Sugar-free, grain-free fruit cake

Sugar-free grain-free fruit cakeJoolz and I have been working on a sugar-free, grain-free fruit cake recipe for a while, to add to our repertoire on our refined sugar-free, grain-free diet.  This recipe, adapted from an extraordinarily delicious Mrs. Beeton cake, has eventually emerged as being the yummiest.  Yes, it is free of added sugar, but does have loads and loads of dried and fresh fruit, so by no means unsweet or entirely sugar-free.  It contains no grain.  We have fiddled around with a bit more of this and a little less of that, and this seems to work best for us.  This one looks a little darker than it was in reality.  It is a small cake and was demolished within two days.  We were holding back.  Please feel free to enjoy the recipe and improve.

Ingredients for one large cake or two small cakes:

  • 300g sultanas
  • 300g raisins
  • 70g currants
  • 115g chopped prunes
  • 115g chopped mixed nuts
  • 100g flaked almonds

Combine all the above in a big bowl, add a dessert spoon of almond flour and mix to coat each piece of fruit with flour.

  • 225g organic, unsalted butter
  • 4 large organic free range eggs
  • 1 whole orange, chopped and blitzed with a stick blender, including skin
  • 200ml double cream
  • 6 dessert spoons of good cognac

Set the butter to whizz in a food processor with metal blade.  This takes quite a while (longer than it would if you were adding sugar).  I let it whizz on quite a high speed whilst I prepare the flour and ground almonds below.

  • 120g almond flour
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

We have experimented with varying amounts of almond flour and ground almonds.  Too much flour and the cake becomes claggy.  Too much ground almonds and the cake falls apart.  This ratio seems to work best.  Mix these in a bowl together.

Prepare a large cake tin or two smaller ones (about 9″ each or 22cm ish).  I butter and line mine.

When the butter is creamed (it will look and feel like thick double cream), add the eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of the flour mixture after each addition.  Add the cream, the blitzed orange and the cognac in the same way, then add the rest of the flour mixture.  I let it all whizz on quite a high speed – this seems to bring about the best consistency.

Combine the wet ingredients with the coated fruit and mix well.  Tip into the cake tin(s) and bake in the oven at 160C.  One whole cake takes about two hours, two smaller ones take about one hour forty.  Test as usual with a knife or skewer.  If it comes out clean, the cake is done.  If there are uncooked bits left on the skewer… there are still uncooked bits in the cake.

Rose cognac in the jar

IMG_1590Here is Rose Cognac in the jar, rose petals happily giving up their scent and flavour to the cognac and honey mixture:  50g dehydrated rose petals from Baldwins.  They go a very long way.  150g organic honey, dissolved first in 100mL Courvoisier cognac, then topped up to 850mL Courvoisier.  Altogether 1L menstruum and 50g rose petals.  Combined in a large jar and stirred.  Smells divine.  After a few days I shall taste and add more honey if needed, until perfect.

Rose cognac

IMG_1588Just about to start making the internal preparation for the Pharmacy exam, now the rose petals have arrived.  It’s going to be Rose Cognac, an entirely delicious concoction of rose petals steeped in Courvoisier with added organic honey.  Leave for two weeks, shaking it lovingly every day, strain, label prettily (that’s going to be the hardest part!) and hand over for test consumption 🙂

I am making a large batch, of which only half will be sacrificed for examination purposes.  The other half will be put to celebratory / rehab use after the exams are over.  The proper written exams.  That would be June 10th.

Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

I’ve made variations on this many times before, always searching for the ideal cream, and this is my favourite to date.  It is light enough for a rich face cream, but nourishing and luxurious.  This version seems to be absorbed very quickly and leaves no residue on the skin.  When I rubbed it in (straight from the mixing jar!), it was all gone within a few seconds.  A tiny amount goes a very long way.  I shall use this daily.

