Gastronomically Terrific

December 31, 2014

Aubergine five-nut roast

Filed under: Christmas, freezer, main, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:14 pm

When the rest of us were eating our Christmas turkey, this was my hubby’s alternative. I actually made it about a month in advance, at the end of November, and just reheated it on Christmas Day – if nothing else, it saved on oven space!

The recipe itself isn’t too complex, but there are a lot of ingredients – so there’s a lot of grating, zesting and chopping to do before everything goes in the tin. Basically, you mix together nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, lemon juice and zest, onion, celery and garlic, then wrap it all in aubergine strips. It is then baked in the oven for about an hour.

Nobody except Dan actually ate this on Christmas Day (there was tasty meat on offer, after all), but I did try some a few days later when we were eating up the last of the Christmas dinner left-overs – and it tasted alright. Not like bacon-wrapped chipolatas or turkey tastes, but pretty good if you’re a vegetarian.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 93-94

December 30, 2014

Sage and onion stuffing

Filed under: Christmas, main, meat, vegetarian — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:21 pm

Another recipe I made in advance of Christmas Day, I’ve never actually made my own stuffing before. My mum always does, but I’ve gone with the (very tasty) shop-bought variety. This year, I had the time, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I used Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection recipe for the stuffing and I have to say, it was incredibly easy to make. You boil some onions (yes, I found boiling onions odd too), then add breadcrumbs and sage to the mixture. And that’s it! I froze the stuffing in two halves, so that I could use half of it to stuff the turkey, but still have some left to cook separately for my veggie husband.

It turned out OK, although could probably have done with a little longer in the oven. Th stuffing inside the turkey was quite soft and (unsurprisingly I guess) hadn’t crisped off at all. The veggie stuffing was nice and crisp on the outside, but just as soft on the inside as the stuffing that had been inside the turkey.

In hindsight, I think using bought stuffing would have been just as good, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I’m not sure I would bother with my own stuffing again – or I would at least try a different recipe (there are some in Nigella Christmas book that I would like to try…).

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 113

Spiced and superjuicy roast turkey

The last (and first) time I cooked the Christmas Day dinner was back in 2012. Then, I used Nigella’s Christmas turkey recipe. It turned out OK (there was nothing wrong with it), but Christmas itself was a bit of a sad affair – everybody in the house was ill for various reasons, I had a 4-month old baby, and needless to say, ended up eating my Christmas dinner cold.

This year, feeling that life had calmed down a little, I offered to do the hosting at Christmas again – hoping that things would run a little more smoothly. I decided that, to make life easy, I would cook a nice simple turkey that didn’t require being put in brine. Then my brother said “that turkey you did last time was really nice… can we have it again…?”

Turns out, flattery will get you everywhere. So, umm, yes, apparently. I defrosted the turkey in the fridge 5 days before Christmas, then on the 23rd I put the brine together and placed the turkey in it, before finding a very cold spot (in a locked outdoor shed) to let it soak up all the flavour. The brine contained a myriad of spices and flavouring, including orange, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed, fennel seed, nutmeg, garlic, onion… basically anything with a vague hint of Christmas flavouring that you can think of. This was a great job for a 2-year old as well; he loved tipping all the measured out ingredients into the bucket of water. Although he was less keen to touch the turkey itself!

On Christmas Day morning, I stuffed the turkey with my sage and onion stuffing, and then basted it with a mixture of melted butter and maple syrup. It took 2 1/2 hours to cook; the first 30 mins or so at 180C, and the next two hours at 160C. That meant it got taken out of the oven at midday, an hour before the rest of our dinner was ready. This worked out well, as it meant that there was space in the oven for everything else, and the meat got to rest, but was kept nice and warm, with a layer of tin foil over the top of it.

The end result was pretty good, and I was fairly pleased with myself for getting the timings and the flavourings right. Definitely more of a success than my 2012 effort!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 115-117

December 29, 2014

Hoisin duck / goats cheese filo baskets

Filed under: Christmas, meat, starter, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 5:37 pm

Firstly, I’m gutted that I don’t have a photo of these as they looked amazing.But I guess there’s a bit too much going on on Christmas Day so things like photos of food do get forgotten. I’ll just have to make them again in the not too distant future!

Wanting to make a starter for Christmas Day, but not wanting anything too big, I thought that these mini-size tartlets would make a good choice. I decided to make the filo cases in advance and freeze them, topping them up with the duck/ goats cheese mixture on Christmas Day.

