Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas stuffing – chestnut, shallot, apple & quince, sage

My dad makes a christmas stuffing that I always thought unsurpassable, but of course us young upstarts will try and usurp our parents won’t we? I took HEAVY inspiration from his recipe, but made it less like a meat loaf and more like a stuffing.

When I tasted the tester ball I was actually astounded that I had managed to make something so delicious. It was light, flavoursome, soft and yielding. Since I put the uncooked balls in to store for Christmas, every time I open the freezer I wonder what the delicious smell is, and remember it’s the stuffing! This recipe is definitely for keeps.

I improvised the weights and measures from what looked right, so I had to go back and weigh the leftovers to get the recipe. To make 10-12 balls of stuffing.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large cooking apple, diced
  • 8 – 10 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbspn quince
  • 2 tsps mixed herbs
  • 1 handful of fresh sage, chopped finely
  • 1/2 fresh nutmeg, grated
  • salt & white pepper to taste
  • 500 g sausagemeat (I squeezed it out of my favourite leek sausages)
  • 4 slices’ worth of breadcrumbs (I always forget to leave it out, so I do it in the oven at 200 C for about 10 mins. I think this actually helps as the bread is crisp but not totally dried out) crumbled up.
  • 250 g chestnuts (un prepared weight) which should be cooked – look up online if puzzled, I did – and then crumbled up.

How to make it

Fry the apple, shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt until soft. Add the quince, mixed herbs, nutmeg and fresh sage and cook for a further minute or two to combine. Add salt (probably not much at all) and white pepper to taste. Leave to cool.

Put the sausagemeat, bread crumbs and chestnuts into a bowl. Add the cooked mixture once it has cooled. Combine with your hands until everything is evenly spread out.

Take handfuls and roll into balls about the size of a lime. Cook at 200 C for around 20-30 minutes.

I ate the tester ball with cauliflower cheese (naughty, yummy) and it was delicious. Can’t wait to have the rest on Christmas day! I have told dad about this stuffing and have set aside a taster for him to try at the weekend. I wonder what he’ll think?

They aren’t the prettiest of beasts, especially photographed on a winter night- but I hope the picture helps show the consistency.

Christmas 2008

Since I’ve been cooking Christmas lunches, TLM has been snapping photos just after I run in with the gravy (always the last item, always in copious quantities). I always print the picture out and pop it in the ‘Christmas’ section of my recipe folder for reference for future years – things to work on, things that burnt, things that worked really well etc. This year’s was the biggest effort so far (roasties and mash!) and was based on the freezing-as-much-as-possible-beforehand method. We only got a little crown, which I cooked better than last time by stuffing an onion and lemon up it to raise the lower part up, but could still to with being moister for next time by decreasing cooking time and increasing resting time. Ho-hum.

There was one rather exciting and momentous Christmas occurance – I was given a bright red KitchenAid mixer by TLM. An object of lust that looks totally glam and indulgent on the side. I am of course completely spoiled and I can’t stop stroking it as I walk by (which I must stop because I’m leaving my pawprints all over it). I’ve not used it yet, as TLM has been working long shifts since Christmas day and I felt its first use should be witnessed. He finishes at 9pm tonight – or thereabouts barring any catastrophes – so tomorrow we will be having pancakes for breakfast and we will marvel at how good the mixer looks as it does what we could very well do with a whisk. I think I’ll have to get googling on batters and mixes and doughs to make full use of my new equipment. I think TLM may be thinking that effort saved in mixing will be redistributed elsewhere…

Happy Christmas all!

Festive Fanices

I got the recipe a few months ago, and have made them every couple of weeks since – for my work colleagues, for his work colleagues, for our parties, to take to parties – and they are by far my most successful offering. Having cooked them about 6 or 7 times means that I’ve finally got the recipe and method to work perfectly. Everyone comments on how lovely they taste and, after much tweaking, they now look the part too! The cakes themselves are cooked in the teeniest of petit four cases so noone can get away with the old ‘you’re going to make me fat!’ quip. If you eat 10, it’s not my fault. They are quick to make, but do require a piping bag but I think that’s a price I’m willing to pay. This recipe makes about 30ish.

Ingredients
for the cakes
  • 55g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 55g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp milk
for the icing
  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • a couple tbsp icing sugar 
How to make it
After much experimentation, this is the best method. Preheat the oven to 190 celcius.
Start by making the icing so that it has plenty of time to cool. Microwave the chocolate and cream together on a low heat for a couple of minutes. It’s best to have it under-melted and leave it to melt a little than to have it zapped to death. Leave to one side to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the egg, then fold in the sifter flour and cocoa. Stir in the milk. This should be quite a sloppy batter.
Lay out your mini petit four cases on a baking tray (you don’t need anything fancy) so they’re easy to handle. I used a silicone tray first time. Not recommended!
Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a medium sized nozzle (it can be plain or fluted, it doesn’t matter)  and pipe a little mixture into the cases – they should be about half full. Cook the cakes in the top of the oven for 10 – 14 minutes. No longer. After cooking, put them on a rack to stop them cooking any further. The secret about these delicious cakes is that the sponge is not dry at all. Leave the cakes to cool.
Using a whisk, beat together the cold chocolate and cream mixture for a good 5-8 minutes until it starts to thicken. As it starts to thicken, add the icing sugar as needed until the mixture becomes very stiff. The reason I add icing sugar and make the icing very stiff is that I’ve made it slippery before and it fell from a glorious glossy pile on the mini-cake to a flat ganache. It was most disheartening.
Once the cakes have cooled (it won’t take long but they must be cool otherwise the icing will simply slip off – voice of experience here!) you can pipe the icing on top.
Now I’ve used mini-smarties, fancy dragees and even crunchie nuggets to go on the top of these, but a raspberry is the perfect topping. It cuts through the rich cake and really is the best topping (even if out of season at Christmas…)

Christmas Fruit and Carrot Cake

This cake needs some tinkering still, but was deliciously Christmassy with some mulled cider.

