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!
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:
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