Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Golden Italian Christmas Cake

This year I fancied making a Christmas Cake with a difference, in previous years I have tried a chocolate fruit cake (very good Nigella recipe), a boil and bake fruit and mincemeat cakes as well as the more traditional style. As I love Italian food I thought I would make a cake with Italian flavours, think Amaretto, panettone et al. It became a golden cake as I manged to purchase some golden raisins, this fired my imagination to create a golden fruit cake.

On Stir up Sunday I made this cake alongside a tweet up with the National Trust and lots of other cakey bakey people. As you can see from the picture the cake is lighter in colour than a normal Christmas fruit cake, I will now store the cake for a couple of weeks, lovingly feeding it with Amaretto until its time to decorate. My plans this year are for a naked Christmas cake, filled with Golden Marzipan and topped off with more Golden marzipan and fondant with some simple decorations.

What you need
  • 300g Golden Raisins 
  • 300g Sultanas
  • 100g dried figs (chopped and any hard stalks removed)
  • 100g apricots (chopped)
  • 150ml Amaretto
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 125g butter (softened) or baking margarine if you want diary free
  • 200g Light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs - free range
  • 200g Self raising flour
  • 75g Honey
  • 2 tsp mixed spices
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 130g candied orange peel - chopped (buy quality)
  • 1/2 tsp Aroma Panettone Essential Oil (Bakery Bits)
I used an 8" double lined round loose bottomed cake tin, I also wrapped the outside with more greaseproof paper (you could use card, brown paper or even newspaper also), tied with string.

                                       
What you do 
  • Place all the dried fruit and orange zest in a large bowl with the amaretto to soak overnight (if you forget you can microwave for a few minutes and allow to cool), covered with clingfilm.
                                   
  • Preheat the oven to 130c fan / 150c normal and prepare your tin
  • In a stand mixer blend the butter and sugar until light an fluffy
  • Gradually add the eggs, essential oil and vanilla to the mixer, if in danger of curdling add some of the flour
  • Next whisk in the honey and then sieve in the flour and spices
  • Fold the flour and dried fruit into the mixture until thoroughly mixed, spoon into the prepared tin.
  • Smooth the top and place in the oven
  • Bake for 2 hrs 30 minutes to 3 hrs 15 mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Mine took about 3 hours in a fan oven
  • Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, remove from tin whilst still a little warm. Store when cold double wrapped in parchment and clingfilm.
  • Remember to feed by pricking the cake lightly and spooning over more amaretto.
I plan another post when its time to decorate, so make sure you follow us for an update in a few weeks.




Monday, 24 November 2014

The Mill - St Catherines Park.

I am so excited to tell you about a new venue in my local area, The Mill at St Catherine's Park opened on Monday 24th November 2014 to the general public.



This amazing building and its surroundings have been 10 years in the making for the dedicated staff and volunteers of St Catherine's Hospice. The building is home to a fabulous cafe, plus meeting and therapy space, but more importantly its also a hub for information and wellbeing for families faced with life shortening illnesses.






St Catherine's does such important work in my local community and The Mill enhances their provision as it enables the hospice to invite the local community to share St Catherine's Park in a more holistic sense and provide neutral space for the community to share.

We were privileged to be invited to view the beautiful building, the impressive facilities and to taste some of the exciting local dishes on the menu. The two storey building has the cafe/lounge area downstairs and has three multi purpose meeting/therapy rooms upstairs, the whole venue is of course fully accessible for all.

Outside the building is situated in St Catherine's Park which is being developed sensitively to create a beautiful woodland and wetland area for all to enjoy.

The Mill is run as a social enterprise with all profits going to St Catherine's Hospice Care, the Commercial Catering team have been recruited specifically to run the Cafe at the mill and the menu demonstrates the passion of the team in the local sourcing and the creative dishes featured. We should also not forget the volunteers as well who are an important part of the team at the Mill providing advice, guidance and support or assisting in the cafe.