This time I made it using a hand held stick blender rather than a coffee frother, which seems to be producing rather frothy creams… not entirely surprising.  The blender, on the other hand, works well, as long as I keep it on low, or low-to-medium as the cream thickens.  I could have added more rose absolute, but I don’t like my creams too fragrant. Adapt for any other fragrance, maybe lavender, frankincense or rosemary, instead of rose.  Here is the recipe:

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Dried raspberries

Dried raspberries

Dried raspberries

Joolz bought me a dehydrator for Christmas – an Excalibur – five drawers of pure dehydrating joy.  I can dry anything from herbs at 35 C to crisp breads at 68 C – or indeed fruit at 55 C.  A client brought me an enormous bunch of organic parsley which has dried to a brilliant emerald green with an almost pungent aroma.  A couple of days ago we dried raspberries – according to the manual they are ‘poor’ for dehydrating, but they are extremely tasty when dried, so it was worth experimenting.  I spread them out with plenty of room between each raspberry and dried them at 55 C for about 18 hours.  they have turned out beautifully preserved and crumbly crisp.  Fantastic in my morning porridge, and I shall be layering them into flapjacks.  And into chocolates.

Scottish raspberries are wonderful little beings, and in the summer we shall be picking and drying by the bushel.  They are easy to keep in Kilner jars.

Fruit leather also works beautifully – blitz any fruit, but add raspberries if you need some pizzazz.  Pour the thick liquid on to the silicone sheets on the dehydrating trays, making a layer about 2 – 3 mm thick, and dry until leathery or even crisping.  Totally yummy to eat as sweets, and no added sugar.  I like 80% plums, 20% raspberries.

Green Gathering survival report

I haven’t blogged since the summer?  Yup.  We made it.  The weather was largely good.  The tent didn’t leak.  The loos were almost acceptable.  The water pressure didn’t make it to the upper part of the site, so washing ended up being in a bowl under the stars.  It was almost romantic.  There was food.  There was wine.  There was fruit cake.  The array of colourful and fascinating skin disorders presented at the First Aid tent was instructive.  The teaching was superb.  I may volunteer for next year, but drink more wine.

Green Gathering

Joolz and I are off to the Green Gathering this weekend, for me to be a volunteer first aider (all herbal, of course) and for us both to have general good fun around issues that draw us and with which we may like to become more involved.  Note the cautious approach.  I am primarily cautious about turning hippy, however that may look in my warped imagination.  My cardigan is weeping “I am so completely NOT hippy, man, I have not one hippy gene in me”.  However, I tend to be interested in the self-same issues that hippies of yore involved themselves with.  And here they are represented at the Green Gathering.  Awkward.  To overcome embarrassing U-turns on me and hippiedom, I have used the excuse of being a herbal first-aider to smuggle myself in with Joolz, who would probably have quite liked to have been a hippy before going all “professional”, as she is now.

Green Gathering will be preceded by three days of first aid training for both of us, then induction day for me and then four days of Gathering.  It used to be called the Big Green Gathering, but has probably shrunk since Joolz last went.  All in all this entails 9 (nine), as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 days of camping.  That is also something for which I cannot locate one single gene expression.  However, Joolz is adept at making things very comfortable and we are taking Pilates mats and a duvet for me.  I can’t sleep with my legs trussed up in a sleeping bag.

I have baked one large fruit cake, and a very large tray of nutty flapjacks as essential emergency victuals.  There was talk amongst ‘friends’  about there only being vegan fare available, but I think they were trying to wind me up.  I also have 6 bottles of Bin 50 in their very own little wine carrier with plastic (just don’t say anything at all) glasses.  Joolz is talking about lentil soup, which, whilst I really like it, is taking on a hippy hue in the context.  When I was a student at Sussex University in the mid-late 70s, there was a vegetarian restaurant on campus called “Pulse”, which, I SWEAR actually did use sawdust as a major ingredient in their recipes.  There were no hippies at Sussex, we were all revolutionaries.  The restaurant closed.  I digress.  She is also talking about fried egg rolls, so I breathe again.

