When I start assembling the dried fruit, spices and brandy it means Christmas is only just around the corner.
We love Christmas cake in our family and I love making it!
The smell of orange zest and brandy proclaims Christmas is on its way like nothing else.
The pretty, vintage stoneware jar was one of my purchases from Fiona @ Streetcomber at her recent sale.
Have you ever wondered how the traditional Christmas Cake came about?
Here is a short history !
The Christmas cake, like many of our Christmas traditions, was popularised by the Victorians, but its origins are much earlier than that.
Back in the middle ages, people would eat a type of porridge on Christmas Eve.
Gradually fruit and spices were added to the porridge and eventually this became the Christmas pudding that we all enjoy.
But the porridge mixture also gave rise to our present day Christmas Cake,
for around the 16th century, a type of boiled plumcake evolved as people began adding eggs and butter to the porridge and replacing the oatmeal with wheat. It was still boiled as few households had ovens at that point.
Gradually, a baked, rather than boiled version of the plum cake became more popular and was eaten on Twelfth Night, but during Queen Victoria's reign, Christmas gained more popularity as a festival and the cake began to be eaten at Christmas and was decorated with wintery scenes and figurines, much like the present day cake.
The recipe for our Christmas Cake is one which I have used for several years now.
Not grown on the lottie I'm afraid, but bought from the supermarket !
They were made into a simple supper which I am calling criss cross aubergines.
The delicate flesh of the aubergine loves to soak up the flavour of spices, so I cut a criss cross into the halved aubergines and rubbed ground coriander,cumin and a pinch of smoked paprika into the surface. A drizzle of olive oil and then they were baked in a hot oven at 190 c for 45minutes to 1hour.
And to go with them, some cooked bulghur wheat dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and harissa paste with added chopped coriander, raisins and peppers...
finally finished with mouth popping pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranates are a relatively recent discovery for me. Each little seed provides a deliciously sweet and refreshing explosion.
And who knew what fun there was to be had from bashing the cut halves with a wooden spoon, a la Jamie Oliver, to release the seeds and juice.
Any seeds that escape and fly hither and thither will leave indelible crimson spots on surrounding surfaces!
Some lovely autumn weather has allowed me ( and mr digandweed of course) to get down to the allotment for some clearing up and planting.
I decided to allocate some space for cut flowers and with this in mind have planted a bed of Sweet Williams and Wallflowers .
I am already anticipating colourful bunches of flowers for the house next spring!
We also have a plentiful supply of leeks to keep us going over the next few months.
Spurred on by the success of the strawberries this year, we have branched out into raspberries!
Five canes of Autumn Bliss have been planted and pruned to about 6 inches, as per the instructions.
And a couple of weeks ago, we spotted this welcome visitor hiding in the decaying foliage.
Hopefully he will be feasting on the slugs and snails!
I love browsing in kitchenware shops, but it is a dangerous occupation because I always chance upon something I didn't know I needed, but which I then can't live without, which is how I came to buy some mini bundt moulds from a well known kitchenware shop.
The name Bundt refers, not as I originally thought, to a particular recipe, but to the distinctive shape of the cake, which was popularised in America in the 50s and 60s after NordicWare began manufacturing the moulds.
After leafing through my cookery books and some 'googling' I decided on a recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to be aDomestic Goddess book.
The recipe was straightforward, simply a case of mixing the wet ingredients together and then stirring into the dry ingredients.
I found that half quantities nicely filled my 4 moulds and I put the moulds into a deep muffin pan for extra stability whilst they cooked.
The result was a lovely moist cake, quite similar to Madeira cake.
Why is it that little, individual cakes are so enticing, so appealing ?
But I also have my eye on this amazing Christmas tree cake tin!
Although, given its limited seasonal use, I really don't think I can justify the rather large price tag...
Looking back, this has been a good year for the lottie.
There was the very cold spring of course, but that was followed by a 'proper' summer, with lots of sunshine to ripen the crops.
In common with other people, we had a bumper soft fruit harvest with loads of luscious strawberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb.
The squash also loved the hot sunny weather and lay basking in the sun, turning a beautiful golden hue. They are now tucked away on a shelf in the garage.
Earlier in the year we enjoyed lovely buttery Charlotte potatoes ( I've been less impressed with the Anya potatoes and will probably give them a miss next year) and some bug free salad, not forgetting lots of ruby red beetroot.
All in all, plenty to be thankful for.
The parsley seeds I planted earlier in the year took a long time to get going, not surprising given the very cold spring, but now the herb has taken over half of one of the raised beds.
Just look at the amazing colour green.
Something so green has to be good for us ...and so it is, full of vitamins and antioxidants.
Not so long ago, parsley (often in its curly form) simply had a 'bit part' at mealtimes, but it deserves much more than that and as the main ingredient in a pesto, it can, at last, have a starring role.
I used a recipe from Hugh's veg book, which used more or less equal quantities of pine nuts, parsley and parmesan with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, but the good thing about pesto is that the nuts and/or herbs can be varied to suit and the other quantities tweaked to taste.
The parsley still retains its vibrant colour.
I made lots as I am going to freeze some, so we can enjoy the fresh, summery taste into late autumn.
Tonight, mr digandweed and I enjoyed the pesto stirred through pasta with roasted butternut squash.