Thursday, 30 December 2010

Cupcakes, Cookbooks and Coca Cola Ham!

I hope everybody had a lovely Christmas and are now planning for the New Year! 

First of all, I must blog Nigella's Coca Cola Ham. Not sure if anybody follows India Knight on twitter but she had a ham and there was a lot of debate about whether to do it in coca cola or not, everybody who has cooked it says do it but if you haven't then it probably sounds very strange. And I remember watching Nigella do it on one of her show's a while ago and thinking how weird it seemed. But true to her word, it does really work and I will definitely be cooking all my ham's like this in the future. We cooked this on Boxing Day ready for some family coming the following day and it went down really well (unfortunately not much was left!) The coke doesn't make it too sweet like I thought it would, it just adds a great depth of flavour and colour. Then you add the glaze which tastes really great.  The photo below doesn't really do it justice. 
Ingredients -
2kg mild cure gammon
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
2 litre bottle of coca cola (plus extra to make sure it's covered if your pan is too big like mine was)
For the glaze -
Handful of cloves (optional, I was a bit cloved out from Christmas so left them out)
1 heaped tablespoon of black treacle
2 tsp english mustard powder
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
One spoonful of the cooking water to loosen it up a little.

1. Nigella doesn't bother to soak the ham but I did just in case it was too salty. So if you feel it will be salty, put it in a pan covered with cold water and bring to the boil then tip into a colander in the sink.
2. Then put the gammon in a pan, skin side down if it fits like that, add the onion and then pour over the Coke.
3.Bring to the boil then reduce to a good simmer. Put the lid on but not too tightly and cook for just under 2 1/2 hours. If your joint is bigger or smaller then work out the timing by about an hour per kilo remembering that it will go into an oven later (but add an extra 15mins if it's been in the fridge right up until the moment you cook it)
4. Preheat the oven to 240c.
5. When the ham's had it's time, take it out of the pan but don't throw away the cooking liquid yet. Let it cool for a little bit to make it easier to handle or let it cool completely and finish cooking later if you need to. Then remove the skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife to make large diamond shapes then if using cloves, stud each diamond with a clove.
6. Mix the sugar and mustard powder into the treacle with a little cooking water and spread onto the ham.
7. Then cook in a foil-lined roasting tin for approx 10 mins or until the glaze is burnished and bubbling. 
Then slice when ready and serve! 
I got lots of cookbooks for Christmas so I shall be sharing many recipes over the next few months. Here are a photo of some of my favourites. I can't wait to get stuck in to some new recipes, especially from Leon and Green&Blacks. But some others I'd really recommend and not pictured are: Jamie's 30minute meals, Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book, Delia, any by Ottolenghi and Nigella Express. 
And finally, some photos of some food over Christmas including the cupcakes (I just used the Hummingbird vanilla recipe as everyone was a bit too flavoured out) and Turkey!


Over January, I'll be posting lots of fresh and healthy recipes and lots from the new cookbooks. Happy New Year!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Cookies

 It's Christmas Eve! You've got to have spiced cookies at Christmas to leave out for Santa! You can also poke holes in the biscuits and hang them on the tree. I got the recipe from the book of 'Ultimate Christmas'. 
Ingredients - Makes 12
150g Plain Flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2tsp ground ginger
70g unsalted butter, diced
3 tbsp honey
To decorate - White icing and decorations

1. Sift the flour and spices into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the honey and mix together well to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for 30mins.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180c and lightly grease 2 baking sheets with butter. Divide the dough in half. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a floured work surface to about 5mm thick. Cut out with cutters. Repeat using the other piece of dough.
3. Put them on a baking sheet and if you want to put holes in them, do it using a cocktail stick large enough to thread ribbon.
4. Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for 10-12mins until golden. Leave to cool on the sheets for 5minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate with white icing or leave them plain. I put some little silver balls on mine.

Other Christmas pressies -
I posted the recipes to the fudge, macaroons and the lavender bath salts a few weeks ago so that people could get ahead. But I made everything yesterday to give as Christmas presents so here are the photos:
<- The Chocolate and Pistachio Fudge wrapped in presentation bags from Lakeland and tied with ribbon.

