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Christmas made easy: Pavlova

Christmas desserts made easy! 

Festive Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

Festive Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

I don’t know about you, but I have never been a big fan of the traditional Christmas pudding. Maybe I had too many stodgy and heavy ones when I was younger which put me off? I’ve just never really liked them. For a Christmas dinner you have probably just eaten a hugely indulgent, and very filling meal, why would you want to finish this off with an even heavier Christmas pudding? I’ve tried a bit of Christmas pudding or Christmas cake each year but i just don’t think they work. Apart from anything they seem to take forever to make and I am a little distrustful of a pudding or cake you can keep as long as you can keep a Christmas pudding.

So here is an alternative idea for a Christmas dessert. I think that after a rich and potentially heavy meal what you really need (or what I would like) is a much lighter dessert, think crisp yet chewy meringue base, fluffy cream and refreshing fruit. What do you get? The Pavlova! I love the Pavlova as as dessert, it is one of the best year round desserts. In summer you can use fresh strawberries or raspberries and in winter you have so many wonderful winter fruits. To give it a wintery, yet fresh taste and a festive look I used a mix of passion fruit, orange and raspberries.

Fresh and fruity: Christmas Pavlova

Christmas dessert Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

Christmas dessert Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

I have made Pavlova’s before and baking this Christmas Pavlova was dead easy. As with all the recipes I am looking at for Christmas dinners, this is designed to be easy with much of the work done the day before. It is best to make the Pavlova base the night before and pop in in the fridge. The base itself is pretty quick and easy to make on Christmas eve and then Christmas day all you need to do is whip the cream and decorate it with your choice of fruit.

Christmas Pavlova recipe

Makes 8 generous portions
Ingredients

250g caster sugar
4 egg whites
Small pinch salt
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
A little malt vinegar
300ml double or whipping cream
1 Pomegranite
2-3 oranges
1 punnet raspberries

Method

On Christmas Eve: Preheat the oven to 180c and line a flat baking tray with baking paper.

Take a large mixing bowl and use some kitchen paper dipped in a little malt vinegar to wipe the inside of the bowl. Whisk the egg whites in this bowl with a pinch of salt till you have soft peaks, this should take around 5 minutes. Keep whisking whilst you add the caster sugar a little at a time. Once it’s all incorporated stop whisking.

Add the cornflour and white wine vinegar, then fold this into the whisked egg whites with a metal spoon. Spoon this onto the baking tray and smooth out with a metal pallet knife.

Christmas Pavlova base Photo: Russell Bowes

Christmas Pavlova base Photo: Russell Bowes

Pop this in the oven and turn the temperature down to 150c to cook for 1 hour. Once cooked – the outside will just be turning crisp – turn the oven off and leave the meringue in there till cool. Once it is cool cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight.

Christmas day: you can finish the Pavlova at any time on Christmas day and it only takes a few minutes to do so. In a mixing bowl whisk the cream till soft and airy then spread over the pavlova base. Slice the oranges into small pieces and place evenly on the cream, do the same with the raspberries and Pomegranite seeds. You should then have something which looks like this!

Slice of Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

Slice of Pavlova Photo: Russell Bowes

Recipe, text and photos By Russell Bowes

Find me on Google Plus, catch up and message me on Twitter and see more great pictures on Flickr and Pintrest

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Christmas made easy: alternative Christmas curry

Festive Pheasant Curry Recipe

Pheasant Curry Photo: Russell Bowes

Pheasant Curry Photo: Russell Bowes

So far in this series I have looked at a great alternative Christmas dinner recipe, Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It sounds a crazy amount of garlic to add but you’ll have to trust me when I say it works. I then showed you how to turn your leftovers into the ultimate Christmas mega sandwich for a great boxing day lunch. Today I am sharing another recipe to help your Christmas go easy with an alternative Christmas curry recipe.

