World Cup Meringue Cake

World cup meringue cake 3

So called because we had this for dinner whilst watching the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  My husband is South African so clearly this was a night for some rejoicing and this cake has ever after been associated with celebration and happy days.   Crispy, chewy meringue against a smooth rich chocolatey filling – fabulous.   Oh and yes, I do realise 2007 was a few years ago but the name has stuck!

Anyway, it is supremely easy to make and the meringue layers will be fine in an airtight tin for a couple of days.  In fact, if you have room in your freezer to keep the layers flat then that is another option.  Should you have a bottle of Baileys, Kahlua or similar in the cupboard then this is the perfect time to use a couple of tablespoons in the ganache filling. Cointreau or Grand Marnier now I think of it would take you the chocolate orange route…. If you are serving this to the underage leave out the alcohol and perhaps go 50/50 milk and plain chocolate, this is what my children prefer.  I like this with very cold pouring cream – my husband however likes it with whipped cream providing another layer between the ganache and the meringue, but you can take your pick.

Whatever your sporting affiliations, please make and enjoy.

World cup meringue cake

World Cup Meringue Cake

4 egg whites

200g caster sugar

1 teaspoon wine vinegar (red or white)

1 teaspoon cornflour

300ml double cream

150g chocolate, plain or 50/50 plain and milk chocolate

Icing sugar, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 140. Cut out 3 x 20cm circles in baking parchment and put onto baking sheets.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff then gradually incorporate the sugar.  When all that is mixed in add the vinegar and cornflour and mix until all is smooth and satiny.  Divide the mixture between the 3 circles and smooth.  Cook for an hour then turn off the oven and leave them in there for a further 30 minutes.  Take out and leave to cool.  Meanwhile put the cream and chocolate in a small pan and heat gently until melted and smooth, add the liqueur now if using.  Decant this ganache into a bowl and leave to cool until thick, I find the fridge best for this.   Keeping the best looking meringue for the top, divide the ganache between the other two,  pile them up, dust with icing sugar and serve to applause.  Serves 6 generously.

World cup meringue cake 2

Feta and Spinach Parcel and a couple more make ahead tips…

Spinach and Feta Filo 2

As you know in the run up to last Christmas I had pretty much packed my freezer in order than I might make it out of the kitchen from time to time!   On Christmas Eve a few things came out to defrost which fortunately made room for me to bung a couple of things in.  So we made lots of little sausage rolls with bought puff pastry and good sausages from the farm shop – fun to do with my children and a good way to keep them from staring (almost at fever pitch now) at the goodies under the Christmas tree.   Following that we made a buche de noel – again, a great way to keep little people occupied and straight forward enough too.  It was a little cracked but with a good fall of icing sugar snow and a robin sitting on top was the perfect way to finish lunch later that day, brought to the table with great pride by my children.

For that lunch we had a ham, so easy and such good value.  It simmered away gently whilst we got on with the sausage rolls and then I covered it in a mix of brown sugar and dijon mustard and popped it in the oven for half an hour.   I served it with red cabbage (from the freezer, of course) and my Firecracker Red Cabbage recipe earlier this month would be just the ticket, perhaps minus the chilli.  Plain boiled potatoes covered in a blanket of chopped parsley (a hint towards ham with parsley sauce) and a quickly rustled up Cumberland sauce, with orange juice, port, redcurrant jelly and stock all being around anyway.

That evening, Christmas Eve proper, we had a spicy, fragrant chickpea and mushroom curry which, you’ve guessed it had been lying in wait in the freezer for a week.  With rice and chutneys from the larder, bought naan and a quick raita this was simplicity itself and not only a meat free moment before the following day but also meant we could all eat the same thing including my veggie brother.  Followed by little mince pies (frozen!).

