Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 The Vital Statistics!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 43,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 10 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Nibbles – Honey Mustard Glazed Sausages & Wheat Thins

This is the time of year for nibbles and canapés. I am usually in charge of canapés on Christmas Day and I always try to make at least some effort. There are some things that are always a given. I make my Breakfast Bites with quails eggs because there would be uproar if I didn’t! I usually make something based on biscuits and that ever useful timesaver, Primula! I saw the recipe for Wheat Thins on Smitten Kitchen and, while I don’t have the first idea of what a Wheat Thin is supposed to be like, I thought they looked like a quick and simple way to make some extra effort this Christmas. They are so simple to make, quick to cook and really rather delicious!

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I got the craving for some nice sticky sausages too. Whenever my office get catering in they always do these brilliant sticky sausages so I thought it was high time I tried making them myself. Now, Tesco wanted to charge me £2 for itty bitty cocktail sausages… Um, no. I bought regular chipolatas for 95p and simply twisted them in the middle to get double the number of itty bitty sausages!

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Honey Mustard Glazed Sausages

1 pack of chipolata sausages
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Take the chipolatas and twist them in the middle to make mini sausages.
– Put them in an oven dish and bake for 25 minutes.
– Mix the honey, mustard and soy in a clean oven dish.
– Drain the fat from the sausages and snip them apart.
– Put the cooked sausages in the honey mustard mix and toss to coat.
– Place back in the oven for 5 minutes.
– Skewer each sausage with a cocktail stick and serve with a little of the extra sauce on the plate.

Wheat Thins

155g whole wheat flour
20g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smokey paprika
55g butter
60ml cold water

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C and prepare two baking trays.
– Put everything except the water into a food processor and blitz until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
– Slowly drizzle in the water with the motor running until the dough starts I come together into a ball.
– Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out super thin then cut into whatever shapes you desire. I rolled my dough so thin you could basically see through it but they don’t have to be quite that thin! It may help to split the dough into two.
– Place your cut out biscuits on a baking tray, they won’t spread so you can place them very close together.
– Pop in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on the first batch to see how long they take to cook but whip them out the second they start to colour.
– Prep the next batch while the first tray is cooking.
– Put the biscuits on a wire rack to cool and keep cutting and cooking until all the dough is gone.
– Top with whatever you fancy. I find Primula and Houmous work well!

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Filed under Basic, Cookies and Biscuits, Easy, Sides

Christmas Tree Chelsea Buns

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a good one and Santa brought you all the presents you wanted. Now commences the traditional week of turkey sandwiches in my household so I thought this would be a good time to catch up on posting the recipes I’ve been using over the past few days.

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When I returned home for Christmas one of the first things my mum did was thrust a page torn out from a magazine at me and say “You could do this, couldn’t you?”. It was a picture of Chelsea buns done in the shape of a Christmas tree and would be prefect for breakfast on Christmas morning. (Which made a nice change from our usual breakfast of as much chocolate as you can eat.)

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I made the dough and assembled the buns in a Christmas tree shaped paper case on Christmas Eve. Then popped them in the fridge overnight and then bunged them in the oven on Christmas morning to bake while we opened presents. For once I trusted a recipe totally. It is Paul Hollywood’s recipe from the BBC site so I was convinced that he would not lead me astray. It’s not often I put that much faith in a recipe’s author!(Although I have, of course, made a few changes to the recipe. I’m never satisfied!) However, I’m very glad that my faith was rewarded. There was a time when I was kneading the dough and it was sticking to everything that I thought I was going to have to give up and just add more flour but I persevered and it came together in the end!

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It’s a lovely recipe full of Christmassy flavours. Orange, cranberry, cinnamon and mixed fruits all gloriously sweet and sticky but still not too heavy for all that. The zingyness of the orange lifts it all and it’s just really tasty! I think I’ll be making this recipe a lot more in the future, it does make me wonder hat other seasonal shapes I could make it into!

