Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas biscuits

I found some gorgeous Christmas tree cutters and this recipe is just perfect for biscuits. The best thing is that you can freeze the dough so you can 'magically' produce bikkies and be the domestic goddess you are!


175g soft unsalted butter or Stork
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp good vanilla essence
400g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

You also need biscuit cutters and baking sheets. I usually line mine with baking parchment, but you can bake these on pizza stones if you have one.

Preheat the oven to 180C gas mark 4

Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a processor until they're moussy. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder, spices and salt.
Add the dry ingredients gradually to the mixture and combine well but gently. Do not beat too hard.
Halve the dough and form it into fat discs and wrap into cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.
If you only want to use half the dough this is the time to freeze it.

Dust your surface with a little flour. Not too much as this will make the dough far too tough and roll it out to about a couple of millimetres thickness. A thicker biscuit will be more spongy, a thinner one will be crisp.

Cut out whatever shapes you want, and place on the baking tray

Bake for around 10-12 minutes, they should be light golden brown around the edges.

When they're cold you can ice then or decorate them anyway you want.

You can use other flavourings instead of Christmas spices, such as orange zest, lemon, or ginger. But they are also great just as plain vanilla biscuits.

Taken from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' by Nigella Lawson

Turkey and Leek Pie

I always make one of these after Christmas as it's a great way to use up left over Turkey. It's also very easy to make and is absolutely delicious.

Serves 4


300g shortcrust pastry (or you can use puff)
olive oil
large knob of butter
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 tsp of dried tarragon
approx 500g turkey meat
2 tbsps plain flour
1 pint turkey/chicken/veg stock
150ml milk
1 egg, beaten

1. Preheat your oven to 190 degs C/180 degs C fan/gas 5.

2. Melt the butter and a lug of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and tarragon, give them a good stir so that they are covered in the oily butter, add a pinch of salt and some pepper then pop the lid on. Turn the heat down and let them cook gently for about 15 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.

3. When the leeks are ready add the turkey meat and stir. If you've got some left over stuffing, that can go in too. Add the flour, mix it in well then pour in the stock and milk and stir again. Turn up the heat and bring everything back up to the boil. Have a taste and add more seasoning if needed, then turn the heat off. Pour the mixture through a sieve over a large bowl and let the gravy drip into the bowl while you roll out the pastry.

4. If using puff pastry, get a deep dish roughly 22 x 30cm, otherwise for shortcrust an ordinary pie dish will be fine. Roll out the pastry until it covers the top of the dish.

5. Spoon the leek mixture from your sieve into the pie dish and spread it out evenly. Lay the pastry on top and gently tuck the ends under. If using puff pastry, score diagonally with a knife. If using shortcrust, make a couple of steam holes. Decorate with left over pastry shapes and then brush with the beaten egg.

6. Bake the pie for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. When the pie is ready, re-heat the gravy and serve with your pie, along with some veggies of choice. Enjoy!

This recipe is adapted from Turkey and Sweet Leek Pie
by Jamie Oliver

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Cod, Chorizo and Potato Stew

I haven't made this recipe before but there were four reasons why it fitted the bill perfectly for Christmas Eve. First, it's quick and easy to make - who wants to spend hours in the kitchen the night before the Big Day? Second, I still wanted to make something that could be considered as quite a special meal, always important for me on Christmas Eve. Third, the recipe uses Cod and Chorizo...two of my favourite foods. Finally, it's a one pot recipe...and I only had one saucepan left after having spent the afternoon prepping all the Christmas Day veggies! We all, including Theo, agreed it was a winner.

Serves 4


110g chorizo, cut into 2cm slices (next time I'll use 1 cm slices)
1 onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 potatoes (I used medium sized), cut into 3cm chunks
227g can of chopped tomatoes (I used a 400g can)
500ml fish stock (I used cubes)
400-600g frozen cod fillets, defrosted and cut into 3-4cm chunks
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

1. Heat a large pan over a medium heat and cook the chorizo for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside. Drain all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pan and use to cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat for 6-8 minutes until soft. Stir in the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes and fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender. (This may take longer, it took 20-25 minutes before my potato chunks were tender.) Stir in the cooked chorizo. You can freeze the stew at this stage, letting it cool to room temperature first.

3. If cooking from frozen, defrost the stew in the fridge overnight or in a microwave, then reheat. Add the cod to the stew and simmer for 4-5 minutes until just cooked. Season and serve immediately, scattered with parsley.