Spinach and Feta Filo 4

The Feta and Spinach filo parcel or tart you see in the photographs was what I made for same vegetarian brother for Christmas Day.  It may seem a little cross cultural with the trimmings that go alongside the turkey but I knew he would love it and I wanted him to have a real treat that day, the same as the rest of us.  Everyone wanted to try a little so just as well I had made a good size one, in fact one that my husband and I will happily have for lunch with a good crisp green salad alongside.

It is by no means an authentic Greek spanokopita but with the feta and greens is a nod in that direction.  I have added spring onions and either chopped red chilli – which gave it the perfect red, white and green of Christmas – or you could easily use a pinch of cayenne.  Now, this is very nearly the last time I will say it but….. I made this a few days before and froze it – thawed it that morning and reheated it in the same pan I made it in.  Crunchy crisp and delicious.

Spinach and Feta Filo 3

Filo wrapped Feta and Spinach

3 sheets of filo

200g fresh spinach, wilted,

100g feta, chopped

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1/2 red chilli or a good pinch of cayenne

Olive oil for brushing, about a tablespoon

Brush the inside of a 20cm (roughly)  frying pan with oil and lay the sheets of filo in it, brushing each sheet with oil as you go, overlapping at angles to each other so the whole pan is covered with the surplus hanging over the edges.   Make sure all the water is squeezed out of the spinach and then chop it a little and mix with the sping onions, feta and chilli or cayenne.  Give a good grinding of pepper and a small pinch of salt – you do need a little salt for seasoning but go easy because the feta is of course salty.   Put the mix into the filo lined pan, pat it flat and then fold the overhanging sheets of filo over, brushing the top with oil.  Tuck in any extra bits until you have a neat circular package.  Put it on a gentle heat and cook for about 5-6 minutes until when you peek gently underneath the bottom is golden and crispy.  Turn it over by sliding onto a plate, or I find easier a flat pan lid (then you have a handle underneath) and gently slide back into the frying pan to cook the other side.  When this bottom is crispy and bronzed it is done.

As above, this served one on Christmas day (with a bit of sharing) but could serve two for lunch.  Or you could slice it once cooked, wrap it in foil and take it out on a picnic.  Finally, it makes a great party canapé, just cut your filo a little smaller and use a metal cupcake tin. Proceed as above but bake in the oven rather than on the hob.  With this I would be inclined to serve a mint spiked yogurt sauce for dipping.




Do ahead Christmas tips and Spiced Cherries in Bacon

Spiced Cherries

I read something recently about preparation for Christmas being over-rated.  Hhhm, I thought, not written by someone who has to squeeze the buying, wrapping, cooking and all other prep into an already busy life and actually wants to spend some of Christmas with their family!

So call me a swot but I do believe in a bit of list making and using the freezer where I can. Last year we had 10 here over Christmas (3 meals a day for 3 days plus a few extras) and I was so pleased (and relieved) with what I rustled up and stashed away beforehand.  Here are some of my tips of what worked and suggestions that might help you this year.

For Christmas Day I pre-prepared the roast potatoes.  King Edwards peeled, parboiled, given a good shaking to rough up the edges and then frozen.  I cooked them from frozen in hot vegetable oil (no goose fat, vegetarian present) and they were amazing, the best roasties and what a pleasure not to be peeling a hundredweight of potatoes and steaming myself over them before lunch.  We will be a far smaller gathering this year but I will still do these, not just to minimise work whilst my children are beside themselves with yuletide excitement but also because they were so crunchy and fluffy.  Highly recommended.

Christmas tips 2

For the big day I also made stuffing, both a sausage and vegetarian one which were both then reheated in the foil containers they were frozen in and decanted into nice dishes for lunch.  I made two gravy bases which I froze the week before and they helped enormously to make a full flavoured gravy at the last minute without any hassle.   Cranberry sauce, pigs in blankets made and frozen, bread sauce too, I just added a bit of extra milk on reheating.