<- The Raspberry and Chocolate Macaroons put into small boxes my boyfriend made from cutting and stapling some cardboard and then wrapped in some snowflake cellophane.

<- The Lavender Bath Salts in Kilner jars with purple ribbon and a handmade label.

<- Small crates made from pallets and filled with the home made gifts and a zinc bucket filled with lavender grown in my boyfriend's garden.

And finally, a very Merry Christmas to all readers! 

Stay tuned as I'll be posting some cupcake recipes just after boxing day and New Year recipes!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup... Adapted from Nigella

With so much snow and ice everywhere, I decided to walk rather than drive to Sainsbury's this morning with my Mum and puppy. While I was there, I got a butternut squash and some sweet potatoes to make a warming soup for the next couple of days before Christmas.
Riley, my pup, in the snow
I got the idea from watching one of Nigella's Christmas episodes which seems to be repeated again and again on the Good Food channel. Roasting the vegetables before turning them into soup is really delicious as they go much sweeter, especially the squash which isn't as good when it's boiled. She finishes hers off with buttermilk and blue cheese which I didn't fancy, but mine is just as delicious and of course much healthier. She also uses cinnamon, nutmeg and marsala wine in hers to make it more festive but I used spiced mine up with some cumin, mild chilli powder and some black pepper. I guess you can use this basic soup recipe with roasting the veg for any other vegetables that need using up and soup in this weather is ideal!
Ingredients - makes a big pot of soup -
About 4 small red onions, take the outer layer off and chop them in half
1 butternut squash, unpeeled, chop into about 1 inch cubes
500g sweet potatoes, unpeeled, chop into cubes
Garlic Oil to coat
A good shake of cumin 
and a good shake of chilli powder
Black pepper to season

1.5 litres of vegetable stock (I used 2 pots of vegetable stock reduction made up with water)

1.Put the veg into a roasting tin and coat with olive oil before sprinkling on the spices. 
2. Cook in a hot oven (about 180-200c) for about an hour (until all tender and just starting to blacken)
3. Then let them cool while making up the stock. Then put the vegetables in a big saucepan and add the stock a little at a time while whizzing up with a blender (I stupidly poured it all in at once and it could have done with being a tiny bit thicker).
4. Then either serve straight away or it will keep in the fridge for a while!
I'm going to serve mine with some brown bread, I might even make some if I'm feeling virtuous ;)

Christmas Interlude - London

I wanted to post my Christmas cupcake recipe at the weekend as I was supposed to be making some for our big family gathering. I had brought some really lovely decorations from John Lewis  to use too! But unfortunately, the weather had other plans and the whole country got covered in snow! We had about 10cm and there was no way my Auntie's and Uncle's would have been able to get to us. So the cupcakes will have to wait until after Christmas now when it's rescheduled. 
Anyway, the only plus was that we could freeze some of the food and we got to eat the rest!

I went to the Hummingbird Bakery in Soho at the weekend and got some of their Christmas cupcakes to make up for the fact that I couldn't make some. Don't they look great! They've got a Christmas special flavour everyday and they've got a new cookbook coming out in March, right in time for my Birthday! If you haven't already got the first Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, I'd definitely recommend it, I've posted some of the cupcakes I've made from it in an earlier post. The Hummingbird Bakery was also the place where I tried my first whoopie pie last year, as well as lots of delicious cupcakes, they also have whoopie pies, brownies, cheesecakes etc etc. 
Some of my other favourite foodie places in London to visit are:

Wahaca - a great Mexican Street Food Restaurant set up by Thomasina Miers. I've been to the branch in Covent Garden a couple of times and the new one that's just opened in Soho. I always get the Chicken Burrito (I ask for it without sour cream) and it's so delicious, healthy and great value. My Boyfriend usually orders some extra sides, at the weekend he got a Chorizo and Potato Quesadilla which he said was really good. Their Salsa is also incredible, it tastes so fresh! Wahaca give out little matchbox style cards with chilli seeds in too which is really cool so you can plant your own chilli's. My boyfriend planted some last year and they grew really big, hopefully they'll start producing this year. The photos are of a Burrito we had at the weekend, and inside the Soho restaurant.