Who says Christmas day has to be about roast turkey and all the trimmings? You end up with lots of leftovers which you end up turning into a dish which can sometimes be tastier than the Christmas day dinner itself. Boxing day is full of turkey casserole or a pie of some type, why not switch things up and make a warming flavourful curry on Christmas day itself? At first curry might not seem the ideal meal for Christmas day, but curry is rich and warming for that white and frosty Christmas morning (well if we manage to get one) and I think a curry like this, with its mix of green and and a little red for garnish is very Christmassy!

Curry might not seem special enough for a Christmas dinner, and maybe an ordinary curry with beef or chicken is a bit every week. This curry however is special. Instead of using chicken, beef or lamb try pheasant. It’s a little special and a bit more expensive but, why not push the boat out for Christmas. You probably won’t be able to pick up pheasant in your local supermarket but a good butcher’s should be able to get hold of it. I popped down to a good butchers in Chiswick to get the pheasant’s and they were good enough to prepare them for me as well, removing the bones and nicely butchering them.

We took a bit of a risk with this one and made it when we had friends round on Sunday. I say a risk as neither of us knew what it would turn out like. I hadn’t had pheasant in years before Hana made this and had forgotten what it really tasted like or how to cook it. Good job Hana was cooking from a recipe as neither of us really knew what to expect. I did remember that as game bird the meat was reder and meatier than chicken or turkey. In the end I think it went down well. I really liked the curry sauce and the pheasant. If Hana or I made it again we would probably dice the meat up before cooking instead of cooking the breasts and legs whole, but it was tasty and I would love to have it again… maybe for Christmas!

Christmas pheasant curry recipe

Green Pheasant Curry Photo: Russell Bowes

Green Pheasant Curry Photo: Russell Bowes

Ingredients for 4 people

2 whole pheasant – breasts and legs. I would dice them up
3 cloves of garlic
a thumb sized piece of ginger
2 long green chillies
1 lime, juice
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp mustard
50g baby spinach leaves
Mint leaves
Coriander leaves
250ml Greek yogurt
Vegetable oil
Roasted cherry tomatoes

Method

Pop the garlic, lime juice, chillies and spices along with the mustard and some of the vegetable oil. Whizz it to a paste. Dice the pheasant and add to a shallow dish. Pour the spicy curry sauce over the pheasant, making sure to coat it all. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge overnight.

Pheasant in curry marinade Photo: Russell Bowes

Pheasant in curry marinade Photo: Russell Bowes

The next day, grab the blender again. This time add the spinach and herbs (mint and coriander). Once blitzed down add the Greek yogurt followed by some more vegetable oil. Pour this over the pheasant and turn it in the spicy curry mix.

Festive or spooky?  Photo: Russell Bowes

Festive or spooky? Photo: Russell Bowes

Heat some vegetable oil in a big pan and brown off the pheasant pieces over a moderate heat. Make sure you scrape off all the marinade to cook it fully. Add the marinade and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes till cooked through.

Serve with some basmati rice and top the curry with two of the cherry tomatoes.

Whether you choose to make an Christmas curry or to simply roast the pheasant I think it is a great alternative to turkey. It feels a lot more special, as these days you can get turkey as a low fat and cheap alternative to chicken all year round. Pheasant isn’t something you have every day! If you did want to make a more economical or “January friendly” version then substitute the pheasant for turkey or chicken.

Text and photos By Russell Bowes

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Hedgehog birthday cake recipe

Children’s birthday cake recipe: the hedgehog cake

Hedgehog cake Photo: Russell Bowes

Hedgehog cake Photo: Russell Bowes

You know me, any excuse to bake and I’m in the kitchen baking up a wonderful treat. If there is one thing I love more than baking and eating cake, its baking with Hana. Well this weekend we had an excuse to get ourselves into the kitchen and do a nice bit of baking for one of Hana’s cousins kids birthdays. Being as it was a birthday cake for a 6 year old we were even more excited than usual as we had the perfect excuse to try out a recipe we had wanted to make for a while, the hedgehog cake.

