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!
This is basically the same recipe as my heirloom personalised Christmas cake recipe, but without all the waffle. If you want to know more about ingredients or if you have any questions about lining tins or what booze to use, etc, do check it out. If, however, you want a nice, easy step by step recipe to follow, then read on.
There are now just nine weeks until Christmas (sorry). I wouldn’t normally be bandying the C word about so early, but in this instance, it’s necessary – if you want to make sloe gin, you need to do it now. Sloes (sometimes called Blackthorn berries) are perfect right now, although there’s a school of thought that says they’re better after the first frost and I couldn’t honestly tell you if there’s been a frost yet. I’d say not as it’s been a really mild start to October. No matter, pick them and shove them in the freezer overnight. It does the same thing.
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:
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…
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.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for an easy Christmas eve supper, or something yummy to serve with drinks when you have guests, look no further than very simple to throw together sausage roll recipe. The filling is my easy apple and red onion stuffing, which can be baked separately and served along with your turkey, but also makes a lovely, moist filling for pies and these easy sausage rolls. So first, make the stuffing:
Easy apple and red onion stuffing:
(serves 4-6, double up as necessary):
1 tbsp butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 dessert apple, grated (don’t bother to peel)
225g pork sausage meat (or you can use the innards of sausages)
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
375g pack ready to roll puff pastry
Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the onion and fry gently until soft. Add the apple and cook until softened. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
Stir the sausage meat and breadcrumbs into the onion mixture along with the herbs and lemon juice.
Now, grab a nice pack of all butter puff pastry (life’s too short to make your own, I find, although if you really want to, I’ve got a rough puff recipe here which isn’t too labour intensive).
Roll the puff pastry out to a nice big rectangle (you need the thickness to be about 1/2 cm), then squish your sausagemeat down the middle in a big fat sausage.
Now, brush the edges with beaten egg, then flap the first edge over the sausagemeat. Brush that one with egg again, then fold over the second flap, so you’ve created one big, long sausage roll. Turn that roll over so that the seam is at the bottom. For a supper dish, it’s nice to keep it whole and slice at the table, but if you’re wanting individual bite-sized ones for a party, cut them now with a serrated edged knife, then score the top and brush with egg.
Bake at gas 4/180 degrees for about 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If you’re cutting your sausage into individual pieces, they’ll only take about 20 minutes.
Ah I’ve absolutely loved looking through all the amazing bakeoff entries. Now it’s down to our lovely judge Catriona to choose a winner to receive all those lovely Yeo Valley goodies. Good luck everyone!
So Mr English is home and the Christmas preparations can begin in earnest. His favouritest thing in the whole world at Christmas time is a home made mince pie. If you’ve only ever bought them, you’re missing a trick – they’re very easy and they make the whole house smell divine. I love scenting the pastry with the zest and juice of a clementine, or you could try a teaspoon of cinnamon too, or just leave it plain – it’s your pie. Here’s what you’ll need:
200g cold butter
400g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 clementine or tangerine, zest and juice (optional)
Cold water and a tablespoon (have them ready)
First, then, cut your butter into little cubes and pop it into the food processor with the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt:
Mix gently until it resembles breadcrumbs:
Now add the egg and the clementine juice and zest and let it continue stirring gently until the mixture just comes together. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water as it’s coming together so you end up with a nice, soft dough. Obviously you can do this by hand if you don’t have a food processor.
Form the dough gently into two balls, clingfilm them and put them into the fridge for 20 mins. Don’t leave them too long – rock hard pastry is not the easiest thing to handle. One ball should make 12 pies.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5 and get ready to mess with your mincemeat. Now, don’t get me wrong – normal mincemeat in a jar is fine, but let’s face it, there’s not much in life that can’t be improved with a bit of alcohol (trust me, it’s not time that’s a great healer, it’s booze), so splosh some in: I’m loving Pedro Ximenez at the moment, but anything will do: port, cherry brandy, Cointreau – whatever you have to pep it up. I also add a handful of dried cranberries because I like the colour. I’m also partial to a glacé cherry or two. But don’t bother if you don’t want to.
So now, just roll the pastry out and use a cutter to make circles. Pop the circles gently into a muffin tin and put a scant teaspoon of your boozy mincemeat in each one. Don’t overfill or they’ll ooze everywhere and be very difficult to get out of the tin (sorry for the blurry picture – sticky hands) :
Now you can either cut out another slightly smaller circle to use as a lid, or just cut out something festive like a star or a tree, and pop on the top. Now, pass the whole kit and caboodle onto the Eggy Wash Department (you’ll need a small, willing child for this – just use a little lightly beaten egg to paint over the pies and add a sprinkle of sugar):
Bake for about 10 – 15 minutes and that’s it, you made pies! Give yourself a quick round of applause, then serve with more booze in the shape of some warm, mulled wine, or a lovely cup of tea. And now you’ve got into the swing of it, try mixing it up. The tree ones at the top were made in a deep-fill muffin pan with a plain cutter. Or try topping your pies with sponge mixture like my festive pastry cakey pies.
If you’re thinking about baking mince pies this Christmas (you’ll find my clementine and mincemeat cakey pie recipe here), we should really spare a thought for all those mincemeat haters. When you’re popping your pies in the oven, leave a couple of the pastry shells empty (or indeed just make a whole batch of shells), scrunch up a square of greaseproof paper and pop in a handful of baking beans.
When you take your mince pies out of the oven you’ll have a few extra shells ready to fill with something non-mincemeaty. For a festive option, why not try making my cranberry and clementine curd? Double the quantity and buy some nice clip-top jars (I got mine from jarsandbottles-store.co.uk) and it makes a fabulous gift too.
You will need:
300g pack fresh or frozen cranberries
150g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 1 extra yolk
Put the whole pack of cranberries into a saucepan. Peel a couple of big strips of zest off each of the clementines and add that in too, then squeeze them and pour in the juice. Bring the mixture to the boil, then allow it to gently simmer for about five minutes or until the cranberries are soft.
Take it off the heat and pour it into a sieve over a bowl. Give the mixture a good squish to get as much juice out as possible, then measure the juice back into the saucepan. You need 6 tablespoons of juice – if you don’t have enough, add a bit more clementine or lime juice.
Add in the butter and caster sugar and stir gently on a low heat until the butter is all melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined (if you’re being restauranty here, you can sift the egg to remove any lumps of white).
Take the juice/butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs.
Pop that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and gently cooking until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. If it’s really not going to thicken, you can help it along by popping in another egg yolk and whisking again until it does. Remember it will continue to thicken as it cools.
If you’re potting it up, make sure your jars are sterilised (good sterilising advice from my friend Mammy’s Kitchen right here), but if you’re using it straight away, or pouring it into a tart case, let it cool a bit, remembering to stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on. When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.
A sealed jar will keep for a good few weeks in the fridge, but opened jars should be eaten within about a week.
- Things I learned during Alcohol Awareness Week November 21, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: scented Christmas candles November 18, 2017
- Slow cooked beef and red wine stew with dumplings November 16, 2017
- Alcohol Awareness Week: my Drinkaware Challenge November 15, 2017
- Battling the common cold (with a little help from Olbas) November 14, 2017