Thursday, 31 December 2009

And now, the end is near...

...here is my own personal review of the year! Bye bye 2009, you've been good to me but I look forward to seeing what 2010 holds for me.

It's been a good year. My own personal highlights have included my daughter starting pre-school and my son starting at nursery - I love to see how they develop, and of course marrying Mr M. We enjoyed playing in the snow earlier this year, easily the best we've had in a long time. We tried to make the most of the weather this year seeing as summers just aren't what they used to be and took spontaneous trips out to the seaside, BBQed at every opportunity, picked fruit from our garden and generally tried to appreciate ht little bit of sunshine that came our way. We had the best day ever when we got married, the weather was kind to us and it was just an amazing experience. Our honeymoon that followed in Suffolk was equally good - full of blue skies and pigsties, yummy food and beautiful places. I carved my first ever pumpkin and shall be on to bigger and better things next year. Christmas has been good, if a little tainted with illness but we've tried to make the most of it and the children have been spoiled rotten.

Things I have loved this year...Cheryl Cole, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas. New Moon and The Time Travelers Wife at the cinema. The Twilight Saga books - so so sad I've finished them. Visiting London - I can't count how many times I have been this year, but I love it every time I go (and we'll ignore the fact that I always come back ill). The MP's expenses debacle - okay, not so great for the taxpayer, but great entertainment. Twitter. Winning tickets to see Michael Buble in a small intimate gig courtesy of Barclaycard.

Things I've not loved so much...the Susan Boyle hype, swine flu, constantly ill children. The lack of summer we seem to have - I was hoping for better this year. Redundancies at work. Darling Camille's diagnosis. The price of everything - groceries, household items, fuel, holidays...it's all rocketed. Thanks Mr Brown for that VAT decrease, it's done a world of good - yep it just means that as from tonight everyone gets to stick another 2.5% on the price of goods and services.

We seem to have lost a staggering amount of people this year, amongst them Patrick Swayze, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Brittany Murphy, Mollie Sugden, Henry Surtees, Natasha Richardson, Stephen Gately, Keith Floyd, Adam Goldstein, John Hughes, Jade Goody, Bobby Robson, David Carradine, Wendy Richard, and not forgetting our last three WWI veterans, God rest their souls.

2009 was the year we saw the split of Peter & Jordan (gasp!), Swine Flu caused mild panic, Terry Wogan brought everyone to tears when he finished his Radio 2 breakfast show (and I was glad to be able to listen to Radio 2 again in the mornings), MPs got shamed with their expenses and the The X-Factor got denied Christmas No1.

I wonder what 2010 will hold...any guesses? Perhaps a Tory government? Peter & Jordan back together? (you can just see it can't you). Perhaps 2010 will the year I finally win the lottery (and finally start playing the lottery to help achieve that goal...).

Above everything I hope and wish for 2010 I pray for good news and good health for a precious little girl, Camille Shave.


So out with the old, and in with the new. Whatever you are doing tonight, have a great time and I hope that 2010 holds great things for all of you!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Corned Beef Hash



(Copied over from old blog...originally posted 3rd May 2009)

After talking about corned beef hash the other day I realised I hadn't had it in about fifteen years! Corned beef hash (as I know it) was a staple meal on the narrow boat holidays that I used to go on with youth club when I was in my teens. We had some debate recently as how to make corned beef hash and there appears to be two camps - one side says it's diced potatoes, corned beef etc fried with an egg on top and the other says it's kind of like a cottage pie. I'm the latter, corned beef hash is most definitely corned beef topped with mashed potato!

So having realised I hadn't had it in fifteen years and after discovering that Mr M had in fact, never had corned beef hash I had yearnings that needed to be satisfied. The first challenge I had was actually opening a can of corned beef - that was harder than it looked. What on earth does it need that little key thing for? What is the purpose? Anyway, after a sore finger and no success I did what any girl does - nope, Mr M wasn't here to open it - I rang my mother, to which she very helpfully told me if all else fails, take a can opener to it, so this I did and it worked fine which left me pondering why on earth we need it in these stupid shaped cans, with a pointless way of opening it. Anyhow, after I had mastered the corned beef can it was all plains ailing and it turned out very nice. Mr M enjoyed it, little girly I ate it but didn't look too enthused (she's going through a difficult stage - she's a Threenager after all), and the little fella loved it and asked for more.