I can’t remember how Hana came across the idea of a hedgehog cake, I think she found pictures of these on the internet somehow. If she is anything like me (which I think she might be) then Hana could have been just looking at pictures of different cakes! When I saw the picture of the cute chocolate covered hedgehog Hana showed me, I thought it would be a great cake for us to bake sometime, but a little over the top for the two of us, thank goodness for birthdays!

As I said we made this for Hana’s second cousin’s 5th or 6th birthday, I do forget, how ever old she is it”s old enough to enjoy fun cakes. We took it to the party on Saturday evening, a little late for a kids birthday party?  And I think it went down well, as it was a birthday party there was a lot of cake and treats and with a main birthday cake too it didn’t get eaten before we had to head home to London. I must be getting old as I couldn’t keep up with a group of kids!

Chocolate hedgehog cake

Chocolate hedgehog cake  Photo: Russell Bowes

Chocolate hedgehog cake Photo: Russell Bowes

We looked around at a few hedgehog cake recipes before deciding on using a simple chocolate sponge to build it out of. As the rest of the recipe is a bit complicated namely with the decoration, we thought it best to keep the baking part of it simple. You can bake the sponge the night before assembling your chocolate ‘hedgehog’ and just keep it in a tin. We did this and it worked out well enough, a good thing if you are pushed for time when organising a birthday party.

Hedgehog cake recipe

This is a little complicated but it works really well.

Ingredients for chocolate sponge:
250g flour
250g butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
50g cocoa powder

For the icing:
50g cocoa powder
5-6tbsp hot water
350g butter
350g icing sugar

For decoration:
2 packs of giant chocolate buttons for spines
1 glace cherry for a nose
2 smarties for eyes
Chocolate sponge method

Preheat your oven to 190c and grease and line two shallow sponge tins.  In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar till smooth and creamy.

Sift the flour and cocoa together in a separate bowl.  Crack the eggs into the butter and sugar creamy mix and continue to beat with an electric whisk on medium. Once combined resift in the flour and cocoa into the cake batter and whisk again till combined.

Pop in the oven for 30 minutes, or till a knife comes out of the middle of the cake clean and the sponge is springy. Remove to a wire rack and cool.

Build a chocolate hedgehog

Meanwhile make up the icing by first mixing the cocoa with the warm water to form a paste. Beat the butter till soft and whisk with the icing sugar till pale and fluffy. Add the cocoa paste and you have your icing.

Time to make the hedgehog. Place one sponge on top of the other and cut as my image below: 

cutting the sponge Photo: Russell Bowes

cutting the sponge Photo: Russell Bowes

You should end up with two identically cut sponges. Sandwich the large middle sections on top of each other with some of the icing, like this: 

sandwich the sponges Photo: Russell Bowes

sandwich the sponges Photo: Russell Bowes

 Take two of the side pieces and sandwich them together then place on top to form the body. 

making the body

making the body Photo: Russell Bowes

Next add the other two side cuts to the top side, finishing off the body, like this:

chocolate hedgehog cake: taking shape Photo: Russell Bowes

chocolate hedgehog cake: taking shape Photo: Russell Bowes

Now you have the general body, it is time to shape the hedgehog with the icing. Before icing you may want to trim the cake a little to make it more “hedgehog” shaped. 

Hedgehog cake collage Photo: Russell Bowes

Hedgehog cake collage Photo: Russell Bowes

Once you are happy with the icing and feel it is the right shape score the body of the hedgehog with a fork, this helps to look like fur under the prickles and also separates the head from the body a little. I also used these grooves to places the spines in. I made these by snapping a chocolate button in half and popping it just into the icing.

Add the smarties for eyes and cherry for nose and your hedgehog is ready to be eaten!

Recipe, text and photos By Russell Bowes

Find me on Google Plus, catch up and message me on Twitter and see more great pictures on Flickr and Pintrest

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