Winter draws in and the wood fires are burning brightly inside as the fog settles like a cloak of dense dullness over everything outside. This is the moment I start thinking about our Christmas food and browse through my rather long and dusty shelf of cookbooks, flick through my enormous pile of cookery magazines and finally go back to my treasure trove of best ever recipes collected over the past 4 years and resting in a haphazard pile in an old file. Having lurked around these for some time I am tempted by my new apps and e-books and the excitement is reaching giddying heights!
Eric Lanlard is my great baking hero of the moment, Ottolenghi my savoury baking and salads hero of the year and I am certainly going to use both books over Christmas but as of last week I finally succumbed to the temptation to download a cookbook onto my ipad3. Having had the excitement of two of my own cookbooks being made available as e-books this year, I am converted to using the e-books along side the hard or paperback books. I think that there is room for both and pleasure in both. Well, which book to choose? I plumped for Nigelissima as I had watched two of the episodes on the television recently and thought that the recipes looked delicious, easy and simple to shop for, which is my own criteria for preparing meals. Wow, what fun! I can dip in and out at any time that I fancy without doing my usual of going to the bookshelves in the office, then forgetting what I was looking for and choosing to do something entirely different! I can take it to the supermarket in my handbag... even I don't forget to bring the source of all credit cards...............and then I actually achieve 100% successful shopping for the ingredients instead of remembering the 5 not so important things and forgetting the one vital ingredient! Welcome to middle age...girls!
So now I have chosen my first 2 new recipes that I shall be making this weekend as a practise run for the big week of flawless and inspired festive entertaining!??? Next week another two recipes for you to try!
So now tested and approved of by the entire family here are the recipes.
The all important Pudding for Christmas Eve as we wait with bated breath for the time when Father Christmas can safely get down the chimney or in our case, squeeze down the flu into the totally shut and scorchingly hot wood burner and appear unscathed out of the lock! Here is the recipe to keep the sugar buzz up and the festive spirit lively!
CHOCOLATE OLIVE OIL CAKE WITH EXTREMELY EASY CHESTNUT ICE CREAM
Naturally gluten, wheat and dairy free and slightly healthier than most! Serves 8
Whether you choose a tiny dollop of this luscious and seasonal ice cream on top or beside a smidgeon of chocolate cake or you go for it and luxuriate in heavenly wedge of dense chocolate with a titanic scoop of very rich and smooth ice cream is of course entirely yours and I wonder what I will be going for that night!
Use an old ice cream or yoghurt pot, washed and dried to freeze the ice cream in for the next month.
The cake can also be frozen but equally you can make it a week before and seal it in an air-tight container which is what I shall do.
Children will prefer a good vanilla ice cream, this is for grown-ups!
For a dairy-free version gently fold the chopped whole cooked chestnuts with the brandy into good quality or home-made vanilla dairy or lactose free ice cream and refreeze until needed.
Make the ice cream first: serves 4-8
Mix 250g can of chestnut spread (vanilla) by Clement Faugier or the equivalent weight of marron glace paste or even mushed-up leftovers from a box of whole marron glaces.
Mix this in a bowl with 4 teaspoons of good brandy or Calvados and 55g of sieved icing sugar.
Roughly chop up half a can or vacuum sealed pack of chestnuts and mix into the paste.(use the rest for stuffing the turkey or with the brussel sprouts on Christmas day).
Fold in 300ml whipped double cream (the best you can get).
Transfer the mixture into the prepared container and freeze overnight but make sure you serve it straight from the freezer as it melts extremely quickly due to the very high sugar content.
Make the cake:
Use light olive oil or it will be overpowering.
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3
Grease and line a 21cm square cake tin with a drop of oil and a circle of non-stick paper or teflon sheet.
In a jug, mix:
55g Organic sifted cocoa powder, (check it is dairy free if needed)
with 125ml of boiling water until smooth.
In another bowl mix 150g ground almonds with 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of fine salt. In a bigger bowl mix 200g caster sugar with 150ml olive oil and 3 large free range eggs and beat until thick and creamy with an electric hand whisk. Mix in the cocoa mixture more gently and then briefly mix in the almond mixture.
Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes or until just set. An inserted skewer should come out a bit sticky! Cool until cold and then turn out and store until needed.
To serve: dust with a little sifted (dairy-free) cocoa powder.
What an heavenly combination and so easy!