I’m often asked for my rose syrup recipe and although it’s on the blog, it’s hidden in a summer cocktail post, so is hard to find. As it’s such a glorious concoction and summer is the best season to make and use it, time for its very own moment in the spotlight, methinks.
As some of you may have gathered by now, I’m in thrall to my Froothie high speed blender. It gets used virtually every day and makes a wonderful job of finely blending the most unlikely of ingredients and making them silky smooth. Have a look at my nettle smoothie if you don’t believe me.
We Should Cocoa has been running a stunning four years now and today celebrates going into its fifth year. Yes, it was five years ago that Chele and I started this monthly chocolate challenge. Chele kicked us off way back then with raspberries and it’s been a continuous journey ever since. In 2012 Chele withdrew from the challenge and it has subsequently been kept alive by many wonderful bloggers who have kindly taken on guest hosting duties. This has added an extra element of creativity and interest as every host has such different ideas as to what the ingredient or theme should be. It is with deep gratitude that I’d like to thank all of the hosts and the many other bloggers who have been involved with this challenge over the years and have contributed to making it such an enjoyable and successful blog event. Do please keep those offers of hosting coming in.
This recipe for super cute mini orange sponge cakes are filled with whipped cream and blood orange curd. They’re a little fiddly to make, but well worth it if you’re looking for dainty additions to an elegant afternoon tea. There’s also a recipe for the curd which is sweet and zingy with an attractive strawberry pink colour. If you’re looking for more miniature treats, read on for a book review that might be of interest. Otherwise, head to the bottom of the post for the blood orange cakes recipe.
Homemade mincemeat is a revelation, once made it’s hard to go back to a commercial product. Even inveterate mincemeat sceptics like CT are happy to partake of this. In fact it was hard to keep his hands off the Chilli and Chocolate Mincemeat Slice I made last year.
|Chocolate Roasted Rhubarb Pavlova with Rhubarb Curd|
Last weekend my mother turned up with a lovely bunch of rhubarb from her garden. Rhubarb used to flourish on our allotment and we had a big glut every year. Since moving down to our plot on the field, however, rhubarb has persistently refused to grow and I really miss it. One of the things I used to make was rhubarb curd and I had a sudden yearning to make some again. However, as this was back in pre-blog days, I couldn’t remember exactly how I made it or what recipe I used, so I cobbled something together with a little help from Belleau Kitchen. My yearning was partially stimulated by a desire to make chocolate meringues and top them with rhubarb curd in a grand vision I had for chocolate and rhubarb pavlovas. For the chocolate meringues, I again did my own thing using the Riverford Farm Cook Book as my initial inspiration.
This is what I did to make:
- Separated 3 large duck eggs and whisked the whites in a large clean bowl until foamy, reserving the yolks for the curd.
- Added a pinch of cream of tarter and whisked until soft peaks had formed.
- Added 200g vanilla sugar (golden caster) a spoonful at a time, whisking in between each one.
- Sieved in 3 teaspoons of arrowroot (I generally use this instead of cornflour as it has similar properties and is said to be beneficial).
- Sieved in 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder and whisked until stiff peaks had formed.
- Spooned the mixture onto lined baking trays to form eight circles, leaving plenty of space in between each one (just as well I did as the meringues virtually doubled in size).
- Formed into nest shapes. leaving a large indentation in the middle.
- Sprinkled a little cocoa powder over each one.
- Baked at 150C for 10 minutes, then at 125C for a further hour. Switched off the oven and left the meringues inside until cold.
Meanwhile I made:
Rhubarb & Elderflower Curd
|Rhubarb & Elderflower Curd|
- Chopped 400g of already trimmed rhubarb stalks into chunks.
- Put them in a pan with 2 tbsp elderflower cordial and simmered until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Used a stick blender to puree.
- Mixed the 3 egg yolks in a bowl with 100g vanilla sugar (golden caster).
- Placed over a pan of simmering water and stirred – I didn’t want it so hot that I got scrambled eggs.
- Added the hot rhubarb puree and continued to stir.
- After about 10 minutes of regular (but not continuous) stirring, added 50g unsalted butter.
- Stirred for another 5 minutes or so, until the mixture had thickened.
- Poured into sterilised jars & sealed.
|Rhubarb Roasted with Elderflower Cordial|
- Cut 200g of already trimmed rhubarb sticks into finger sized lengths.
- Cut this into batons lengthways.
- Placed in an ovenproof dish together with 1 tbsp elderflower cordial.
- Sprinkled with 1 tbsp of vanilla sugar (golden caster).
- Roasted at 200C for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb was soft but still held its shape.
Mini Chocolate and Rhubarb Pavlovas
- Spooned a tbsp of rhubarb curd onto a meringue.
- Topped with a teaspoon of clotted cream.
