Festive Chelsea Buns

500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast
300ml/10fl oz milk
40g/1½oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the tin
1 free-range egg
vegetable oil, for greasing

For the filling
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
1 dessertspoon maple syrup
75g/2½oz soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g/3½oz dried cranberries
100g/3½oz chopped pecan nuts
100g/3½oz dried apricots

Preparation method
Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the yeast.

Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter is melted and the mixture is lukewarm. Pour into the flour mixture, add the egg and stir thoroughly until the contents of the bowl come together as a soft dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead well for five minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and leave to rise, covered with a damp tea towel, for one hour or until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough into a rectangle about 30x20cm/12x8in.

Melt the butter and add to the fruit mix along with the maple syrup, evenly sprinkle cinnamon and dried fruits/nuts mix on the dough.

Tack down the long side of the dough rectangle nearest to you by pressing it down onto the work surface with your thumb. Roll the opposite long side of the dough towards you quite tightly, until the roll is complete and tight. With a sharp knife cut into 10 4cm/1¾in thick rounds.

Place the buns, cut side up, into a silicone baking tray leaving about 1cm/½in of space between each one. You want them to be close enough so that when they rise further and then bake, they will bake with their sides touching. They can then be pulled apart and you get a lovely soft edge.

Leave to rise for about 30 minutes in a warm place.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

When the buns are ready, put them in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden-brown. Check after 15 minutes or so and cover the buns with foil if they are getting too brown.

Remove the buns from the oven, sprinkle with caster sugar, and let them cool slightly before transferring them from the tin to a cooling rack.

Vanilla Fruitcake

This is a light fruitcake, which goes down well for afternoon tea (if you have such a thing) or a coffee morning.. the base flavour is vanilla but this can be left out if you don't like it.

125g Caster Sugar
125g Butter (or margarine)
3 Eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
150g mixed fruit
1 tsp Vanilla Bean paste (trust me this doesn't work as well with cheaper essences)
Brown Demerara sugar for topping the cake before baking

Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir in the fruit... ensure it is coated.

Beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy, beat each egg in well to the butter/sugar mixture and then beat in the Vanilla Bean paste.

Fold in the flour and fruit mixture and pour into a cake tin, I use an 8inch cake tin with paper liners but whatever you have will work. Smooth out the top of the cake with a spoon.

Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top of the cake mixture and put it in a pre-heated overn of 180 deg C or Gas mark 4 for about 45 mins or until cooked through.

Leave to cool in the tin... this is hard because it smells so nice but trust me it is worth it.

Lavender Chiller

To make the lavender syrup :
1 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lavender heads any variety except french lavender varieties
In a small saucepan, combine water, sugar, and lavender. Bring to a simmer over gentle heat. Remove from stove and let steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and chill until ready to use.
To make up the drink, combine the lavender syrup above with freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and top up with chilled sparkling mineral water; add ice and a sprig of mint.
Variation, if you can get hold of it, use elderflower and lavender syrup instead of the lemon. It is less sharp.

Christmas Pudding - The family receipt

Stir Up Sunday

The Sunday before Advent is "Stir Up Sunday". In 2012, therefore, "Stir-up Sunday" is 25th November and is the day when traditionally, the family makes their Christmas Puddings.

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Personally, I prefer to make mine rather earlier than this. Whilst they are not difficult to make, there is a certain amount of logistics involved. It takes a fair amount of planning to collect together all the ingredients, the equipment and the time taken to steam the puddings is rather longer than today's Microwave Culture are used to. I also believe the longer the pudding has to mature, the better. So I generally try and make mine in October.

Stir up, we beseech thee,
The pudding in the pot;
And when we get home
We'll eat the lot.

This recipe originated from my Grandmother - where she got it from I don't know but she did work "In Service" for a large Gloucestershire hotel and may have picked it up from there. Or it may well be a very old family traditional recipe. I really have no idea. Since I got my hands on it, the recipe has changed somewhat, for a number of reasons. A major reason, and one why I continue to make my own puddings, is that I dislike glace cherries and cut peel - both of which are almost guaranteed to be found in shop-bought puddings. Making my own means that I can include the ingredients I want and omit the ones I don't like. And it is a good enough reason for you to make your own as well and help keep this family-oriented tradition going.

It is also a bit of a "thereabouts" recipe, where the ingredients' amounts may be qualified by "or thereabouts" Not got the right amount of currants? Or just don't like 'em? Not a problem, make up the weight with something you do like - dates, raisins, dried cherries & cranberries, whatever you can get. And so on and so forth. This recipe is very amenable to personal adaptation.

Ingredients & Equipment
As this is derived from an old recipe, I make no apologies for stating amounts in good old-fashioned pounds & ounces. If you really must translate into metric quantities, then feel free, I won't stop you. So long as I have kitchen scales that can handle either system, I don't really mind how a recipe is specified.

