Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas Pudding with a Mandarin Centre

Confession time - I haven't made a Christmas pudding in years....  because my mother always brings her home made and very well seasoned one (does she start it in January?), or makes sure one is bowled my way before Christmas.  This year, nothing happened, and I realised that I had better get on and make one before it was too late.

I found this fabulous recipe in the BBC Good Food Magazine - a pudding with a delicious candied mandarin in the centre which gives the whole pudding an orange flavour and apparently oozes orange juice when it is cut.  Wow!    So, for the first time, I am blogging something that I haven't tasted yet!  Actually, the photo below shows it just before it went into the pan, so it is raw.   In an ideal world, this should be matured for a few weeks, but life is simply too short.   Fingers crossed...

The recipe suggests that you save the cooking liquid from the mandarin and use it as a sweet base for mulled wine or festive cocktails.  I opted to turn mine into an orange sherbet - I chucked it into the ice cream maker, adding the juice and some pulp of a large orange, 1/4 pint of commercial juice (ie, all that was left after the gannets had been through) and 1 egg white.  It was delicious!

Note that the recipe says the fruit needs to be steeped overnight or for a few hours...

Christmas Pudding with a Mandarin Centre 
Mandarin in the Middle Christmas Pudding

5oz/140g each raisins, sultanas and currants
5oz/140g glace cherries, halved
2oz/50g blanched almonds
1 medium Bramley apple, peeled, cored and grated to give 175g/6oz flesh
2fl oz/50g orange liqueur – eg Cointreau
Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 firm mandarin or large seedless clementine (about 140g/5oz)
14oz/400g white granulated sugar (to keep the colour)
2 tbsp orange liqueur

5oz/140g cold butter,
6oz/175g dark muscovado sugar, plus a little extra for coating the bowl
6oz/175g fresh white breadcrumbs
5oz/140g self raising flour with a pinch of salt
1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice
2 large eggs, beaten

The recipe starts by preparing the fruit – put it all into a large bowl, mix well, cover and leave for a few hours (24 preferably!).

Then you prepare the mandarin centre – put the mandarin into a small pan, cover with cold water (you can’t quite – it floats), then put a piece of scrunched up baking parchment over the top (and I added the top of the pan to keep it together).  Bring to the boil and cook for 30 minutes, or until tenddr when stabbed with a cocktail stick.  Remove the mandarin and measure 300g of the water into a jug, discarding the rest.  Pour the 300g back into the pan and add the white sugar, heating gently to dissolve the sugar crystals.  Stab the mandarin several more times and then put it into the syrup, plus the liqueur.    Cover it with the parchmnent again and simmer for 45 minutes, turning it upside down half way through.  At the end of the cooking it should be translucent and have a dark orange colour (mine didn’t).  Allow to cool in the syrup (it might as well be overnight).

To make the pudding, grease a 1.5 litre pudding basin, then scatter a handful of muscovado sugar around onto the grease (not sure why they did this, as it didn’t stick).   In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, then grate in the butter, adding the steeped fruit and the beaten eggs.  Mix well.

Put about 1/3 (less, not more) of the mixture into the bowl, and squish the mandarin into it (gently, as it might burst).   Put dollops of the mixture all around and over the mandarin until the bowl is completely full.    

Make a hat for the bowl with one layer of buttered parchment and an outer layer of foil, with a pleat in the middle of both to allow the pudding to expand.  Tie with string around the bowl, and make a string handle (very important when you are handling a hot slippery bowl!).   Tuck the foil around the parchment. 

Find your largest pan and sit the pudding on a heat proof saucer (or jam jar top), pouring in boiling water to come half way up the side of the pudding.  Cover and steam for 6 hours, topping the water up occasionally (this is important!).   Leave the pudding to mature in a cool, dark place.

To serve, steam it in a pan for an hour, or remove the foil and parchment, cover the top with cling film and microwave on medium for 10 minutes.    Turn the pudding out onto a warmed dish.  Cut the pudding using a serrated knife so you don’t drag the mandarin out of place.   Serve with cream or brandy butter.  

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Scotch Pancakes or Drop Scones

Otherwise known as drop scones, Scotch Pancakes are my favourite teatime treats for hungry boys in a hurry, unexpected visitors, or just when I feel like stuffing my face with pancakes!    Made and demolished in minutes, the recipe is so simple, it's almost embarrassing...

The recipe below makes about 12, and I usually make and serve as I go, with anticipation being closely followed by a feeding frenzy….   They can apparently be served cold, but in 20 years or so, I’ve never managed it! 

Scotch Pancakes
Scotch Pancakes (Drop Scones)

4oz/110g self raising flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
¼ pint/130ml milk

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl, make a well in the centre and stir in the egg and enough milk to give a thickish dropping batter.  Don’t beat it, it’s meant to be very quick and light.

Heat a large frying pan, grease the base with a non-tasting oil or butter, and then drop dessertspoonfuls of the mixture, well spaced.  Cook until you can see bubbles coming, then turn over the pancakes and do the other side.  Maximum time taken is about 5-6 minutes. 

Toss onto a plate, dredge with caster sugar and serve with lemon juice or syrup. 

Friday, 4 December 2015

Rich Chocolate Sauce

Chocolate sauce can be a pudding in itself!   Chocolate sauce should be rich and smooth, like the best kind of lover....  and here is my absolute favourite recipe.  It's so easy to make, and keeps for almost a month in a jar with a lid.   I've made mine for Christmas already, as it is magical with meringues, ideal for ice cream and perfect with profiteroles!  Not quite sure how you photograph something like this, so I wasted some on a plate, below...

If you use dairy free dark chocolate, then this recipe has the amazing merit of being both dairy and gluten free.

Rich Chocolate Sauce
Very Easy Rich Chocolate Sauce

6oz/175g dark chocolate
2oz/50g dark soft brown sugar
½ pint/300ml water

Put the chocolate and sugar in a pan with the water over a low heat, stirring until the chocolate has dissolved.  Bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes or so until it has thickened up nicely.  Serve hot!

You could add:   orange – a dash of Cointreau and some orange zest; mint – a teaspoon of peppermint essence; alcohol – name your poison; or just drink it as it is.