Making marzipan fruits and Christmas baking

One thing I like to do when the occasion arises is to make marzipan fruit.

I don’t think I learnt to make these either from my mother or school; I think it must have been a book or leaflet.

For those of you who have never tried this is what you need. 0539-what-you-needSome marzipan, of course, a grater (the small side), a skewer, some food colouring and cloves.

In this case I used orange colouring to get orange marzipan. I used to use cochineal and yellow colouring but the Asda red and yellow colouring when mixed gave me brown. I would not recommend Asda’s food colouring.

To get the full range of fruits I had in mind I created yellow, orange, green and pink marzipan. 0539-four-colours-of-marzipanBe prepared to wash your hands at frequent intervals, between the different colours and whenever they begin to feel sticky when forming the fruit.

To make an orange: roll a piece of marzipan round and round in your hand as you did as a child with plasticine until you get a perfect ball. Then roll it gently round and round on the small side of the grater to create the texture of rind. The add a clove in the top.0539-stages-of-making-an-orangeThe ball on the right is before and the other is completed.

You make a lemon in the same way but need, obviously to make more of a lemon shape.

I also made a banana, four flattened sides, tapered and curved and here you do need something I didn’t mention before, namely a touch of cocoa for the colouring. 0539-banana-and-lemonI use the green marzipan for apples. Again you make a ball and I like to coat one half with a dab of red colouring (shades of Snow White!). You can stick a thin clove the other way round for a stalk and I like to mark the bottom with a skewer to suggest the part where the flower was attached. Of course a small change in shape and you have a pear!0539-both-sides-of-an-appleI kept a bit of the green for when making a strawberry with the pink.

Here I use the skewer to suggest the seeds and to make a hole to insert some green for the top. 0539-making-a-strawberry(The photographs were taken indoors under artificial light and the green marzipan came out very faded. So I adjusted it in some photos but not here!)

If you are feeling patient you can roll lots and lots of tiny balls and make a raspberry. I had a little green and some pink, so I made a green core (though I would normally use pink) and made one just to show you. raspberryAnd here is a whole plate (or rather saucer!ful) plate-of-fruit

I don’t try and make the fruit sizes proportional to real life. It is more a matter of using a similar amount of marzipan for each and they are normally about the right size to fit in sweet cases (except the banana!).

And here are some other things I have made.

Two Stollen. 0539-two-stollenI think I have become much better at forming them so they don’t open up.

Compare these from 2012 Baked stollenAs you can see this year I made a lot less dough. I made a quarter my original recipe that would make four large ones and used my food processor to do the kneading to save my wrists.

I also made some lavender shortbread snowflakes. 0539-lavender-shortbread-biscuitsI was making some millionaires shortbread for when my daughter came on a present drop and decided that that was the ideal time to make double the amount of shortbread and turn half of it into biscuits. I had been intending to try lavender shortbread ever since I had bought some in Waitrose and really loved them, so I put in plenty of lavender as I had had it a while. (Yes it is edible lavender – some lavender tea I had bought in Winchester.)

And here is my traditional Christmas cake. Just for me, so I added what dried fruit I had including some crystallised ginger! christmas-cakeAnd here is my first attempt at a tunis cake. 0539-my-tunis-cakeMy son had said that he would be interested to try one and having been introduced to tunis cake years ago, when I first knew my husband, but then forgotten about them, I thought I would see if you could still buy them.

I found a few in supermarkets and a couple of recipes but they all seemed to be covered with ganache, or worse still fondant icing, when I remembered them as covered with a layer of solid chocolate.

So I decided that just for fun I would try to make one.

I wanted a rounded top to the cake but it rose a bit more than expected and so the chocolate I had bought was not enough to give a perfectly flat top but I decided to leave it as it is and see how it looks when cut. Then if I make one again I will adapt with either a flatter cake or more chocolate.zzz



Not quite a recipe!

First a little story. I am very fond of the flowers of the Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), I had one in the last house, so when I moved here I planted one in the garden.

However a few years ago it became infested with a pest that covered it in fine cobwebs and which died down in the winter but came again the next year, so in the end, reluctantly, I chopped it down.

I was not able to did out the root however so that sprouted and I couldn’t quite bring myself to keep cutting the sprouts off, so this year it was flowering Japonicaand when I came to look on the ground a few weeks ago there were a whole load of quinces on the ground. I picked them up because you can make jam with them, which I had done previously.

There was in fact about 1lb (454gms). Here are some of them.QuincesI had plenty of granulated sugar so I decided one day to make them into jam.