Now I know none of these things take long to make on their own but when you’ve got to do all of them at once (and find a saucepan for each one) it can be a headache.  Also, wouldn’t you rather see your family and friends unwrapping presents (which you’ve then got to build/play with etc) and perhaps enjoy a glass of champagne yourself….

I also made some little canapés which were great to have tucked away to be whipped out whenever a festive drink was in order.  Cheese gougeres, sausage rolls, courgette polpette, crunchy seeds (Things with Drinks, October 2012) cheese sables (December 2013) and these spiced cherries in bacon.

This might sound like the craziest recipe in the world and you may well raise your eyebrows at me but seriously give them a go.  They are sweet, savoury, tangy, salty juicy little bundles of deliciousness and so good with a cold glass of something.  On that note, if I could steer you towards my Sloe Vespa, the Christmas cocktail (December 2012), then all the better!

Spiced Cherries in Bacon

Once you’ve got over laughing at this recipe, get cracking on it now, the cherries only get better the longer they languish in the Worcester sauce.  Remember too that once the first lot of cherries are gone you can top up the tub with some more as the WS will be good for another batch (or pour the sauce into the next tub of cherries, if you see what I mean).

1 tub of glace cherries

Worcester Sauce

Streaky bacon, half a slice per cherry

Take the lid off the cherries and pour in Worcester sauce until the cherries are submerged. Put the life back on and keep in the fridge until you are going to use them – at least two weeks but a couple of months ahead is fine.  Preheat the oven to 180 and line a baking sheet with parchment.  Wrap a cherry in a half slice of bacon and secure with a cocktail stick.  Repeat with the rest of the cherries and bacon.  Cook for 15 minutes until the bacon is cooked and starting to caramelise with the sweet sticky juices.  Allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve.  Makes around 24.

More tips next week!

I first posted these tips in November 2013 but I thought now a useful time to offer them again plus you need to get those cherries soaking!



Firecracker Red Cabbage and Sausages

Firecracker hot dog

It took me a while to come around to Guy Fawkes night as a child.  I found the whole Guy business both slightly mad and macabre.  Firstly because they always looked like a giant pair of tights stuffed with old clothes tied with baler twine and sporting a huge hat over the grinning face.  Rarely worth a penny I thought.  Macabre because I didn’t really like the idea of burning anyone although I did realise it was purely symbolic.  Childish anxieties I guess.

What would cheer me up however was the promise of something good to eat whilst standing around an enormous bonfire.  I can see it now on our village green, almost two storeys high, a huge beast of a fire shooting sparks into the night sky and belting out heat.  There was usually the promise of a toffee apple, good for nibbling the toffee off only to be left with a rather sticky green apple on a wobbly stick.  Or cinder toffee, crunchy, splintering and sticking your teeth together.  Always on offer were hot dogs, proper sausages rather than frankfurters with a good squirt of ketchup which inevitably found its way onto your woolly gloves.

Sadly our fireworks were rained off  this week but if they hadn’t been this is what we would have been eating as a relish with our hot dogs.   Sweet, tangy and with a good kick of chilli it is delicious in a bun with a good banger on top.   It would be just as at home served on the side with some sausages or perhaps with roast pork or maybe a ham.   Ideas, ideas….

Firecracker cabbage

Firecracker Red Cabbage

As I was making this I cast an eye over a jar of chilli jelly which you could very easily use in place of the redcurrant jelly and chilli flakes – the reason I didn’t was because they vary so much in their heat so difficult to suggest how much to use.   You could give it a try and taste as you go.  This amount of chilli means my children are happy with it, add more if you want.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 red cabbage, quite finely chopped

Good pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and stir.  Add the red cabbage and give it a good stir and then add the remaining ingredients.  Cook gently for half an hour with a lid on and half an hour with the lid off to allow the liquid to bubble down to a syrup which will coat the cabbage.  Taste, it might need a little more salt or a spritz of balsamic.   Serve with sausages in buns or on plates, enough for 4.