Local Suppliers include
  • Leagrams of Chipping (Cheese)
  • Mrs Kirkhams of Goosnargh (Cheese)
  • Butlers of Inglewhite (Cheese)
  • Ribble Farm Fayre of Longridge (Fruit, veg and fresh produce)
  • Oncore, Preston (General Grocery)
  • Ewood Foods, Accrington (Grocery)
  • Meadowfield Foods, Bamber Bridge (Grocery)
  • Brendan Andertons of Longridge (Butcher)
  • Morris Bakery of Coppull (Bread)
  • C&G Neves of Fleetwood (Fish)
  • Holme Farm of penwortham (Eggs and Milk)
  • Fiddlers, Rufford (Lancashire Crisps)
  • Moo 2 you, Samlesbury (Ice Cream)
  • Exchange Coffee, Clitheroe (Coffee and Teas)
An impressive list I think you will agree, so please pay them a visit whilst in the area. The team is also planning afternoon teas and themed seasonal menus plus they will be organising the catering for many of the fund raising events held in St Catherine's Park for the hospice.





The canapes served at the launch were miniatures of the dishes on the menu and very tasty they were too, the cakes looked and tasted amazing as you can see from the pictures.

Check out their website, facebook and twitter pages for more information and more pictures of the venue and the food.

The team are waiting to welcome you.........

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Ultimate Cafe - Preston - passionate about good food



A couple of days ago we were lucky enough to be treated to lunch at The Ultimate Cafe at Preston, this independently owned cafe (The Interesting Eating Company) is situated within the Ultimate Outdoors at the Deepdale Retail Park in Preston.

This unassuming cafe is the sister to a Cafe in Liverpool both of which are passionate about serving good food. The Deepdale cafe is spacious and decorated in a faux log cabin meets contemporary chic manner but the emphasis is definitely on the food. Pushchairs are welcomed and the little ones have their own menu so there is something for all the family.

We were pleased to note that time and trouble had been taken in sourcing some local produce and producers for the menu, Nichola (one of the co directors) explained that the bread is baked specially for them and they buy their sausages from an independent butcher. A wide range of drinks and beverages are available and takeaway is also available.



The menu is varied and features an all day breakfast and the in house speciality pancakes which you can find here and the menu also has plenty of choices for those who need gluten free.

After the browsing the menu whilst sampling the lovely coffee we plumped for a sausage sandwich , chicken broth soup with dumplings and a roasted vegetable pancake (GF) all to share.




The stand out dish for us was the soup, with an intense chicken flavour yet light. The sausage sandwich was tasty, the sausages juicy and the bread crusty and man enough to stand up to the filling. The Gluten free pancake was good and the vegetable filling tasty, all more than adequate for a cafe menu.




By this stage we were getting quite full so we decided to share a dessert, tempted by the great selection of cakes and treats on display we eventually chose the fruit meringue, made on the premises like most of the cakes (except the gluten free).


The Ultimate cafe is well worth a visit particularly when you are in the area and is a great choice whilst shopping rather than the other chain eateries on the retail park, situated on the first floor of Ultimate Outdoors its easy to find (and there is a lift), the prices seem reasonable for the product on offer and the team really want you to have a good experience whilst dining with them.



Our lunch was provided free of charge for review purposes, all views and opinions are our own.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Winter Warmers at The Cowshed, Buckshaw Village for South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club

 

Yeah, cake club for our 25th meeting (wow that's a lot of cake !) of the South Lancashire Clandestine Cake club we paid a visit to COWSHED on Buckshaw Village, we had a supper turnout of bakers having 13 cakes in total all to our seasonal Winter Warmers theme.

Quite a few of the bakes featured interesting spice combinations and the bakers excelled themselves with their fantastic decorations. Travelling from far and wide we enjoyed ourselves on a wintry blustery afternoon in this funky coffee shop in the heart of the newly created village.


