So how did you feel this morning when the alarm went off? After all the lovely festive lie-ins, English Towers was not a happy household. I find that what you really, really need on these cold mornings (apart from a hug, obviously), is a mahoosive tower of puffy, fluffy American pancakes. The lovely chaps at Flora were kind enough to share their wonderful recipe for American pancakes with me, and challenged me to come up with some awesome breakfast recipes to help you all through all these ffffrrrreeeezing mornings!
IT’S NEARLY HERE! If you’re hosting Christmas lunch/dinner this year, here is everything you need to do, including lots of tips to make it stress free and ensure you spend your precious time with your family and friends, and not too much chained to the oven! Remember, don’t panic, and just think of it as a roast dinner on a slightly larger scale.
Before you start, grab a cuppa and have a read through:
Lovely Asda sent me a very festive hamper this weekend: not chocolates, or chutney, no, the best kind: MEAT!
Of course, not everyone wants to eat a traditional roast turkey at Christmas, and Asda’s Extra Special range has some stunning alternatives, including an Extra Special rack of venison, and a unique six bird roast, with British turkey, skinless duck fillet, chicken breast, wild pheasant, partridge and pigeon. The thought of these ‘bird within a bird’ roasts sometimes puts me off (how do you cut off the skin and inedible bits of each bird?) but Asda’s chefs have worked hard to create a dish with all the nice edible bits. It’s covered in a lattice of oak smoked streaky bacon and all you need to do is shove it in the oven. It serves 10 and costs £40 – in store now.
My children love our weird dinners (not). The other night, we were testing Marks and Spencer’s new range of party food. Their dinner was entirely made up of canapés, which although seems very posh, is actually quite strange. The good news is, though, that the party food is REALLY good, so we didn’t mind at all. And we thought it would be even better if you actually used it all as intended, y’know, for parties…
Turkey and all the trimmings may be the traditional Christmas dinner of choice for many, but if you fancy doing things a little differently this year, why not serve salmon instead?
Here’s a little food inspiration from John Ross Jr to tempt your taste buds:
Now Christmas is in full swing, I seem to be baking mince pies nearly every day. I always feel a bit sorry for Charlie, though, who doesn’t like mince pies and so tends to head for the biscuit tin instead. I decided to have a fiddle with my normal cookie recipe to come with something a little more festive.
So you might be one of those people that LOVES cooking for people at Christmas (like me) or you might be one who dreads it every year. Either way, the best way to get through that dinner is to cheat as much as possible. Here are my top five Christmas dinner hacks to give you more time with your family and friends, and less time at the oven and sink on the big day.
A friend of mine’s got a bit of a thing for premium drinkies and, knowing I feel the same, sent me a bottle of this lovely stuff: Snow Leopard vodka. This uber cool super-premium vodka was created by Stephen Sparrow, a passionate conservationist and ex-drinks industry expert, who heard about the plight of the Snow Leopards during a trip to the Himalayas. There are just 5000 of these beautiful big cats left in the wild and Stephen created the Snow Leopard Trust UK with a goal to raise a million dollars a year to save them.
The thing about home baking is that it should be a joy. My favourite times are spent in my kitchen – pinny on (Cath Kidston, a treasured present from my friend Taralara), oven on, flour everywhere, radio playing, people popping in and out for a chat or a quick taste – it’s my therapy. I’d go mad without it. Someone once told me that you should never bake when you’re miserable – nothing goes right – cakes don’t rise, things don’t taste right… it’s because the baking picks up on your mood, and I completely believe that’s true.
I’m no wine expert, but we’re starting to know what we like and what we don’t. Here are a few things we’ve tried recently, plus a couple of recommendations for the festive season. Cheers!
If you’ve been in Tesco recently, you’ll have seen that they’re currently running a sticker promotion where you can save up to 70% on exclusive Berndes cookware products (collect one sticker for every £20 you spend – once you’ve collected five stickers you can use them to buy the discounted cookware. Tesco very kindly send me one of the casseroles to try. They’re wonderfully chunky and heavy – perfect for soups, stews and casseroles. I tried my hand at a little one-pot cooking:
My store cupboard is really important to me. As well as the basics like salt, pepper, oil and stock cubes, I like to have lots of different seasoning mixes and dried herbs and spices, especially at this time of year when it’s more difficult to pop into the garden for a handful of parsley or coriander. Products from the lovely chaps at Schwartz feature heavily in my kitchen – I like dried coriander in my winter curries, and we’re all completely addicted to the Perfect Shake seasoning blend for chips (if you haven’t discovered this yet, grab some now, it’s awesome).
