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Monthly Archives: December 2013
  • Posted on December 20, 2013

    Recipe for the Weekend

    As the excitement builds and we all look forward to the celebrations with our family and friends, we thought you might like to spend those precious spare moments over the weekend making some sweet treats! Perfect as after-dinner tasties or gifts for loved ones, the recipes we have this week are from the gorgeous book, French Fancies.

    As a festive treat we have chosen two recipes so there will be something to tickle everyone’s fancy this weekend. Firstly, we have a recipe for simple Meringue Snowflakes to get you into the festive spirit. Then there is a recipe for Brownie Pops, which can be decorated with a Christmas theme or enjoyed as New Year treats!

    Meringue Snowflakes

    These pretty snowflakes are simply made from a basic meringue, but add a festive touch to any holiday celebration. Dress them up with a sprinkling of edible silver glitter or silver balls.

    150 g/3 ⁄ 4 cup caster/superfine sugar

    75 g/2 1 ⁄ 2 oz. egg whites (about 2 medium egg whites)

    edible silver glitter

    edible silver balls

    a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle/tip

    2 heavy baking sheets, lined with baking parchment

    makes 12 

    Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF) Gas 6.

    Tip the sugar into a small roasting pan and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 5 minutes or until hot to the touch. When the sugar is ready, turn the oven temperature down to 110ºC (225ºF) Gas 1 ⁄ 4.

    Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer until frothy. With the motor running on low speed, tip the hot sugar onto the egg whites in one go. Turn the speed up to medium–high and whisk for about 8 minutes or until the meringue is very stiff, white and cold.

    Spoon the meringue mixture into the prepared piping bag. Pipe little blobs of meringue onto the prepared baking sheets in the shape of snowflakes. Scatter silver glitter or silver balls over the top.

    Bake the meringues in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until crisp and dry. Turn off the oven, leave the door closed and let the snowflakes cool down completely inside the oven.

    Brownie Pops 

    Fun brownie pops are wonderful for children’s parties. These are decorated with festive sprinkles, but you can let your imagination run wild and make the most of the huge assortment of sprinkles available.

    100 g/1 cup shelled walnuts or pecans (optional)

    200 g/7 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate, chopped

    175 g/1 1 ⁄ 2 sticks butter, cubed

    250 g/11 ⁄ 4 cups caster/granulated sugar

    4 eggs

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    125 g/1 cup plain/all-purpose flour

    2 tablespoons cocoa powder

    a pinch of salt

    75 g/1 ⁄ 2 cup milk chocolate chips

    3–4 tablespoons apricot or raspberry jam/jelly

    for the milk chocolate frosting

    125 g/4 oz. dark/bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (a cocoa percentage of around 54–68% is best)

    125 g/4 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped

    175 ml/2 ⁄ 3 cup double/heavy cream

    1 tablespoon maple syrup or golden syrup/light corn syrup

    125 g/1 stick butter, softened and cubed

    to decorate

    assorted sugar sprinkles, stars and other edible festive decorations

    a baking pan (20 x 30 cm/ 8 x 12 inches), greased and lined with greased baking parchment

    a 5-cm/2-inch round cookie cutter

    24 wooden lollipop/popsicle sticks

    makes 24

    It is easiest to stamp out brownie shapes if the base is prepared and baked the day before you plan to decorate your brownies.

    Preheat the oven to 170ºC (325ºF) Gas 3.

    If you’re adding nuts to the brownies, tip them onto a baking sheet and lightly toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Roughly chop the nuts, then leave them to cool. Leave the oven on to bake the brownies.

    Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until both are melted and the mixture is smooth. Leave to cool slightly.

    In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract with a balloon whisk until pale and thick. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir until combined. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the bowl and fold in until well incorporated, then stir in the chocolate chips and toasted nuts (if using). Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, spread level and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove the brownies from the oven and leave to cool completely in the pan.

    Remove the cold brownie from the pan. Using the cookie cutter, stamp out 24 rounds from the brownies and arrange on a board or tray.

    Warm the jam in a small saucepan, sieve/strain it, then brush it all over the brownie rounds. Leave on a wire rack for 5–10 minutes to set.

