Tag Archives: Christmas

The most delicious and easiest Cranberry Sauce

Doing a normal shop in Tesco, I saw a load of cranberries that were reduced after Christmas. The best accompaniment to chicken or turkey, all year round is Cranberry sauce!

This is a super easy one I made, its delicious and quick and we bottle it and keep it for the year. There is nothing like homemade cranberry sauce.

Ready to Bottle Nom

Double, triple or quadruple this recipe depending on how much cranberry you have:

350g fresh cranberries

1 cup of sugar

1 tablespoon of Kirsch Wasser

1 tablespoons of Port

2 tablespoons of Water

Throw everything into a pot and cook until cranberries are soft. They are absolutely chocked full of pectin, so it’ll be a very jellified sauce, but break the berries open as they cook and mix well, cooking off the alcohol. While the sauce looks runny, it’ll solidify a lot once cooled, so don’t over cook it just because it appears watery.

Cooking off the Kirsch and Port

Heat bottles in the oven. Bottle, serve with Christmas dinner or eat with a turkey sandwich!

Bottle Cranberry Sauce

Nom nom nom!

Turkey Sandwich

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White Chocolate and Fresh Cranberry Muffins

White Chocolate and Cranberry Muffins

I was making a HUGE batch for a party, so adapt to suit yourselves. I also add A LOT of cranberries and white chocolate. The smoothness of the chocolate is wonderfully balanced by the fresh tartness of the cranberries. Nom!

Ready to go!

300g butter

6 eggs

vanilla bean paste

2 cups of brown sugar

3 cups of selfraising flour

600g fresh cranberries

400g white chocolate, chopped

Mix the soft butter (unsalted preferably) in with the sugar until light and fluffy and then mix in the beaten egg, the vanilla bean paste. Sieve the flour into the mixture and stir until its well combined, it should be a loose but pastey consistency.

I heated my cranberries to soften them a tiny tiny bit, but don’t cook them or the skin will go soggy. (Your muffins will just be pink muffins with white chocolate in them, rather than plain muffins with scatterings of chocolate and cranberries!). Once lightly heated, spoon your cranberries (avoiding any juices at the bottom of the pot!) into your mixture and fold them gently into the muffin mix. Add the white chocolate pieces and similarly fold them in.

Mix mix mix, fold fold fold.

Spoon muffins in to cases and (ideally, which of course I forgot to do) bake them in a muffin/cupcake tin at 180 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden all round.

Silly me!

Silly me!

Delicious!

Cranberries and White Chocolate Chunks

Cranberries and White Chocolate Chunks

I have also made amazing white chocolate and cranberry oat cookies which go down super well too! But sadly I forgot to take pictures during the process, I have found a similar recipe by Nigella, but mine are much much oatier!

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Stained Glass Gingerbread

My mother ordered me to make these, because “she saw it done on TV” – I later found out it was inspired by Lorraine Pascale‘s  edible christmas tree decorations.

Whip up a batch of gingerbread, as I did last week and cut in to large shapes, I used hearts and circles. Then use a smaller cookie cutter and cut out the centre of the piece and place on a baking tray.

Gingerbread Cutting

Get your hands on some hard sugar based sweets, and as my mother advised my girlfriend “bash the hell out of them, while imagining it’s someone you dislike”. Our house was/is never peaceful!

Candy to Crush

Fill the centre of the gingerbread dough with roughly a table spoon of crushed sweets and pop them in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 180 Degrees Celcius.

Filling the  Gingerbread Window

Make sure to let them cool on the tray, as taken them off early could be a burning hot gloopy mess. And don’t put them anywhere too cold, because the sugar will crack!

Cook my little pretties

Serve to little hungry children – (support the dentists’ businesses.)

Done and ready to Nom

Stained Glass Gingerbread

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Festive Gingerbread men! A Nommy Nom for little Nomsters!

There is nothing like  a good old gingerbread man around the festive season. I love this really super recipe and often get a group of friends or family around for the decorating process. There is something exceptionally fun about university students spending an hour or two with their hands covered in smarties and icing decorating little gingerbread men.

