Monthly Archives: December 2007

Merry Christmas

Although hubby & I have been together for over 6 years, this was the first Christmas Day as a married couple and that we had spent together. Breakfast was some croissants and Schloer Bucks Fizz. I was warned not to eat much for breakfast as I would be eating lots in the next 48 hours!

We spent Christmas Day at Hubbie’sAunts house who put on possibly the biggest Christmas spread I have ever seen. Essentially the whole day was taken up with eating something delicious!

Prawn parcels wrapped in smoked salmon
Stilton & Broccoli Soup
Lamb, pork and cockerel with roasties, mash, red cabbage, sprouts, pigs in blankets, stuffing and carrots.
Christmas Pudding with brandy cream. Served with a glass of beautiful dessert wine (but I’ve forgotten the name of it)

Later on we delved into:
*mini fish & chips
*mini cheeseburgers
*mini steak sandwiches (as seen on the M&S adverts)
* and lots of other mini things!,

On Boxing Day we spent it at my parents where we ate another delicious, but different Christmas Dinner. Also at my parents we eventually got to taste my Guinness Christmas Pudding. It was absolutely delicious and everyone commented on how light and tasty it was. You could certainly taste the Guinness when you bit into the fruit. I’ll most likely be making it again next year.

Santa brought me some great things for the kitchen including salt & pepper piglets and a silicone baking set. I can’t wait to use them.

I hope everyone has had a great Christmas break.

Chestnuts exploding on an open fire.

The last few days in the run up to Christmas can only be described as chaotic. A last minute change of plans (well my sister managed to get Take That tickets!) meant I was rushing up to Manchester, then back on the Sunday morning leaving 5 hours to sort the house out, cook for the Christmas party later on and construct a Hexenhaus (Gingerbread house).

This years pre-Christmas nibbles we’re a bit of an eclectic mix of foods, it was all very much dependant on what I could get my hands on. The evening went down well and everyone commented on the food. Mother-in-Law was convinced I had brought the mini toad in the hole from M&S as she was so impressed! The evening was rounded off with chestnuts and brandy. I’m not a fan of chestnuts, but Hubby likes nothing more than roasting chestnuts over our open fire. We’ve also recently discovered an old ikea sieve works as the perfect roasting tin, just watch out for the exploding chestnuts! Hubby could have stopped this happening, by piercing the skin of the chestnuts. We also tried a trick we saw on Jamie at Home – Christmas episode by dropping hot, shelled chestnuts into brandy. According to hubby and father-in-law they tasted delicious.

I have a slight confession over the Hexenhaus. The kit was from Lidl – think IKEA self-assembly house. Hubby was Chief Structural Engineer where I was Chief Icing Bag Lady and Decorator. It was a bit fiddly to begin with and it has been years since I’ve had an icing bag in my hands, but it was good fun. I just haven’t a clue how we’re going to eat it!

The nibbles menu included:
Cherrapeno’s Tomato & Parmesan Whirls
Tinned Tomatoes Red Pepper Hummus
Bacon & Mushroom Quiche (request from Father-in-Law!)
Roast New Potatoes with honey & mustard dressing
DIY Bruschetta
Mini Toad in the Hole with soured cream, garlic & black pepper dip
crudette and dips
plus a few other things.

DIY Bruschetta
Serves 4

Disclaimer: this is by no means authentic bruschetta. It’s my express/lazy way of making it as guests put the toppings on themselves.

1 long ciabatta loaf
2 salad tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
ramekin of Parmesan
ramekin of decent olive oil mixed with 1 tbsp mixed herbs or Italian seasoning.

1) Slice the loaf at a slight angle so you get longer lengths of bread. Mix tomatoes, garlic oil, balsamic and a tsp of mixed herbs in a bowl. Serve alongside Parmesan and oil/herb mix.

2) I make my bruschetta by first drizzling some of the herby olive oil on the bread, adding a spoonful of tomato salsa on top, then sprinkling with Parmesan.

Mini Toad in the Hole
Makes 12

12 chipolatas
50g plain flour
1 egg
140ml milk
rapeseed or sunflower oil

1) In a bowl add the egg to the flour, then gradually pour in the milk. Whisk to stop lumps forming. Season with a bit of black pepper and refrigerate batter for about an hour.

2) Preheat oven to 200oc. In a cupcake tray pour in a small amount of oil (enough oil to just over the bottom of each “cupcake”). Put tray in oven for 5 min to heat up oil.

3) Carefully drop a chipolata into each baking tray cup. Pour in batter until each cup is about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 until sausage is cooked and Yorkshire pud is golden.

As I made our toad in the holes with beef sausages I made a garlic & black pepper dip, but they are just as good with ketchup.

Stained Glass Biscuits

Christmas is nearly upon us and my Christmas baking is still continuing at full speed. Yesterday was the last day of term so I’m now on 2 week holiday, yay! Today I made one of my final batches of decoration biscuits, and some stained glass biscuits for our tree. The way they glisten on the tree is beautiful and I will certainly be making them again in the future. I’ve submitted them to Susan’s Christmas Cookie Foodblog Event at Food Blogga

Stained glass biscuits
Makes about 20

175g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
3 tbsp vanilla caster sugar
1 egg white
2 tbsp orange juice
bag of boiled sweets (one per biscuit)

1) Preheat oven to 180oc. Rub butter into flour until you have a fine breadcrumb texture. Stir in sugar, egg. Then mix in orange juice in gradually, until you have a smooth dough.

2) Roll out dough until about 2mm-5mm thick. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out a round, then use a different shape to cut out the middle. Make a small hole at the top using a skewer, to allow you to thread ribbon/thread through later on. Place on baking tray lined with baking parchment.

3) Place a boiled sweet in the middle of each biscuit. bake for 15-20 min. Allow to cool on baking sheet.

Malteser cake

In continuation of my baking frenzy, yesterday I made Malteser cake to take into work. I also discovered it is impossible to take a good photo of Malteser cake! To make the cake more Christmassy I used a mix of milk chocolate and white chocolate maltesers.

Maltser cake

85g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
170g digestives, crushed
140g Maltesers, lightly crushed
30g Maltesers, left whole

1) Gently melt butter and golden syrup in large pan. Stir in cocoa, digestives and crushed maltesers. Allow mix to cool slightly before mixing in whole maltesers.

2) Line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film. Press mixture into tin. Refrigerate until set.

Mini Eccles mince pies

I first saw these mini Eccles mince pies in GFM a few months back. I love Eccles cakes and knew this version would be perfect to take into work for the last few days of term. Like most of my Christmas baking the gold lustre made an appearance.

For pudding later on Hubby and I are going to “taste test” a few of the pies with some Brandy Butter ice cream from a local producer, Needwood Ice Creams. We’ve had ice cream from Needwood before and it is delicious, even better than Ben & Jerrys!

Mini Eccles mince pies
Makes 30

2 packs of ready rolled puff pastry
500g suet-free mincemeat
1 egg white, lightly beaten
golden caster sugar
gold lustre

1) Preheat oven to 200oc. Lay out pastry on a lightly floured surface. Using a 9cm round biscuit cutter cut rounds out of the pastry.

2) Place a tsp of mincemeat in the middle of the circle. Brush around the edges with egg white, then gather the edges until the mincemeat is completely encased (I became a pro at this by the end!).

3) Place on the lined baking tray, so the sealed edges are underneath. Squish slightly.

4) Brush pies with egg white. Mix sugar with some gold lustre then sprinkle over the pies. With a knife cut 2 small slits. Bake for 15 min, until golden.

Suet-free mincemeat

It’s official, I now feel Christmassy. First thing this morning we were in Derby for Hubby to do an exam so I took the opportunity to visit the huge new shopping center there and found a fab cook shop, so naturally had to buy a new sieve and silicon pastry brush. I could have spent a great deal more if Christmas wasn’t just around the corner. The Salvation Army band were playing Christmas songs which gave a great festive air.

On the way home we picked up our Christmas tree…which strangely smells of Gin & Tonic (not that I’m complaining!) and decorated it while drinking mulled wine.

Then this evening, at our local National Trust park, they had an illuminated Christmas tree trail. During the day families had decorated various trees with decorations made from recycled products (e.g. CD’s, plastic bottles) then as night fell candles were lit everywhere. It looked beautiful. I didn’t take my camera as usually photography isn’t allowed, but I noticed loads of people were taking pics so I might go back with my camera Sunday night.

Today I eventually got around to make my mincemeat ready for the marathon Christmas baking fest on Sunday. I don’t know why, but I’m funny about suet in mincemeat so I was really happy when I came across this recipe in Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess a few years back. The only alteration I made was to add cranberries.

Hettie Potter’s suet-free mincemeat
Makes about 2kg

250g soft dark sugar
250ml medium dry cider
1 kg cooking apples, peeled, halved and quartered
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g currants
250g raisins
250g cranberries
75g glace cherries, roughly chopped
75g blanched almonds,
finely chopped rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
6 tbsp brandy or rum

In large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the cider over a gentle heat. Add the roughly chopped apples to the saucepan. Add all the ingredients, apart from brandy/rum and simmer for around 30 min until everything has a pulpy consistency. Take off the heat and when it has cooled slightly stir in brandy/rum.