I have a feeling it will definitely become a family regular.

The recipe below serves about 4 and I served it with peas and sweetcorn. I didn't have any fresh herbs handy so I missed them out but it was fine.

Corned Beef Hash

Ingredients

25g butter
2 onions, chopped
1tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1tsp Marmite
350ml beef stock
150ml red wine
375g corned beef
2tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the topping;
750g potatoes, peeled
salt and freshly ground pepper
milk for mashing potatoes
25g butter
50g cheddar cheese, grated
25g breadcrumbs

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6.

Prepare the potatoes for the filling. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of simmering water. When they are just cooked, remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and thyme and fry for 3 minutes. Add in the marmite , stock and red wine and cook briskly until reduced by half.

Add the corned beef and parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for 5-10 minutes, breaking it up with a fork.

Season the potatoes and mash them thoroughly with milk and the butter. Place the corned beef mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mashed potatoes.

Mix together the grated Cheddar and breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the mashed potatoes and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Ham in Coca Cola


For the first time I cooked a nice piece of gammon on Christmas Eve to see us through the festive period. I wanted to do something a little more interesting than a "normal" ham so plumped for Nigella Lawson's recipe for Ham in Coca Cola. I've read so many reviews of it, people really rave about it so I thought it would be right up my street. In truth, it was I guess. However I failed to notice any real difference in the taste. Part of me feels it would have tasted the same if I had just boiled it in water but maybe I am missing something that some one might care to enlighten me with?

Either way, it was a success. Mr M loved it and I took some round to the 'rents on Boxing Day who also wolfed it down. You really can't beat a bit of fresh home cooked ham, which is why I shall turn this into a Christmas tradition, however next year I might try a different recipe.

Ham in Coca Cola

Ingredients

For the ham:
2kg mild-cure gammon
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
2 litre bottle of coke

For the glaze:
Handful cloves
1 heaped tbsp black treacle
2 tbsp English mustard powder
2 tbsp demerara sugar

Method

Put the gammon in a pan, skin side down, add the onion and pour over the Coke. Bring to the boil and reduce to a good simmer. Put the lid on loosely and cook for around 2.5 hours. If your joint of gammon is larger or smaller work out the timing to suit - based on an hour a kilo. If your gammon has been kept in the fridge up until cooking you may need to add another 15 or so minutes on to the cooking time. Preheat the oven to 240c/gas mark 9.

When the ham is done, take it out of the pan and let it cool a little so it is easier to handle. You can also let it cool completely and finish it off later.

Remove the skin, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat with a sharp knife to make large diamond shapes and stud each diamond with a clove. Carefully spread the treacle over taking care not to dislodge the cloves. Gently pat the mustard and sugar onto the fat.

Cook, in a foil lined roasting tin for about 10 minutes or until the glaze is burnished and bubbly. If you have left the ham to cool completely you will need to cook the ham for about 30-40mins at 180c/gas mark 8.

I haven't mentioned soaking the ham as Nigella generally believes that most don't need soaking these days. You can if you want to, it's purely down to taste I think. I didn't soak my gammon and it was fine.

Smoothing the treacle over the ham whilst trying to keep the cloves in place was quite tricky. Treacle is not the most manageable of substances. Am now wondering if perhaps put the treacle on and then studding with cloves would work better. And on that note, make sure you get your cloves well before Christmas - those things were like gold-dust. I had to go to three supermarkets to find some, finally getting robbed blind at Waitrose for some Barts ones. Of course, I got home and found two more jars of cloves in the back of the cupboard. Note to self; no need to buy cloves in 2010.

Also, the coke MUST be four star, full fat Coke. Do not use Diet Coke as it just won't work as well due to the lack of sugar.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Dauphinoise Potatoes


A side dish that can be served with, well anything really, I dished this up with the Festive Beef and Dumplings on Christmas Eve. It was a major success all round, even the little Miss wolfed it down and I think Mr M actually liked it more than the stew itself. It was of course a big hit with me, I love anything fattening and creamy.

It barely takes an effort but is so effective, and is a good way of doing something slightly more interesting with potatoes! Suggested potatoes are King Edward or Desiree but I generally buy just plain white potatoes or Maris Piper and anything goes really. This recipe serves 4 as a side dish.