    To prepare the milk chocolate frosting, tip the chocolates into a small, heatproof bowl. Heat the cream and syrup in a small saucepan until only just boiling. Pour it over the chopped chocolates, add the butter and leave to melt. Stir until smooth, then leave to thicken slightly.

    Using a palette knife, spread the frosting evenly all over the brownie rounds, then push a lollipop/popsicle stick into each pop. Lay them on a sheet of baking parchment and leave until the frosting is starting to set. Decorate with an assortment of sprinkles and festive decorations by making patterns on the faces of the pops and by scattering sprinkles generously over the edges.

    French Fancies is available here.

    Have a lovely weekend everyone and a fabulous Christmas!

    For more sweet treats and delights in our current and forthcoming books, check these out :-





    This post was posted in News, UK, What's new and was tagged with New Year, christmas, 2013, chocolate, recipe for the weekend

  • Posted on December 18, 2013

    A couple of winter warmers!

    As we enter the most chilly period of the year, it's definitely time for a few winter warmers.

    Here's Beshlie Grimes, author of Making Wines, Liqueurs and Cordials, to show you how to make ginger wine and spiced plum liqueur!


    Ginger wine

    This is a lovely wine. Save it for a winter’s evening when you’re curled up in front of a fire.  Drink it by itself, with just some good company.



    Preparation: 30 minutes; Cooking: 1 1/2 hours; Makes about 1 gallon (4.5 litres)



    11 ounces (310g) ginger root

    3 unwaxed lemons, juice and zest

    1 orange, juice and zest

    1/4 cup (30g) cloves

    4 quarts (4.5 liters) water

    31/2 cups (700g) brown crystal

    (demerara) sugar

    31/2 cups (700g) loosely packed dark

    brown sugar

    1 teaspoon yeast nutrient

    1 teaspoon wine yeast


    1. Crush the ginger roughly using a pestle and mortar. Place it in a muslin bag (*1) , along with the lemon and orange zest and the cloves.

    2. Put the water in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and drop in the muslin bag. Leave it to simmer for 1 hour, then remove the bag.

    3. Put all of the sugar in a sterilized fermenting bucket (*2b), placed in a warm location. Pour in the liquid and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the citrus juice and the yeast nutrient.

    4. Allow the liquid to cool down to 70.F (21.C), then add the yeast. Cover tightly with the lid and leave for 4 days.

    5. Stir the mixture, pour it into a sterilized demijohn, and fit an air lock (*4). Leave the wine to ferment until it clears.

    6. Siphon the wine (*5) into a fresh sterilized demijohn and fit an air lock.

    7. When the wine has completely cleared and has thrown a second deposit, fermentation has stopped.

    8. Siphon the wine into sterilized bottles (*2c), cork (*3), and store in a cool, dark place for 6 months before drinking.



    Spiced plum liqueur

    The lovely rich color and perfume of this exquisite, flavorsome liqueur help to make it a drink for special occasions, such as after Christmas dinner. Plums are available year round in supermarkets, but for best results use plums picked from your own garden or a local orchard.


    Preparation: 10 minutes; Cooking: not required; Makes about 3 cups (750ml)



    10 ripe plums

    31/8 cups (750ml) vodka

    zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

    1 star anise

    11/3 cups (300g) superfine (caster) sugar


    1. Halve the plums and remove the pits (there is no need to peel them). Put them in a sterilized preserving jar (*2). Pour the vodka over it. Add the lemon zest and star anise and seal the jar.

    2. Store it in a cool, dark place for 3 months.

    3. Strain the liquid through a piece of fine muslin or cheesecloth (*1). Pour the liquid back into the jar and then add the sugar.

    4. Store the jar for another 2 months, shaking it once a week to help dissolve the sugar.

    5. Pour the liquid into sterilized bottles.



    1 Muslin

    A large square of fine, soft muslin (or other loosely woven fabric, such as cheesecloth) is great for straining, as it can be folded for a fine strain or just left as a single thickness piece for a quick strain. Buy a generous amount of fabric; it should be relatively cheap, so that you can discard it after use without a qualm. You can use this by itself, tied up around the edges and suspended over a bowl, or use it to line a sieve.

