So here it is, my very last post before Christmas! I’ve been writing this blog for 10 years now (I know!) and every year, I say the same thing: if you’re cooking the Christmas lunch – and getting stressed about it – remember it’s your Christmas too. I’ve got loads of tips here to make the day as stress free and laid back as possible for you, so you can enjoy your Christmas day with your family and friends. So find a quiet corner, Treat yourself to my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate, grab a notebook, have a read through and take few minutes to make a plan. And remember, it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and this guide will help you do most of the work on Christmas Eve so you can spend as much time as possible with the family, and as little as possible in the kitchen on the big day!
You can’t have Christmas without a Christmas ham. This recipe works with ANY sized joint. Multiply it up and down as you see fit and as suits you. I think ham makes a wonderful Christmas feast. This recipe makes a delicious sweet, salty, softly textured ham that’s fabulous hot with creamy mashed potatoes, or cold with chutneys and cheeses and a hunk of crusty bread. I always cook one the week before Christmas, and always end up having to cook another one because it gets scoffed! This spiced and glazed Christmas ham is poached in Coke, and you really can’t underestimate the delicious, caramel sweetness that it infuses into the meat. It’s better for your ham than your teeth, that’s for sure!
I guess as a writer, I should be more creative than most with my language, but when it comes to food, I’m pretty stuck with the old favourites and find myself describing things as ‘delicious’ and ‘nice’ probably more often than I should. According to new research by Sainsbury’s, as a nation, we now spend an average of something like 16 hours a week planning, talking, and thinking about food (that’s almost six years of our adult lives) and yet despite this, we’re still using the same old words, with most of us using about six to describe their meals each week. My lovely chums at Sainsbury’s love their food, and to expand our foodie vocabulary, they’ve enlisted lovely linguist Susie Dent to help them create ‘The Taste Dictionary: 101 ways to describe each mouthful’. The dictionary includes some fabulous words, like ‘lickerous’ (meaning: sweet and tempting), and my own favourite: ‘uliginous’ (yoo-lij-uh-nuh s – say it slowly – it almost oooozes…), meaning creamy, soft and smooth to taste. So to celebrate my new favourite word, how about trying the very epitome of uliginous food, a soft, creamy, luscious (ooh, there’s another one!) chocolate and peanut butter mousse, decorated with some salted peanut brittle, for a little crunch.
I’m so excited to share this recipe with you. We’re a huge fan of chilled, filled pastas. They’re absolutely great to have tucked away in the fridge, so convenient for last-minute meals and feeding unexpected guests (or hungry post-pub revellers). They’re so simple and quick to prepare (they take less than three minutes to cook) and are such a great way to feed the family this Christmas – completely stress free and absolutely delicious. It’s authentic Italian pasta – the ultimate quick and simple comfort food, and this whole dish takes literally minutes to prepare. I’ve teamed a pack of Giovanni Rana Simply Italian Creamy Mozzarella & Smoked Pancetta Ravioli with a tasty sage butter, some pan fried shredded sprouts and some crisp, smoked pancetta.
I love the idea of making Christmas cake. Honestly, I do! But I never seem to manage to bake one in November or whenever everyone else is doing it, and even if I do, it then gets lost in a cupboard somewhere and I forget to feed it and take care of it (it’s ‘Fluffy’ the sourdough starter all over again). This lovely cranberry, apricot and orange Christmas cake recipe is full of delicious fruit, and even better, you can just make it the week before Christmas (or even Christmas eve) and it will be delicious and moist and scented and Christmassy, even if you do nothing at all to it.
How flipping lovely is Christmas baking? I’m never happier than when I’m in my kitchen, surrounded by twinkly lights, my new kitchen Christmas tree, and the delicious scent of Christmassy cinnamon wafting from the oven. I make so many mince pies over Christmas (Mr E is a big fan) that I tend to buy an absolute ton of mincemeat. However, it’s really lovely – and easy – to make your own. Homemade mincemeat makes great presents for friends and family and you’ll be surprised how delicious it tastes compared to the stuff from a jar (which I always zhuzh up with a load of booze and extra cranberries anyway).
Ahhh leftover turkey. I know people moan about it, but we always buy an extra mahoosive turkey, even if there’s just the four of us on Christmas day, as we love our turkey leftovers! This easy leftover turkey nachos recipe takes no time to put together, has some proper fresh, zingy flavours, and is a fabulous sharing dish – basically everything you want from Boxing Day and beyond. And for the rest of the year, well, just make it with chicken!
