Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year Party

There must be many of us taking a break from food blogging at the moment. When you can barely sum up the enthusiasm to make a bowl of cereal after the Christmas feasting the last thing you want is the indulgence of new year.

Tonight we are having a fancy dress party at our flat....maybe we'll wander down to the harbour and watch the fireworks lighting up Falmouth bay. But I need to provide I have consulted the Goddess of Christmas and New Years gatherings...all hail Nigella.

Here's what I have planned...

Roasted beef and horseradish yorkshire puddings
Nigella's crab cakes and chilli jam
Nigella's blue cheese dip
Smoked salmon blinis
Sausages with mint and honey
Anti pasti
Stilton and Leek Tart

Puddings bought by guests with a big bowl of clotted cream of course.
Gin and tonic jellies

I may do one massive super blog tomorrow of them the theme of the fancy dress is the first letter of your last name. So mine is "t". Nigella, can you help?

PS Happy New Year xxxx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Presents of mind....

I'm not one of those people who automatically know what to buy people from Christmas. Occasionally I'll have a flash of inspiration but rarely hit the jackpot. I've been trying to look back on some of the best presents I've ever are my top four...
  1. A perfume making kit when I was seven. A million different fragrances and bottles to play with. I must have smelt dreadful when I mixed them all together and drenched myself in some kind of apple/strawberry/marigold concoction. But I loved it.

  2. A soda stream. This was from the other half last year. The most useful gadget ever. We use it everyday.

  3. A pony mug filled with fizzy cola bottles. One of the first gifts ever bought for me by my little sister. Ponies. Check. Cola bottles check. Great present.

  4. My boyfriend booking us a holiday as a surprise. We were running out of time (ie a week before we were meant to go somewhere) and he came home and said "right I booked somewhere on my lunch break....we're off to Margarita on Saturday." I loved the decision being made for me.

Anyway I love being given homemade presents so today I spent hours making Christmas fudge as I do every December.

Christmas Pudding Fudge Balls....(Makes 20)

1 batch of your favourite fudge recipe that makes about 1.5lbs fudge. (I'm sorry my mum would hunt me down if I gave it away...)
2 handfuls mixed dried fruit
1/4 pt brandy
1 handful red glace cherries
1 handful toasted mixed nuts chopped up
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tbsp clotted cream

1x medium sized bar of white chocolate
1 tub red and green glace cherries

1x edible gold spray

Before making your fudge, soak the dried fruits and nuts in the brandy. When your fudge mix is boiled to perfection add the fruit, spice, nuts, cherries and clotted cream. Beat until thick and creamy and it's starting to set. Pour into a lined tin.....

Leave for 10 minutes until it is cooled a little. Then take a melon baller and scoop the soft fudge into little balls. You might need to use your hands with some of them. Pop each ball into mini cake cases.

Break up the white chocolate into a glass bowl. Place over a pan of boiling water and leave to melt. Pour a tsp of the melted chocolate over each mini pudding and let it drip down the sides. Chop up the red glace cherries into little "berries" and the green cherries into "leaves" and place on the top of each pudding.

I'm not sure how long these will last....I reckon a couple of days.

Golden Vanilla Fudge Stars.....

After those I decided to make some vanilla fudge. I poured the fudge into a lined tin and then used edible spray over the top so it was a shimmering gold. I tried to cut out stars with a mini biscuit cutter but I was too slow and it set too quickly so I cut it into chunks of gold instead.....

Twisted traditions....

At the moment I feel like I am growing up and it scares the hell out of me. The new house, a pension, everyone coming to ours for Christmas (even the word 'ours' sounds grown up). But aside from the fear, the commitment phobia and the smaller bank balance the fun parts are starting to come through as well. Like Christmas traditions. The excitement of remembering something you did last year and recreating it.

Back on Scilly in Taylor Towers we have all kinds of festive traditions. A family photograph....

(This was actually a summer one...any ideas why I refused to wear trousers??!!)

A reindeer decoration on the tree with the back legs spray painted green, sweet and sticky honey roast ham studded with cloves on Christmas eve, shivering in Bryher Church at the island carol service, fights over who makes the bread sauce, mum's annual bingo, dad's annual fight about why he has to play bingo...these are the memories that makes Christmas.

And for two years it's broken my heart not to be a part of it. Last year I sat on the sofa, head in hands, and sobbed that I wasn't with my family. But we created another Christmas tradition, me and the other half, a tradition of never being apart at Christmas.

