Tasty Christmas treats

As much of the crochet I have done since my last post has been made for other people and I would prefer that they be surprised when they open their gifts, I can’t show you what I have been hooking. I can however share my edible Christmas makes.

Since having my two little boys, I have been rubbish in the kitchen and have only just recently started to make some of my old favourites. Christmas makes me prioritise taking time in the kitchen, something I should do all year long but fail miserably at. Who can resist the spicy aromas associated with Christmas and the sweet treats that feel truly indulgent?

I used to make my own Christmas cake using Delia Smith’s fruit cake recipe but when I discovered that no one else in my house actually likes Christmas cake it did feel a bit excessive making it just for myself. Also I really only ate Christmas cake with cheese so I felt even more guilty.

Then a couple of years ago whilst my parents were living in Trinidad, I heard about black cake (rum cake) and looked for a recipe to try. I was lucky enough to visit Trinidad on two occasions, but never actually tried black cake when I was there so had no idea what was an authentic recipe or not. So I just chose the one I liked the look of and the one my mum tells me is nothing like any black cake she ever had (that’s a compliment, right?).

What appealed about the recipe, which you can find here on TriniGormet.com, was the amount of alcohol the fruit is soaked in prior to baking the cake. For 3lbs of fruit it recommends 1 bottle of cherry brandy and 1 bottle of rum and/or 1 bottle of Bailey’s. Yes, 3 bottles! What also drew me to this recipe was the use of Angostura bitters (made in Trinidad and a childhood favourite of mine, I always felt so sophisticated drinking lemonade with a few drops of Angostura) and nutmeg. Whilst in Trinidad I had walked through the cathedral like nutmeg groves and collected nutmeg that had fallen. If you’ve never seen what nutmeg looks like whilst growing, look it up. The nutmeg is encased in a hard shell which has a lacy covering of mace, all enclosed by a protective fruit. I still have a jar of nutmeg, a spice once considered as valuable as gold, sadly not anymore.

It is fair to say that the soaking fruit doesn’t look anything special.

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The baked result is much more appealing.

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This is being fed with rum on a daily basis. It won’t be iced as it has a dense, pudding-like texture and we eat it with copious amounts of clotted cream (not very traditional in Trinidad apparently). I can’t wait for Christmas Day evening when we eat this.

Something I haven’t been able to stop eating is another Christmas treat that I was introduced to through my  parents’ travels. My mum and dad used to live in Iran (so did I but I was too young to remember any of it) and one of the foods they always speak about from there is chocolate covered orange peel. My mum used to make this when I was little and when I had a kitchen of my own I asked her for the recipe, which I never wrote down and started to make up myself each year.

There are recipes on the net and the one that is similar to my method is the River Cottage Candied Orange Sticks one. I don’t use glycerine and it turns out just fine. I love laying the sticky pieces of peel out to dry.

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They look better when they have been given their dark chocolate coating.

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They also make a lovely gift or nibble to take to a party.

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I am just about to dip my second batch of these and I imagine I will need to make more before Christmas day as they disappear quickly.

If you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you? Enjoy.

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Project update

Most of my time at the moment is spent frantically making things on my Christmas list but I have three recent projects I can share as they have already been gifted.

The first is a crochet shawl that I made for a friend’s birthday. She wears blues and purples so I wanted a yarn to complement those colours. Instead of buying on the net, I wanted to feel the yarn and make sure the colour was right so I went to my local wool shop and picked up a skein of Manos del Uraguay Alegria (Tannat A6729). It is 75% wool and 25% polyamide, so essentially a sock yarn but as it isn’t cheap I don’t think I would want to make socks with it.

crochet scarf sock yarn lace

I followed the free pattern Summer Sprigs Lace scarf  by Esther Chandler. I don’t recall the hook size I used, probably a 3.5 or 4mm. The pattern appealed as it wasn’t a triangular shawl and it worked up quite quickly. It isn’t easy to tell what a variegated yarn will look like crocheted but this one had just the right balance of colours I was looking for.

crochet scarf sock yarn lace

I am pleased to report that my friend loved the scarf as it goes really well with the colours she wears (phew!) and that she has had lots of compliments about it, which is lovely to hear.

The second project I made as a gift was for my mum. My parents are visiting over Christmas and my mum does not like the cold. Not surprising as she and my dad lived in the tropics for nearly 50 years. So something cosy and warm was quickly made before they arrived (finished just in the nick of time).

I used Stylecraft Life Aran (Fuschia) for both the hat and scarf. The hat was knitted using the free Twist and Slouch pattern by Kali Berg. I wanted to practice my knitting on a circular needle and to learn a new stitch. The twisted rib gives a pretty cable effect. I used a 6.5 and 5.5mm needle.

knitted hat crochet flower

My mum loves flowers so a quick crochet one was added using this pattern.

To match the hat I crocheted a scarf, this time using a paid pattern called Newidyn Shawlette by Abigail Phelps. I used a 10mm hook as recommended for Aran weight yarn. This whipped up in an evening so would make an ideal last minute gift.

crochet scarf aran

The two together make a good set and according to my mum, both are toasty warm.

knitted hat crochet scarf

I can recommend all 3 of these patterns and all of them could be made in time for Christmas. So if you are like me and have left things to the last minute or have an unplanned gift you need to make, maybe one of these will inspire you.

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