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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone!
Our day was spent in the company of lovely friends, Carter's homemade Christmas crackers, brand new Mighty Boosh DVDS and Pictionary.
I made my usual sweet potato and leek Christmas roulade (except this year I made one with prune stuffing and the other with feta), chestnut and cranberry stuffing balls with red onion and Guinness gravy.
Kelly worked her magic on the vegetables - carrots and parsnips with wholegrain mustard and maple syrup, and the best roast potatoes I have ever had.
Oh, and we also had the most amazing cheeseboard known to man. Manchego, Chaumes (I hadn't had this cheese before - it is pasteurised, has a sticky soft orange rind and is an excellent start for those beginning a lifelong quest for the gooiest, stinkiest French cheese), Brie, Wensleydale, Cheddar, Gruyere, Cornish Yarg, Raclette accompanied by Italian baked figs, apple chutney, quince paste and fancy crackers. Mr Stilton was sorely missed, but he isn't so good for unborn babies, so next year I'll have to have twice as much.


What you need

Around 16 potatoes - Maris piper, King Edward or Desiree, peeled and cut to size
2 tablespoons plain flour
sunflower of veg oil

The do
Preheat the oven to 190. Throw potatoes into a big saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain, keeping the potatoes in the pan. Sprinkle over the flour, put the lid back on and shake violently so the potatoes get all roughed up.
Place a large metal heavy duty roasting tray on the hob over high heat. Add a few big lugs of oil. When the oil starts to spit, add the potatoes and fry for about 5 minutes turning the potatoes with tongs to lightly brown on all sides.
Place in the preheated oven. After 20 minutes, take the potatoes out and put back onto hob, frying and turning the potatoes for 5 minutes. Return to the oven for another 20 minutes then return to the hob for another 5 minutes turning the potatoes carefully.

When done, sprinkle over some sea salt and serve.


What you need
50 g butter
2 big red onions halved and sliced 1 cm thick
8 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped from stalk
2 sprigs of Rosemary, leaves stripped from stalk and roughly chopped
200ml Guinness
2 tsp marigold bouillon dissolved in 600ml boiling water
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

The do
Heat butter in a saucepan. When melted, add the flour and onions. Fry for a few minutes on a medium heat until they just begin to brown. Add the Guinness and mustard and reduce to half.
Add the thyme, rosemary and stock and simmer on lowest heat for 45 minutes without the lid. If you like it a bit thicker, dissolve a teaspoon of cornflour in a little cold water and add to gravy. Bring to boil. Repeat until desired consistency is reached but don't go crazy, it will reduce more when it cools down and gets reheated again.

This tastes even better when it has been living in the fridge for a few days. Plus it'll be one thing less you have to bother with when you are enjoying your Christmas champagne.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Chocolate time is here

Being pregnant has made me chocolate obsessed, so one night after work in the lead-up to Christmas I decided to make my own festive chocolate. Making your own chocolate is fun because it's all about taking something you like and remolding it into something even better. Plus, doing it yourself allows you to control what goes into it - keeping it free of excess sugar and additives

What you need
2 handfuls of brazil nuts (or any other nuts that you like, macadamias - for an Australian vibe, pistachios, peanuts)
1 1/2 blocks of Green and Black's dark cooking chocolate
1 block of Green and Black's milk chocolate with almonds, broken into pieces
1 handful of dried cranberries

The do
Line a 15x15 tin or container with non-stick baking paper. Put the nuts into a plastic bag and bash a few times with a rolling pin to break them up, don't pulverise them!
In a bowl, melt the cook's chocolate in the microwave on high for 1 minute at a time until completely melted.
If you don't have a microwave, melt the chocolate in a bowl fitted over a saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the simmering water.

Spoon a 5mm layer of melted chocolate into the tin/container. Sprinkle on the cranberries, nuts and squares of almond chocolate then cover with the remaining melted chocolate. Keep in a cool place to set, then chop into bite-sized squares with a sharp knife.

You can add anything you like to this 'chocolate sandwich' - experiment with white chocolate or other dried fruits.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Putting the 'no' in Nouveaux

Look at this amazing work of eighties art that was placed in front of my friend, and fellow vegetarian, Theo for his work Christmas lunch. Good enough to eat...not!