Monday, 15 December 2008

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas

Here is my Christmas cake, it has already had two doses of brandy and has been transferred to a tin. The recipe is from the cake volume of the Good Cook Time Life series of cookbooks. Alas they are no longer in print, so look for them at used book stores. While the photography is no match to today's "food porn" it is very practical and informative. The step-by-step photos explain the techniques very clearly and they provide good reference. All the recipes in the collection are from previously published cookbooks. My fruitcake is Margaret Costa's recipe from her Four Seasons Cookery Book. This book has been reprinted by Grub Street in the UK, and is worth seeking out. Margaret's recipe makes two cakes, I halve it and mess around with it a little, I can't help myself. I toss the dried fruit with a good 60ml/1/4 cup of brandy and leave them for at least 24 hours to plump up. And, as you can see from the photo, I put blanched almonds on the top. This means I can forego the marzipan much to my husband's regret. This is a very simple cake to make; it is not really baking but construction. The batter composed of eggs, sugar and a little flour is just enough to coat the fruit and hold the whole thing together while it cooks.

As I have to wait at least until Twelfth Night or later before I cut it, I also made a stained glass cake so I have something to eat right away. This is another construction cake, candied or glacé fruits and nuts held together by the bare minimum of batter. You can use any mix of fruit that takes your fancy, but larger pieces make a more interesting cake. The trick is to slice it very thinly. Now that I have cake, shortbread is next on the list and then some mincemeat tarts.


Peter Lyons-Lewis said...

I couldn't agree with you more regarding the Time Life series "The Good Cook". A very good friend of mine - a Glaswegian foody (but strict veggie of 20 years standing) - picked up a pristine second-hand copy for me of "Offal" from a back-street shop in Aberystwyth last July for just a quid. A truly remarkable and thoughtful purchase.

My brother bought "Fat" for my last birthday, I'm hoping for "Bones" for Christmas.

Keep up your good work, and best wishes for Christmas and 2009.

Jennifer said...

I have a the Offal volume as well. Have you made anything from it? I just made a terrine of pig's feet, I will try it tonight with some salad. I am hoping it will be as good as the one I eat in my neighbourhood restaurant in Paris. They cut it in thick slices and fry it in a hot pan - delicious and gelatinous. Merry Christmas and all the best for 2009.

PS. Bones is published by Grub Street in the UK under the title Cooking on the Bone. It came out in paperback this year.

Peter Lyons-Lewis said...

Well to tell the truth I'd not made anything from it until today - some of the dishes are a little on the challenging side.

Being Friday night we like to stay in, so after picking up a nice piece of calf's liver from the local - very excellent - farm shop we made the roast liver, mainly because I've never cooked liver in this way before. And it is delicious, and so smooth and sumptuous. On the side we had steamed broccoli and sprouts, along with roast veg (jerusalem artichokes, beetroot, potato) and a mash of carrot and celeriac. Lovely.

My wife bought "Bones" for me, the hardback edition from the USA, and I'm looking forwards to dipping in and exploring the book properly.

Jennifer said...

Ahh, a lover of hardcover books! Let me know how you make out cooking from "Bones". That liver sounds delicious, I might try it myself, but I am not so sure about the sprouts - I assume they were Brussels sprouts - a vegetable I have a hard time loving.

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