1 All the pudding ingredients gathered together

This recipe will make five lbs of puddings - that's one large and one medium, or five small, or one medium and three small - well, no doubt you get the general idea. Of course, altering the amounts to make less or more is simply a case of multiplying the amounts. I've always found that the amounts here produce the bare minimum number of puddings I can get away with. It seems to be a popular product!

Pudding cloth is an essential part of this recipe. It really gives the pudding the correct "look" and it really helps when removing the cooked pudding from the bowl. It ought to be available from any decent kitchen shop, but I've yet to find an on-line shop that can supply it.


•4 oz Plain Flour

•2 oz Dark Chocolate, grated

•1 teaspoon Mixed Spice

•6 oz Fresh White Breadcrumbs

•10 oz Suet

•8 oz Muscavado Sugar

•2 oz Dried Apples & Apricots

•2½ lbs Raisins, Currants & chopped Dates

•2 oz Hazelnuts, Walnuts & Almonds, chopped

•zest of 1 Lemon and same volume of Orange zest

•2 teaspoons Vanilla essence

•½ teaspoon Almond essence

•4 Large Eggs

•1 tablespoon Black Treacle

•½ pint Dark beer

•¼ pint Dark Rum and/or Brandy


•Large Mixing Bowl


•Large Wooden Spoon




•Large Saucepan or Steamer

•Pudding Cloth (Butter Muslin)

•Butcher's string

•Greaseproof paper

•Pudding bowls

Method (Day 1)

Creating the Mixture

1.Prepare the breadcrumbs using fresh bread and the Robochef.

2.The Robochef is also useful for grating the chocolate. Use good quality high-cocoa dark chocolate and don't grate it too finely.

3.And finally, it is useful for coarsely chopping the nuts.

4.The dried apples and apricots can be snipped into small pieces using kitchen scissors.

5.The orange and lemon zest should be cut into fairly small pieces.

6.Sift the flour into the mixing bowl. Add the chocolate and spices.

7.Add the suet, the breadcrumbs the suet and the sugar. Mix well.

8.Add the dried fruit, the nuts and the zest.

9.Add the essences, the treacle, the eggs, the beer and the brandy/rum. Stir well until the mixture is fully mingled.

10.Let everyone in the family have a stir and make their secret wishes.

11.Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave overnight for the mixture to rest and develop.


1.I've already stated that this recipe is very easy to alter to cater to personal tastes. I would like to repeat this advice, with some examples here.

2.I often use self-raising flour. It makes no real difference. It's still going to be a rich, heavy pudding! In other words, use whatever is most easily to hand

3.I tend to use vegetable Suet nowadays, but only because it's easier to get than normal Beef Suet. Vegetable Suet may make the pudding slightly lighter, but not enough for me to be able to tell.

4.If you can't get dried apples, use peeled, grated fresh apple then - and cut down on the amount of beer (i.e. fluid) used.

5.And talking of beer, Guinness is indeed dark but a sweet Brown Ale is the best choice. Do not use lager!

6.This quantity of chocolate will add flavour the pudding. You can always cut down on the amount used if this is undesirable. Originally, it's purpose was to help darken the pudding.

7.Almost any nuts, except peanuts, may be used. I add Pecan nuts to my recipe when I can get them.

8.I don't use Sultanas or Golden Raisins in my recipe. I prefer the darker fruits specified above.

9.But I do add some exotic fruits when I can get them - I managed to obtain some sour dried cherries and dried blueberries one year, and they were a very tasty addition.

10.I like dark rum! That, with the molasses, helps to give this pudding a rich flavour. But if you don't like it, just use all brandy instead.

Method (Day 2)

Filling the puddings.

1.Butter the insides of the pudding bowls.

2.Place a large square of Pudding Cloth in the bowls. The butter helps the cloth stick to the sides of the bowl.

3.The cloth needs to be large enough so the the diagnoal corners can be tied over the top of the pudding mixture.

4.Spoon the mixture into the bowls, leaving a small amount of room for expansion.

5.Cover the mixture with a circle of baking paper.

6.Knot the cloth over the top of the pudding.

7.Cover with a pleated piece of foil.

8.Secure the foil with string. Ensure you create a handle at this stage. It'll be a great help when removing the cooked puddings from the steamer.

9.Place the bowl into a large saucepan or steamer, on top of a small plate or saucer - the pudding should not have direct contact with the bottom of the saucepan.

10.Fill up the saucepan with water to about halfway up the side of the pudding bowl.

11.Heat up the water 'til at the boil and then reduce heat to keep at a gentle boil.

12.Boil for 4 hours (medium pudding) to 6 hours (large pudding) topping up with HOT water throughout as necessary.

13.Remove the pudding bowls and leave them on a trivet to cool overnight.


1.Yes, I know - that is a very long time to cook something.