Yo Sushi - My ultimate favourite restaurant chain! I adore Sushi and YO just makes it so cool, I know there are probably much posher places to get your Sushi from, but I love Yo! The conveyor belts and different coloured plates, the delicious sushi, hot noodle dishes and the best part is that I get 25% off all year round for being a student! In January, they're doing 40% off if you're a 'Love Club member', I'll definitely be making some extra visits! My boyfriend and I have been to most of the branches in London, my favourite is Selfridges although you can't use your student discount here, so the next best is St Paul's or Westfield. We always order a Chicken Katsu curry, Yakisoba noodles from the menu and then choose lots from the belt - my favourite is the Beef, the Prawn and the Kaisan Gunkan (see photo above)

While I'm uploading photos, I also realised that there aren't any of me on here yet! So here I am - 

 And I thought I'd post some photos of London at Christmas time -

On Thursday, I'll be posting some Christmas cookies and photos of my fudge and macaroons - wish me luck! And Merry Christmas everybody, thank you for reading. 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

My Mum's Boozy Peach & Raspberry Trifle -

This is a recipe that my Mum has always made, and she got the recipe from my Grandma. This weekend, she's making it for our big family Christmas gathering. It's a yummy dessert that looks impressive while being convenient. It's also one that can be made in advance so that you're not chained to the kitchen when your guests arrive. We got some really good frozen Raspberries from Costco, that are good at this time of year. It's best to present the trifle in a glass bowl if you have one so that you can see all the different layers. You can also adapt it depending on the fruit or alcohol you want to use. This would also be good for a New Year's Eve type of pudding! 
I'll put the finished photograph up when it's all done on Saturday.
Ingredients - 
1 packet of trifle sponges
1 tin of sliced peaches in natural juice
1 punnet of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
A good splash of sherry
A pint of custard (made using 2 tbsp custard powder, 2 tbsp sugar and pint of milk)
2 Quick-Gel sachets - red or orange (We used red)

Double cream for whipping
Raspberries and Dark Chocolate to decorate

1. Break the trifle sponges and place in the bottom of a glass trifle bowl.
2. Layer the peaches and raspberries on top
3. Add a good splash of sherry over the fruit and sponge
4. Make the quick-gel as per instructions on the packet, once cool and thickened spoon over the fruit and sponge and leave to set in the fridge
5. In the meantime, make your custard mixing the powder with sugar in a bowl and mix to a smooth paste with some of the milk. Heat the rest of the milk until bubbling and then once boiled, pour the milk into the custard mix and stir to thicken and once thickened, return to the heat for a few more minutes. Then leave to cool slightly.
6.Once the quick gel has set, place the custard on top and refrigerate until cold.
7. On the day of serving, whip up about 500ml double cream and spoon over the top. Decorate with raspberries and maybe some chocolate shavings.

NB - this definitely tastes better made a day or two in advance and can be kept in the fridge until the day of serving! Also try and get the custard really thick, shop-brought stuff isn't that great.

Unfortunately, we've had sooo much snow, nobody could get to our family festive gathering!! So we've had to freeze and eat all the food ourselves! Silly weather - but it does look really beautiful everywhere.

Leek, Bacon, Gruyère & Maille Dijon Mustard Quiche

I saw this recipe in a magazine in an advert for Maille mustard about a year ago now and finally decided to make it for a family gathering we've got at the weekend. It's always SO much nicer to have something home made rather than buying a quiche and it's not a lot of effort for a lot of gratitude! You can also make it a few days in advance (I've made it today - Thursday to keep until Saturday). The ingredients are anything but fat-free but it's Christmas so everyone can indulge!
The other food that we're (My Mum and I) are making for Saturday is a beef lasagne, a big green salad, a baked glazed ham, part-bake bread, a cheese selection, pickled baby beetroot and some nice little Waitrose canapés. My Auntie is also bringing a Chicken Pesto Lasagne, my other Auntie is bringing a pudding and my Grandma will bring her mince-pies (see previous post). And we'll have the trifle (also blogged) and Christmas Cupcakes that I'm going to make tomorrow (look out for the post). So it should be a great feast! - Touch wood that the snow forecast doesn't ruin it!

Ingredients -
Ready roll short crust pastry - enough for a 24cm base
2 leeks, thinly sliced
4 bacon rashers, finely chopped
2 tbsp Maille Dijon originale mustard
80ml cream
150g Gruyère cheese, grated
3 eggs

1. Roll out the pastry into a flan dish and bake blind (I used ceramic baking beans)
2. Gently fry the leek and bacon in butter until the leek softens 
3. Whisk eggs, mustard and cream together. Then add the cheese, season and pour into the pastry case. 
4. Then bake in the oven at 160c for about 20minutes until set.

Then either serve straight away or leave to cool and chill, then you can either reheat it or serve it cold.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Chocolate Yule Log

A chocolate Yule log is so festive and makes a fabulous centrepiece for gatherings over Christmas. It's also a good pudding on Christmas day for those who don't like Christmas Pudding (or for those that like both). The sponge is made by whisking the eggs and sugar to a thick foam before folding in the flour and cocoa. I got the recipe from the book of 'Ultimate Christmas'. Although when I was about to pour the mix into a Swiss roll tin (get one for about £4 in TK Maxx), I suddenly noticed that it didn't have cocoa in the recipe! So I quickly added some. Also, the rum to go in the filling is optional, I didn't put any in.
Ingredients -
Butter, for greasing
150g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
115g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp of almond or vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa (optional)
For the filling/icing - 
280g plain chocolate, broken
225ml double cream
2 tbsp rum (optional)
100g icing sugar, sifted
holly, to decorate
icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease with butter and line a 40x28 cm Swiss roll tin then dust with flour
2. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the caster sugar and whisk the remainder with the egg yolks in a bowl until thick and pale. Stir in the almond or vanilla extract.
Folding the egg whites in
3. Whisk the egg whites in a separate grease-free bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually whisk in the reserved sugar until stiff and glossy. Stir half the flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in, then fold in 1/4 of the egg whites.
4. Sift and fold in the remaining flour, followed by the remaining egg whites. Spoon the mixture into the tin, spreading it out evenly with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 15minutes until lightly golden.
5. Then sprinkle caster sugar over a sheet of greaseproof paper and turn out the cake on to the paper. Roll up and leave to cool.
6. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to boiling point in a small saucepan, then pour it over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted, add the icing sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and thick. Put in the fridge for about an hour until it is a spreadable consistency. Reserve about 1/3 of chocolate mixture and if using rum, stir into remainder. 
7. Re-roll and place on a plate or silver board. Spread the reserved chocolate mixture evenly over the top and sides. Mark with a fork so that the surface resembles tree bark. Just before serving, decorate with holly and a sprinkling of icing sugar to resemble snow.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

My Gingerbread House!

I said in a previous post that I wouldn't have time this year to make a Gingerbread House, but then I was looking through the Sainsburys magazine and saw the cutest little house! And with some persuading from my boyfriend, I decided to ditch the revision for a couple of hours and make it! It's wonderfully Christmassy and will look really good as a centrepiece for Christmas gatherings. Also, the earlier you make it (i.e now), the better the flavour if you keep it wrapped up it will last for weeks. In the recipe, they tell you how to make your own white chocolate buttons by melting it down, piping it into circles etc, but what a waste of time! So I'm using shop-brought jazzies and white buttons along with lots of other sweets to decorate it!
I thought it would be pretty easy, but I made a couple of slight mistakes which made assembling it a bit harder! So follow these tips to make yours easier:
1. Roll the dough out quite thick, mine was a bit too thin and caved a tiny bit when assembling with the icing.
2. Use LOTS of icing! Slather it on to make sure everything glues together.
3. Try not to spill icing onto the front of the gingerbread, it's almost impossible to get off once set and makes it look a little messy (like mine).
4. Don't stretch the dough too much when lifting onto the baking tray or it becomes warped.
5. If you need to cut any of the gingerbread, if it gets slightly bigger in the oven, cut it when it's just cool enough to touch before it gets too brittle.
6. If not confident, make 1 1/2 batches of the mix and leave the extra in the fridge in case it goes wrong, and if not then you have some to make cookies from!

