Thursday, 31 December 2009
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 nibbles...so 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
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 all...now 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
- 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.
- A soda stream. This was from the other half last year. The most useful gadget ever. We use it everyday.
- 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.
- 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.....
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
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.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
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 badly...family 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
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
This is where it would be...
Friday, 11 December 2009
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
1 clove garlic
4 spring onions chopped up
1/2 small tub creme fraiche
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.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
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.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
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).
Monday, 7 December 2009
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
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.)
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
We ate a lot of food....fry ups, cream teas and three course dinners.....
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
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)
These will have the brandy butter and clotted cream in after Christmas dinner.
And this tray is brilliant...you 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....
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....
Saturday, 28 November 2009
At least today I feel a telly evening has been justified. I got up early to go to a vintage clothes sale in Newquay. It's run by an air hostess who takes two empty suitcases with her when she flies to LA. She fills them up with vintage clothes and sells them in London. It's the first time she's come down to Cornwall but hopefully not the last. We were the first ones through the door and I snapped up this fascinator and pretty handbag for £15! I'm off to a fancy wedding in Scotland in February so will wear the fascinator then.
Then we felt we should treat ourselves for getting such bargains. We drove out to the Lewinnick Lodge at Pentire. It had started hammering it down with rain so we ran inside with our coats over our heads. I had their famous fishcakes which were yummy...
This was the view which shows how close it is to the sea. (Although the photo is rubbish....I took it while running back to the car...coats over heads again!) One of the best things about living in Cornwall is people's honesty....as we were driving out of the car park, a girl came sprinting after us, getting soaking wet, no coat, hair waiving wildly in the wind. She was sitting on the table next to us and noticed my friend had left her iphone. How kind was that?!
Then, as if I hadn't had enough fun, I headed back to Truro and The Great Escape. I had one of the best massages I've ever had. I love that place. It's run by a couple of girls about my age. It's about the most relaxing place you can go....
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
My stupid insomnia meant I missed out on going to an Ash gig at Zennor Village Hall last night. Only about 80 people went. But I did send my lovely friend Gladders along instead and she made Tim record a message for me. She told him about the fudge we make and he said he'd like to make "sweet fudge" with me...yes please!
Monday, 23 November 2009
It's hard to describe the impact lack of sleep has on you. It's not the tiredness...I've grow used to that (I've aged about ten years in the last twelve months!) It's the emotional impact it has on you. I've tried my best not to over exaggerate it but I've reached a point of despair. You lie in bed (or on the sofa/spare bed/hallway where ever really) and you feel as if you're the only person left awake in the world. I can't even imagine now what it must be like to lie down in bed and to fall asleep. Bliss.
So I'm at home this afternoon. Sitting on the sofa wondering if tonight will be a good night or a bad night? Will I be asleep at 1130pm or 5am? Will I stay awake all night listening to the sound of the fridge or getting annoyed with how loud my heart beats as I get more and more wound up. Will I miraculously fall asleep straight away only to be woken up 5 minutes later by a car beeping its horn sentencing me to another night awake? But also remembering that it's just insomnia. It's just staying awake. It's not worrying about whether a loved one will come home from Afghanistan or the fear of a friend worrying her cancer has returned.
One of the exercises a hypnotherapist taught me (that didn't work either!!) is to picture a happy place. My happy place is on Scilly on a warm summers day. I'm back at a time in my life where I spent my summer making cakes for the Fraggle Rock cafe. I made rock buns all the time because they taste yummy and can be made in about 5 minutes. Now the smell of cinnamon and burnt orange is wafting around my kitchen and I'm feeling a little more relaxed.........
Fraggle Rock Buns....
8oz self raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
3oz caster sugar
5oz mixed fruit
Put the flour and the mixed spice into a bowl and rub in the butter. Once it looks like a crumble mix. Add the eggs and sugar and mix with your hands until it looks a bit like a dough.
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 and line two small baking trays. Spoon rough teapoons on to the baking trays. Bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes and serve with butter.
Sunday, 22 November 2009
We've just finished a lemony roast chicken and I am stuffed! While I made the gravy I added my usual teaspoon of marmite and I wondered if anyone else does this? My friend's mum used to use it instead of gravy browning and it made it so much richer and strangely meatier....maybe you add something even stranger?
During the next few weeks you'll be getting a lot of two types of recipes; canapes and sweets. I love them both and strangely enough I only make them at Christmas. Perhaps because I make a year's worth in one month and can't be bothered for the rest of the year. This one is the most basic and easy and great before a roast dinner. I love the salty crispy bacon cuddling the squidgy sweet prune. So easy and always appreciated! I've never tried soaking them in brandy before Nigella style....they were delicious...and powerful!
Boozy Devils on Horseback....(serves 4)
Thursday, 19 November 2009
Yesterday morning I went down to the Shelterbox HQ at the Water ma Trout Industrial Estate (I love that name!!) in Helston. If you don't know who they are they are a charity which responds to natural and manmade disasters by delivering big green boxes full of aid. Some of the people I spoke to yesterday recalled how they heard about the tsunami, booked plane tickets ad went straight out to places like Thailand and Sri Lanka. Then they called Shelterbox when they arrived to see of they needed help. Can you imagine what it's like to be that kind of person? To have that overwhelming need to help and just to go and do it. I couldn't believe how selfless they all were. At work one of our presenters always says that Cornish people are the most generous in the world and it really felt like that yesterday. Cornwall is the poorest area in the UK....with very low wages and high house prices and yet people, like the Shelterbox volunteers, just book their flights and go and help people....amazing.
(AND I seem to remember reading somewhere that they were praised because they give a huge amount per pound donated. If you are thinking about giving to a charity this Christmas then they are an amazing cause....
OK charity bit over! Last night mum and dad took us out for dinner at a new restaurant in Marazion. We drove about 50 minutes to get there in the howling wind and rain (I hadn't bothered to wear a coat..AGAIN) and met up with some friends who live there. We went to Ben's Cornish Kitchen and it was fantastic!
I had a game salad to start...pigeon, duck and partridge with a cider and star anise dressing. Debloominglicious. Then pork belly with black pudding dauphinoise and apple sauce. I always measure my restaurants on how crispy (a big) is my portion of crackling.....so this one should get a Michelin star!
For pudding I had blackberry and apple crumble with local raspberry ripple ice cream...a great way to end the meal. So if you're in Marazion go along and support this new business. It's worth a visit!
Anyway.. the other half made one of his first attempts at making a cake on Wednesday....I was impressed!