Grab 350g of self raising flour (often I use plain flour, because this results in gingerbread men that don’t expand all over the place in the over, but they are often a little less chewy than otherwise, up to you though) and sieve the flour in to a bowl, add 1-2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon and 1-2 teaspoons of ground ginger, depending on how strong you like your spices. Pop 225g of soft butter in to the bowl and mix well and consistently until you have a bowl of crumbs. Add 175g of soft brown sugar and stir in.

In a separate bowl pour in 4 tablespoons of golden syrup and crack in an egg. Mix well with a fork. Then add this mix to the sugary crumbs in the other bowl and mix well until clumps start to form and it becomes a nice thick, but pastey dry dough. Knead well with hands and roll in to a nice ball. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in to fridge for about 2 hours.

Gingermen Ready for Decorating

When ready, get your cookie cutters, use a small amount of flour, enough to stop sticking and roll your dough out to 4-6mm thick and make your gingerbread men/cookies/people etc. Place on a lined baking tray and cook for 10 minutes at 180 degrees celcius, they might still be a little fragile so carefully place them on a wire rack and allow to cool.

Gingermen Gifts

Decorate. Nom. Package. Nom. Gift. Nom. EAT. Nom.

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Crunchy Hazelnut Meringue Christmas Cookies

These are possibly the easiest cookies I have ever made. Plus they go down a treat. I made them only because I had a surplus of ground hazelnut that was going to go out of date at the end of the year and I whipped these together from an awesome Swiss Christmas cookie book!

You will need:

350g ground hazelnut

4 egg whites

250g of caster sugar

some lemon zest

Egg Whites

Beat the egg white, until the peaks are stiff and the egg white remains in the bowl when turned upside down. Slowly add the sugar, until a meringue-ish texture appears. Then fold in the hazelnut and the lemon zest.

Amy 027

Using two teaspoons make small heaps on to lined baking trays, 5cm apart and leave to rest for 2 hours.

Amy 030

Bake at  180 Degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. Place on a rack to cool and serve with a coffee for some Chewy Nom time.

Amy 031

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Serious Adult Rocky Road – Christmas Pud Alternative

The Adult Rocky Road Mountain, is an alternative to a christmas pudding if you’re not into that – but it’s also a delicious dessert in itself, for any time of the year. It’s also very flexible so you can add whatever you’d like to suit it to a meal your are planning or a season of the year. Be inventive and make your own version! Nom nom nom! My hands were a little sticky, so the photos of the making process are lacking, but it is so nom, so its worth it without the step by step  pictures!

Chunks of Rocky Road Nom

Get all the ingredients ready, take some away as you like and add others to your taste!

 

Sunflower oil 3-4 teaspoons, 50g popcorn popped (this is about half an average microwave bag), 50g of desiccated coconut, 100g pecan nuts, 200g flaked almonds, 100g hazelnuts, 100g shelled pistachios, zest of one large orange, 50ml of stem ginger syrup, handful of each of the following: dried cranberries, sultanas, dried cherries, tukish delight (the real stuff), crystallised ginger, crushed biscuits, ginger nut, digestives (whatever crunchy biscuity cookies you like!) AND don’t forget a good handful of chopped up marshmallows (I like using pink and white ones, it looks prettier when you cut it up!) You will also need 400g of good quality dark chocolate, 70% is best.

For the top I use 100-200g of white chocolate, orange juice  and/or another couple of dessert spoons of desiccated coconut.

 

Prep a bowl by lining it with crumpled grease proof paper (the crumpling will give it texture when you tip it over at the end, and will allow for the topping to fill into all the cracks!)

Pop all the chocolate into a bowl over water and heat until melted stirring as often as you can.