First I chopped them up. Half a quinceHere you can see what they look like inside.

And here are some chopped in pieces. Chopped up quincesWhen they were all chopped I covered them with water. Ready to cookand simmered them for about an hour. Stewed quincesI then sieved them to remove the skins and pith. Sieving out skinsPut them in a saucepan with about 20oz of granulated sugar and boiled them for about 10 minutes.Boiling for jamI had forgotten to weigh them after I had prepared them but 20oz seemed about right (which it was).

Here are my brief instruction notes from my recipe box. Recipe cardLuckily I had written instructions on how to prepare the jars on the back. I don’t make jam very often!Jar instructionsI went in the garage and got out some of my favourite hexagonal and multi-sided jars that I had saved. Prepared jarsI prepared them before the jam was finished so I was able to quickly fill them and cover with wax discs. Filled jarsI found I only needed two.

Then later I added the lids. Jam finishedI used one of the other sterilised jars for some mint jelly I was making at the same time. Mint jellyThe mint jelly had to wait till I next had lamb but I had to have a taste of the jam straightaway. Sharp (as I expected) but delicious!Having a taste(I have been eating rice cakes rather than bread lately.)

I would be happy to make more jam but I have a problem. I buy jam: apricot for Battenburg or maybe Christmas or Simnel cake, strawberry for scones with cream when people come to tea. Then as I don’t eat a lot, (I mean jam isn’t good for you is it? all that sugar!) the jars last for ages. I’d like to start eating the quince jam now but I have a quarter full jar of apricot and another quarter of strawberry! and if I leave them too long they will only go mouldy! even in the fridge. 😦

Maybe I should make a Victoria sandwich and some jam tarts! Mmmm…  🙂

February Montage

In February I shared some knitting, crochet and a recipe plus a couple of photographs. The light has not always been good for photographs this month.

For knitting I showed you my first attempt at a new way of knitting a short row heel with a chart and link in case anyone else wanted to try it.

For crochet: my bright spectrum coloured teacosy, with a bit of a teaser the day before.

I shared my recipe for an easy tea-time treat: a version of Bara Brith.

I also included a couple of photographs taken when we had – all too briefly – some snow. Snow rarely lasts long in Southapton which is a blessing in some ways but can also be a bit disappointing.

Although it is not included in the montage I also  welcomed the many new followers I have gained in recent months.

February montage

Another tea-time treat

Piece of cakeWhen I was a child chain-letters were very popular but having had the process explained to me I never had anything to do with them except for once when my mother was the recipient of a recipe chain-letter. We decided that you couldn’t go far wrong with that and took a chance. In the event I think that we only gained two recipes out of it but they were both very good recipes that I and my mother used for years.

This is one of them.

It was titled “Bara Brith”. Now ‘bara brith’ is Welsh for ‘speckled bread’ and although you might think that that means yeast my researches have revealed that there are many many recipes and although some use yeast and some, especially from North Wales, involve soaking the dried fruit in tea, there is in fact almost as many recipes as people.

However that maybe it is a very easy tasty cake that keeps well.

The recipe said to make it in a 10″ x 6″ tin (25 x 15 cm for those who think in metric). I think that my tin is slightly larger but any tin with about this surface area will do.

I start by lining the tin with greased greaseproof paper.

Lined tin

The recipe as most of my recipes is in imperial measurements but I have given a usable metric equivalent.

I then take

8oz (225g) self-raising flour and

4oz (110g) of margarine or butter and rub the fat into the flour in the normal way.

To this I add

4oz (110g) of caster sugar and

6oz (170g) mixed dried fruit.

Mix well.

Dry ingredients mixed

You then add in the other ingredients. This time I mixed them together first but it isn’t necessary to do it this way.

Wet ingredients mixed

This is

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of milk

1 desertspoon of golden syrup

1 desertspoon of marmalade

I think it is the marmalade that creates the especially yummy flavour.

Mix together well and spread in tin.

Cake mixture in tin

The original recipe said 1 hour at 325 deg F.

I use a fan oven and I find that at 140-150 deg C it only takes about 40 -50 minutes.

When cooked it should look like this and spring back when you touch it.

Cooked cake in tin

Remove from the tin after a couple of minutes and leave to cool on a rack.

Cake cooling on rack

Cut in pieces as you wish.

I cut mine in rectangles but you could cut it in squares if you prefer.

Piece of cake

Yummy Beetroot greens

When I buy beetroot from the greengrocer’s, I like to buy it when the leaves attached are fresh and green. Then I have an extra vegetable to enjoy.


