Christmas Cheat Treats with the Central England Co-Operative


When invited by the Central England Co-operative to work with them again to bring you tips on how to make Christmas easy and stress free, then what better way to do this than via the dessert table? Using some bought ingredients, along with a just a little, easy, home made preparation, I’m bringing you not one, but four sweet cheat treats to make your Christmas entertaining a breeze!

I bought:

* frozen puff pastry and used some homemade mincemeat (you could buy a jar of mincemeat to make it even easier on yourself, but I had some already made).

* jelly and a bottle of Prosecco to make a grown up, fizzy wobbly treat.

* cappuccino swiss roll, dark and milk chocolate with a tub of double cream to create the most deliciously easy chocolate ganache covered Yule log.

* ready made Christmas pudding and some butter and icing sugar to make the perfect rum butter pudding.


To make your Yule Log, firstly you need to make a ganache.  Simply take 200g dark chocolate and 100g milk chocolate and break/cut this into small pieces (the smaller the better as it’ll melt quicker).  Place this into a large bowl.  Pour 250ml double cream into a saucepan and heat very gently until hot, but not boiling, then pour this over the chocolate pieces.  Leave to sit for a couple of minutes until the chocolate starts to melt, then stir until fully melted.  At this stage I added a couple of tablespoons of Amaretto to my melted chocolate and cream mixture as I’d bought a cappuccino swiss roll and was going to make a tiramisu inspired Yule Log, but you can leave the alcohol out of yours, if you like.  Leave your Ganache somewhere cool for about 30 minutes to start to set and firm up. Don’t allow this to set hard or it’ll be too difficult to work with and to cover your swiss roll. Gently and slowly pour a couple of caps full of amaretto over your Swiss roll, allowing it to soak into the sponge (again, omit the alcohol if you want to share this with the kids!)

When your ganache is cool, and has started to thicken, spread it thickly onto your swiss roll and roughly leave a ‘bark/knot’ pattern in the chocolate to represent a log.


To make the grown up fizzy jelly. Following the packet instructions, break/cut up the jelly into small pieces (I use scissors and cut it into small pieces as they dissolve quicker).  Pour over up to 200ml boiling water and stir until the jelly has dissolved.  Carefully open the bottle of Prosecco and use this to make the jelly up to 500ml. Pour into serving dishes or glasses and leave somewhere to cool and set firm.


For your mince pies, preheat your oven to 200°C onto a floured board, roll out your pastry evenly until it’s about the depth of a pound coin. Using a cutter that’s larger than your tart tin, cut 12 rounds of pastry and use these to line the tin indentations.  Place a generous teaspoon of your mincemeat into each of the pastry rounds.  Using the leftover pastry, cut stars or other shapes to top your mince pies.  Brush the tops of the pastry with beaten egg to glaze, being careful not to allow it to drip down between the pastry base and the tin as this will cause your mince pies to stick.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are golden and the pastry has puffed.  Remove to a wire rack to cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar to give them a festive dusting of ‘snow’.


To go with my Christmas pudding, I’ve made a delicious rum butter.  This is one of the easiest things to make as it only takes three ingredients: unsalted butter, icing sugar and rum!  Allow your butter to reach room temperature as this will make it easier to mix. The rule of thumb here is to use twice as much icing sugar as butter, therefore for 250g butter, you’d need 500g icing sugar.  Using an electric hand mixer, beat the softened butter and the icing sugar together gently (adding the icing sugar in small amounts until combined, to avoid you, the house and entire neighbourhood being covered in a sweet, white dusting of sugar).  When fully combined, turn up the speed and whip it until it becomes light in texture.  Add a couple of capfuls of rum (or your preferred spirit), then beat again to incorporate it fully.  Taste and add more rum if you like.


So, there you go; four tasty treats, all of which have a little cheat attached to make your dessert table one to be envied and for you to enjoy as you’ve had a little help to make each of them stress free.


