Well, that’s enough about cookbooks for now. Prepare Ahead – Christmas Feast – Part Two will hopefully help you to to prepare ahead for your Christmas Feast, this time with nibbles, biscuits, sauces, desserts etc. The more we can prepare ahead, the more relaxed we’ll be on the special day. So back to work.
But first I must confess that I am desperately trying to write these posts with an arm recently blocked by an actual blood-clot (probably caused by one of the Chemotherapy drugs from last year). My right arm is not working properly yet, and the fingers in my right hand (my ‘Mouse’ hand), will not do as I ask them to do! So I spend more time correcting my words than actually typing them. If you spot the odd mistake, please forgive me. Right, more food now. Prepare Ahead – Christmas Feast – Part Two coming up.
How’s about something special to go with your Christmas Pudding, Mince Pies or any dessert based around Apples?
I have, shall we say, a penchant for Calvados. For special meals, such as Pork dishes, or Apple desserts, a touch of Calvados can really enhance the flavour. Basically a rather special apple brandy, created in Normandy, Calvados is not cheap, so in our house it is for ‘special occasions’ only, Christmas being the best ‘special occasion’ that I’m aware of. The Calvados Cream is the item in the little glass dish in the picture above.
Calvados Cream Recipe
- 600ml double cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 4 tbs
- Lightly whip the cream and icing sugar until it starts to form soft peaks.
- Add the Calvados and whip until just holding its shape.
- Cover and chill until ready to serve.
- It should last for 4 -5 days in the fridge, if covered.
The next recipe in Prepare Ahead – Christmas Feast is a staple of mine. I call it Chocolate Fridge Cake. I make it every year, and although Erik hasn’t a ‘sweet’ tooth, he loves this rich, fruity almost sticky chocolate mix. And, even better, it is ridiculously easy to make.
Chocolate Fridge Recipe
- 300g Plain Hobnob biscuits - or Plain Digestive Biscuits
- 350g good dark cooking chocolate
- 150g unsalted butter
- 200g golden syrup
- 75g glace cherries - chopped up
- 100g dried cranberries
- 100g dried blueberries
- 100g mixed nuts (Flaked Almonds, Brazil nuts,Hazel nuts & Pistachio nuts are favourites)
- Brandy, Vanilla Extract, Pinch of Chilli, a tiny amount of Chocolate Coffee Beans, chopped up.
- Start off by melting the dark chocolate, butter and the golden syrup in a Simmerpot, or bring a half-filled pan of water to a simmer, put the ingredients in a heat-proof bowl and sit it in the pan, making sure the base doesn't touch the hot water. Let it melt slowly, but make sure you keep stirring and take it off as soon as it has all melted.
- If using a baking tray or cake tin to cool the cake in, line it with cling film, drawing the film over the edges. If using small bun cases, get these ready on a tray.
- Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and roll a rolling pin over them to crush them - not to dust, but into small pieces.
- Crush the nuts - I've found the best way to do this is with my 2-blade mezzaluna, using the hollowed out chopping bowl, then the nuts don't go dancing all over the kitchen top. Again, not to dust, but into small pieces. The pistachios look great in the cut cake.
- As soon as the chocolate etc has melted, take the bowl off the heat. Add the crushed biscuits, the crushed nuts, then tip in the dried cranberries and blueberries and the glace cherries. Mix all carefully together, trying not to crush the biscuits too much.
- If using the small bun cases, use a teaspoon and small knife and fill up the cases. If using the tray or cake tin, spoon the mixture in and level it off. Put into the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.
- The tray bake can be tipped out of the tray, the cling film removed and the cake cut into squares. Maybe a faint scattering of icing sugar to look Christmassy?
- To freeze, cut into the squares, and freeze for up to 3 months. The cake in bun cases is the same.
- Enjoy - this rich cake mixture is extremely 'moorish', and is difficult to stop eating. Especially with an espresso, or a glass of Mulled Wine. You've been warned.
The recipe for Chocolate Fridge Cake can be adapted and played around with to suit you. If you don’t want to add the nuts, add more of the dried fruit and glace cherries. A nice addition for us grown-ups is a splash of Brandy in the mix or add some Vanilla extract, chopped up Coffee Beans or even a pinch of Chilli.
I usually make this in a decent sized baking tray with sides about 2 inches tall. Cover it with clingfilm, freeze then, when frozen take it out and cut up into bite-sized pieces. Put back into the freezer or just eat it. When doing the usual “Better sort the freezer out and make room for our Christmas food,” we found a small stache of this cake, and we finished it off with an espresso!!
No time for chatting! More of our Prepare Ahead – Christmas Feast coming up, if my fingers can hit the right keys. I will stay with little, easy sweet nibbles. Please forgive me, but as my fingers are so dead at the moment, I will give you the pictures and the link straight through to the recipes.
The next prepare ahead recipe is one of my all-time favourites. My Mum’s Almond Petit Fours recipe.
My Mum’s Almond Petit-Fours & Shortbread Recipe
Here is my very favourite of recipes – My Mum’s (and Mrs Beeton’s) Shortbread Recipe, included in the above link. My sister recently changed the flour in this recipe to suit a gluten free visitor, and she used Buckwheat. I had a nibble of one and it was wonderfully crisp and crunchy.
Coming up next is a frozen, very Christmassy dessert. Chocolate and sweet chestnut mixed with lots of yummy ingredients. And doesn’t it look fantastic.
Chocolate & Chestnut Parfait Recipe
Christmas Spice Friands is the next of the Prepare Ahead recipes for when friends drop in, or you just fancy something spicy to nibble on.
Christmas Spice Friands Recipe
The next recipe isn’t one to freeze ahead, but you can make up the mixture and chill it for 2 days before baking. So I thought it was almost as good as freezing ahead.
This a the sort of thing you suddenly want to eat with a cup of tea, or espresso coffee, or if you really insist with a glass of sweet Christmassy dessert wine. These are little light cakes that may be just what you want as a change from all the rich Christmas food.
A Friand is a small, light mini cake, usually made with ground almonds, flour and egg whites, and as the word Friand in French means ‘dainty’ or ‘a gourmet who delights in delicate tastes’, I believe it means you eat these little cakes daintily, with your fingers! I’m all for that! Many flavours can be added to them, but these below are full of Christmas Spices. They are traditionally baked in an almost oval tin, but small bun tins will do the job if, like me, you can’t find oval ones. Let’s face it, they taste the same.
What about a dollop of something tasty to spoon over your Christmas Spice Friands, Warm Mince Pies or even your fruity Christmas Pudding? And it can be Prepared Ahead as well!
Brandy & Vanilla Butter
Time to go and wake up Erik now. We have loads to do before Christmas as we are having various friends and family to stay over the holiday period. Two of my cousins from New Zealand have flown over, and are presently staying in Cheshire with my other cousins. But on Monday they are risking the very unreliable British train crossing the Pennines, coming to Hull, where Erik will pick them up and bring them to Hornsea.
I’ve already worked out that I will give them a very British dish to eat – Individual Toad in the Hole (Pork Sausages and Yorkshire Pudding cooked together), with lashings of Gravy, Mixed Green Vegetables – followed by a dessert that I’m not quite sure of yet!! Anyone know where I can find a great dessert recipe?