Tag Archives: Christmas

Espresso Martini

Discovered by my son, Connagh, when we went out to dinner to celebrate exam results a few years back, this wonderful cocktail presents itself in all innocence but it is in reality deliciously naughty and has the potential to knock your socks off! Rather splendid for a Saturday night, me thinks!

Serves 2

What you need…

100ml vodka

70ml Kalhua/coffee liqueur

2 shots espresso coffee

Ice

Cocktail shaker

Two Martini glasses

What to do…

Pop the Martini glasses in the freezer whilst you make the cocktail.

Tip all the ingredients into the cocktail shaker and shake, shake, shake, smashing up the ice in the process and making this cocktail fabulously chilled.

Pour into your Martini glasses and watch as the cocktail separates to top the dark lushness with a creamy espresso top. Pass one glass to your drinking companion, sip and indulge. Delicious and soooooo naughty. A rich, sweet ice-cold coffee with a tangiable kick. The only problem is that it’s quite difficult to put the glass down – just one more sip…

One, however, is probably enough!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver has published the recipe together with a lovely anecdote as to its creation but we first tried it at the Windsor Grill.

How Easy…

Ridiculously! Also, in our house, Connagh always makes them which means I can sit back and RELAX

 

 

Stilton Soup

I don’t know about you, but inevitably there is a bit of Stilton lurking in our fridge after the festivities and there are only so many times that even I can enjoy cheese and crackers with or without poached pears so this soup is a fabulous recipe for using any leftovers of this lovely delicacy.  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 can be divided into freezer containers, available for a couple of other dinners!

Serves 12 as an Amuse Bouche

What you need…

Splash of 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!

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!

Merry Christmas: The Icing on the Cake!

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. Anyway, here we are my attempt. Only two sleeps to go!!!!

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 figurine(s) and sit back and admire your handiwork! Your Christmas cake is now complete! A glass of fizz would go down nicely now! Merry Christmas!

Tip…

For the ‘frosted’ rosemary that I opted for this year, lightly whisk an egg white until its frothy and then brush fresh rosemary sprigs with it before rolling the sprigs around in caster sugar. Set aside on baking parchment for at least three hours. I also sprinkled a little icing sugar over them. A bit different – I like them anyway!

Inspired by…

Delia Smith

How easy…

As about as simple as it gets!

 

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

Serves 8 with left overs

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

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

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your baked, glazed gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

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 mum 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 jauntily trip (not literally – that would be later) 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 favourite cocktails. 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 and a love of cocktails. Boxing Day frivolities!

How easy…

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvellous Marzipan

 

Lovely afternoon today: it’s raining outside but inside I’ve got the Christmas playlist on whilst marzipanning the Christmas Cake. If you’ve never made marzipan before, give it a go – it tastes fantastic, is nothing like the shop-bought stuff and is dead easy, particularly if you have a stand mixer (chuck in all ingredients, fit the dough hook, turn on a slow speed and let it mix until your marzipan dough is created!!!!)

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 (hence the many taste checks!!!!!)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 or making stollen bites (tomorrow).

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!

Light, Spiced Christmas Bundt

Made to fill a hole in my day when data was being transferred from my old computer to my new one, this cake was thrown together – I had to swap out a load of the ingredients because I didn’t have the original recommended ones and I didn’t have the right tins (mini bundts) so used my favourite ‘spruce tree’ mould but then had to guess on the cooking time. Imagine my surprise when I tasted it and…..it’s really, really gorgeous (dare I say perhaps even nicer than my Christmas cake….jury’s out on that one!) It definitely has a nod towards Christmas cake with the spices and the fruit, but it’s light as well as moist and just very, very lovely – thrown together in minutes; demolished in seconds!

Serves 12

What you need…

1 x 2.5 litre bundt tin

1 x baking sheet

Olive oil, for greasing

100g sultanas

110g raisins

80g currants

150g dates, chopped

40g walnuts, chopped

125ml brandy

150g butter, softened

135g soft dark brown sugar

2 large, happy eggs, beaten

185g plain flour

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice

60ml milk

Icing sugar, for decorating

What to do…

Tip the fruit, nuts and brandy into a small saucepan over a moderate heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the brandy has been absorbed. Cool completely.

Preheat your oven to 140˚c / 280˚f / gas 1 and slide in your baking sheet.

Tip the butter and sugar into your food processor and whizz until pale and creamy (6 minutes or so). Add the eggs, a little at a time, whizzing to combine. Pour in the milk and whizz again to combine.

Use a piece of olive oil drenched kitchen roll to thoroughly grease your bundt tin.

Tip the fruit mixture, flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a large bowl and mix well, ensuring the fruit is thoroughly covered with flour. Tip the whole lot into your bundt tin and pop it into the oven on the baking tray, baking for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool in the tin. Use a knife to gently prise away the edges of the cake from the sides of the tin and then invert it out onto a pretty serving plate (some banging of the mould may be required!)

Sift over icing sugar ‘snow’ and serve. Light, delicious and ever so festive.

Inspired by…

The Mail on Sunday ‘You’ magazine

How easy….

Really quick and easy – a great last minute Christmas cake!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

Child’s play!

Christmas Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

A great one this one if you’ve got friends popping around to lunch close to Christmas and you’ve already over-extended yourself on the ‘to-do’ list (as I do, repeatedly)! This is the perfect festive 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 whilst 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

60ml double cream

3 large eggs

75g caster sugar

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

25g candied peel, finely chopped

What to do…

Pre-heat your 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!

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