You can find the Cowshed on Barnes Wallis Way (of Bouncing Bomb fame) just behind the Tesco, there is parking just outside the door and lots more in the area. The coffee shop is open 7 days a week and late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The coffee is amazing and the decor is great and suitably cow themed.


On to the cakes, what a wonderful selection including several which where gluten free and two amazing "Bonfire cakes".

Spice Raisin bundt cake by Helen F

Chili chocolate olive oil cake by Katherine

Lemsip cake by Caroline (Honey & Lemon)

Sticky Toffee cake by Carla

Bonfire cake by Helen B

Spice Coconut cake by Kate

Apple and Cinnamon loaf by Ange


b
Date Bundt Cake by Kate G

Plum cake with warm mulled wine syrup by Sarah


Bonfire Cake by Amanda

Also not photographed individually was a Ginger and Coconut cake (sorry Helen R) this is the large white cake with the Christmas Trees in the large picture and also my Ginger Zinger Cake which you can see here.

Internal shot of the Bonfire Cake by Amanda showing layers


If you are in the area the Cowshed is definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Roasted red pepper and garlic soup

























Recently I managed to snaffle a couple of beautiful sweet pointed red peppers at the local shop for a bargain price, so as we love roasted peppers I decided to make a warming soup.

I love roasting red peppers as its really enhances the flavour of the pepper and intensifies their sweetness, We love them in our household even using them on rustic bread as a sandwich filling with a splash of balsamic and a couple of basil leaves to create an amazing flavourful vegetarian snack.

This soups uses the roasted pepper flesh along with a couple of  roasted garlic bulbs as the basis of a tasty hearty soup which is rich in antioxidants and all things good for you. Its also an amazing colour as you can see from the photographs.

What you need

  • 2 large red pointed peppers - split, seeds removed
  • 2 bulbs garlic - sliced across
  • Fresh rosemary and thyme
  • A little olive oil or virgin rapeseed oil
  • 1 white onion - peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium potato - peeled and diced
  • Vegetable stock ( I used Essential Cuisine)
  • Salt and Pepper - to taste
  • Creme fraiche or yogurt - omit if you want diary free


What you do 

  • Prepare the pepper and garlic and rub with a little oil before placing on a baking tray, strewn with some fresh herbs and a little salt and pepper
  • Roast for 20 - 25 minutes at 180c until the pepper skin is slightly charred and blistering
  • Remove from oven and cool fully on the tray
  • Once fully cool remove the charred skin from the pepper flesh and squeeze the garlic cloves to remove the cloves from the papery skin
  • In a large saucepan in a little oil saute the onion and the chopped potato for a few minutes, now add the roasted red pepper flesh and garlic cloves 
  • Add enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables and simmer until the potato is soft
  • Blitz using a stick blender until you have a smooth consistency 
  • Add as much additional vegetable stock or water to thin to your preferred soup thickness.
  • Re heat and taste for seasoning
  • Serve swirled with creme friache or yogurt 


We are linking up to No Croutons Required hosted this month over at Lisa's Kitchen 


Extra Veg challenge hosted this month over at Fuss Free Living

Extra-Veg-Badge1
November's family foodies hosted over at Eat your Veg 

family-foodies
Credit Crunch Munch hosted this month by My Little Italian Kitchen 

Credit-Crunch-Munch


Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Highwayman Inn - Stand and deliver !

                                     Highwayman Inn

Yesterday saw our long awaited visit to the Highwayman Inn at Nether Burrow, near Kirby Lonsdale. We have now visited all but one of the Ribble Valley Inns, the gastro pub chain owned by Michelin starred chef Nigel Haworth.




Surrounded by stunning countryside the Highwaymann is just outside Kirby Lonsdale, situated on the borders of the three counties of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire.The establishment is pretty easy to find, has car parking right outdoor the door and an outdoor eating area for summertime. Our welcome was warm and we were pleased to see that the fires were lit and dancing in the grates when we arrived, we were sat in the friendly hunting lodge style dining area in large cosy chairs ready to peruse the locally focused menu.

