My Dairy-Free Christmas Cake (Mary Berry inspired)

By making my own Christmas cake, I can cater for my own needs. In my family, we don’t really like things such as almonds, iced cherries or currents in our cakes (Christmas or not) and my daughter is dairy intolerant. So, I looked for a recipe which could give me an idea of basic Christmas cake ingredients and quantities and found Mary Berry’s Christmas Cake recipe. I tweaked it a little and made the perfect Christmas cake! I have decided to post this recipe in my blog to make sure that I never lose it!

  • 200g of raisins, 200g apricots, 200g dried prunes, 1 tin of cherries, all fruit chopped (and cherry stones removed too of course!) to the same size as that of raisins. You could easily add another 200g of other dried fruit if you wanted, it would not affect the recipe.
  • 200ml (150ml and 50ml) sherry
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange or (even 2), it gives the cake a nice tangy flavour.
  • 250g dairy-free margarine (or butter if you are not trying to make a dairy-free dessert)
  • 250g muscovado sugar (light or dark)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tb black treacle
  • 250g of flour (an equal mixture of self-raising and plain)
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Cake covering:

  • about 3 tb apricot (or plum) jam (slightly warm makes it easier to spread)
  • marzipan – I used a good quality packet of ready-to-roll marzipan. Tip: use any left-over royal marzipan to make little figurines (trees, flowers, animals) to decorate the cake.
  • royal icing – ready-to-roll icing makes it a very easy job and any left-over can be used to make decorations.

I used a 23cm diameter baking tin. A narrower one would make the cake higher but would need less marzipan and royal icing.

Place all dried fruit in a saucepan with 150ml sherry and orange zest. Heat up the saucepan and stir until most of the sherry has been absorbed by the fruit. While cooling down, prepare the tin with two layers of baking paper (or greased greaseproof paper). Preheat over to 140 degrees Celsius, 120 degrees fan or gas 1.

Place margarine/butter, sugar, eggs, treacle on a large bowl and beat well. Add flour and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blneded. Stir the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4 – 41/2 hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after 2 hours and, if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool before removing from the tin.

Sprinkle the remaining 50ml more sherry over the cake. Spread the top of the cake with the apricot or plum jam (make sure there are no lumpy bits otherwise the surface of your cake will not look very flat at the end) and carefully cover with your marzipan as per packet instructions. Cover the cake with a clean kitchen towel overnight or up to 24 hours to let the marzipan dry a little.

Cover the marzipan with the rolled royal icing as per packet instructions and decorate as you want. As you can see below, I used my left-over marzipan and royal icing to make small decorative objects to be placed on top of the cake.

The cake contains 8,000 kCal. So, if you cut it into 24, the portion will have 333 kCal.

picture of Christmas Cake with marzipan and royal icing covering and decorations

Fruit cake with marzipan and royal icing covering

raisins, apricots, cherries, prunes

raisins, apricots, cherries, prunes

Raw tomatoes, what to eat, how to cut the stem scar

Everything in a raw tomato can be eaten except maybe the stem scar which is a little tough and bitter.

Below is how to quickly remove the tomato stem scar:

cutting tomato close to tomatot stem scar to remove itremoving tomato stem scar by diagonal incision

My mum used to remove skin, seeds and the white inner flesh when she made tomato salads. Personally, I don’t think it is worth the hassle. Just cut them in half and serve in the plate like that.

How to prepare and cook a trout / whole fish

Ask your fishmonger to descale and gutter the fish. This will considerably reduce the amount of waste, save you a time and keep your wall clean (scales tend to fly around when I descale a fish…) but it will probably not be sufficient. Below is a picture of a fish cleaned by my local supermarket. The fish would not taste very nice if you cooked it in this condition.

view inside of shop-gutted trout

Before cleaning the fish some more, get some Continue reading

Ways to re-use your glass jars

infusion bags inside jars with name sellotaped on glass

Place the content of each of your different infusions (green tea, peppermint, etc.) inside a glass jar. This will help your infusions stay fresh longer and also take less space in your cupboard.

Tip: to remember which is which, simply cut out the name from the infusion box and sellotape it on the side of the jar.

Wheat intolerance – Rice flour Crumble

You don’t need to make crumble with wheat flour. Having a friend who is wheat intolerant, I had to study the problem and I found that rice flour works just as well when making crumble. Use the same proportions: 1 part butter, 1 part sugar and 2 parts rice flour plus whatever par-cooked fruit such apple, rhubarb etc.

 

Chocolate and caramel cheesecake

Follow this picture guide to make this easy and delicious chocolate and caramel cheesecake. Perfect for dinner parties as it is best prepared the day before. Serves 6-8.IMG_1725 (1024x683)

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 100g butter melted
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate (I use 70% cocoa Lindt chocolate)
  • 300g Philadelphia cheese
  • 100g granulated sugar (vanilla scented or add a couple of drops of vanilla essence)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 200ml double cream (or 1/2 double cream, 1/2 yogurt)
  • 1 tin of Carnation caramel

Continue reading

Use cheap pears to make upside-down pie / tarte Tatin

IMG_3125 (1024x683)

If you see a packet of pears at reduced price at your supermarket, grab it! They are usually quite hard and tasteless (that’s why they are on sale) but they make the perfect ingredient for an easy-to-make delicious upside-down pie or, as we French people call it, tarte Tatin. In fact, Continue reading

Picture guide on how to make a savoury tart/pie

Pies are inexpensive and easy to make. It is a great way to use up leftover meat. Make one pie to feed 4 people or use half the pie to feed 2 and keep the other half for a cold packed lunch for 2 the following day. Below is a step-by-step picture guide on how to make the dough. Continue reading

Easy quick soup recipe – you don’t need to fry onions

easy soup recipe

Suggested ingredients: carrots, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, red lentils, onions, stock, honey, salt and pepper + 1tb olive oil

Don’t waste time frying onions, simply cut up and place all ingredients/vegetables together in a large saucepan with one tablespoon of olive oil then add 500 ml boiled water and simmer until all vegetables are soft. Then, roughly squash the cooked vegetable using a potato masher and your soup is ready to eat.

Tip: Use red lentils as a thickener or chestnuts (or both!). You could also use potatoes but I can’t because Hubby has a potato allergy!

Tip: scatter some cubed cheddar over the soup when serving.

easy soup recipe cooked

What to use with your dips?

last minute dips grilled tortilla wraps

 

Below is what I used for my dips. This is particularly handy if your packet of tortilla wraps has recently passed its use by date as the tortillas will still be edible but cannot really be used to wrap food any more because they tend to tear easily.

Simply place the tortillas under the grill for a couple of minutes on both sides and cut with a chef knife to the required shape.