– Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a small bowl.
– Cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla.
– Add a spoonful of the dry mix to the butter mix and beat well to combine.
– Gradually add the remaining flour mix, beating well between additions until a smooth, dark dough is formed.
– Add the chocolate chips and mix in.
– Divide the dough in two, press down into rounds on a baking tray and sprinkle with the salt flakes.
– Bake for 12 minutes. The cookies are ready when the tops have cracked. If the tops aren’t cracked, they’re not done.
– Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for at least 5 minutes. This is very important! The cookies will be soft when they come out but will solidify in those 5 minutes. Leave them a further 10 minutes before eating for best results.
This is going to be an odd year for many. May be you’re going to be tackling a smaller Christmas Dinner for the first time. May be you’ve decided to go all out now you don’t have to trek round to Auntie Sue’s because it’s “what you always do”! May be you’ve never cooked more than a fried egg but think this is your time to shine!
Whatever your situation, I thought it may be timely to do a little example of how to do a low effort Christmas Dinner as guidance for those that need it. Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast dinner but with cranberry sauce and crackers! Don’t let the weight of expectations get you down, this can be as simple or as complicated a meal as you want to make it!
You can look at the Christmas tag for some older recipes and round ups that are more comprehensive but I wanted to highlight some really simple recipes here. Whether you’re on your own or just a smaller family gathering this should hit the spot!
We like to have nibbles to tide us over from noon to 3pm when we have our Dinner. If you want to keep it super simple just grab some party food from the freezer section. These days they almost all cook at 180°C for around 15 minutes. Any leftovers are also great for grazing at!
In my family the Prawn Cocktail is king. (Well, for me it is, mum does try to do fancy smoked salmon thingies!) This is not only traditional but super simple. Finely sliced iceberg lettuce, prawns, cocktail sauce (Iceland’s is my favourite!) and a twist of lemon on top to look fancy. Less than 5 minutes and you’re done!
Turkey is, of course, traditional and if you want to keep it super simple I recommend a frozen Turkey crown. They’re about £10 and you can pick one up in almost any supermarket.
However, a large roast chicken will also do very nicely! I love to do a one pot chicken dish where you simply get a Really Big Pot, put in new potatoes in the base, add your chicken (put some herbs, garlic and half a lemon in the cavity), and scatter with bacon lardons. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook according to the time on the packet (or 25 minutes per lb + 20 minutes in 180°C oven) Add a cup of frozen peas 30 minutes before the end. This also works well in a slow cooker on high for 3 hours if you need the space in the oven or even if you don’t have an oven! You can find the more detailed recipe here.
A roast dinner is all about timing. If you figure out your timings then it’s plain sailing. You can prep all of your veg in advance, even the night before, so all you have to do on the day is put dishes in the oven on time or you can get the roast in and then do your veg prep. I have a post outlining some of the timings for veg here.
2 hours before: Roast In
45 minutes before: parsnips in (I like them crispy.)
30 minutes before: leeks in cream sauce, stuffing balls & pigs in blankets in
25 minutes before: Brussels sprouts and carrots in steamer on the hob. Check the sprouts after 15 minutes by poking with a sharp knife. They should be soft but not soggy.
Serving Time: Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a serving board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and peas and bacon. You can make gravy with the juices. I explain how here.
Christmas pudding is traditional, easily available from the supermarket, and I hate it. So I have a couple of other seasonal options that you can make the day before:
If you’re on your own do not let this stop you from having a full roast! The leftovers are the best bit! From this dinner I will be able to make sandwiches, soup, risotto and may be a few other dishes as takes my fancy! I basically won’t have to cook again for the next week, which is exactly how I like it!
– Melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add a small splash of olive oil to stop it catching.
– Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until soft and browned.
– Add the white wine and vegetable stock.
– Blend with a stick blender until your desired level of smooth. (I like bits in my soup but if you want a totally smooth soup you’ll need to decant into a liquidiser and blend in that then resume cooking.)
– Bring the soup to a boil then turn down to a simmer.
– Add the cream and heat gently until the edges are bubbling.
For a dish that bears my name this took me an embarrassingly long time to get right. I would have potatoes swimming in butter or too crisp to eat without worrying about your fillings. These little stacked Pommes Anna finally hit that sweet spot between buttery and crispy and look fab for what is actually minimal effort. You can do a lot of the prep beforehand in assembling the stacks in the muffin tin if you want to prepare these in advance and then just pop them in the oven when ready so good for dinner parties!
6-8 new potatoes (waxy)
125g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6.
– Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into 1/8” slices. Put in a small mixing bowl.
– Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
– Brush the insides of six muffin tins with melted butter.
– Place a small sprig of thyme in the bottom of each muffin cup.
– Add the garlic to the melted butter and remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add those too.
– Gently heat until fragrant.
– Pour the butter over the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to season and toss gently.
