Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas cocktails

I love a good cocktail and homemade ones are so much better than shop bought. These also make great presents when decanted into pretty bottles.

We had friends for an Xmas party and served up several of the following.

Winter Cosmopolitan

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This went down an absolute storm.

Mix together 500ml of vodka with 500ml of ginger wine and 1litre of cranberry juice.

Add slices of stem ginger (keep the juice to bake with) and the juice and zest of 5 limes.

Store sterilised jars for a couple of days to allow the flavours to mingle. Then serve over lots of ice.

Watch out- it packs a punch!

Cranberry vodka

This has a real feel of Xmas in a glass. It is great that you can prepare it in advance and looks great sparkling in glasses under the Xmas tree!

Mix together 175g of sugar with 1 litre of vodka and 250g fresh cranberries (pierce each one before you put it in the jar). If you use frozen cranberries they don't need to be pierced.

Store in a sterilised jar for about two weeks and shake several times a day.

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Serve in shot glasses or over ice. You can also experiment and add in mixers if you want to water it down.

Irish cream liquer

Much better than anything commercial. I get regular demands to make this for friends and for parents functions at my children's school. It is delicious and goes well in coffee or over ice cream for something different.

Mix together a tin of condensed milk with 250ml of single cream, 350ml of Irish whiskey and 1 tsp vanilla.

For the coffee/chocolate hit you can either mix 2tsp of high quality coffee powder (NOTgranules) with 2tsp of high quality cocoa powder and 2 tbsp of cream and add this to the mix.

Or you can use 1tsp of coffee essence. Add to this 3 tsp chocolate sauce or you can melt together 75g of good quality dark chocolate together with 2 tbsp of cream and blend and then add this to the mix.

Blend everything together for a few minutes and then store in sterilised containers in the fridge for up to a month. Serve over ice. People will beg you for the recipe!

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Blackberry Martini Fizz

A real crowd pleaser! This was our welcome drink and I had to make additional batches throughout the evening since it went down so well.

Mix together 350ml of martini rosso and 150ml of gin and store in a sterilised container until needed. When your guests arrive put 0.5 tsp of icing sugar in a champagne class and a 3-4 frozen blackberries. Pour over a measure of the martini/gin mix and top with prosecco or champagne.

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Cranberry orange cocktails

Acquired from an American friend after Thanksgiving:

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup cranberry juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar or sugar substitute
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1 (750 ml) bottle Prosecco, champagne, or sparking white wine

Combine cranberries and cranberry juice in a food processor or blender. Blend until berries are roughly chopped.

In a small saucepan, combine the berry mixture, sugar, and orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until syrupy. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain syrup into a small bowl; let cool to room temperature. Do not refrigerate.

Just before serving, add 1 tbsp of cranberry syrup to each glass. Top with sparkling wine and serve.

The great thing about this is you can substitute lemonade for the wine and make it a mocktail- great for tweens who want to feel grown up (or even adults!)

Toffee vodka

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A massive crowd pleaser and so simple. Take a bottle of vodka and add in 2-3 packets of werthers original toffees. The toffees will dissolve in the vodka- give it a good swirl now and again. Leave for about two weeks and serve shots over ice. Delicious. There is a bizarre dishwasher method that you can use for this but to be honest you don't need to do this- though it does make a good story!

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You can use the same idea to make skittles vodka. Separate out the different colours and put each colour set into a jar and fill with 500ml vodka. You'll end up with a great range of coloured vodkas that taste of sweets!

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Elderflower gin

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OK so this is really a summer cocktail but I can't discuss cocktails and not mention this. In the summer we have an elderflower tree and I like making desserts and drinks from the flowers. This recipe is so simple. Take 6-8 heads of elderflower and shake out any bugs. Place in a large jar together with some lemon peel and 1 tbsp sugar. Add 500ml gin and leave to infuse somewhere cool for at least 24 hours (covered).

Drain through kitchen paper into a clean jug and serve with good quality tonic (or neat over ice). Absolutely delicious. This has got my thinking of other great summer cocktails- Sangria, Pina Colada, rum punch......

Sticky date cake with caramel sauce

A twist on a sticky toffee pudding that can be served as a cake rather than a pudding.

Begin by putting 250g dried dates in a bowl and pour over 1.5 cups of boiling water and 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda. Leave for about 20 minutes for the dates to soften.

In a blender mix together 125g butter, 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar and a tsp of vanilla extract until well blended. Then add two eggs one at a type (beat into mix with each addition). Then add 2 cups of self-raising flour.

Take the date mix and chop up the dates in the water with scissors. Then add this to the cake mix and blend.

Pour this into a lined 22" cake tin.

Bake for about 50 minutes at 180 degrees until cooked through.

Remove from the tin after about 20 minutes and place on a plate or stand.

Make the sauce by putting a cup of brown sugar, 300ml of double cream and 60g of butter in a pan and bring to boil for about three minutes until it thickens- stirring frequently. Then add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Continue over a low heat for 2 minutes. Pour over the warm cake and serve.

