Monthly Archives: December 2017

Whisky-Infused Blackberry Cranachan

As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of turning surplus fruit into alcoholic beverages, such as strawberry bourbon or strawberry liqueur. Years ago when I lived in London I was fortunate to be just a few minutes walk from woodland which would be abundant with sloes and blackberries in the late summer and autumn. The classic English tipple of sloe gin was my introduction to the alchemy of infusing fruit in alcohol to create something wonderful.

Whisky-infused blackberry cranachan from britinthesouth.comSince those days I have expanded my repertoire of fruit infusions. Most of them follow the simple method used for making sloe gin but occasionally I seek out a new recipe idea or technique. One great resource for this is “River Cottage Booze” by John Wright, a renowned forager from across the pond who regularly writes in The Guardian as well as appearing on River Cottage TV programmes. It was from him that I found this recipe for blackberry whisky. I recently bottled some after a long infusion, and whilst the bottles will now quietly mature for another year or two, I had the more immediate reward of a batch of whisky infused blackberries.

Whisky-infused blackberry cranachan from britinthesouth.comMy answer of what to do with them was inspired by the Scottish dessert of cranachan, traditionally made with whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and oats. Usually, the whisky is added to the whipped cream but as I already had blackberries that had been soaking in whisky for many months I felt I had enough alcohol in the dish. After their long infusion the blackberries tasted good but had lost a little of their colour and were a little on the dull side in terms of appearance, so I crushed all of them to stir into the dish. If using fresh fruit you can reserve some for garnish.

Whisky-infused blackberry cranachan from britinthesouth.com

Whisky-Infused Blackberry Cranachan

1oz oats

4oz whisky infused blackberries

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 tbs honey

Put the oats on a baking tray under a moderate grill for 8-10 minutes, turning frequently, until they are lightly toasted.

Crush the whisky infused blackberries.

Whip the heavy whipping cream until thick. I used a stand mixer but you could do it by hand or use a hand held electric mixer.

Once the cream is thick, stir in the honey, and then gently fold in the oats followed by the fruit.

Spoon into two serving dishes and serve immediately.

Apple Paste

The final challenge for the year in the highly enjoyable Food in Jars mastery challenge was fruit pastes.

Selecting a fruit to experiment with was a fairly simple choice: I had a glut of apples and I had gone slightly overboard buying a wide range of different cheeses for Christmas so I thought a thick, sliceable apple paste would make an ideal partner to many of those cheeses, something like the classic British “fruit cheese” or Spanish quince membrillo.

Apple Paste from britinthesouth.comThe technique is fairly simple and recipes abound online.

I went for the simplest approach I could find, using just fruit, sugar and a little lemon juice. The apples are coarsely chopped, skins and pips included, and then cooked until soft in a little water. They are then drained and passed through a food mill to produce a soft pulp to which sugar is added and then cooked low and slow until a dark, rich, thick paste is produced.

Apple Paste from britinthesouth.comI tried it with a number of cheeses. It worked particularly well with Thomasville Tomme, an aged raw cow’s milk cheese from the South of Georgia, but would also be great with a mature cheddar.

Apple Paste

2.5lbs apples

12oz granulated sugar

2 tbs lemon juice

Wash and roughly chop the apples. There is no need to peel, core or deseed them.

Put in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil over medium high heat and cook until soft, 12-15 minutes.

Pass through a food mill or sieve, leaving the skins and pips behind to yield a soft, mushy apple pulp. Return this to the pan, add the sugar, and cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, until the apple pulp darkens and solidifies to a thick, spreadable paste. This can take 2-3 hours so you need to be patient and regularly check and stir to ensure the apples don’t stick or burn.

Apple Paste from britinthesouth.comLine a suitable food container with parchment paper. This quantity will produce a paste approximately 6″ x 6″ x 1″.  I split mine between a couple of glass containers about 3″ x 4.5″ to produce an attractive looking small slab of paste for the Christmas cheeseboard.

Spread the paste in the container so it is even, then leave for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight, before using.

You can serve in simple slices but if your paste is solid enough you can use a cookie cutter to turn it into decorative shapes for your cheeseboard.

Apple Paste from britinthesouth.com

 

 

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

December is here and I’m busy thinking about sweet treats for the festive season.

Chocolate tiffin is pretty easy to pull together but the finished result is delicious and I find slightly addictive. Cut into squares it is easy to bring out at Christmas gatherings or to wrap attractively to give as a gift.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comBelieved to originate from Scotland tiffin is just another variation on what would be known as a fridge or icebox cake in other parts of the world as it doesn’t need baking, just chilling. At its most basic it consists of crushed biscuits and raisins mixed with melted chocolate and allowed to set. British chocolate company Cadbury’s make a “Tiffin” bar which is essentially raisins and biscuits in milk chocolate. It was reintroduced last year after being off the shelves for more than a dozen years.

The joy of making your own tiffin is that it gives you endless license to customise it to your own tastes, choosing the type of chocolate, what type of biscuit and what other additions to use.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.com

Cadbury’s “Tiffin”. Good, but not as good as homemade

After a good deal of experimentation I’ve landed on the basic technique from this recipe from the brilliant chocolate maker Paul.A.Young but have then taken it in my own direction. I love his  suggestion of a blend of dark and milk chocolates which makes for a well balanced chocolate layer. Like him I use digestive biscuits for crunch (usually McVities) and raisins, but for this version I soaked the raisins overnight in brandy to make things a little more christmassy. If you want to skip the alcohol, plain unadulterated raisins will work fine. From his recipe I skip the glace cherries (not a big fan) and hazelnuts (allergic) but I do add a couple of other ingredients from the world of British confectionery. Maltesers add both texture as well as nuggets of malty flavour, whilst Crunchie bars add little pockets of honeycomb sweetness.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comThe boozy raisins, crunchy biscuits, and the little flavour bombs of Malteser and Crunchie all combine beautifully to create an incredibly moreish chocolate treat.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits

4oz raisins

1 tbs brandy

2 Crunchie bars (40g / 1.4oz each)

3 bags of Maltesers (37g / 1.3oz each)

8oz Digestive Biscuits

4oz butter

6oz light agave syrup

0.5 tsp salt

6oz milk chocolate, chopped

6oz dark chocolate, chopped

The evening before you want to make the tiffin, mix the raisins with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.

The following day, start by placing both Crunchie bars in a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to crush. The aim is small chunks, not too big, and be careful not to produce a pile of Crunchie powder.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comCrush two of the three bags of Maltesers in a similar fashion. The other bag of Maltesers will be left whole.

Crumble the digestive biscuits. Once again aim for small chunks rather than fine crumbs.

Line an 8×8″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter, agave syrup and salt in a medium pan and melt together over low heat, stirring frequently.

Add the milk and dark chocolate to the pan and stir continuously until smooth.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comAdd the Crunchie pieces, bashed and whole Maltesers, raisins and crushed biscuits to the chocolate mix and stir well to ensure that everything is coated.

Chocolate Tiffin with Brandy Soaked Raisins, Crunchie, Maltesers and Digestive Biscuits from britinthesouth.comSpoon the mixture into the lined baking tray and carefully spread it until level.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into generous chunks and enjoying.