Saturday, 23 November 2013

making the christmas cake

When I start assembling the dried fruit, spices and brandy it means Christmas is only just around the corner. 
  We love Christmas cake in our family and I love making it!

The smell of orange zest and brandy proclaims Christmas is on its way like nothing else.


The pretty, vintage stoneware jar was one of my purchases from Fiona @ Streetcomber at her recent sale.
Have you ever wondered how the traditional Christmas Cake came about?
Here is a short history !
The Christmas cake, like many of our Christmas traditions, was popularised by the Victorians, but its origins are much earlier than that.
Back in the middle ages, people would eat a type of porridge on Christmas Eve.
 Gradually fruit and spices were added to the porridge and eventually this became the Christmas pudding that we all enjoy.

But the porridge mixture also gave rise to our present day Christmas Cake, 
for around the 16th century, a type of boiled plumcake evolved as people began adding eggs and butter to the porridge and replacing the oatmeal with wheat. It was still boiled as few households had ovens at that point.
 Gradually, a baked, rather than boiled version of the plum cake became more popular and was eaten on Twelfth Night, but during Queen Victoria's reign, Christmas gained more popularity as a festival and the cake began to be eaten at Christmas and was decorated with wintery scenes and figurines, much like the present day cake.

The recipe for our Christmas Cake is one which I have used for several years now.
It is a very simple simmer and stir method, not unlike the one Sue at The Quince Tree has used.
 There is no tedious creaming and gradual adding of eggs and therefore no risk of the mixture splitting.
 The cake is now tucked away in the tin, waiting for its marzipan coat in a couple of weeks.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

more vegetable beauties

This time the glamorous and glossy aubergine.

Not grown on the lottie I'm afraid, but bought from the supermarket !

They were made into a simple supper which I am calling criss cross aubergines.
The delicate flesh of the aubergine loves to soak up the flavour of spices, so I cut a criss cross into the halved aubergines and rubbed ground coriander,cumin and a pinch of smoked paprika into the surface. A drizzle of olive oil and then they were baked in a hot oven at 190 c for 45minutes to 1hour.

And to go with them, some cooked bulghur wheat dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and harissa paste with added chopped coriander, raisins and peppers...
finally finished with mouth popping pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranates are a relatively recent discovery for me. Each little seed provides a deliciously sweet and refreshing explosion.
And who knew what fun there was to be had from bashing the cut halves with a wooden spoon, a la Jamie Oliver, to release the seeds and juice.
But beware!
 Any seeds that escape and fly hither and thither will leave indelible crimson spots on surrounding surfaces!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

in praise of vegetables

 When rushing to prepare vegetables for a meal, peeling and chopping, it is easy to forget how beautiful they are.
Take for example the turnip.
Just a humble root vegetable ...
but take another look and you see little spheres of alabaster, deftly painted with
a wash of purple.
...or the squash which we grew on the allotment, different shapes and sizes, ranging in colour from biscuit through green and orange, their skin beautifully patterned.

I am thinking of coining the word 'vegephile' as being one who loves vegetables, not just for their beauty, but for the delicious meals which can be made with them.
This is how the squash ended..

.. made into a velvety soup, to warm us up on these darker evenings.

Friday, 1 November 2013

lately on the lottie

Some lovely autumn weather has allowed me ( and mr digandweed of course) to get down to the allotment for some clearing up and planting.

I decided to allocate some space for cut flowers and with this in mind have planted a bed of Sweet Williams and Wallflowers .
I am already anticipating colourful bunches of flowers for the house next spring!

We also have a plentiful supply of leeks to keep us going over the next few months.
Spurred on by the success of the strawberries this year, we have branched out into raspberries!
Five canes of  Autumn Bliss have been planted and pruned to about 6 inches, as per the instructions.

And a couple of weeks ago, we spotted this welcome visitor hiding in the decaying foliage.

Hopefully he will be feasting on the slugs and snails!