Tag Archives: cranberries

Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.


As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 



Easter recipe: Cranberry, Chocolate and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by the lovely folks at Hartley Jam (via the equally lovely folk at Havas) to take part in their hot cross bun challenge.

With a little bit of time on my hands, I decided to take part. However, I’m not a big fan of dried fruit so hot cross buns don’t often feature in the things I love about Easter. Honestly, when there’s so much chocolate doing the rounds, why would anyone go “oooh, I really fancy a delicious fruity bun instead of a chunk of an Easter egg?” Not me, that’s for shizz.

I received in the post a beautifully wrapped basket filled with ingredients with which to make my buns, which gave me flashbacks to my baby PR days where you’d be expected to be some sort of wrapping whizz to give media gifts or invitations that ‘wow’ factor. You’ve heard of kerbside appeal, this is desk appeal. It’s like that bit in Bridesmaids, where the invitation to the bridal shower included live butterflies. This one didn’t, thankfully, I’m not sure how I would have incorporated live butterflies into my final dish.

The beautifully wrapped basket
The beautifully wrapped basket
And the basket contents
And the basket contents

The basket contained flour, sugar, yeast, mixed spice, a bottle of Hartley’s Jam and a supermarket gift voucher to spend on the additional ingredients needed. Given that I hadn’t been sent dried fruit, I decided that I’d create something that didn’t include raisins or currants. So that’s what I’ve done. Recipe below, with pictures because it looked so pretty. Today is the day to traditionally eat Hot Cross Buns so that’s what I’ve done. Just three so far. I think I need a nap.

And the final bake

Cardamom, lemon, cranberry and chocolate hot cross buns

  • 200ml milk
  • 4 cardamom pods (broken slightly)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 sachet (7g) of easy fast action yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 450g bread flour (I was sent plain flour but had bread flour in my cupboard)
  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Put the milk, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cardamom pods and saffron into a small pan and bring to the boil gently. Once this happens, take it off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 30 mins. Once it’s cooled to hand temperature, strain it into a bowl and add one tablespoon of the sugar and the yeast and stir. Take two of the eggs and beat them.

Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the rest of the sugar, the salt and the ginger and give it a good mix. Create a well in the centre, then pour in the beaten eggs and the milk. Bring the dough together and tip onto a very lightly floured board and knead. Knead like your life depends on it, it takes a good 10 minutes. It’s quite therapeutic.

Once it’s smooth and elastic, put it into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and put somewhere warm till it’s at least doubled in size – this took about 1.5 hours on top of a radiator on low.

Before the rise

And after

Whilst it’s rising, zest the lemon and mix with the chocolate chips and cranberries and put to one side.

Once risen, drop the dough onto a lightly greased board and give it a quick knead, then stretch it a little. Sprinkle the chocolate/cranberry/lemon mix over the top then give the dough another knead to incorporate.

The dough with sprinkled topping All incorporated

Divide the dough into twelve equal sized balls (I was a massive geek and weighed, then worked out how much each ball should weigh, so I weighed those too) and put on a lined baking sheet. Cut a small cross in the top of each of them.

Before the second rise

Leave these to double in size again – this only took about 45 minutes. In the meantime, heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c

Beat the remaining egg and make the paste for your crosses. This was about 5 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of water but was probably a little thin (as you’ll see from the less than perfect crosses) so maybe thicken it up a little till it feels like it’ll hold its shape.

Crosses. Bad crosses.

Once the buns are doubled, brush with the egg and pipe the cross onto the top. Bake for about 20 mins, till the top is golden. Once they come out of the oven, brush the top with a little sugar syrup. It just makes them look pretty. It’s not essential.

Obviously, I enjoyed these with a light spreading of Hartley’s Strawberry Jam and bloody good it was too. Someone somewhere suggested them with cheddar cheese, which I think sounds amazing and basically dinner so that’s what I’ll be eating tonight.

Thanks Hartley's

Festive sweet treats round up

As much as I love the festive season, I do sigh with relief come January at the fact that I no longer have to make sure my fridge is stocked with just enough goodies to pull together a last minute treat for random drop ins. And let’s be honest, how often do you have random drop ins over the festive period? Modern life (and middle age) has made us all planners, dates are booked in months in advance and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have planned a menu weeks ahead of “impromptu” visits.

So yeah, it’s just an excuse to buy gigantic tubs of Quality Street or Celebrations. And cheese. A shit load (official collective noun) of cheese.

Last Christmas we hosted mine and the husband’s immediate families at our house. It was brilliant to host them all for the first time in our new home and we properly felt like grown ups. Given our 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen + the utterly awful oven, I decided against a traditional roast and instead went with a Moroccan spiced, slow roast lamb with bejewelled cous cous and a seasonal (read: root) vegetable tagine. And then I did a dessert table of random bits for people to choose from – chocolate brownies, meringues, raspberry coulis, hokey pokey. None of the desserts came out as well as I wanted it to, but looked pretty. Maybe a case of too much showing off?

This year, we decided to allow our families to feed us (generous to a fault, that’s us), which meant that we had three Christmases with my husband’s lot, and Christmas day with my sister.

However, we did entertain a few times over the break (with one meal mostly being a repeat of Christmas 2013) and I did make a lot of desserts to gift and help out the hostesses. Of course, I forgot to take pics, because I’m a fool and I’d eaten so much chocolate by Christmas day that I’m pretty sure my brain was 83% cocoa.

So here are some of my festive sweet treat highlights:

Cranberry spiced bundt cake

This was made in order to use up leftover fresh cranberries and show off a bit with a bundt cake taken to a party. However, I didn’t grease the pan properly so rather than being a ‘wow’ cake, I had to slice up the bit I managed to salvage (that wasn’t stuck in the tin as you can see from the photo below). I’ll do this again before cranberries are taken off shelves and share the recipe, totally worth it and probably easy enough to repeat with whatever fruit you have in the house (in berry form).

IMG_20141227_121221 IMG_20141227_133125

Lemon Meringue Pie.

Liked this so much, I made it twice. In a week. The recipe is Dan Lepard’s from the Guardian and in my opinion, pretty much fool proof. It’s always been one of my favourite puddings and I reckon I’ll make this a few more times before 2015 is out.

IMG_20141211_122552 IMG_20141211_204951

I used the same pie base for a chocolate mousse cake after being inspired by the chocolate tart at Newman Street Tavern. Man, that was amazing. I have no pictures for my version though, but I’d say that the NST chocolate tart is one of the best I’ve ever had. As was the pork crackling. In fact, if you’re in London, it’s a great place for a Sunday lunch.

On new year’s day, wanting to clear some space in my fridge, I made my first ever attempt at a berry clafoutis. Again to use up fruit that was about to go off. Whilst it was delicious hot out of the oven, I think my fruit to batter ratio was off, so a little bit bitterer than I would have liked (I blame the cranberries entirely). Custard sorted that right out though. However, it was even better when sliced and then pan fried in butter and brown sugar for brunch the next day. It’s basically pancakes and fruit, right?


Finally, an amazing recipe from the lovely Edd Kimber (aka theboywhobakes) for salted caramel truffles that I gifted at a family new year party. So. Good. I’m surprised I managed to make any, the truffle mix is delicious and I definitely didn’t eat 14 spoonfuls out of the bowl before it had cooled. No sir. That’d be totally gluttonous, right?


Thanks for a lovely time Christmas 2014, see you again next year.