Slowly Does It... (2015)

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Drunken Pears

Figs in Cinnamon Syrup

Hot Spiced Fruit Salad

Rice Pudding

Cherry Yogurt Crush

Summer Pudding

Panettone Pudding

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringues

Orange & Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Cranberry Christmas Pudding

Rich Fruit Cake

Drunken Pears

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Preparation Time 15 minutes • Cooking Time 50 minutes • Serves 4 • Per Serving 305 calories, trace fat, 52g carbohydrate, 0g salt • Vegetarian • Gluten Free • Dairy Free • Easy

4 Williams or Comice pears

150g (5oz) granulated sugar

300ml (½ pint) red wine

150ml (¼ pint) sloe gin

1 cinnamon stick

zest of 1 orange

6 star anise

Greek yogurt or whipped cream to serve (optional)

1. Peel the pears, cut out the calyx at the base of each and leave the stalks intact. Put the sugar, wine, sloe gin and 300ml (½ pint) water into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.

2. Bring to the boil and add the cinnamon stick, orange zest and star anise. Add the pears, then cover and poach over a low heat for 30 minutes or until tender.

3. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon, then continue to heat the liquid until it has reduced to about 200ml (7fl oz) or until syrupy. Pour the syrup over the pears. Serve warm or chilled with Greek yogurt or whipped cream, if you like.

GET AHEAD

To prepare ahead Complete the recipe, cool, cover and chill for up to three days.

Figs in Cinnamon Syrup

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Preparation Time 15 minutes • Cooking Time 35 minutes, plus cooling and chilling • Serves 4 • Per Serving 336 calories, 2g fat (of which 0g saturates), 68g carbohydrate, 0.2g salt • Vegetarian • Gluten Free • Dairy Free • Easy

1 orange

1 lemon

300ml (½ pint) red wine

50g (2oz) golden caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

450g (1lb) ready-to-eat dried figs

mascarpone cheese or ice cream to serve

1. Pare the zest from the orange and lemon and put into a medium pan. Squeeze the orange and lemon and add their juice, the wine, sugar and cinnamon stick to the pan. Bring very slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the figs. Simmer very gently for 20 minutes or until plump and soft. Remove the figs, zest and cinnamon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving bowl.

3. Bring the liquid to the boil once again and bubble for about 5 minutes or until syrupy. Pour over the figs, then cool, cover and chill.

4. If you like, warm the figs in the syrup for 3–4 minutes, then serve with mascarpone cheese or ice cream.

Hot Spiced Fruit Salad

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Preparation Time 10 minutes • Cooking Time 1½ hours • Serves 6 • Per Serving 185 calories, 1g fat (of which 0g saturates), 44g carbohydrate, 0.1g salt • Vegetarian • Gluten Free • Dairy Free • Easy

3 apples, cored and chopped

3 pears, cored and chopped

12 each ready-to-eat dried apricots and figs

juice of 2 large oranges

150ml (¼ pint) apple juice

a pinch of ground cinnamon

1 star anise

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan oven) mark 4. Put the apples and pears into a roasting tin with the apricots and figs, the orange juice, apple juice, ground cinnamon and star anise. Stir, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

2. Remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes. Discard the star anise and serve.

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Ready-to-eat prunes or 100g (3½oz) dried cranberries can be substituted for the figs.

Rice Pudding

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Preparation Time 5 minutes • Cooking Time 1½ hours • Serves 6 • Per Serving 239 calories, 8g fat (of which 5g saturates), 34g carbohydrate, 0.2g salt • Vegetarian • Gluten Free • Easy

butter to grease

125g (4oz) short-grain pudding rice

1.1 litres (2 pints) full-fat milk

50g (2oz) golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

freshly grated nutmeg to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven) mark 3. Lightly butter a 1.7 litre (3 pint) ovenproof dish. Add the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest, if using, and stir everything together. Grate the nutmeg over the top of the mixture.

2. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for 1½ hours or until the top is golden brown.

Cherry Yogurt Crush

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Preparation Time 10 minutes, plus chilling • Serves 4 • Per Serving 390 calories, 18g fat (of which 9g saturates), 45g carbohydrate, 0.5g salt • Vegetarian • Easy

400g can stoned cherries, drained, or 450g (1lb) fresh cherries, stoned

500g (1lb 2oz) Greek yogurt

150g (5oz) ratafia biscuits

4 tbsp cherry brandy (optional)

1. Spoon some cherries into the base of each of four 400ml (14fl oz) serving glasses. Top with a dollop of yogurt, some ratafia biscuits and a drizzle of cherry brandy, if you like. Continue layering up each glass until all the ingredients have been used.

