Christmas

Stilton Soup

OK, so the final bit of Stilton remained in the fridge from Christmas. It wasn’t actually opened until a good way through January but, if it wasn’t to be wasted, I needed to do something with it and we’d got to the end of the delightful ‘Stilton and crackers, perhaps with a glass of port’ thing. So, I thought I’d give this a bash, even though I wasn’t overly certain whether it would even be pleasant. It’s absolutely lovely: smooth, rich and really, really flavoursome. Delia reckoned that this recipe would serve 4 – 6 people as a starter but I decided to serve it as an ‘amuse bouche’ (defined as ‘a little bit of food which is served before the meal to stimulate the appetite) in tiny cups, simply because it is sooooo rich. It’s a lovely little taster to kick off a dinner! And there’s no problem with the leftovers – having served four, the rest was divided into two polythene bags and frozen, available for a couple of other dinners!

Serves 12 as an Amuse Bouche

What you need…

Splash rapeseed oil

3 shallots, chopped

1 leek, cleaned and sliced

1 large potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

570ml water, boiled from the kettle

1 chicken stockpot (I use Knorr)

150 ml dry still cider

110g Stilton cheese, cut into small chunks

275ml milk

1 tablespoon double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the vegetables and a pinch of salt. Pop the lid on and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a small balloon whisk, stir the stockpot into the water until it has dissolved. Set aside your stock.

Stir the flour into the vegetables and, when evenly mixed in, gradually add the cider, stirring the whole time. Add the chicken stock, pop the lid back on the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the milk and Stilton and increase the heat to high. Stir until the cheese has melted and the soup is just below boiling point. Taste. Season. Taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, stir in the cream.

Tip the whole lot into your blender and whizz until your Stilton soup is smooth and creamy. Serve – it really is rather delightful and has a definite indulgent feel to it – enjoy!

Stilton Soup 2 w

Inspired by…

Delia Smith,

How easy…

Really, really easy – no effort at all and I love the fact that you can freeze it, ready for future dinners!

Christmas Breakfast Boudins

The original version of this went down an absolute storm in November – lots of friends tried it and loved it; so last night when I found a packet of pigs in blankets lurking in the fridge, my son suggested this version of the popular Breakfast Boudins. We made them this morning and they were absolutely delightful!

 Makes 6

 What you need…

1 x muffin tin, lightly buttered

1 x small baking tin, lightly buttered/oiled

1 x cookie cutter

3 slices bread

6 rashers back bacon

6 pigs in blankets

6 eggs

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

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

Pop the pigs in blankets into the baking tin and then into the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, choose a cookie cutter that is the same size as the bottom of your muffin tin holes and cut six circles from your bread slices, nestling them snugly into the bottom of six of the holes.

Dry-fry the bacon so that it’s only just cooked and remove from the pan, setting aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Wrap each rasher around the edge of each muffin hole.

Remove the pigs in blankets from the oven and pop one in each muffin hole. Then break an egg into each one.

Season with salt and pepper and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Serve your Christmas Breakfast Boudins with steaming mugs of tea or coffee and enjoy a lovely light breakfast with a little reminder of the seasonal festivities! Yum.

Tip…

I reckon that you could also swap out the pigs in blankets for a little spinach and smoked salmon for a different take on this lovely breakfast.

Inspired by…

www.facebook.com/buzzfeedtasty for the original recipe and Connagh, for the inspired twist!

How easy…

Really easy. A lovely, light and different breakfast.

 

Little Sticky Toffee Puddings with Naughty, Decadent Sauce

Soooooo gorgeous, sooooo yummy, soooooo bad for you! Well, in reality I guess the puddings aren’t that bad but the sauce!!!! Simply melt together butter, cream and sugar – that says it all. Oh, and there’s also the ice cream that we like to serve them with – that’s not healthy either, but what a heavenly combination. Like many desserts, it is after all the naughty element that tempts us, making them an absolute treat. These are a real winter favourite in our house. Give them a go, and they will be in your house too!

What you need…

8 x 175g metal pudding basins, thoroughly buttered and with a little round of greaseproof paper in the bottom.

1 x baking tray

175g stoned, chopped dates

175ml boiling water

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

2 teaspoons coffee essence (I use Camp)

¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

75g butter, at room temperature

150g caster sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

175g self-raising flour, sifted

for the naughty sauce

175g soft brown sugar

110g butter

6 tablespoons double cream

What to do…

Pre-heat the oven to 180c / 350 °f / gas 4.

Begin by putting the chopped dates in a bowl and pouring the 175ml boiling water over them. Add the vanilla, coffee essence and bicarbonate of soda and leave on one side. Next, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk until the mixture is pale, light and fluffy.

Gradually add the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. After that, carefully and lightly fold in the sifted flour, using a metal spoon. Then, fold in the date mixture, including the liquid.

Right now, it’ll look really sloppy – that’s fine: it’s supposed to. Divide the mixture equally between the eight pudding basins. Place on a baking tray and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.

When cooked, leave to cool for five minutes. Slide a small palette knife around each pudding and turn it out. If they’ve risen too much, you may need to lop off the tops so that they will sit evenly on the plate when you turn them (which means you get to sample the sponge – yipppeee: chef’s privileges.

Place the puddings into a shallow baking tray.

Next, make the sauce by tipping all the ingredients into a saucepan and very gently heating them until the sugar has completely dissolved.

To serve, pre-heat the grill to a medium-high setting and pour the sauce over the wee puddings. Place under grill so the tops of the puddings are about 13cm from the heat and let them warm through for five minutes (keep an eye on them: different grills pump out different heats and you don’t want them to burn). The tops should go slightly crunchy and the sauce will be hot and bubbling

Serve your little sticky toffee puddings with naughty, decadent sauce either with double cream or salted caramel ice-cream (recipe to follow later this week). Simply, to die for!

Serving suggestion…

We were given a bottle of Monbazillac, Chateau Peyronnette, 2014, by my cousin’s hubby-to-be, Matt, when they stayed in the run up to Christmas. When I tried this wine with the sticky toffee puddings, it took them from being ‘sodding incredible’ (with the ice cream) to ‘wow! Just wow!’ with the wine!!! Just fabulous!!! One of those experiences without which life just isn’t complete!

Tips….

This recipe is for eight puddings. I always make eight and then freeze those not required at that time in their moulds, which just leaves you to decide how much of the naughty sauce you make – totally yummy, I can eat this by the spoonful…without the puddings! Really, very naughty but wickedly good.

So, for two people: 60g soft brown sugar, 40g butter, 3 tablespoons double cream; for four people: 120g soft brown sugar, 80g butter, 6 tablespoons double cream.

Inspired by…

My friend, Helen, who served them to us at supper one evening and of course, Delia Smith, whose fabulous and ingredient-stained ‘Christmas’ cookery book contains the original recipe, un-tinkered-with.

Stilton and Port

Completely stuffed after Christmas Day but still we eat as the fridge abounds with treats. This one is my favourite – the perfect pairing – Stilton and port!

Serves 1 very happy person

What you need…

1 large slice of good quality Stilton (we schedule an annual trip to Fortnum & Mason, specifically to facilitate this)

1 bottle of late bottled vintage port

What to do…

Remove Stilton from fridge at least an hour before you want to indulge. Place it on attractive plate or slate: there needs to be some ceremony and decorum for the King of English Cheeses.

When ready, pour a good snifter of port. Take a bite of Stilton and enjoy the unique combination of delicious creaminess with the soft piquancy provided by the blue. Take a sip of Port and indulge in the simple but fabulous combination of the two ingredients. So much more together than merely the sum of two parts. Eat and sip, savouring every decadent moment of your Stilton and port. Ideal fare for a Boxing Day snack!

Inspired by…

Decades of tradition, certainly in our house

How easy…

Mastering the art of simply savouring, indulging and relaxing in this simple treat is perhaps the most difficult element to the whole thing – I recommend practice!

 

 

Christmas Cocktails

 

When I was in my teens, my parents had an annual ritual of inviting friends and neighbours (one and the same?) around for Boxing Day drinks. Proceedings would begin at 11am and conclude at the stroke of 1 o’clock, at which point they would all depart the house to go the pub, where festive celebrations would continue. Apart from being light-headed by midday, what I remember most about these events was the organisation. My mother would get up and prepare the canapés and a buffet in attempt to soak up the vast number of cocktails to be consumed. My job was to make great pitchers of the things in readiness for the onslaught! My father would then trip down the stairs, freshly showered 10 minutes before the first of the guests arrived. For years, this was part of Christmas and it was a real enlivener after Christmas Day. So, here are a couple of my favourites cocktails, not necessarily the those of boxing day! Raising a glass to my dad – cheers!

Champagne Cocktail

Serves 1 person ready to celebrate

What you need…

1 x Champagne flute

1 sugar cube

Cognac/brandy

Champagne

1 maraschino cherry

What to do…

Pop your sugar cube into the bottom of the Champagne flute and pour in enough Cognac/brandy to soak into the cube. Top up with Champagne and chuck in the cherry if liked. Done! One celebration in a glass!

Baileys Espresso Martini

Serves 1 very lucky person

What you need…

1 x cocktail shaker

1 x martini glass

A handful of ice

50ml Baileys

25ml vodka

1 espresso shot

3 coffee beans to decorate (optional)

What to do…

Chuck all the ingredients (with the exception of the coffee beans) into the cocktail shaker. Pop the lid on (!) and shake like mad. Gently pour into your martini glass and decorate with coffee beans, if using. Find a large comfortable chair to sit in with your Baileys espresso martini, sit back, sip, relax, enjoy, repeat the last three instructions until glass is drained. Merry Christmas!

Tequila Sunrise

Serves 1 person looking for some holiday sunshine in a glass

What you need…

1 x highball glass

A handful of ice

50ml tequila

Fresh orange juice to top up

1 tablespoon grenadine

Half an orange slice

1 maraschino cherry

What to do…

Fill the glass up with ice and pour over the tequila. Top up with orange juice. Pour the grenadine down the side of the glass so that it sinks to the bottom.

Garnish your tequila sunrise cocktail with the half an orange slice and cherry.

Sip and savour the pictures that flood your mind of beach, heat, sunshine, blue skies and lapping waves. Enjoy!

Inspired by…

Christmas spirit!

How easy…

You just need the right motivation! Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baklava

When on holiday in Corfu this year, we happened upon a very traditional restaurant that was mainly frequented by locals and would have been pretty much impossible to find except via boat. We visited this fabulously authentic restaurant twice, enjoying the food as much as the sea view over a rickety wooden pontoon. At the end of each meal, we were presented with the most delicious baklava – a dessert widely recognised as the national dessert of those countries that made up the Ottoman Empire. I’ve always liked baklava but this homemade version knocked any shop-bought pretender into touch. It was the family’s grandmother whose job it was to create the dessert for the restaurant’s guests each day. I vowed there and then to do my best to replicate the gorgeousness that was that dessert and this comes pretty close. It’s easy to make but sooooooooo bad for you!!!!

Serves 8

What you need…

1 x 20 cm round baking tin, lightly buttered

6 filo pastry sheets, cut in half to create 12 squares (approx 25cm)

150g chopped nuts – walnuts, pistachios and almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground cloves

125g (!!!!!) butter, melted

for the syrup

300g sugar

200g water

40g honey

Zest of one lemon

1 cinnamon stick

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 150°c / 300°f / gas 2

Melt the butter over a low heat, being careful not to burn it.

In the baking tin, lay one layer of filo pastry, then sprinkle melted butter over it. Repeat this process until you have used six sheets of pastry. You will have corners of pastry hanging over the baking dish – roughly fold them in and sprinkle them with butter.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped nuts, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle half the mixture over the filo sheets and then add five more layers of filo pastry and sprinkled butter until you have just one sheet of pastry remaining. Sprinkle the remaining nut mixture on top of the pastry layers and then top with the final pastry sheet – don’t forget to sprinkle over the butter. Again, fold in the overhanging corners and sprinkle with more butter.

Place the baklava in the fridge for 15 minutes to make it easier to cut into portions. Remove from the fridge and, using a sharp knife cut the pastry all the way down into eight portions.

Place the baklava on a low shelf in the oven and bake for 1½ hours, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. Into a small saucepan, mix together all the ingredients and bring to the boil. Boil for about 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Don’t stir the syrup – it can go lumpy if you do. As soon as the baklava is baked, ladle over the some of the hot syrup. Once it has been absorbed, ladle over some more and repeat this process until no more can be absorbed – there’s usually a bit left in the pan but rather too much than too little!

Let the baklava cool down and serve – to die for (literally, with all that butter and sugar!) Simply divine!

Inspired by…

A grandmother in Corfu and a lot of Internet research!

How easy…

Very easy. The outcome far outweighs any effort anyway!

 

 

 

Turkey Wellington

This is a brilliant way to serve turkey if you just fancy the breast – it can be made a day in advance (so therefore reducing the pressure if you’re entertaining a crowd), looks and tastes amazing; and the meat is really moist. Thumbs up all around really!

Serves 8-10

What you need…

for the cranberry sauce

The following fabulously festive, tangy sauce makes more than enough for the Turkey Wellington, to serve as its accompaniment at the meal and perhaps, to get out again with cold turkey and gammon slices the next day.

300g fresh cranberries

200g caster sugar

45ml Kirsch

75ml water

for the wellington

1.6 kg turkey breast, skin off

Sea salt and black pepper

Olive oil

1 large bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked

Cranberry sauce (as above)

6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped

3 sprigs rosemary

600g mixed mushrooms, cleaned

1 knob butter

2 teaspoons truffle oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

What to do…

For the cranberry sauce, chuck all the ingredients into a saucepan on a moderate heat and let it all bubble away until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes), stirring every now and then.

Squish the berries with the back of a wooden spoon and then transfer the whole lot to a serving bowl. Leave to cool (the sauce will thicken up to an almost jelly-like consistency). It is now ready to use. This can be made several days in advance – it keeps really well in the fridge for a week.

For your wellington, preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Place the turkey breast upside down on a board and gently slice into the natural join of the breast muscle to open it out and make a pocket – Jamie says to just do this but for some reason I managed to make two pockets – it doesn’t really matter – read on and you’ll see why. Rub olive oil all over the breast and particularly in the pocket(s). Season well and then sprinkle over half the thyme leaves, again ensuring that the pocket(s) get lots. Push cranberry sauce into the pocket(s), poking it in as far as it will go and filling up the space. Fold it back into shape and use cocktail sticks to ‘stitch’ the pocket seams together. If you can, roll the turkey breast up, swiss roll style. If it won’t comply, don’t worry about it – mine didn’t!

Either way, transfer the turkey breast to a baking tin making sure that it is covered in oil, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the remaining thyme. Cover with foil and pop in the oven for 60-70 minutes until just cooked through – using a thermometer, you want it to be 72°c at the thickest point. Once cooked, set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, pop the bacon into your food processor and whizz until chopped up quite small. Splash some olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat and, using a spatula to get every last bit of bacon out of the processor bowl, add the bacon to the pan, cooking for 5-10 minutes until golden and really crispy. Strip the leaves from the rosemary sprigs and add to the pan for a minute. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and rosemary from the pan and set aside to cool.

Pop the mushrooms in your food processor and whizz until they are chopped up quite small. Add another splash of oil to the frying pan if there isn’t enough fat left behind by the bacon, tip in the mushrooms, a splash of water and sauté for 10 minutes. Melt in the knob of butter and set the mushrooms side to cool. Once cooled, season with salt and pepper mix in the truffle oil. Taste the mushrooms to see if you want any more seasoning or oil.

When all the elements for the Turkey Wellington are cool, prepare for the assembly! Lightly butter a baking tin large enough for the breast.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll out one 500g block of puff pastry so that it is roughly 6cm bigger than the turkey breast all round. Roll out the second pastry block so that it is large enough to cover the breast and some.

On the smaller piece of pastry, spread out 1/3 of the mushrooms onto the middle to cover an area the same size as your turkey breast. Remove the cocktail sticks and place the breast on top. Spread the remaining mushrooms all over the top of the turkey breast, packing it in and smoothing it out as you go. Sprinkle on the crispy bacon and rosemary, then brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Lay the second sheet of pastry over the top, gently mould it around the shape of the breast, pushing all of the air out and seal together. Trim the edges to around 4cm, then pull, twist, tuck and pinch the pastry together.

Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and shove it in the fridge uncovered overnight until you’re ready to cook. Clear up, pour wine, relax.

When it’s time to indulge, cook at 180°c / 350°f / gas 4 for 50 – 60 minutes or until risen, puffy and beautifully golden. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving this fabulous, all dressed up bird! Serve with turkey gravy and enjoy – you can’t fail to – absolutely gorgeous!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver showed me the Turkey Wellington recipe on his ‘Christmas with Bells On’ series and the Cranberry Sauce is care of Nigella.

How easy…

It is easy but it takes time and patience. The joy of it is preparation a day ahead of the actual eating – it makes it worth every moment of prep and it really is very delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sumptuous Chocolate Brownies

Dark, slightly gooey, indulgent little squares of naughtiness: there’s nothing quite like a good chocolate brownie and this recipe is gorgeous, easy and quick – lovin’ it!!!

Makes 20

What you need…

250g unsalted butter

200g 70% dark chocolate

80g cocoa powder, sifted

65g plain flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

360g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

What to do…

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

Lightly butter and line a 24cm square baking tin with greaseproof/parchment paper. Roughly break up your chocolate and pop it into a large heatproof bowl together with the butter. Put the bowl over a steamer, sitting in a saucepan of simmering water. Melt the butter and chocolate, mixing until smooth.

In another bowl, thoroughly mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar.

Take the melted butter and chocolate mixture off the heat and stand the bowl on a tea towel on your worktop (to prevent the bowl slipping). Add the dry ingredients to the bowl, mixing them in thoroughly.

