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

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

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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

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

Make gratin with leftover tagliatelle

Don’t throw out your leftover pasta//tagliatelle as they will make a lovely diner the next day.

Spread your leftover pasta (stored overnight in the fridge) over the bottom of an oven-proof dish. Here, I also used leftover fish (trout). Break a couple of eggs into a bowl, add milk (about 100-150ml), enough to cover about 3/4 of the pasta), an optional dollop of double/single cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the pasta and sprinkle grated cheese (about 50g). Cook in a preheated oven (180 degrees Celsius) until golden brown (about 25 min).

 Tip: add frozen peas for added colours.

How to make healthy beef burgers

Why is it that you cannot get men and children to eat vegetables with their burgers? I like to “hide” onions and sweet peppers in my home-made burgers so that the choice is not theirs.  😉 It is also a healthy way to make more burgers with the same amount of meat without having to Continue reading

How to make French flan / set custard

Home made flan / set custard cooling on rackFollowing my post on how to use up milk, you will find below a picture-based recipe on how to make a flan, which is the French near equivalent to English set custard (only the French flan uses whole eggs not just yolk!). The following quantities will make about 12 ramekins. Continue reading

Make your own tomato sauce

Tomato sauce ingredients

Red wine, onion, chopped tomatoes, garlic, tomato puree, stock + water to dilute, seasoning, corn flour if sauce needs thickening and olive oil for frying

I know it is easy to buy a jar of tomato sauce while you do your weekly food shopping but it is actually easier…. and so much cheaper …. to make your own…. if you have a freezer that is!

It does not take long to chop the ingredients. Have you read my tips on how to cut vegetable efficiently? Once cooked and cooled, you might want to quickly zap your sauce with a blender then divide and place in containers to suit the space in your freezer.

Tip: to defrost your sauce quickly, stand your plastic bag in hot water.

Uses: Topping for pizza, sauce for pasta, meatballs, spice it up for curry sauces, etc.. the list is endless.



What to do with overripe bananas

Not quite overripe since you can still see some green but that’s all I had at the time!

So, what do you do when your bananas get speckled black? Becoming far too ripe for most tastebuds, bananas will, more often than not, end up in the bin… or the composter if you have one. But you would be loosing out on a great dessert! Continue reading

How to make scones

ingredients for scones - before mixing

200g plain flour-30g butter-10g sugar-1tp baking powder-70g to 100g optional raisins and enough nilk to bind the dough

Since I want to focus on tips rather than the actual recipes, I will do just that. Hopefully, my pictures will be explanatory enough.

Make sure that you Continue reading

Cooking ham for packed lunches

Following my post on how to use ham for packed lunch, I will show you how easy it is to make lots of ham. You can then use it for diner and all sorts of packed lunches, i.e. sandwiches, tortilla wraps, rice or pasta salads or even microwavable lunches to eat at the workplace.

Cooking your own ham is very easy and very money efficient. Just remember to cook more than you need so that you can store the surplus for future use. Here is what I do:

Boil in water.

Gammon reading for boiling

Add bay leaf + onion pricked with cloves + few peppercorns

Remove excess fat, make a criss cross pattern and spread glaze on top

spreading honey and mustard on boiled ham

Spread mixture of 1tsp clear honey + 1tsp mustard

You will find that Continue reading

Easy oven-baked chicken and vegetables

This is a fool-proof recipe. You can’t get it wrong because the oven does all the work for you. All you have to do is cut your veggies efficiently (!!) and do a little bit of mixing. And you are allowed to use your hands if they are clean, although it won’t bother me if they are not :-).

Proportions? 1 tp mustard, 1 or 2 dollops of Worcester sauce and Soya sauce, 2-3 large tb of Greek yogurt, 1/2 chicken stock cube, 50 or 70ml olive oil.

Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsuis. It takes about 1 hour to cook.

It looks a bit pale because I left the aluminium foil on for too long…

The good thing about this way of cooking is that it does not take you away from your guests. You only need to stir the mixture every 20 minutes or so to prevent the bits at the top from burning.

Serve with pasta, rice or even some nice crusty bread.




Soups are easy – Carrot and lentil

carrot and lentil soup with cubed cheddar cheese

Add some cubed cheddar for a bit of saltiness!

There is nothing easier than make your own soup. Having a pressure cooker saves time and energy as it only takes 10 minutes to cook but a pot with a lid will do just as well. Make large quantities and store in the freezer in small or large containers. They will be readily available “at the push of a microwave button”!

I like to use Continue reading