    2 Sterilizing

    The job of sterilizing your equipment is the most important one when making wines, syrups, lemonades, and liqueurs, and I cannot place enough importance on this part of the process. Fortunately, there are some fantastic products on the market that are ideal for this job.

    (a) Sterilizing a demijohn

    If a demijohn is especially dirty, start by placing a capful of bleach straight into the jug and then fill it to the very top with hot water. Leave it overnight, tip away the water and bleach solution, and then rinse the demijohn thoroughly; wear old clothes as it may splash a little. Next, use special sterilizing powder, following the manufacturer’s instructions: pour the powder into the demijohn and fill it to the top with water. Leave the solution in the jug for the required time (normally 15 minutes). Finally, empty the demijohn and rinse with fresh water. It will now be ready to use. If the demijohn is not very dirty, you can omit the overnight bleaching stage.

    (b) Sterilizing a fermenting bucket

    Proceed as for sterilizing a demijohn. Other equipment to be sterilized, such as bottles and jars, can be submerged in the bucket with the solution and left for the required time (again, 15 minutes is usually sufficient). Rinse with fresh water.

    (c) Sterilizing bottles for other drinks

    The sterilizing powder used in wine making can also be used for bottles you are using for syrups, lemonades, and liqueurs. Just mix the solution with water in a large bucket, using the proportions specified by the manufacturer. Use a pitcher (jug) and funnel to fill each bottle completely to the top. Pour away the solution after the required time and rinse as usual. Alternatively, if using preserving jars, you can sterilize these in the oven, shortly before you need them. Wash them in hot, soapy water, then rinse in clean hot water and leave on a dish towel to air-dry. Lay the jars on their sides on the top shelf of the oven. Heat the oven to 225.F (110.C, gas mark 1⁄4) for 20–30 minutes.

    3 Storing wines – including corking

    Once your wine stabilizes (that is, once fermentation has stopped) and it has cleared, it can then be bottled up. However, if you prefer, you can leave it in the demijohn/fermentation jug: just replace the air lock with a rubber bung and store the jug in a cool, dark place. If you do decide to bottle up the entire contents of the jug, siphon the wine into sterilized bottles. The bottles must be filled up to a third of the neck of the bottle, so that about 3/4 inch (2cm) of air space will be left below the cork. Make sure to use new corks, and insert them fully, so that they are level with the top of the bottle. Special plastic corks with a lip will facilitate this. Store the bottles on their sides in a cool, dark place.

    4 Fitting an air lock

    When commencing the second stage of fermentation (after the liquid has been strained off the must and placed in the demijohn, or fermentation jug), you will need to fit an air lock. Also known as a fermentation trap or fermentation lock, this is a small plastic device that fits into the center of a large cork, or bung, that fits into the neck of the fermentation jug. The two chambers of the air lock are filled halfway with water; this allows the carbon dioxide to be released while not exposing the wine to any air. The air lock also keeps out the dreaded vinegar fly (commonly called a fruit fly), which, as its name suggests, would turn your wine to vinegar!

    5 Racking/Siphoning

    To rack a wine is to siphon it off the lees of the yeast and all the solids that have sunk to the bottom of the demijohn, or fermenting jug, and into another fermenting jug. During the first fermentation in the jug, the wine will look milky and quite unappealing. As the yeast and other solids begin to sink to the bottom of the jug, forming a thick layer there, the wine will start to clear from the top down. Once this has happened, rack the wine into a clean jug. To rack your wine, you will need to have the jug containing the wine placed higher than the clean, empty jar. Then use the siphoning kit, which will consist of a length of clear hose and a piece of piping. Place the pipe end into the wine halfway into the demijohn and put the end of the hose into your mouth; suck until the wine flows and you get a mouthful of wine (normally a pleasant indication of how the wine will eventually taste); then direct the hose into the neck of the empty jug and fill. As the wine drains out you will have to lower the pipe in the original jug, but you must be careful not to agitate the lees at the bottom. Once all of the liquid has drained out, refit the air lock onto the newly filled jug to proceed with the next fermentation. Note that you may find that fruits, such as plums, that have had boiling water poured on them will be slower to clear.