Wishing you a very Merry ‘stress free’ Christmas from the Central England Co-Operative, my family and myself.



I was provided with vouchers from the Central England Co-Operative to purchase ingredients to take part in this campaign.


Cranberry Sauce

‘Tis the season to be jolly, as they say.  ‘Tis also the season to make your own simple additions for you Christmas dinner and there’s nothing more simple then your own, homemade, cranberry sauce, using only 4 ingredients.

150g Soft brown sugar
45ml Ruby port
Grated zest and juice of one orange
300g Cranberries
1. Tip all of your ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until thick.
2. Taste (be warned, it’s VERY hot, so allow it to cool on the spoon for a few seconds before you try it) and adjust the sugar content to your own personal taste.
3. Pour into sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool before placing in the fridge.
4. This will easily keep for a couple of weeks before the ‘big day’ on 25th.
I like mine sharp, so keep the sugar content low. You may wish to add more, depending on your own personal preference.

Quark Winterberry Wobbly Cheesecake


I was invited to take part in a Mistletoe and Quark food blogger challenge to come up with a recipe using the Lake District Dairy Co. Quark.  Originally I intended to make a cheesecake but the final outcome is more like a pannecotta; with that hint of a wobble (a bit like my thighs, some may say!) and one which I’m very pleased with too.

As a lover of things tart and not too sweet, this is what I created:

150g Digestive biscuits
10ml Ground Cinnamon
90g   Butter
4       Gelatine leaves
60ml Orange juice
200g Light Philadephia
500g Quark
200g Icing sugar
5ml   Nielsen Massey Vanilla bean paste
250g Cranberries
1       Orange, grated zest and juice
75g   Caster sugar

1. Line a 20cm/8″ spring form tin with baking parchment.
2. Crush the Digestive biscuits and add the ground cinnamon.
3. Melt the butter, pour onto the biscuits and cinnamon then mix thoroughly.
4. Tip the biscuit and butter mix into your prepared tin and press well down into an even layer.
5. Place into the ‘fridge to chill.
6. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 5-6 minutes until softened.
7. Heat the orange juice in a small saucepan until warm.
8. Squeeze the water from the gelatine leaves and add to the warmed orange juice, then heat together gently until the gelatine has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
9. In a large bowl, whisk together the Philadelphia cheese, Quark, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste.
10. Gradually pour in the orange juice and gelatine mixture in a slow stream whilst continuing to whisk until combined.
11. Pour this Quark mixture over the chilled biscuit base, smooth the top and leave in the ‘fridge to set overnight.
12. In a saucepan, place the cranberries, orange zest and juice with the sugar.
13. Bring to the boil then continue to cook on a simmer for 15-20 minutes until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thick.
14. Pour this cranberry sauce into a bowl, cover and leave until cold.
15. Remove the cheesecake from the ‘fridge and pour over the cranberry sauce, spreading out to an even layer.

Serve chilled and enjoy the sharpness of my wobble!

I was sent a box of chilled Quark with which to create my low fat, tasty seasonal dessert to enable me to take part in the Food Blogger Challenge.  

