Archive for December, 2012

2012 in review

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

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

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 4 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

“I’m no good at chatting up and always get rebuffed,

Enough to drive a man to drink, I don’t do no washing up”

But you will always find me in the kitchen at parties!

And that is exactly where I spent most of my Saturday.  Not just at the party but throughout the day as I prepared, cooked and presented the tasty food that I was to serve at my festive banquet.

Festive Banquetphoto 4

  • Christmas Cocktail: Pointsettia
  • Savoury Pesto Palmiers
  • Spiced Nuts
  • Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Savoury cheese twists (aka Just the blankets!)
  • Chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Cheese board with Chilli Jam
  • Charcuterie: jamón, salami, chorizo
  • Crudités and Humous
  • Olives
  • Chocolate reindeer

As with all my parties, if my guests wish to bring things to add to the table then fantastic.  The following were brought by others:

  • Chicken croquetas
  • Tuna Croquetas
  • Nigella’s Christmas Cookies

When I woke up on Saturday morning (after Friday’s hair of the dog beer that then became 5 pints and a kebab!) I thought it best to make a start with menial tasks until I was fully awake and alert to go about measuring and weighing ingredients.

Knife in hand and with several foil platters at my disposal I went about chopping the vegetable crudités and arranging them onto platters; putting the charcuterie onto platters.  Covering the platters with cling film and into the fridge.  Job done.

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°Next job…

Chocolate peanut butter cups.

Ingredients:

  • 200g smooth peanut butter
  • 50g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50g soft dark brown sugarphoto 1

1st: Put all the ingredients into a food mixer and blend together until you have the consistency of coarse sand.

2nd: Then squidge a teaspoonful of this mixture into small petit four cases.  I find it easier to roll the mixture into a ball before pressing it in.  Approx 50 of these can be made.

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate

I didn’t use milk chocolate as I don’t normally use it for cooking so I just used 300g of dark chocolate.

3rd: Melt the chocolate by whatever method you prefer and top each of the peanut butter cups with enough chocolate to cover them.

4th: Sprinkle with any decoration that takes your fancy.  I opted for green and red sugar strands (confetitos).  What can I say?  As camp as Christmas!

I put these peanut butter cups into the fridge to help set the chocolate and to get them out of the way.

The following recipes are in a previous blog titled “Nigella is for life not just for Christmas!”  click on the link to take you to these recipes.

Spiced Nuts

Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages

I made both the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages in advance and then put them into sealed foil containers ready to be warmed up in the evening.

A couple of hours before lift off, I made the Pigs in Blankets and Pesto Palmiers.

Savoury Pesto Palmierspesto palmiers

1st: Unroll the puff pastry onto a floured surface.

2nd: Spread the pastry with pesto from a jar.

3rd: Grate parmesan cheese to cover the pesto.

4th: Hold one end of the pastry and fold into the centre.  Repeat with the opposite side.  Fold in half and cut into thin strips.

5th: Place cut side up onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

Pigs in Blankets & Just the Blankets

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1st: In a bowl put 375g Self Raising Flour, a heaped teaspoon of salt and 20g of grated Red Leicester.

2nd: In a measuring jug add 125ml of Whole Milk, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and an egg.  Mix together and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

3rd: Once combined into a ball, roll out the pastry onto a floured surface.

4th: Cut the pastry into small rectangles.

5th: Roll each cocktail sausage into the blanket.  For the veggie option just leave out the sausage to create a pastry cheese twist.

6th: Egg wash each blanket and bake in the oven at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

As my guests arrived I started baking both the palmiers and pigs in blankets, whilst warming the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages at the same time.

I will say one thing though: the poinsettia cocktail (1 bottle cava, 500ml of cranberry juice and 125ml of cointreau of which there were 5 bottles of cava!) was also in the kitchen.

Hence spending most of my time in the kitchen at parties!

From welcome cocktail and savoury nibbles to a sweet little something at the end, I hope I’ve been able to give you lots of ideas on how to throw a Christmas Party where your guests are impressed by your food & drink and want to be invited again next year!

Here’s to another great year in food.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Gastrorob

December arrived before I managed to hear it creeping up on me but once 1st Dec dawned upon us I couldn’t wait to literally Deck the Halls!

Christmas is my favourite time of the year – I love everything about it.  From preparation to execution I am a complete convert.  The minute I see a twinkling fairy light (a traditional warm light none of those modern blue LED monstrosities!) and holly wreathed front door I both exude and want to be filled with Christmas Spirit (or two).

But after all what is Christmas if not a festival of excess; of everything:       food, drink and cheer.

Before I get slated by those that believe that Christmas is all about faith, I’m not trying to ridicule that Christmas; the Christmas I’m talking about is clearly the Pagan Saturnalia version which is all about merry-making, excess and misrule.  My sort of festival!

Where to begin?  In the same way that December arrives it will rapidly move into January.  The best way to make the most of the food and drink that will be consumed this season is: 1) Plan and prepare ahead and 2) Not to worry about the effects of this indulgence on the waistline.

So I started my Christmas cooking off gently by getting some pots of Chilli Jam organised, Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti and Sesame Toffee Snaps.

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Chilli Jam

1st) Put 150g of red peppers and 150g of red chillies into a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.

2nd) Pour 600ml of cider vinegar into a saucepan with 1Kg of jam sugar (high in pectin).  Heat gently until the sugar dissolves.

3rd: Pour the red flecks of chilli and pepper into the vinegar and bring to the boil.  Boil ferociously for 10mins and then allow the mixture to cool for approx 45mins before you decant into sterilised jars.

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Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

I have already included this recipe from Joyofbaking.com before.  It is included in a previous blog titled

“I know what you did last summer…biscotti!”    

Please click on the link to be taken to the recipe.

 Sesame Seed Toffee Snaps

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The third of the Christmas goodies were the sesame seed toffee snaps.  Very easy to make but take caution as you will be working with boiling sugar.

1st) Put 455g of Caster Sugar into a saucepan with 8 tablespoons of water.  Bring to the boil.

2nd) Once the sugar boils and turns a nutty brown colour (take care not to burn it) add 200g of sesame seeds.  Mix well and pour onto a greased baking sheet.  Smooth it down to create  a thin continuous layer.

3rd) When cold and hard break the snap into pieces.  Enjoy on its own or use to mop up desserts.

Ok – so it’s not the onslaught of the Xmas Turkey with all the trimmings but these are three easy but impressive Christmas goodies to either devour yourself or give as gifts.  Why not give one a try and let me know how you got along.

If I don’t get a chance to wish it before – Merry Christmas.