    Making Wines, Liqueurs and Cordials by Beshlie Grimes is published by CICO Books and is available from all good bookstores and online outlets.

    Talking of winter and the urge to hibernate, instinctively we find ourselves yearning for certain comfort foods like these and home comforts like making bread - how about you?

    This post was posted in Featured, News, News, UK, US and was tagged with 2013, winter warmer, lemon, sugar, ginger, wine, zest

  • Posted on December 10, 2013

    Win Stocking Filler Hampers from Dog 'n' Bone Books!

    With Christmas fast approaching, we wanted to help you out with those last minute stocking filler ideas by offering you the chance to win one of three fantastic prizes from Dog 'n' Bone Books! We will have a winner a day from Monday to Wednesday next week (16th - 18th December), each winning a collection of great books from Dog 'n' Bone!


    Monday's winner will receive Brown BoozeSo You Think Your A Hipster? and Doodle London


    Tuesday's winner will receive 101 SandwichesA Pug's Guide to Dating and Brown Booze


    Wednesday's winner will receive Brown Booze101 Sandwiches, and Craft Beer World

    To enter simply follow us on twitter @DognBoneBooks and re-tweet any #StockingFiller tweet before midday on Wednesday 19th December.

    All of these books will make the perfect stocking fillers to put a big grin on their face Christmas morning, so good luck!

    This post was posted in Competitions, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with christmas, 2013, hipster, brown booze

  • Posted on December 6, 2013

    Recipe for the Weekend!

    It's that time of year again, when we start to think about rolling up our sleeves and cooking up a festive storm in the kitchen.  Usually top of the list is the turkey!  For this recipe we have taken inspiration from non other than Jane Austen herself.  So, create a feast fit enough for a literary great and tuck in!


    Dinner with Mr Darcy by Pen Vogler

    Turkey was enjoyed all year round, as well as at Christmas — but only by the wealthy. As Mary Crawford says; “A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure all the myrtle and turkey part of it.” This is an excellent way of keeping a turkey moist during cooking.

    Serves 6–8

    One turkey, 9 lb/4kg (this will also work for chicken)

    6–8 rashers streaky bacon (in squares, plus a larding needle; or strips)

    1 tsp spices (such as mustard powder, ground

    nutmeg, cayenne pepper or ground allspice)

    Parsley, finely chopped

    For the braise

    White pepper

    4 small onions, roughly chopped

    6 carrots, roughly chopped

    1 turnip, roughly chopped

    Head of celery, washed and roughly chopped

    Bouquet garni or any of bay leaves, thyme,

    marjoram, parsley

    1 quart/litre light stock (chicken or


    1/2 lb/225g chestnuts

    Turkey giblets (optional)

    For the salpicon

    A salpicon is simply a mix of ingredients

    chopped small, sometimes bound with a


    1 veal sweetbread (or liver), chopped small

    (See sweetbread recipe on page 00 for

    instructions for preparing sweetbreads)

    3 mushrooms, diced

    2 slices ham, cut small

    2 gherkins, diced

    A little gravy

    Small glass of white wine

    Beurre manie (butter and flour, blended in

    equal quantities)

    Sea salt and white pepper

    A little chopped parsley

    Squeeze of lemon juice

    1 Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C/Gas Mark 3.

    2 Try to get hold of a larding needle which will allow you to “sew” the bacon onto the turkey.

    If not, use strips of bacon draped over the breast. Season your bacon squares with pepper, any of the spices you fancy, and parsley.

    3 Put the turkey in a big pot or heavy-based roasting pan, surrounded by the vegetables, herbs, chestnuts, and giblets, if using, and cover the vegetables with light stock. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes per lb/450g, basting it now and again. It is ready when the juices run clear when you insert a metal skewer into the meat.

    4 Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes while you finish off the gravy.

    5 Take the chestnuts out of the braise, and serve them around the turkey; sieve the liquid, pushing some of the vegetables through the sieve to help thicken it, then reduce it in a saucepan over high heat.

