Monthly Archives: December 2016

Frozen Coffee Baileys Kick-Offs

I know these little naughties are called something else but I’m calling them Frozen Coffee Baileys Kick-Offs – ideal dwinkies to kick off or round off a New Year’s Eve sesh I’d say. Dead easy to make, even easier to enjoy and quite simply rather gorgeous!

Serves 1

What you need…

60ml Baileys

20ml vodka

1 drop of vanilla essence

3 coffee ice cubes made from frozen espresso

What to do…

Choose a pretty glass. Add the coffee ice cubes. Pour over the Baileys and vodka and then drop in the vanilla essence.

Walk away for about 10 minutes to allow the coffee ice-cubes to start to melt. Give your lovely drink a quick swirl to mix up all the ingredients and then either 1) sip elegantly or 2) down it and demand another one! Either way, enjoy!

Tip…

Most recipes that I’ve seen for this use Vanilla Vodka – I used what I had available!

Inspired by…

I saw them in a magazine and then googled the recipe.

How easy…

Dead easy. Just remember to make the coffee ice cubes in advance.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wrapped in Parma Ham with Creamy Herb Sauce

I’m really getting into these sauces that are so easy but intensely flavoured, simply as a result of a few ingredients that have been reduced. This dish is quick, easy and in my book, sensational. It could just as easily grace a dinner-party table as the supper that it was created for. Make it once and it definitely won’t be the last time – buonissimo!

Serves 4

What you need…

I bulb garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

800ml hot water from the kettle

2 chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

12 slices Parma ham

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Sea salt and black pepper

400ml double cream

1 large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 large handful fresh basil, finely chopped

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Place the whole garlic bulb in a square of foil with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Wrap it up securely and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Using a balloon whisk, dissolve the stock pots into the hot water to create 800ml chicken stock.

Lay 3 Parma ham slices beside each other, slightly overlapping. Season one of the chicken breasts and place in the middle of the ham. Fold the slices over the chicken to create an evenly wrapped parcel. Repeat for each of the remaining chicken breasts.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken parcels for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest (the chicken, not you!)

Meanwhile, in a saucepan reduce the chicken stock by half, add the cream and then squeeze out the garlic from each clove, also adding it to the stock. Reduce the sauce by half again and then strain into a jug. Stir through the chopped herbs and serve over your yummy chicken breasts. Quick, easy and absolutely delicious!

Tip…

The two reductions take between 10 and 15 minutes each.

Inspired by…

Gino D’Acampo

How easy…

Really easy

 

 

Right Royal Christmas Cake Icing

The final finishing touches to my Christmas cake, I love rough royal icing: it’s so forgiving of any patchy marzipan application and also of my total lack of ability to cake-decorate beautifully. My approach, as you can see, is instead to invest in pretty pre-made decorations (I forgot to buy ribbon though!)

Makes enough for a rough snow scene for a 20cm round cake

What you need…

500g icing sugar

3 egg whites from happy eggs

1 teaspoon glycerine

What to do…

Dump the icing sugar and egg whites into a large bowl and whisk together until stiff peaks form, using an electric handheld whisk. Add the glycerine and whisk until evenly incorporated.

Apply to your cake using palette knife, spreading the icing evenly around the sides and across the top. Use the back of a teaspoon to ‘whip up’ snowy peaks!

Wodge in your chosen figurines or holly leaves and pop some ribbon around the side, securing with a pin at the back of the cake. Sit back and admire your handiwork! Your Christmas cake is now complete! A glass of fizz would go down nicely now! Merry Christmas!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

As about as simple as it gets!

 

 

Christmas Chocolate Log

This cake is truly luscious – spectacularly rich and chocolatey, totally naughty and perfect for Christmas. Inspired by Mary Berry, her cake is of course beautifully presented as well. Mine however…..well, I had a few obstacles to overcome with my icing bag and nozzle; this cake, as delicious as it is, is evidence as to why I’m booked onto a cake decorating course in the New Year! Never judge a book by its cover or indeed a cake by its icing – another hit from Mary!!!

