Thursday, 21 October 2010

Christmas cake (gluten free and/or vegan)

Readers of a sensitive disposition should look away now because I’m going to use the C word.

Seriously, go now if you don’t want to read that most offensive of words.


There, I’ve said it.

You know I nearly did write the C word just to see the look on your face, but I managed to refrain. There’s something about truly awful words that makes me giggle, because some words are so offensive they actually become funny, don’t you find?

Anyway, back to Christmas. *wince*

It’s ok because it is ages away and we don’t need to do any hyperventilating into a bag or rabid list-making just yet.

But if you’re serious about this whole Christmas thing, may I suggest making your cake now? I know it seems preposterously early, but there’s a very good reason for getting it done before Halloween.

It’s because my friend Ali told me to.

You see she’s a very clever lady who runs her own cake business and does impressive catering type things and has a very savvy husband who does her marketing and all sorts of other finger-on-the-pulse stuff. And when I saw Ali in September – September I say! – she was about to make her Christmas cakes for her customers.

I think the phrase was, ‘So I can really feed them well and get them perfect in time for Christmas.’

I liked that word, ‘perfect’, it really sucked me in. 'Maybe' I thought, 'if I bake my cake now like Ali, I will have a perfect Christmas.'

So mine is done and stares accusingly at me every day, ‘What’s going on? You’re supposed to be feeding me!’ It actually causes me to hyperventilate a little (not into a bag, that will come later) and I have to quickly add ‘Feed Christmas Cake’ to my list of things to do.

But apart from that I think it was a good thing to have done.

It meant that for one day only in late September, my kitchen smelt of Brandy and I permitted myself to play Christmas tunes as I baked. (If you need some good Christmas toons, please rush out and buy this CD, your festive period will be transformed forever.) There was none of the Christmas stress generally associated with Christmas music or cake baking (‘I should have made this weeks ago!’) and it was all very calming.

And if, after baking your cake this early, your Christmas still ends up being a time of stress, inebriation, hangovers, misery and please-let-it-all-be-over, you can do what I plan to do.

Which is blame my friend Ali.

Christmas Cake

You can find my Christmas cake recipe by clicking HERE. It really is a very tweakable recipe, so please substitute, add and subtract whichever ingredients take your fancy. But I can’t be held responsible for abject cake failures (but you could blame Ali...). This year my fancy was very much taken by these candied fruits.

Aren’t they lovely?! And badda-bing they weren’t candied using a wheat-derived sugar. They did cost me an arm and a leg, but that is what Christmas is all about n’est-ce pas? Anyway, off you go and do your cake and I’ll leave this photo montage for your delectation.

First you do this:
Then a bit of this and this:

Then after a bit you end up with this:
  Then you kind of do this:
 And well, sort of this: (I made - and ate this - for you in August, I call that devotion...)  And then that's it, finished.

Happy Christmas Cake-making mes anges.  Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Friday, 15 October 2010

Apples in Calvados (gluten free, egg free, dairy free)

I swear that some malevolent force gets to work in gardens in autumn.

All through winter, spring and summer, it’s ok. The garden is either doing nothing, prancing around showing off colours and new buds or lazing around in the sun asking for water every now and then.

But come autumn, some hideous bad temper seizes that garden and it all turns nasty. Those flowers that looked beautiful just a few weeks ago now look awful. The grass is sodden and full of worm casts. And the apple trees? Well, seriously, they are the worst.

Mine are nothing short of ASBO trees.

‘You want effin’ apples? I’ll give you soddin’ apples’ (the language! From a tree!)

And off they go, whirling around in the wind and chucking apples every which way. And it’s not just one apple tree, oh no. Once one starts, they all get in on the act, effing and blinding and lobbing apples. Honestly, sometimes I can’t let the kids in the garden the language is so bad.

As is so often the case with anti-social behaviour, I had to take the matter into my own hands; the gendarmes just didn’t want to know. I started with the ringleader and – showing no mercy – I laid into him with a blade. Don’t be shocked, these trees don’t understand softly-softly, you have to play them at their own game.

Reader, I hacked it back.

No nonsense, a proper good cutting down to size, and then I picked all the apples from the branches and from off the grass.

I tell you, that shut the other trees up almost immediately. It’s always the same with these troublemakers, they are cowards at heart. The odd one or two threw down an apple, but the game was up and I had won.

I am a bit concerned about reprisals, but I’ll deal with that next autumn. For now, I just have this huge stash of apples to get through.

To the victor go the spoils.

Apples in Calvados

There is this gem of a vegetarian restaurant and B&B in Normandy called La Maison du Vert.

I’m going to say that again. A vegetarian restaurant. In France.

Possibly the most enormous oxymoron of all time. (And they'll do vegan and gluten-free too.  Astonishing.)

Anyway, this wonderful place run by Daniel and Debbie (from the UK) does a wicked pudding of apples served in a buttery Calvados sauce with a dollop of crème fraîche. This is a poor copy of their fragrant dessert, but still a great way to use up surplus apples. Measurements are very approximate.

300g apples

100g dairy free margarine (or butter if you can eat it)

100g dark muscovado sugar

3 tbsps Calvados

A pinch of Maldon sea salt

To Serve: Crème fraîche/oat cream/coconut cream/soya cream if desired

• Peel core and thickly slice the apples

• Put the dairy free margarine (or butter) and muscovado sugar into a large, heavy based frying pan and melt together over a very low heat, do not stir

• When the fat and sugar have melted together leave to simmer gently – without stirring – for a few minutes until they have thickened slightly. Be vigilant, you don’t want any burning

• Add the apples and stir to coat with the sugary syrup

• Add the Calvados 1 tablespoon at a time, you don’t want it too runny

• Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally for approximately 5 minutes until apples are slightly tender but not mushy.  Add more sugar, dairy free marg and calvados as you see fit.  (I always see fit to add more of all of them)

• Serve with a cream of your choice or just sprinkle over more muscovado sugar

• Take your bowl outside, choose the most chav of your apple trees and sit beneath it to eat, savouring every mouthful

• Yum

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Monday, 11 October 2010

Waiting for Apples in Calvados...

Can you see her?  That's my alter ego, Mel. 

She's very busy isn't she?  Look how fast those fingers are typing. 

That's because she's typing her latest article for Powder Room Graffiti. 

It's all about how damn hard it is to start studying again when you're fast approaching a very significant birthday and the last time you did any meaningful study you were for the most part drunk, or hungover - permanently - and your room was full of traffic cones that you stole the night before...

By the time you read this Mel will have finished typing her article and if you want to read it, just click HERE.

Perhaps after that she'll get her arse back over here and post that recipe for Apples in Calvados that she assures me is coming very soon.

Until then, keep well darlings!


Pig x

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved