Gastronomically Terrific

December 30, 2014

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 27, 2014

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

September 25, 2014

Gingerbread Ted

Filed under: biscuits, party — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:40 pm

23 Gingerbread manAnd so, on to the sweet dishes for my son’s 2nd birthday party. First up was some gingerbread men. Now, I have made gingerbread men before – but I don’t do it that often, so had to follow a recipe. Whilst making gingerbread men isn’t too complicated, the dough isn’t the simplest to make, and of course you then have to (well, you can) decorate the men. The dough requires additional spices to make it taste of ginger – in this case I used ground ginger, ground cinnamon and ground cloves – which seemed to work!

The recipe books suggested that you use white fondant icing to cover the gingerbread men before decorating them with Smarties for buttons and writing icing for their mouth and eyes. I thought this might be overkill (especially considering all the other sweet things that would be on offer), so chose to just add Smarties and the writing icing. It seemed to work, and I was actually quite proud of these men. I made a lot, so there were a fair few left over – but they seemed to disappear pretty quickly in the following week when taking them to friend’s houses!

 Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Hats and Bells Children’s Party Cookbook, Hatty Stead and Annabel Waley-Cohen, pg. 28-9

September 22, 2014

Apple and cinnamon cake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:15 pm

Apple and cinnamon cakeI realise it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. This isn’t, for a change, due to lack of baking. It’s simply due to lack of time to write about all the baking I have done! I’ll try to catch up here, but I may miss out some things by accident – my memory for all the baking I’ve done over the last month might not be the best!

I made this apple and cinnamon cake when my in-laws were visiting, so that we had something tasty to feed them. I wanted to do something simple, and had a cooking apple hanging around, so it seemed like a good choice. Whilst I’ve made plenty of apple cakes in the past, this Mary Berry version was a new one for me. The only adaptation I made to the recipe was to miss out the walnuts, as I’ve never really enjoyed nuts in my cakes.

Other than the addition of cinnamon, and the use of light muscovado sugar instead of caster sugar (although I admit that I supplemented my muscovado sugar with golden caster sugar as I ran out of the former), this is a fairly standard, easy-to-make apple cake. The difference between it and many other apple cakes that I’ve made is that you put half the cake mixture in the tin, layer the apple in the middle, and then top the cake with the other half of the cake mixture.

The whole thing works really well, and is incredibly tasty. My 2-year-old can testify to this; he’s not a great fan of most cakes, but wanted seconds of this.

Who made it: Anna
Recipe: Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, pg. 252

April 10, 2014

Give-and-take biscuit bake

Filed under: biscuits — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 4:16 pm

Give and take biscuitsAs the recipe for these biscuits makes such a vast amount (60-72), I decided to halve the ingredients. That made about 30 biscuits, which was still enough to feed my parents, my husband, my friend, and my colleague and her husband who have just had a baby (which was who the biscuits were really intended for).

As the recipe suggests, I made three different flavoured biscuits. Cranberry flavour, cinnamon and nutmeg flavour and cherry flavour. My least favourite were the cherry biscuits, but that’s entirely my fault for leaving them in the oven a little too long, and them being rather more crispy than was intended.

The recipe for these mini biscuits calls for the mixture to be rolled out and then put in the freezer for a least a few hours before you cut out rounds. The problem with this is that the mixture is then really hard to cut when you remove it from the freezer, because it’s so hard. I also had a few problems mixing up the pastry in the first place – it was way too wet initially (admittedly, partially my fault for adding too much egg). So I had to add a ton of flour to turn it into a pliable consistency. Unfortunately, in the case of the cranberry biscuits it clearly wasn’t enough flour. When I tried to slice up the frozen mixture, it just fell apart.

I was going to abandon the cranberry mixture entirely, but then decided I could easily roll it into balls. This worked well, and it turned out that when I put them in the oven, they spread out and turned into perfect mini biscuits – better shaped than either the cherry or the cinnamon/ nutmeg ones. A good tip for the future, and probably the way I will form all these biscuits if I make them again!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Cakes, Bakes, Puddings and Prayers, page 32-33

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