What you need…

 1 x 33cm x 23cm Swiss roll tin, lightly buttered and lined with greaseproof paper

4 large, happy eggs

100g caster sugar

65g self-raising flour

40g cocoa powder

for the chocolate icing and topping

300g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), chunked

450ml double cream

4 tablespoons apricot jam, melted

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

For the sponge, use an electric handheld whisk to beat together the eggs and sugar until the mixture is really pale, light and frothy. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and use a metal spoon to cut and fold into the mixture, until they are both fully incorporated.

Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until the sides are just shrinking away from the edge of the tin.

Place a piece of greaseproof paper bigger than the Swiss roll on your work surface. Invert the cake onto the paper and gently peel off the bottom lining of greaseproof paper.

Make a score mark 2.5cm in along one of the longer edges. Roll up (from the scored edge) using the paper, rolling with the paper inside. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the cream in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally to evenly mix in the melted chocolate. Cool and then pop into the fridge to firm up.

Uncurl the cold Swiss roll and discard the paper. Spread one third of the chocolate icing over the surface and then re-roll tightly. Cut a quarter of the cake off from one end on the diagonal. Transfer the large piece of the cake to a serving plate and then angle the cut end to the side of the larger cake to look like a branch. Cover the cake with melted apricot jam.

Now it gets really interesting. Mary put the chocolate icing into an icing bag fitted with a star nozzle and beautifully piped thick lines along the cake, covering it completely to look like bark. When I attempted this however, the nozzle flew off the end of the bag and the icing dumped onto the cake, looking somewhat like poo!!!!! I used my fingers to spread the chocolate all over the cake and then used a fork to try and recreate the bark effect….luckily the cake tastes amazing, which is just as well as it’s appearance leaves rather a lot to be desired!!!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

The cake was easy but I struggled with the decoration – I think that might just be me though!!!

 

Christmas Cake Marzipan

 

So, I made the Christmas cake one month ago and have duly been feeding it brandy. Onto stage 2: the marzipan layer to ‘seal’ the cake before the decorative icing goes on. Until last year, I always made my Christmas cake but then bought ready-made marzipan. I also wasn’t a great fan of the stuff. However, last year I made Simnel cake and followed Lisa Faulkner’s recipe for the marzipan: complete convert! I now LOVE marzipan (possibly slightly addicted) and also I cannot believe how ridiculously easy it is to make such wonderful stuff. Lightly fragranced and flavoured with almond and vanilla essences, beautifully emphasising the natural gorgeousness of the moist ground almonds, marzipan is a wonder all by itself. Take just a few minutes (that really is all it takes) to make your own: you won’t look back!

Makes enough for the 20cm round Christmas cake already blogged and a large handful left over for general mucking about with.

What you need…

500g ground almonds

250g caster sugar

250g icing sugar

2 eggs

½ teaspoon almond essence

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

1 teaspoon lemon juice

What to do…

Chuck all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and use and handheld electric whisk to beat everything together. When marble-sized balls have been formed, discard the whisk and use your hands to knead the marzipan together into a dough.

Roll the dough out to your personal desired thickness (I do mine just a little thicker than a pound coin but I know some people prefer more and there’s certainly enough marzipan here to accommodate a greater appetite!)

Measure the height of your cake and cut a long strip of marzipan wide enough to wrap around the cake and deep enough to go from top to bottom.

Brush apricot jam all over the side of the cake and stick your marzipan strip to it.

Likewise with the top. Use the original cake tin that you cooked the Christmas cake in as a template to cut out a circle. Brush the top of the cake with the jam and pop on your marzipan circle. Use your fingertips to blend in the sides and top of the marzipan covering.

Pop in a cake tin and leave to dry out for a couple of days before having fun with icing (blog to follow).

Inspired by…

The cake was Delia’s and the marzipan is inspired by Lisa Faulkner.