Dauphinoise Potatoes


Ingredients

500g potatoes, thinly sliced
200ml double cream
100ml milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
50g Gruyere cheese, grated

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4

Place the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from browning. Rinse then pat dry with kitchen paper.

Place the cream, milk and garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the potatoes, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until just tender. Season well.

Transfer to a buttered ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

As an aside, Gruyere cheese is not always easy to find. I have struggled in smaller supermarkets but large branches should have it. If you can't find it you could try substituting with Emmental, Jarlsberg or another Swiss cheese.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Festive Beef and Dumplings


I always do lots of prep and cooking on Christmas Eve but also felt like this year I needed to start a bit of a dinner "tradition". I wanted to make and effort and cook something warm and filling and this beef stew hit the spot. It sounded really easy, it was relatively quick to prepare and didn't need to be cooked for a long period of time like some stews and casseroles. I would definitely recommend it, Mr M liked it - he's a big fan of dumplings however I thought they could do with a little extra oomph. In fact, I always seem to think that about dumplings, I tend to find them quite bland. I served this with peas and my dauphinoise potatoes.

The recipe (originally found on the C4 website but from Delicious magazine) apparently serves 4, I'd say it serves 3 but perhaps I am just a pig.

Festive Beef and Dumplings

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
600g beef rump or sirloin, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large cubes
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, thinly sliced 
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, roughly torn 
100ml red wine 
500ml beef stock, hot 
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange 

For the dumplings:
150g self-raising flour
75g light vegetable suet
1/2 tsp salt
handful chopped fresh parsley

Method

Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Mix the cornflour, cinnamon and some seasoning on a plate and dust the beef in the seasoned flour. Cook for 2-3 minutes, in batches, until browned all over. Transfer to a plate.


Heat the remaining oil in the pan, add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, bubble until reduced by half, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat until the stew
is simmering, then add the orange zest and juice and the browned meat.


For the dumplings, mix the flour, suet, salt, parsley and enough water in a large mixing bowl to make a soft dough. Roughly shape into 8 balls, dropping them into the stew as you go. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, until they’ve puffed up.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Chestnut and Cranberry Roll

I've seen this festive stuffing roll recommended several times and the reviews on the BBC Good Food website were extremely good so I thought instead of reaching for the Paxo this year, I'd be a little more creative and make my own. First impressions - this stuffing mix makes a LOT of stuffing and allows for some to stuff the turkey with, but it's easy to freeze and cook later. It smelt really good when putting it together and there was something very satisfying about all the chopping and squeezing the sausage squidge out of the skins, it didn't feel too much like a chore at all. I was feeling very proud and triumphant by the time I had wrapped them all up in silver foil and squirreled them away in the back of the freezer.

I (rather amazingly) remembered to take the stuffing out of the freezer on Christmas Eve to thaw and cooked it as per the directions on Christmas Day. Towards the end when I wanted to remove the foil I was a bit dismayed as on unwrapping it (harder than it looks - trying to get silver foil out from under something that has just been cooked at 200 degrees), the darned thing fell apart. I was a little surprised, I wasn't really expecting that to happen but it kind of just collapsed. Now I am sure the problem is me, as I haven't really heard any other reports of this happening so maybe I overstuffed or something. Still, I figured all was not lost and it would still taste the same, and this way the stuffing would go a little more crispy.

My verdict? It was okay. I didn't love it. Would I make it again? Maybe, it was inoffensive enough just didn't really have the WOW factor I was hoping for.

Chestnut and Cranberry Roll

Ingredients

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 Bramley apples, approx 140g each, peeled
3 x 450g packs good-quality pork sausage
2 x 200g vacuum-packed chestnuts, roughly chopped
small bunch parsley, leaves roughly chopped
small bunch sage, leaves roughly chopped
small bunch thyme, leaves stripped
1 egg
100g white breadcrumbs
175g fresh or frozen cranberries
24 rashers streaky bacon
butter for greasing

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then gently fry the onion for 5 mins until softened. Finely chop the apples either by hand or in a food processor.

Squeeze the sausage meat from the sausages into a large bowl, then add all the other ingredients, except the cranberries and streaky bacon. Season generously, then get your hands in and mix well. Weigh out 450g of the stuffing and mix a handful of the cranberries into it. Use to stuff the neck of the turkey.