Whisk the eggs and then tip them into the rest of the mixture, whisking them in until you have a lovely silky, glossy smooth mixture.

Pour your brownie mix into the baking tin and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. When done, your sumptuous chocolate brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.

Allow to cool in the tin, then carefully transfer the bake to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. Purely for quality control reasons, now is a good time to try one – just to make sure that they are OK – and ooooooooh, yummy, reach for another…

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Dead easy!

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

 

If you have friends popping around for lunch (as I did today) close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly), this is the perfect dessert – it’d dead easy, really lovely and very Christmassy but light. You can knock it up in a jiffy and it cooks itself whilst you’re enjoying your main course. A bonus is the scent of Christmas that wafts through the house as it’s cooking!

Serves 6

What you need…

18 x 23cm baking dish, about 5cm deep, lightly buttered

6 slices bread from a large loaf

50g softened butter

3 rounded tablespoons mincemeat

60ml milk (or Oatly if you want to cut down on dairy)

60ml double cream (or the Oatly version)

3 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 180°c / 350° f / gas 4.

Generously butter the bread slices on one side, then spread the mincemeat over three of them and put the other three slices on top, effectively creating mincemeat sandwiches. Spread the rest of the butter across the top slice of each sandwich and cut each one into quarters to make little triangles.

Arrange the triangular sandwiches, butter side up, overlapping each other and almost standing upright in the baking dish.

Whisk the milk, cream, eggs and caster sugar together and pour the mixture over the bread, ensuring that all the bread is moistened. Scatter the candied peel over the top with demerara sugar. Pop in the oven and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until it’s puffy and golden – the Christmas smell as it’s cooking is wonderful.

Serve your Christmas mincemeat bread and butter pudding straight away, perhaps with a little double cream and a whole bunch of festive cheer!

Tip…

Try different breads, rather than just plain white – there are some lovely festive loaves in the supermarkets at the moment.

Inspired by…

Delia Smith (this is essentially my version of her Chunky Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding but with the Marmalade replaced by mincemeat!

How easy…

It couldn’t be easier: an absolute gift during the festive season!

 

 

Anglo Italian Trifle

If one could describe a dessert as voluptuous in flavour and totally indulgent, this would be it. Amaretti and sweetened mascarpone rather than cream give this trifle an Italian twist, something which is emphasised by the Limoncello that it is laced with. Definitely naughty but difficult to say no to a second helping. This Anglo Italian Trifle is best enjoyed with a group of rowdy, hedonistic friends after a dribbly lunch or dinner or as the perfect alternative (or addition) to Christmas Pudding.

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x pretty, 2-litre glass trifle bowl

8 trifle sponges

1 jar of blackcurrant jam

100g Amaretti biscuits, plus a handful for the topping

300ml Limoncello

600g frozen fruits, defrosted: summer fruits work well

2 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

750g mascarpone cheese

What to do…

Split the trifle sponges and make into sandwiches with the jam; then wodge them into your trifle bowl. Crush the Amaretti biscuits in your hand and sprinkle them all over the trifle sponges then pour over 180ml Limoncello.

Tip the fruit over the sponges and Amaretti, perhaps arranging the bigger attractive fruit around the edges – for presentation purposes – you’ll be able to see them through the glass.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Put to one side.

In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until the mixture is thick and smooth . Still whisking, slowly add 60ml of Limoncello, creating a light, moussey mixture. Whisk in the mascarpone until everything is smoothly combined. Add the remaining Limoncello and give the mixture a final whiz with the electric whisk. Tip in the egg white and fold in with a balloon whisk – this makes the mascarpone ‘cream’ lovely and airily light.

Dollop the mascarpone ‘cream’ on top of the fruit and gently, spread it a little, creating little soft peaks.

Cover the trifle and and pop in the fridge overnight, allowing all the flavours to gather and the Limoncello to permeate the fruit, sponges and Amaretti, mingling with the fruit to create sheer yumminess.

About one hour before you want to plunge the spoon into your delectable dessert, take it out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Just before serving, crush the remaining Amaretti biscuits and scatter over the top of the trifle. (We have also decorated our with birthday candles and made it a very special birthday cake). Your Anglo Italian Trifle is now ready to be demolished! Just gorgeous!

Tips…

Change the fruit to reflect the season.

Keep tasting the mascarpone cream as you add the Limoncello – I like my trifles quite boozy – you may want a little less alcohol….or perhaps a tad more!

Inspired by…

Nigella Lawson

How easy…

Dead easy: no cooking, more of an assembly job with a bit of whisking but it looks and tastes spectacular!