Park and they cooked chicken from the heat of the volcano

and Tenerife where we had the most amazing sea food and fresh fruit.  I discovered a bizarre fruit which looks like a green pineapple but tastes like a banana and the delicious cake called Tarte De Saint Jaques, an almond cake that we couldn't get enough of.

Spain has lots of foodie traditions and christmas is no exception,  I always think that embracing different customs can only enhance our own celebrations and they usualy involve food which is always good with me.  

Three Kings Day which marks the end of christmas and traditionally the day when children get their presents, takes place 12 days after christmas and celebrates the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Jesus. Rosca De Reyes is customarily eaten on this day, a ring of sweet bread packed with dried and candied fruit which represents a crown worn by the kings. It also has a small doll hidden inside to symbolise jesus hiding from Herod. If you get the slice with the doll, you then host a party for Candlemass on February 2nd, more food, woohoo!

I am asked quite regularly what my favourite thing is to bake and it doesn't take much thought to reply with bread. This bread looks so spectacular when it emerges from the oven that everyone gasps.  You can use a variety of dried fruit like figs, cherries and cranberries, the more colourful the better.  I have used mixed fruit, cherries and crystallised ginger along with pistachios and flaked almonds to finish it off.  For extra christmas flavour I've also added some mixed spice and cinnamon and my secret ingredient is some of the beautiful cherry vinegar from Womersley Foods which gives it a whole different dimension with an added depth of flavour.

I can see this being a regular addition to our festivities along with Salmon Coulibiac on christmas eve and Guyanese Pepperpot for christmas breakfast.

500g Strong White Bread Flour
15g Quick Active Yeast
60g Butter
40g Sugar
10g Salt
2 Eggs
250ml Warm Milk

230g Mixed Fruit
40g Glace Cherries
40g Pistachios
40g Crystalised Ginger
25g Butter
1 tbsp Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Cherry Vinegar - Optional
20g Flaked Almonds
2 tblsp Honey

First Make the dough.  While you warm the milk add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of a freestanding mixer and process till everything is blended. Next add the eggs and mix, then the warmed milk.  The milk should be warm not hot.  Keep mixing till it comes together as a dough and tip it onto a lightly floured surface to knead.  It will be a little stickier than normal bread so harder to knead but it does come together eventually and you will get that lovely warm, smooth stretchy dough you want.

After 8-10 minutes of kneading sprinkle some flour into the bowl and return your dough.  Cover with cling film or a disposable shower cap and leave in a warm place to rise for 1hour.  It should double in size and fill the bowl.  While the dough is rising, mix the filling.  Cut the cherries into 1/4's, roughly chop the pistachios and cut the ginger into small pieces. Combine all the ingredients apart from the flaked almonds and honey.

When the dough has risen, on a floured surface roll it out into a large rectangle about 25cm x 75cm and spread the filling mix over it.  Using the long edge, roll the whole thing up into a sausage.

Now cut down the middle along the length of it and lay the two pieces next to each other, cut side up.  Carefully twist the two pieces together keeping the cut side uppermost.

Gingerly transfer the twined dough onto a baking stone or baking sheet lined with parchment and join the ends together to form a wreath.  Lastly, sprinkle on the almonds.  Now leave in a warm place to rise again for a further 45-60 minutes.

Sweet dough has a tendency to burn quite easily before it is cooked so tent the dough with foil for the first 15 minutes to avoid this.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 170c

Once it has cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with warm honey to give your crown a shiny glaze.

I didn't have the traditional baby to hide but the Jesus from out Playmobil Nativity did the job!

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012


I'm going to come right out with it, I don't like mince pies.  There, I've said it.  I think they're just too rich but this alternative has the perfect balance of fruit and pastry.

I have used one dough for the top and bottom a bit like a shortbread then added flaked almonds for a little more crunch and texture, the end result is a bit like a crumble slice.

In a processor mix 250g Self Raising Flour, 220g Sunflower Margarine, 50g Light Brown Sugar and 2 tsp Mixed Spice.  This will make a soft dough.  Take two thirds of the dough and press it into the base of an 11" x 7" rectangular baking tin lined with parchment.

Now cover the base with a 400g Jar of Mincemeat spreading it evenly up to the edges.  Next use a large size grater and grate the remaining dough over the top of the mincemeat.  Lastly sprinkle over 30g Flakes Almonds and baked at 170C for 25-30 minutes.

Once it has cooled dredge with icing sugar