In My Decanted Kitchen

I’m not sure if it was coincidence or not, but a number of liquid concoctions I had set to macerate and mature in the past months have come to fruition at the same time. My berry coloured Cassis from a recipe devised by Toulouse-Lautrec is glistening in its bottles like a purple jewel. Victoire’s verjus – both the Armagnac and Tsikoudia infused versions are ready to use. And, the Liqueur de Coing, the quince liqueur, has taken on a lovely rose gold hue.

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Some of these have been decanted into pretty bottles, labelled with pretty labels, for Christmas gifts. Yes, it is that time of year again. It’s time to start making drinkable and edible gifts in my kitchen.

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But, in addition to setting aside some of these decanted liquids as Christmas gifts, I’ve also been testing them in various kitchen creations: the Cassis in a Raspberry-Cassis Gelato (seen in image above), the Armagnac verjus in a yummy sweet-sour Chicken with Dried Fruits, and the Tsikoudia verjus in an elegant Salmon Cerviche (as seen in preparation below).

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Even the Quince liquor went into an apple and quince variation of my Cranberry Mincemeat that I made last year – substituting the cranberries for apples, the port and bandy for the quince liquor, and currants and raisons instead of sultanas and dried cranberries. Of course, I made some of the cranberry mincemeat as well. Mini mince pie making in the near future!

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Other Christmas gifts from my kitchen include a Cretan fig “cake”, a similar dried fruit and nut creation to the panforte I made last year. This fig cake is studded with walnuts, infused with ouzo and covered in sesame seeds. It is excellent cut and served on its own, or as an accompaniment to sharp cheeses. Recipe coming up soon!

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Also for the cheese platter are the Damson “cheeses” I made from damson purée frozen earlier after a bumper harvest from the garden. The recipe makes two small “cheeses” – one to eat with sharp cheeses now and the other perfect as a holiday gift.

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Damson Cheese

  • 500g pureed damson pulp
  • 300g sugar

Put the ingredients into a large, heavy bottomed pot; bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it thicken for about an hour – stirring to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pan. Spoon the thick pulp into 2 clingfilm lined moulds, cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Remove from the mould and peel back the clingfilm. Cut and serve with cheese. A favourite of mine with Stilton. Very British!

In my kitchen are gifts to us! One of my husband’s students brought us two heads of radicchio from Athens. She knows how much we love this vegetable grilled and drizzled with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Another student brought us some of his native Chinese black tea. I’ve never seen anything like it – compressed into brick-like cakes. Luckily he also issued instructions on its use.

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There have also been birthday gifts of new kitchenware: an ice cream machine (that made the Raspberry-Cassis gelato seen above) and a Scandinavian style bundt pan with lovely geometric designs. The latter has yet to be used. I’m still mulling over cake recipes for its premier performance, so any suggestions are welcome. And, then a pressie to me from me: a Mason Cash bowl with frolicking hares, another of In The Forest series.

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Last, but certainly not least, a speciality of the season in my kitchen are chestnuts. They are piling up. Emergency solutions to this abundance are in progress. Perhaps they will be transformed into even more edible Christmas gifts. Watch this space!

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A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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50 comments

  1. So many good things. I have been keeping track of your liquer making but these labels are really gorgeous. I am looking forward to the recipe for the little Cretan fig cake recipes. But of course, the star of the post is that bowl- another one- and so another month of deep bowl envy.

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    • The labels came direct from free downloadable sites that I found on Pinerest. I am drawn to the Victorian/Art Nouveaux designs, but there are so many styles out there. Using a little Photoshop, you can customise your own. Cretan fig cake later this week – promise. Bowls are great. Two more in the set to go – one a month, so that means I should be complete by January!

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  2. I’m with Francesca, I can’t wait for the Cretan Fig Cake recipe. Love the labels you made for the gifts from your kitchen. I understand your love of fruit paste with sharp cheese, it’s very popular in the colonies too. That bundt tin is a beauty, I have bowl and bundt tin envy!

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    • I just remarked to Francesca that the labels come from Pinerest – that and a little photoshop to add my text. I usually go for the old style labels, but there is a lot to choose from on the internet. I print them out and use a clear self adhesive covering film that I get in craft shops in rolls.Dead easy and makes the label waterproof! I love the damson cheese (and quince, too). I’ve also been making the fig cake for a few years now, but I saw wedges of something similar for sale at the cheese counter in my local supermarket – a huge prices, I might add. I’m a little nervous of the bundt pan as I can just see the cake sticking to all the little ridges! Will bite the bullet soon and try it. My son (who gave it to me) has requested a lemon drizzle cake, so I may go with that.