2.But it is better to over-cook these puddings than risk under-cooking. In fact, it is almost impossible to over-cook them.

3.Do not let the steamer boil dry!

Method (Day 3)

Storing the puddings.

1.Remove and discard the string and foil coverings.

2.Carefully ease out the puddings - the pudding cloth really helps here!

3.Wrap the cloth-covered puddings in foil.

4.Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve

1.Take your pudding and remove it from it's foil covering.

2.Place the pudding in a buttered bowl and, as when it received its first steam...

3.Top up the bowl with a good slug of rum and/or brandy.

4.Cover with a pleated piece of foil.

5.Secure the foil with string. Again, ensure you create a string handle.

Christmas Day

1.Place the pudding bowl into a large saucepan or steamer, again, just as when it was received its first steaming.

2.Fill up the saucepan with water to about halfway up the side of the pudding bowl.

3.Heat up the water 'til at the boil and then reduce heat to keep at a gentle boil.

4.Boil for 2 hours(medium pudding) to 4 hours (large pudding) topping up with HOT water throughout as necessary.

5.Remove the pudding bowl from the steamer and remove the foil and string

6.Untie the cloth knots (or cut them off) and remove the baking paper circle.

7.Up-end the bowl onto a plate.

8.Remove the bowl and carefully remove the cloth.

9.Pour on a decent (two or three tablespoonfuls) quantity of warmed rum and/or brandy and ignite.

10.Serve immediately with custard, cream, clotted cream, brandy butter or whatever else takes your fancy.


1.Warming the rum/brandy is essential for a good flame.

2.A few seconds (and no more than that!) in the microwave is a good way of achieving this.

3.Do try to flame the pudding a the table. After all this trouble making the pudding, it would be a shame not to milk the occasion for all it's worth.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

My Nan used to make these for us when Zeltus and I were children, to her it was recycling those old wasted biscuits and crumbs that collected in the bottom of the biscuit barrel but to us it was magic how it turned from a mess into something solid and wonderfully tasty.

225g Rich Tea Biscuits or broken plain biscuits for varied taste/texture

115g Salted Butter
3 rounded tablespoons of cocoa powder - I use Green and Black's organic cocoa
55g of caster sugar
2 heaped tablespoons Golden Syrup (well big dollops of the golden stuff cos I cannot get a heaped tablespoon to save my life)
115g plain chocolate although I used milk because of the cocoa content...for a richer taste. NB Don't use cooking chocolate though.. won't be as good.


Roughly crush biscuits in plastic bag with rolling pin
Melt butter and add caster sugar, cocoa powder and Golden Syrup
Melt chocolate and add to mixture with crushed biscuits
Spoon mixture into a sheet of greaseproof paper, roll into a sausage and leave in fridge to harden

For extra zing, my Nan used to roll her cake in grated chocolate or cocoa powder. Personally I leave it plain as it looks good when sliced and eaten and surely that is what counts most.

Valentine Truffles

Want to spoil that special person in your life?

Then why not try these as they can be adapted for any flavour.

200g Dark Chocolate, I used a mix of fairtrade and 85% cocoa
200g Double Cream (I used Rodda's mmm)

Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water, when it has melted take it off the heat ( but leave over the hot water)

Put the double cream in a pan and bring to the boil.

When the cream has come to the boil, remove the chocolate from the hot water and then carefully add the cream to the chocolate stirring as you go.

Add your chosen flavour, I chose to add Courvoisier brandy.. it could have been worse, I had the choice of some Asbach brandy but discretion is the better part of valour.

When you have mixed the cream and chocolate together it should form a thick liquid sauce. Leave to cool overnight.

Form the cold, now fairly solid mixture into balls and roll in a mixture of your choice.

You could use :

  • Cocoa
  • Chopped nuts
  • Icing sugar

or you could melt some chocolate, plain or white and  either coat the balls or drizzle it over the top.

Chocolate Nut Strudel

Serves 6

1 tbsp butter (for greasing)
200g mixed chopped nuts
115g dark chocolate
115g milk chocolate
115g white chocolate
200g filo pastry
150g butter (unsalted is best)
2tbsp gold syrup
55g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C (Gas mark 5). Lightly grease a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon butter. Reserve 1 tablespoon nuts for the toping.

Mix the chocolate together in a bowl.

Please 1 sheet of filo on a clean tea towel. Melt the butter and brush the sheet of filo with butter, drizzle with a little syryp and sprinkle with some nuts and chocolate. Place another sheet of filo on top and repeat until you have used all the nuts and chocolate.

Use the tea towel to help you carefully roll up the strudel and place on the baking sheet, drizzle with a little more golden syrup and sprinkle with the reserved nuts. Bake for 20-25 minutes. If the nuts start to brown too much, cover the strudel with foil.

Sprinkle with icing sugar, slice and eat warm with ice-cream.