Tag Archives: food

Last minute presents…

24 Dec

Peppermint creams – 2 cups icing sugar, 1 whisked egg white, 2tsp peppermint essence, green colouring if you like them minty looking too. Roll out using icing sugar for dusting, cut out  (lovely cutters from Kitchens) , and leave to dry for a few hours.

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Mince pies – half a cup of butter, cup of plain flour, pinch of salt, juice and zest of an orange for the pastry. Leave at least 2 hours in the fridge before rolling and cutting out. Just 15 minutes in a medium oven.

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Gingerbread trees. Cut out stars of different sizes from gingerbread dough (secret ingredients – dark brown sugar and black pepper). Layer up using plain icing as glue and leave to dry.

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Ice with thin green icing and add silver baubles. Leave to dry again before dusting with icing sugar and edible glitter.

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Covers and ribbons on the preserves!

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And that’s it!

Happy Christmas everyone! I do hope yours is absolutely wonderful xxx

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Crafty ways to speed up your Christmas countdown

21 Dec

Yes, I like to make stuff at Christmas. I like to give homemade presents. I like to cook for people.

But it helps to have a production line mentality. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t put any thought into what you make or give. More that big batches of gifts allow you to make things more quickly, and be more generous at the same time.

Stephanie Dosen’s brilliant Heartfelt Rings are just lovely, and take less than half an hour from start to finish. So I’ve made at least ten (here are just a few of them).

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Lots of pretty presents to go around, each one slightly different, but made with an identical process that’s easy to memorise and do on auto-pilot while watching Elf for the ninth time.

Eierzucker biscuits take considerably longer…

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You make the dough (icing sugar, eggs and flavouring – in this case lemon zest) and then rest it overnight, roll it out painstakingly (otherwise you will be finding icing sugar in your hair WEEKS later) and leave for another 24 hours to dry, before finally putting the moulded shapes into the oven.

They taste good when you make them, but even better after a couple of weeks (they keep practically forever in a tin). So you make a lot in one go. In this case, 36. They’re such a sweet treat you wouldn’t give away more than two or three per person, so that’s at least a dozen people with a sugary smile on their faces (unless you ‘don’t like sugar’ in which case, you are banned).

Chutney and jam are the same. You make lots, but weeks or months in advance. Come Christmas it’s just a question of labels and covers. I made these in September, so fingers crossed, they’ll taste good now.

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People keep asking me if I’ve ‘done everything’ or if I’m feeling ‘stressed about Christmas’. Honestly. it’s no on both counts. I’ve still got plenty to make with just a few days to go.  But doing lots in advance, and in big batches takes the pressure off, and makes Christmas crafting fun.

Joy to your world! What are you making today?

Can’t knit, will bake

9 Oct

Sometimes I need a little break from knitting.

It’s not by choice. I overdid the typing while writing my post-grad journalism thesis 10 years ago which triggered a bout of terrible RSI. I had to have a fortnight off work to recover, and even now I have to be a bit careful.

Last Tuesday I lugged home 6kg of flour as part of the breadmaking kit I gave Al for his birthday (more on that another time) and since then I’ve had an ache in my hands which just won’t go away.

Time for a rest then.

So today, instead of swatching for various designs I’m working on, I baked.

And baked. And baked.

There were mushy bananas which needed using up – into heart-shaped muffins they went, with a couple of tired nectarines, and some white chocolate.

I’ve STILL got apples after our latest scrumping adventure, so it was time for another apple pie. This pic of Storm helping is from the last one we made, but you get the idea. It got a bit messy…

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And then there were cookies, made with hazelnut chocolate picked up for some stupid price at Lidl.

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Thanks to this and Al’s new adventures in breadmaking, the kitchen is just overflowing with food. I ran out of time to make my Sunday avo chicken stock, so I can’t even put any of it in the freezer (as that’s where the chicken bits get stored before I make stock).

Phew! My hands are still hurting, but at least we have cake!

Best chicken stock ever

23 Aug

Chicken stock is like a magic ingredient. I haven’t quite reached the stage as using it as a sauce for ice-cream. But I have thought about it.

Want to make the best chicken stock ever? Here’s how.

First, save up your bones.

It’s far nicer to cook up stock when you feel like it than when you’ve just made a roast, cleared up and frankly, could do with a little sit down and possibly a nap.

So freeze your chicken carcass for (literally) a rainy day, when you can stay home for a few hours and potter while it does its thing.

Leftover bits from drumsticks/ wings are fine too – just keep them all in the freezer.

Normally I make chicken stock because it’s got to the point that I can’t fit anything else in my freezer (it’s not very big). But hey, hopefully you’re more organised than me.

So, feeling like a virtuous cookathon? Then take your chickeny goodies and stick them in the biggest pot you can find. You don’t need to unfreeze them.

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Add:

A few onions – halved. Don’t peel them, but do take off any muddy bits or stringy roots

Carrots, topped and tailed if they’re looking very tired.

Celery. That wilting bit in the back of the fridge is fine.

Bay leaves (if you have them)

Peppercorns.

Any other bits and pieces you think might work.

Add all this to your stock pot along with enough cold water to cover everything.

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Now bring to the boil (with the lid on), turn it down and let it simmer on a medium heat for 3 hours.

Take the lid off and simmer gently for another 3 hours.

Strain the liquid through a colander or large sieve into a smaller pan  – you’ll still have loads at this point.

Simmer on lowest heat until you’ve got about 500ml to 1l. You want to have enough to fill 1 to 2 ice cube trays.

Allow to cool a bit and then pour into ice cube trays. Bung back in the freezer.

That’s it! Amazing chicken stock, with virtually no faff, no messing, and in a very convenient end format. Apologies for the lack of ‘after’ photos. It was dark by the time I finished this time!

Because the stock is so concentrated, 1 or 2 ice cubes will be enough for any meal you want to add it to. Even ice cream…

How to grow tomatoes: Tomato joy!

18 Aug

A little while ago I wrote about how to grow tomatoes.

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This summer it seems to be working – hurrah! Although, doesn’t it just feel like you’re watering them all the time?!

Plus, there are a LOT of spider webs to be circumnavigated to pick these babies.

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While I’m here, our new toaster appears to have a face. Just sayin’…

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Blackberry and apple crumble. Thrifty noms.

9 Aug

You may recall I spent a lovely afternoon foraging for apples, blackberries and plums.

Well, you need to find something to do with all that free food!

So, blackberry and apple crumble the easy way…

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(1) Preheat oven to gas mark 4 (medium). Peel and chop apples. Butter a large tray and bung in the apples and blackberries.

(2) Cover with a thin layer of oats, and a thin layer of brown sugar. Be sure to leave some fruit poking through!

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(3) Cube butter into small pieces and spread across the top

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(4) Bake for at least half an hour until the fruit is soft and siizzling. You may need to add more butter half way through to prevent the oats burning.

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(5) Eat. Lots.

Innocent Big Knit – tiny hat joy!

9 Jun

Worldwide Knit in Public Day, Sat 11th June, marks the official woolly launch of this year’s innocent Big Knit.

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The company wants to raise £160k this year for Age UK by knitting 650,000 little hats which will go on their smoothie bottles and be sold in stores.

For every little hat knitted, innocent give 25p to Age UK to help them make winter a little warmer for older people across the UK.

innocent have got three different patterns to start you off with lots more going on their website very soon,

You can find the patterns by searching innocent’s Big Knit on Ravelry and the pdfs will also be going up on their website next week

Remember, every hat counts!