                                  


This being a Thwaites house Mr LF plumped for his favourite Wainwright and I ordered a Dandelion and burdock another favourite as the driver of the party. The pub has recently been the subject to a mini refurbishment and also recently had a new chef appointed to lead the team, Jason "Bruno" Birkbeck who has an excellent pedigree in the kitchen and is a local lad too, you may have seen him on Great British menu a couple of years ago.

                           

The main menu features many Ribble Valley Inn classics, however we would point out that we found the specials menu a bit confusing (and we weren't the only ones !) as Mr LF really fancied the Hotpot but was disappointed to find it wasn't on the menu (or so we thought) and missed it on the specials as the menu wasn't divided into starters, mains and desserts. In fact we only found out it was on the menu after we had ordered when we heard two elderly gentlemen asking why the hotpot wasn't on the menu and a member of staff pointing it out on the specials. Minor point but a tad confusing.



So after perusing the menu we plumped for the classic nibbles knowing that the portions are generous in Ribble Valley Inn's, Ascrofts cauliflower fritters an old favourite which is served with curry mayonnaise and the homemade bread, rapeseed oil and treacle vinegar.

The fritters were delicious as expected, crispy light with a tender cauliflower floret in the middle and the curry mayonnaise with just the right amount of spicy punch to cut through the fritter.

The bread, oil and vinegar was acceptable, we did find the sliced white and wholemeal bread a little tasteless and pappy but enjoyed the rosemary and sea salt roll, the treacle vinegar was the standout part of this dish and is an idea I am going to be trying to replicate at home. The vinegar has a lovely tang and is great combined with the nutty rapeseed oil. 

So onto our mains, I chose the braised shoulder of Kitridding lamb, herb oatcake crust, root vegetables, potato pressing and confit swede and  Mr LF chose Steak and kidney pie, roasted root vegetables with real chips.


A delicious well balanced dish, I particularly liked the addition of the spiky aromatic red cabbage (Nigel Howarths signature red cabbage no less) which cuts through the richness of the lamb shoulder, the dish was well flavoured and the confit swede was lovely and gave a sweet savoury note.

As you know Mr LF is a pie connoisseur and nothing disappoints him more than when a pie is not a pie, he likes a pie with sides, so he was a little down heartened when his "pie " arrived as it was a pastry topped pot, the pastry however was good, nice and short with a little flake and well matched to the filling inside. The steak and kidney filling was tender and the gravy well flavoured if a little on the thin side. In fact a member of staff supplied him with a spoon so he could scoop the gravy out of the pot. His chips were pronounced as good but the roasted vegetables better. 


Desserts, I ordered the intriguing Sheep dip creme brulee, shortbread and Autumn berry compote and Mr LF plumped for the Forest Fruit cheesecake with pouring cream.

A lovely tasty dessert with just the right amount of crunchy topping, the shortbread was buttery and crumbly and the perfect contrast to the creamy creme brulee.

Forest Fruit Cheesecake, whats not to like, pronounced delicious by Mr LF, fruity yet creamy with a sharper berry top to cut the richness.

So all in all a good meal, the food was tasty and well made and presented, just a couple of minor niggles, but really all in all the same standard we have come to expect from Ribble Valley Inns. The staff were warm, friendly and attentive.

Our only other comments would that despite the recent refurbishment we did note a couple minor issues such as in the loos missing temperature buttons on taps, missing plugs and worn soap bottles. Very minor niggles but not something I have seen in other RV inns, this definitely won't stop us recommending a visit as the food is very good, reasonably priced and above all seasonal and local. 


The surrounding countryside is beautiful and you are well placed to visit the local attractions. So make sure you call in when in the area.


Our meal was provided on a complimentary basis but we were not compelled to provide a positive review and all thoughts and opinions are our own.
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