Category Archives: Celebration Food

Spread a Little Joy. #ChristmasWithMackays

Christmas is not a word I normally utter until at least 1st December.  I’ve no time for people who do their gift shopping in mid June, (and worse still, feel the need to tell you about it!), our decorations don’t come out of their tissue paper slumber until about 13th December, and I can still be heard uttering, “we’re in for an Indian summer”, when most people are stocking up on selection boxes.  However, the one exception to this, (just!), is Christmas food.  I love Christmas food.  The bakes, the roast, the sweets.  All of it.  I’m happy to start thinking about what I’m going to make, and more importantly, eat during the festive period once the last of the Guy Fawkes bonfires have burned out.

Just around the time that I was starting to think about mince pies, roast turkeys and the like, word came out about the #ChristmasWithMackays challenge.  Following on from their successful #BakingWithMackays initiative, the Arbroath based producer of jams, marmalades, curds, preserves and conserves, asked bloggers to come up with recipe ideas specifically for Christmas, using their products.  Well I’m always up for a challenge, so decided to have a bash.  The recipes have been tried, tested and tweaked and my merry band of guinea pigs gave them the thumbs up, (to be fair they’d eat anything but having tasted them myself I can say they were actually pretty good.)  The idea behind these recipes is that they offer a lighter alternative to traditional Christmas pudding and cake but are still full of the flavours we associate with the festive season.

Citrus & Spice Steamed Christmas Pudding

Serves 6 – 8 (or 4 very greedy people)

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 tbsp Mackays pink grapefruit marmalade    
  • 175g soft butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • juice and rind of 1 small unwaxed orange
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp Marsala (optional)

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Method:

  1. Grease a 900ml pudding basin, (mine is a bog standard Pyrex bowl), and put the marmalade in the bottom.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in one at a time.  If the mixture looks as though it’s curdling, add a spoonful of your flour and beat like crazy.
  4. Sift in flour and spices, add vanilla, orange rind and juice, and Marsala, (you can use any booze you like or leave it our completely).
  5. Mix everything together so all the spices, rind etc. are evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon mix into pudding basin, on top of the marmalade.
  7. Lay a large sheet of baking paper on top of a sheet of foil.  Grease the baking paper with butter to stop it sticking.  Fold a pleat in the centre of the foil and paper to give the pudding room to expand as it cooks.  Tie the foil onto the pudding basin with string. It needs to be really tight so tie twice to be safe.  Tie on a length of string to create a handle over the top of the pudding.  Trim off the excess foil and paper and tuck it all underneath to make sure the pudding is completely watertight.
  8. Put a saucer face side down into a really large pot, sit the pudding on top of the saucer, fill the pot with boiling water from the kettle about halfway up the pudding basin, clamp on a lid and leave on a very low heat to putter away for around 2 1/2 hours.
  9. Keep an eye on the water level during this time and top up with boiling water if needs be.
  10. To test if the pudding’s ready insert a skewer into the middle.  If it comes out clean it’s ready, if not give it about another 15 – 20 minutes.
  11. Once ready, remove the foil and paper and carefully turn onto a plate or cake stand.
  12. Serve with custard, cream, brandy butter or ice cream.

If you have a pudding basin with a lid and a nice fancy steamer you can miss out all of step 7 and most of step 8.  To be honest though, the paper/foil pot/saucer methods work perfectly.

The pudding will keep for about 3 – 4 days if covered well.  It doesn’t generally last that long!

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I think this pudding is perfect for those who don’t like fruit laden, traditional Christmas pudding or those who want a bit of a lighter option.  This pudding smells and tastes like Christmas with the lovely orange and spices, (and booze!), and the sharp, tangy grapefruit marmalade cuts through the sweetness and richness and goes really well with all the spices.  If you cook this you won’t need expensive scented candles in the house.  It smells fantastic when it’s cooking!  If you don’t like some of the spices I used you could easily change them for something you prefer.  I like a strong ginger flavour and less cinnamon, you may be the complete opposite.  Do go easy on the cloves, though, or the pudding will taste like a trip to the dentist!  Likewise you can use any booze you like or miss it out completely.

