2012 in review

Thank-you to everyone who has read this blog and especially to those who have liked posts and sometimes commented. I started late 2011 to keep a record for myself of what recipes I’d tried and what had worked and what hadn’t. Getting readers was a huge and unexpected bonus and it has given me much more incentive to keep trying and blogging new recipes. As a result I am a much more confident cook.  It has also connected me with people all over the world and introduced me to their/your blogs through which I have learnt even more. So thank-you again.

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

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 31,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Shining star biscuits – Usborne Christmas Cooking

Shining star baked

I love these little cookies, you can make them to hang on the Christmas tree but I didn’t have a second tree this year so not enough room. Usually I do a second tree between my kitchen and dining room that I decorate with edible decorations but this year I needed to put up a second table on Christmas day as there were 12 for Christmas dinner so I just couldn’t fit it in.

I doubled up the quantities and since they were for giving away after Christmas rather than to hang on a tree I baked the stars cut out from the middle as little cookies to mix in. They look lovely in a cellophane bag with ribbon

Shining star in cellophane

I also doubled the ingredients as the recipe in Christmas Cooking (Usborne Cookbooks) had 1/2 egg! If you were just making shining star biscuits the quantities below would make about 30 – 40.

Ingredients

  • 100g/4oz light soft brown sugar
  • 100g/4oz softened butter
  • 1 small egg
  • 230g/9oz plain flour
  • 30g/1oz cornflour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • solid boiled sweets

Instructions

  1. Mix the sugar and butter together very well until there are no lumps
  2. Break egg into a separate bowl and mix well, then add to the butter mixture a little at a time mixing in well
  3. Sift flour, cornflour and mixed spice into the bowl and mix well
  4. Squeeze the mixture with your hands until a firm dough is formed and make into a large ball
  5. Sprinkle work surface with flour and roll out dough until it is 4mm/0.25in thick
  6. Line baking tray (I just greased mine and it was ok). Use cutter to press out lots of stars.Use fish slice to put them onto tray (this is much easier done now rather than after you have cut out the middle).
  7. If you are planning to hang on a Christmas tree make a hole in each star by pressing a straw through the dough near top of one of the points.
  8. Use a smaller cutter to cut  hole in the middle of each star. The hole should be slightly bigger than the sweet. I used the smallest star cutter, the book suggests a round cutter. I think a round cutter would be better if you were making a hole to hang on a tree.
  9. Either squeeze the pieces of dough into a ball and roll out again. Since I have nice little star shapes I baked those as well. Roll out excess and cut out more cookies.
  10. Drop a sweet into the hole in each star shape.
    Shining star before baking
  11. Bake the shapes for 10-12 minutes then take out. Leave them on the tray until they are cold.

Cookie Christmas Tree

Cookie Christmas treeI made this cookie Christmas tree from a cookie cutter set I bought 2-3 years ago from Cox & Cox (they don’t do the set any more but you can get similar sets from amazon Wilton Cookie Tree Cutter Kit). I baked the cookies a good week before I assembled the tree and kept them in a tin. Tonight we had parents of friends of our boys coming over and I wanted a fairly easy dessert so I assembled the tree. This was lovely with coffee and between 4 adults and 4 teenage boys we ate almost all the tree!

We have friends with children/teenagers coming to dinner next week so I think I’ll make this again. This would also make a nice present wrapped in cellophane and ribbon.

Ingredients

  • 600g/22oz Self raising flour
  • 110g/4oz cornflour
  • 350g/12oz butter, diced
  • 350g/12oz caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites

for assembling and icing the tree

  • 120-150g royal icing sugar
  • 75-100g icing sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/350F
  2. Grease 3 large baking trays
  3. Sieve the flour and cornflour into a bowl
  4. Rub in the butter and stir in the sugar.
  5. Stir in enough of the egg white to get a fairly soft dough
  6. Knead lightly until smooth and roll out until 5mm thick.
  7. Stamp out two of each size of every star with each size of cutter (the set contains 10 cookie cutters).
  8. Bake until cookies are a pale golden colour
  9. Cool cookies and keep in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble
  10. Sort cookies into size order on the counter where you are working
  11. Make up the royal icing sugar into a stiff mix and use to stick the biggest cookie to the plate then use to stick each cookie onto the tree in size order. As you assembe  you need to twist/offset the cookies so you get a layered effect.
  12. Make up plain icing sugar into a more liquid mixture and drip onto the tree.
  13. Add silver balls or sprinkles to decorate.