First, I remove the leaves from above the red stems.

Beetroot leaves

I cut off the beetroot

Beetroots cut off

and they go in the fridge for another day.

I keep the red stalks

Beetroot stalks

for adding to the pan when I make soup. (It will turn it pink but who cares!)

I then wash the leaves and discard any that are discoloured or badly damaged.

Discarded leaves

Slice an onion and put it in a big pan with a little oil.

Onions in pan

Fry the onion until it is soft and then add the leaves. I normally tear up the larger ones.

Leaves added to pan

I put a lid on the pan. (This pan doesn’t have a lid so I use an old one I have,)

Lid on pan

I then let the leaves wilt for a few minutes.

Leaves wilted down

After this I add a few splashes of lemon juice and a teaspoon or so of tahini.

Lemon juice and tahini

Mix well. (You could add salt and pepper as well if you wished though I don’t.)

And here you have two of your ‘five-a-day’! But I don’t normally spread it out like this.


I use it at as vegetable to accompany whatever I might be making that day. Delicious!

Helping on plate

Here is one I made earlier! with stuffed butternut squash.


The light was very bad that day so I switched on the kitchen lights when taking the photographs. The observant among you may notice my shadow on some of the photographs.

Millionaires’ Shortbread recipe

This is one of my children’s favourite treats and I am pretty fond of it too.

The original recipe came off the back of a tin of condensed milk over fifty years ago.

The home made version is so much better than any commercially produced version I have ever tasted, so it is worth making it.

The pictures below (for the eagle eyed) are taken from two recent sessions of making millionaires’ shortbread.

You start by making the shortbread

First take a 13 x 9 inch swiss roll tin – [Now it is worth saying that I have only recently obtained the correct sized tin and for years had to make do with a round 7 inch tin and a square 8 inch tin and it was so hard to share the ingredients equally. However that was actually less square inches, and having made it in the specified size tin, I think that a slightly smaller tin that gave a slightly thicker result may be better – say no smaller than 12 x 8 inch tin.]

Line the tin with foil (or greaseproof) and grease well with margarine or butter.

Greased tin

Then take

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar

Ingredients for shortbread

and rub together until like fine bread crumbs. [I think the mixture in the photograph could have been rubbed a bit more.]

Shortbread mixed

Spread evenly in the tin and press down well.

Shortbread in tin

Then cook at 350deg F ( 170deg C) for about 20 minutes or less, depending on your oven.

Shortbread cooked

[As I said this was one of two sessions. The first time the shortbread was cooked slightly less which was just as good. Any colour betweent he two below will do.]

Shortbread comparison

While the shortbread is cooking you can make the caramel topping


  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 large tin of condnsed milk. (397g)

[I don’t usually use the best butter for this but the Lurpak was the only one I had at the time.]

Caramel ingredients

Melt the butter and sugar in a saucepan then add the golden syrup and condensed milk and mix well.

Caramel ingredients in pan

Boil over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Stirring all the time. It is as well to start testing the mixture after seven minutes. I suppose it is what you would call the ‘soft ball’ stage.

Spread the carmel over the shortbread which should now be cooked. It should be easy and will spread itself to a large extent.

Carameil spread[Again the colour can vary between batches this is at the lighter end of acceptable but it does need to be no more than a very pale brown.]

Leave to cool.

When it is cold you can

cover with 6-8oz of chocolate

I use 200g Cadbury’s Bournville as a good balance between quality and price. Good quality cooking chocolate is even better as like the caramel it will spread itself and give a smooth finish. However I find most cooking chocolate in the shops is of a lesser quality.

Bar of chocolate

Break the chocolate into pieces and heat in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Do not let the water boil or the chocolate will spoil and go gritty.

Chocolate melting

Then spread over the caramel and shortbread.

Chocolate Spread

A fork can make the irregularities of the spreading disappear.

When the chocolate is firm but not fully set cut into pieces.

Cut into pieces

[I may have left the chocolate slightly too long here but cutting it up is the hardest part for me.]

And enjoy.



August Montage

Quite a variety in August.

Only one crochet item this month which was the star bunting f0r my elder daughter’s birthday that I have been making over the last few months, mainly during bus or train journeys. (This is not to say I have not been doing other crochet and even knitting this month.)

No knitting but I did create photo link pages for my patterns and tutorials for both knitting and crochet.

As a rare venture into other sorts of making I bought some loom bands and made a few bracelets. Have an idea for C…….. but will share that at a more appropriate time and when it is completed.