Stir up Sunday to make your Christmas Pudding

Stir Up Sunday is the traditional time to make your Christmas Pudding.  It’s an Anglican tradition which takes place annually on the last Sunday before advent; a time when families would gather round to make their Christmas Pudding and each take a turn at stirring the mixture whilst making a wish.  This year it’s today, 24th November.  Tradition also dictates that a ‘silver sixpence’ should be put into the mixture for one lucky recipient to find.  Finding the coin would bring them health, wealth & happiness.  In accordance with the Gospel, to represent Christ & the disciples, at least 13 ingredients would be used to make the pudding.
I was invited to take part in Tate & Lyle’s “Bake, Eat & be Mary” Christmas campaign to encourage people to make their own Christmas puddings and to spread the word of Stir Up Sunday, as statistics now tell us that over 70% of people now buy them rather than make their own.  I went to London for the photo shoot, which I can only say was pretty surreal; to hear the name Mary called out and 12 women who all have Mary as their name or in their name respond, was, to say the least, quite strange.  New friendships were made over bubbles & nibbles and everyone had such a fantastic time creating our own individual photographs as well as our table of Mischief you can see below.
If you pop over to the Tate & Lyle website you will find the links to 10 of the Mary Christmases’ recipes and stories (including mine). Just click on our pictures to open up the recipes.
This recipe I used is from my mother’s 1958 Household Encyclopaedia.  It makes 6 decent sized puddings, which, if kept properly, will not only see you through the festive period with a couple to wrap & give away as gifts, but will also provide a tasty pudding for a few months to come.
2lb Currants
2lb Raisins
1lb Sultanas
1lb Soft brown sugar
4oz Candied Peel
2 Lemons, juice & rind
4oz Brandy (dark alcohol, I use rum)
4oz Port
1 Nutmeg, grated
4oz Almonds, chopped
1/2oz Mixed spice
1/4tsp salt
10 Eggs, medium sized
1lb Plain flour
1lb Bread crumbs
2lb Suet
Milk to mix
Butter for greasing the bowls
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of your fruit, sugar, peel, lemon juice & rind and alcohol.
2. Cover with cling film and leave to infuse overnight.
3. Next day, add the grated nutmeg, chopped almonds, mixed spice, salt and eggs, along with the flour, bread crumbs and suet.
4. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.  Add some milk if the mixture is too stiff.  It shouldn’t be a wet batter but should hold its own shape.
5. Grease the inside of your pudding bowls well with butter & place a disc of parchment paper in the base to ease removal.
6. Pack the pudding mixture into the bowl, leaving about 1/2″ (1cm) space.
7. Pleat a circle of parchment paper into a double fold, as pictured, and place on top of the bowl. The pleat will allow the pudding to expand & rise a little during steaming.
8. Pleat a piece of foil and place over the top of the parchment.
9. Tie the parchment and foil in place firmly with string, using the string to make a looped handle to enable you to lift the pudding more easily into and out of the steamer.
10. Bring a pan of water to the boil.
11. Place the pudding basin into your steamer basket and put this on top of your pan of boiling water.
12. Place the lid on top and steam for 9 hours. Keep an eye on the water level and top up the saucepan as necessary with boiling water from the kettle. (Alternatively, to use a slow cooker, place your pudding basin in the crock pot, fill up to 2/3 of the way up the basin with boiling water, place the lid on and cook on HIGH for 10-12 hours or overnight.  Cooking this way has the advantage of having much less evaporation of the cooking water so you can go to bed/get on with your day whilst it cooks itself).
13. When cooked, remove from the steamer and leave until cold.
14. Remove the string, foil and parchment and pour over some more alcohol of your choice and cover with a fresh piece of parchment and then a foil covering.  I tie this on to keep out the air and therefore prevent the puddings drying out.
15. ‘Feed’ the pudding weekly with alcohol until Christmas Day, each time replacing the parchment with fresh.
16. On Christmas Day, you can steam the puddings as before for 2 hours.  Alternatively, you can fill the  slow cooker to 2/3 of the way up the side of the pudding basin and cook for 3 hours on HIGH.  If you really want a ‘quick fix’ you could always microwave it in 2 min bursts until heated through, then allow to rest for 1 min before serving.
Thanks to Mischief PR for inviting me to be one of Tate & Lyle’s Mary Christmases – I had a fun filled & wonderful day. Thanks to the staff at Mischief PR and also to our fab photographer, Nathan Pask for encouraging us to be silly in front of your camera lens and then showing the ‘world’ just how daft we were! Laura Sawyer created a beautiful, festive set for us and even found some properly cheesy Christmas jumpers for us to wear, whilst Sandra Bermingham primped and preened our hair and faces.