Sunday, 6 December 2015

Gløgg glögg glugg

We need to talk about mulled wine. 'tis the season and it's everywhere. Unfortunately it's usually bought in a supermarket and tipped into a pan, sickly sweet with a vague hint of cinnamon.
I just had a cup at a rainy Christmas market and it was horrible. It's no wonder so many people don't like it if this is all they've ever tasted.
But it doesn't have to be this way. People who don't think they like mulled wine like my gløgg because it's properly spiced, not overly sweet and actually tastes good.

First, spice. A stick of cinnamon will not flavour anything in the ten minutes it takes to heat up the bottle. The key is lots of spices and time for the flavours to infuse.

Once you have heated the wine, along with an orange cut into quarters, keep it on the heat (not boiling) for about 15 minutes then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour.
Next, sweetness. Too much sugar and the wine is unbearable, too little and it's bitter to the taste. My advice is to see what works for you. I think my recipe is the perfect balance but your tastes may differ.
My recipe uses oranges. Dried orange peel works beautifully but it's scarce and pricey. Fresh oranges have their own sweetness, and I squeeze the juice in after infusion so cut down on the sugar accordingly.

Finally, serving. The classic Danish method, and still my favourite, is to put a few port soaked almonds into the bottom of your cup, along with a good measure of the port. It adds body and you can eat the goodies afterwards. Frankly, I'd just have the port and fruit. It's really good on ice cream.

A final note about the wine: don't waste a good bottle.  This is all about the spices. For a big batch I recently made I used wine from Aldi (£2.59) and Lidl (£2.99).

Gløgg recipe (serves 4-6)

1 bottle red wine (cheap is fine)
75g sugar
1 orange, quartered
16 cloves (you can stud them into the orange if you like)
1 star anise
2-3 small cinnamon sticks or 1 large
Green cardamom pods, about 10
A handful of raisins
A handful of whole almonds

Put the wine, orange, spices and sugar into the pan and heat on a medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Make sure it doesn't boil. Keep on the heat for about 15 minutes, then switch off hob and leave for at least an hour.

Meanwhile soak some raisins and whole almonds in port. Use as much port as you like!

When the spices and orange have infused, either remove with a slotted spoon or ladle through a sieve. Squeeze in the orange juice. Reheat the wine on a medium heat. Spoon some of the almonds and raisins into your cups with a good measure of port, ladle the wine in. Serve with a teaspoon.


Monday, 9 February 2015

Recipe: Gluten-free chocolate cherry cake

I get asked for recipes all the time so here's my Valentine's gift to you. This is a rich, fudgy chocolate cake made with non gluten containing ingredients (NGCI) that ticks all the boxes: it's rich and fudgy without being cloying, covered in ganache and tasty as you like.

I developed this for Valentine's day last year, using my favourite chocolate cake recipe as a base and working from there. Enjoy it.

Gluten Free chocolate cherry cake

200g 70-85% chocolate
200g butter
1 tbsp coffee powder dissolved in 125ml cold water or 130ml espresso
85g self-raising gluten-free flour
85g plain gluten-free flour
1/2 rounded tsp Xanthan gum
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 large eggs
75ml buttermilk (or mix 50g natural yoghurt with 25ml milk)
Good quality cherry jam (sour cherry if you can find it)

For the ganache

200g dark chocolate, as above
300ml carton double cream
2tbsp caster sugar

Preset oven to 170c/150c fan/gas mark 3
Grease two 20cm/7" sandwich tins and line the bases

To bake the cake, chop up the chocolate and add to a pan with the butter and coffee. Melt slowly over a low heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as it has melted, take it off the heat.

Meanwhile mix the flours, bicarb, Xanthan gum and sugars in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or measuring jug, beat the eggs with the buttermilk/yoghurt.

Pour chocolate and egg mixtures into the dry ingredients and stir well with a wooden spoon.

When combined, divide evenly between the two baking tins. Bake for 35 -40 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. The cake will be sticky but not wet.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto cooling trays.

When the cake has cooled, make the ganache.

Finely chop the chocolate and put in a large bowl. Put the cream and sugar in a small pan and heat until it almost comes to the bowl. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until smooth and shiny.

Liberally spread the jam (I use over half a jar) on top of the bottom layer of cake and sandwich the other on top. Pour the ganache slowly over the cake, letting it run over the side. if you want, you can smooth it with a palette knife.

Leave to cool. Eat. 


Instead of an iced cake, sandwich the cakes with fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit (I still think cherries go best with a dark chocolate) and dust with icing sugar.

If you want all chocolate then use ganache or nutella instead of jam for the sandwich.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Fame fame, fatal fame...

... it can play hideous tricks on your brain.

The main one being that in a six month period between filming and transmission, all sorts of rubbish goes on in your head. "I was a complete tit", "I made a bad joke", "I looked horrible". So come the day of broadcast, when your mum has told all her friends, everyone you know is ready to watch and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, you end up watching from behind your hands, wondering if your only five minutes of airtime will be the most humiliating thing ever.

It wasn't. I lived. And had an entire day of people telling me how brilliant I am. I could get used to that.