I created a couple of photographic posts, more analytical than normal and including monochrome photographs.

And last but not least I shared my favourite peachy pudding recipe.

August montage

Almondy Stuffed Peaches

I realised when I made a picture menu for my recipes that I have not yet shared with you my favourite peach pudding. I suppose part of the reason for this is that I am normally making it when I have guests so I haven’t time to think of taking photographs along the way.

This week my granddaughter is visiting and one of the things she especially asked for was my ‘stuffed peaches’, so on Saturday we made the filling all ready for cooking as Sunday pudding.

Almondy Stuffed peaches

I don’t know where we got the original recipe; it may have been off the back of a tin of peach halves. My mother used to make it when I was a child but we changed the recipe to suit what we had and our taste. In those day you could buy a large tin of peaches (1lb 13oz) that contained seven large peach halves or a smaller tin that contained seven small peach halves. Nowadays they only sell the smaller tins and they contain a random number of peach halves. When making the pudding on this occasion, two tins gave me eleven peach halves! The main difference with my version is that I make twice as much filling because it is so delicious.

It is a really quick and easy recipe. The filling can be prepared the day before but it really doesn’t take very long to mix up on the day.

Almondy Stuffed Peaches recipe (For 4)

You need two tins of peach halves which you drain and then pick out two of them to mash up as part of the filling. (If any of the peaches look a bit mushy these are the ones to use as they are much easier to mash and less good for being filled.)

Two tins of peaches


Together with the two peach halves, you take

  • 2 trifle sponges,
  • 2oz (5og) ground almonds
  • 1oz (25g) soft brown sugar,
  • 1oz (25g) butter,
  • a few drops of almond essence.

Ingredients for filling

You crumble the trifles sponges.

Trifle sponges crumbled

Chop up the two peach halves.

Peach halves chopped

Then put everthing into a bowl and blend together thoroughly.

Filling mixed

The filling was enough for four people but Sunday I was only making it for three, so I put seven peaches in a dish.

Peach halves in dish

Two each and one to fight over! 😉

You fill each peach half with a big blob of filling.

Peaches filled

Spoon one tablespoon of the juice or syrup from the tin over each stuffed peach.

Juice poured over

And put in the oven. The original recipe says 20 mins at 425 deg F (210 deg C) but I have been finding with my fan oven that 15 mins at a lower temperature is enough.

Cooked stuffed peaches

And this is how they look.

Serve with the remaining syrup/juice or cream. We go for the cream!

And enjoy. 🙂




Gingerbread for grandchildren

Short recipe at bottom of page.

Here is some gingerbread I made today (I am seeing my grandsons tomorrow and they love gingerbread men)


and here is a little story and recipe.

On Boxing Day I had all the family to tea. That is my three children and two husbands and three grandchildren.

I had stollen and the cake I showed you for the grown-ups but thought it would be a good idea to also have some gingerbread men for the grandchildren. My eldest is also particularly fond of anything with ginger in it, as am I.

The morning was a bit hectic and I spent most of it cooking but I asked my granddaughter who was staying with me to help make the gingerbread men. Now as she is ten I thought it would be safe to let her melt the butter and sugar and syrup in a pan. I kept an eye on her while doing other things but when I thought it all should be melted she said that no it wasn’t quite ready. So I let her keep stirring for a bit longer. This was in fact a mistake. When we had finally mixed up everything it was very hot and took until after lunch to cool. When I had cut out and cooked the gingerbread it was very, very hard and I realised that the sugar must have cooked too much. I served the gingerbread anyway but it was so sad to see my youngest grandchild, who is two, putting the gingerbread man in his mouth but being unable to eat it because it was so hard.

I didn’t photograph the gingerbread men at the time but here are a couple of gingerbread snowflakes I made for the grown-ups.  The odd patches you can see are some crystallised ginger that I added.


I did eat them all up in the end because I hate wasting food but they were very, very hard.

Later I decided that I ought to make some more gingerbread which I did and this time it was much more succesful.

Now I have always found gingerbread dough hard to handle, especially when trying to transfer the gingerbread men to the baking sheet. Some recipes seemed worse than others and I had put together a satisfactory recipe but I used to think longingly of the recipe I had found once in a library book for gingerbread snakes where the dough was wonderfully easy to handle and could even be moulded satisfactorily by children into gingerbread snakes.

After the disaster at Christmas I decided to modify my recipe to avoid any danger of the same thing happening again.

I made just one change which was to replace the dark brown sugar with icing sugar that I didn’t melt but mixed in with the flour. I melted the butter and the molasses (I used mollasses rather than syrup for the colour) as quickly as possible taking it off the heat before it was fully mixed.