2. Chill for 15 minutes–2 hours before serving.

Summer Pudding

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Preparation Time 10 minutes, plus overnight chilling • Cooking Time 10 minutes • Serves 8 • Per Serving 173 calories, 1g fat (of which trace saturates), 38g carbohydrate, 0.4g salt • Vegetarian • Dairy Free • Easy

800g (1¾lb) mixed summer berries, such as 250g (9oz) each redcurrants and blackcurrants and 300g (11oz) raspberries

125g (4oz) golden caster sugar

3 tbsp crème de cassis

9 thick slices of slightly stale white bread, crusts removed

crème fraîche or cream to serve (optional)

1. Put the redcurrants and blackcurrants in a pan. Add the sugar and cassis. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3–5 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Add the raspberries and cook for 2 minutes. Once the fruit is cooked, taste it – there should be a good balance between tart and sweet.

2. Meanwhile, line a 1 litre (1¾ pint) bowl with clingfilm. Put the base of the bowl on one piece of bread and cut around it. Put the circle of bread in the base of the bowl.

3. Line the inside of the bowl with more slices of bread, slightly overlapping to avoid any gaps. Spoon in the fruit, making sure the juice soaks into the bread. Keep back a few spoonfuls of juice in case the bread is unevenly soaked when you turn out the pudding.

4. Cut the remaining bread to fit the top of the pudding neatly, using a sharp knife to trim any excess bread from around the edges. Wrap in clingfilm, weigh down with a saucer and a tin can, and chill overnight.

5. To serve, unwrap the outer clingfilm, upturn the pudding on to a plate and remove the inner clingfilm. Drizzle over the reserved juice and serve with crème fraîche or cream, if you like.

Panettone Pudding

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Preparation Time 20 minutes, plus soaking • Cooking Time 35–45 minutes • Serves 6 • Per Serving 581 calories, 29g fat (of which 16g saturates), 73g carbohydrate, 0.9g salt • Vegetarian • Easy

50g (2oz) butter, at room temperature, plus extra to grease

500g (1lb 2oz) panettone (Cook’s Tip), cut into slices about 5mm (¼ in) thick

3 large eggs, beaten

150g (5oz) golden caster sugar

300ml (½ pint) full-fat milk

150ml (¼ pint) double cream

grated zest of 1 orange

1. Butter a 2 litre (3½ pint) ovenproof dish. Lightly butter the panettone slices, then tear them into pieces and arrange in the dish.

2. Mix the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl, then whisk in the milk, cream and orange zest. Pour the mixture over the buttered panettone and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven) mark 3.

3. Put the dish in a roasting tin and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 35–45 minutes until the pudding is just set in the middle and golden.

COOK’S TIP

Panettone is a yeasted fruit cake that is a traditional Christmas treat in Italy and is most widely available around Christmas time. If you can’t find it, use brioche or cinnamon and raisin bread.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Meringues

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Preparation Time 25 minutes, plus softening • Cooking Time 2 hours 10 minutes, plus cooling • Serves 6 • Per Serving 520 calories, 42g fat (of which 19g saturates), 32g carbohydrate, 0.1g salt • Easy

125g (4oz) hazelnuts

125g (4oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) plain chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

2 medium egg whites

300ml (½ pint) double cream

redcurrants, blackberries and chocolate shavings to decorate

Caramel-dipped Physalis (Cape gooseberries) to serve (Cook’s Tip), optional

1. Preheat the oven to 110°C (90°C fan oven) mark ¼ and preheat the grill. Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Spread the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and toast under the hot grill until golden brown, turning them frequently. Put the hazelnuts into a clean teatowel and rub off the skins, then put the nuts into a food processor with 3 tbsp of the sugar and process to a fine powder. Add the chocolate and pulse until roughly chopped.

2. Put the egg whites into a clean grease-free bowl and whisk until stiff. Whisk in the remaining sugar, a spoonful at a time, until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Fold in the nut mixture.

