Walnut and Coffee Birthday Cake

We had an amazing day yesterday celebrating Brooks’ birthday.

We ventured to a new restaurant at The Grove, Hertfordshire on the Saturday (a review to follow) and on the Sunday was spent in our local park.

All in all – a lovely birthday weekend.

We’re so lucky to live in the beautiful countryside with so many parks and lakes nearby. We used to live in London for years, but once we had Jackson we decided to move further out.

It’s honestly been the best decision for us as a family. (Albeit I miss London terribly of course! Luckily it’s only a 20 minute train ride away!)

Anyway. Cake.

I tried a new cake recipe! Brooks’ favourite cake is Coffee and Walnut cake so that’s what I made. The result was super tasty and I’ve shared the recipe here:

Ingredients:

• 225g butter

• 225g caster sugar

• 4 eggs

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

• 225g self-raising flour

• about 75g walnuts

For the buttercream topping

• 125g unsalted butter (room temperature)

• 200g icing sugar

• 50ml strong espresso coffee

Decorations:

Walnut halves and any chocolate bars you like. I used Wispas, Mini Fudges, Minstrels, Ballerina cookies (Swedish cookies – similar to a Chocolate Jammy Dodger), Mini Reese’s Cups, KitKat.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.

3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.

4. Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.

5. Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.

6. Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 20cm/8in cake tins.

7. Transfer to the oven to bake 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown.

8. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

9. For the buttercream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together in a small bowl until pale and light.

10. Add the espresso and mix well.

11. Spread the buttercream over the top of each cake, then place one cake on top of the other.

12. Decorate the top of the cake with walnut halves as well as all the favourite chocolate bars!

Last Day of Christmas

Happy New Year!

I took some time off writing to focus on our family. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays.

Growing up, on the last day of Christmas, we’d always go to the “Julgransplundring” – or Christmastree plunder – generally organised by our local church.

We’d dance around the tree, sing songs and eventually take the tree and all the decorations down, eat Christmas food, drink and be merry.

Any edible decoration found on the Christmas tree was game, and often there was loads hidden in the Christmas crackers.

(In Sweden we place our homemade crackers in between the tree branches. We normally fill them with sweets and small gifts.)

At home we’d also have a final Christmas feast; using up any frozen leftovers and some extra bits.

We’d smash the Gingerbread house and have that for dessert along with whatever mum had baked such as cinnamon buns and saffron buns.

What I love the most about the tradition is that it makes something that it’s rather tedious, like taking the tree and all the Christmas decorations down, fun and exciting for all the family. In fact, I’m pretty sure why we do this.

We somehow keep some of the Christmas magic going AND get help from the kids. Win win.

We had a lovely day yesterday. Maggie and I baked cinnamon buns and saffron buns and I prepared a Christmas feast comprising a chicken roast with all the trimmings as well as Jansson’s frestelse, beetroot salad, prinskorv and herring.

We have one more day off before school so we’re off down to the lakes for a quick stroll with our friends.

2019 is going to be a great year.

Edible Christmas Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas film don’t they?

But what I really look forward to is the Christmas cooking programmes. I’ve watched them all; Delia, Nigella, Jamie and Gordon – and I love them all. This year I’ve been watching Mary Berry’s Christmas Party; it’s brilliant.

And who knew there was so many ways to prepare roast potatoes?!

Anyway. Something that Nigella said in one of her Christmas specials (whilst preparing six individual poussins. As you do.), was about having people over at Christmas. She was reminiscing about her mother getting hysterical about mass catering.

“I don’t want to make myself miserable trying to keep everyone else happy. Food has to be really great to eat. But above easy on me.”

I’m with you there Nigella. We’re having people over at Christmas and I want to make tasty, yet easy to make food.

I saw an edible Christmas Tree recipe online recently and had to try it. (Honestly, any recipe with the words puff pastry, chocolate and cinnamon in it and I’m all over it).

This. Is. A. Winner.

I don’t know if I can call it a recipe, I mean it’s so easy to make! Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Here’s the recipe:

You’ll need:

2 x sheets of puff pastry

Chocolate spread

Cinnamon

Caster Sugar

100g good quality dark chocolate

1 beaten egg (for the eggwash)

Sharp knife of pizza slicer

1. Put your puff pastry on an oven tray and using your sharp knife of pizza slice cut out a Christmas Tree.

2. Lift off one of the sheets of puff pastry and put it to one side.

3. Take your chocolate spread and dollop the spread over the sheet on the oven tray. Spread it out evenly.

4. Lay the other sheet over the other and brush with egg-wash.

5. Sprinkle a good amount (about a tablespoon) of the cinnamon sugar on top.

6. Pop it into your oven for about 18 minutes.

7. Once your Christmas tree is in the oven take out your chopped chocolate. You can either heat in the microwave or over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Just make sure you don’t burn the chocolate.

8. Once out and cooled a little bit sprinkle some icing sugar on top.

9. Serve straight away

Enjoy.❤️

Love, Jess

Jessica’s Black Forest Gateaux Trifle

“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.

Men se, då nalkas Lucia.

Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.

Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.

Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”

Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.

The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.

Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)

Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.

And it gets me every time.

The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.

And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.

And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.

(Have a look and listen here)

This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.

My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:

From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)

“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”

We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.

Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.

Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.

Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle

Ingredients

Good quality custard

100g good quality chocolate

400 g brownie bites

50g Black cherry jam

About 100g Cherry brandy

300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)

100g amaretti biscuits

400ml double cream

Decorations:

100g Toasted flaked almonds

Chocolate curls

Cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.

