Gastronomically Terrific

January 31, 2016

Stilton and leek tarts

Filed under: starter, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 2:13 pm

And so, on to the three courses I made for my dinner party in mid January… I had to pick vegetarian or fish courses, and make sure everybody coming liked what was on offer! So, for starters I chose this stilton and leek tarts.

The hardest part of this starter was making the cheese pastry. Not that this was especially hard, as long as you are used to making pastry! It took me 20 minutes or so rub all the ingredients together, roll out the pastry and cut out circles to line a yorkshire pudding tin.

The topping for the tarts is fried leek, topped with grated cheese and chopped parsley. An egg, cream and nutmeg mixture is then poured into each tart before being baked for 20 minutes. When I first poured in the wet mixture it spilled out the side of each tart a little (I had to cut the pastry rounds slightly smaller than recommended as I didn’t have a big enough cutter), and I was worried that the mixture would spill out over the sides once baked and look awful. It turns out I needn’t have worried – the whole thing rose (upwards, rather than outwards) in the oven, and they looked pretty impressive once baked. They tasted pretty good too!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 39-40


January 1, 2015

Christmas dinner extras


1) Brussel sprouts with(out) buttered chestnuts

It’s Christmas, so you need brussel sprouts. But brussel sprouts are quite dull. Thankfully, there are ways to make them a bit more interesting. I had intended to add chopped-up chestnuts, but when I went to use them they had grown a nice layer of mold. I figured it was better to throw them away and just add the flavouring to the sprouts. It’s a really easy recipe – basically you just boil the sprouts for a few minutes, then fry them in butter, salt and pepper and nutmeg. It worked well, and the lack of chestnuts really just meant that, well, there were no chestnuts!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Daily Cookbook, pg. 311

2) Bacon-wrapped chipolatas

These aren’t complicated, and I’ve made them before. They’re so simple, in fact, that I don’t even need a recipe to make them. Just some chipolatas (in this case, some mini ones and some longer ones), some streaky bacon and a bit of time to wrap the bacon around the sausages.

I made these back in November and froze them ready for Christmas Day. This makes basically no difference to how they taste, and on Christmas Day they were still a favourite. The last few tasted good on our Boxing Day Christmas pizzas too!

Who made it: Anna

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 13, 2014

Eggnog cupcakes

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:49 pm

Eggnog and candy cane cupcakesThe second of the two cupcakes I madeĀ from my Hummingbird Bakery cookbook this week (the first being the candy cane cupcakes), these eggnog cupcakes actually turned out to be quite tasty. I wasn’t too sure when I first tasted the frosting (it really did taste like quite strong eggnog), but combined with the relatively plain fairy cakes I thought it actually worked really well.

The frosting for these cupcakes is simpler than for the candycane cupcakes – it’s basically just designed to look like snow, so is easy to apply to the cake just using a knife. It is simply a combination of butter, icing sugar, milk, grated nutmeg and rum essence (never used that before!). You finish the cakes off by adding Christmas-themed sugar shapes; in my case a Santa, a tree, a gingerbread house and a snowman, just because that was what was in the packet!

These cakes, unlike the others, are actually Christmassy enough (and taste different enough) so that I probably would be willing to give them away as Christmas presents – as long as they were going to be eaten in the next couple of days!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Humming Bakery Cake Days: Recipes to make every day special, Tarek Malouf and The Hummingbird Bakers, pg. 212-213

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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