Christmas cakePimm’s No.1 is the soaking liquor of choice for dried fruit then the Penguin Cookery Book’s 1952 version of Christmas cake has to be the recipe of choice. It’s quick, easy and you don’t need an O-level in home economics to get a really good result. To make a 7-inch cake you’ll need:

7-inch cake tin lined with greaseproof paper (place the tin on the paper and draw around it to get the right size for the lining on the inside)

cake ingredients6 oz of softened butter (just leave it out of the fridge overnight)

6 oz brown sugar (it doesn’t have to be expensive caster sugar, granulated will do)

3 eggs

½ lb of plain flour (use white flour for a traditional result and wholemeal for a darker, richer cake)

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp of salt (this really helps bring out the flavours so don’t leave it out)

1 ¼ tsp ground mixed spice (or a mix of ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground cloves)

1 ¼ lb mixed dried fruit (soaked overnight in the soaking liquor of choice)

Soaking liquor of choice (Pimm’s, beer, sherry or whisky)


Put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour on your soaking liquor – no need to measure just keep on adding until the liquor gets to the top of the fruit. Cover tightly with clingfilm to stop all the alcohol evaporating away and leave overnight - or even for a couple of days, after all it’s not going to go off is it with all that added alcohol.

Then when you’re ready to finish the cake, first line your cake tin with greaseproof paper (even so-called non-stick pans need lining) and turn your oven on to Gas Mark 1 (140C or 275F).

Then get another large bowl and add your softened butter and sugar. Give it a quick mix with a wooden spoon – there’s no need to go the whole hog and bash it until it’s properly creamed.

Then crack in your eggs and add the rest of the dried ingredients.

dried fruit in bowlStrain the dried fruit from any remaining soaking liquor (but save this to slurp or add to the cake mix if it’s a bit stiff) and plonk this into the large bowl.

Give it all a stir until the dried fruit is evenly spread.

You want quite a stiff cake mix at this point – the wooden spoon should stand up unaided in the mix. If the mix is so stiff that you’re finding it hard to get the spoon in and stir then add a swish of saved soaking liquor. But if the cake mix is too sloppy then add a tablespoon or so of flour and stir.

Then heave it all into the lined cake tin and put it in the oven for 3 hours.

You’ll know when the cake is done because the now solidified cake mix will have detached itself from the edge of the tin and shrunk inwards a bit.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.

Remove from the tin and eat it now or add marzipan and icing for the traditional touch.

plumsLess wine and more vinegar has been sampled this week as I’ve been sipping samples of hot home-made chutney straight from the boiling pan. After picking several tonnes, (well it seemed like it) of wild damsons and, its near neighbour, wild bullace from the Shropshire hedgerows I needed to find a recipe that would do justice to their flavours. After perusing many recipe books and websites, while finishing off the dregs of a bottle of South African red opened the night before, I finally came across just the recipe I was looking for.

PG next to White Shield lorryTime is almost up for Worthington’s famous White Shield bottled beer as it’s becoming increasing hard to find beer sellers who still have some in stock. There was a time when almost every pub in the land stocked White Shield bottle-conditioned India Pale Ale made at the Worthington Brewery (now owned by Coors) in Burton upon Trent.

chocolate cakeLet’s drink to flavanoids, and eat to them too. Flavonoids are found in many food and drinks but there are particularly high levels in grapes; apples; green and black tea, soybeans and cocoa. Classed as antioxidants, flavonoids have many health benefits including reducing blood cholesterol levels and easing menopausal symptoms. They can also enhance the memory’s ability to remember and think clearly.