Category Archives for Gourmet Gifts

Recipe: Spiced Apple Butter

Filling your entire home with the smell of apples and spice, every mouthful packs an autumnal punch. Enjoy the sheer alchemy as the apples, cider, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar are transformed into a mass of molten, burnished heaven…

spiced apple butter

How many crumbles does it take to empty an apple tree?

If you’re lucky enough to have an apple tree in your garden – or to have access to someone else’s then this time of year is generally filled with crumbles, pies and apple cake. Not a bad way to console yourself at the end of summer but occasionally, dare I say it? One feels the need for a bit of a change… After all, there are only so many crumbles and pies you can eat in a day. Personally, I draw the line at one of each but then I’ve always been a bit of a stickler.  

spiced apple butter

The thing is, even a strict regime of a pie and crumble a day doesn’t even come close to diminishing the apple glut.  Don’t get me wrong, of the gluts you could suffer, apples are probably one of the best, but it’s a glut that still needs tackling, and tackle it I will!

A sticky solution to a sticky problem

This spiced apple butter is rather wonderful.  Firstly, there’s no need to peel the apples – a job I find quite therapeutic for the first apple or two but by number five or six, I must say it’s pretty tiresome. 

spiced apple butter

Secondly, it’s a multi-purpose apple butter.  It makes a wonderful accompaniment to cheese and biccies but can also be used in sweet treats such as apple tarts or turnovers.

Wait! Before you gasp in awe and reach for your preserving pan, there’s more! This sweet, sticky, spiced apple butter comes in jars and you all know the rule about food that comes in jars right?  

“If it comes in a jar then it can be given as a gift.”  

I’m sure that’s a Shakespeare quote … or perhaps it was Martha Stewart…

spiced apple butter

Anyhoo, I’ve heard a rumour that Christmas is just around the corner so it seems that this glut of apples, plus a recipe for them that can be put in jars and given as gifts might be rather handy?

[yumprint-recipe id=’13’] After more Gourmet Gifts?

I’ve got you covered buddy – check out the gourmet gift section of the blog 🙂

Recipe: Sunshine Granola

Every mouthful is a taste of Summer.  Sweet, tangy mango and pineapple, a hint of coconut with toasted macadamias and almonds.  How can that be anything but good for you?

Tropical granola

There’s something rather smugly satisfying about eating granola.  It doesn’t matter what’s actually in it, you just feel like you’re being very good to yourself.  Let me tell you, if you’re eating granola that you’ve made with your own fair hands, then this satisfaction is multiplied tenfold!  That’s partly because frankly, it tastes way better than the shop bought stuff and partly because you know exactly what’s in it and what good it’s doing you.

This recipe is loosely based on ‘Andy Fairfield’s Granola’ from Nigella’s book Feast. I wanted to make it full of tropical flavours so each mouthful would taste like a Summer holiday.  Eat with a splash of milk, or with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit – or just greedily by the handful 🙂

Tropical granola

Sunshine Granola

You will need:

450 g rolled oats

100 g sunflower seeds

150 g sesame seeds

175 g peach compote

2 tsp ground ginger

100 g golden syrup

4 tbs runny honey

100 g light brown sugar

100 g macadamia nuts

150 g whole natural almonds

100 g dessicated coconut

1 tsp maldon salt

2 tbs melted coconut oil

100 g dried mango

100 g dried pineapple

100 g chopped dried apricots

Tropical Granola

  • Pre-heat your oven to 170 C
  • Put all of the ingredients apart from the dried fruit into the biggest bowl that you have
  • Give it all a good mix – don’t be tempted to use your hands, it’ll take you hours to get unstuck again!
  • Spread the mix out evenly over a couple of large baking trays
  • Pop in the oven for around 40 minutes-1 hour
  • Half way through, give it all a mix around so that it toasts evenly
  • Once it’s all nicely browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool
  • Mix in your dried fruit and pop it all into an airtight container

tropical granola

Five Homemade Gifts With Vodka

Both hubby and I drank vodka as students.  It was cheap and reasonably palatable (our mixer of choice was limeade – you could buy a 2 litre bottle for about 50p! We were classy kids in those days…)  Nearly 20 years on and we still find ourselves being given bottles of vodka by well meaning friends and relatives.  Neither of us drinks the stuff anymore (quite frankly we had enough to last a lifetime at uni!) but I’m still very pleased to receive it because it’s so versatile when it comes to homemade gift giving.  Here are five of my favourite gifts with vodka…

1) Limoncello

Limoncello – BBC Good Food

Everyone’s favourite holiday liqueur! SO easy to make and a fab gift to receive.

