achivement 28-09-07

Its been a very… very long day.

For one reason or another i put myself in a position (foolishly, and it was my own stupid fault) where i had to make up pickled onions, strawberry preserve, a christmas cake, a christmas pudding, 2 lots of flapjacks and a batch of bread.. all in one day. And clean the house. (my parents are visiting tomorrow.) Most of this is for Mom and Dad to take home with them, well, the christmas cake/pud and flapjacks (and some of the bread). The pickled onions and strawberry preserve is for us. However, i foolishly didn’t take into account the fact that both pretty much needed to be done as soon as i got home … i.e. started yesterday. Silly me.

Having said all that.. I feel good. I accomplished a hell of a lot. Started last night once i was home from Tescos and the library.. peeled and topped/tailed a gazillion shallots. Okay.. it wasn’t that many. but it felt like it! [photos at the end] They were then measured and put into salt water to soak for 24 hours. Measured out the fruit for the christmas cake, and soaked them in brandy. Then dinner – vegetable tomato pasta made with the pasta sauce from the previous night (see “glut”). Then, while “Without A Trace” was on, i hulled 900g of strawberries, mixed them with preserving sugar, and put those in the kitchen to soak.

This morning saw me up at 9.30am (which is unheard of for me, but i had a very bad dream and couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards) so i decided to get on with it. After doing the washing up, cleaning jars for the pickles/preserves and lining the tin for the christmas cake, I took Jess for her morning constitutional, then got on with making the jam. I don’t think i’ve done it properly as it hasn’t set, although i saw the wrinkle. I’m probably going to have to pour them back into the pan later, clean out the jars and reboil the preserve. I used delia’s recipe – no fault of the recipe, i think i just put the lemon juice in a bit late (and should’ve boiled it for longer after the lemon juice went in). By the way, if you’re wondering – the difference between preserve and jam is this – in jam, the fruit goes mushy. In a preserve, the fruit is left whole and sets in its jelly. I got 4 jars from that, with a little leftover, and i had the leftovers on toast for breakfast. yum. very very yum. (just need to boil it a little more.)

After that it was the turn of the pickled onions. They were rinsed (from the salt water), packed into sterilised jars, then flavoured vinegar was poured over the top. I got 6 big jars of pickled onions out of that, so i’m pleased with that.

Then it was the turn of the christmas cake. I use a combination of delia‘s and nigella’s (from “How to Be a Domestic Goddess”, which sadly, isn’t available online anymore) christmas cakes, resized to fit my tin, which is a large square tin. Its a very simple recipe: butter and sugar is creamed together, eggs whisked in, flour added (just like a regular victoria sponge, but with different types of sugar/flour), and then the soaked fruit, nuts, treacle and fruit zest. Its then spooned into the tin, some greaseproof paper and newspaper placed ontop and baked at gas mark 2 for 6 hours. Yes, you read that right, 6 hours. That’s the secret to a good christmas cake – that, and wrapping it well. The tin for this one was wrapped in newspaper and, as you can see, its come out a treat.

After that i cleaned the house: hoovered, dusted, polished. Even the bathroom mirror was polished. Its a frame that looks a little like a door, with lots of “windows” in the mirror created by the frame, and since its in the bathroom, over time, gunk has built up between the mirror and the frame. So i unscrewed the back of the mirror today.. and got it clean. I’m quite chuffed with myself for that – not so much unscrewing it but getting it back together successfully without yelling “MICHIIIEL” (for help) or breaking the mirror!!!

After knocking up some bread and taking Jess for her evening constitutional i made the christmas pudding, which had to sit for an hour before going into the pressure cooker (its still in there now, at ten to one in the morning!) but it will be worth it when it comes out. Flapjacks followed – both standard flapjacks (with the keth twist – added sultanas and mixed spice) and apple flapjacks (half the flapjack mix in the base, some stewed apple/sultanas/brownsugar/cinnamon in the middle, topped with more flapjack mix). Yum. Both of those are for mum – she’s got an event she wants to take some traybakes to next week. I just hope they’re enough.

So i am, quite justifiably, quite tired. And i think on that note.. i’m heading off to bed.


strawberry preserve

Strawberry preservemaybe next year i can make this with strawberries i’ve grown instead of bought!


my bag of goodies!

shallots.. all peeled

An hour or so later.. (and lots of good music and dancing on the spot as i worked)

Shallot detrius

the detrius afterwards..

preparing the vinegar

Preparing the vinegar – boiling it with various spices

shallots, all packed in

All packed into their jars

pickled onions

All done and ready to be stored away!

fruit soaking in brandy

fruit all glistening – a forerunner of christmas. I love the smell of the fruit and the brandy. MMMMMmmm!

lined christmas cake tin

You can see the tin lined with newspaper – baking paper inside the tin, and newspaper outside it – bottom and sides, and a piece of baking paper then newspaper laid ontop of the cake in the oven. This all helps to prevent the cake from burning during its long slow cook.

Christmas cake

all cooked.. you see, not burnt at all. Last year i didn’t put newspaper ontop, only baking paper, and the top was much darker, despite being in the oven for a shorter length of time (5 hours as opposed to 6 hours).

Christmas Cake

Final picture – now all that remains is for it to be “fed” liberally with brandy each week, so that it soaks up the brandy and becomes quite alcoholic. Then, near christmas, it’ll be decorated, whether covered in marzipan and icing (traditional) or decorated with glazed nuts/fruits, its a wonderful cake to eat and will keep, properly stored, for a year or more (its this kind of cake that is produced for wedding cakes, where traditionally, the top tier was kept for the christening of the first baby).


Flapjacks – mmmmm.. traditional one is on the left, apple one on the right, bread in the middle!