If you got a dazzling display of Christmas lights outside your house, then it might be an idea if you didn't read any further!!
For everybody else...
Last night was the Fenland Smallholders Christmas bash. Sue was not only providing her school hall, but was also providing half of the night's entertainment singing in the smallholder's music group, The Sugar Beats.
I meanwhile was doing my usual grumpy Christmas thing. I really don't like Christmas. It's not just an act. I actually don't like it.
My pet hate at the moment is ridiculous, garish displays of flashing lights festooning people's gardens, walls, roofs, garages, sheds, trees... What's it all for?
Anyway, that's enough of my grumpiness (for now). I was faced with the difficult decision of what food to take along to contribute to the Christmas feast. As much as I could happily live on mince pies, sausage rolls and trifle, I really didn't feel like preparing anything so festive. Besides, there would be plenty of that food available.
I scoured recipe books without inspiration. My general level of Christmas grumpiness was rising off the scale. I searched the interweb. Still nothing gave me that spark. Back to the books and some of the older ones which I rarely go to these days. And voila!
Old English Cyder Cake. It fitted the bill perfectly. Traditional yet different. Simple yet interesting. Using up cupboard staples and a few ingredients such as eggs and cider which we always have available.
Then, like buses, along came another recipe which fired my imagination.
Welsh Eggs. A vegetarian version of Scotch eggs which used herbs and leeks in it's stuffing mix. Again, ingredients which I could just go pick straight from the garden.
A rare Saturday morning trip to Morrisons ensued, for there were a few ingredients I needed to get. I expected the worse. After all, a supermarket on Saturday in December was sure to be my personal Room 101. I could already hear the Christmas music wafting joyfully through the aisles. I could envisage the masses of shoppers stocking up as if a nuclear war were imminent. Yes! My Christmas spirit was really coming to the fore.
I raced my trolley around the aisles in an effort to minimise the whole experience. To my pleasant surprise, it was actually fairly quiet and when I got to the tills I had a choice of three empty ones.
So I returned to the farm relatively unscathed by my venture out into the world of Christmas consumerism and set about preparing my two dishes.
I tackled the sponge first. It involved a technique I'd never used before, beating the eggs in a bowl over hot water. I was later informed by Sue that I'd made my first 'whisked sponge'. Everything went well and after just over an hour in total the finished product emerged from the oven.
It was light and it smelled and tasted of cider! I know it's called Cider Cake, but I really wasn't expecting the cidery taste to come through quite so strongly. But it was actually very pleasant to eat indeed. Well, I had to try a slice first before inflicting it on the general public. I also had the cumbersome task of finishing the bottle of cider, which I did while embarking on the second recipe.
While the eggs boiled I popped into the veg garden and pulled a couple of smallish leeks from the ground. I trimmed the roots and outer leaves straight into the compost bin, then proceeded back past the herb bed where I gathered a large bunch of parsley and a little thyme, which is not at its best in the winter.
In no time I had mixed up the stuffing (can you call it that when it goes on the outside?). I entombed the eggs inside and rolled each ball in beaten egg before coating it in dried breadcrumbs.
Into the fryer for 3 minutes and ready!
I used to be a vegetarian and when I tasted these Welsh eggs it reminded me why I enjoyed cooking so much during this phase of my life. The leeks, herbs and a generous dash of lemon combined brilliantly to give a surprising, fresh and zingy twist to the traditional Scotch egg
And so at 7 o'clock I snuck my creations onto the table amongst the mince pies, cakes, sausage rolls, trifles, sandwiches and more. And do you know what? I didn't even get a slice of Welsh egg. They were snapped up in no time and everybody was pleasantly surprised. I had to compensate by eating a mountain of mince pies instead!
I sat back and listened to Christmas carols. They sound a lot better when Sue is singing them than they do in the supermarket. Not that I was too tempted to join in. Highlight of the evening (though the company and entertainment were, of course, excellent), was our table trouncing everybody else in the quiz...oh, and winning a couple of ducks in the raffle.
Just in case you're still reading, here are the recipes:
Old English Cider Cake (It's an old recipe, so measurements in imperial!)
4oz butter or marg
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs (I know it's a struggle at the moment, so thank you hens)
8oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 nutmeg, grated
1/4 pt cider (this always tastes better if you picked the apples and pressed them yourself)
Icing sugar for dusting
Cream the butter and sugar together.
Beat the eggs in a bowl standing in a pan of hot water, until thick.
Stir the eggs into the mixture.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and nutmeg together.
Sir half the flour into the mixture.
Beat the cider until frothy, then stir into the cake mixture.
Add the remaining flour.
Mix everything together well.
Spoon the mixture into a lined and greased shallow cake tin.
Bake for 45 minutes at 180C (I can't do a degrees sign while typing in blogger!!) until golden brown -mine took 50 minutes. But check before the 45 minutes is up.
Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar.
Slice and eat.
5 eggs, hard boiled (thanks again, chickens!)
flour, seasoned with salt and paprika (enough to coat the eggs0
1 leek, chopped finely
2 tsp oil
120g fresh white breadcrumbs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed)
50g vegetarian shredded suet
4+ tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh thyme (or use dried, herbs of your choice)
salt'n'pepper to season
1 egg, beaten
75g dried breadcrumbs (I used golden)
Peel the hard-boiled eggs and toss in seasoned flour
Fry the leeks in the oil for 3 minutes.
Cool, then mix with the fresh breadcrumbs, suet, herbs, seasoning, lemon rind and juice
(If mixture is too dry, add a little water)
Shape the mixture around the eggs, then coat with beaten egg followed by dried breadcrumbs.
Cool for half an hour in the fridge
Deep fry at 190C (hot! :0) for about 3 minutes (do this one or two at a time).
Leave to cool and enjoy!