Icing ninja

This is the story of what it's like to be a "member of the public" guest on an ITV daytime programme.

"Hi, I'm calling from Let's Do Lunch with Gino and Mel! We'd like to have you and your kransekake on a Christmas show. Do you watch the programme?"
"Yes" (no)
"You know who Gino diCampo is?"
"Of  course!" (no)

A week later I'm lugging a 10-layer kransekage on the tube and making my way to the huge ITV tower on the South Bank. Pictures in reception: Jeremy Kyle, This Morning, Lorraine Kelly... I'm clueless, I rarely watch TV in the day, I never watch ITV unless it's something with David Tennant in. Or Agatha Christie's Marple, I love a bit of Marple. As I'm sitting there, an arguing couple exit the lift.
Oh good god, I'm in Jeremy Kyle land. Help me!

The producers are lovely, desperate to find someone reasonably sane and friendly to fill their slot and jumping on my words like I'm the most interesting person ever. I get carried away.
"Sometimes," I say, "we put chocolate on the base of the kransekage". Production lady is over the moon. "Chocolate! Yes, that will be great". There is no chocolate on a stacked kransekage. Somehow I forget to mention it.
"And green and red icing! Because Gino's Italian and he's decorating the cake!"
Nooooo. Never. Oh, okay then.

I'm in. Filming in two weeks. We need an 18-layer cake for display, and 18-layer cake for Gino and a spare one in case things go wrong. Icing bags, flags (Italian), icing, plates, decorations. I make a list, down to the last plate, and send it to the producer.

"This is great. Can you specify how many flags you'll be bringing? Also, we've decided Mel's going to make one too so we need another cake and some English flags.

Right. Another internet order, another kilo of marzipan. We're up to four cakes.

"Hi Karen. Great news! The guest's going to join the challenge too! So we'll need another cake. He's English though so you can use the same flags.".

Right... five kransekage, That's a lot of kransekage. "Oh, and another spare!"

I'm a bit cross until I ask who the guest is. It's only Warwick "Willow" Davies. My geek brain goes a bit crazy and I'm suddenly in love with the whole thing again. TV, huh?

They send a car to pick me up, which is marvellous. Every day should start like this.
Two producers and I fight through the crowds in reception (there are only two lifts working) carrying an assortment of boxes, and I'm led through to the studio, where I dump everything on a table before being taken straight through to make up. It's 10am. We're filming at 12.30. Ish. Hopefully.

Make up is wonderful. I'm brought a coffee and offered pastries and a fantastic, cheerful lady in red lipstick and leopardskin with an astounding number of bottles sets to, finding some cheekbones I never knew I had and generally turning early-morning me into something almost unrecognisable.

In make-up

A final bit of lipstick and firm instructions for nil by mouth until filming and I'm off to sort out my cakes.

I put three uniced kranskage on to plates, arrange my already iced and almost stacked display cake and lay out the icing bags and flags. The chocolate is nowhere to be seen. There is an awful lot of waiting around as the producers and presenters do their job, set up angles, fiddle with autocues and do timings. There's a rehearsal, during which I make a mess of talking, and a pep talk. Oh, and we're not using the flags. We're definitely using the chocolate though. A runner is put on chocolate duty.

I meet Warwick Davies in the green room and manage to keep my cool by being entirely silent and completely failing to ask for the selfie I really wanted to get with him. We all watch the show start, Mel and Gino transformed from the efficient, busy professionals of earlier into sparkly smiley presenters and one by one we file in, Warwick Davies first, the cheese lady second and then finally me.

Chatting to Professor Flitwick like it ain't no thing

When I finally go on, I'm a lot more confident than in rehearsal. It goes so quickly I can hardly remember what happened. I know I shouted (I do that, I can't seem to help it) and, worst of all, made an accidental height joke at my geek hero. But then it's off set to clear up and out of the building and that's that for almost six months.

Bad education

Then it's on. My phone's broken so I borrow a lovely customer's smartphone and watch it from behind my hands with my friend Andy. He likes it, I like it, the accidental height joke is funny instead of offensive, my parents are proud. My brother puts it on YouTube and I put it on my page.

A customer emails: "I'm a little worried about the chocolate and the icing. Can you assure me you'll make a traditional kransekage?" Well yes, I reply. Of course I will. "But on the TV..."

Clearly I am willing to do anything to be on TV, like those people who eat insects in the jungle. I have no shame. I don't even care.

Fast forward two weeks and Paul Hollywood makes his kransekake on prime time BBC1. I have no idea what the man's thinking. Semolina for a start. And who on earth would cover a kransekake in red icing and green glitter? It's shocking, really.

Within two weeks there have been two kransekage on TV. Both have been wrong. One of them is my fault. I'm sorry, I really am. I promise to make only the most traditional, lovely kransekage from here on in. Unless I'm asked to be on TV again, then all bets are off.

Autographs are available on request and only a small charge for selfies. Contact my agent.

Thanks to Stacey for the screengrabs. x

Watch me gleefully sacrifice my art for fame here: