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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

As you may have realised by this point if you have read any of my other posts I’m a little christmas-mad. I wasnt always this way and I’m not entirely sure what happened but I think it was something to do with moving from the warm southern hemisphere (where christmas day consists of cold meat, salad and a dunk in the pool to maintain a temperature suitable for the continuation of life), to the cold climate of Scotland. I remember the first time I walked past a holly bush in Edinburgh that actually had holly berries on it and did a little jump-squeak-dance on the spot of excitement which must have really scared my fellow pedestrians. You don’t want to see me when it snows.

My favourite kind of post to read at this time of year is other blogger’s last minute ideas for christmas dishes, drinks and foodie presents just in case I’ve missed out on something I wont be able to continue life without eating/drinking/owning. And I’m equally as eager to share my own santa list and some recipes so that I am returning the favour to those with a similar compulsion.

Food

Here’s a selection  recipes from other blogs and my own with a Christmassy theme which I would recommend or have me interested.

      

Creamy Pea Soup – coconut milk makes this deliciously creamy and sweet and its the perfect cheerful green….   Spaghetti with Marmite (from Nigella) – when you’ve had enough of turkey….    Chocolate & Thyme Mousse – if you’re sick of Christmas pud….    Poached Pears (from Kosher Camembert) – festive and just stunning….   Chilli Glazed Gammon – warm and spicy….   Chestnut Chocolate Pots (from Nigella) – winter in a cup….   Parmesan, Rosemary and Pancetta Grissini – perfect for parties and gifts….   Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes – if Christmas had a smell….

Presents

Stomach sorted, presents next. Some ideas from my own Christmas list and other brilliant foodie gift ideas I’ve seen this year.

Le Creuset Stoneware Mixing Jug, AlmondThe basics – Stoneware Mixing Jug. 

Everyone needs a sturdy mixing bowl . I have a big metal one which is great because its light and good for whipping meringue but sometimes you need a heavy one that wont slide around the counter top while you are mixing. This one has the benefit of a pouring lip and Le Creuset good looks.

McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and CultureCook Books – McGee on Food & Cooking.

I love cookbooks that either have a narrative with the recipes or teach you about why you have to do things and the science behind culinary techniques so this book is on my wish list this year.

Its not Christmas to me without a good book to read on Christmas day after I’ve eaten so much I’ve lost the power of movement and speech and have to lie down (I know, aren’t I rock and roll).

Landing_page_beansSubscriptions – Kopi Gourmet Coffee.

My Delicious Magazine subscription is still one of my favourite presents but this is a subscription with a twist. If you know anyone who loves good coffee and drinks enough of it to receive a new bag every month then I think this is very clever.

Crafty – Jam making stuff.

I want to start making my own preserves and although I’ve started by making my own fruit mince without the aid of any special equipment its harder to make proper jams and other preserves without decent jars and strainers etc.

I have my eye on these jars  at Lakeland as well as a pile of other preserving related paraphenalia and books on amazon.co.uk

Andrew James Professional Fully Automatic Ice Cream Maker With Built-in Compressor + Free 128 Page Ice Cream Maker Cook BookGadgets – Ice Cream Maker

Every cook loves gadgets. My cupboards are already crammed full but I am dying to make my own ice cream. My head is brimming with recipe ideas but I’ve tried making it without an ice cream machine and it just doesnt come out the same.

I dont have space in my freezer or patience for the kind with a bowl you have to freeze so this one is a well priced version of the proper electric kind.

Christmas Cooking Challenge

And last but not least, don’t forget to join in my Mince Pie Challenge if you are making your own this year. The idea is to reinvent the standard formula with a twist of any kind but if you just want to share your traditional home-made pies you can still send me a link or photo and at the end of the month I’ll post the entries, pick a winner and send the best one a little surprise foodie christmas gift.  Just leave me a comment to let me know you are entering by the end of the Month.