Meanwhile pop the popcorn in a pot with a little oil and pop them (if you’re using microwave popcorn add a bit of oil to the pot anyway and heat). When the popcorn is all popped, remove off the heat and take out any kernels that havn’t popped. Add the ginger stem syrup (if you don’t want the ginger vibe going on I have done this using golden syrup or if you’re very stuck a liquid glucose would probably also work!). Once the sugary-oily mix is warm and sloshy get all those dry ingredients and add it on top of the oily-sugary popcorn – that is the nuts, the fruits, the tukish delight and marshmallows, the biscuits and whatever you’d like to add!  Mix well so that they are all lightly covered with the liquid.

 

Once the chocolate is melted pour it over the mix in the pot and mix thoroughly again making sure to coat everything well in the chocolate too! Pour the mix into the bowl with grease proof paper and leave it for a good few hours in a cold room or a fridge! I usually pop it in the fridge over night.

Open up the package, and turn it upside down so that the pudding shape is round the right way on the bowl. The crumpled grease proof paper should have done its job and left craters for the topping to flow into. Melt some white chocolate, once melted add some icing sugar, a handful of desiccated coconut and  the juice of an orange. Mix well and pour over the chocolate rocky road mountain. Let it cool a little before you pop it back in the fridge.

Serve with a big knife and some good coffee.

Adult Rocky Road

 

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Christmas Festivities and the New Year

I was slack in not getting this up in a timely manner, But i’d feel awful if the actual turkey never got to see the void that is the web! Christmas was delightful, a couple of kinks on the cooking front could have gone better. On a whim a family member decided it may be a good idea to include aniseed in the gravy. Let’s not do that again – but the rest was delish and everyone was full.

The pudding. Ah the Christmas pudding. I have a penchant for a good Christmas Pudding.We often have a couple in the house and would have one at Easter too if we felt like it. They keep for ages and must simply be neatly packed and sealed in a tupperware box, or in a fridge.

It’s quite a homey desert and the little brother makes the brandy butter and this year again a nameless family member made the custard. It split. BUT still tasted delicious and was gone before anyone could say “it split”.

There were a few cold shoulders about that custard. There is nothing like a creamy smooth custard on a fruity cake like a Christmas Pudding. That funny weird split consistency where no matter what you can’t get the curdled feeling to go – not great for a custard. That said the taste is usually just a delicious and the whole jug disappeared – who cares about a Christmas faux pas anyway!


Christmas day problems aside I actually prefer the POST-Christmas day foods that a fantastic turkey and ham can give you! I could live off cranberry and turkey sandwiches for life if I had too – there is something so nom about them it’s difficult to describe, but there is just very little that can beat a chunky slice of good bread, toasted with a very thin scraping of mayo on it, a teaspoon of cranberry sauce  and some left over turkey.

We are also big fans of the Turkey and Ham en Croute. It’s our adaptation of the Turkey Feuilletes that you see floating around. Using the old favorite Quick Flaky Pastry and preparing a turkey-ham filling. A couple of onions are browned at the bottom of a pot in butter, and chopped mushrooms, button, chestnut whatever mushrooms you like are thrown on top. A lot of people use bacon at this point, we decided one year why use a new pack of bacon when we have all this delicious Christmas ham floating around. Dice up 200-250grams of ham and add it to the onion and mushrooms. Add the turkey diced too 200-300 grams On top of this add a tablespoon of flour, add a little more if you feel its needed, and stir until everything is covered with a little bit of flour that’s now gone soggy in the meat, mushroom, onion and butter juices. This will thicken the sauce once you add the chicken stock next, 400ml,  in little quantities stirring the whole time. Let it simmer on the heat and pop in 100ml of creme fraiche. Add a cup of frozen peas to the mix and when they’re soft leave it to stand.

Roll out the Quick Flaky Pastry into one large square, about 5mm thick if you can, avoiding holes. Using a spatula spoon the mix into the center of the square of pastry and fold each of the corners inward. Bake in the oven at 180-200 degrees Celsius until golden brown on top and bottom. Slice and serve hot.

The New Year is all about those new year resolutions, I still haven’t decided on one, so I’ll hold off on that for the moment. In the middle of exams in college so we’ll see about the next update. It will most certainly be on the next project: Candied Crystallized Fruit

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The Mad Christmas Eve Food Prep

It sure is a super way to get most of the stress that the Christmas dinner can bring out of the way early. Get it done Christmas eve. The whole family is dragged down and we have a groggy embittered morning that turns in to a fully fledged cook-fest once we get in to the swing of it. Or once the coffee has been made.