So next on our wonderful trip to Florida, we hopped back into our amazing Mustang and headed down to Sarasota, to the brand new Mall at University Town Centre (UTC for short). The brand new Macy’s there is utterly fantastic, and very state of the art. We joined store manager Kerry Yelle for a tour of the store. She’s understandably pretty proud of the place and pointed out several really cool features that are unique to this ‘smart store’. The lighting, for example, has been designed to be sustainable and the lamps don’t need replacing, plus the changing rooms have lights that only come on when you enter, to save energy.
There’s nothing quite like that first mince pie of the season, is there? Yesterday I popped to TK Maxx and picked up a couple of bits including this AMAZING ceramic bun tin and a cute little freeform bowl. Time for some baking, then:
So have you seen the Waitrose Christmas advert? We love the story of little Ellie, the reluctant baker, who ends up mastering the art of gingerbread baking for her school fete.
Waitrose have challenged me to get involved with their #bakeitforward campaign, to spread a little love and Christmas cheer to some people I really care about by baking them a special treat. I love decorating biscuits, it’s so Christmassy – so here are my cute little chocolate Christmas tree biscuits. This dough is perfect for cutting out shapes as it doesn’t spread in the oven – it’s really easy to make too.
So tomorrow (23rd November 2014) is stir up Sunday. If you’d like to cook a Christmas pudding this weekend – or if it’s any other date and you’re arriving here from the future, in which case HELLO FUTURE PEOPLE! – here’s my easy peasy step by step way to do it.
We have very weird wine habits in this house. When Mr English is home we really splash out and try a few nice wines, but when I’m at home on my own when he’s working, I tend to have a glass of a supermarket red on the go and I don’t think there’s any shame in that. I often read my friend Helen’s blog: Knackered Mother’s Wine Club for inspiration as she’ll regularly recommend a good bottle or two.
So Halloween’s coming up. Sadly, I’ll be missing all the fun (not too sadly as I’ll be joining the inaugural voyage of Royal Caribbean’s new beauty, Quantum of the Seas). Here are a few ideas if you’re staying at home this weekend.
As a nation, we’ve never really embraced candy corn have we? I love the look (and taste) of them, and when I was in America I tracked down these mixed fruit ones (probably terribly untraditional) and knew exactly what to do with them. What’s the best thing about Halloween? All the trick or treat sweets mixed up in a big bowl of course!
It’s no secret that I love my wine. And although I’m no expert, I’ve got to the stage where I’m interested enough to start recording my thoughts about wine that we’ve tried and liked, and want to know what other people think about wines.
When Mr English is home, one of our favourite things to do is pop to No 2 Pound Street in Wendover. It’s a lovely little place – part wine shop/part deli. They sell an amazing selection of cheese and other lovely bits, and an equally fab selection of wines. They concentrate on the slightly more unusual, organic, small-producer type wines, so you’ll always find something a bit different in there. They usually have four or five different wines on offer by the glass, so we pop in for a glass or two and one of their delicious deli platters:
Happy Sunday! I hope you’re having a lovely chill-out day wherever you are. I’ve had a such a lovely week this week, with some AMAZING career news (that sadly I can’t tell you about yet – I know, I hate it when people do that too), and a visit from Sam, home from university for a couple of days (he’s loving it, by the way – London/uni life really seems to suit him). I also had an incredible time at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – more of this later on in the week. We’ve also put an offer in on the HOUSE OF OUR DREAMS, but I’m really trying not to get too excited as it’s very early days and we’re still waiting on a mortgage too (but check out the garden – above – how pretty is that?).
Is everyone else in mourning now the Great British Bake Off is finished? What on earth are we going to watch now?! I’ve got to be honest, I prefer the early stages when the baking is more like something you might make at home, rather than the big, lavish showstopper thingies.
Happily, if you’re eager to get your Paul Hollywood fix, I happen to know that the Telegraph have just teamed up with the ol’ silver fox to bring you more than 40 brilliant British recipes this weekend!
So since our original offer on the House of Bodily Fluids back in July, we really haven’t heard very much. We didn’t really chase it as I guess we’re not in a massive hurry, but all of a sudden it kind of dawned on us that we hadn’t had any paperwork, and started to chase a bit harder. Our solicitors, worryingly, had heard nothing at all from their solicitors. I drove past the house and they hadn’t even STARTED clearing it, and you can imagine what a job that’s going to be. Then we started to hear rumour that the probate wasn’t going smoothly and there were issues with the man’s business that had to be sorted before the house could be sold… Ugh.
I’m really lucky because I get sent quite a few cookbooks. I’ll be honest though – a lot of them are a bit, well, samey. Every now and again one takes me by surprise because it’s just SO exciting and SO different.
- My top five fluffy American pancake ideas January 7, 2015
- The UK does Macy’s: my top five things to do in Sarasota January 5, 2015
- Ooooh I’m on the telly! The new Sainsbury’s ‘Love Your Freezer’ campaign January 3, 2015
- New year, new plans January 2, 2015
- English Mum’s Great Big End of Year Awards December 30, 2014