Thursday, December 12, 2013


You know what makes alcohol really Christmasy? Boiling it up with stronger alcohol!

Gannet and Parrot, who I met at a Women in Food: Media event, posted Sussex jackut the other day. This is beer 'mulled' with brandy and spices. I can't say I'm convinced in any way by warmed beer, but I'm interested in old recipes we seem to have lost and my boyfriend's from Sussex, so I'll probably give it a try at some point.

Though there's no heating involved, it made me think of my great-grandmother's recipe for eggnog. I haven't seen it used in anger since about 1999.

There is a pint of spirits in it. A pint.

For eight people.

Here it is, via my aunt, via my mum:

'Nonnie's Egg Nog

Make only by the unit.   Do not attempt to double. 

6 egg yolks                                3/4 pt. Star Hennessy Brandy
2 egg whites
1/2 lb sugar
1 quart heavy cream                    1/4 pt. Hudson's Bay - Jamaica Rum

Beat egg yolks with electric beater until lemon colored.  Add slowly 1/2 lb sugar.  Add very slowly the 2 liquors.  Add 1 quart heavy cream.  Add egg whites - only one or two beaten stiff but not dry and fold in gently. 

6 times the recipe serves 50.  Served with Christmas cookies, hot mince tarts, fruitcake.

Pick up bodies as they fall!!!'

This must be an American pint, which is equivalent to 473ml, but I'm equally sure it doesn't really matter. 

I doubt Hudson's Bay make Jamaica Rum any more, but any (dark) Jamaican rum will do. 

I've not a clue what Star Hennessy Brandy is, as I'm guessing this recipe could easily date from anywhere between the end of Prohibition and the 50s... Use good brandy.

Heavy cream is double cream. That I do know.

Drink responsibly. Seriously. It's tasty but lethal. Don't go dipping too often into the bowl. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mint choc chip ice cream without a machine

At the risk of being repetitive, this is a Kavey Eats' Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream post. They're very effective at getting me to actually make and blog things.

Mint choc chip ice cream with Bendick's bittermints
Filling oozing out of the bittermints
This one is the easiest yet. And, no, you don't need an ice cream maker. You need a plastic container and electric beaters. You also need ten minutes, tops, and then a couple of hours lounging in front of Friday night telly, with a couple of breaks to beat the mixture and make your neighbours wonder what you're doing at 9pm on a Friday.

The challenge is herbs. I'm one of those people who likes my desserty things to taste sweet and my mains to taste savoury and never the twain shall meet. So I went for mint. Unimaginative, I know, but I'd had a busy week and once I'd thought about mint choc chip ice cream, I couldn't get it out of my head, or the taste out of my mouth.

Kavey mentioned she'd done fresh mint, After Eights and custard as an easy ice cream (and she's one of those people I actually trust when she says 'easy'. I know I'm not going to find myself 'just' bletting medlars or pitting 40 cherries).

However, I had overindulged at my brother's birthday party the day before. When I say 'overindulged', I don't mean I drank too much, I mean I snaffled as many After Eights as possible while the rest of Family Lee wasn't looking. So the thought of After Eights made me feel just a tiny bit sick.

Someone else on Twitter had been talking about Bendick's Bittermints, and when I thought of them, that was it. I couldn't get that icy mint taste out of my mouth.

I can tell you how to make it, in one simple tweet I sent Kavey:

That really is all there is to it. Just wait for the mixture to freeze to a sludge, then buzz with electric beaters above once an hour until you get a texture that's recognisably ice cream or get fed up and go to bed.

I think I chopped six mints into the mixture (and I really like mint). I'd also advise using very fresh mint. Mine had done Pimm's duty the weekend before and was showing its age a bit.

When you taste the combination of mints, oddly, you taste the fresh mint first, then it disappears and then you get the Bendick's taste. I suspect you could do it without the fresh mint, especially if you upped the Bendick's. And it essentially tastes like mint choc chip, but homemade, which is no bad thing at all.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blueberry waffle Baked Alaska

I was raring to go after the Baked Alaska challenge, so I decided whatever Kavey's next challenge was,  I would do it.

When I saw it was wafers, waffles, cones, cups, biscuits and so on, I thought I could put my stroopwaffels idea into action. A baked Alaska of stroopwaffel, caramel ice cream and meringue. How could that not be good?

But when I read closely, I realised Kavey wanted the waffles to be homemade. Spoilsport.

I emailed a Dutch friend, hoping there was some sort of cheat's way to make stroopwaffels, but he said 'I only know of one kind, and it comes in a plastic bag'.

After stroopwaffels – or maybe even before – my favourite type of waffle is a Belgian one, preferably eaten hot from a street stand in Ghent and absolutely covered in chocolate.

Waffle on the griddle pan

So after casting my brain around for ways to make waffles at home without a waffle iron (I didn't get very far), I Googled and realised my grill pan was probably as close as I was going to get, short of welding some sort of grid.

All right. Now, apart from chocolate (too easy!), what goes with waffles? Well, if you're talking American waffles, blueberry syrup. Some people like maple, but for that real American taste, I think you need blueberry.