Chocolate truffle christmas puddings

I've made a lot of truffles over the years but having tried this recipe I am converted!

Begin by melting 350g dark chocolate, 110g butter and 6 tbsp of double cream. I usually do this in the microwave to start at least for 30 second bursts. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't split and keep mixing it well.

When it is blended add two egg yolks and then cook this over a bain marie for a couple of minutes over a very low heat. Remove then from the heat and add about 6tbsp of alcohol of choice. This can be prosecco or champagne, or rum or whiskey. I used some homemade irish cream liquor that worked very well.

Blend and put the whole thing in the fridge to cool for about 30 mins. Then remove and which for about 3 minutes until the mixtures fluffs up and becomes stiffer. Put this again back in the fridge to set.

When set take spoonfuls (or if you have a melon baller use that) and roll in cocoa powder to get a nice round shape. Place onto a pretty plate and then pour over some melted white chocolate to make them look like mini christmas puddings. Decorate with sugarpaste holly leaves and berries or use red and green sprinkles as well as some gold edible glitter to give a similar effect.

These also make great presents.

Sugared pecans

We had a pre-Christmas party last night and so here this is the first of some of the recipes I used.

This is for a simple but very effective nibble.

Whisk together the white of an egg with a teaspoon of water until frothy.

In a separate bowl mix together half a cup of sugar with a couple of tsps of ground cinammon.

Toss about 200g of pecan halves in the egg white mix and then roll in the sugar mix.

Spread on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour at about 120 degrees.

Turn the nuts every 15 mins. Allow to cool and then serve. Can be wrapped and served as gifts as well.

Balloon and streamer cakes

A fun cupcake for a party.

Bake 24 cupcakes with your preferred recipe.

Next top with a white butter icing.

To make the topping get chewy sweets in several flavours. Use two sweets and roll together to make a balloon shape and pinch the end. If they are a bit warm you can warm for a few seconds in the microwave (not too many or they will melt). Then stick these onto a lollipop stick and put in the cake.

Then put a few smarties on each cake. With the remaining sweets, roll them flat and then cut into strips and twirl around the end of a stick to make streamers.

Scatter a few on each cake.

Gravity sweet cake

A great party cake for someone that likes chocolate!

Make the cakes to begin with. Beat together 3 eggs, 175g self-raising flour, 175g sugar, 175g butter and 1.5 tsp baking powder until you have a smooth paste.

In another bowl mix 40g cocoa powder and 4tbsp of boiling water and add this to the batter and blend. Pour into two 8" tins.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden and risen.

Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Next make the icing - cream together 140g butter with 250g icing sugar and 50g cocoa powder until smooth. Add up to 2 tbsp of milk to get a smooth consistency if needed.

Place a dollop of the icing on a cake board.

Use this to stick one of the cakes to the board and then spread a layer of buttercream over it.

Then place the other cake on top.

Cover the top and sides with buttercream to help hold the decorations.

Then use two boxes of chocolate fingers to line the cake (leave a gap at the front for the sweets to "pour" through). Melt 100g plain chocolate and spread some in front of the gap in front of the cake.

You then need about 300g maltesers and 350g of smarties.Stick smarties on half the melted chocolate and maltesers on the other half.

Then take a cake dowler or a wooden squewer and dip this in chocolate and place in the cake.

Then you need to use the chocolate as glue to stick the smarties to this. Then repeat with another squewer on the other side and do the same for the maltesers. The maltesers are much easier than the smarties!

When you get three quarters of the way up you can then put the empty bag over the top to look this they are being poured. Then fill the gap on top of the cake with the remaining sweets in the right half.

The final result:

Mackerel and avocado salad

A quick and easy meal full of very health ingredients,

Chop up some cucumber, spring onions and avocado and toss with some olive oil.

Mix together some hot smoked mackerel fillets with some creme fraiche and a bit of mustard.

Spoon both mixtures over warm toast.

Confit du Canard

A friend had a glut of tins of confit du canard and gave us one and it was a really nice present and great to have in for a quick meal that is a bit more special.

Open the tin and you will find the duck pieces surrounded by fat.

Remove the duck pieces and you can either fry these or cook them in the oven at about 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, Then add some par boiled potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes are crisp.

Serve with petit pois.

Keep the left over fat in the fridge for up to a week- great for roast potatoes or to cook with (though it is very high in calories so bear this in mind!)

Chocolate chunk flapjacks

A great quick recipe when you need something quick!

Melt together 225g of butter with 225g demerara sugar and 75g golden syrup. I usually do this in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Stir until it is all blended.

If you want to add chocolate chips you then need to allow the mixture to cool (otherwise you can pour the mix straight into the tin and cook at this point).

Once cool stir in 100g of broken chocolate. Then pour into a 12 x 9 inch baking tray.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 35-40 minutes until they are golden brown. Allow to cool and then cut into squares.