How easy…

Just a quick mix of ingredients: couldn’t be easier!

Scrumptious Christmas Stuffing

I made this for the first time last year, but it was for our actual Christmas lunch and I figured it would be a bit pointless blogging it after the effect. But so very, very luscious was this stuffing that I vowed to blog it this year. Duly, I made the stuffing last week, freezing all but a single portion which I figured I’d cook with Sunday lunch so that I could photograph it. All good planning but then I forgot about my little portion of stuffing and burnt the edges – no way was I going to photograph that so you’ve got this image instead: not remotely relevant I know! Back to the recipe: I know it works because I did it last year and I would urge you to take the time to give it a go: make this stuffing and you’ll never buy the packet stuff again – it’s sooooo very yummy: juicy and succulent inside; crispy on the outside; delicious throughout! And, like I said, you can freeze it raw and just defrost it Christmas morning! Merry Christmas! (from the beach!!!)

What you need…

50g stale bread, roughly chunked

2 large onions, peeled and quartered

200g vac-packed chestnuts

1 kg shoulder of pork, trimmed and chunked

A large handful of sage, leaves picked

3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

1 whole nutmeg, freshly grated

Zest of ½ lemon

Zest of ¼ orange

What to do…

If you’re preparing the stuffing to cook the same day, preheat your oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

Tip the bread into your food processor (with the blade fitted) and whizz to create breadcrumbs. Tip them out of the food processor and into a large mixing bowl.

Tip the onions into your food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add them to the bowl.

Tip the chestnuts into the food processor and whizz into little chunks. You guessed it: add them to the bowl.

Into your food processor now add the pork, sage, bacon and season well with the salt and pepper. Add in the nutmeg as well as the lemon and orange zest and pulse the whole lot until you have some chunky stuffing and some mushy – it doesn’t take long.

Tip the pork mixture into the bowl with the other ingredients. With your hands, scrunch the whole lot together to make sure that all the ingredients are well mixed.

Divide into 2: half for inside your bird and the other half to be cooked in an oven-to-tableware baking dish. Wodge the stuffing firmly into the dish and then pop in the oven to cook for 50 minutes or so until bubbling and crispy.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

A festive whizz I’d say!!!

 

Perky Porky Sausagemeat

For the latest batch of sausage rolls, I couldn’t get to my favourite butchers to acquire really flavoursome sausagemeat and ended up just throwing a carton of the stuff into my trolley at the supermarket. It looked dull. I knew it was going to taste dull. I can’t be doing with dull sausage rolls so I had a rummage around the fridge and came up with the following addition to transform your bog-standard sausagemeat into something rather lovely, really tasty and quite Christmassy.

What you need…

700g sausagemeat

1 apple, peeled, cored and grated

A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked

Sea salt and black pepper

1½ teaspoons cloves, crushed

What to do…

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and then make your sausage rolls as per normal (recipe already blogged). Bloody lovely: transforms very ordinary supermarket sausagemeat into something quite delish!!!

Inspired by…

A rummage around the kitchen and the motivation to distance my sausage rolls from dull!

How easy…

Couldn’t be simpler!

 

 

Brandy Alexander Cocktail

Peculiarly, Christmas provides me with the excuse to try out all sorts of cocktails that under normal circumstances I would deem OTT. Of those tried most recently (we now have a bar extremely well stocked with all sorts of unusual liqueurs and mixers) Brandy Alexander is my favourite. I have no idea whether this is authentic and quite honestly, I don’t care – it’s lovely: a real Christmas treat!

Serves Just 1 Lucky Person

What you need…

1 x cocktail shaker

A large handful of ice cubes

60ml brandy/cognac

40ml crème de cacao

30ml single cream

Nutmeg, freshly grated (optional) to garnish

What to do…

Into your cocktail shaker, tip in all the ingredients except the nutmeg. Pop on the lid and shake like mad. Pour into a very grown up glass created especially for cocktails. Sprinkle with nutmeg if using. Sit back, relax, sip and enjoy. Repeat until glass is empty. Consider making a second one!

Tip…

Crème de Cacao seems to be difficult to find in supermarkets. In the end: Amazon!

Inspired by…

Too long flipping through cocktail books writing very long short lists!

How easy…

You just need enthusiasm!

 

 

Christmas Rocky Road

Wow! This stuff is just gorgeous and completely addictive. Crunchiness mixed with mellow, slightly melted mallow and the joy that is the mix of chocolate and golden syrup. Nuts, glace cherries and amaretti biscuits all combine to create something that can only be described as a seasonal joy! Just lovely!!!

Makes around 30+ bite-sized poppables!

What you need…

1 x 23 x 29cm-ish baking tin, lined with foil

250g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

150g milk chocolate, broken into chunks

175g butter

4 tablespoons golden syrup

200g amaretti bisuits (not the soft ones)

150g brazil nuts, shelled

150g glace cherries

125g mini marshmallows

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

In a large saucepan, tip in your chocolate chunks, butter and syrup and let the whole lot melt together over a low heat.

Meanwhile, in your food processor, fit the cutting blade and whizz the brazil nuts to rubble. Tip them out and set aside. Then do the same with your amaretti biscuits – it won’t take very long so just a quick whizz or you’ll get dust rather than rubble!

Once everything has melted, take the pan off the heat and tip in your nuts, amaretti, cherries and marshmallows. Gently stir the lot so that everything is evenly covered in the chocolate mix.

Tip the lot into your foil-lined tin. Run a spatula over the top so that it’s flatish. Pop in the fridge for 2 hours.

Invert your rocky road out of the foil-lined tin and cut into bite-sized ‘poppable’ squares. Stack up so it’s roughly rocky-road-mountain-like, dress with daft figures and dredge with icing sugar. Serve to everyone’s absolute delight! Just keep popping them in – it’ll be hard not to!!!!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

You chop some bits, you melt some bits and you mix some bits! Then you enjoy the whole lot and wow, it’s great!

Venison and Cranberry Casserole with Red Wine and Chocolate

Rich, festive and indulgent – what a fabulous casserole this is – the venison, so tasty, is cooked so that it falls off the fork, melting in the mouth; and the sweet cranberries provide a perfect foil to the meat, with no hint of their original tartness. The last minute addition of dark chocolate gives the sauce a glossy finish and that little something extra! Enjoy – it’s wholesome and indulgent all at the same time!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

250g rindless smoked back bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

Sea salt and black pepper

1.5kg lean venison, diced

2 – 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

16 whole baby onions

3 fat garlic cloves, chopped

250g button mushrooms, cleaned

1 bay leaf and 1 small bunch parsley, tied together

1 x bottle robust red wine

225g cranberries

2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar

300ml beef gravy

50g dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids)

What to do…

Start the day before you want to enjoy your casserole. In a large saucepan, dry-fry the bacon over a moderate heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper. Tip the flour into a plastic bag, season well and then throw in the venison, tossing the bag around so that the all the venison gets covered in the seasoned flour.

Into the saucepan, heat half the rapeseed oil and cook the venison in batches until browned, adding more rapeseed oil as required. Using your slotted spoon, remove the venison as it browns and set aside.

Tip the onions and garlic into the pan, stirring and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for a further 5 minutes.

Return the venison and bacon to the pan and add the herbs and red wine. Slowly bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Leave to cool, then pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day, add the cranberries, sugar and gravy, season and mix well. Partially cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Break up the chocolate and stir in until it’s all melted and evenly distributed. Taste your casserole – you may need to add a little more sugar to counter the tartness of the cranberries.

Serve this lovely rich, festive and heartwarming casserole with buttery mashed potato and some greenery!

Inspired by…

Woman and Home magazine

How easy…

Not difficult, but quite time consuming on day one. Absolutely worth it though and I like the fact that you get all the messy and ‘arduous’ stuff done the day before you’re going to enjoy this lovely casserole.