Limoncello Recipe – BBC Good Food

2) Blackberry Vodka

Nigella has done a great recipe for this.  It transforms the vodka into something sweet and delicious – think alcoholic Ribena!  The recipe isn’t online so here’s a quick rundown:

You will need:

1 x 70 cl bottle vodka

500 g blackberries

200 g caster sugar

  • Sterilise a 1.5 litre bottle or jar and pour in the vodka, blackberries & sugar.  Seal and shake until the sugar dissolves (this takes a while!)
  • Store in a cool, dry place and shake each day for 2 weeks and then once a week for another month
  • After 6-8 weeks your vodka is ready to strain and decant into the (sterilised) bottles of your choice
  • The booze soaked berries can be enjoyed with ice cream 🙂

3) Arancello (spiced vodka)

Spiced Arancello – BBC Good Food

This is really unusual but absolutely yummy. Like Limoncello, it’s a tasty little tipple but is also great on puddings.

Arancello Recipe – BBC Good Food

4) Vanilla Extracts

Just so you don’t think I’m a complete booze hound! I get through quite a bit of this stuff and it’s not cheap so I was very excited when I discovered that it could be made so easily.

You will need:

1 x 70 cl bottle vodka

2 vanilla pods

  • Cut your vanilla pods in half lengthways, so as to expose the lovely, fragrant seeds
  • Add them to your bottle of vodka and store in a cool, dark place.
  • Shake occasionally and leave for around 6 months before decanting into some pretty (sterilised) bottles

The same theory can be used for other flavoured extracts too – orange or lemon peel can be used to make lovely citrus extracts. Some mint leaves can be used for (you’ve guessed it!) mint extract. Why not experiment with other ingredients and see what exciting extracts you can come up with?

5) Chilli Vodka

Just give on it’s own, or add some tomato juice, Worcester Sauce and Tabasco to make a great little Bloody Mary Kit.  Perfect for those Christmas hangover brunches 😉

You will need:

1 x 70 cl bottle vodka

2 red chillis

So simple – just stick your chillis in your vodka and leave them to infuse for a couple of weeks.  If you’re giving as a gift, then feel free to decant into a pretty bottle and add your own label!

What do you think?

Get in touch and let me know if there are any other vodka based homemade gifts that you make!

Recipe: Sweet Chilli Jam

I’m a relative newbie when it comes to preserving and pickling.  It all began a couple of Christmases ago, when, as usual, I had been completely disorganised with my Christmas shopping and had managed to get to a week before without having a plan in sight – let alone a neatly wrapped pile of presents sitting around the (not yet put up or decorated) Christmas Tree!

What I did have, was a recently purchased book on making edible gifts and it gave me an idea… This was the first recipe that I tried and it was such a success, that it created the first spark of my pickling passion.  I was a little reluctant to give away the secret I must confess, but it was just to selfish too keep this amazing recipe to myself.  Give this as a gift and you will have people returning again and again for more!

Sweet Chilli Jam

Sweet Chilli Jam

(from Good Food 101 Delicious Gifts, published by BBC Books)

Makes 4-6 small jars

You will need:

red peppers, de-seeded and roughly chopped

10 red chillies, roughly chopped (with seeds)

A finger size piece of fresh ginger, peeled & roughly chopped

garlic cloves, peeled

400g tin cherry tomatoes

750 g/ 1lb golden caster sugar

250 ml red wine vinegar

Sweet Chilli Jam

  • Tip the peppers, chillies, ginger & garlic into a food processor and whizz until very finely chopped (I have to do this in batches as it won’t all fit in at once!)
  • Scrape the mix into a heavy based pan or preserving pan and add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar
  • Bring everything to the boil and skim off any scum that comes to the surface
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally (I actually find I need to cook for about 15 minutes longer than this to get the right consistency)
  • Meanwhile, wash and sterilise your jars
  • Once the jam starts to look sticky, continue to cook for a further 10-15 minutes (stirring often to avoid it catching and burning). It should now look like bubbling lava
  • Cool slightly and decant into your jars and leave to cool completely
  • Store for up to 3 months in a cool, dry place such as a dark cupboard or garage.
  • Refrigerate once open