Still clinging to the baked Alaska idea, I thought 'why not make a waffle base, blueberry sorbet and meringue? It'll be like some ridiculously cracked-out brunch dessert.'

Then I thought of maple meringue, but I knew at that point I was working up to a sweet mingling of flavours that was frankly ridiculous. But whoever came up with the baked Alaska was not put off because it was a ridiculous idea, were they?

No. Mission Ridiculous was on.

Some grooves and crispiness
I used Always Order Dessert's waffle recipe on my griddle pan. The thing is, my griddle pan is really very shallow, and while we got attractive stripes and some crispness, it wasn't anywhere close to a waffle for me. I used medium eggs where the recipe says large, and I think I'd put another one in next time, as the batter was pretty solid. And we were looking at about 10 mins with my hob on 4 (bloody, bloody electric cooker) to start with, until it really got going.

(It's worth looking at Big Spud's blogpost for this challenge, where he cooked the same recipe on a George Foreman grill. That's some good thinking, right there.)

Half-mashed blueberries with lemon zest

Blueberry after being forced through a sieve - the dark stuff is skin pulp

I had actually made the blueberry sorbet the week before, using this recipe. I think I forced too much of the skin through at the end, because it had that slight antiseptic taste the skins give you. But I can generally take or leave blueberries, and Andy liked it, so take that with a pinch of salt. I would also possibly use less lemon next time. I also wish I'd thought of substituting maple syrup for the honey – I bet that would taste really good.

Pouring the maple syrup into the beaten egg whites and sugar
I was also sceptical about the maple meringue. I had thought the chemical composition of stiff-eggs-and-sugar would be destroyed by the liquid maple syrup, but it really isn't bad. I wouldn't do it with a hand-whisk, as you have to whip it back up to stiff peaks once the maple syrup has gone in. It is, of course, really very sickly, and I would use absolutely the best quality maple syrup you can afford.

Blueberry sorbet on waffle
The whole thing does work, narrowly. I can imagine how amazing it would be with a proper, crispy waffle. I also think each of the elements paired together would be great. Waffle and blueberry sorbet would make a great hot-day brunch dish, while waffle with maple syrup meringue nests would make a great end to a dinner party, as would the sorbet and meringue.

The yawning maw; I'm incapable of making an aesthetically pleasing Baked Alaska
This post is part of Kavey Eats' Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge - check it out, it's a lot of fun.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Baked Alaska

I've been fascinated by Baked Alaska since I read my mum's make-your-own-yoghurt book (look it was the early 80s, alright?) as a child. Inside, the centrepiece was an extravagant yoghurt Baked Alaska, sliced open to show green, pink and brown layers (look it was the early 80s, alright?).

The first one I had, at some posh hotel in the States, was overly alcoholic and put me off for a long time. I had an orange one at Petrus for Andy and I's anniversary, which I found wonderful but sickly.

Then someone - and I'm really sorry I can't remember who; I thought it was Little Loaf, but I can't find it - did simple bought cake and bought ice cream one, where all you have to do is make the meringue.

That's genius. Effort: five minutes with an electric whisk. Spectacle and taste: off the scale.

I'd had in mind for a while to do Kavey Eats' Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream themes. I have made ice cream, which you can do without an ice cream maker, and it's surprisingly easy. In terms of churning it, you pull it out of the freezer and whack those trusty electric beaters into it about once an hour. The ice cream is still very hard, but extremely tasty and you can be inventive.

What I wanted to do for Kavey's Baked Alaska theme was something which would cut through the sweetness of the meringues, which led me to one of my favourite fruit flavours, raspberry.

The cake includes a layer of raspberries

I made a raspberry and almond cake from BBC Good Food, which my choir (for whom I do most of my baking) adore, so I thought I'd just layer those two flavours.

Despite a shocked tweet from a follower, Baked Alaska is so easy. I think the pre-baked cake fools you into thinking it's been baked at the same time as the ice cream.

Raspberry puree before being made into sorbet

I made the raspberry sorbet on Saturday, using Kirsty Wark's (!) recipe from BBC Food. It never properly set. I don't know if that was too much sugar, or my freezer, or what. Still, we only churned it twice and it came out with a good texture, rather than the flavoured ice the freezer sometimes produces.

I baked the cake on Sunday, which is a really easy blend-it-all-in-the-food-processor one that's useful to have in your arsenal.

I would not consider doing this without electric beaters!

Then - guess what? I made the meringue. Again, I cannibalised this from a more complicated recipe. Honestly, this takes five minutes with electric beaters.

Blurry - in a rush!

We had to work fast to put the Alaska together. I knew the sorbet wouldn't stay frozen for too long, so I spooned a few balls of it on the top of the cake and then quickly covered it with the meringue.

Spooning the meringue onto the base

As it's insulation, it's important to get the meringue to cover all of the ice cream and cake, and I wonder if we missed a bit as we were working so fast.

I put it in for less than the ten minutes advised. I'm not particularly bothered about my meringue being golden, in fact I prefer it if it's not, and the raspberry had begun to leak by that point.

Slightly sinister leakage

It also eased out of a couple of holes in the top, as if the meringue had been bitten by a vampire, and that makes me think the insulation was the problem.