Trionfo di Natale (Triumph of Christmas) – Anna Venturi

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Several years ago Jon was given a voucher for a one day cookery course at Anna Venturi’s Italian Secrets cookery school in Beaconsfield (I think she has now moved it to London and focusses on catering). He made a number of lovely dishes from her book Secrets from an Italian Kitchen, and also made this wonderfully simple and delicious Christmas pudding which unfortunately isn’t in her book. As there’s quite a few people coming for Christmas dinner tomorrow it is the perfect excuse to make several puddings.

According to Anna It can be made up to four days in advance, and the size below serves 6-8. I had a 1kg panettone and scaled up the other ingredients accordingly. The servings don’t want to be large it is very rich.

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Ingredients

  • 1 panettone (500g)
  • 300g mascarpone
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 6 tbs icing sugar
  • 1 espresso cup Marsala
  • 1 espresso cup coffee

Instructions

  1. Place the panettone upside down into a bowl that fits it perfectly and with a sharp knife cut the lid off and reserve. With your fingers, gently remove all the inside of the panettone, ensuring the shell stays intact. Shred the panettone that you have removed and reserve.
  2. Separate the eggs; beat the yolks with the sugar and add the mascarpone while still beating. Add the shredded panettone, mixing gently. Although it feels like there will be too much mix you really do need to add all the shredded panettone.
  3. Whip the egg whites until firm and gently mix them in as well.
  4. Now you are ready to assemble: mix the Marsala with the coffee and brush the inside of the panettone generously.
  5. Fill the panettone shell with the panettone/mascarpone mix, pressing gently, and place the lid on top to close.
  6. Refrigerate overnight in its container. When ready to serve, turn it onto a serving plate and decorate with icing sugar
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Spruced-up Vanilla Cake – Nigella Christmas

Spruced up Vanilla cake

The first year I got the Nordic Ware Platinum Bundt Pan – Holiday TreeI made this cake from Nigella Christmas several times and it turned out beautifully every time. This year my first attempt stuck to the tin so for the second attempt I melted butter and applied very liberally to the tin before putting the cake mix in which worked, I think I may have left it in the oven for about 5-10mins too long. I love the taste of the Vanilla version of this cake and when it turns out well it is very impressive looking for very little effort.

Ingredients

  • 225 gram(s) butter (soft (plus more for greasing))
  • 300 gram(s) caster sugar
  • 6 medium egg(s)
  • 350 gram(s) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon(s) bicarbonate of soda
  • 250 gram(s) plain yoghurt (fat free)
  • 4 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon(s) icing sugar

Instructions

  1. reheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and put a baking sheet in at the same time. Butter or oil your large, regular or fir-tree shaped bundt tin (2.5 litres capacity) very, very thoroughly. (I use oil-sodden kitchen paper.)
  2. Either put all the ingredients except the icing sugar into the processor and blitz together; or mix by hand or in a freestanding mixer as follows:– Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.– Add the eggs one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of flour.– Fold in the rest of the flour, and add the bicarbonate of soda, the yogurt and vanilla extract.
  3. Pour and spoon the mixture into your greased tin and spread about evenly.
  4. Place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven and cook for 45–60 minutes until well risen and golden. After 45 minutes, push a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. Let it sit out of the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then turn out the cake, hoping for the best.
  6. Once cool, dust with the icing sugar pushed through a small sieve, to decorate: think fresh snowfall on the alps.

Creamed celeriac – Mary Berry

Creamed celeraic

I don’t recall ever eating celeriac before but the recipe for this caught my eye in an article about Mary Berry’s Christmas day recipes wen she said that this is a perfect dish to be made ahead and reheated. I just tried a little today to check and it is lovely. I have a problem with mashed potatoes and am not keen on many root vegetables but this is lovely. I hope my boys like it because it may well be the answer for me as alternative topping for dishes like shepherds pie.

Ingredients to serve 8

  • 1.8kg (4lb) celeriac
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 200ml (7 fl oz) carton full-fat creme fraiche
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Peel the thick skin off the celeriac with a knife and cut the flesh into even-sized pieces of about 2.5cm (1in). Boil in salted water for 20-25 minutes until really soft. Drain well.
  2. Tip the celeriac into a food processor, add the creme fraiche, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, and blend until really smooth (may need to blend in batches).
  3. Check for seasoning and serve hot.