Christmas Day

I’m a day late with this post but I don’t seem to have had much time to myself. As you can see we’ve had the family home for Christmas, our two boys and Laura, Gordon’s girlfriend who is as much like a daughter to us as anyone could be as they’ve been going out with each other since they were just 17 and she stayed a lot with us when they were students as she was an English student, coming from Rochdale but at Uni in Stirling so we were her local base.

We had turkey and ham with lots of roasted veggies and yes sprouts which Jack and I love anyway but this time I used the Jamie Oliver shredded sprout recipe with bacon.
Duncan, Gordon and Laura

How solemn do we all look? We had fun, honestly!

Christmas Day Table

Believe it or not, I had never made a trifle before and I put this one together, not bothering with a recipe. Next time I’ll use more jelly and less custard I think. I used a shop bought Swiss roll for the first layer then topped it with strawberries and jelly then custard and cream with strawberries topped with grated chocolate. Very tasty.

Strawberry trifle

Just so that we had a choice of puddings I also made chocolate cheesecake based on Lorraine Pascale’s recipe which you can see here. I tweaked her recipe slightly. Instead of all chocolate digestives I made a third of them Amaretto biscuits to make a more interesting combination and I did the cheesecake in two layers, the first of which was all mixed in very well and the second layer was just roughly mixed to leave some of the cream cheese unmixed which made the flavour better I think as I like a bit of a surprise in each spoonful. As you can see I had a bit of a disaster with my piping nozzle thingy and ended up scraping the melted chocolate out onto the melted milk chocolate instead of having a beautifully feathered decoration. In future I’m not going to bother faffing about with the melted chocolate on top as the cheesecake is nice enough without it I think.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Boxing Day is always a rest for me as it’s the leftover ham and turkey made into a pie which takes no time to throw together. For some reason the pastry has shrunk away from the edges of my pie dish but it tasted fine.

Turkey and Ham Pie

So that’s it all over for another year. Now for Hogmanay!

Bakewell, Derbyshire and Bakewell Pudding

Weir with geese

Bakewell is another place which we visited on our recent trip to Derbyshire. The river Wye runs through the middle of it and as you can see from the above photo it’s full of geese, ducks and swans. I love towns with rivers, in fact I think it’s the thing that I find most important about a place, I suppose I like them because all old towns were built on rivers and I prefer old places.

Bakewell is very close to Chatsworth, we’d seen it recently on TV and as we’re partial to Bakewell Tart – the Mr Kipling kind, we thought we’d like to try out the original Bakewell Pudding. The problem is there are three shops in Bakewell proclaiming themselves to be the only one selling the original Bakewell pudding, which one should we choose?

We plumped (and that is a significant word) for the ones which looked nicest because it seems that about half of the shops in Bakewell are selling the puddings but most of them look very amateurish and frankly not very appetising. So we bought two slices which were enormous but being greedy we decided to buy a Bakewell tart too. This was the only shop selling tarts, the difference being that the tarts have icing on top. Most Scots have a very sweet tooth (it’s something to do with our cold northern climate I think) and I could quite happily eat a bowl of icing on its own so the tart was just too tempting.

Bakewell Tart

We ate the slices first. I have to say that I wasn’t all that struck on the flavour of it. It certainly didn’t taste of almonds which is the most obvious flavour of the Mr Kipling Bakewells. Another bite was required though to try to work out what the flavour was – then another and another and before I knew what was happening I had scoffed the whole thing, still none the wiser as to what it really tasted of. It was very slightly fudge-ish or maybe butterscotch-ish. What was worse was that I thought to myself that it was so heavy it felt like it must have been about 1,000 calories of glook.

All that I can definitely say about the taste is that it was over-egged and I really hate puddings and cakes which taste eggy. So why did I eat it? Who knows? – not me anyway, but if I ever find myself in Bakewell again I’ll be giving the puddings a wide swerve. As we bought a tart too we ended up eating it over the next few days and I must say that it tasted a bit better, due mainly to the icing on top I’m sure. It would have been better with custard!

