So The Great Irish Bake Off 2015 is over! Thanks a million to all of the fantastic competitors for taking part. Paul Kelly and Anna Nolan are just fantastic and of course all the behind the scenes production crew that worked tirelessly to make it a success. We have a fantastic winner in Cathy McKenna and so well deserved. She’s so naturally talented and was consistent in her baking throughout. That olive oil cake she made for International week was unreal, my favourite bake of the whole series. Myself and Cathy will be on the Ray Darcy show on RTE1 this afternoon chatting about all things Bake Off. The Christmas Special will be on next sunday night too with lots of tips and recipes from myself and Paul for festive baking as well as some great chat with food and drinks experts.
I’ll be bringing my Spiced Panforte, a cake I always make this time of year that’s perfect for giving! Wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with string, it’s a traditional Italian cake packed full of spice, nuts and dried fruits. It’s a lovely alternative to the traditional Christmas cake. It usually has pepper in it but I’ve stuck to festive mixed spice and cinnamon for the recipe below. You can also add candied peel, candied ginger or a little chili powder for heat. I’m planning on making this even more festive this year by using pistachios and goji berries for a pretty green and red flecked interior.
All this week I have videos of really great Christmas recipes that are quick and easy to make on The Irish Times website. They’re all in keeping with my regular friday Give Me Five column, needing five or less ingredients. First up is Balsamic Roast Sprouts with grapes and pecan nuts. It tastes amaaaazing and I’ll definitely have it on the menu this Christmas day!
150g (5½oz) shelled pistachios (or use mixed nuts)
150g (5½oz) blanched almonds
175g (6oz) dried figs, quartered
100g (3½oz) dates, chopped
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½tsp mixed spice
2tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
50g (1oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) butter
150g (5½oz) runny honey (or maple syrup, agave etc.)
150g (5½oz) soft brown sugar
icing sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3. Grease and line the base of a 20cm (8in) sandwich tin with baking parchment.
Place the pistachios, almonds, figs and dates in a heatproof bowl. Sift over the cinnamon, mixed spice, cocoa and flour and stir to combine.
Put the butter, honey and brown sugar in a pan, over a medium heat, and stir until the mixture has melted together and just comes to the boil.
Pour on top of the dry ingredients, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Transfer to the sandwich tin and press down with the back of the spoon, making the surface level.
Place in the oven for 45 minutes, until it is bubbling slightly. Remove from the oven and leave until completely cool, before removing from the tin, and dusting with icing sugar.