To assemble, butter and season a large sheet of foil. Stretch out the bacon rashers slightly with the back of a kitchen knife, then overlap 12 rashers on the foil. Spoon half of the stuffing mix evenly over the bacon, leaving a border of about 3cm. Scatter with half the cranberries, then pat them in. Tuck the long edges of the bacon over the stuffing; then, using the foil to help, roll the stuffing up into a log shape. Repeat to make a second roll.

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the foil-wrapped rolls onto a roasting tin and roast for 45 mins. Unwrap, draining off any juice, then finish roasting for 15 mins until the bacon is crisp.

The rolls can be made two days ahead and kept raw in the fridge. They can also be frozen for up to one month. I still have one roll in the freezer and am hoping the next one stays together better!

love & kisses
Mrs M x


Monday, 21 December 2009

Yoghurt Spiced Chicken with Almond & Coriander Rice


Yes, the queen of quick and easy dinners is here again with another super quick and tasty meal courtesy of BBC Good Food, my online bible.

I stumbled across this recipe by accident when looking for Christmas recipes (no idea why, it contains neither nutmeg or cinnamon or other festive spice) and it caught my eye as being something that Mr M might like. It also had good ratings from other people so that's always a good start.

I was really pleased with how this came out, as I said above, very quick and really quite tasty. Will be adding this to my (as yet, mental) binder and whipping this up again in the future.

I have adapted the recipe ever so slightly to suit our own tastes and the recipe serves two.

Yoghurt Spiced Chicken with Almond & Coriander Rice


Ingredients

150ml natural yoghurt
1tsbp curry paste (I used Patak's Balti)
2 chicken breasts
butter
1 onion, halved and finely chopped
5 cardamom pods, squashed
150g basmati rice
350ml chicken stock
1 tsp turmeric
1tbsp toasted flaked almonds
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 bunch coriander, chopped

Method

Mix the yogurt and curry paste and toss with the chicken breasts.

Heat a knob of butter in a wide shallow pan with a lid. Cook the onion and cardamom for 5 minutes then tip in the rice, stock and turmeric. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender. Keep an eye on this in case you need to add a little more stock.

Griddle the chicken breasts until golden and cooked through.

Stir the almonds, chilli and coriander through the rice. Slice the breasts and sit on top of the rice.

Beautiful!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Christmas Cupcakes


I love baking. I like using baking as a relaxation technique of sorts. Baking with a three year old is not so relaxing but it's something I force myself to do regularly. Cooking with mother - it's a rite of passage isn't it? Something all little children should experience. So I do it, and okay, I admit I do enjoy it a little bit but it can be hard managing a frustrated pre-schooler when I insist on using my KitchenAid mixer (why beat sugar and butter together when the mixer can do it so much quicker and easier than me?). I have to take it off the mixer and then let her have a pretend go with her pink spoon or life truly wouldn't be worth living. Fortunately she's quite patient at the actual baking part as normally she's lost interest by that point or something more important is happening - like Show Me Show Me starting on CBeebies. Besides, it's the decorating part that is the fun bit (and I take no responsibility for what they look like)!

After spending a lovely Sunday making sausage rolls, mince pies and stuffing (recipes for the last two will follow after Crimbo as they are currently stashed in the freezer), I thought that I ought to let madam have a wee go at something. I had a good ferret through some books and happened across a recipe for cupcakes in Nigella Christmas. It looked easy enough and I had some Christmas sprinkles stashed away that I had recently picked up at Lakeland. Perfect!


And they were perfect. Well, almost. My cup runneth over on a couple of them but I think that was my overloading that did that - aside from that they were great little cakes, and even better they didn't stick to the wrapper like my usual attempts. I liked them so much I think I'll use this recipe for cupcakes in the future. I may also be a convert to royal icing.


Nigella
doesn't state what flour, butter or sugar so the recipe below is adapted to what I used. Recipe makes 12 cupcakes.


Christmas Cupcakes


Ingredients


125g unsalted butter, softened
125g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

125g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsps baking powder

2 tsps vanilla extract

2-3 x 15ml tbsps whole milk


Method


Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Fill a muffin tin with paper cases.