We’ve had so many meals out over the holidays what with celebrating family birthdays and being away, also it was our 35th wedding anniversary earlier in the month and we just had to have a meal out then too and as a friend said to me – the main reason for eating out is to have the lovely puddings. The result is that I’ve put on an amazing three inches around my waist which I only discovered when I tried to put on my favourite skirt. It’s down to two inches now but I bet it takes ages to shift those two extra inches. Such is life!

Just Some Ice-Cream

We all went out for a meal on Friday night to celebrate Laura’s birthday, well it was really a joint celebration as my birthday comes a wee bit later on in the month. We all enjoyed the meal that we had when we visited the Dil’se in Dundee for our last family celebration so we took ourselves off there again. It’s an Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant and it’s always busy, which is a good sign.

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a curry coward so I usually have a korma but this time I thought I’d plump for something different and I had a chicken chasni, which was daring for me, but I enjoyed it. Unfortunately we were all so busy getting stuck into the feast that I forgot to take any photographs.

We were all feeling fairly stuffed but determined to find space for some pudding. Ice cream doesn’t take up much room I thought. Everybody else had fresh mango or kulfi but I fancied some pineapple and this is what I got!

Pineapple boat

It was larger than all of the other puddings put together, which was a bit embarrassing. But I tackled it – womanfully – and despite the fact that there must have been a whole banana in it as well as half of a pineapple and mango, lots of ice cream, cream and chocolate, I did just about manage it all! I had to leave three wee bits of fruit, just to be polite. I am now quite a bit heavier than I was last week!

Coffee Cream

This pudding isn’t exactly exciting looking, it is after all beige and it’s what granny would have called “a shape”. I adapted this recipe from a Margeurite Patten one which was actually in the section of “food for the elderly”. It uses up half a can of evaporated milk and as I often have exactly that much left over from doing a particular pasta dish, I thought I would give it a try.

1/2 large can evaporated milk
2oz sugar
3 heaped dessertspoons cornflour
1 tsp instant coffee granules

Make the evaporated milk up to one pint with water. Blend the cornflour, sugar and coffee with some of the milk. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil. Pour onto the blended mixture and stir well. Return to the saucepan and bring to the boil again. Continue cooking, stirring all the time until it has thickened.

Pour the mixture into a mould. Leave to cool and set which will take several hours.

If you can remember Symington Table Creams, this pudding tastes and has a similar texture to those puddings. I read somewhere that you can still get the Symington ones but I haven’t seen them for years.

Basically it’s a very thick custard mixture which sets when it is cool. The sky’s the limit flavour-wise with this sort of recipe because you can add any kind of flavouring you fancy.

The original recipe called for vanilla essence but I tried coffee, in future I’m going to add some booze, probably Bailey’s Irish Cream. I’ll also try cocoa and I’m going to have a go at Maple and Walnut which was my favourite Symington one, I’ll use maple syrup instead of sugar but I’m not sure about the walnut flavour. Is there such a thing as walnut or pecan essence?

This is a very simple store-cupboard dessert, but it’s still tasty.

Chocolate, Banana And Toffee Pie

This one went down well with the whole family. It will serve 6.

For the base:
65 g/2½ oz unsalted butter
250 g/9 oz chocolate digestive biscuits

For the filling:
397 g/13 oz tin of condensed milk
150 g/5 oz plain chocolate
120 ml/4 fl oz creme fraiche or single cream
1 tbsp golden syrup

For the topping:
2 bananas
250 ml/8 fl oz creme fraiche
2 tbsp strong black coffee

Melt the butter in a pan. Crush the biscuits using a rolling pin if you don’t have a food processor. Put the crushed biscuits into a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix well and press onto the base and up the sides of a 23cm/9in loose-based flan tin. Leave to set.