At this time of year, there’s an awful lot of hot chocolate being consumed here at Number One. Of course everybody knows that the best hot chocolate comes with a big dollop of whipped cream and loads of marshmallows. Not as many people know that the absolute best hot chocolate comes with a big dollop of frozen whipped cream and loads of marshmallows. ‘Wait, can you freeze cream?’ I hear you shout. Oh yes. Whipped double cream freezes really well, and if you freeze it in handy dollops, it’s ready to be added to the perfect hot chocolate at any time, as well as topping hot mince pies, desserts… loads of things. Here’s how to do it.
I have a complicated relationship with biscotti. On the one hand, I love baking them (and eating them) but on the other hand, listening to people say ‘oh wow these biscotti are SO hard!’ makes me want to throw the aforementioned hard biscuits at their heads. Yes, biscotti are hard. That’s kind of the point. They’re twice baked and made to be dunked – traditionally in vin santo, but they’re also delicious dunked in coffee (or if you’re a coffee hater like me, hot chocolate, where they’re perfect for scooping out your melted marshmallows). I’ve made spiced chocolate and pistachio biscotti by adding a little Christmassy spice and using chocolate chunks and pistachio nuts, but feel free to keep it traditional with almonds, or add some dried fruit. Read more
This weekend is one of my favourites of the whole year. The first weekend in December (or possibly the second, depending on timing) is tree decorating day. The men of the house go out and forage (okay, not exactly forage) for a Christmas tree, and we spend a lovely day with Christmas songs blasting, digging through all the decorations from the loft (they always bring back memories, don’t they?) and decorating the house. This year, as it’s the first year we’ve got our lovely new open kitchen/diner, I really wanted a kitchen Christmas tree and the boys did a fabulous job finding me the perfect one. To celebrate all this hygge activity (remember hygge? The Danish concept of warmth and family and cosiness), we decided to invite some lovely friends and – with a little help from Simply Beef and Lamb – found the perfect festive recipe: slow roasted lamb in sloe gin.
Look, it’s the 28th November, okay? It’s basically the beginning of Christmas week’ isn’t it? We don’t generally do our decorations until the first weekend in December, but Christmas baking? I’m all over it. This weekend, it was time to bring out my favourite Christmas tree mould and create some new Christmassy treats in the shape of these little chocolate Christmas tree cakes. This is a fab, fun thing to do with the kids – basically smother the little sponge trees in melted chocolate and then go crazy with the decorations. Here’s how I did it:
I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but when Mr E was little, his favourite treat was his mum’s ‘pastry jammy cakey things’ – basically a jam tart with a cake topping. Over the years I’ve made these in various different forms, but he especially loves the Christmassy mince pie version. We’re Christmas lovers here at Number One, and Christmas starts basically as soon as Mr E’s birthday is over in mid-November (we just about manage to reach December 1st before the tree goes up). This year, I’ve added festive clementine and cinnamon to the cake mix, but sadly still not thought of a decent name for them, so ‘clementine and cinnamon cakey mince pies’ will have to do.
If you’re a ‘last minute Larry’ like me, there are still plenty of wonderful things to buy, and often, if you hang around for a bit before ordering, you’ll find there are quite a few deals to be had. First things first, though, you need a mince pie and a glass of fizz….
While walking the dog today (she has an ouchy so we had to walk very slowly), we were talking about how we could update the mince pie recipe of 2014 with a new twist. Mr E was saying how much he likes Bakewell tarts, so I decided to create frangipane mince pies with a soft layer of delicious almond cream and a mincemeat topping. Don’t feel that you have to make the pastry. There are no rules to this homemade lark – it’s the thought that counts so if you use shop bought pastry (just look out for an all butter one), nobody’s going to judge you!
If you’re using shop bought mincemeat, it’s worth adding a squeeze of fresh orange or a splash of sherry or port to perk it up too.
You’ll probably remember that back in the summer, The Organic Trade Board challenged us to take the #thriftyorganic challenge and switch our usual weekly shop for a 100% organic one, all for £83, the average grocery shopping budget for a UK family of four. We ate really well AND stayed on budget, and it made me really think about what we eat, and made me plan our meals properly as well. Eating organic on a budget really is possible!
As part of our #thriftyorganic challenge, I whipped this up for a quick dessert and served it hot with double cream. While it’s cooking, it makes the whole kitchen smell like Terry’s Chocolate Orange (our Christmas chocolate of choice) and could just as easily be made with clementines or tangerines too. I think it would make a lovely, Christmassy alternative for the Christmas pud haters on Christmas day too!
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