Category Archives: Celebration

Ginger-Spiced Fruit Bread + bread troubleshooting

What’s the best way to say “I love you”? Assuming words are out of the question, there’s always the grand gesture – but that can backfire. For example, a chap I knew at university covered every available surface of his bedroom with glowing tea lights, only to be informed by his not-for-much-longer girlfriend that “Fire hazards are not romantic”.

To adequately convey a sense of “I love you – obviously not romantically because that would be super weird – just as friends but somehow more than friends, siblings almost but without any sense of obligation, and in fact it’s more of a collective expression of love; that is, we love you (plural)” I can think of worse ways than a loaf of homemade bread.


You don’t have to use words, or even make eye contact! What could be less awkward than that?

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Chocolate Beetroot Celebration Cake + chocolate dipped things

The cake part of this is Nigel Slater’s luscious chocolate beetroot cake from the Kitchen Diaries, which he serves with sour cream and poppyseeds, making it clear that it’s not a serving “suggestion”. The one time I encountered Nigel Slater in real life (at the butcher) I was exactly the too-eager, inept self we all hope not to be when we meet our heroes. To be exact, I announced breathlessly “I really like to both read and eat your recipes!!!” to which he responded, gravely, “Thank you.” I lingered just long enough for it to be awkward without saying anything else, then ran.

Anyway, I’ll never be able to face Nigel again, because rather than serving his cake with unsweeted Slavic accompaniments I’ve realised that a raspberry chocolate ganache filling and white chocolate icing (plus perhaps some chocolate covered strawberries) make it a perfect celebration cake.

Speaking of BBC talent in Islington, last summer I was on the same bus as Nick Robinson and called out to him from the top deck “You’re great on the Today Programme! Who’s going to win the Conservative leadership contest?” He called it right, incidentally.
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The Fat Duck’s Black Forest Cake

A seven-layer chocolate-cherry extravaganza combining juicy cherries, velvety ganache, dense chocolate cake, airy mousse…I could go on. Respectfully ripped off from Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook, even my pragmatically streamlined version of the recipe takes most of a day to make, but behold: The Lazy Duck’s Black Forest Cake.

Black Forest Cake

Hopefully you can see the layers, which are (from top to bottom):

1. Dark chocolate-cherry ganache icing – originally chocolate mousse and chocolate spraypaint
2. Cherry ripple vanilla mousse – originally kirsch mousse
3. Flourless chocolate cake
4. Morello cherries (from a jar) – in the original, fresh cherries soaked in kirsch
5. (layered with) Dark chocolate ganache
6. Whipped milk chocolate ganache – aerated chocolate in the original
7. Honey madeleine

[two months later as I write this post, I’ve realised that the flourless chocolate cake layer was in the wrong position – it should have been layer 3., (in between the cherry/ganache layer and the cherry jam vanilla mousse) – so the instructions below in terms of assembly are for what I should have done, rather than what I actually did]

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Short Rib Bourguignon

As I write this, my husband and I are sharing a Fray Bentos pie, passing the tin (balanced on a plate) between us and sharing the same fork. I tell you this not because I’m proud of us – I’m really not – but just to demonstrate that I am both lazy and economical (he bought the pies upon finding them on sale at Morrison’s for a pound each, bearing them home in triumph. I let him enjoy it for approximately two seconds  before observing that they are always available at Poundland). Anyway, this meal easy, inexpensive and gloriously delicious – it’s honestly once of the nicest dishes I can make. We made it recently for dining club with my siblings and my brother has asked me for the recipe almost daily ever since.

Short Rib Bourgignon

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Little Fruit Jellies

Cost: about £1 for 5 jellies (600ml total volume) but it depends on the juice and fruit you choose

These little jellies are jewel-bright and intensely fruity – with no added sugar and zero fat, they are an extremely healthy treat. And they are super-satisfyingly wobbly. A great treat for kids…and a useful gluten-free and dairy-free dessert option for guests with dietary restrictions.

Little Raspberry Jelly

 

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Sweet and Salty Spiced Popcorn

Cost: incalculably low, as a 500g bag of popcorn costs about £1, and makes a vast amount, about 8 stock pots of popcorn. Also it’s hard to measure a serving size as whether it’s just a snack for the two of us, or served with drinks before a dinner party, or put out in bowls on every surface before a party, we seem to just keep going with it until there isn’t any left…

This popcorn is not only delicious, it is extremely economical and much healthier than the fancy crisps we used to buy.

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Normally, if we were having folks round for a casual dinner, I’d always pick up a large bag of crisps on the way home (sour cream and chilli Kettle Chips, if you were wondering) and by the time I was chopping things up, or at least when I’d got to stirring pans, or maybe once or twice when I was wondering how to heat the plates, I’d have ripped into the bag and kept coming back for more, leaving at most a bowl for our guests.

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Chocolate Layer Cake

The Husband had three birthday cakes this year – the white chocolate mousse/chocolate brownie cake at his party, and for his actual birthday, which we spent at his parents’ up North, his mother made a lemon drizzle cake, and I made this (writing melted a bit during the journey).

The whole family had a good go:

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