3. Spoon the mixture on to the prepared baking sheets, making small rough mounds about 9cm (3½in) in diameter. Bake for about 45 minutes until the meringues will just peel off the paper. Gently push in the base of each meringue to form a deep hollow, then put back into the oven for 1¼ hours or until crisp and dry. Leave to cool.

4. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, then spoon three-quarters on to the meringues. Leave in the fridge to soften for up to 2 hours.

5. Decorate the meringues with the remaining cream, the fruit and chocolate shavings. Serve immediately, with Caramel-dipped Physalis, if you like.

COOK’S TIP

Caramel-dipped Physalis

To make the caramel, dissolve 125g (4oz) caster sugar in a small heavy-based pan over a low heat. Bring to the boil and bubble until a golden caramel colour. Holding each physalis by the papery leaves, dip it into the caramel, then place on an oiled baking sheet and leave to cool.

GET AHEAD

Complete the recipe to the end of step 3, then store the meringues in an airtight container up to one week ahead. Complete steps 4 and 5 to finish the recipe.

Orange & Chocolate Cheesecake

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Preparation Time 45 minutes • Cooking Time about 2¼ hours, plus cooling • Serves 4 • Per Serving 767 calories, 60g fat (of which 37g saturates), 53g carbohydrate, 1.2g salt • A Little Effort

225g (8oz) chilled unsalted butter, plus extra to grease

250g (9oz) plain flour, sifted

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

3 tbsp cocoa powder

chocolate curls to decorate (Cook’s Tip)

FOR THE TOPPING

2 oranges

800g (1¾lb) cream cheese

250g (9oz) mascarpone

4 large eggs

225g (8oz) golden caster sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 vanilla pod

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4. Grease a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin and base-line with baking parchment.

2. Cut 175g (6oz) of the butter into cubes. Melt the remaining butter and put to one side. Put the flour and cubed butter into a food processor with the muscovado sugar and cocoa powder and whiz until the texture of fine breadcrumbs. (Alternatively, rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl by hand or using a pastry blender. Stir in the sugar and cocoa.) Pour in the melted butter and pulse, or stir with a fork, until the mixture comes together.

3. Spoon the crumb mixture into the prepared tin and press evenly on to the bottom, using the back of a metal spoon to level the surface. Bake for 35–40 minutes until lightly puffed; avoid over browning or the biscuit base will have a bitter flavour. Take out of the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C (130°C fan oven) mark 2.

4. Meanwhile, make the topping. Grate the zest from the oranges, then squeeze the juice – you will need 150ml (¼ pint). Put the cream cheese, mascarpone, eggs, sugar, cornflour, grated orange zest and vanilla extract into a large bowl. Using a hand-held electric whisk, beat the ingredients together thoroughly until combined.

5. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and, using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and add them to the cheese mixture. Beat in the orange juice and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth.

6. Pour the cheese mixture over the cooled biscuit base. Bake for about 1½ hours until pale golden on top, slightly risen and just set around the edge. The cheesecake should still be slightly wobbly in the middle; it will set as it cools. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake inside, with the door ajar, to cool for 1 hour. Remove and leave to cool completely (about 3 hours), then chill in the fridge.

7. Just before serving, unclip the tin and transfer the cheesecake to a plate. Scatter chocolate curls on top to decorate, if you like.

COOK’S TIP

Chocolate Curls

Melt some chocolate, then spread it out in a thin layer on a marble slab or clean worksurface. Leave to firm up. Using a sharp, flat-ended blade, scrape through the chocolate at a 45-degree angle.

Chocolate Bread Pudding

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Preparation Time 20 minutes, plus chilling • Cooking Time 55 minutes–1¼ hours • Serves 6 • Per Serving 390 calories, 17g fat (of which 6g saturates), 51g carbohydrate, 0.7g salt • Vegetarian • A Little Effort

200g (7oz) baguette

100g (3½oz) milk chocolate, roughly chopped

500g carton fresh custard

150ml (¼ pint) semi-skimmed milk

1 large egg, beaten

butter to grease

1 tbsp demerara sugar

50g (2oz) walnuts, finely chopped

50g (2oz) plain or milk chocolate, in chunks

single cream to serve (optional)

1. Roughly chop the baguette and put it into a large bowl. Put the chopped milk chocolate in a pan with the custard and milk over a low heat. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted. Beat in the egg.

2. Pour the chocolate mixture over the bread, stir well to coat, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4. Spoon the soaked bread into a buttered 1.4 litre (2½ pint), 7.5cm (3in) deep, ovenproof dish, then bake for 30–40 minutes.