The pudding mix can be made in advance, so if you’re making this on Christmas Day you can get all the mix done, covered and tied in the morning, leave it and then just pop in to steam as and when you want.

Now you’ll probably notice that the ingredients and mixing method for the pudding look remarkably like those of a baked sponge cake.  I thought so too so decided to try this out as a baked cake rather than a steamed pudding.  You only need a few tweaks if that’s the option you prefer…

Citrus & Spice Christmas Cake

Serves 8 – 10

Ingredients:

  • 200g soft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • All other ingredients exactly the same as those used in the steamed pudding
  • Icing sugar, glitter, any decoration you like

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190c/375/f/gas 5 and grease and line 2 x 20 cm loose bottomed cake tins.
  2. Mix everything together as instructed in the steamed pudding recipe.
  3. Divide the mixture between the tins, knocking each on your work surface to release any air bubbles.
  4. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, (my oven only take 17 minutes so get to know your own oven).  When a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it’s ready.
  5. Cool cakes on a wire rack and remove from tins.
  6. Once completely cool spread a generous amount of Mackays pink grapefruit marmalade on one of the cakes and top with the other cake.  Whipped cream or one of the lovely flavoured creams you get at Christmas, whipped up, would be delicious spread on top of the marmalade before topping with the second cake.
  7. Dust a snowfall of icing sugar on top of the cake or go crazy with glitter and baubles or any other festive adornment you fancy.

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Again, this is a great alternative for those who don’t like or don’t want heavy, fruit Christmas cake.  The addition of spices, orange and booze take it up a notch from a normal Victoria Sandwich so it does feel and taste more special and festive.  Without cream the cake will keep for a good 3 – 4 days as long as it’s covered.

Both the steamed pudding and the cake would also work really well with Mackays spiced ginger preserve but I think the tangy marmalade was a really tasty and quite unusual addition and really worth trying.

So there we have my #ChristmasWithMackays recipes.  Worth a try for a wee change and both really, really easy and pretty purse friendly.  Although I’m presenting them as Christmas recipes I think they’d both work well any time of the year. Remember, a pud is for life…not just for Christmas.

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Easter Parade

Apologies folks as it’s unseasonably late to be writing about Easter although, in my defence, my raspberry chocolate egg remains, as yet, unopened…yes, I’m a freak! However, as Easter in this house involved lots of baking and cooking, (and eating!), I really think it deserved a mention on here.

Hot Cross Buns

Like countless others, I was put in the mood for a bit of Spring-time baking after watching The Great British Bake Off Easter Masterclass. As I’ve become slightly obsessed with bread making I decided to have a crack at Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns first, (that sounds vaguely pervy!) These were actually really easy to make and the only part of the process that I found tricky was kneading the fruit into the dough without half of it pinging across the kitchen! Stupidly I decided to watch them being made again on the programme once they were in the oven. Doing this before I baked them might have been more useful. It turns out the recipe on the BBC food website was actually slightly different to the one that featured onscreen. Not helpful Beeb! Luckily the changes were only in how much cinnamon and orange went into the mix, (the website stated half the amount), but in my paranoid, ‘new to bread baking’ mode I was initially convinced my buns were going to be rubbish! I’ve noticed since I made these that the BBC has corrected the recipe so if you download it from here you won’t need to double the amounts they give you.

I was a bit nervy about piping the crosses on to the tops as piping isn’t my best skill and I’ve not got the steadiest hands in the world, but for a first attempt they weren’t bad. The smell whilst the buns were baking was fantastic so my hopes were raising along with the dough…sorry! When they came out the oven they looked bronzed and delicious. A brushing of warmed apricot jam had them gleaming and looking pretty inviting. Yes, they were a bit bokety-shaped but I was really proud of them and they smelled divine!

