Tag Archives: nuts

Christmas Log

Christmas-Log-(6474)

Click here for the updated version, posted on 21/12/2017.

Unlike the traditional Christmas cake, which I only made a handful of times, I’m a huge fan of mince pies, the crustier the pastry the better, and this log. Now I must honestly say that the Maltese recipe for Christmas log wins hands down here, at least for me. The British chocolate sponge version doesn’t really do anything for me. I still prefer it over the pudding though, which on the other side of the spectrum is too rich, again for my taste.

Christmas-Log-(6461)

I use this recipe year after year, and is exactly how I like it. My mum makes a mean log, moist and it’s basically yumminess personified, which she gets by adding more alcohol than I do. I like mine a little bit more mellow, reflected in my version. If you want to add a bit more, so be it. I promised my friends this recipe by the end of the week, so without further ado here it is.

Makes approximately 3 x 20cm long logs, and it’s a no-cook assemblage! Please note that the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk – the gloopy sticky stuff. The mixture will turn out to be too liquidy if you use any other kind of tinned milk.

For the log:

  • 300g rich tea biscuits
  • 125g chopped almonds
  • 200g walnuts
  • 400g candied cherries
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 75ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 397g sweetened condensed milk

For the topping:

  • Dark chocolate, melted for covering the log
  • icing sugar, for sprinkling

Lay 3 sheets of parchment paper or cling film on your worktop, one for each log.

In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients for the log, preferably using your clean hands. You should basically end up with a sticky mess, but trust me, this is what you want.

Divide the mixture into three, and roll each one in parchment paper.

Put them in the fridge and leave to set overnight.

When you are ready to decorate, unwrap and place them on flat serving dish. Cover with the dark molten chocolate. When the chocolate is completely set, liberally dust the logs with icing sugar.

My countdown to Christmas has officially begun! Enjoy!

Rob x

Moist Almond Cake.

Almond-Cake-(5255)

This recipe goes quite a few months back. I had an unusual number of lemons lying around doing nothing. This is not the norm in this house. As any good Mediterranean foodie I really really love lemons…in anything, not just in baking. That makes it perfect for use all year round.

Now how about this: the following recipe has almost nothing to do with lemons, so why am I rambling on about them you ask? It’s because the *original* recipe used the zest and juice of two lemons, but being such a klutz in the kitchen I zested my lemons, juiced them, placed the zest and juice into two small ramekins ready to go into the batter…yes…and of course I forgot about them!  I tipped the batter into the cake tin, into the oven it went and by the time I went about doing other things like checking any mail and cleaning the kitchen in between prepping other dishes, it was too late to add the lemons. This is definitely not the first time something like this happened, but nonetheless I was still angry with myself. I thought that the cake would lose out too much on flavour and maybe it would have lost some of the moistness. I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. One has to admit one’s mistakes! The cake was good and moist. Thinking back, how couldn’t it not be?

This recipe is taken from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Nigella says: “It is a plain cake, but gloriously plain.” It’s not meant to be a warning – this cake is meant to be made and enjoyed like all the simple things in life. It’s a cake for all seasons with or without the lemons. J preferred it without because he loves almonds. I think that it’s great either way. One thing I love here is the minimal amount of flour used; there are only 50g. The ground almonds take care of the rest. Here’s the recipe without the lemony element. I will make a note for those who would like them to be included as I go along. Here it is then!

