All Hallows' Eve


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

In the garden there are photo opportunities.

In the kitchen the smell of pumpkin carving is overpowering, the floor is treacherous with slippery seeds.

I am thinking about pumpkin recipes.

The prospect of trick or treating and a sleepover with her cousin  has sent Katie into state of high excitement.

Tom's Pumpkin

Pumpkins by (from left to right) George, Tom and Katie

It is time to make my monthly sampler and I find October has been a month of colour and riches. 

What will November bring I wonder, apart from leftover pumpkin.

Black Magic


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Black treacle is something I seem to use only between October and January. Some goes in the Christmas cake, occasionally I put a spoonful in a bean stew or use it in a barbecue-type marinade but most goes in gingerbread. I usually save gingerbread for Guy Fawkes Night*. Dark, sticky ginger cakes are traditionally eaten in the north of England on Guy Fawkes Night. Parkin is eaten in Yorkshire and in Derbyshire they make Thor cake. Both have oatmeal in them. The extract shown below is from Alison Uttley's Recipes From and Old Farmhouse. Written in 1966 it is a description of the recipes she remembered from her Derbyshire childhood at the end of the 19th century. It's well worth tracking down a copy not only for the recipes but for the beautiful illustrations by Pauline Baynes.

This year I decided to make gingerbread for Halloween. Well, the decision was made for me really. Lyle's have produced this glorious 'Trick or Treacle' limited edition of their famous sticky black stuff.

I love these special tins. I am building quite a collection.

So for October's cake of the month I give you gingerbread. Not my own recipe -hard to come up with a new recipe for a traditional cake. This is by St Mary Berry of the Cake. From her Ultimate Cake Book. The only changes I made were to use butter in place of margarine and to mix the ingredients in a slightly different way.


Grease and base line a traybake or roasting tin about 12''x 9'' (30cm x 23cm). The sides need to be at least 1 inch deep.

Melt gently in a large saucepan
10 oz (275g) black treacle
10 oz (275g) golden syrup
8 oz (225g) light muscovado sugar
8 oz (225g) butter

In a large bowl sift
1 lb (450g) self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons mixed spice

In a small bowl beat
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons of milk

Pour the melted mixture slowly onto the sifted flour beating well with a wooden spoon. This will help ensure you don't end up with little clumps of dry flour in your gingerbread.

Once all is well mixed beat in the eggs, again making sure everything is blended smoothly.

Pour the mixture which will be quite runny into the prepared tin and bake at 160°c (140°c fan oven/gas 3) for 50 minutes.

The cake should be well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning onto a cooling rack. When cool cut into pieces (16, 21 or 24 depending how big you like your chunks of cake). If possible leave in an airtight tin for a couple of days as it will become stickier and more delicious.

Did you know that 100g of black treacle will provide you with your entire daily requirement of iron? So if the vampires are making you feel a bit anaemic this Halloween have a chunk of gingerbread and maybe a glass of Guinness to wash it down.

You might also be interested in this post.

*5th November

Couldn't Resist...


Thursday, 25 October 2012

...These teeny tiny glass baubles from Paperchase. Just 2 cm in diameter and probably destined to fall and smash....

Cranberry Christmas Chutney


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A recipe in Diana Henry's wonderful new book on preserving Salt Sugar Smoke caught my eye. It was for Christmas Chutney and among other things it contained fresh and dried cranberries. I had both of these although I confess the cranberries were frozen not fresh, and had been frozen for at least twelve months. They certainly needed to be used and chutney seemed like a good way of using very old frozen cranberries.

 I did not however have the prunes, dried sour cherries or dates also required for the recipe. I decided that rather than go out and buy more ingredients I would use what I had and devise my own Christmassy chutney.

 I made sure that I used the same amount of apples, onions, vinegar, sugar and spices that the original recipe called for and then I added up the total weight of the other fruit called for and made that up with my own selection of dried cranberries, frozen cranberries, sultanas and dried apricots.

It was a quick and easy chutney to make compared to my usual damson chutney which takes ages because of  all the stones and the fact that I make such a large quantity which takes hours to cook.

Cranberry Christmas Chutney
Makes about 5 medium jars

300g fresh or frozen cranberries
200g dried cranberries
100g sultanas (or raisins)
175g dried apricots, chopped
3 finely chopped eating apples (I used cox's orange pippins and left the skins on)
2 finely chopped medium onions (about 270g in total)
475 ml cider vinegar (I had less cider vinegar than I thought so I topped it up with red wine vinegar)
500g light soft brown sugar
Half a teaspoon each of ground ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of brandy (optional)

Mix everything except the brandy in a large pan (a preserving pan is ideal). Bring to a simmer.
The cranberries will float. Allow to simmer until thick and jammy enough for a channel to be made when you draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan as in the picture below. Don't let it get too dry though. This could take up to 2 hours, mine took about 1½ hours.

Take off the heat and stir in the brandy.
Pot into sterilised jars. I sterilise them by washing and putting them in a 100 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

I would like to tell you that this chutney is delicious with cold turkey and ham on Boxing Day, but I can't because it won't be ready to eat until Christmas. I can tell you though, that I am confident it will be delicious with cold turkey and ham on Boxing Day and beyond. I will let you know how it turns out in due course. I tasted a little and found it to be quite a sweet chutney, but chutneys are best left to mature for a couple of months so we shall see.

Golden Brown


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Just as the cherry tree outside our house has flamed from green to gold  this week so I find that the food in my kitchen has taken on a distinctly golden brown hue.

Not my cherry tree -unknown shrub in neighbour's garden

There were gingernuts made purely to try out my new cookie stamp.

There was a lunch of baked beans to which I added a cupful of leftover homemade spicy sausage and bean stew (minus the sausages).

There was a big pot of mince with dumplings.

Today there was a six-hour roast shoulder of pork. Not the neatest of joints to carve but utterly delicious and the crackling was the crispest ever. We ate our roast pork with quince jelly.

 Afterwards there was a dish of bread and butter toffee apples. This recipe with cubes of bread fried in butter first, a spoonful of sugar added and removed to a plate while the apples were cooked. Once the apples were soft the sticky, chewy bread cubes were mixed in with them. Really, really good.

What about you? Has your cooking become autumnal?

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