I love Christmas food.
Cranberry clementine muffins
Well, I love my sort of Christmas food – which is almost anything apart from traditional Christmas cake. I love warm and mellow Christmas spices; chestnuts thrown into all manner of leftover dishes just because you have them; turkey; glazed ham; mulled wine; spiced cider; and cranberries. I really love baking with fresh cranberries.
And I know it’s only just December, but I was in the wonderful Whole Foods Market in Giffnock again this weekend and they had ENORMOUS fresh juicy cranberries. I had to have them.
And I had to make muffins with them. I combined them with clementine zest and orange juice, for flavour. And a muffin batter which included extra bran and porridge oats to make them pretend they are somewhere further along that health spectrum than you might imagine. But then lots of melted butter to make sure they are still tastiness itself.
And now you can make them too. If you start now, they’ll be ready within an hour. Unless you have to go out and pick your own cranberries.
Cranberry & clementine muffins
Preheat oven to 375F / 200C / GM5-6. Prepare muffin tins, lining them with muffin cases. Makes about 12 regular muffins .
- 8oz plain flour
- 1oz bran
- 1oz porridge oats
- 3 tsp baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 3oz dark brown or muscovado sugar
- 1 large egg
- 6oz fresh cranberries (you could use blueberries, or other berries of your choice)
- grated zest of 5 clementines
- 7fl oz clementine or orange juice
- 3oz melted butter (or 3fl oz veg oil)
- Mix together in a large bowl: flour, bran, porridge oats, baking powder and salt
- In a separate bowl beat together: sugar, egg, zest, juice and melted butter
- Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined, adding the berries towards the end. The batter can have lumps but there should be no pockets of dry flour
- Spoon into muffin cases (about 3/4 full should work, and produce nice full muffins)
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown and the muffins spring back when you poke them gently
I didn’t mean to. I prefer to wait till 20 December for my Christmas preparations, as is traditional in my family. But there are some things that need time to reach perfection. And anyway, I enjoy pottering about in the kitchen.
So yesterday I bought some fresh cranberries and a bottle of vodka. Last time I made cranberry vodka it was far too sweet, but was a perfect late night (after too much wine) shot. So I’m trying it again. And plum brandy (if only because I have brandy in the cupboard and our plum harvest in the freezer).
The cranberry vanilla vodka starts with layers of sugary syrup, and lighter alcohol
Cranberry Vanilla Vodka
1/2 vanilla pod
160g caster sugar
You’ll need a kilner jar, larger than a 1l one. I think mine is probably 1.5l, but not entirely sure. Hey, it won’t really matter if your jar is too small, you just won’t be able to fit all the vodka in (so use slightly less fruit and sugar too).
- Here’s the slightly laborious bit, although I find it meditatively soothing. Prick each of the cranberries with a fork, and pop them in the jar.
- After you’ve added a cranberry layer, spoon in some of the sugar, then layer with more pricked cranberries and more sugar. Keep going till you’ve put in all the cranberries and sugar. And I know the pricking seems ridiculous, but really, if you don’t do it the flavour won’t leach out into the vodka so much, and you’ll end up with a disappointing drink, having saved yourself a mere 15 minutes sitting down listening to the radio.
- Now using a sharp knife split the vanilla pod lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds into the jar. Throw the empty pods in too, they still have lots of seeds and flavour left in there.
- Pour the vodka in on top of the fruit layers, seal the lid and give it a shoogle.
- Leave somewhere out of the way, but easy to hand – so it’s not in your way, but you can give it a wee shoogle every day for the next 3 weeks.
- Taste it. If you’d like it sweeter, then make up some basic sugar syrup, with caster sugar and water, and add it to the jar. If you like it as is, then bottle it up and put a pretty label on it.
Follow the basic method for Cranberry Vanilla Vodka. I only had a 1l jar, so I layered plums and soft brown sugar till the jar was about half full. Then I added a star anise and about 1″ cinnamon stick, followed by some brandy. We’ll see how it turns out… I suspect I’ll wish I’d put more star anise in it.
Jars of alcoholic tastiness
Next weekend I will probably turn my hand to a Stollen. I’ve never made one before, but much prefer stollen to heavy fruitcake. Mind you, I do have a recipe for a Christmas Cake which lasts like a normal cake, but is made of nice light fruit, like apricots instead of all that horrid stuff you usually find in a fruitcake.