Saturday, December 23, 2006

First the Goode News..

Seasonal Tips:
Turkey: If the bird is very large, remove the legs and cook separately. Remember to adjust the timing for the rest of the bird as it will weigh less. But always check the juices run clear before removing from the oven. For a moister flesh, cook the bird breast side down for the first half of the cooking time, then turn it the right way up.
Xmas Pudding: If you have unexpected guests, extend a small pudding by removing it from its wrapper and container. Crumble into a bowl and add a few extra ingredients (these will be printed on the wrapper). Extra fruit, breadcrumbs, suet (if used), grated apple. Add a dash of orange juice or brandy/rum to moisten and put back into a larger bowl. Allow extra cooking time as it will now weigh more.
Steaming a pudding gives a much better texture than microwaving it, also as long as you give it at least the correct time (for its weight), it doesn't matter if you allow half an hour longer. Just keep an eye on the water in the pan, add more boiling water as it evaporates.
As the pudding is always well covered, I cook some vegetables in the water below. Might as well make use of it, and it saves using another burner.

Here's a recipe which is good in that you can make use of what you've got (within limitations of course), and one which I will be making and baking today. Can't do without fruit cake at this time of the year.
Odds and Ends Fruit Cake:
12 oz (350g) mixed dried fruit (which can include chopped glace cherries and candied peel)
4 oz (110g) butter (or any margarine, soft or hard)
4 oz (110g) brown sugar (demerara or soft brown or even white)
8 oz (125g) self-raising flour (white or brown)
5fl oz (1/4 pt or 150ml) water
2 eggs (medium or large)
1 level tsp mixed spice (or a blend of cinnamon and ginger)
Put the fruit, fats, sugar in a pan with the water. Heat to simmering and stir. Simmer for 20 minutes. Stir and check frequently that it remains moist.
Remove from heat and leave until cooled but not cold (about 30 minutes).
Sift the flour with the spice and add to the pan, stir and add the beaten eggs.
Mix well and pour into a greased and lined 7"-8" cake tin and bake at 170C, 325F, Gas 3 for half an hour then reduce heat to 150C, 300F, gas 2 and bake on for a further hour and a half. Test after one hour, cover with foil if browning too much (you can check this even earlier if you want) and bake on until the cake is cooked.
Leave to cool in the tin for half an hour before turning out onto a cake airer. When cold wrap in greaseproof/parchment paper and overwrap with foil. It will keep well given the chance.
For a boozy cake, spike the base with a skewer and drizzle over some rum or brandy.

Tips: If time to plan baking the above cake, soak the dried fruit in a little red wine, brandy, rum or port overnight to make the cake even more scrumptious.
Grate the last of the marzipan and fold this into the cake mixture at the end.
Chop some nuts and add these to the cake.
If using white sugar but prefer a dark cake, then add a couple of teaspoons of black treacle to the pan (and omit 1oz of the sugar).
If you haven't much dried fruit left, then finely chop some no-soak-dried apricots and dates and include these. Chopped preserved ginger would also be good.