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Now I’ve never had a Hot Cross Bun out of a shop that I’ve really liked but I had to try one of these to make sure they were baked ok. I’m sorry if this sounds boastful, but they were really good! The addition of chopped apple into the mix was lovely and even though there was half the amount of cinnamon and orange that there should have been I could still taste it. It was at that moment I was regretting telling Bobert he could take them in to work for the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary A&E staff to scoff. I’m reliably informed they went down very well and vanished in less than 15 minutes. These absolutely have to be eaten with cold, salted butter. Spread thickly enough that you can see your teeth marks in it.

Easter Pavlova

As I’ve mentioned before, I absolutely love Pavlova. I’ve tried many variations and am always on the lookout for new flavour ideas so when I saw Mary Berry whip up her Easter version which included lemon curd and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs I knew I had to give it a bash. I was looking for a dessert idea for us to have for our Easter Sunday dinner and this looked perfect.

I liked this recipe as the egg yolks left over from making the meringue could be used to make the lemon curd and I’m ashamed to say there’s been many times I’ve chucked egg yolks away as I couldn’t be bothered making anything with them. However, if you can’t be bothered making your own I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a shop-bought jar of the stuff. As the Pavlova was only going to be feeding 2 of us I reduced the size a bit, (who was I kidding? I could have eaten it to myself!) Again, this recipe involved the dreaded piping to make wee nests round the Pavlova for the Mini Eggs to sit in. Mine may have looked as though poachers had been at them but I like to think it added a certain, ahem, charm!

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The other nice bit of this recipe was the addition of candied lemon peel. This was very easy to make, looked really pretty on top of the cream in the centre, and tasted lovely. The finished Pavlova looked suitably pretty and very Spring-like, and the addition of the lemon curd and lemon peel took away some of the jaw-aching sweetness of the meringue. I’ll definitely be making this again and will probably just miss out the Mini Eggs for a year-round, delicious dessert.

Mrs Crumble Cooks’ Rack of Lamb

As well as all the sweetie goodness we were having at Easter we did need an option for the main part of our dinner and Bobert requested rack of lamb. Now this was a good thing as not long before that I’d spotted a recipe I really liked the look of on mrscrumblecooks.wordpress.com This is the blog of a fellow food lover. You should have a look. I ordered the rack from Andrew Gordon and was delighted when he said he French trims them as standard as I really didn’t want the hassle of doing it. One day I will try this myself! If you go on to Mrs Crumble’s blog you’ll get the full recipe, (and also instructions on how to French trim), but essentially the lamb was marinated overnight in delicious things such as pomegranate molasses, cumin, ginger, etc. The only addition I made was some fresh coriander just because I love it and I had some to use up in the fridge. The result was a Moroccan-inspired dish which would also go really well with couscous and some nice flatbread as well as the more British addition of veg and potatoes. Middle Eastern food is my absolute favourite and the best food I’ve ever eaten was in Marrakech so I was really looking forward to this!

Rack of lamb doesn’t take long to cook and it really should be a bit pink in the middle but you absolutely must, must, must leave it to rest as with all meats. The marinade goes nicely blackened on the outside. Don’t worry about this! The cutlets we got from the rack were a really good size and there was loads of meat on them. I know people think rack of lamb is an expensive cut for the amount of meat you get, but, as usual, shopping at Andrew Gordon was really good value for money and the cutlets were certainly bigger and meatier than any I’ve seen in supermarkets. We had the lamb with asparagus, (not good at all. Probably a bit early for it to be honest), and Chantenay carrots,…if you haven’t tried these, you must. They actually taste of carrot!…and the ubiquitous roast potato.

This was a really lovely meal and a wee bit different from our usual roast. I suspect the marinade would work equally well on other cuts of lamb. Give it a baa-sh!

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