First on the menu is the token Pineapple Basted Ham. Nom. 

Brown Sugar, Pinapple Juice and Chunks heat these until sugar is dissolved in the juice. Meanwhile, after having cut the skin off the ham (but leaving some fat to keep the moisture in) stir some dried Colman’s English Mustard powder in with a little water until you get a thick paste and smear all over the sides of the ham. Crush a tablespoon or more of cloves and throw it on top of the mustard paste so that the cloves stick to it. If the ham is falling apart, as they sometimes do – pop a skewer or two in to hold it together. Place it in a roasting dish with the pineapple/sugar sauce at the bottom of the tin.

Pop in the oven at 150 degrees celcius for 30 minutes, and then baste with the sauce. Repeat the basting process every 20 minutes until cooked, depending on the weight this can take 2-3 hours.

I’ve always found it hard to tell when a ham is cooked, the easiest way is probably to slide a skewer or knife through the thickest bit and ensuring there is no resistance. Nom. We’ve done this tonight so all it needs it reheating before the dinner tomorrow – and it leaves the oven free for the all important turkey! Slice and serve. Nom nom nom.

Dad has decided this year that while we will have brussel sprouts they won’t be the normal boiled or steamed ones. Instead he has made a Brussels sprout, bacon concoction with Lea and Perrin’s Worcester sauce. It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

Still tastes of Brussels sprout though. Nothing a bit of white pepper can’t cure.

The stuffing – also prepared the night before is another change to the menu. For the last few years we have collected edible chestnuts and roasted them in an ancient brass chestnut roaster on the fire. Yeah yeah, there was a song about it once etc. They are lovely though.

Takes me back to Switzerland at christmas when there were stalls at all the Christmas markets where you’d pay the equivilant of a euro and get a neatly folded cone of newspaper rolled up tightly holding a handful or two of roasted chestnuts. They’d be too hot to eat so you’d just warm your hands on them and then slowly peel the skin off and much on the hot nuts while walking through the snow.

We bunged ours in the oven. Then ground a loin of pork with sage and rosemary in the blender, added a load of onion and bread crumbs and some butter.  (Not a lot of butter is needed in this stuffing, unlike some other stuffings – the fat from the pork loin compensates so you don’t lose out on the moisture!) Chestnuts out of the oven and shelled. Grind them roughly and pop them into the stuffing, mix well and stuff into washed bird.

Or if you’re not keen on having the stuffing you’re going to eat in the bird, wrap it in tinfoil and cook. A little serving goes a long way on the day!

So that’s that. Tomorrow morning we need to get the turkey finished and in the oven, get the blini starter ready and the rest of the veg in already prepped and ready to go.

Nom nom nom. Nommy Christmas everyone!

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Pre-Christmas Lunch, Cheeses and Other Nibbles

Every year, we are lucky enough to have our parents take us out for a pre-Christmas lunch. Last year it was the Westin, this year they went all out and brought us to Thornton’s, Kevin Thorton’s restaurant on the first floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel at St. Stephens Green. Definitely one of the top three restaurants in Ireland at the moment.  Second best meal of my life. EVER (The best meal of my life was probably Chapter One earlier in November this year, unbelievable.) 

So I couldn’t take photos of the food, I was a bit too scared for that. I had slow roasted quail, with a little brioche and bog oak sauce, with an added smokey poached quail egg served on the side! Also had was braised pig’s head and although I personally am very sceptical of anything to do with the head of an animal, (it was a rolled, braised and seared slice of pig cheek and jaw) it was delicious. I will definitely consider cheek or ‘head’ if ever on a menu in the future.

