HEATHER’S HOME MADE GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN

Salted Vanilla Fudge
300 g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
100 ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp sea salt flakes (we like Maldon)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter then add the sugar, syrup, and cream. Over a medium heat, stir constantly until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up to high and let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches soft ball stage (116° C). Meanwhile, prepare a 15 x 22 inch dish by greasing with a bit of oil and lining with baking parchment.

Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and beat with a wooden spoon or electric hand whisk until the mixture turns grainy and comes away from the sides of the bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth the top to an even layer. Cover with another greased piece of baking parchment and leave to set for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Slice into bars or dice into squares. The fudge will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

Chocolate Bark

500 g Dark Chocolate (minimum 50% up to 70%) or White Chocolate

For Fruit and Nut:
100g dried cranberries
100 g dried apricots, diced
100g salted pistachios,roughly chopped

For White Chocolate & Candy Cane
200 g candy canes, crushed
1 ½ tsp peppermint extract (added to chocolate before tempering)

For Candied Ginger
100 g Crystalized ginger, roughly chopped into small pieces

For Pretzels
250 g pretzels, either whole or lightly crushed

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

If using a block of chocolate- Use a large sharp knife to shave the chocolate off the block into small pieces.

Melt about 1/3 of the chocolate in a large clean and dry heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir frequently so the chocolate will melt slowly and evenly. Remove from heat.

In three batches, add the rest of the chocolate, stirring with a rubber spatula and making sure all the chocolate is melted before adding the next batch. As the chocolate cools it will start to thicken and lighten in colour.

Test the chocolate to see that it has reached the proper temperature by either measuring with a chocolate thermometer 88 – 91 degrees F (31 – 33 degrees C) or you can place a small dab of melted chocolate on your lower lip and it should feel about body temperature (not too warm or too cool).

If the melted chocolate is too warm, add a little more finely chopped chocolate. If the melted chocolate is too cool, place the bowl back over the saucepan of water, stirring for just a few seconds to bring up the temperature slighty. It is now ready to use. Spread the melted chocolate into a thin sheet on the parchment- it should be rustic so don’t worry about straight sides or even layering. Sprinkle top with your chosen topping and gently press into the chocolate. Set aside to firm at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Cut or break the bark into irregular shaped pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Pickled Pears
1 lemons
10 cloves
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp allspice berries
5 cm piece of fresh ginger, sliced
1 Litre cider vinegar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 kg caster sugar
2 kg pears, peeled, quartered and cored

Use a peeler to remove large strips of lemon peel and put into a large saucepan with juice from the lemons, cloves, peppercorns, allspice berries, ginger, vinegar, cinnamon and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and add the pears. Simmer everything on a medium heat, covered with a round of baking parchment (called a cartouche) for 15 minutes. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon into a colander over a bowl. Turn the heat up to high and boil the syrup until it is reduced to by 2/3rds.

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars either in a dishwasher on the highest heat setting or by boiling in water for 10 minutes. You also want to sterilize a pair of tongs. Keep your jars in the water until you are ready to use. You want to jars to be hot hot as you will be pouring hot liquid into the jars and you never want to pour hot liquid into cold jars.

Remove the jars from the water with the tongs onto a clean dishtowel. Pack them with pears, as tightly as possible. Pour the reduced syrup over the pears until they are fully covered. Seal the jars and leave to cool.

The pears will keep for up to 12 months unopened. Once opened, they can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 month.

These pears are delicious with St Agur Blue Cheese and Sheridan’s Multiseed crackers.

Homemade Irish Whiskey Cream:
250 ml Irish whiskey
375 ml cream
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined, about 1 minute should do, or place in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds.

Pour into sterilized glass jars and seal. Shake before serving as ingredients will separate.

The Whiskey cream is delicious over ice or in your favourite coffee.