The cats have, as usual, cat sitters and cat worshippers, cat adorers and cat groomers, cat feeders and cat entertainers at their beck and call during our 9 (nine) days away.  I am going to be a cat in my next life.

Wound-healing ointment

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I’ve been thinking about an ointment that can be put on wounds, cuts, scrapes, grazes or ulcers.  Dedj’s Duck Poo contains arnica, so can’t go on open wounds.  It works amazingly on bruises, bashes, sprains, strains and the like, though.  Now, if I had an ointment or a cream that worked as well as that for open wounds, that would be a fine thing.

I tried two ideas, using the Duck Poo ratio of oil parts to aqueous parts, and making it slightly less hard, so using less beeswax.  Here you see the results.

I had made a deep decoction of Achillea millefolium, a wonderful vulnerary, which smells deep, dark and delicious.  This I used as the aqueous component for both, and I used organic Symphytum officinale, also an extremely effective wound-healer, in the form of infused oil in both, with organic beeswax.  The ratios are roughly 30 oil, 10 aqueous, 2 beeswax.  Then add whatever you think will give it a little extra something.

IMG_1524I had recently acquired some Shilajit capsules – Shilajit is supposed to be a wonder-healer, developed, I think, from some kind of resin. It’s difficult to get reliable information on it – the one leaflet I read (and bought!) was written by someone who made up spelling, syntax and grammar as she went along, so I didn’t even begin to trust her research.  Hey ho.  Anyone who knows more about this substance, please get in touch.  I cracked open 15 capsules, which on my scales did not add up to even 1g, and added that to 10g Achillea, and put them in a bain marie to heat.  29g of Symphytum oil were added to 2g of beeswax, and they were also heated to melt the beeswax.  The Shijalit expanded immediately in the deep decoction so the mixture became very stiff, and stuck to spoon and glass, hardening quickly.  It took some stirring when the oil and beeswax were added, to break up the consistency and scrape it off the walls of the glass.  When it felt as if the Shijalit had been suspended sufficiently not to ruin my coffee frother, I frothed until the mixture turned gleaming and fairly smooth.  Here is the result:  a wonderfully dark ointment with “bits” of Shijalit in it.  Shall try it out on an unsuspecting (grown-up) child (of mine) this evening.  He has a big scrape on his elbow from heroically avoiding a suicidal run-out in cricket.

IMG_1526The second batch was made with double the quantities of everything and 10g of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) powder instead of the Shijalit.  It looked about double the Shilajit  in bulk, and I am wondering whether my scales were having a sulk when I was weighing the Shilajit.  I usually put Myrrh powder on open wounds, so this may be a more efficient way of doing it.  This time the powder didn’t bulk up so much in the deep decoction, but the result is still grainy.  Frothing it was fairly easy as you can see here.  Again, I shall experiment this evening for results.

IMG_1529Here you can see the finished Commiphora molmol nestling gleamingly in its tin, and if you look carefully you can see flecky bits residing within.  Both these ointments will suit the “It looks so disgusting it must be doing me good” tribe, closely related to the “No pain, no gain” family.

Making creams

I’ve been making creams again – a very light Rose face cream with Jojoba oil and Safflower oil;  and a Rose body cream, slightly heavier with Rose Hip oil and Shea Butter, to go with it.  I use an established recipe, the same one every time, just changing the aqueous content occasionally although I do usually use a Rose infusion.  Lavender is also delightful.

What foxes me is that every single time I make a cream, it turns out differently.  They are all lovely, and all have roughly the same weight and absorbency as the previous time, but they are decidedly different.  This time the ‘heavier’ cream turned out more mousse-like and the face cream more like a lotion.  How the former could be more aerated than usual, and the latter less, I don’t know.  The kitchen is the same temperature, give or take a degree or two, and I have done exactly the same things as before, used exactly the same ingredients, same batches, same method, same timing.  Bizarre.  Good thing I am not selling them.  Maybe I’m not drinking enough wine to help the process along 😉