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Posts from the ‘Cooking’ Category

Is Every Day a Cake Day? Let’s Cowgirl Up to the Bounty of Parsnips

Well, I don’t know, but today was definitely a cake day. Howling wind and lashing rain outside, dark inside and a fire lit in the stove.

Fire in woodburning stove

Some of you may know that I’m fond of a culinary experiment.

By the way, as a final update on the mince pies with real meat (an ancient tradition which I wanted to resurrect), the general verdict was good, though there seemed to be confusion about when would be the best time to eat them. They didn’t seem quite right at traditional tea time and my sister C reacted slightly uneasily to one from the second batch saying erm, they’re very muttony and put hers aside. But my aunt and cousin had two each and seemed impressed. Let’s face it you wouldn’t have two pies if you were just being polite would you? I thought they were ok, but in the end, as B remarked, sometimes there’s a good reason for a tradition dying out. You can guess at his fan status…

Not long ago I was fretting about the amount of root vegetables and brassicas which come in our seasonal veg box and fellow blogger Fran over at Serendipity Farm suggested using parsnips in a cake. I had already conducted one experiment (not bad, also Fran inspired, a kind of Bakewell Tart with mixed spice, interesting) before I read her recommendation that chocolate cake is the ideal vehicle to absorb them.

So, after duly finishing (and sharing, I’m not mean with the baking experiments you know) the said parsnippy bakewell spicy slice thing, I decided to have a go at a chocolate one. I made it up so I should probably write it down so I can improve the result next time (note the ‘should’ here – highly unlikely)  But it was pretty delicious, though a tad TOO moist at the beginning and took AGES to cook in a slowish oven.

I even gained a blog follower in the middle of baking as our neighbour dropped round to pick up a cheque for the hay turning and baling he did in the summer (that’s the slow pace of life), thanks D, if you want a slice to try you better get on that bicycle and pedal fast! If anyone else is inspired I’d really recommend leaving the cake for a day before eating. It kind of settles down into itself, and all the flavours amalgamate.

Parsnips on Wooden Table

Part of the Parsnip Bounty

Parsnips on Wooden Board


Grated Parsnips in a bowl

and grated…

Creamed butter and sugar

I creamed some butter and sugar (white and dark)

Cake Mixture

The egg bit was far too frantic for photographing – can’t wait to get a new mixer! – so here is the flour and cocoa powder and parsnips being folded in

Cake Mix in Tin

All mixed and put in a tray lined with foil – see all the parsnips?

Chocolate Cake

Out of the oven, I kept having to look and check, the middle took ages to cook. It looks very dark but it’s not burnt at all

Chocolate Ganache

And LOOK, I made a chocolate ganache – having been heavily influenced by The Great British Bake Off!

Chocolate Cake on Plate

Iced and cut and set on some china

So, thanks Fran, the Chocolate Parsnip Cake is absolutely delicious and another experiment over. Any more ideas anyone?


Full Moon Winter

The moon last night

And I saw these the other day…

Snowdrops coming into flower January 25th 2013

Snowdrops coming into flower January 25th 2013


Mince (meat) Pie Update.

Hereford Heifer with tinsel

Couldn’t resist…

So the carols to the cows went down well. I think.

A few days ago a mutton shoulder handover took place in Tavistock. Thanks L &H for your Dartmoor reared contribution to the mince(meat) pie experiment, which you can read about the beginnings of here if you’re interested. For those that are already following this culinary foray it’s all about to happen…!

Vegetarians,  please look away now.

Mutton Shoulder

Cooked shoulder of mutton

Meat and fat separated

Meat and fat separated

I slow cooked the mutton, it was incredibly tender and extremely tasty, can’t think why we don’t eat more of it. Then I added some spices – cinnamon, mixed spice and a little chilli.

Adding the fruit mincemeat to the mutton

Adding the fruit mincemeat to the mutton

Mixed it all together

Mixed it all together

Rolled out the pastry

Rolled out the pastry

Assemble the pies

Assemble the pies

Put the tops on

Put the tops on

Placed them inthe oven

Placed them in the oven (jam tarts too)

Baked Mince Pies

Mince Pies on Plate

Ready to taste!

Ready to taste!

I will report back on the tasting sessions. I took a couple to the pub last night so they’re out there….

Hereford Heifer with tinsel

Thank you and Happy Christmas (again)!

Making Mincemeat for a Pie Fest

No, I did not make these pies…
nor did I photograph them! (thanks Channel 4)

Is anyone else intrigued by the idea of making mince pies with real meat, the way it used to be back in the 17th century?

The filling contained real meat – quite a lot of it. Sadly, Pepys did not leave us a recipe though we can get a good idea from the Receipt Book written by an Oxfordshire aristocrat in 1609. Elinor Fettiplace’s filling was made of equal parts of minced cooked mutton, beef suet, currants and raisins with ginger, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange rind, salt and a tiny quantity of sugar.

This is from an Independent article written by Christopher Hirst about the history of the mince pie which you can read here if you’re so inclined, it’s a must for any mince pie lover/obsessive/the curious. I’d just like to be called Elinor Fettiplace. It’s interesting that it says a tiny quantity of sugar – most modern recipes call for lots of dark brown muscavado but I think the fruit is so sweet anyway that you don’t need as much.

Anyway, this year I’m going to attempt a few meat and mincemeat pies and see how they go down. I can see why mutton might be the meat of choice – it’s strong flavour would work well with the spices and the rich fruit. Not sure I can get mutton, I asked at the butcher once and they said I could have a whole carcass as there wasn’t much demand for it these days. Hmm, that’s a lot of meat. Probably better to stick to lamb, the Moroccans eat it spiced with apricots and prunes, so it’s on the same kind of flavour spectrum.

But first for the fruity bit…which I did last week.

Mincemeat making

A load of vine fruits, bramley apples, lemon and orange rind and juice – I doctored a Delia recipe – adding sour cherries and more almonds cos I like it nutty, I also used more lemon rind than it said.

Chopped Almonds on Chopping Board
Chopping the almonds, supposed to be slivers but that’s a bit challenging, actually I gave up and did them in the grinder for a few pulses. Nutmeg also. I discovered the Microplane a few years ago, it has improved life no end. And the wooden squeezer, what a joy!

Mincemeat making
Adding the mixed peel, nuts, sugar, spices and suet – I don’t think those Atora boxes have changed for decades. Stir it all around.

This is what it looks like after mixing

Mincemeat resting
Cover with a cloth, leave overnight to infuse

Mincemeat and Brandy Bottle
After it’s resting period you put in a very slow oven for 3 hours, this melts the fat and cooks the apples and coats all the ingredients so it’s well preserved. It goes its typical dark browny colour. Leave it to cool and when it’s cold stir in the brandy

Esse Stove
I sterilised the jar in the oven

Mincemeat Storage
Et voila! Put the mincemeat in a cool place. It will last for about a year but usually it’s gone before that

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