Put all the ingredients except for the milk into a food processor or mixer and blitz until smooth.


Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel - add a little bit at a time until you get a smooth dropping consistency.


Divide the mixture between the 12 paper cases and bake in the oven for 15-20mins until they have risen and are golden on top.


Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack until cool.


There are obviously many ways that you can decorate these cupcakes and I followed one of Nigella's suggestions which was using royal icing. I made up the icing using 250g of royal icing beaten together with 2tbsps of water as directed on the packet. However, the icing was still quite stiff so I needed to a little bit more water. It can be trial and error really - just keep going until you get the consistency you want. If it's too runny, add more icing sugar. Too stiff, add more water.


Once you've made the icing, pop a dollop of it on each cake using a tablespoon and add your sprinkles or decorations - you should do this quite soon after putting the icing on so it doesn't dry first!


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Telly Addicts


Last week, in time honoured tradition, I purchased a copy of the TV Times to plan my festive viewing schedule. It was hard decision - Radio Times or TV Times? I plumped for TV Times as it reminds me of my childhood, and well, Christmas is all about nostalgia, no? So, armed with a highlighter pen and a hot water bottle, I snuggled up in my arctic bedroom and merrily marked everything that Mr M is to put into the recording schedule on the PVR. Although, with hindsight this was all academic as I made a radical snap decision to order Sky TV this week and it's being installed on Sunday so really Christmas could be full of "Girls of the Playboy Mansion" or whatever it's called these days and "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" type shows, who knows, but for now I'll stay true to my roots and stick with the main channels.

What's on your schedule I hear you cry! Well actually I probably don't hear you cry that at all, as lets face it you're probably not that interested but it's MY blog so I'm a gonna tell you anyway.

Saturday 19th December 2009
I shall be mainly plonked in front of the TV with a Chinese takeaway and NO X-FACTOR! What ever will I do??! Oh, I know I'll tune in to ITV and watch Take That: The Circus Live. Yes, I went to see the tour at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry last May (or June, can't quite remember, the brain cells aren't what they used to be) but it was a pretty good show and well worth seeing again, and then maybe after that I'll watch Love Actually. It's one of my favourite Christmas films, maybe one of my favourite films ever so yes, I'll watch it. And yes, Mr M will ask me why I am sitting through the adverts when I have the film on DVD.

Sunday 20th December 2009
Tonight I shall be singing my little heart out at the Church Carol Service (and possibly freezing my little arse off at the same time as it's a bit of an icebox) whilst recording the Songs of Praise Christmas Special. Yes, really. As there's not much else of any note on that night, when I return all cold and hoarse I shall watch Ad of the Decade which is presented by the rather buff Ben Shepherd. In the meantime, I shall be pondering over what might actually be the ad of the decade.

Monday 21st December 2009
Bog standard boring day however my evening shall be spent watching A Night of Heroes: Military Awards whilst trying not to blub buckets of tears and getting angry at the government and state of the country at the same time.

Tuesday 22nd December 2009
Tuesday is a blot on my festive viewing schedule.

Wednesday 23rd December 2009
This is my work Christmas party so I shall be spending the evening dressed as a Kids from Fame reject whilst filling my face with mini quiche and vol au vents and recording The Grumpy Guide to Christmas on BBC2. Seriously, I have a feeling this programme was made for me and me alone. I'm actually very excited about it. At the same time on Five I shall be recording the Greatest Christmas Comedy Moments and if there are any Only Fools and Horses clips in it I will be gouging my eyes out a bit later.

Thursday 24th December 2009
'twas the night before Christmas.....and The Corpse Bride will be my main viewing of the day in between making cheesecakes that are almost guaranteed not to set and Christmas cake that nobody will eat.

Friday 25th December 2009
The main event and obviously Eastenders dominates the day, however I am no longer a soap watcher, I've been dry now for almost 4 years. There are four programmes that excite me today - BBC1 hats off to you my dears. The Gruffalo - kids are going to flip their lids for this. The Royale Family - getting to be a regular Christmas occurrence, sadly not the same without Nana. Gavin and Stacey - Oh my Christ, I am excited already. Catherine Tate: Nan's Christmas Carol - I see this nan and see my future...