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    • The cassis is to die for (not literally, of course!). It has hints of raspberry, but obviously very black currant. I make the quince every once in a few years – usually when previous supplies are getting low. I saw your post about the sloes 😞 Sorry you got to them too late. I’ve never picked sloes and always wanted too. Well, perhaps next year?

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  3. What a busy lass Ye have been indeed! What’s not to love? The adorable labels, the fruit pastes, the interesting tea, the bowls, the quince mincemeat. Am looking forward to seeing the recipe for the Cretan fig ‘cake.’ Oh to be a recipient of one of your delightful kitchen Christmas gifts.

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    • If you can get damsons, I highly recommend making the damson cheese. I’m nearly through the one that appeared in the picture (along with the stilton, that is). If I am not careful, I will have “cheese pants” (to go with those ice-cream pants and muffin tops). Cretan fig thingy coming up soon!

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  4. Love this post. You’ve got some beautiful and sophisticated stuff going on in the kitchen. I too have a bunch of chestnuts that I’m trying to figure out what to do with. Recipe to come. What I wouldn’t do for one of your gift packages! xo

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    • Chestnuts are so versatile! They can be used in either sweet or savoury dishes. What I did with these chestnuts is in a post coming up soon. Looking forward to your own chestnut creation. It’s bound to be creative!

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  5. What a fabulous post… I love seeing everyones kitchen preparations this month… yours looks wonderful and spirit filled hehe! “hick” 🙂 I’m sure that your friends and family will indulge in all your beautiful creations! Thanks for sharing! Liz x

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    • Love that *hick*! Though, to be honest, I tend to use these homemade liqueurs in cooking and baking more than drinking. And, they make an interesting assortment to have on hand for after dinner when we have friends around. We have a collection of vintage cordial glasses just for that.

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    • Haven’t tried the tea yet. I have to admit we are more coffee drinkers than tea. However, once the holidays come around, we do like to have a good cuppa by the fireplace while roasting chestnuts – a very British thing to do. We’ll break out the Chinese black tea then as a special treat. Oh, and if you like cranberries, you will love the cranberry mincemeat.

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  6. It all sounds delicious! I’ve got quince brandy on the go at the moment and am looking forward to seeing how that turns out. Your damson cheese looks wonderful – I made jam with the very few I had and it’s long gone!

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    • Doesn’t quince make a wonderful perfumed liqueur? They are such under-used fruits. I make a quince liqueur most years (if supplies are running low), but would like to try it with brandy – sounds divine. However, my favourite this year is the Cassis. Since I had black currants (and raspberries) in the garden, I made it for a fraction of the cost of the imported French stuff. And, it tastes delicious!

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    • It is a great little “cake” – not really a cake, but more like a panforte, compressed dried figs and walnuts. Definitely excellent with sharp cheeses. The post is coming up soon – promise!

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  7. Hmmm…it seems we are on the same page when it comes to Christmas cooking. I have a blood orange maramlade vodka I’m about to decant as well as a batch of bitters. No pretty labels like yours though. And would you believe it? Today I made a fig and prune log to have with cheese. Great minds think alike. Thanks for the Christmassy tour. cheers xx

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    • For some reason I found your comment in my spam folder! So here is a belated reply:

      Don’t you just love concocting flavoured liqueurs? Your blood orange liqueur sounds interesting. I bet it is a fab colour. Definitely great monds think alike. I might add a bit of prune to my fig cakes next time I make them – also good to keep in mind if one doesn’t have enough figs for the recipe!

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  8. Debi, I really like your bundt cake tin. I love the really geometric ones and have had my eye on the Nordic Heritage one. I recently did an apple cider bundt cake with (of course) cream cheese icing. Very delish. I have also been thinking of doing a moist chocolate one, made with with sour cream, and maybe a simple ganache on top. Have fun christening your new pan!

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    • My bundt pan is Nordic heritage one – very well made. I am certainly pleased with it. with more internet searching, I’ve found a few more Nordic ware designs. Perhaps it is time to start a collection?

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    • The bundt pan is beautiful, I agree. The labels came via Pinerest which link to any number of websites that have free downloadable labels. I customise them on my computer in Photoshop. I used to just write out labels for my homemade canned goods, but after finding pretty labels, it has transformed the look of my pantry shelves!