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Makes 10 buns

500g strong bread flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
300ml milk
40g butter
1 medium egg

25g melted butter
Zest of one orange
2 tsp cinnamon
75g light brown muscovado sugar
100g mixed dried fruit
100g dried cranberries
100g dried apricots, chopped

2 tbsp marmalade, warmed
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

– Take a large mixing bowl and add your flour.
– Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Mix well and make a well in the centre of the flour.
– Put the milk and the butter in a jug and microwave for 1 minute until the butter is melted and the milk warm. Don’t heat it too much! The milk wants to be warm not hot.
– Add the milk and the egg to the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a soft dough. It will be very soft.
– When everything is combined tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and start kneading. It will be sticky so having a dough scraper in one had to lift it and kneading with the other had is probably the best bet.
– Knead it until it is smooth and elastic and looks more like a ball of dough. It will still be sticky but it will lift more easily and look smoother.
– Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave somewhere warm and draft free for 1 hour until doubled in size.
– Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to make a rectangle about 30cm by 40cm and about 1cm thick.
– Squidge the dough with your fingers along the long side nearest to you to tack it down onto the work surface.
– Brush the dough all over with melted butter.
– Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over it then scatter the dried fruits evenly over the dough.
– Starting from the far side roll the dough towards you, keeping the roll quite tight.
– Press down on the join to seal it together.
– Slice the roll into 10 slices, approximately 4cm thick.
– Place the slices cut side up in a well buttered tin. You can leave about 1cm between the slices as they will spread out. (I didn’t have space in my ‘tin’ to leave any room but it worked just fine!)
– At this point you can cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight or leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for the second rise.
– When ready to bake heat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and bake for 20-25 mins until just browning and cooked through.
– Take out of the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin (I couldn’t remove mine as they had stuck to the paper and the shape would be destroyed).
– While the buns are still warm brush with the warm marmalade.
– Mix the icing sugar and orange juice together in a bowl the drizzle all over the buns.
– Serve warm and don’t forget the napkins for sticky fingers!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfasts, Christmas, Moderately easy, Teatime Treats

Spice Biscuits

I love all the spice biscuits that come out of the woodwork around Christmas time. Be they Anna’s Pepperkakor (naturally) or Speculoos/Spekulatius/etc or just plain old Gingerbread they all make me feel warm and full of festive cheer. These biscuits aren’t any particular spice biscuit but rather they pull together the best features of many recipes I’ve tried over time.

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We like a strongly spiced biscuit in my family where the warmth stays with you. And we all know I love any biscuit that can be cut into cute shapes. I’m quite the sucker for them in fact. These are great because they hold their shape brilliantly and retain a clear, crisp edge. They are incredibly versatile. I’ve made tiny gingerbread shapes for snacking on on Christmas morning, large ones for the tree, and even a few Gingerbread people for my family. They are so easy to throw together and exactly the pick me up needed sometimes at this time of year.

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300g plain flour
4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp whole cloves, ground
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g light brown muscovado sugar
225g unsalted butter
3 tbsp milk

– Blitz the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and sugar in a food processor.
– Add the butter, chopped into chunks, and process until it forms breadcrumbs.
– Add the milk with the motor running.
– Turn out onto a work surface and bring together with your hands to form a smooth dough. If it’s sticking then another 25g or so of flour can be kneaded into the dough.
– Divide the dough into 3, form into discs and wrap.
– Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, overnight if possible.
– When ready heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 C and line a few baking trays.
– Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll out on a floured work surface to a thickness of just a few mm. I like mine to be at least as thin as a £1 coin.
– Use cutters to cut out your biscuits and place on a baking tray. They don’t need much space between them.
– If making tree decorations don’t forget to cut a hole for the string too! I use the tip of an icing nozzle.
– Bake in batches for 12-15 minutes in the centre of the oven until firm but not too dark.
– Cool completely on a wire rack.
– You can now decorate the biscuits if you wish.

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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

For years I have read about Pulled Pork in American food blogs and seen it on cooking shows.  I have always been inrrigued by the idea.  It always looked and sounded delicious.  One thing that stopped me, however, was that I was never sure about preparing that amount of pork.  I mean, what if I didn’t actually like it!  I live alone and have a small family so if I ended up with tonnes of pork no one liked it was going to be rather a large waste of time and money.