For the main I had peppered milk-fed veal with a fondant potato and broccoli mousse. Textures were interesting and the pepper somewhat overpowering but the meat was so tender it just melted in my mouth. Goose breast and John Dory were the other favourites at the table. My parents decided to pay corkage fees and bring their own wine a 2004 Puligny Montrachet and a 2001 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Chateau Payas, I think?). Unbelievable wines that just blew our minds, (and I don’t even understand them for what they really are, but I do appreciate that they are amazing).

I thought there was no question on the desert front – The lemon curd tart and raspberry sorbet was just divine, however the cheese platter was popular and a warm chocolate fondant and coconut something was amazing according to my brother. God I love when my parents cover costs for these kind of amazing experiences. That said the price was very very reasonable for what you were getting at €47 a head it was a steal in terms of quality. But it was the lunch menu, and lord knows I didn’t see the final bill!

So when guests come over, planned or unplanned the fridge is usually packed with cheese. Because, there is nothing like a fabulous plate of cheeses and some homemade bread or a selection of crackers. Add to that some wine and you’ve got a party! Recently I picked up these three cheeses, all raw unpasteurised  and delicious! They are from corleggy and I got one smoked cows milk cheese (Drumlin smoked), a hard goats cheese (Creeny) and a softer sheeps milk one whose name I’ve forgotten. And my little brother acquired this nifty bodum cheese/chocolate slicey thing, (see picture) one which you can sort of ‘mill/slice/scrape’ off a slice of cheese.

Anyway I am madly in love with the smoked Drumlin one, a slice of that with some relish on a burger is just the bees-knees after a long day!

But we are very open to many other cheeses, the Corleggy ones are from Cavan, Co. Ireland, but out fridge usually stocks a huge variety. Brie, St Agur, Comte and a load of different cheddars are staples in the cheese box and then we often have Manchego, Gruyere or Camembert floating around too. There is never enough cheese. Fact.

So cheese is a fabulous nibble to have when guests are around. We also love our mine pies, see an early post for why mine are the best ever mince pies! Nom. I love making hors d’oeuvre sized mince pies, the baby version. However they do take up much more time than the bigger ones, but there is just something cute and nifty about normal foody things that are small!

Mini-any recipe floats my boat – Nomnilicious.

The Christmas Dinner and Puddings are next.

Nom nom nom.

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Ireland, Germany, Salmon and Christmas Cookies

I have had two main cultural influences in my life, the Irish culture (mainly given that my parents are Irish) and the German culture (my childhood in Switzerland, my education in a German school and my very German partner!). Christmas becomes a big mesh of the two cultures because so many of the family friends are one or the other. Many celebrate Christmas on the eve of the 24th, however we still stick to the token Christmas Day 25th celebrations.

One of the German-influenced build-ups to Christmas is the baking of Plätzchen, a German word for something in between a cookie or a biscuit, but not exclusively either one. In our house we take the phrase lightly and have over the years experimented with a variety of delicious Christmas treats to have for guests, gifts and anyone suffering from the nom-nom-munchies. Many of the recipes come from a tattered well worn Swiss Plätzchen cook book, old scribbles on sheets when friends of ours hastily jotted down a recipe, or my mothers immense cook book collection that takes up its own bookshelf unit in the kitchen.

The point? We love baking these biscuits. It’s a sign Christmas has arrived, it’s time to whip out the Plätzchen. Obviously, you think cookies or biscuits of any kind aren’t particularly healthy or ideal if you’re on a diet, but I have always found that in comparison to “normal” or “conventional” desserts like bought tins of biscuits, or tins of Roses, Christmas Pudding with Custard or whatever other Christmas goodies you eat – I invariably over-eat on those treats. When I bake my own biscuits, or even eat other peoples there is something quite rich and filling about one or two biscuits, and more often than not I am able to leave it at that.

So what’s on the menu you ask? Well. At the far left corner there are Hazelnut and Vanilla Logs from Rachel Allen’s Bake. Right in front of them are the Almond Gipfeli (A swiss name for a croissant) a favourite in our house. Behind them are Chocolate and Hazelnut Chunkys and behind them in the far right corner are the Raisin and Shortbread Coins (these are one of my favourites. Nom) In front of the coins is a new addition this year, my mom has always wanted to bake her own Biscotti and this was the year, nuts, chocolate and double baked goodness. In the middle there’s a basic Lemon Biscuit and a Crunchy Iced Oat Plätzchen in the front right corner. And  in the middle at the front a Crunchy German Jam Bake (credit for which must go to the brother girlfriend). By the time I got the camera, five of the last six mince pies had been eaten by my teenage brothers. 