In order to make the filo baskets I had to read the recipe twice in order to understand how to do it, but once I had figured it out, it was quite satisfying to cut and prep the pastry. What was less satisfying was really burning it in the oven (seriously, they were black) – and I only cooked it for half the time the recipe stated! In hindsight, there were a few reasons for this:

1) I put it in our super-fast fan oven. I should have divided the time by at least 10.

2) I use a mini tart-sized tin. Re-reading the recipe, it said to use a mini-muffin tin (so presumably something about 3 times the size of what I actually used). Again, I should have divided the time by at least 10. (although, oddly, the pastry did fit in these tins perfectly…).

Having said that, I’m pleased I used smaller tins. I wanted little bite-size starters, not something the size of mince pies. What you don’t need before your Christmas dinner is a large starter!

Once I had (begun to) stop feeling quite so grumpy about my burnt efforts, I went ahead and made another batch of pastry cases. This time I put them in the conventional oven for a minute. When I took them out they were a gentle golden brown, just cooked and perfect.

These cases were then frozen until a couple of days before Christmas Day, when they were defrosted at room temperature. The filling itself had to be made on Christmas Day, but this wasn’t a great hardship – because it was for a starter I made it when the turkey was just sat in the oven, before things went mental! I fried and sealed the duck, then put it in the oven for 20 mins (it should have been 10, but the oven was only at 160C for the turkey) to cook it through. The duck was then broken up into tiny pieces, and hoisin sauce, small pieces of cucumber and spring onions were added to the filo pastry tartlets. Because Dan is veggie, about half the tartlets had goats cheese added to them instead of duck – but that was the only difference.

The filled tartlets were then put in the oven for about 3 minutes before we sat down to eat (as everything else was being taken out), just to warm them through and gently melt the goats cheese.

The tartlets were a great success. They tasted lovely, and made for an excellent starter – we had three each, and were all still more than capable of fitting our Christmas dinner in! They may sound like a lot of effort on top of a Christmas Day dinner, but they’re actually quite fun to make and don’t take up too much time when other things need doing in kitchen.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 30-31

December 28, 2014

Seasonally spiced nuts

Another thing that I have made in the past (back for Christmas 2012), I like having some spiced nuts around on Christmas Day morning. It means that people who are feeling peckish but don’t like/ want chocolate have something to eat. Besides, they make the house smell nice and look pretty good too (you’ll have to take my word for that because this is something else I failed to take a photo of). And they are easy to make…

… usually! Because we bought some of our Christmas shopping online this year, we ended up buying 500g of nuts still in their shells. Which resulted in Dan taking a hammer to the nuts to get them out of their shells (no, we don’t own a nutcracker. The only nuts we usually ever buy in shells are pistachio nuts). The whole process took a good half an hour. But, after that, spicing the nuts was easy!

On Christmas Eve I dry-fried the nuts in garam masala and celery salt, added some brown sugar, oil and rosemary, and then tipped them into a baking tray lined with foil. I then covered the baking tray with foil and left them until Christmas Day. Ten minutes before I wanted them on Christmas Day, I put them in the oven to heat through. Once they were heated, I added them to a bowl with a few sprigs of rosemary. And that was it. Admittedly, there are still nuts left lying around 3 days later, but they have been picked at over the last few days and make for a tasty alternative to more sweets and chocolate!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 21

Christmas morning muffins

Filed under: breakfast, Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:18 pm

Christmas muffinsThe very first Christmas Day bake to be eaten. I made these muffins last year, not being entirely sure how suitable they would be for breakfast (as Nigella suggests in her recipe book). I thought they might be rather too heavy and not go well with a Christmas dinner a few hours later. However, it was just the three of us at home, so I thought I’d experiment and give it a try. I’m pleased to say that, at the time, I felt that I was wrong. The muffins were incredibly tasty and, more importantly, really light.

All of the above led me to decide that the muffins were worth making again this year (2014), when my family would be at our house over Christmas. I made them in advance and froze them, knowing I would have lots of other things to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then all that would be needed on Christmas Day was a simple defrost and reheat.

Making these muffins is easy. You basically put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it all together by hand, then add some dried cranberries before spooning the batter into individual muffin cases and adding a sprinkling of demerara sugar. The most complex thing about the whole bake is zesting and juicing a couple of clementines.