Never going to be a food photographer!

How did it taste? Great. I definitely like the raspberry and meringue combination. The cake was a bit hard, and I think I'd prefer something spongier and perhaps lob some amaretto on it.

I've seen recipes with jam in between ice cream and cake, and I wonder if that's so the sorbet doesn't sink into the cake. We had it a week later (frozen, don't worry) and the sorbet had disappeared and the cake tasted mysteriously more like raspberry...

This post is part of the #BSFIC challenge

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cheese and onion bakes: 'Phlegm cakes'

Continuing my rifle through my mother's collection of yellowing, typed recipe cards to bring you our family favourites. (See cheese gunk).

I suppose I'd better explain the name first. The combination of melted hard cheese and onion does, I'm afraid, look a little bit like phlegm, and my brother christened them 'phlegm cakes' at the age of about eight. (He was very advanced). But if you wanted to keep your guests onside, I suppose you could call them 'cheese and onion bakes' or somesuch.

I'm writing this the same day I posted the cheese gunk recipe and musing that these family favourites are not at all what you expect from 50s American food - they're made from scratch, are very simple and taste GREAT. They really are both more than the sum of their parts. (Yeah, might've taken me a while to post.)

Should you be unsure what circles of bread  look like

First, use a small, cookie cutter to cut inch-and-a-half circles out of some white bread. The mix here made 16 cakes.

Then grate 1/2c of pecorino (other hard Italian cheese can be substituted if you like, but it tastes best with pecorino), grate 1 small onion (the worst bit!) and mix them together. I did grate the onion in my food processor, but it came out a little coarse. Add a 1/4c of mayonnaise.

As I've said, my take on American measurements is 'buy a cup measure', but I have weighed the pecorino and it came to 65g of pecorino. As long as they're in proportion, it doesn't really matter anyway. And you're just looking for enough mayonnaise to bind everything together.

Toast the bread in the oven for 8 minutes at 180C (or you could just eyeball it).

Rounds topped with mixture
Then top each one with about a teaspoon of the cheese and onion mix, and grill until the cheese is bubbly. You can top with some paprika, if you like, to provide a bit of colour and an extra taste.

The finished article

They taste fabulous and they're somehow addictive, too. Just a word of warning - don't bite them straight out of the oven. The superhot mix basically cleaves to the roof of your mouth and they're exactly the right size to burn the whole of it.

And here's the recipe card:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cheese gunk

Ailbhe of Simply Splendiferous is pretending it's summer. A good idea, even as the weather drops its gloomy reminders that it is not so.

And dips are prime summer food. She has an easy cheesy dip on her blog, and my competitive instinct has led me to post one which is even easier and, I suspect, even tastier.

I took it to a Eurovision party, and people I didn't know came out of the kitchen saying things like 'Who made that? It's delicious! You have to tell me how to make it.'

The recipe in all its glory:

Packet of Danish Blue
Packet of cream cheese
Clove of garlic (optional)

Mash the Danish blue with a fork in a bowl. Mash in about the equivalent amount of cream cheese. Crush garlic clove with side of knife. Place in bowl.

It doesn't sound like much, does it? But it's utterly addictive.

It's another old family recipe known as 'cheese gunk', although @linderella29, whose party it was, misheard it as 'cheese dump'. We like slightly disgusting food names in our family – one day I'll introduce you to 'phlegm cakes'.

Looks awful, tastes fabulous

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies

Easy ways to make yourself popular on a long coach journey – get a cake tin, fill it with about 60 cookies and pass it round.

My lovely choir went on a trip to St Ives, Cambridgeshire (yes, yes, seven wives) and I decided to bake something. Partly, the church were providing 'refreshments' and as that can mean anything from biccies'n'tea to a four trestle-table blowout (Darwen URC, I'm looking at you), I thought I'd better bring reinforcements.

This cookie recipe is our family recipe. It has three main advantages: it's delicious, it's easy and it makes loads. It has one major disadvantage: it uses cup measures.

I grew up using cup measures in the UK. I grew up making this recipe, even. Just buy a cup measure and have done with it! I think mine came from Poundland, or it is possible to buy jugs with cups down one side and ml or fl oz down the other.

11/2 cup shortening (As I was once on Radcliffe and Maconie to explain, shortening is whatever marge or butter you have to hand)
11/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/3 cup boiling water
1tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
4 cups rolled oats
12oz chocolate chips (ie 100g, or three bags)

Mix in large bowl in above order. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 12 hours (I never bother). Drop by greased teaspoon onto greased baking. Bake at 325 F (170C) until lightly browned (that's about 8-10 mins).

The recipe says it makes 7-8 dozen. I've never got that much out of it, but I got 64 out of it on Friday, and I ate quite a bit of dough... (It was there! I was never going to fill another baking sheet!)

Members of the choir were very appreciative and a couple of people asked me for the recipe. I can actually recite the recipe, it's that easy and I've been making it so long, but they didn't have a pen. This blog post will hopefully serve instead.

(Apparently it's National Oatmeal Cookie Day today and I finally got my mother's permission to post the recipe...)