I’ve started by making Nigella’s Rhubarb and Vanilla Mince which turned out to be delicious and I’m using that to try out different mince pie themed pastries and biscuits. Here’s the recipe if you want an alternative to the ordinary suet and citrus peel kind. The vanilla makes it really rich and velvety.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Fruit Mince

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast.

  • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5mm slices
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 200g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 2 tbsp cherry brand

Put the sliced rhubarb with the sugar into a large pan. Cut the vanilla pod in halves length ways and scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into pieces, adding seeds and pod slices to the pan. Add the mixed spice and cook for about 5 mins.

Add the dried fruits and simmer for about 30 mins. Stir in the brandy and take off the heat. When it’s cool enough to handle, bottle in jars.

Makes 1.25 litres.

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…he’s going to be living with us for the next Month.

He’s our Christmas pudding. And that bottle behind him is his medicine.

Its not very often that anything you cook hangs around your house for a whole month but since he’s going to be with us for a while, he’s my first Christmas pudding, and I have to feed him once a week… I’m already quite attached. It seemed only fitting to give him a name (and it had to be something grand of course).

Because you have to store your pudding somewhere cool and every room in our house is now almost constantly warmed by central heating, he’s living in a large tub at the top of the stairs to the front door which is the only cool part of the whole house. So I pass him every morning and evening as I am heading for the door. I’ll probably start saying hello soon.

You also have to look after your pudding. He needs fed once a week with brandy. It may seem like a lot of alcohol for one pudding but if I was sitting in the cold for four weeks, I would also need a fortifying spoon of liquor every now and then to keep me going.

So if you like the idea of a pet for Christmas, its not too late to make your own. Here’s a recipe with a bit of a twist if you like your pudding a little less traditional.

Cherries and Berries Christmas Pudding (aka Tarquin)

I’ve used cherries and berries instead of the plain mix of raisins, currants and mixed peel and cherry brandy instead of plain. As long as you have 350g fruit in total you can make your own combination. Of course I havent had a chance to taste it yet but going on smell alone, I think I’m going to enjoy eating Tarquin just as much as I like looking after him.

  • 100g dried blueberries
  • 100g berries and  dried fruit mix (mix of cherries, cranberries, blueberries and raisins)
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 100g dried currants
  • 125ml cherry brandy
  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 75g breadcrumbs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75 dark brown sugar
  • 1 eating apple, grated
  • 2 medium size eggs
  • 70ml sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 100ml vodka (for serving)

Butter a 3pint pudding basin and lid. The plastic ones are cheap and definitely less fuss than a bowl and foil top so although I normally don’t like having to find specialised cooking contraptions, in this case I make an exception (once you realise how easy it is to make a pudding you will use it every year too). Put the fruit and brandy in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 min. slice the butter over the fruit, put a lid on and leave to sit for another 10 min. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the grated apple and then the fruit. Mix together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat into the fruit mixture. If like me you allow yourself to get ridiculously over excited about Christmas and follow every daft tradition with an inane sense of glee then this is the point when you take your bowl around the house and get everyone to take a turn at stirring the pud (in my case that meant one bemused husband).

Once you have returned to the kitchen, spoon the pudding batter into the prepared basin and put on the lid. Place the basin in a large pot, pour water up to about half way up the sides and put on the pot lid. If you are not using a plastic basin that floats then you will need to place an upside down side plate in the bottom of the pot. You will also need to make sure you securely fasten a lid of kitchen foil and dont let any water get in which is not a problem with the plastic kind. Now bring the water to a gentle boil and steam the pudding for 4 hours, topping up the water as necessary. After 4 hours take the pudding out and leave it to cool before wrapping the basin in cling film and storing it somewhere cool and dark. Once a week, take your pudding out off his hiding place (its at this point that your pudding starts to develop a personality) and give him a tablespoon of cherry brandy before putting him back to bed.

When its time to serve, steam him for another 3-4 hours and turn out onto a serving dish. Warm the vodka, light it and pour the flaming liquid over the pudding (seems a little violent now that he’s a pet but what a way to go).