This recipe comes from Waitrose Kitchen December 2011Link

Friday, 23 December 2011

Penguins Christmas Cake

I'd known for some time that I wanted a penguin themed Christmas cake this year, mainly because I'd fallen in love with them on the brilliant TV series Frozen Planet! It's amazing what you can do with sugarpaste, icing sugar and a rolling pin...

And this is the end result...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Buche de Noel

I wanted to make a Buche de Noel as a bit of a filler between now and Christmas itself. But all my previous attempts at making one have resulted in failure, mainly because when it came to rolling the sponge, for some reason it would break up completely and I would end up with a chocolate stack instead of a roll! However, not to be beaten, I perused my many cook books and found this recipe of Nigella's. Her reassuring words "don't be put off by the rolling you need to do...this flourless mixture is beautifully pliable" made me determined to have another go. The result was this.

Nigella was right...the sponge was beautifully pliable which made the whole thing a dream to make.



6 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
50g cocoa

FOR THE ICING (although I made chocolate buttercream)

175g dark chocolate
250g icing sugar
225g soft butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3-5 tsps icing sugar to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degs C/170 degs C fan/gas mark 4. Line a swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving a generous overhang at the ends and sides, and folding the parchment into the corners to help the paper stay anchored.

2. In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites until foamy and thick, then add 50g of the sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding peaks but not dry.

3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until they are pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract and sieve over the cocoa, then fold both in.

4. Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the whites, folding in gently, and then add the whites in thirds, mixing carefully to avoid losing the air.

5. Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin, and bake for 20 minutes. Let the cake cool a little before turning it out on to another piece of baking parchment.

6. To make the icing, melt the chocolate - either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave - and let it cool. Blitz the icing sugar and butter in a food processor until smooth. Add the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and pulse again to make a smooth icing.

7. Trim the long edges of the swiss roll, as well as the shortest edge which should be towards you. Spread some of the icing thinly over the sponge, going right out to the edges. Roll up from the shortest side facing you, taking care to get a tight roll from the beginning, and roll up to meet the other short end. Cut one or both ends slightly, at a gentle angle.

8. Use the sponge trimmings as branches as you wish, and then ice the Yule Log with the remaining icing, covering the cut off ends as well. Create a wood like texture with a skewer or fork, and then dust with icing sugar for a freshly fallen snow effect.

9. Enjoy!

This Buche de Noel comes from Feast by Nigella Lawson

Monday, 19 December 2011

Melting Snowmen cupcakes

Perfect for this time of year! The cupcakes are quick and easy to make and the snowmen are a perfect opportunity to get creative. A lovely way to spend an afternoon, with some festive music playing in the background.



120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1.5 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 egg
quarter tsp vanilla extract

Makes 12

1. Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases.

2. Preheat the oven to 170 degs C/gas 3.

3. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter into the bowl of an electric mixer, or use a handheld electric whisk, and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

4. Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.

5. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases until 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre a cake. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

These cupcakes come from the hummingbird bakery cookbook by Tarek Malouf


600g white sugarpaste (there will be some left over)
smaller quantities of coloured sugarpaste
icing sugar/cornflour to dust
6cm round cutter
small quantity of white royal icing
mini smarties

1. When the cupcakes are cold, spread a layer of raspberry jam and then vanilla buttercream on to the top of each cake.

2. To make the snowmen's heads, roll 20 balls of white sugarpaste (each about the size of a cherry). Dust a worktop with icing sugar/cornflour and roll out the remaining sugarpaste to 5mm thick. Using the cutter, cut out 12 circles. Place one on top of each cake and smooth into place.

3. Use the coloured sugarpaste to make eyes and a nose for each snowman's head, and fix these on with a dot of royal icing.

4. Put a small blob of royal icing on the bottom of each snowman's head and stick on top of each cake. Allow to dry for a couple of hours.

5. Using some of the coloured sugarpaste, roll out thin strips to make a scarf for each snowman and wind around his "neck". Put dots of royal icing on the front of each snowman and stick on a couple of mini smarties for buttons.

These sugarpaste decorations come from bake and decorate by Fiona Cairns

Christmassy Gingerbread Biscuits

I saw Dan Lepard's recipe for these biscuits in the Guardian magazine, before realising that they are in his book, "Short and Sweet". They are intensely spicy and so are great to make at Christmas and on Bonfire Night. It's a great recipe, too, for letting the children help with!

These biscuits come from Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard

Classic Christmas Cake

Because Rebecca's birthday is at the end of November, we always make our Christmas cake a few days afterwards, when both her and Theo's cakes have been made and (mostly) eaten! It's something we do as a family because, for us, it signifies the start of the Christmas festivities, and the children love getting involved and making wishes! As in previous years, we made Delia Smith's Classic Christmas Cake, and we've been nurturing it and feeding it with brandy each week since. It will be dressed with its marzipan and icing a few days before Christmas.