To make the filling: Place the unopened can of condensed milk in a saucepan of boiling water and cover with a lid. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Do not allow the pan to boil dry. This caramelises the condensed milk and you can buy this ready made in tins if you don’t want the faff of doing it yourself.

Remove the pan from the heat after 2 hours and leave it until it has completely cooled. Do not open the can whilst it is still hot, it is very dangerous as the contents are under pressure due to the heat.

Melt the chocolate with the 120 ml creme fraiche or single cream and golden syrup in a heatproof glass bowl over simmering water. Stir in the caramelised condensed milk and mix well, then spread the mixture over the biscuit crust.

Slice the bananas and arrange them on top of the chocolate filling.

Mix together the 250 ml creme fraiche and coffee then spread the mixture over the bananas.

Decorate with grated chocolate or chocolate curls. The easiest way to make chocolate curls is to use a potato peeler on the edge of a bar of chocolate.

Magimix Le Glacier Ice Cream Maker

We were lucky enough to be given vouchers for Lakeland Plastics at Christmas. As the weather has been so bad, we haven’t managed to use them until this week.

So we headed north to Perth and had a mooch around the Lakeland shop there. I’ve always fancied being able to make my own ice-cream so that is what we ended up buying and we’ve been trying it out this week-end.

We started off with the vanilla and then branched out to mint with crushed up Aero mint chocolate added to it. They were both really lovely and I’m looking forward to experimenting with lots of different flavours.

You get a basic recipe book with the machine but I think you can be really adventurous and make it up as you go along. There is a great Italian ice cream shop in St Andrews which has dozens and dozens of different flavours, I think my favourite is the Scottish Tablet one and that should be really easy to replicate.

I’ve got Turkish Delight left over from Christmas too and I think I’ll chop it up and add it to the basic vanilla with some rose-water, that should be lovely.

I hate cheap commercially made ice-cream. To me it is just like sweetened margarine and at least if you make it yourself, you know exactly what is in it.

The bowl of the ice-cream maker has to be in your freezer for about 12 hours before you can use it, but after that it only takes about 20 minutes to make the ice-cream.

So the ice-cream maker has been a great success and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about buying one.

Sparkling Rosé Jellies

Rose jellies

We couldn’t stand the thought of a heavy pudding on Christmas day, especially since we had had the Girdlebuster Pie for my husband’s birthday the day before. Sparkling rose jellies seemed to fit the bill as they are light and refreshing after a big meal.

They are very quick and easy to make and obviously can be done the day before you need them.

6 oz sugar.
pork gelatine as directed on the packet.
1 bottle sparkling rosé wine.
1½ pints of water.

Make up the gelatine as directed on the packet, calculating how much you will need for the amount of fluid in the recipe. If you use powdered (beef) gelatine then you just sprinkle it into the sugared boiled water. However we haven’t eaten beef products since before the media got hold of the BSE story so I used pork gelatine, which comes in thin sheets which you have to dissolve in a bowl of water over a pan of hot water. Snip the sheets up first.

Pour the 1½ pints of water into a pan and add the 6 oz of sugar. Stir and bring up to boiling point, making sure that the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Now add the dissolved (or powdered) gelatine into the sugared water. Whisk well together and place the pan in a cold place to set the jelly. After about 1 to 1½ hours the jelly should be on the point of setting. Now carefully add the bottle of wine and stir it into the jelly mixture. Ladle the jelly into pretty serving glasses or dishes and leave to set again, which should take about 3 hours.

The bubbles from the wine should be trapped within the jelly, giving a lovely texture to the dessert.

This recipe can be made with something like Schloer or a similar sort of grape juice, if you are making it for people who need to avoid alcohol. It would be especially popular for young teenagers whom you don’t want to feed booze to, but who have grown beyond the jelly and ice-cream stage.

The quantities which I have given will feed about 10 people. As you can see from the photograph, I added raspberries to mine when the jelly was setting this time. In future I won’t bother doing this as the raspberries tasted very tart compared to the jelly. It might work if you soaked the fruit in some more booze beforehand, but that would make it quite alcoholic.