- Decorated with fingers of roasted rhubarb in what was meant to be an arty, chefy sort of way.
|Chocolate & Rhubarb Pavlova|
Mini Pavlovas is something of a misnomer; they actually ended up being rather large. The grand vision I had didn’t exactly come to pass, but goodness gracious, the pavlovas were scrummy. The combination of zingy rhubarb curd with chocolate meringues complemented each other perfectly. The contrasting textures of smooth and crunchy added to the overall enjoyment. The rhubarb curd was delicious in it’s own right and I was really pleased with the lovely orange colour it turned into; I was thinking it might just come out as a rather unlovely muddy brown.
I am sending this off to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays where anything submitted must be made entirely from scratch.
As rhubarb is still in season, I am also entering this into Simple and in Season with Ren Behan.
The rhubarb was home grown, making this summery dessert inexpensive, so fitting nicely into the Credit Crunch Munch remit with Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours. This month’s event is hosted by Anneli of Delicieux.
The inclusion of elderflower cordial, made with my own fair hands, using foraged elderflowers means I am also entering these to Herbs on Saturday with Karen over at Lavender and Lovage.
These mini Pavlovas are perfect for al fresco eating in the lovely weather we are currently experiencing. I am thus submitting these to a new monthly blogging challenge from Delicieux and Chez Foti, Four Seasons Food. This month’s theme is Picnic food and Outdoor Nibbles.
I forgot to check what the letter is for Alpha Bakes this month, but have just done so and fortuitously it is R. So I am entering my R for Rhubarb to The More Than Occasional Baker who is hosting this month. Caroline Makes hosts alternately.
After the success of last year’s chocolate mincemeat, I thought I’d better have another go. Last week was Stir-up Sunday, when traditionally Christmas puddings are made, giving them ample time to mature before the big day. It is also a good time to make mincemeat for the same reason. I did neither. But due to the floods and consequent train disruption on the following day, I was unable to attend the chocolate conference that I’d taken the day off work for, so it was mincemeat making for me and Stir-up Monday instead. This year I decided to vary things a bit, quite a bit in fact. I added prunes and cranberries and omitted the currents (principally because I didn’t have any). I added my own homemade mixed peel, some of the mint vodka I made back along and one of our rare chillies that actually ripened in the excuse for a summer we had this year.
So, as last year, I threw the following ingredients into a bowl, gave a good stir, covered with a plate and left for 5 days, stirring once a day. Packed into 4 sterilised 1 lb jars, then sealed with waxed discs and lids. I used some of the lovely vintage labels that the even lovelier Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate sent me recently for having entered her home made and well preserved challenge.
- 300g Cornish & Somerset cooking apples (varieties unidentified) – peeled, cored and finely chopped.
- 50g vegetarian suet
- 200g raisins
- 110g sultanas
- 100g prunes – chopped
- 50g dried cranberries
- 50g home-made mixed peel – chopped
- 100g dark chocolate (85%) – chopped
- 125g dark brown sugar
- grated zest and juice of an organic lemon (unwaxed)
- 1 small rocotto chilli – deseeded and chopped finely.
- 40g flaked almonds
- 3 tbsp rum
- 3 tbsp mint vodka (home-made)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- a good grating of nutmeg
- a small grating of star anise
The sweet and spicy aroma emanating from the bowl was intoxicating and when I did, err, lick out the bowl afterwards, I was extremely pleased with the results. The mint vodka gave a hint of something different and the chilli was just about right, warming rather than overheating. The chocolate was an excellent addition and worked to give a slightly deeper and richer flavour and also prevented the mincemeat from being overly sweet. I can’t imagine ever wanting to buy mincemeat again.
We were off on holiday and it was the usual scramble to try and use up perishable food before we left. A punnet of slightly under ripe apricots was one of the food items that needed attention. With all the talk of fairtrade vanilla on BBC Radio 4 and Vanessa’s blog back in August, it was a question of poached apricots in vanilla syrup or making jam. I plumped for the jam and oh boy, I’m so glad I did.
I used Trish Deseine’s recipe as my guide, but reduced the quantity of sugar to fruit and added some water.
This is how I made two jars of apricot and vanilla jam:
- Washed 400g apricots, then chopped and de-stoned them.
- Put into a stainless steel heavy bottomed pan with 300g caster sugar and the stones.
- Cut a vanilla pod into bits and scattered this over the sugar.
- Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and added a splash of water.
- Left overnight for the flavours to infuse.
- Bought the mixture to a gentle simmer and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved.
- Bought it up to a rapid boil and let it go for a good ten minutes or more until the jam went from frothy to clear and setting point was reached (jam wrinkled when dropped onto a cold plate).
- Removed the stones and spooned into two sterilised jars.
The jam turned out to be a beautiful golden amber colour and looked really pretty flecked with vanilla seeds – and it didn’t stop there. It set well and tasted sublime, tart and fruity, but still sweet and aromatic. I haven’t yet used the jam as I’ve been saving it for something special, but I have yet to decide what that special something is going to be.
I am entering this into Susan’s Home Made & Well Preserved challenge over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate in the vague hope I might get lucky and win a copy of First Preserves by Vivian Lloyd.
This was, of course, made from scratch as is the vast majority of what I make, so I am entering this into Mr JW’s Made With Love Mondays.