The recipe for Delia's Classic Christmas Cake can be found in Delia Smith's

Rebecca's Kit Kat Birthday Cake

As she was going to be fifteen, Rebecca didn't really mind what sort of birthday cake I made her. So, I used the same chocolate cake recipe (Fiona Cairns), and frosting, as Theo's. I had the idea of using Kit Kats from a cake I'd seen on the internet. The top of the cake was covered in mini smarties and a fancy ribbon completed the look.

Theo's Moons and Stars Birthday Cake

When I asked Theo what sort of cake he would like for his birthday this year, his reply was "something very chocolatey." I knew, then, exactly which cake I would bake, and how I was going to decorate it. The result was this:

The cake is large (perfect for birthdays) and beautifully moist, so keeps well for several days.



175g unsalted butter, softened
100g 50-60% cocoa solids chocolate, chopped
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g ground almonds
275g dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml buttermilk


280g icing sugar
60g cocoa powder
175g butter, softened
3-4 tbsps milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degs C/fan 170 degs C/gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 20cm round sandwich tins, each 4.5cm deep.

2. Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour over 120ml of just boiled water. Stir until melted and set aside to cool.

3. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the ground almonds. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using an electric hand whisk), cream together the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy (this will take a good five minutes.) Add the vanilla extract to the eggs. With the whisk running, very slowly add the egg mixture to the butter and sugar, adding 1 tbsp of the floour during the process to prevent curdling, then add the melted chocolate and buttermilk.

4. Fold in the remaining flour very gently and divide the mixture between the tins. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Leave for a minute or two in the tins before turning out on to a wire rack. Remove the papers and leave until absolutely cold.

5. To make the frosting use an electric whisk or mixer to combine the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter. Add the milk to make a soft cream (you may need to add a little more.) Sandwich the 2 cakes, bases together, then spread the remaining frosting over the top and around the sides.

6. Use your imagination to decorate as you wish!

This cake comes from Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns

Friday, 25 November 2011

Melting Moments

These tiny biscuits come from my 1974 Be-Ro Home Recipe book (given to me last year by my Grandmother.) They are quick and really simple to make...if you want more, or larger biscuits, just double, triple or even quadruple the recipe!


2.5 oz self raising flour
1.5 oz caster sugar
2 oz butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
rolled oats or dessicated coconut
glace cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 170 deg C/fan 160 deg C/gas mark 3-4.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla essence.

3. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly

4. Divide the mixture into 20 pieces, roll each into a ball and coat with the oats or coconut.

5. Place on a greased baking sheet, press out slightly and place a small piece of cherry in the centre of each biscuit.

6. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until golden.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

1 whole squash around 1kg
1 red onion
2 sticks celery
Veg or chicken stock about 500ml
seasoning (pinch of mixed herbs of your choice. I usually use italian seasoning)
black pepper
Peel and cube the squash.
Chop celery.
Chop the onion and fry to soften. (I use olive oil with garlic infused, it gives it a bit of a garlicky flavour without being strong)
Add the squash cubes and the celery and cook on a low heat while preparing the stock. I use 2 stock cubes to about 500ml or a bit more of water, enough to cover the squash but not drown it.
Simmer with the lid on until the squash is soft.
Put all the solids in a blender with a little of the stock and puree. When it's the consistency you want, put it all back in the pan with the stock and stir it all together.
Simmer for a few minutes, then taste and season. If it's not as smooth as you want then you can blend again
Add black pepper to taste
Serve with big fat chunks of bread
It makes enough for 3 big bowls or 4/5 as a starter and freezes well
I also used a few spoonfuls in my casserole to give flavour and a bit of bodyYou can also use it as a mother stock for another veggie soup,pumpkin, or mixed veg or even chicken?

Very Lemony Crunch Cake

This is such a quick and easy cake to make, and is utterly delicious!


175g unsalted butter
175g self raising flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs
175g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon

juice of 1 large lemon
100g white granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C/fan 170 deg C/gas mark 4.

2. Grease and line an 18cm diameter, 7.5cm deep, round springform tin.

3. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and set aside. Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Using an electric whisk, or mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Blend in the melted butter, then gently fold in the flour, salt and zest. Finally, slowly fold in the juice.

4. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

5. Meanwhile, make the crunchy topping by simply mixing the juice and sugar together in a small bowl. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick tiny holes all over the top with a cocktail stick. Pour the lemon syrup evenly over the surface. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

This cake comes from "Bake and Decorate" by Fiona Cairns.

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