Due to my poor maths skills, I miscalculated the amount of fruit I’d need for my Christmas cake and pudding by around 250 g (I don’t know quite how). My Christmas fruit was a mixture of glace cherries, candied peel, dried cranberries, currants, raisins and sultanas steeped in cherry brandy, Cointreau and Amaretto.

I’d been hankering after a carrot cake for a while, so I thought I’d combine the two ideas and cook a fruity carrot cake. Unfortunately, the only recipe I liked the look of was in American cups and had some spices I didn’t have in (ground cloves, nutmeg) so I altered, substituted and below is my metric rendering of the cake:

Ingredients

  • 175g brown sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 200 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 140g carrots
  • 250g steeped Christmas fruit

How to Make it

Cream the butter and sugar together (the better you do this, the better a cake seems to come out)
, then add the milk and eggs alternately with the flour and dry ingredients. Then add the carrots and Christmas fruit, pour into a 8 or 9 inch tin (I had a 9 inch which is why it’s a bit flat!) and bake for 45 mins to an hour.

For the icing – I used 100g cream cheese and 100g butter and just added icing sugar until it looked like the icing I’ve seen before on carrot cakes. Not precise, I know, but it worked OK.

When I make this cake again I’ll likely cut the quantity of milk. I thought it looked a rather wet batter and after an hour of cooking, the cake still came out a little damp for my liking.


It’s the most wonderful time of the year…


Festivities gearing up here, Christmas cooking is under way. Hooray! And baby, it’s cold outside. Snuggle up with some mulled cider…

Christmas: Take Three

I know Christmas take two fell a little by the wayside, but it was fantastic to watch my nieces and nephew open up their presents. I also got given a beautiful bonsai tree by my brother et al which is so cool, I think it won’t be long before I’m obsessed with it.

I got lots of lovely gifts for Christmas, including some brilliant kitchen things: primarily a wonderful knife (yes!) and a Cuisinart mini food processor, which I can’t wait to use!

One of the most important things about Christmas is of course the food. We had a lovely Christmas Eve tea. I adore seafood, so I was in heaven with the smoked salmon, prawns and crayfish tails. Lovely brown bread and butter, rocket salad and the M&S seafood sauce (with pink peppercorns) that I am evangelical about.

Christmas Cake

I’ve made a Christmas cake for the past 5 years and I think this year’s is the best ever. I use the recipe from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson and it always turns out well. This year it’s just gorgeous, and I have to show it off!

The nude Christmas cake

The decoarted cake: I usually go for sophisticated white/gold/green/red sparkly icing paint and use little icing cutters but we forgot them so we got coloured icing and made little characters for the top 😀

It’s all about the eating and hum-ah-nah, this year it’s so gooooooooooooood and moist

Christmas Pudding

Boring as I am, I always use Nigella Lawson’s pudding recipe from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” (though I have photocopies of the recipes in the Christmas section of my cooking folder for ease of use). It never fails to be moist and tasty (until this year I’d never eaten a Christmas pudding I hadn’t made myself and I was able to try a shop-bought one and it was black and treacly and heavy and I will never stop making my own!)

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas time and don’t forget that you can still leave the decorations up and pretend it’s Christmas till the end of January.

Christmas: Take One

I made Christmas lunch for 6 on Sunday and it was uh-may-zing. It was so lovely to see everyone, I remained ridiculously calm and because I’d prepared so much stuff beforehand I was able to drink and talk (I hate missing the fun due to being in the kitchen). The day before the dinner I went shopping and saw some little Lindt reindeer (heavily reduced) and couldn’t resist buying 6 to make into place cards. I think you’ll agree they look LOVELY! Everyone resisted scoffing them after the starter (rocket, prawns in pink peppercorn sauce with lemon), was very impressed.

Everything came out miraculously on target (though there were two disasters: one parsip disaster which mean TLM had to go and get some more, and one where the mini xmas puds boiled over and made my pan all black – TLM again stepped in to scrub). One of my friends was the turkey consult, so we wrangled the turkey crown about to get the bottom end done. She also, spectacularly, kept sneaking into the teeny kitchen and washing up behind me (and washed up at the end with her brother!).

The end result was fab! I’d only ever cooked Christmas dinner last year – for two – but we had a LOT of different veg that time:

One of the lads even said that this year’s offering was better than his mum’s (I did a secret victory dance in my head). For next time: note to self, even allowing 7 potatoes per person means they’re all gone during firsts! Same goes for a litre and a half of gravy!

The potatoes that were scoffed immediately. They’re not as perfect as last year, alas, but still roused an “omg-they-look-just-like-the-M&S-ones”.

So we ate, then we played games and were merry. Hooray! I am looking forward to being catered for on the real day though!

edit: I forgot the mention pudding! I always make xmas pud, and so this year I made the big one to take home and they I put a few spoonfuls of mixture into individual bowls (tiny ones I used to mix up spices in) and I brought out the mini xmas puds as a surprise at the end of dinner.