We also wore festive pjs and drank hot chocolate while watching films. We made a mountain of brownies and spent hours boiling Christmas fudge which we wrapped in sparkling boxes for our friends.

And this year the Taylor family and the other half's family are coming together to spend a Christmas in Cornwall. Hopefully this gaspingly crisp cold weather will stick around so we can go for walks at Trelissick and watch Boxing Day swimmers.

But it won't all be new. All of my mum's best recipes will be coming out of her handwritten cook book. The flour dusted pages will be dusted off and the pages glued together will be prized apart. (The sweet and sour sprouts didn't make the final cut...sorry mum).

Cheese and pickle twists are a favourite with all of us. Hot, crumbly pastry with melted cheese and sweet spicy chutney. They are a brilliant was of using up extra pastry, cheese and half used jars of chutney. (If you're dairy intolerant my little sister uses manchego and says they are just as good.)

Cheese and Pickle Twists

Leftover puff pastry
Leftover cheddar
Mango Chutney (I use Geeta's because it's by far the best)
Egg to glaze it with

I haven't given exact amounts because it depends on what you have leftover. Chop the lump of pastry in half and on a floured surface roll out each piece thinly until it is about the thickness of a 1p coin.

Spread a thick layer of mango chutney on one layer. It's worth trying to get nice big lumps of mango in there. Then grate thinly some cheddar cheese over the chutney. Place the other layer of pastry over the top like you would a sandwich. Then roll your rolling pin lightly over the top to fix the two layers together. Cut the pastry into one inch vertical strips.
Then hold each strip at both ends and twist around. Don't worry about little bits of cheese falling out. Place of a lined baking tray and glaze with some beaten egg. Pop in the oven for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Some of the mango chutney will spill out and my go dark brown and sticky but they still taste yummy. Eat while warm. You can eat them on your own or with hot soup.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Easy does it....

It's your friend's wedding day. What three things are on your mind? 1) What will the bride be wearing? 2) "OMG I haven't wrapped the present yet, where are my shoes??, what do you mean have I ironed your shirt!!" 3) What are the canapes going to be like?

The third can make or break a wedding and I suppose the same stands for a Christmas party. I love canapes. Little bites of loveliness. I've already started stocking my freezer because no one wants a host faffing about in the kitchen, 'glowing' because of having to open the oven every thirty seconds. I want canapes that are quick and easy but guests go home remembering.

This week I'll be making crab cakes to sit in the freezer (once I've been to the farmer's market tomorrow to stock up on crab.) I'll also be freezing blinis and stocking up on everything I need for last minute dips.

But these are my favourites... my former housemate used to make them and they are beautiful. (Sorry about the fuzziness of the picture. I need a new camera so please note!)

Sausages with mint and honey.......

(Makes 50 this sounds a lot but, I promise you, they won't last!)

1 pkt 5o mini sausages
200g honey
1 handful fresh mint or 2 and a half tsps dried mint

Preheat the oven to 200'c. Mix the honey with the sausages and place in a baking tray. Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes until they are plump. Take out of the oven and leave on the sideboard to cool for 15 mins. Add the finely sliced mint and mix through. Spear with a cocktail stick and eat!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Dressing up.....

Remember a few weeks ago I said I had a secret? And I couldn't tell you. Well it was one of those self preservation secrets. I didn't want to be disappointed. But it's too late. I'm far too excited and I'm going to have to share.....This could be our home. (If we get planning permission etc....)

This is where it would be...

So we came home to celebrate. We decorated our tree....

And now we are watching the X Factor final and we're eating packet pizzas. But I did make a lovely salad dressing to go with it!
Lemon and Thyme Dressing
Quarter of a jam jar of olive oil
1 lemon
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 pinches soft brown sugar
1 pinch Cornish sea salt
2 pinches thyme
Put all the ingredients in the jar and shake. (Remembering to put the lid on! Otherwise it will be spilling all over the my excitement!)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Party time job....

Are you going to your work Christmas party tonight? I heard on the radio that seventy per cent of office Christmas parties take place tonight. Ours is. This was ours last year......(there was more than three people...but this is the only picture I have!)

So I'll not blogging this evening as I'll be eating, dancing, singing and drinking! So here is last night's tea instead.....

