My husband is what I affectionately refer to as a "fruit bat". He is simply mad for the stuff, in dried or fresh form, his request for Christmas every year is a fruit basket and a fruit cake. And forget eating a dainty slice with tea, the whole cake can and has been consumed in less than a day. We recently went to a lunch after friend's baby's baptism and they brought out a lovely home made fruit cake. I placed a firm hand on his arm and said "NO honey, leave some for everyone else" and like a puppy chastised he looked sheepish and sank back down in his chair. I'm sure he had dreams of taking that cake and running away with it.
I had originally bought him the jar of mincemeat for him to eat with a spoon and a grin on his face but I forgot about it in the cupboard. And lucky I did as I needed it to whip up a quick fruit cake. Nigella's recipe is a ludicrously easy fruit cake at that that you could possibly whip up with what you have in the cupboard plus a jar of mincemeat (I'm not assuming everyone has mincemeat in their cupboard). I looked at another of Nigella's recipes and it required 2 weeks of soaking that I didn't have so this was an easy decision. The cake itself is not exactly like a fruit cake in look although a bite into it and it does taste very fruit cakey. I didn't find that there wasn't quite enough fruit so I'd suggest adding either more mincemeat or soaking some fruit briefly to plump it up and then adding it in. Still, for the amount of effort, it's a pretty good cake. I loved the look of Nigella's Jewelled cupcakes so I used her cues for decorating it.
It was also a good choice to take with us on the long 6 hour drive to the snow for his birthday as it transports easily and is a "hardy" choice (i.e. no delicate layers, no cream). Other fantastic goodies that were cooked up to stave off the Winter chills were Swedish Mulled Wine by my Sister in Law and Finnish Split pea soup by my Mother in Law. I couldn't have asked for better or more delicious ways to warm up after a day in the snow.
I intersperse the recipes with some photos of the snowfall-apparently, this years snowfall was the best in five years!
Ribena Snow Cone using fresh powdery snow!
The Non Cake-Maker's Jewelled Fruit Cake
This cake has everything going for it except staying power. That's to say, it will stale much like an ordinary cake, which means that you should make it to be eaten, not to decorate a sideboard, gathering dust, for the duration of the festive season. Luckily, it tastes wonderful. so that's no hardship.
Naturally I presume the mincemeat will be out of a store-bought jar.
- 125g soft butter
- 225g dark muscovado sugar/dark brown sugar
- 275g plain flour (or you can substitute 75 of flour with ground almonds which will make the cake heavier and more moist, I did and it made the world of difference, seriously)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 2 eggs
- 450g mincemeat (plus more soaked fruit if a very fruity cake is desired)
- Glace or dried fruit and nuts to decorate
- Marmalade or jam mixed with a little hot water to glaze
Step 1 - Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170c. Line a 23cms high sided round tin with baking parchment, lining the bottom and sides well.
Step 2 - Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and blitz together. The dark sugar can be very lumpy so it's best to do this first. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb, zests, brandy and eggs and process again.
Step 3 - Finally add the mincemeat and pulse to incorporate, as you don't want the fruit to be too finely chopped. I added some more soaked fruit at this stage too. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 1 to 1.5 hours. Check the cake after an hour, as you don't want it to be overcooked.
Step 4 - Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack before unmoulding and unwrapping it.
Step 5 - With a pastry brush, brush the top of the cake with jam and water glaze and then arrange fruit and nuts in a decorative or random pattern depending on mood. Brush the top of the fruit and nuts with jam and water glaze. If transporting, place on one of those silver cardboard circles, cover top with baking parchment and then wrap the whole thing in glad wrap and foil. The topping shouldn't come off unless you're playing football with it!
From _Feast _by Nigella Lawson
Swedish Mulled Wine
Every day after skiing, we'd demand that my sister in law make up a batch of this and like kids on a sugar high we'd jump up and down asking for more. It's absolutely delicious and served piping hot, it will restore your body temperature to a more respectable and comfortable level. It can be made with alcohol too, substituting the blackcurrant juice for a good quality red wine but you will need to add sugar to sweeten this. The long steeping process means that the flavours permeate through the drink although of course you could cook it for a shorter time if you are in need of a speedy defrosting.
- 1 tablespoon cloves
- 1 tablespoon of cardamom pods
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 1.25 litres blackcurrant juice (can be made from Ribena)
- Rind of 1 orange or mandarin
- 50g sultanas
Step 1 - Heat all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour to allow flavours to develop. Serve hot, especially when the snow is falling thickly outside.
Lone Kangaroo in the snow
Finnish Split Pea Soup (Hernekeitto)
My mother in law's version of this was briefer as we were away from home and just needed a warming winter soup with few ingredients that catered for vegetarians (this soup can be made for both vegetarians and non vegetarians). I've included the full recipe although it can be made simply with the peas, stock and salt and pepper which is what she made above and was still very tasty.
- 500g dried split green peas
- 500g smoked pork bones, knuckle or hock (optional)
- 2.5 litres water (or vegetable stock if not using smoked pork bones, knuckle or hock)
- 2 onions
- 3 carrots
- 2 tablespoons cream (optional)
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- mustard on top (optional)
Step 1 - Steep the peas in some clean cold water over night or for several hours. Discard the water, and pick out discoloured peas and rinse the peas. Pour water or stock into a saucepan. Add peas and smoked bones, knuckle or hock. Cook at a low heat for approximately 2 ½ - 3 hours.
If you are not using the pork bones,knuckle or hock and simply using the peas and stock, you can cook it for about 30-45 minutes and serve it once it has completed cooking here.
Step 2 - Remove the smoked bones or knuckle from the saucepan, separate the meat and cut into small pieces. Peel and chop the onions and carrots and add them to the saucepan together with the meat pieces, cream, black pepper, marjoram and salt.
Step 3 - Cook at a low heat for 30 minutes. You can season the soup with a little mustard.
Interestingly, Pea Soup is also "a Finnish national Thursday meal", and is often followed by pancakes as a dessert. Hyyva hyyva!
[From the Finnguide website