Valentine’s Day rose creams

I’m a big fan of homemade gifts; to me they show far more thought (they’re so easily personalised) and are made with love and imagination (although flowers and jewellery are still gratefully accepted ). These rose creams are pretty, easy to make and are as sweet as the person you’re giving them to!

Ingredients

1 egg white

14oz icing sugar

2 teaspoons of rose water

A dash of pink food colouring

 

Method

Mix the egg white with the icing sugar, rose water and food colouring (I like to use my Kenwood mixer) until it makes a pink paste – see, I told you they were easy to make! Lightly dust a rolling mat with icing sugar and roll out until its around 5mm thick and cut out into pretty hearts, flowers or any other shape you choose. Leave to dry for around an hour or so. These look so charming in a lovely gift box, or on a pretty vintage plate.

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Chorizo and olive macaroni cheese; a taste of summer with winter comfort

I love the first part of winter – the novelty jumpers, looking forward to Christmas, smells of gingerbread, mulled wine and clementines – but there comes a time during winter that I start to really miss the summer; my sunny holidays and the taste of Mediterranean food. This dish brings together winter comfort food with the flavours of summer holidays in such a delicious way!

Ingredients:

1oz butter

1oz plain flour

1.5 pints of milk

7oz cheese grated

1 Chorizo

20 black olives, halved

9oz macaroni or conchiglie

Method

Slice the chorizo and fry in a non-stick pan. You’ll find the chorizo leaves oil in the pan. Remove the slices of chorizo and add the butter to the chorizo oil and then, over a low heat, stir in the flour to make a roux. By using the chorizo oil with the butter you’ll give your roux a lovely zing! Once you’ve made the roux, gradually add the milk, still over a lowish heat, until you have a sauce. Thicken the sauce by adding the cheese and stir in the slices of chorizo and the olive halves. You don’t want the sauce to be too thick as it will naturally thicken as the macaroni cooks in the oven.

Place the dry macaroni in a dish and pour the sauce over the top, covering entirely. Cook in an oven on gas mark 5 for 30 minutes. This is quite a rich dish so I like to serve it with a crisp salad or some fresh broccoli stems.

Chocolate orange Battenberg cake

This cake is for my Dad. He’s always loved Battenberg cake and the smell of an orange being peeled doesn’t remind me of him for no reason! So I decided to bring the two together for this delicious chocolate orange Battenberg cake.

Ingredients
Chocolate cake
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3 eggs
4oz self raising flour
2oz cocoa powder

Orange cake
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3 eggs
6oz self raising flour
The zest of one orange
Orange food colouring

Thin cut marmalade or marmalade
Marzipan
Icing sugar for dusting

Method
To make the chocolate cake:
Cream the butter and then add the sugar. Add the three eggs, one at a time, and mix well to give the mixture airy volume. Sift in the flour and cocoa and mix, but not for long (I usually mix for no more than 10 seconds building from a slow setting to the highest within that time). Put in a greased and lined tray bake tin and bake on 150 for around 30 minutes or until it passes the skewer test.

To make the orange cake:
Cream the butter and then add the sugar. Add the three eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Sift in the flour and then fold in the orange zest and orange food colouring. If you want to give it a bit of extra oomph add a capful of orange essence. Put into a greased and lined tray bake tin and bake on 150 for around 30 minutes or until it passes the skewer test.

Once the cakes are cooked and cooled, cut them both into four long strips. Build your Battenberg cake by placing an orange strip on top of a chocolate strip that you’ve already painted with the marmalade. Place next to another chocolate and orange ‘bunkbed’ cake, with marmalade between both – you need to make sure you’ve created a checkerboard effect rather than stripes! Roll out the marzipan on a dusting of icing sugar making sure you’ve rolled the icing into a size that will fully wrap around your stacked cakes. Paint the marzipan with the marmalade (I find it helps to warm the marmalade in the microwave first to get it to spread a bit thinner) and place the stacked cakes in the middle. Fold the marzipan up, overlapping slightly. You can seal the marzipan with either some marmalade or for something a little bit boozy – you know me, I just can’t resist! – run some Cointreau along the edge before sealing. Finally, roll your Battenberg in the icing sugar, making sure each side is lightly coated. Slice and enjoy!

A fine and dandy candy Christmas cake

If you’re not a fan of fruit cake or winter spices, this is a great Christmas cake alternative…

Ingredients

12oz butter

12 oz sugar

6 eggs

12oz self-raising flour or 9oz self-raising flour and 3oz cocoa powder

For the icing:

6oz butter at room temperature

12oz icing sugar

Peppermint essence

Milk (a dash)

Candy canes to decorate

 

Method

Cream the butter until soft and then add the sugar. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix until the wet mixture is even. Sift in the flour and mix again but not for long as you don’t want to beat the air out of it. Put the mixture into two 8” tins that you’ve greased and lined and pop in the oven on 150 for around 30 minutes or until golden. Remember to make sure the cakes pass the skewer test!

To make the icing cream the butter and add the icing sugar and peppermint essence. Add the milk a little bit at a time until you’re happy with the consistency. Mix and then mix some more! You’re your icing is light and fluffy spread a layer on top of the first cake and place the second cake on top. Cover the whole cake with the remaining icing and decorate with the candy canes – I chose to crush the candy canes and sprinkle on the top and around the edge but you can be as creative as you want with. Cut a slice and make a Christmas wish and you never know, it may come true…