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The Genial Hearth
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Archive for December, 2006

Chilled Mulled Riesling

So for second Christmas, I planned to try this recipe, about which, I had previously written. (I didn’t pay attention at the time I read it… I was reading the December 2006 Gourmet Traveller at my parents-in-law’s place the other day, and recognised it. Ours didn’t look quite like theirs!)

Chilled Mulled Riesling from Gourmet Traveller December 2006
Chilled Mulled Riesling
1 bottle of Riesling
5 sprigs of thyme (I didn’t put quite this much in, because of the comment about flavours)
zested rind of a lemon
zested rind of an orange
55 grams sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons honey

Put water, rind, thyme, honey and sugar in a pot, and stir until sugar dissolves. This will take about 5 minutes.
Add the Riesling and heat for about another 10 minutes.
Strain the mixture, and return to the bottle. Place in the refrigerater until chilled. This is a good ‘made’ drink to take somewhere, as you can just pour it from the bottle, although the recommendation was to serve in a jug with slices of lemon and orange.

The picture showed it as being quite clear, but ours was slightly murky.

Paddington did get a lovely photo of it though:-)

Fruit Mince Cheesecakes

For second Christmas, we finally decided on Fruit Mince Cheesecakes for dessert. I made these the morning before we ate them, but they could easily be done more ahead of time.

Mini Fruit-Mince Cheesecakes from Delicious December 2005/January 2006
Makes 12

200 grams digestive biscuits (we used ?)
120 grams unsalted butter, melted

250 grams cream cheese
200 grams crème fraîche (we used sour cream)
75 grams icing sugar (not icing mixture)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 mls thickened cream, whipped (double cream was on special, so I got that. When I was making it, I wasn’t so sure it had been a good idea, but it seemed fine upon eating)

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (Craisins) (I approximated this)
2 tablespoons brandy (and this:-) )
jar of fruit mince

Line a muffin tray with gladwrap. It is fiddly, but worth it at the other end!
Crush the biscuits finely (I used a wooden spoon in a bowl, but you could also use the food processor). Add the melted butter and mix. Press this mixture into the muffin holes, base and sides. Use a spoon to press firmly. Put this in the freezer.

Combine the cream cheese, crème fraîche, sugar and vanilla in a bowl, and beat with electric beaters. Keep beating until it is smooth. Fold in the (whipped) cream. Fill the muffin pan with spoonfuls of cheesecake. Freeze for at least thirty minutes.

Just before serving, put the craisins and brandy in a saucepan over a low heat. Heat gently for a couple of minutes before adding the fruit mince. Stir until warm.

Carefully remove the cheesecakes from the muffin tray and place on a dish. Top with the fruit mince mixture.
Fruit Mince Cheesecake

We were really happy with this. Very easy to do (aside from the gladwrap—which wasn’t hideous), and very tasty. I also appreciate the quantities for individual cheesecakes. I like doing individual desserts, and I can now add cheesecakes to my list. It’s easy enough to come up with some other toppings for the rest of the year when fruit mince isn’t available.

Formicaria (if that’s the plural!)

So, does anyone have any experience with a formicarium?

Puggle was given one this morning for second Christmas, and he’s now desperate to put “sand, and dinner, and water and ants” (counted out, oh so carefully on his fingers) in it.

It will certainly be a good addition to this year’s nature study plans, although I’d be thinking to leave it after our summer holidaying (a bit much to ask someone to feed the cat and the ants—and I don’t want them in the car!) But then, strike while the iron is hot, he’s keen to do it now. We can always empty it before we holiday and then start again on our return.

For now it has been (somewhat) filled with sand that has been in the sandpit for the last year… it includes plenty of random ‘stuff’. We managed to dissuade Puggle from digging up an ant’s nest and putting that in, rather it’s been placed near the nest with a sugar cube on the top to act as bait. We’ll see what happens, but we’d be very glad of suggestions:-)

Blogging Advent – Saturday 24th

We read The First Christmas by Marcia Williams.

Blogging Advent – A Pudding in Pictures

The pudding mixture maturing overnight.
In the colander before being tied up.
In colander
The pudding in its cloth.
Pudding in cloth
The pudding boiling away.

ETA At dinnertime!

Note… when you tell your two and a half year old he can lick the bowl, remind him to use his finger rather than sticking his head in the bowl to lick with his tongue… We are still finding pudding in his hair!