So, Plätzchen are delicious, everyone makes their own variety of cookies and biscuits at this time of year – the most important thing is that you enjoy the process of making, baking and feeding yourself and others.

For a while now I’ve been on this loss-weight get-fit regime that involves primarily no-carbs and a balance of protein, fruit and veg. MUCH MUCH easier said than done. [For those interested in this stuff, it’s a healthier version of the Dukan Diet, with a dash of that weird Caveman diet on the side. ie. reduce intake of processed foods, and don’t eat carbs. So it is working, although I have hit a bit of a plateau on the losing weight, but definitely feeling better etc.]

Anyway I have often found difficulties waking up in the morning and needing a good breakfast to get me started for the day (and given the lack of carbohydrates allowed this means no cereal, toast, porridge or most of the normal nice hot warm breakfast things I’d normally have coming into the cold season!). However, I have found a way around this. Eggs.

Now eggs are just amazing things in themselves. I love eggs, you can do so much with them. I am an avid supporter of if you’re going to use an egg, you better not split it “because the yolk is too fatty and high in cholesterol” or you “don’t like the white” – it’s this ridiculous fallacy that only the white is good for you. The yolk does contain cholesterol, but it also contains huge amounts of vitamins A,B,E and K and essential fatty acids. So please don’t get rid of the yolk or the white (except of course in baking, meringue or custard etc.)

Not only do I like eggs, but Christmas time seems to bring some things into the house more than others. Guests for one. But guests often bring gifts – big tins of Roses or Celebrations. But more importantly there is always more Smoked Irish Salmon floating around the fridge than normal. It’s a weird one to point out, but our fridge always seems to have at least one pack of it on a shelf somewhere. (It is after all the easiest starter to whip up, sliced lemon, smoked salmon on buttered soda bread. Boom. Started/nibbles sorted.)

I love smoked Irish salmon, and I’m going to be picky here. The Irish Dept of Food and Agriculture require food producers to specify where the food came from (ie. country) with a small little stamp (IE  for Ireland, UK for United Kingdom, GE for Germany etc.) THEY DO NOT require a producer to be specific in the naming of their food produce.

As a result “Smoked Irish Salmon” is NOT the same as “Irish Smoked Salmon”. The latter being Norwegian salmon for example, caught in Norway, shipped to Ireland and smoked in a warehouse outside of Dublin. NOT an authentic Irish product, but the unknowing consumer may be fooled. Although personally the fact that the location of the smoking procedure in itself can determine the naming of the product baffles me, unless the smoking were unique to said location. Anyway one of my pet peeves.

So with my love for eggs, all this Salmon swimming around and me on a no-carb diet, my breakfasts are looking better and better. I love eggs, have I said that already? Boiled, poached, cobbled, not too keen on fried but whatever. I am very fond of the baked egg.

Line a ramekin dish with butter, if you want, I don’t. Diet etc. Take a couple of table spoons of smoked salmon shredded, with a knife, I tear it myself and pop it in to the bottom of the ramekin, lining the side of the dish. Crack one egg (or two if you’re hungry) on top. If you’re feeling naughty add a knob of butter, or as I have seen some people do a drop of cream, or milk. I am a mad fan of pepper so a nice scatter of it on the top. Often depending on how I’m feeling I’d throw on some cayenne or some chopped chives from the garden. Make sure the egg white is cooked through. It’s quite a feat to have the egg white cooked and yolk still soft and runny so practice with temperature and timing in your oven.

Serve steaming hot with a slice of toast, or some fruit salad as a nice solid healthy breakfast.

That’s one of my warm winter breakfasts using the Salmon we always have around at this time of year.

Nom nom and out.

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