Sunday 28th October.
This is the most fantastic and easy Christmas Cake recipe ever, tried and tested over many years. Given to me by a very dear Australian friend, way back in the ’70’s. I’m afraid it’s all in imperial measurements, and I really didn’t want to risk converting to metric in case it didn’t work!
Helen’s Christmas Cake
Before you start, soak the fruit overnight in brandy (about half a cup)
2lb mixed dried fruit (it’s best to mix your own from raisins, sultanas and currants)
2oz ground almonds
3oz glace cherries
4oz mixed peel
1/2 lb self raising flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb dark brown sugar (Muscovado if possible)
1 tablespoon of black treacle
Grated rind of one lemon
Grated rind of one orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
A few drops of vanilla essence
Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, then add all the other ingredients.
Line a cake tin very well with 3 or even 4 layers of newspaper on the outside and then greaseproof paper on the inside. Cook for 3-4 hours.
350 degrees for one hour, then turn down to 300 deg.
Lamb Shanks and Apricots
6 lamb shanks
1 onion, finely shopped
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp paprika
115g ground almonds
3 large strips of orange rind
225g dried apricots
115g dried prunes (pitted)
Melt the butter in a large casserole. Brown the lamb shanks
all over, three at a time, then transfer to a plate. Stir the onion and spices
into the pan juices and cook for 5 minutes to release their aroma, and soften
the onion. Add ½ tsp salt and plenty of pepper, then stir in the ground
Return the lamb to the pan with the orange rind and cover
with 1.2 litres water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to very low. Cover
the surface with a sheet of crumpled baking parchment, then the lid (this will
prevent too much liquid escaping during the cooking process).
Simmer for 1 hour, then add the apricots, prunes and raisins,
stirring them into the liquid. Cover and simmer for another hour.
Ideally serve with couscous.
We often make these Cheese Sables in the shop on the ESSE cooker when we are demonstrating. They are so easy to make, and extremely impressive! There are only three ingredients, all equal quantities, so it’s really simple to double or triple the quantities for a crowd. Don’t forget to brush with beaten egg before baking, as this is crucial to success!
500g Plain Flour
500g Finely Grated Cheddar
Sift the flour into a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour and as soon as
the pieces are well coated with flour, rub in with fingertips until resembling
Add the grated cheese and press the mixture
together to form a dough. Knead gently until
silky smooth and then chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
Carefully roll out the pastry into a fairly
thin oblong. Remember to flour the
rolling pin and table, as this mixture tends to stick!
Cut into 2″ wide strips and then into
Brush with beaten egg.
Place sables on a baking sheet and bake for
about 10 minutes at 375 degrees until golden brown.
This is fish soup with a delicate touch, the pools of melted butter are an essential indulgence!
900g undyed smoked haddock
1 onion, finely sliced
450g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
225g leeks, finely sliced
300ml single cream
1 large egg yolk
2tbs chopped fresh parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
Put the haddock, skin side up, in a shallow pan and cover with the onion
slices, milk and water. Bring to just below boiling, turn down the heat and
poach gently for about 10 minutes until cooked.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water for 10-15
minutes, or until tender, then drain and mash. When the fish is cooked, strain the cooking liquid into a
pan and reserve. Flake the fish and set aside.
Whisk the mashed potato into the reserved fish liquid, stir
in the leeks, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the leeks are
tender. Whisk the cream and egg yolk together and stir into the
Reheat gently, without boiling, until slightly thickened.
Gently stir in the reserved flaked fish, taste and adjust the seasoning if
necessary, and heat through. Stir the chopped parsley into the soup and serve piping hot,
dotted with knobs of butter that will melt and run over the surface of the
This creamless soup combines one of our favourite overlooked vegetables with pears and shallots to create a light starter that’s delicate and complex-tasting.
For the soup:
For the garnish (optional):