Saturday 26th December 2009
Boxing Day tea at my parents however I shall be commandeering the TV set to watch my hero Harry Hill and his TV Burp Review of the Year. TV Burp is one of THE best shows on telly. Without a goddamn-diggity-doubt.

and after that it all gets a bit blah and sadly there are no highlighted sections in my TV Times after this. If I am forced to stay in on New Years Eve it will be as ever spent watching Jools Holland until I admit defeat, realise that New Years Eve is just a load of hype and go to bed.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

PS I've checked very carefully for Christmas Day repeats of Only Fools and Horses on BBC1 and there appears to be none! Hurrah!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Creamed Sprouts


(Copied from old blog...originally posted 30th December 2007)

'Tis the season and all that jazz. Well it was anyhow, and I have let it slip by without so much as a mince pie to show for it. In my defense we have all been beaten down by colds and sickness bugs over the past few weeks and cooking, well food in general, has been pretty low down the agenda. All my best laid plans of making mincemeat, mince pies, an alternative Christmas cake.....all went down the drain. Still, it's almost a new year and I have literally dozens of new recipes waiting to be tested and I am feeling all adventurous.

About the only thing I did do differently this year was sprouts. Christmas just isn't Christmas without them, you've got to love a sprout. Unless you are Mr M that is, who pales at the mere sight of one of the cute lovely little things. So anyway, this year I made creamed sprouts and they were delicious, so very simple but really tasty and I can't ever imagine eating them plain again. I of course cheated and used chestnuts in a jar as I couldn't be faffed with roasting and peeling them but if you are that way inclined who am I to stop you.

Creamed Sprouts

Ingredients

750g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped into small chunks
200g chestnuts, roughly chopped
6 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche

Method

Cook the sprouts in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes until tender, then drain and cool in iced water or run under the cold tap. Drain them well.

Fry the chopped bacon gently in a large frying pan for 4 minutes until starting to crisp, then add the chestnut pieces and cook until toasted.

Add the sprouts and creme fraiche, season and turn the heat up to boil the cream until it coats the sprouts.

Tip into a serving dish and serve straightaway.

This recipe should serve 6.

Sausage Rolls


Basic, I know. Sausage rolls. But I really really love them and have to shamefully admit that this was my first foray into actually making my own. I generally love all forms of sausage roll - the little frozen ones you get in the supermarket right up to the scalding hot ones you get in Greggs. I am a sausage roll fiend. I am pleased to report my sausage roll making exercise was a complete success! Hooray for me!

The recipe (from Delicious magazine) is very simple but oh my Christ, these are just delicious. The smell of them cooking is just to die for and when I opened the tin this morning to snaffle a cold one, the aroma was a beautiful things. Mr M absolutely loved them too as did the little girl of the house who jumped up and down on the spot saying "yummy", which is praise indeed.

I shall be making these over and over again, and will make another batch for the freezer ready for Boxing Day. Try them, you won't be disappointed (unless you're a vegetarian and well, you probably will be slightly disappointed).

This recipe makes 16 good sized sausage rolls, about 2-3 times the size of those small party ones you get at supermarkets.

Yummy yummy!

Sausage Rolls

Ingredients

8 large Cumberland sausages, skins removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
3-4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
500g fresh puff pastry
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
25g Parmesan, finely grated

Method

Place the sausage meat in a bowl with the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, sage, parsley, a pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Mix together with a wooden spoon, or with your hands, until well combined.

Cut the pastry in half and roll out 1 piece to make a long oblong shape, measuring about 40cm x 17cm x 3mm thick. Form half the filling into a long log shape which runs the length of the pastry. Place the sausage log about 5mm in from the edge of the pastry. Brush the edge with the beaten egg, then fold the pastry over the sausage filling and press to seal the edges. Crimp the pastry either with your fingers or by pressing down with a fork. Cut into 8 rolls. Prepare a second batch using the remaining pastry and filling.

If you are freezing them, do this now - pop them on a baking tray and cover with cling film until solid, than transfer to a freezerproof container for up to three months. When ready to eat, defrost thoroughly and continue with the recipe.

Brush the tops of each sausage roll with beaten egg and sprinkle with the cheese. Place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6 and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden, risen and flaky. Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a wire rack.