Blogging Advent – Ice Cream Plum Pudding

Start by placing a stoneware casserole (I use a lasagne dish) in the freezer (unless you have an ice cream maker).

I don’t think this is the actual recipe I usually do for the ice cream part, but it’s what I’ve done this year.

Ice Cream Plum Pudding
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup raisins (can be chopped)
1/4 cup brandy

600 mls thickened cream
2 egg yolks
1 egg
100 grams sugar
shake of cinnamon
shake of nutmeg
shake of mixed spice

50 grams slivered almonds
150 grams dark chocolate (grated, slivered, cut finely according to your preference)

Put the sultanas and raisins together with the brandy and leave to soak at least over night.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together (I would probably have used 3 eggs if not for the fact that I had 2 yolks) until light and fluffy. Mix in the cream and spices. Place in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until the mixture begins to coat the back of the spoon (or until the way the mixture flows as you stir it, changes). Remove from heat (and the hot saucepan) and allow to cool.
Stir through the fruit, nuts and chocolate and pour into your cold container. Allow to freeze for at least 8 hours.

Last year I know the custard was not properly cold when I stirred in the chocolate, and the effect was quite pleasing. This year I left it too long.
I feel fairly sure that the ice cream bit is wrong. It seems like a smaller quantity than usual. I’m fairly sure I’ve typically made a custard, but I’m just not sure which recipe I use. You’d think I’d write it down!

Blogging Advent – Saturday 23rd

Make the Plum Pudding.

This was comparatively straightforward… of course, we’d drunk all the muscat I thought we had, so Paddington had to go and get more… but he had to go out anyway—and now we have muscat:-)

Plum Pudding from Simple Flovours by Geoff Slattery via the Christmas Pudding Kit
Begin the day before you plan to cook it so that it can mature overnight. The whole recipe is fairly forgiving.

200 grams almonds, chopped roughly (we’ve made it without these in the past)
zest of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
750 grams (total) of raisins and sultanas (I usually add at least a packet of glacé cherries, and this time I also added a packet of glace ginger)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups breadcrumbs

200 grams butter, softened

6 eggs
1 cup good quality muscat
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda, dissolved in a little water
1/2 cup good brandy

In a large bowl (our bowl is 5 or 6 litres and is just big enough), mix the first batch of ingredients. Rub the butter through (or, if you’re not sure where your toddler’s hands have been, just use a robust wooden spoon). Mix the eggs and muscat together and add with the remaining ingredients to the bowl. It should be quite moist, but not liquid. “…like lava in a good sci-fi movie” (that’s what it says!) If it’s not like that, add more muscat (I think we added at least another cup, but it’s hard to tell when it’s added directly to the bowl. Leave overnight to let the flavours mingle. (This is as far as we have gone, we’ll do the rest tomorrow.)

Soak calico ( 1 metre square) then drip-dry over the sink for half an hour. Lay out flat and sprinkle generously with plain flour. Shake off the excess flour and drape over a colander. Fill with pudding mix. Pull the calico up over the mix, tucking it in evenly. Knot tightly with string, leaving a little room for it to expand. Make a decent loop (or two) in the string to allow you to hang it. It is easier if you have someone to help you. (Do not do this the night before, if you sit it somewhere it will flatten out, and it really isn’t too bad to do… quite easy to do quickly in the morning.)

Suspend the pudding in boiling water (you can just put it in the boiling water, it will float I seem to recall, but it’s much more difficult to retrieve at the end). Cook pudding for about 6 hours, making sure the water is kept at a boil. Be sure to add boiling water to top it up. This is the only bit requiring any care, to make sure that the pudding doesn’t boil dry.

The pudding can be eaten immediately served with warm brandy, flamed and a dob of butter over each slice.

To reheat on the day, cook as before, still in the cloth, for 2 hours.

To keep longer, hang in muslin and allow to dry out. (I have not yet done this. The pudding kit is made in Australia, so it might seem reasonable that it can be done, but I haven’t yet been game. I have heard of people keeping pudding successfully in the fridge or freezer, but I’m not sure about times.)

We often serve this cold, or slice and reheat individual serves in the microwave (once we’ve cut it).

It’s just good however you serve it:-)

Blogging Advent – Friday 22nd

Make Fruit Mince Pies.

Did not go to plan.

Last year I found one more jar of the last batch of fruit mince I made. It’s been at least two years since the last time I used my fruit mince, so I’m not quite sure how old it is. It is supposed to mature though.