Ingredients -
125g soft unsalted butter
75g dark muscovado sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
100ml golden syrup
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
To decorate the house -
Bags of white chocolate buttons and white chocolate jazzies
3 disposable piping bags
2-3tsp coloured sugar sprinkles
1 x 500g pack royal icing sugar
white sugar balls
2 red strawberry pencil sweets, finely sliced
23 red chocolate beans/smarties/m&m's - at the moment m&m's have a festive pack of half red and half green so buy these instead of having to sieve out the red smarties
32 red Jelly Tots
3 red fruit pastilles
4-5 tbsp icing sugar, to sprinkle

The dough before refrigerating. 
1. Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and whiz until light and fluffly. Add the beaten egg and golden syrup; whiz again, scraping down the sides now and again, until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices and a pinch of salt and whiz until it forms a soft dough. Sprinkle flour on a clean work surface and knead the dough lightly for 1 minute until smooth. Flatten into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour until firm (I couldn't wait that long so left it for about 30mins and it was fine)
2. Meanwhile, make 3 paper templates for the house. (see the photo I've made on paint)
3. Preheat the oven to 180c, 160 for a fan and line 2-3 large baking sheets with nonstick baking paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 3mm thick. Use your paper templates and a sharp knife to cut out 2 roof panels, 2 side walls, 1 front wall and 1 back wall. Transfer them to the baking sheets and using a sharp knife, cut out a front door from the dough, 4cm wide at the base and transfer to the baking sheet. Use a round cutter to stamp out 2 windows from the front wall.
4. Bake the gingerbread in batches (and take in the Christmassy smell as they cook) for 12-15mins until firm and just starting to brown. Leave to cool.
5. Make up the royal icing according to pack instructions. Add about half to a disposable piping bag and snip a tiny piece at the end. Cover the remaining icing with a damp cloth until needed.
Tins to help support
6. To construct the house, take one side wall and pipe icing along one long edge and both short edges. Hold it on your serving board, iced long edge down (use a tin to prop it up). Then pipe icing along the bottom edge of the front wall and hold it at a right angle to the first side wall for a few minutes; use another tin for support. Take the other side wall and pipe icing along one long edge and both short edges. Hold this in place at a right angle to the front wall. Then pipe icing along the bottom edge of the back wall and complete the house.
Leave for 15mins until firm.
7. Then attach the roof, pipe icing along the top edge of the walls on one side of the house and position a roof panel on top. Hold for a few minutes until it feels firm, repeat with the other panel. Pipe icing along the join at the top of the roof, spreading it with your finger to fill any gaps. Then fill any other gaps on the joins to secure the whole structure. Leave to set for 1 hour.
Sweets to decorate!
8. To decorate, put half the remaining icing in the other piping bag and snip a tiny piece off the end. Using the icing as glue, stick white sugar balls around the base. Pipe 2 latticed windows on each side wall and decorate with strawberry pencil slices as shutters and chocolate beans as a window sill. Pipe icing around the door frame and decorate with strawberry pencil slices then use a little more icing to attach the door, slightly ajar, and attach a chocolate bean door handle. Dot icing around the front windows, and pipe a heart on the front and back walls, stick a chocolate bean in the centre. Using the icing to stick 3 rows of 8 chocolate buttons to the lower half of each roof panel. Spread the remaining icing over the top of the roof to look like a snowdrift and scatter with white sugar balls. Then pipe icing along the wall joins and line with red jelly tots. Arrange the 5 remaining plain white chocolate buttons as a path and use icing to make a Fruit Pastille chimney stack, Finally sprinkle icing sugar around the house to look like snow. Leave to set for at least 1 hour.