2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.

3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam

4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.

5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.

6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.

7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.

8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.

10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.

11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Sticky Toffee Pudding + Chocolate Fudge Cake (or Kladdkaka)

As you know, I like my coffee.

Sweden is in the top 10 coffee consumers in the world. We like coffee in Sweden.

I mean, we reaaaaaally like coffee.

On a work trip to Stockholm a few years back my English colleague Clara didn’t slept at all that week due to the copious coffee consumptions.

But we not only drink coffee. You also eat buns, biscuits, patisseries, and cookies alongside it.

And you chat. You hang out in your favourite cafe for hours.

This is called FIKA and is part of the Swedish DNA.

More than often than not you’ll find Kladdkaka (Sticky Chocolate Cake) on the fika menu. It’s a firm favourite amongst Swedes and it’s easy to see why.

I added some Swenglish flavour and added dates to the recipe. The result was beautiful! Similar to a Sticky Toffee Pudding, but in Fudgy Chocolate Cake form. YUM.

Here is the recipe:

• 60g plain flour

• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

• 1 pinch salt

• 2 eggs

• 275g caster sugar

• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

• 110g butter, melted

• 3 medium sized dates, cut into fine chunks

1. Turn the oven on 175°.

2. Melt the butter in a pan. Remove from the heat once melted.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; and set aside.

4. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla into the pan with the butter.

5. Now stir in your dry ingredients. Mix well.

6. Finally add your chopped dates. Stir the mixture.

7. Pour the batter into a well greased pan and put into the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes.

8. The cake will end up quite flat, with a hard surface and gooey centre. (Yay)

9. Let the cake cool on a metal rack.

10. Serve with some whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream

My dad is a Fisherman, so fish was always been part of our weekly diet.

Growing up, I didn’t really appreciate the freshly caught fish on our dinner table. I didn’t realise how fortunate I was. But I do now. I crave it.

I don’t like to mess around with the fish though. It’s truly beautiful gently oven roasted with a few accompanying ingredients.

My husband had to have a major operation this week and nothing says “I love you” as a home cooked meal.

* So the night before my husband’s big operation I made him some beautiful oven cooked Lemon and Tomato Stuffed Sea Bream.

Here’s the recipe:

2 whole sea-breams (cleaned and gutted)

5 large potatoes (for the mash)

50 ml whole milk (for the mash)

2 garlic cloves

6 small tomatoes on the vine

1 tbsp olive oil

2 lemons

Couple of sprigs of thyme

Good quality butter (for mash and the fish)

1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 2. Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and, put in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and add salt, cook for 20 minutes or so. (Depends on the type of potato you’re using).

Once cooked, drain and start mashing. Add a little bit butter and milk for taste and texture.

3. Rinse the fish properly. Now slash the fish through the flesh down to the bone.

4. Season and rub with the olive oil.

5. Slice the lemon into medium slices. (In term of the thickness, think a pound coin.).

6. Add the lemon slices to the cavities of the fish.

7. Now add your washed tomatoes to the belly cavity and a sprig of thyme.

8. Chuck in some pieces of butter on top of your fish fillets.

9. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes.

10. Baste the fish occasionally during the cook.

11. Serve with your mashed potato and vegetables.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess

* Yes. I know. If you know us well you’ll know fish isn’t Brooks’ favourite protein. But fish will keep you strong and felt appropriate somehow. ❤️

Easy Peasy S’mores

“First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.”

Sums me up pretty accurately.

It can’t be any kind of coffee though. I’m quite particular. It has to be strong, with a healthy helping of frothy milk in a nice mug or cup. Yes, slightly OCD perhaps but there we are. I am a mum of three, I don’t have lots of luxuries left in this world.

But I also really like to experiment with coffee beans. I like to mix in some hazelnut coffee with my normal coffee beans. In time for Halloween and thanksgiving it’s Pumpkin spice.

Not the syrup mind you – it has to be the actual bean. I find the syrup too sickly for my liking.

My absolute favourite is an Amaretto Flavoured coffee from the Little Coffee Box Co. Just like dunking a gorgeous biscotti in your coffee!

Recently I discovered S’mores Coffee and it’s amazing. It tastes just like you’d expect it to. I can imagine sitting by the campfire with a cup of coffee slowing devouring some scrummy S’mores at the same time.

Speaking of S’mores. I found a really easy peasy recipe online I’d like to share with you.

Most S’mores recipes call out for Graham crackers. Unfortunately we don’t have them in England and so I was thrilled when I discovered this recipe which uses McVities Milk Chocolate Biscuits.

This recipe is so simple. Honestly, It’ll only take a few minutes to prep, cook and eat.

You’ll need:

⁃ Milk Chocolate Digestives

⁃ Marshmallows

⁃ Skewers or thin sticks

• Place the biscuit on a plate, chocolate-side up. This will be the base of your S’more.

• Set the top biscuit close by.

• Prep your bamboo sticks by soaking them in water

• Thread your marshmallows on the bamboo skewer

• Toast your marshmallows over an open flame until they’re hot and soft in the middle. If they catch on fire, just blow them out and continue toasting until browned. They’ll be even nicer!!

• Slide the toasted marshmallows onto the biscuit (chocolate side) and sandwich the top cookie on top.

• Press down slightly until the marshmallow oozes out the sides a little… Heaven.

Enjoy ❤️

Love, Jess