    6 For the salpicon, sauté the sweetbread or liver and the mushrooms in a little butter or oil, add the ham, gherkins, a little gravy (or stock taken from the turkey as it cooks), and the white wine. Let it simmer for 5–10 minutes, and if necessary, thicken with the beurre manie and cook for a few minutes longer. Check for seasoning and add the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

    7 To serve: William Verral pours his salpicon over the turkey, but I imagine it would get rather lost, so suggest serving it up separately. Take the turkey out of the braising liquid and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. Use the braising liquid to make a gravy.

     Dinner with Mr Darcy is published by CICO Books and is available here.

    For committed carnivores, our new meat recipes cookbook may be the one for you!


    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with christmas

  • Posted on December 5, 2013

    Robert O'Byrne on scent and the art of selecting a fragrance

    As we enter the party season, every man needs to ensure he's smelling good! Here's Robert O'Byrne, author of The Perfectly Groomed Gentleman, on scent and the art of selecting a fragrance....

    It’s fascinating to see the various reasons advanced as to why humans wear perfume and have done so for thousands of years. Explanations fall into three broad categories, the first and most obvious being that scents hide other, less pleasant smells. There can be no doubt this was once a powerful argument in their favor but it holds less sway in our own age.

    It is proposed that far from masking our natural scent, perfumes heighten or fortify them as a way of sending out signals of attractiveness to other people. According to this theory, perfume acts as a magnet, although anyone who has ever stood next to somebody drenched in an unpleasantly powerful fragrance (there were a lot of them manufactured in the 1980s) will argue otherwise. It has also been suggested some perfumes contain chemicals that imitate human pheromones, a secreted or excreted chemical known to trigger a response in other humans and, in this instance, to encourage sexual attention.

    Whether this is true, or whether it is a hypothesis propounded by the perfume industry to encourage greater sales—as is evident in many advertising campaigns—remains open to question, not least because too little is known about the human reaction to pheromones.

    Deciding what scent suits you best is a matter of trial and error. Of course, it’s not obligatory: if you don’t want to wear any fragrance at all, that’s your prerogative. Some men think of themselves as incomplete without a fragrance, whereas plenty of others have never used one. But, having made the decision to wear some kind of scent, you should proceed the easiest way, which is to choose first which group you like best, be it chypre, citrus, or whatever. Then look at what’s on offer within this field. Even so, there is such a bewildering variety of options available, it is not difficult to become overwhelmed. So another simplification is to stick with classics and let the sound, good taste of many other men help you: go for scents that have proven their appeal over previous decades. Manufacturers bring out new products every season, but few of them will stand the test of time. In fact, one of the hazards of selecting a new fragrance is precisely that it may be discontinued next year. A scent with a long history of success is more likely to remain in production and still be for sale long into the future.

     As already advised, when you try a scent do bear in mind that it will smell different an hour or two after settling on the skin. So don’t buy something just because you like how it smells immediately. Apply the fragrance on clean skin, ideally straight after bathing or showering, and then let it settle. If you’re still happy with the smell later in the day, then most likely this is the right fragrance.

    There are certain key places where you should apply product, namely on the wrists, behind the ears, and on the neck; the skin is thin at these points and the fragrance will be more quickly absorbed. Don’t overdo it: scent should complement your natural body aroma, not overwhelm it and every other smell within a range of several miles. Take into account that some people possess a more acute sense of smell than others, and some are even allergic to modern scents, owing to the use of chemicals in their production. Be moderate in the application of any scent so that its presence is subtly apparent.

    Finally, learn the value of loyalty, and make one scent distinctively your own. All of us possess a Proustian memory for smells, whether it is the aroma of particular meals we associate with childhood or the scent of someone we once loved. Wear the same fragrance for long enough and you will come to possess it in the minds of those who know you: every time they smell that scent, it will bring you to mind. This is the specific power of perfume, and it can be yours, too.

    This is an extract from Robert O'Byrne's The Perfectly Groomed Gentleman, published by CICO Books. The book is out now and is available from all good bookstores and online outlets.


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US and was tagged with New Year, christmas, 2013

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