– Place the sliced potatoes carefully in the muffin tins. You want to arrange them so that they will look good when turned out. Press down firmly in the centre.
– Pour the remaining butter over the potatoes.
– Cover the muffin tray with foil and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
– Place a large oven dish over the muffin tin and carefully flip over so that the potato stacks come out intact. If any fall apart you can push them back into shape.
– Place the oven dish back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the stacks look nice and crispy on the edges.
From time to time I find myself craving the food I had in Japan. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things, like this Japanese egg salad sandwich. Because even though you’d think there isn’t much wiggle room in how to make egg salad you’d be amazed what a difference a few little tweaks make. I think the biggest difference is that the egg is mashed, not chopped and the mayonnaise must by kewpie for a truly authentic taste. The pinch of salt adds that little je ne sais quoi that makes this run of the mill sandwich spectacularly moreish!
For one sandwich:
2 hard boiled eggs
2tbsp kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
Pinch of salt
Soft salted butter
Two slices white bread
– Put the eggs, mayonnaise and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. You could even use a food processor to get it even smoother (some conbini do) but I prefer a little texture.
– Spread the bread with butter and add the egg mix. This should be a well filled sandwich! (Though factors such as egg size and bread size will affect it, you may find this makes two less well filed sandwiches if using smaller bread.)
These days it just makes sense to Meal Plan. No matter how large or small your family is you will save so much time and money if you have a plan. It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan, you can change things as you see fit but I have found over the last year that it really helps me to jot down what I’m eating for the week ahead. I used to just buy what I fancied but I always ended up buying far too much food for one person and it was wasteful (not to mention seriously damaging to my wallet!)
Now I can plan around any events I have, if I know I will be late home and tired that day then I make sure I have something ready cooked or easy to prepare. It helps me realistically look at what I want to cook and eat and decide how that’s going to work out across the week. Got a good value pack of mince on sale? I can work that into my schedule with enough variation so that I don’t just end up eating spag bol every night for a week! Got a pack of veg that needs using up? Schedule it in!
I try to sit down and make a plan at the weekend so I can look at what’s in the fridge and start from there, then if I need to I can run out and get anything extra as I need it. Everyone’s system varies according to their own lives and needs but I thought I should share the printable meal plan I made that I’ve found works best for me.
It has sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (if I’m going to snack I’d rather be in control of it!) as well as charting how many veggies I’m getting and what exercise I plan to do. It’s all part of keeping a handle on an overall healthier lifestyle and it has really helped me stay in control of my budget and my waistline this past year. I hope it helps some of you too!
These were a bit of an experiment, hashed together from a few different ideas I’d seen about the place. I may tweak the recipe further still but for now I like this one! I love crab cakes but they tend to be rather calorific (I recently saw a crab cake starter clocking in at 789 calories!!!) The idea here was to cut down on the calorie count and embrace more “eat clean” ideas in my diet. These are quick and simple to whip together and taste great! I served them here with sticky rice, edamame and tsuyu dipping sauce but they’re equally good with a bit of sweet chilli sauce. (And, yes, spot the deliberate mistake, I forgot to buy the spring onions when I cooked them in these pictures, it adds a nice aspect in both taste and colour but they work just fine without them!) These also make a nice addition to a picnic or lunchbox as they don’t fall apart! I’d even be tempted to make them into mini cakes for a picnic or party.
– Boil some water and pour over the noodles in a bowl, leave to stand.
– Put the frozen coley on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes (Your microwave may vary, you want the fish to be defrosted and just cooked)
– Shred the coley in to a bowl, you can use fingers or forks to gently flake it apart into small shreds.
– Add the crab meat, the egg whites, the fish sauce and the sweet chilli sauce and give it a good stir.
– Add the corn flour and again, stir well to combine. If the mixture is still very wet looking you can add more corn flour, you want to be able to take a scoop of it.
– Drain the noodles well and roughly chop them then add them to the mixture.
– Add the tinned sweetcorn and the spring onions and mix well.
– Heat some oil in a large flat bottomed frying pan.
– You should be able to make 6 patties out of this mixture, take a scoop, roughly shape it and place it in the pan where you can tidy up the edges a little if you like.
– Leave to cook on the first side for 3-5 minutes until the cake is cooked about halfway up, you should be able to see the difference in texture as it cooks.
– Carefully flip over the cake and leave to cook for another 3-5 minutes on this side without moving it.
– The cakes should be dry and firm to the touch when fully cooked.
– Serve with whatever sauce you prefer and may be some rice and veggies, they also go nicely with salad!
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!
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!
– 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.
155g whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smokey paprika
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!
Hi, I'm Anna and this is what's going on in my kitchen and growing in my garden.
Everything you see here is how it looked as I cooked and ate it. I don't like to make things too fussy. I want you to know that if you try one of my recipes what you see is what you'll get.
Don't forget to leave a comment, I love to know what you're thinking and if you do try out a recipe then let me know how it worked for you. Happy cooking!