This gave a dough that was very reminiscent of that gingerbread snake dough so I was very pleased and it will be my recipe of choice in future.

So in case any of you would like to try it here is my recipe for  gingerbread men complete with photographs.

First take 8oz of flour.

2 teaspoons of ground ginger,

½ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional),

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

and put in a large mixing bowl.


Add 4oz icing sugar sieved.


Of course you can sieve all the dry ingredients if you like. It does help to mix in the spices.

Then you need to put

4oz butter or margarine,

2 tablespoons of golden syrup or molasses (or one of each)


in a saucepan on a low heat.


When the butter is half melted you can take off the heat as it will continue to melt and you won’t be over heating it.

Mix well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour, sugar etc in the mixing bowl and pour in the melted mixture.


You can see the window in the photo as the bowl was placed near it to get the best light.

Then add one or two tablespoons of milk.


But it doesn’t need to be whole milk or organic that is just my little indulgence.

To make a firm dough


Now, if you haven’t already, get out your cutters


I don’t have my first gingerbread man cutter as it went rusty. The two plastic ones are what I used when my children were small – as I had two girls and a boy of course we had to make gingerbread women as well as gingerbread men. The broken one and the snowflake cutter are ones I bought before Christmas as part of a pack of four for £1 from one of these cheap shops. As you can see the gingerbread cutter didn’t survive cutting the hard dough. The intact small gingerbread man cutter is one I bought the other day at John Lewis for a pound.

Today I am using the small metal one and the snowflake cutter because of course, as you know, I love snowflakes.

Flour the work surface and get out a rolling pin.


and roll out ¼inch thick.


I tried to fit as many shapes in as I could.


This dough because it is so maleable is more forgiving for the second, third, fourth rolling than pastry.

I had taken a bit of dough off the ball before I rolled it out and made some snakes. Remembering that book and just to show you that it works.

A wiggly one


and in case that didn’t handle well when cooked – a coiled one.


I am sure you and your children could make better ones. I’ve never been very good at shaping food with my hands.

Place the cut out pieces on a greased baking sheet or two.  I find a fish slice is even better than a palette knife for this.


Space well apart.


Now is the time to decorate the gingerbread men.

I know some people do this after they are cooked with icing but my handling of icing is worse than making snakes so I use currants and glace cherries.

So take some currants and glace cherries.


And use these to give the gingerbread men, eyes, mouths and buttons.


This before and after picture is to give an idea of how much the gingerbread men spread. As you can see I left more than enough room.

Then cook for 10-20 minutes at 350deg F or 170deg C. I use 160deg in my fan oven.

Leave to cool on a baking sheet.


And then maybe a granny can have one of the snowflakes with her coffee while she sits down to create this post.


Here is the basics of the recipe again.

In a large mixing bowl combine

8oz of flour,

2 teaspoons of ground ginger,

½ teaspoon of cinnamon (optional),

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda,

4oz icing sugar.

In a saucepan melt, gently and as little as necessary,

4oz butter or margarine,

2 tablespoons of golden syrup or molasses (or one of each).

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture together with

1 or 2 tablespoons of milk.

Make into a firm dough.

Roll dough out ¼inch thick.

Cut out shapes and place on a greased baking sheet.

Cook at 350 deg F, 170deg C (160deg -Fan oven) for 10-20 minutes.

Peachy pudding

I have not quite got used to only posting once a week and I have this recipe to share with you. So here it is.

This isn’t my favourite peach pudding (which I may share with you one day) but it is appropriate to this time of the year.

Stuffed Mincemeat Peaches

You need a casserole dish with a lid.


Tinned peach halves – I like to prepare two halves per person or three maybe if I have hungry guests.


Some mincemeat (this is the last of last years homemade mincemeat so it is a bit surgary but it cooks okay 🙂  )


And some red wine – you don’t need much and any sort will do.


You place the peach halves in a dish, cut side uppermost, and add a generous spoonful of mincemeat to each one. ( I was making these for myself and my son on Sunday.)


Pour a little red wine over each peach half


Cover the dish and cook for 20 minutes in a hot oven. I have a fan oven and I cooked mine at 190 deg C. (That is about 375 deg F but I would use 400 deg F in a conventional oven)

However timing and temperature are not too critical.

Here they are as they came out of the oven.


They taste good served plain or maybe with some cream. The cream does cool them down a lot though. (My son complained – well maybe he should have taken less cream. 😉 )