Lemon Meringue Cookies

If you want the sweet, zingy freshness of a lemon meringue pie, but in the form of a gooey cookie, then these little babies are for you.  You can whizz them up in 15 minutes and devour at your leisure (probably less than 15 minutes…)

I made a batch to take as a gift to some friends who have just moved house.  I’m fairly sure they won’t make it that far.  Sorry guys…

Lemon Meringue CookiesLemon Meringue Cookies

Makes about 18

You will need:

150g butter (room temperature)

80g golden castor sugar

80g granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

225 g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

The zest from a whole lemon

The juice from half a lemon

4 tbs lemon curd

4 mini meringue nests

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170C & line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper
  • Mix the butter and sugar together until smooth
  • Add the vanilla extract, egg, lemon zest and juice and half of the lemon curd. Mix again.
  • Now sieve in the flour, salt and bicarb and mix again.
  • Now crumble the meringue nest in so you still have some fairly big chunks (you don’t want it to all turn to powder!) and fold gently into the mix along with the remaining lemon curd
  • If you have a small ice cream scoop, then I highly recommend using this to form your cookies – if not, a couple of teaspoons will do the trick.  Just place the cookie dough in small balls (about the size of a large walnut) on to your trays and then bake for 10 -12 minutes
  • Take them out of the oven and leave on the trays to cool for about 5 minutes.  Then transfer to a wire wrack to cool completely (if you can resist them for that long!)

Tomatoes: Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Five ways with…tomatoes: Tomato Ketchup

Homemade tomato ketchup

I couldn’t do a series of tomato recipes without including one for tomato ketchup.  Even tomato haters have to admit that they love a bit of tommy k!  This version has a nice kick to it which you can decrease or increase according to taste by adding less or more chilli.

You will need:

(Makes approx. 500ml)

1 kilo tomatoes

1 red pepper

1/2 red chilli

1/2 thumb size of grated fresh ginger

1/2 bulb garlic (cut horizontally)

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp celery salt

extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion

2 cloves

1 apple

350 ml water

150 ml red wine vinegar

70 g brown sugar

  • Pre-heat your oven to 200C (fan)
  • Quarter the pepper and any large tomatoes or leave cherry tomatoes as they are
  • Put all the tomatoes, the half red chilli, half bulb of garlic and the chopped pepper on to a baking tray and sprinkle over the grated ginger, allspice, coriander seeds and celery salt
  • Season and drizzle over some olive oil
  • Put in the oven for 20 mins
  • Meanwhile, put your chopped red onion and cloves into a pan with some oil and cook on a gentle heat until the onions are translucent
  • Add the roasted vegetables to the pan (the garlic will need an extra 10-20 mins in the oven until it becomes soft and squidgy)tomato ketchup leftovers
  • Add the water and simmer until it has reduced by half
  • By now your garlic should be done so take it out of the oven and squeeze the mushy cloves out of their skin.  Then mush them further with the side of a knife and add to the tomatoes
  • Blitz the whole lot in a blender and then pass through a sieve twice
  • Put into a clean pan and add the vinegar and sugar
  • Simmer until it has reached the consistency of tomato ketchup
  • Decant into a sterilised bottle or jar
  • Enjoy!

Want to read about how much fun I had making this?  Then go take a look at ‘Things are looking (ketch)up!

Orange Curd

Orange Curd (1)O range Curd

You will need:

3 large oranges

1 lemon

1 lb castor sugar

6 eggs (beaten)

4 oz butter (unsalted)

  •  Peel the zest from one of the oranges and the lemon – I use a potato peeler rather than a zester as it will all be going in the food processor anyway)
  • Add the zest to the food processor along with the sugar and blitz until you are left with just an orangey, tangy sugar with flecks of zest
  • Place a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water)
  • Gently melt the butter and while it’s melting, juice the oranges and lemon
  • Add the zesty sugar, the juice (through a sieve to avoid pips) and the eggs to the bowl and stir until the sugar has melted
  • Keep heating gently and stirring occasionally until the mix starts to thicken (approx 50 mins)

Don’t panic if this happens – it will come together at the end!

curd early1

  • Pass the whole lot through a sieve (this isn’t necessary unless you’re puritanical about wanting a completely smooth curd – otherwise you can keep it with flecks of zest)
  • Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal
  • Keeps for approx 2 weeks in the fridge