I have tried this recipe using a white sparkling wine but I much prefer a rosé one as the fruitiness of the wine really comes out when it is very cold.

I added some raspberry juice to whipping cream to top them off.

With raspberry cream topping

Girdlebuster Pie

As I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to be making a Girdlebuster Pie for my husband’s birthday cake, I thought you might like to see how it turned out.

Girdlebuster Pie

I would be the first to admit that the photograph doesn’t look great, the ice-cream bubbles to the surface in places making a strange effect but crucially, it tasted yummy.

I used tiramasu ice-cream as I couldn’t get coffee flavoured but it worked really well anyway. The great advantage of this dessert is that it can be made so far in advance and frozen until it is needed.

It is very rich and I would say that it is enough to give 12 portions. Five of us managed to get through half of it, and the rest I put back into the freezer until next week.

The recipe can be found at

Chocolate Pudding

chocolate up and over pudding

chocolate up and over pudding

Everybody loves chocolate pudding, especially in the colder weather which I can feel coming already and this is a great recipe for those times when the whole family is asking – What’s for pudding? and you haven’t had time to think about it. All of the ingredients are what I would call ‘store cupboard essentials’, nothing fancy, but it tastes great.


75g/3oz self-raising flour
1 rounded tablespoon of cocoa powder
125g/4oz soft margarine
125g/4oz granulated sugar
2 eggs

Topping and sauce

1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
125g/4oz demerara sugar
300 ml/ 1/2 pint hot, strong black coffee. Instant is fine – use 3 teaspoons added to the water.

Grease an oven proof dish of 2 pint capacity.

Put all of the pudding ingredients into a mixing bowl at the same time and with a wooden spoon or electric mixer, beat until smooth.

Tip the mixture into your greased dish and smooth flat.

Sprinkle 50g/2oz demerara sugar over the top.

Add the remaining 50g/2oz demerara sugar to the hot coffee and stir well. Carefully pour the coffee over the pudding mixture.

Bake at gas mark 4, 350 F, 180 C for about 50 minutes or an hour.

As if by magic the sponge rises over the coffee mixture during the cooking and a sauce is formed underneath.

It’s lovely served hot with ice-cream or cream.
It should serve 4 people.

Peanut and Chocolate Tart

This dessert goes down very well with the family, but it’s really a special occassion thing as it must be very fattening. My lot are all at the stage where they are only going to grow out the way as they have stopped growing up, and this pudding recipe is very moreish.

Peanut and chocolate tart

Peanut and chocolate tart

200g chocolate chip cookies (crushed)
100g melted unsalted butter
200g cream cheese (Philadelphia)
200g peanut butter
100g sugar
120 ml. double cream

For the topping:
125 ml. double cream
80g sugar
70g plain chocolate
60g unsalted butter

Crush the chocolate chip cookies in a plastic bag, giving them a good bashing with your rolling pin. Mix the melted butter into the crushed biscuits until well incorporated. Then tip the biscuit mixture into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Smooth it out and press well down around the edges. Place the tin in your freezer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir the sugar into the cream cheese and the peanut butter and mix well, until it is smooth. Whip the cream to the stiff peak stage and carefully fold it into the peanut mixture.
Spoon this mixture onto your chilled biscuit base, and smooth it level.

For the topping.
Place the remaining sugar and cream into a heavy pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, without stirring. Remove from the heat, and after a minute or two, add the remaining chocolate and butter. Stir until it has all melted, then leave it to cool slightly before pouring carefully onto the peanut mixture.
Chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Serves 6 – 8 people, depending on how greedy you are.
Obviously this is a great recipe for preparing the day before your guests come, leaving you free to get on with the main course.

This recipe is based on one from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in The Guardian. His has a baked base which I tried and didn’t like, it was too soggy for my taste.