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened or slightly melted
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 225g ground almonds
  • ½ teaspoon almond essence (I used ¼ teaspoon almond extract instead)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons if using*
  • a piece of kitchen foil big enough to cover the top of the cake**
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and line or grease a 23cm springform tin. (I tried this cake twice also using a normal round cake tin. Make sure you *really* grease the tin well. But be careful; this cake is damp and very fragile.)
  2. In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together till you have a white mixture. Be patient – it *will* turn white. Beat in the eggs one by one and also add the flour, one quarter of it at a time. (Beating the eggs properly ensures some rise in the cake as there is no raising agent here.)
  3. Now add the ground almonds, the almond essence, and if you like tip in the zest and juice from the two lemons at this point.* Stir very very gently. This is important to keep the air in the batter.
  4. Tip the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for around an hour. This is only a rough estimate (as you can see in the book). Mine took 55 minutes exactly in both cases. So always keep an eye on it. After around 25 minutes cover the top of the cake with some kitchen foil to avoid burning.** You want it to turn a nice golden colour. Any more than that and it could burn. When the cake is done the skewer should come out clean. Don’t worry if there is a little gooeyness stuck to the knife or skewer. It’s ok if there’s just a little!
  5. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the tin for a little while. Then turn it on to a wire rack and let it cool completely. What I did at this point, and this is totally up to you, is to melt around 100g of dark chocolate with a knob of butter on a small pot of steaming water. Drizzle this over the cake. It’s an unfussy way of putting a little decoration. I don’t bother with anything else at this point – it will be gobbled up anyway! Nigella has some great tips on how to serve this cake too: either with some lemon ice cream or with raspberries or both! Enjoy and tell me what you think if you try it.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Boozy Brownies

Whisky-Brownies-(4697)

Some months ago I was going through my pantry and noticed that I had a whole packet of unopened hazelnuts. That’s very me unfortunately. It’s no news that sometimes I tend to buy food stuffs without really planning ahead. I’m improving though…Honest! Solution: Twitter and the lovely James Tanner. James kindly sent me a link to his recipe for Chocolate Nut Brownies. I changed it slightly because I had to work with what I had in the pantry at the time but the result was fantastic all the same. I’m no expert when it comes to alcohol so I just put my hand in the drinks cabinet and grabbed the first thing that was in there. That turned out to be a bottle of Islay, which was a good choice. Also I used 300g of hazelnuts instead of the selection which James uses because that’s all I had. Anything you use will be great anyhow: one of the beauties of these rich chocolate babies. You will love them. James, thanks again for this recipe. It was a hit.

  • 560g dark chocolate, cut into small chunks
  • 330g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 shots Islay whiskey (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon of coffee granules/or a shot of espresso
  • 5 large eggs
  • 330g golden caster sugar
  • 175g plain flour, sifted
  • 300g toasted hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas mark 4, and line a 2 inch deep, 12 inch square baking tin with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, and make sure that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Stir occasionally.

In another heavy-based pan, gently heat the whiskey (or water) together with the coffee granules until these dissolve.

With an electric whisk, beat the eggs and the sugar in a medium bowl, also over a pan of simmering water, until the double in volume. This is called a Sabayon or Zabaglione. It should turn light and pale. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Slowly fold in the melted chocolate mixture into the Sabayon. Be gentle so you retain all that lovely airy texture. Now mix in the hazelnuts.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly and cut into squares.

Note: If you don’t have an electric hand whisk you can still make these brownies but it will take *a lot* of whisking. But it’s not impossible. Take it from me – I tried and tested it!

Enjoy!

Rob x.

Apricot and Date Loaf

Apricot-&-Date-Loaf-(4354)

A few weeks ago I bought a packet of dried apricots for a lamb tagine recipe I wanted to try. I never got round to it, no matter how many times I included it in my New Year resolutions (which proved to me that these don’t work). Since I did not want the apricots to remain in my pantry forever I preferred to use them in another recipe rather than letting them go bad or worse – eating them as is! So without further rambling (as is often the case with me) here is a really yummy cake for you to try. This makes 1 loaf.

  • 150g plain flour
  • 70g wholemeal flour
  • 85g light brown sugar (you can use granulated white if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • the zest of 1 orange
  • 65g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50g dried pitted dates, chopped
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 30g butter, melted

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat at 190°C (375 F). Grease a loaf tin with butter and some flour or use baking paper.

In a large bowl combine plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder, orange zest and the dried fruits.

In a smaller bowl beat the milk with the eggs and the melted butter. Pour this over mixture of dry ingredients and mix everything together until just moistened.

Place batter into your greased loaf tin for around 40 mins. (Always test by inserting a knife or a skewer. If this comes out clean then your cake is done.) Leave to cool for 10 mins and remove the cake from the tin.

Enjoy!

Rob x