4. Sprinkle with the sugar, walnuts and chocolate chunks. Put the dish back in the oven for 20–30 minutes until lightly set. Serve the pudding warm, with single cream, if you like.

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Instead of a baguette, use croissants or brioche for a richer pudding.

Cranberry Christmas Pudding

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Preparation Time 20 minutes, plus soaking • Cooking Time 8½ hours • Serves 12 • Per Serving 448 calories, 17g fat (of which 7g saturates), 68g carbohydrate, 0.3g salt • A Little Effort

200g (7oz) currants

200g (7oz) sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

75g (3oz) dried cranberries or cherries

grated zest and juice of 1 orange

50ml (2fl oz) rum

50ml (2fl oz) brandy

1–2 tsp Angostura bitters

1 small apple

1 carrot

175g (6oz) fresh breadcrumbs

100g (3½oz) plain flour, sifted

1 tsp mixed spice

175g (6oz) light vegetarian suet

100g (3½oz) dark muscovado sugar

50g (2oz) blanched almonds, roughly chopped

2 medium eggs

butter to grease

fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed if frozen), fresh bay leaves and icing sugar to decorate

Brandy Butter to serve (Cook’s Tip)

1. Put the dried fruit, orange zest and juice into a large bowl. Pour the rum, brandy and Angostura bitters over. Cover and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. Peel and grate the apple and carrot and add to the bowl of soaked fruit with the breadcrumbs, flour, mixed spice, suet, sugar, almonds and eggs. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together well. Grease a 1.8 litre (3¼ pint) pudding basin and line with a 60cm (24in) square piece of muslin. Spoon the mixture into the basin and flatten the surface. Gather the muslin up and over the top, twist and secure with string. Put the basin on an upturned heatproof saucer or trivet in the bottom of a large pan, then pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the basin. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the water to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 6 hours. Top up with more boiling water as necessary.

3. Remove the basin from the pan and leave to cool. When the pudding is cold, remove from the basin, then wrap it in clingfilm and a double layer of foil. Store in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

4. To reheat, steam for 2½ hours; check the water level every 40 minutes and top up with boiling water if necessary. Leave the pudding in the pan, covered, to keep warm until needed. Decorate with cranberries and bay leaves, dust with icing sugar and serve with Brandy Butter.

COOK’S TIP

Brandy Butter

Put 125g (4oz) unsalted butter into a bowl and beat until very soft. Gradually beat in 125g (4oz) sieved light muscovado sugar until very light and fluffy, then beat in 6 tbsp brandy, a spoonful at a time. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours.

Rich Fruit Cake

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Preparation Time 30 minutes • Cooking Time about 2½ hours, plus cooling • Serves 16 • Per Serving 384 calories, 11g fat (of which 6g saturates), 71g carbohydrate, 0.2g salt • Easy

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, cubed, plus extra to grease

1kg (2¼lb) mixed dried fruit

100g (3½oz) ready-to-eat dried prunes, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) ready-to-eat dried figs, roughly chopped

100g (3½oz) dried cranberries

2 balls preserved stem ginger in syrup, grated and syrup reserved

grated zest and juice of 1 orange

175ml (6fl oz) brandy

2 splashes Angostura bitters

175g (6oz) dark muscovado sugar

200g (7oz) self-raising flour

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground cloves

4 medium eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (130°C fan oven) mark 2. Grease a 20.5cm (8in) round deep cake tin and line the base and sides with greaseproof paper.

2. Put all the dried fruit into a very large pan and add the ginger, 1 tbsp reserved ginger syrup, the orange zest and juice, brandy and Angostura bitters. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and sugar and heat gently to melt. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

3. Add the flour, spices and beaten eggs and mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Wrap the outside of the tin in brown paper and secure with string to protect the cake during cooking. Bake for 2–2½ hours – cover with greaseproof paper after about 1½ hours – until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

4. Cool in the tin for 2–3 hours, then remove from the tin, leaving the greaseproof paper on, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Wrap the cake in a layer of clingfilm, then in foil.

GET AHEAD

Complete the recipe, then store in an airtight container for up to three months. If you like, after the cake has matured for two weeks, unwrap it and prick it all over with a metal skewer and sprinkle with 1 tbsp brandy. Leave to soak in, then rewrap and store as before.