Creamy Lemon Chicken....(for one)

1 chicken breast
25g/1oz butter
1 clove garlic
4 spring onions chopped up
1/2 small tub creme fraiche
1 lemon

Melt the butter in a pan and when it begins to foam add the garlic. I love the smell of garlic in butter. Keep it moving around the pan and add the chicken. Leave it to cook until browned on one side and flip it over. Add the spring onions and cook for 2 minutes or until cooked through.

Add the creme fraiche, zest of the lemon, the juice of the lemon, and bubble away for 5 minutes or so until it is thickened. I then raided my herb drawer in the freezer. I still have big bags of all the herbs from the garden. They are so useful.

Sprinkle a handful of parsley into the sauce and serve with plain noodles and peas. (I would normally serve it with brown rice but I didn't have any.)

It doesn't look much but it tastes great!

PS. There's a story behind this dish. We often end up with extra people for Christmas dinner...people that decide to holiday on Scilly without realising how remote it is in winter, random family etc. One Christmas we had a man come to stay in a holiday let. His family were staying on another island and he just assumed he'd be able to get a boat over on Christmas day. He couldn't so he ended up spending Christmas with us. We loved him. He was great fun...he's been back to stay with us several times and this was the first thing he ever cooked for us. (I remember because we thought creme fraiche was the most exotic thing we had ever eaten!) But he's a bit of a mystery. We don't really know what he does because he always manages to stay off the subject. We think he might be an international spy like James Bond. I hope he is. If I ever find out he is a tax man or parking officer I'll be gutted.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Salted Caramel Cups (and Sardines on the side)

From today only sardines produced in Cornwall are to be allowed to be called Cornish sardines after receiving European Union protected status. It's the 40th British food to get the status....Cornish Clotted Cream is also protected.

I like the sense of pride that goes with the PGI status. The fact that other places are desperate to recreate something that originates from a particular area. There's nothing better than eating Welsh lamb and mint sauce in Cardiff or Scottish smoked salmon and brown bread while on a city break in Edinburgh.

It's made me think about which recipes I am most proud of and guard most closely to my heart. The ones I would give PGI (Protected Gastronomic Issyisms) Status.

Today marked the beginning of Christmas as Margaret (the wife of our former weatherman) delivered her yearly supply of mince pies. Crumbly, short and butter pastry encasing mincemeat laced with more booze than St Austell brewery.

As I ate my first (of many) I realised my Christmas list is looking far too tidy and unloved. These are my favourite festive creations. I first tried them when we used to organise Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sales on Scilly (remember them??) My best friend's mum made them and I stole the recipe. They are truly delicious, sweet and salty. If you read the recipe and think to yourself "I'll swap the salted butter for unsalted butter." Don't. It's wrong.

Salted Caramel Cups....(Makes 15 to 20 depending on how generous you are)

1x 250g/8oz bar dark chocolate
2 tbsp golden syrup
50g/2oz salted butter
2 tbsp dried milk powder
1 bag chocolate buttons

Small foil cake cases

Boil a pan of water and put a bowl over the top. Melt the chocolate slowly. Paint the foil cases with a layer of the melt chocolate. This takes ages. Only do this as a labour of love. If you are in a rush and you've got twenty thousand jobs to do, children screaming, husband grumpy then stop. Have a cup of tea. Don't bother. They taste great but you can buy mini chocolate cups in Marks and Spencers.

Pop them in the fridge. When they've set do what you just did all over again. When the second layer has set, put the butter and syrup in a small pan. Stir and let it come to the boil. Then sieve in the milk powder. (I normally can't be bothered. Then I have lumpy caramel and have to start again). So sieve it and give it a good stir. It will go a lovely autumn gold colour. Take it off the heat and leave for a couple of minutes.

Pour a couple of teaspoons in each cup. Now at this point you should top them with a chocolate button. But when I was at Sainsburys I noticed my favourite wine was back on special offer. (Wollemi, 3 bottles for £10, it's Chardonnay which I normally hate but this is delicious.) Anyway I got distracted and forgot. So if you've bought buttons place them in the middle of the caramel. Or maybe a toasted hazelnut? I used some leftover chocolate. I mixed a tsp of coffee with a tsp of hot water. I mixed it into the chocolate. It instantly thickened and I rolled little amounts into balls the size of a pea and flattened them. They were delicious!

These only last about two days before the chocolate goes funny but I find they only last about an hour because they are addictive!
PS. I just remembered. Last year my work collegue put a whole one of these in his mouth. He didn't realise you can't eat the foil. You have to peel the foil off......