So I didn’t plan to make any this year (I do it about mid-November.)

I decided I would take the slacker option and use sheets of ready rolled pastry.

Fortunately, I decided to be sensible and check the fruit mince before I went shopping. I added it to the list:-( It was a bit too old.

But we still didn’t get them made…

But I did make a pretty good Pork Roast with Apple and Apricot Risotto for our semi-expected dinner guests!

Tomorrow will end up being a fairly large cooking day, as may Sunday. But at least Paddington will be around to join in:-)

Blogging Advent – Peppermint Creams


They’re done!

When I was about 8, I went to a cooking class over the school holidays (one of those one off sessions that were offered by local councils.) The Peppermint Cream recipe came from there and is probably the one recipe I have regularly made from the session.

It’s amazingly versatile. I have coated it in chocolate for a homemade After Dinner Mint. I’ve made it much thinner and green and used it to fill chocolates. I know of people who have used orange essence instead of peppermint. And it’s really easy!

Peppermint Creams
400g icing sugar (icing mixture is fine)
a couple of drops of peppermint essence
1 egg white
lemon juice

Mix them all together (using the lemon juice to get the correct consistency—not the peppermint essence!) Add food colouring if you like. (If you add too much lemon juice, just add more icing sugar. The reverse is true also. I have had batches that have almost doubled in size because I kept misjudging. This is very forgiving.) Turn out onto an icing sugar covered surface. Press out to about 1 centimetre thick and cut into shapes. There is no need to roll, pressing out is fine. Usually of late, I’ve simply rolled it out and cut into squares, but this year I did little shapes. The shapes I have make pieces about twice the size I have done in the past… it may be better smaller, but less picturesque. Leave to air dry for a couple of hours, then place in an air tight container.
Peppermint Creams
Cake decorators may note that this is basically Royal Icing (you know, the really hard stuff) with flavouring. It is important that if you are not able to clean things up immediately, you should definitely put them on to soak (lay a damp cloth on your work surface). It’s easy to clean straight away, but if it dries it can be difficult!
If you use cutters, try to use ones that don’t have narrow points. If you make stars, about half of them will lose some of a point.
The easiest way to use the cutters is to rub them in a pile of icing sugar, then press into the mix near the edge. Drag towards the outside. This removes the dough from the surface. Then you shake the cutter to remove the cream. You can try poking the shape, but I find that often just leaves an impression on the surface and doesn’t in fact help remove it. Keep working around the outer edge.
The drier the dough is, the easier it is to cut.
If it gets too dry, it can be too crumbly.
I generally get the consistency close, then divide into three, and work each section separately. The first gets more icing sugar added, the last doesn’t need as much because it has dried out more.
The longer you can leave them to dry (even in the container), the better. If you can avoid eating them for a couple of weeks they get really nice and crisp:-)

Blogging Advent – Advent Calendar

Here’s Puggle’s advent calendar. I made it up from a fabric panel available at Spotlight. I am working on one for Bilby, for her first Christmas, but I’m not sure I’ll get it done in time… but I figure, she won’t notice if it arrives later!

Blogging Advent – Thursday 21st

Today, we wrapped presents.

Puggle got so excited when I started passing him wrapping paper and labels. And when we started pulling presents out of the bags, he was beside himself!


The actual wrapping was a bit of an exercise in frustration for me… I like wrapping presents, and I like the challenge of neatly wrapping oddly shaped gifts. Fortunately we didn’t have many of those this time around! I definitely had to lower my standards this year… Puggle learnt about tearing off sticky tape, and placing it… He needs more practice I think—but he’s great at sticking on labels!

We also posted a pile of christmas cards… we haven’t managed cards at all in the last couple of years, so this was a huge achievement!

Like chocolate?

Like chess?

Here’s a treat you’ll love! I’m really quite tempted by the idea… Maybe once the weather cools down, and it’s not Christmas time…

Songs for the season

Any number of them! Keep listening:-)

Some things never change…

No matter where you are! People always have to complain.

Hat tip to Plaid Dad.

Blogging Advent – Star Light, Star Bright

Here’s how we made stars… in pictures.

Painting Stars

The painted stars. You can see the pegs glued to the backs. If I’d thought it through, we’d have painted the glossy side first. Finished Stars

Stars in the Window
And here they are, strung across the window.

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