One of the eagerly anticipated delights at this time of year is an array of favourite confections to enjoy throughout the holiday season
One of the eagerly anticipated delights at this time of year is an indulgent array of favourite confections to enjoy throughout the holiday season
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED ORANGE PEEL
Preparation 30 minutes, plus standing Cooking about 2 hours Makes about 550g This is delicious served with coffee as a petit four or chop it up and add to fruit cakes and mince pie mixtures.
6 oranges 1kg granulated sugar 150g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
Slice the oranges into quarters and remove the flesh. Using a teaspoon, scrape away any orange flesh lingering on the peel. Discard. Put 1.6 litres water and the
peel into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 hour until the peel is tender but not floppy. Using a slotted spoon, put the peel into a bowl. Measure 600ml of the liquid and pour back into the pan – if not enough, make up with more water. Add 600g sugar and heat until dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil for 1 minute. Pour over the peel, cover and leave for 24 hours. Strain the sugar syrup into a pan and add the remaining sugar. Dissolve gently, then bring to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Pour over the peel and leave for another day. Put the peel and syrup into a pan and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour or until the peel is slightly translucent. Transfer both syrup and peel to a clean bowl, cover and leave for four days. Drain the peel and discard the syrup. Arrange the peel on a wire rack set over a tray or dish and leave to stand in a cool, airy place for 1 week until the peel doesn’t feel tacky. Slice into finger-width strips. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Dip the peel strips, fully into the chocolate or just at one end, and leave to set on a wire rack. Pack the peel between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container.
CALVADOS AND VANILLA-PRESERVED PEARS
Preparation 25 minutes, plus infusing Cooking 30 minutes Makes about 2kg
375g granulated sugar juice 1 lemon 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds removed 1 kg under-ripe firm pears (unprepared weight) 200ml calvados brandy
1 Put the sugar and 900ml water into a large pan. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, vanilla pod and seeds.
2 Destalk and peel the pears. Halve (or quarter if large) and remove the core. Add to the sugar syrup as you go to stop the fruit turning brown. 3 Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and poach the pears until tender – this could take anything from 10-30 minutes depending on their initial ripeness. 4 Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and pack tightly into hot sterilised sealable jars. Add the calvados, then top up with the sugar syrup (keep any leftover syrup in the fridge and use in cocktails). Seal and leave to infuse for a month before eating. Chill after opening and eat within two weeks.
CHERRY PUDDING WITH KIRSCH BUTTER
Preparation 25 minutes, plus macerating Cooking 6 hours Serves 8 Laden with cherries, this Christmas pudding is lighter than usual versions. If you’d prefer a richer one, steam it for eight hours.
135g each sultanas, raisins and currants 45g dried apple, diced 45g dried pear, diced zest and juice 1 lemon 100ml kirsch or cherry brandy 15g soft butter, plus extra for greasing 1 tbsp golden syrup 200g glacé cherries 75g vegetarian suet 100g light brown soft sugar 1½ tsp mixed spice 100g fresh breadcrumbs 2 medium eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
FOR THE KIRSCH BUTTER
125g soft unsalted butter 125g golden caster sugar 6 tbsp kirsch or cherry brandy
1 Put the dried fruit, lemon zest and juice and cherry liqueur into a non-metallic bowl. Cover and leave to macerate overnight. 2 Lay a large square of foil on the worksurface and a piece of baking parchment on top. Make a concertina fold in the centre. Set aside. 3 Grease a 1.2 litre pudding basin with butter and line the base with a circle of baking parchment. Dot the base with butter and drizzle over the golden syrup. Put 125g of cherries in the base. 4 Roughly chop the remaining cherries. Put the rest of the ingredients into a large bowl. Stir in the dried fruits, plus any liquid. Stir well until combined, then tip into the prepared basin on top of the cherries, packing down firmly. Level the top. 5 Cover the basin with the baking parchment and foil (foil uppermost). Tie in place with a length of string, just under the rim, making a handle by bringing the lengths over the top of the bowl and tying them to the string on the other side. Trim away excess foil and paper. 6 To cook the pudding, put an upturned heatproof saucer in the base of a deep pan. Set the basin on top. Pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of the basin. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for six hours, topping up with more boiling water from the kettle if necessary. 7 To store: remove the pudding, cool, then put (with the foil and parchment still intact) in a cool, dark place for at least a month. 8 To reheat: steam as before with the coverings in place for 2 hours until hot. 9 For the kirsch butter, beat together the butter and sugar with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Beat in the kirsch gradually. Chill until required.