Hotel Chocolat competition reminder

Just a quick reminder to say that my Hotel Chocolat competition closes tonight.

All you have to do is submit your christmas recipe involving chocolate– the more original the better – and you could win a host of luxury chocolate goodies.The lucky winner of the Domestic Goddess in Training and Hotel Chocolat Christmas competition will also be automatically entered into the Hotel Chocolat Grand Prize recipe competition and could win even more seasonal chocolate goodies! Do you think you’re the finest chocolate chef in the land? Well there really is only one way to find out …

You can enter the competitionat: competition will close at 11:59pm 12th December 07

Good Luck!

eta: The link no longer seems to work and you get a message that says the competition is closed?!? I’ve emailed Hotel Chocolat to find out what’s happened. I’m not sure if you”ll still be able to enter, but email me your recipe and I’ll try and pass it on. Sorry.

Chicken Goujons

I’m all for finding ways to cook traditionally unhealthy foods in a healthier way. On the way home from work I had an immense craving for chicken goujons and as I haven’t made them in ages I decided now was the time. The coating on the chicken worked really well and stopped the chicken drying out. I served it with potato wedges and coleslaw. The coleslaw we had with it was a bit disappointing. I admit it was shop brought, and according to the packaging it had mature cheddar in it, but we certainly couldn’t taste any.

Don’t forget to enter the Hotel Chocolat competition. Closing date is 11:59pm 12th December 07

Chicken Goujons
Serves 2-3

2 chicken fillets
3 slices of white bread
3 tbsp polenta
2 tbsp parmesan
couple twists of black pepper
2 eggs, beaten

1) Preheat oven to 200oc. Blitz bread in processor to make breadcrumbs. Mix with polenta, parmesan and pepper.

2) Cut chicken into finger sized pieces. Dip chicken in egg then roll in breadcrumb mix until thoroughly coated. Place on baking tray. Bake for 20-25 min, until golden.

Christmas decoration biscuits

One of my Christmas cooking traditions is to bake Christmas biscuits for friends and family that are hung on the Christmas tree and can be eaten afterwards. They remind me of Christmases in Germany.

The original recipe is from Nigella. They are drier and pepperier than normal biscuits (to make sure they don’t go soggy on the tree!) and loosely resemble lebkuchen. I’ve put the biscuits towards Peabody’s Housewarming.

Once the icing has totally dried on the dipped biscuits I’ll use a skewer to make a hole and thread ribbon through so they can be hung. I went a bit mad with the gold lustre, but if you can’t go mad with gold at Christmas when can you!

Christmas Decoration Biscuits
Makes about 30

For the biscuits
100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened
100g/3½oz soft dark sugar
300g/10½oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large free-range eggs, beaten with 4 tbsp clear honey

For the icing
300g/10½oz icing sugar
3 tbsp boiling water
sprinkles, lustre etc…. to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Cream together butter and sugar in a large bowl add the flour, salt, baking powder, mixed spice and freshly ground black pepper. Gradually pour the eggs and honey into the bowl until a dough has formed (you may not require all of the liquid if the dough has come together before it is used up).

2. Halve the dough. Wrap one half of the dough in cling film, place it into a freezer bag, and place it into the fridge. Place the other half of the dough onto a floured work surface. Roll the dough, into a disc to about 0.5cm/¼in thick. Cut shapes out of dough and place on baking sheet. User a small funnel to make a hole in the middle of each biscuit. Bake for 20 min. Allow to cool on rack.

3. Prepare the icing. I added some lustre to the icing mix to give it a bit of shine. The icing texture should be liquid enough to be easy to apply but thick enough not to run off the decorations. For the dipped biscuits lightly place the biscuit face side down onto the icing surface then slowly pull out. The biscuit floats in the icing and will coat the biscuit nicely. Decorate which ever way you wish.

Pork chops with cider & mustard sauce

Dinners are very much quick and easy at the moment as I’m up to my ears in sewing nativity costumes. I had a huge baking craving yesterday and had to buy some delicious lebkuchen from Lidl to calm my urge and let me get on with what seems like the 1001th shepherd outfit.

Tonight’s tea was pork chops with a cider and mustard sauce. The recipe is adapted from Nigella Express.

Pork chops with cider and mustard sauce
Serves 2

2 pork chops
250ml cider (I used Gayners med/dry)
50 ml single cream
2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1) Fry chops on both sides until cooked (about 5 min per side). Place on a warmed plate.

2) Deglaze pan with cider. Boil rapidly for about a minute. Stir in mustard and cream, continue to cook for a few minutes then pour over the chop.

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