Things I cooked over Christmas

I made some cocktails for gifts before we broke up.

Chocolate orange martini: chocolate liqueur and triple sec with vodka in a 1:1:2 ratio.

Nigella’s Christmas martini: chambord and creme de cacao blanc and vodka, again 1:1:2

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Some of my friends also got tasters of my vintage elderflower gin – this was originally a mistake because I steeped elderflowers from my garden for far too long and the gin took on a very bitter taste. But later I added a lot of sugar, and over the 8 years or so it’s been on the shelf, it almost took on a Parma violet note. This is pretty much all gone now.

Also crab apple vodka. The old way of making this was to clean and halve crab apples then leave them in a jar with vodka for a couple of weeks until the sugar is dissolved and the vodka has gone a pinker a colour. Now I’m experimenting with making a sugar syrup by boiling the crab apples with water and sugar and simply adding that to the vodka. The best version I think comes from a mix: some crab apples in a jar with vodka and no sugar, some in a syrup, mix all together into final bottle.

Before we broke up I made some speculoos fudge out of Lotus spread – but couldn’t find last year’s recipe. This recipe is the one I don’t recommend. Jane’s patisserie version is much better and I think it’s the one I used last year.

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It’s great to start the festive season with a big batch of fudge… you have something in the fridge that can be turned into gifts to take with you or buffet contributions or feeding unexpected gifts. It keeps a couple of weeks, provided you don’t eat it.

The first Saturday of the holidays found me in front of Saturday Kitchen where I saw a recipe for mulled wine chocolate truffles, similar to this one from Waitrose.  If you are mulling wine anyway, just reserve a glass, otherwise the recipe gets you to make mulled wine especially. Looks like this technique could be easily adapted to getting other flavours into other chocolates… how about espresso into milk chocolate or mulled cider into white chocolate or …  Just as with the fudge you can make the ganache and leave that in the fridge to turn into truffles whenever you need them. And rolling ganache into truffles is a good activity to get children and non-cooking boyfriends involved in too.

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I had my friends and godkids over before Christmas for fondue, ham sandwiches, my own banana cake, and this “next level poke cake” – purely because I love the coffee flavour and don’t make enough coffee cakes.  I borrowed the key to church and we roamed all around it, including climbing the tower and looking at the bells, and we all ended up at the carol service, which was delightful.

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For Christmas day (I deliberately spent it on my own and had a lovely time) I roasted a chicken, with loads of roast potatoes, carrots. I repurposed leftover fondue as cauliflower cheese and made this strange Jamie Oliver red cabbage recipe with tinned pears and chorizo. It was nice enough but the ingredients did not really blend together at all. It fed me on Christmas day, did two of us on Boxing Day and there was plenty of chicken left to make a huge risotto much later in the break (after a long facebook thread about whether it was safe to eat roast chicken a week after cooking. No ill effects, but be careful out there!)

To Scotland I took the remainder of the fudge and truffles and made again a version of this very forgiving peanut and Crunchie bar rocky road recipe, which went down well.

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Yesterday, for pudding club, I made a fridge cake from a fridge cake recipe book, amended slightly but a super simple idea: melt 400 grams milk chocolate, add 300ml of double cream, tinned pears, chopped, and a pack of shortbread biscuits, also chopped. Fridge for a couple of hours in a cling-film lined 1lb loaf tin. Then whip together cream cheese, another pot of double cream and a little sugar (vanilla sugar adds awesomeness) turn out the chocolate loaf onto a cake plate and slather the cream on the outside. Grate chocolate over the top, because if it’s not garnished, it’s not finished.

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Bank Holiday nosh

Had a friend over for some food over the bank holiday, which gave me an excuse to go slightly mad on the food front.

We ate…

Marmalade gin tonics

Shake a generous measure of gin, a teaspoon of marmalade, a splash of crème de pamplemousse rose, bitters with ice, and serve with tonic.

Marmalade gin tonic

Walnut and gorgonzola croissants

Half a pack of puff pastry treated like this:

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

I also tried these little tomato half tartlets but the puff was much springier than expected and ejected their toppings in the oven..

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

The starter was a stilton and smoked mackerel pâté – blitz equal weights of smoked mackerel and stilton with a little crème fraiche and freshly squeezed lime juice. For 4 small portions, about 100gr each.

Smoked mackerel and Stilton pate

There was a black olive and tarragon loaf from the breadmaker to go with it. More tarragon next time.

At about this point I stopped taking photos.

The disgustingly healthy main was a leafy salad with celery, walnut and grapes with a honey mustard dressing to accompany a frittata which will probably feed me all week. It’s a regular recipe as it uses up the eggs and is reasonably healthy. I used caramelized onions from the freezer that had been made overnight in the slow cooker, with a fresh onion, two red peppers, two packs of cubetti di pancetta and half a bag of very tired looking new potatoes that seemed to come out OK. I fry the veg, boil the spuds and then plonk the lot in a lined 9″ cake tin for half an hour on a medium heat, topped with cheese, with 8 beaten eggs. Cheddar this time, usually something bluer.

Still vaguely healthy for the dessert – a gin and pink grapefruit sorbet. I was very impressed with the juice yield from a single grapefruit but the recipe perhaps over-sweetens the mix and removes almost too much of the tartness of the grapefruit. Next time, three grapefruits, 200gr sugar, 350ml water. I completely forgot the egg white stage and the final dish did not seem to mind at all.

I also made some truffles – a small pot of cream halved and heated, in the first half 150gr dark chocolate, in the second half 150gr white chocolate. Pour the ganache into a bowl and enfridgen overnight. Scoop the mix out in teaspoons and roll first in your hand and then on either cocoa powder or icing sugar and plate prettily. This made far too many so I got to take a box into work as well. Plenty of opportunity to flavour with something liqueury but I didn’t this time. I’ve also before made earl grey tea and white chocolate truffles by steeping the heated cream in loose leaf earl grey before going on to make the ganache, but not this time.