Beetroot Orzotto

As beautiful and vibrant to eat as it is to look at!!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups pearl barley
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
125ml dry vermouth or white wine
4 1/4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked beetroot cubes (not in vinegar)
150ml sour cream, plus more for serving
50g chopped pecans
3 tsp. chopped chives

Gently cook the onions in the oil in a deep, wide saucepan until softened. Stir in the barley and stir for about 2 minutes, then stir in the thyme. Tip in the vermouth and let it bubble up, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the barley is tender.

Meanwhile, puree half of the beetroot with half of the sour cream. Stir into the cooked barley along with the remaining cubed beetroot and warm through.

Spoon into a serving bowl and top with the pecans and chives and more sour cream, if using.

Serves 10-16 as part of a feast, or 8-10 if not

Lamb and Date Tagine

This is a lovely and luscious stew – sweet and rich – just right for a cozy supper.

3-4 tbs. goose fat or olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground allspice
2 lbs. cubed lamb shoulder
1 cup soft, dried, pitted dates
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup water
2 tsp. sea salt flakes

Warm the goose fat or oil in a large, shallow pan that has a lid. Add the onion and cook gently over a low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin and allspice.

Turn up the heat and add the meat, turning it patiently in the pan so that it sears evenly. Drop in the dates, pour in the pomegranate juice and water, then add the salt and bring to a bubble.

Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Alternatively, you can cook it for 2 hours in the oven at 300°F.

Star-Topped Mince Pies

It would not be Christmas with Mince Pies and these are some of the best!

240g plain flour (scant 2 cups)
120g butter, cold and cubed (8 1/2 tbs.)
juice of 1 orange
pinch of salt
approx. 350g mincemeat (3/4 cup)
icing sugar for dusting

Toss together the flour and the cubed butter and set it aside in the freezer for 20 minutes. Place the orange juice in the fridge for the same about of time. After 20 minutes, place the flour/butter mixture and the salt in the food processor and blitz to a porridge-like crumble. Pour in the orange juice through the feeding tube, pulsing until it just begins to come together. If you run out of orange juice, use cold water. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and use your hands to bring it into a dough. Divide into three flat discs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.

Heat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the first disc as thinly as possible, but dense enough to support the mincemeat. Using a fluted cutter, cut out circles and gently press into mince pie tins. (You may have to do this in batches of three if you only have one mince pie tin.) Spoon in a teaspoon or so of mincemeat into each. Cut out stars and gently place on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on them as oven temperatures greatly vary. Remove from the tins and set on a wire rack to cool. If you are working in batches, let the tin cool down between.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with brandy butter.

Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake

Don’t fret if you don’t have the fanciful cake tin – you can use a Bundt tin to make this delicious and easy cake. Here is a hint…it is fabulous toasted the next morning for breakfast!

9 tbs. softened butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
6 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 – 2 tbs. confectioner’s sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F and put a baking sheet in the oven. Generously butter or oil the cake tin.

Put all the ingredients except the confectioner’s sugar in the food processor and blitz to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and spread the top evenly.

Place in the oven on the baking sheet and cook until well risen and golden, 45 – 55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover the top with foil is it gets too brown.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then gently coax the edges away and invert onto a large plate. Leave to cool completely, then dust with confectioner’s sugar.