Two days before the solstice found me scrubbing the kitchen. Well, I’m not inviting guests to a house that is anything less than spotless, am I? Magic chore whore that I am, everything was cleaned with my own mixture of lemon juice, rose-water, alcohol with lavender (and a couple of drops of cinnamon oil) blended and charged with being a spiritual cleaner as well as a bloody good ‘get-rid-of-dirt-and-grease’ one. The floor was washed with this too, followed by a wipe over with my Four Witch Vinegar (scroll down a bit on the link for details!) for added oomph. The doorway and step was swept and scrubbed this way too. I smudged the entire house with a home-made sage and rosemary smudge-stick, and did my usual protection at the entrance to our property (yes, in the dead of night; I want to stay on speaking terms with the rest of the street thanks), to make sure that the guests I invited were the ones I WANTED, rather than any nasties or freeloaders.
Finally I was set to get on with calling up the Dearly Departed. Hekate was petitioned to bring them forth, and I lit my ancestor incense and did some rather nifty off the cuff invitation chanting. Nana was there like a shot, of course (but she’s never that far away), and close on behind her I was pleased to realise my Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle turned up and made themselves at home with a glass of Strawberry and Elderflower wine (Nana stuck with a cup of tea; never a big drinker she wouldn’t accept the wine.)
Time to get on with the cooking. Paté first.
Duck and Chicken Liver Paté with Wild Woodland Mix ‘Shrooms
Ms Dirty's Wild Woodland Mix
Wild Woodland Mix with home-grown onion and garlic220g/8oz butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
Handful of dried porcini/Wild Woodland Mix
450g/1lb chicken livers, trimmed and cut in half
1 tbsp brandy
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf, to garnish
Soak the mushrooms in boiling water. Melt 110g/4oz of the butter in a pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and fry until softened, but not coloured.
Add the garlic and chicken livers and fry the livers until golden-brown all over and cooked through.
Place the liver mixture and 55g/2oz of the remaining butter into a food processor, swirl out the pan with the brandy for a couple of minutes, then add this to the blender with the mustard and blend until smooth.
Drain the mushrooms (keep the mushroomy stock juice - excellent to add to earthy stews or soups) and chop finely. Stir into paté .
Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer the pâté into a serving ramekin or small dish and decorate with a bay leaf.
Melt the remaining 55g/2oz of butter in a clean pan. Skim off the froth and pour the butter over the pâté. Transfer to the fridge to chill, then serve from the ramekin when ready.
Serve with toast and red onion marmalade.
The scrapings from the bottom of the blender went on a slice of toast so I could check it was ok. Honest.
After I’d made sure it was ok… yes, it was fucking amazing if I do effing say so myself, it was on to the next dish to be made.
Boozy Bakewell Tart
75g unsalted butter, cold and diced
25g caster sugar
1 egg, separated
The last spoonful was all for ME!
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
Zest of one lemon
1 tbsp flaked almonds
To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl, then add in the sugar, then cut the butter into cubes and add to the flour with a pinch of salt. Rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolk and 1 tsp of cold water and mix until the dough comes together. Don’t work too much! Flatten into a disc, cover with clingfilm and chill for no more than 1 hour.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Line a 20cm tart tin with the pastry.
Prick the base with a fork and chill for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans.
Cook for about 20 minutes until the pastry is a pale golden colour. Take out the beans, brush the inside of the pastry case with a little egg white and cook for a further 2 minutes. Cool slightly.
Spread the plum rum sauce in an even layer over the base of the pastry case. Cream together the butter and caster sugar. Gradually add the beaten eggs and egg yolk. Fold in the ground almonds and lemon zest. Carefully spoon the mixture over the jam and spread level. Bake for 20 minutes. Scatter with the flaked almonds and continue to cook for a further 15-20 minutes until golden and set. If the top looks as though it’s going to start burning before it’s baked all the way through, cover the top with some grease-proof paper or tin-foil.
Cool to room temperature, dust with icing sugar and serve with pouring cream or custard.
Or as I found out, you’ll probably want to serve it with a second helping of itself.
Last to be made that day:
Nana’s Chocolate Yule Log.
(I found this recipe on a torn out piece of yellowed newspaper tucked in her last diary. Fitting. This is just as it written on the newspaper.)
1 oz plain flour
1 dessertspoon cocoa
3 separated eggs
Large pinch Cream of Tartar
4 oz Caster Sugar
2-3 drops vanilla essence
Grease and flour a Swiss roll tin, 8” x 12”. Sift the flour with the cocoa and salt. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites with the cream of tartar until stiff, then gradually beat in half the sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture looks shiny and will stand in peaks.
Cream the egg yolks until thick and then beat in the remaining sugar and add the vanilla essence. Stir the flour into the yolks and pour this mixture over the whites. Using a metal spoon cut and fold carefully until thoroughly blended.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 325° F for 20-25 mins. Turn at once onto a sugared tea towel and roll it up with the towel inside the cake. When it is cool, unroll the cake carefully and fill with either a chocolate butter cream or Chantilly cream and roll up.
Cover the cake in chocolate butter cream and use a fork to mark in bark effects. Add green marzipan holly leave and red marzipan berries as decoration. Dust with icing just before serving.
Incidentally, this was so good, I got talked into making another one to take to the in-laws for Christmas day.
Baking done, it was time to clean down the kitchen, wash up, dry, put away, and get my head down - veg prep and soup making the following day ready for the BIG DAY itself. Which will be in part three, because you’ve heard quite enough from me for one day. Go off and do something magical. Shoo. Yes, you too. Arse off chair, now go. GO!