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  9. I love the sound of those liqueurs, and the labels are beautiful. It’s also great to hear how you are using them! I make quince paste, but am very envious that you have damsons, they’re very hard to get hold of in Australia, as are sloes and many other ‘hedgerow’ plants. Beautiful bundt tin too, you can never have too many I find 🙂
    Beck

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    • I love making these flavoured liqueurs, but we rarely drink them except to offer as a drink at the end of a meal when we have guests around. So, finding uses for them in cooking is necessary, else we would be swimming in the stuff! This is the first year I made verjus – using an old method of preserving the sour grape juice in alcohol. I was totally bowled over with these concoctions – both the Armagnac and the Tsikoudia versions. In fact, supples are fast being depleted. I will certainly make more next year.

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  10. Aren’t those bundt tins just the most gorgeous things? I’ve got a small (!!) collection of them. And love the sound of all your home brews! Your fig cake looks and sounds wonderful, and how nice to have presents from faraway lands. I’ve seen the hard blocks of tea, but I’ve never known how to use them either! Have a wonderful December Debi, filled with much merry! 🙂

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    • After getting this bundt pan, I, too, am thinking of starting a “little” collection. I have several more designs saved on my Amazon wishlist. The tea cake, we were told should be broken off into pieces, soaked two times (and throwing away the water) before steeping for a third time to produce the tea to drink. It seems odd to me, but my husband’s Chinese student said it would be too strong and too bitter the first two times. Still haven’t tried it! Hope you also have a merry December in the kitchen!

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  11. Labels and Libations – I just love the sound of that! You have been busy, Debi and it all looks and sounds absolutely wonderful! That ceviche has my name on it and I am absolutely intrigued by that Chinese cake of tea. I had a bit of a disaster with my (non-stick) nooks-and-crannies bundt pan – even though I buttered the pan, my cake stuck and then broke in half! It was meant to be a ‘naked’ birthday cake so there was no way to rescue it with icing. So for round two, I buttered the tin really well and floured it too. That way I could see where I had missed with the butter! I had no problems with it sticking then. A wonderful IMK post, as ever x

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    • Ooh…I like “Labels and Lotions” – would have made a great title. The cake sticking problem is one of the reasons I am hesitant in trying the bundt pan, but the instructions that came with it did say to both butter and flour the pan prior to adding the batter. I didn’t think anything of it as this is something I do when baking, even if I use baking parchment. Early childhood cooking training, I think. If it is a chocolate cake, I sometimes substitute unsweetened cocoa for the flour. Works just as well. Now you have me convinced that I should just go ahead and make the cake!

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    • Thanks Emma! The labels are so easy to do. Just find free printables on the internet (or via Pinerest), copy and add your text in Photoshop or a similar computer programme. I then print them out, cut and apply using a clear self-adhesive covering film which I buy in big rolls. The raspberry gelato was delish!

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  12. Isn’t Christmas great with all the homemade gifts – wish I was that organised! You’ve been busy preparing some gorgeous (and unknown) items, wish I lived closer to try your Raspberry-Cassis Gelato and Damson jelly. Is your ice cream machine a Cuisinart? Is it good, I’m looking at getting an ice cream machine, just unsure on which one. Than you for sharing IMK – see you next month

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    • Yes, the ice cream machine is a Cuisinart. I have other products of theirs which are well made and reliable. Cost was also a factor as this one was substantially less than some of the Italian brands. Still a bit pricey, but worth it if you make a lot of ice cream. The Damson cheese is so easy to do. However, it means you have to have a supply of damsons – something I am lucky to have. There is a prolific tree in the garden.

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  13. Love the beautiful labels. Enjoy your new ice cream machine and your fruit mincemeat look so delicious… I could eat that right out of the jar. I have the same bavarian bundt tin… greasing and flouring the tin is so important for successful release of the cake. Others use a type of pam spray which is supposed to be very good but I have never used this. Hope to post a banana cake recipe soon using this bundt tin. The damson cheese looks wonderful as does everything in your kitchen. 🙂

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    • We’ve been eating mince pies for the past week or so (plus providing friends with dozens at a time). Still a good supply of mincemeat left. I do like to make a large supply! I know about Pam (more common in the US) and my sister uses an oil sprayer type thing where you add your own oil. But, I much prefer using my fingers to get butter into all the crevices of the pan. That way I know that it has been completely covered – required for scary intricately ridged bundt pans!

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