Bryony's Blog

MY TAKE ON CHRISTMAS CAKE

(18/12/11)

In the past I have cooked dozens of different Christmas cake recipes, broken the odd tooth on nuts and over-hard icing, ending up giving most of it to the birds at the end of January. Resisting temptation in the form of Delia's ready mix from Waitrose, I decided to abandon the whole idea. Until today.

The hens had laid three eggs this week (a miracle, bearing in mind the terrible weather which has not been conducive to sitting in the coop) and what better way to put them to good use than baking? Please forgive me - we sat down to enjoy my offering before I produced the camera, but it will give you a pretty good idea nonetheless!

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You will need:

3 eggs
6oz slightly salted butter
6oz self raising flour (sifted with a teaspoon of baking powder)
6oz caster sugar
grated zest of an orange plus the juice
1 cup of natural glace cherries
3/4 cup of sultanas
1 teaspoon of mixed spice

Bring the butter to room temperature and cream with the sugar until light and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat. Add half the eggs plus a tablespoon of flour into the creamed butter/sugar. Beat well. Add the remaining egg mixture and mix well. Next, fold in the remaining flour, cherries, orange zest and juice, mixed spice and sultanas.

Butter a cake mould - I used a Kugelhopf (?) mould - but any would suffice and pour in the cake mixture. Bake in the middle of a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes until risen, golden brown and a sharp knife comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, cover with a clean cloth, and allow to cool for ten minutes. Run a knife around the edge, tap firmly on a work surface and up-end onto a plate. Cover again with the cloth and allow to cool thoroughly before icing, as follows:

Sieve 2 cups of icing sugar into a bowl and add the juice of a lemon. Carefully blend, beat until creamy and drizzle over the cooled cake.

This was absolutely delicious: it was crunchy, salty, buttery, fruity, spicy, exactly what you want at this time of the year. We would actually (Jimmy, my brother and me) probably have finished it off in one go - but a photo call was necessary and we had to pull in our horns!

THESE BEANZ AINT HEINZ!

(03/12/11)

I spent the first night on my newly arrived mattress topper...and I didn't want to leave my snuggly bed for one minute. It was bliss, like sleeping on a downy cloud! However, after having taken Charlie for a brief but bracing walk, breakfast beckoned. The girls have been very limited in their output and there was one very large, brown egg begging to be cooked. I love doing Mexican eggs and this is a nice twist. There would have been plenty for two people if I added a second egg, but as it was just me, I ate the lot!

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1 egg
1 red onion, peeled and chopped very small
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped finely
1 tin organic black beans, rinsed under a cold tap
either fresh green or red chilli or pinch of dried flakes
oil
salt and pepper
ideally fresh coriander but I only had a pot of small Greek basil leaves, which were fine

Heat a non stick frying pan and add a dessertspoon of sunflower or other mild oil. Add the onion, stir and fry for about five minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chilli. Stir and cook for another three or so minutes before adding the rinsed, drained beans. Mix well and cook over a medium heat, stirring every now and again, until the onion and tomatoes are thoroughly cooked. You want the mixture to be fairly dry and taking on a little crust.

Part the beans etc. and make a space in the centre of the pan. Drop in the egg and cook until the white is set.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle the chopped coriander or basil leaves in my case and serve immediately.