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Then, I came across a small pork shoulder in Tesco that seemed perfect for my purposes.  Small enough to fit in the small slow cooker and small enough that it would do as a meal for 4 not 5000!  I immediately grabbed it and proceeded to research the best recipe online.  I’m pretty happy with the recipe I pulled together from here and there.  Some places simply suggested chucking a bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce in with the pork and cooking it that way but I don’t have a favourite BBQ sauce and that seemed like cheating a little bit!  I wanted something I could tweak the spices for as I saw fit. This is the recipe I came up with.

I love that you can actually put this on in the morning and come back after work to find your house smelling of BBQ and dinner all but taken care of.  That is my idea of a true slow cooker recipe!  So often with recipes with cooking times of 3 hours or so I’ll be out at work when it would need to go on and I may as well just cook the thing the traditional way when I get home.  This is so convenient and more than worth the lack of time and effort it takes!

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Serves 4 (8 breadbuns)

1 small boneless pork shoulder (~400g)
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup dark muscovado sugar
1/4 cup tomato purée
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper

– Put all of the ingredients except the pork in the slow cooker and give a little mix.
– Add the pork and nestle it in the sauce so it’s covered.
– Turn the slow cooker on to Low and cook for 8 hrs.
– Remove the pork from the slow cooker and put it in a bowl.  Take 2 forks and ‘pull’ the meat apart with them until its all broken up.
– Turn the slow cooker up to high and add the meat back in.
– Leave it for another 30 minutes then serve in bread buns with crisps and pickles!

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Filed under Easy, Mains

Pre-Christmas Dinner 2011

Since I have already had my Pre-Christmas Dinner for 2012 I thought I had really better publish the Menu from 2011!  I had got all caught up in the hecticness of Christmas last year and by the time January rolled around I thought I may as well publish this in December as inspiration for anyone needing it for their Christmas cooking.

Christmas has, once again, got the better of me!

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We had a starter of Lobster Thermidor I have to confess, I didn’t like it!  I didn’t care for the herbs and the lobsters I’d bought, were rather disappointing little things.  I didn’t have high hopes for them, they seemed too good to be true, and, while very impressive visually to serve, I thought they were rather lacking in the flavour department.  As you will see above, my sister, being a vegetarian, got a square of puff pastry filled with creamy mushrooms and did not have to eat any defenceless sea creatures.

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For our main course I took my inspiration from The 12 Days of Christmas and served roast partridge with pears and seasonal vegetables.

The partridge were shot specially for my by arrangement with our lovely local butcher.  I have to say, I got rather squeamish about them and their little feet and had to draft in my father to sort that out for me.  You also have to be careful to search out any shot that ti still in them.  They’re tiny little pellets but they’re hell on the teeth if found that way!

I wrapped my partridge with streaky bacon, having rubbed them all over with a herb butter and stuffed them with a handfull of thyme sprigs and a clove of garlic.  They are small and can dry out so the herb butter was generous and the bacon served to both add flavour and retain moistness.

The partridge and the pears were roasted at Gas mark 6 for 45-50 minutes.  I erred on the side of caution with cooking these as I needed them to be cooked through.  I knew from a trial run that a supermarket bought one took 45 mins but that was smaller than these wild ones.

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Finally, for dessert we had a Clementine Syllabub. I had specially bought a sweet dessert wine to go in and with this.  It proved undrinkable!  However, as a dessert it was lovely.

It’s a brilliantly quick dessert to whip up.  You simply whip a small (300ml) tub of cream with 4tbsp icing sugar and 200ml sweet wine until it forms soft peaks.  Then you stir in a tin of drained clementine segments (mandarin segments will do just as well) reserving a few whole ones for decoration.

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So, there you are.  Hopefully it may provide a little inspiration if you are in need of any for your upcoming festivities.  I will now try to get this year’s menu published at some point before Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas!

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Filed under Christmas, Desserts, For the Keen Cook, Mains, Starters