P.s. For thos of you who are interested, my topics for this month’s cooking challenges are as follows

  • Reinventing a classic – mince pies
  • Technical skills – french macarons
  •  As well as the usual “extraordinary flavours”

If you’d like to submit your own mince pie reinventions I will be doing a round up and there will be a little prize for the best one so please let me know if you are joining the challenge by leaving a comment/message, either on here or my facebook page, with a link to your post by the 31st December 2011 .

♥♥

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Yesterday I made cut out biscuits for the first time and turned them into edible Christmas tree decorations which was also a first attempt (as is blatantly obvious by the somewhat dodgy icing job). I have been dying to try this and some other festive baking ideas so I planned a day of Christmas baking and enlisted a partner in crime, my friend Dawn (the same one that introduced me to Nigella’s Glitzy Chocolate Puddings and is the only person I know who gets quite as over excited about these things as I do).

Well after baking and icing something like 50 biscuits, giggling our way through the entire process and getting side tracked making mulled wine along the way, we didn’t get around to any of the other recipes besides a rather unsuccessful attempt at hokey pokey (Nigella’s honey comb recipe). I’m going to have to give that another go before I can share any useful information as ours turned out as a tasty but never-ending  jaw snapping creation rather than something like the crisp centre of a Crunchie bar. Having scoured the internet to pin down our mistake the only advice we could find was perhaps our sugar mixture wasn’t hot enough or we added too much golden syrup but if there’s anyone reading this who has perfected the art of honey comb please feel free to make suggestions as I dont think my jaw can cope with another failed attempt.

Back to the biscuits. We used a Nigella recipe from my December copy of Delicious magazine (this post is unintentionally turning to into an ode to Nigella) but made a few minor tweaks. We omitted the black pepper as we werent trying to deter small children from nicking them off the tree and added a few other spices for extra christmas-ness. We also made our own royal icing as we didnt have the ready made kind which Nigella suggests you use. I got my Christmas biscuit cutters from Amazon for pennies and a very handy squeezy piping bottle from Lakeland which I would definitely recommend as a handy tool (alternatively you could use a piping bag).

I have to say its not easy work making these and you need to make sure you have plenty of time to do all the icing (a partner for moral support makes it less of a chore) but you can’t get prettier decorations. They’re so Christmassy I’m going to enter them into the Most Wanted Yule-blog Bake Off just for fun. I doubt they will win any prizes for professional baking but I quite like the fact that they look so home made. Now I just have to resist the urge to keep wandering up and nibbling my Christmas tree!

Christmas Tree Biscuits

Adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson. Makes roughly 50 biscuits depending on cutter size.

  • 300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with 4 tbsp of runny honey

Decorating

  • 1 egg whites
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • silver balls and any other decorations you want to use

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and spices. Add the butter and sugar, and mix into a sand like texture. Then, slowly add the beaten eggs and honey – don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up. This is important, we used all of it because we didn’t read to the end and then had to add loads of flour to get the dough back to the right consistency. If you do the same thing, add more flour but don’t work for too long or you will warm up the butter and make it even less firm. Chilling will make a big difference.

Form 2 fat discs and place in the fridge or freezer for about 20 minutes until chilled. Leave the second one in the fridge while you prepare the first. In the meantime I recommend getting the mulled wine on the go!

Preheat the oven to 150°C and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice. Then place them on the baking sheets.

Re-roll and cut out some more and then put the left over dough back in the fridge and combine with the left over from the second disc at the end to stop it getting too warm. Once all the biscuits are cut out and the dough is used up take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (to thread ribbon through later).

Place in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them, the smaller shapes might be ready after 15 min. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Make up the instant royal icing by beating the eggs and lemon juice together and then beating in the icing sugar to the required consistency (thick enough that it wont dribble off your biscuits). If you want different colours divide it up and then add food colouring.

Carefully ice the cold decorations and when the icing is set, thread ribbon through the holes for hanging on the tree.

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