I’m also pleased to say that I was right about their suitably (and tastiness!) on Christmas Day morning. It took five minutes to reheat them in the oven, and they were nice and light, and tasty, for breakfast. So light, in fact, that even with some additional chocolate and nuts, we were all hungry and ready for our Christmas Day meal at 1pm.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 214-215

December 27, 2014

Parisienne potatoes

Filed under: Christmas, main, meat, salad, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — lawsonanna @ 4:58 pm
These potatoes both looked and tasted better in real life

These potatoes both looked and tasted better in real life

I decided to make these for our Christmas Eve tea (along with the aromatic Christmas ham and a salad), knowing that they would be a fairly simple dish to put together before the work of the Christmas Day roast).

I peeled and sliced the potatoes and onions Christmas Eve morning, so that all I needed to do when my family arrived was boil the potatoes, pop them in a roasting tin with cream and grated cheese and then cook them in the oven for 15 minutes. This worked well with reheating the Christmas ham, which needed about 5 minutes in the oven before the whole meal was ready.

The whole meal worked well, and was nice and easy to prepare. It was a great choice for an easy Christmas Eve meal, and the only thing left over was a bit of ham – which was great for a late, easy tea on Christmas Day evening.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 140-141

Aromatic Christmas ham

Filed under: Christmas, main, meat — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:09 am

I’ve made this before, more than once. I made it last November (2013), as a test to see if it was worth making at Christmas. Turned out that, yes, it really is. So this Christmas I made it for Christmas Eve tea, the first meal my family would have with us at Christmas.

It’s really not a difficult recipe to follow – you put the ham, some red wine and a range of spices (plus onion, garlic and fennel) into a large p0t, cover it all with water and let it simmer away for an hour or so (depending on the weight – this was for a 1.45kg ham. My mum’s advice is 20 mins per lb, which seems about right).

You then remove the ham from the flavoured water, let it cool a little, carve off the fat, add whole cloves and a glaze of redcurrant jelly, cinnamon, paprika and red wine vinegar (which takes minutes to boil together on the hob), then put it in the oven for 15 or so minutes. I made the ham a couple of days in advance, then covered it in foil, put it in the fridge, and reheated it for a few minutes on Christmas Eve. So I didn’t even need to cook it on the day (although it wouldn’t hurt if you did, as it smells amazing)!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 32-33

December 26, 2014

Shortbread stars

Filed under: biscuits, Christmas — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:31 pm

Shortbread starsHaving made quite a lot of bakes over the past few days, I wasn’t sure how many more I could be bothered to do of what I had planned. Then I looked at the recipe for these… they are so, so easy to make! Probably the easiest shortbread I have ever made, you simply mix together plain flour and caster sugar, and add lots of margarine. It takes a while to incorporate all the margarine into the dough, but once you have you just roll it out and cut out star shapes. Even that’s easy, because it’s shortbread so you roll the dough out fairly thickly.

You then put the stars into the oven for 15-20 minutes, let them cool, and add some melted chocolate (I just drizzled it over with  a spoon, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do something more fancy). The whole process took no more than half an hour – which was perfect as I made these sandwiched between making my Christmas garland fairy cakes and my aromatic Christmas ham. And they even taste pretty good!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Hallelujah! Christmas, pg. 32-33

December 25, 2014

Champagne truffles

Filed under: Christmas, Sweets — Tags: , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:28 pm
Christmas decadence

Christmas decadence

For my last birthday (back in March), or possibly even Christmas last year, I was given a Sweet Shop Recipe Book (which I had asked for). It has recipes for a whole range of exciting sounding sweets, fudge, toffees and truffles – but of course I haven’t gotten around to making anything from it for the whole year.

Upon spotting that one of the recipes was for champagne truffles (incorporating two of my favourite things – champagne and glitter), I decided this Christmas was time to change all that. And I’m please to say that the result, even if I say so myself, does look pretty stunning).

Although we followed the recipe in terms of ingredients, we did change exactly how we carried out various stages, primarily due to previous truffle experiences. After tempering the chocolate we lined some ice cube cases with it, before adding the truffle mixture (which included both Cava and brandy- mmm…). We then covered the truffle mixture with more tempered chocolate before leaving the truffles to set.

Once the truffles were set, we prised them out of the ice cube cases and added edible gold glitter. We weren’t sure of the best way to add the glitter at first – brushing them seemed to work, but then I tried adding some glitter to a small sieve and shaking that over the truffles (just as you would with icing sugar). That worked well, and to get a really good shimmer we then brushed that glitter over the truffles. The end result is really decadent, and definitely one that impresses. Guests didn’t know whether the truffles were homemade or shop bought, which made me feel good!

Who made it: Dan and Anna (yes, this was definitely a joint effort)

Recipe: The Old-Fashioned Hand-made Sweet Shop Recipe Book, Claire Ptak, pg. 140-141

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