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Fancy a dip?

Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet..."Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers." I just took a look in the fridge at my lemon possets.

I thought I would just run a finger around the edge to try one. Then I couldn't stop myself. I dipped a finger straight in. Then there was no stopping me. I ate a whole one.

Luckily my dinner party guests won't notice as I made two extra....

Don't you hate it when you decide on a meal that means you won't have to cook like crazy. Then you're too organised and end up blogging twenty minutes before your guests arrive?

We're having smoked salmon blinis, steak with a blue cheese and pear salad, wedges and then lemon posset with spiced winter fruits (one short).

It feels very extravagent mid week....but's Christmas.

Monday, 7 December 2009

When life gives you lemons, make lemon posset...

Why is it that some days you just don't have enough time in the day? You run around like a mad thing and time seems to slip away.

Who was it who said "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." After the day I have had I say make lemon posset! This time last year I decided to do a series of Christmas recipes. Twelve months ago I was running round like a mad thing (nothing changes) interviewing Cornish chefs about their favourite festive recipes.

This was one of the ones I enjoyed the most and I have made it many times. I just swap the fruit about depending on the time of year. It was made by the chef at The Kings Head at Ruan Lanihorn. Visit there if you are passing.....

Lemon Posset with Hot Spiced Fruits

Hot Spiced Fruits Fills approx 6/8 glasses
3 stalks Rhubarb (tinned are ok)
Handful of Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries or a bag of mixed fruits
50g unsalted butter diced
150g caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 star anise
2 tsp vanilla essence
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cinnamon
3 - 4 tbps dark rum (optional)

Melt butter in a heavy pan over med heat until foaming. Add the rhubarb and saute until soft - 5 mins. Add blueberries, sugar, cinamon, star anise, vanilla essence and rum, if using, and cook for a further 5 mins. Remove from the heat and add remaining fruit and allow to warm through and infuse. (You can just pop this in the fridge...if you want you can make it the day before and then reheat.)

Lemon Posset
4 lemons
850ml double cream
250g caster sugar
Zest lemons and squeeze out juice (you need 225ml of juice)

Mix cream, sugar and zest together in a saucepan and bring to boil simmer for exactly 3 mins, careful it does not boil over! Remove from the heat and whisk in lemon juice. Strain into jug and pour into glasses. Chill in fridge for at least 24hrs. When ready to serve take possets out of fridge, reheat spiced fruitsand place a spoonful on top of posset - dust with icing sugar and serve.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Family Reunion....

There are far too people in life that make you laugh so much you ache.....I'm aching a lot today. We had our annual family reunion this weekend at Bedruthan Steps near Mawgan Porth....

We ate a lot of food....fry ups, cream teas and three course dinners.....

And we went to Padstow for the Christmas Festival. We ate Rick Steins chips. (Which weren't as good as Nemo's in Penryn) but he did make the best tartare sauce....

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Away in a Manger.....

I love charity shops. I think they are one of those things you only start to appreciate as you get older like avocado or gin and tonic. But I have started to become obsessed with them...they've actually become a social activity. I can spend hours wandering around the rails, examining the kitchen stuff and flicking through books. I love it when you come across a real gem of nostalgia....a book you read at primary school or a casserole dish your mum had when you were little.

I have become a big fan of retro stuff....amazing tea sets, fondue bowls, pressure cookers and seventies cook books. This week I came across a few beauties....*

(*Incidentally my other half has started a campaign called "No tat for the flat" because I keep coming home with more gems...He's thinking of designing a tshirt and banner and holding some kind of picket line outside Oxfam)

I love this teapot sooo much!!

These will have the brandy butter and clotted cream in after Christmas dinner.

And this tray is can use the glass bit to cook and then hook it in the metal bit and carry it around without oven gloves.

After all these Christmassy purchases I had to cook something festive and fun....

Manger Cakes.....

2oz butter
4oz granulated sugar
2 tbsp syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
4 or 5 shredded wheats (crumbled)
1 pkt jelly babies

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa in a heavy based pan. When it comes to the boil take it off the heat and stir it up. Make sure the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle in the shredded wheat. Stir it up so the shredded wheat is covered in the chocolatey gooey sauce.

Put a tsp of the mix in each cupcake case. Place a jelly baby "baby Jesus" on each "manger".
Serve with mulled wine and Christmas carols....