I'd like to point out that my Puff Pastry was provided by Jus-Rol, and was delicious! Certainly makes the process easier!

love & kisses
Mrs M x


Thursday, 10 December 2009

Kirstie's Homemade Christmas


I'm sure if you've read my earlier posts, you'll know what is coming, however I actually don't feel qualified to write/rant too much about Kirstie's Homemade Christmas because frankly I found it so dull I allowed Mr M to turn over halfway through the second episode and watch a repeat of Top Gear instead.

I was very excited about the programme on Tuesday - I love Kirstie, I love Christmas, I love beautiful homes - surely there's nothing to dislike? Well, I probably should have known better as Kirstie's Homemade Home didn't exactly light my fire either but I was quite disappointed. Sure, she made some interesting things, her house looked pretty and festive but I can't say I was inspired at all and it kind of just leaves you feeling a little inadequate. I mean, okay she's a mum too, but I don't think I could find the time (nor the money it would cost) to go on a glass blowing course just to make Christmas baubles. Nor am I going to spend £20 on one bauble that some other blower has made.

I can see that she means well but glass blowing, it's not exactly homemade is it? The salt dough maybe, with two young kids I can (almost) see the appeal of that, although microwaving it Kirstie? No, no, no. As for making your own wreath out of greenery you've foraged from your own garden is a beautiful idea if you're a) a little bit creative and b) you don't live in a tenth floor flat.

I only saw half of the second programme which I am told featured soap making amongst other things. I'd love to think I had the time to lovingly make soap for my nearest and dearest but I don't and I doubt they'd appreciate it. They'd probably much prefer something from Lush or Philosophy than my rancid offerings.

I like Kirstie, I really do, I'm just not sure she's quite in touch with the real world sometimes. Lets have a look at Kirstie Allsopp's Tips for a Family Christmas.

Make Decorations With The Children
"Making decorations with the children is fun"
I'd hazard a guess that she's not met my children.


Keep Calm And Carry On

"It’s not a competition, so don’t panic and try to enjoy yourself"

That's right Kirstie.


Get Organised
"Remember that even though it’s Christmas, normal life continues"
So, glassblowing will just have to wait?

Fill Up The Freezer

"Have a couple of pizzas and other simple, oven-ready meals in the freezer, just in case you burn the turkey!"

Oh my God! What would
Delia say!


Keep Everybody Well-Watered

"Whatever you do, don’t run out of booze!"
Glug, glug. Okay, you got me. Delia would approve of that.

Breathe Deep
"Nobody wants a big family row spoiling Christmas.'

Rubbish! That's what Christmas is all about!

Make The Most Of Christmas TV
"There’s so much great programming over the Christmas and New Year period, so let them get stuck in"
Kirstie must get some channels I don't. Ones that don't show wall-to-wall repeats of Only Fools and Bloody Horses.

Watch Miracle On 34th Street
"If you’re losing the Christmas spirit, watch Miracle On 34th Street! It’ll soon have you believing again"
Um. Okay.

and I will leave my rant there. I won't be tuning in for the third and final thrilling installment tonight so please feel free to leave me a comment telling me what you liked or didn't like about it.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

PS If you want to go and stay at Kirstie's very lovely homemade home Meadowgate - you can. It's yours for an absolute bargain basement price of £2,000 a week, or £3,000 if you want it to be her Christmas homemade home. It's a snip!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes



Now I will start by saying cupcakes are my nemesis (I'll elaborate on that point another time) so it's fair to say I should probably have never bothered attempting these Red Velvet Cupcakes from the book by the owner of The Hummingbird Bakery. I've been waiting all week to have a go at these but because there's been a heatwave I haven't bothered, it's been way too stuffy for cooking. Anyhow, it's cooled down a little so I thought I'd cook them up today.

I should have known to quit whilst I was ahead when I had to throw the first batch of mix away after a gnat dive-bombed into my mixer and swiftly got dissolved into the red gloopy mixture. To say I was raging would be an understatement but onwards and upwards, I scraped it into the bin and started again. This time all was well and although I was bit nervy about using the huge muffin cases I had (the Hummingbird Bakery use the large US style cases, not our British fairy cake style ones) it all looked good. It smelt and looked even better 20 minutes later when I peeked into the oven. How having a fan oven means I have to adjust temperatures slightly - I normally bake things at a lower temp for longer but it can be a bit hit and miss. I think I over-baked the cakes as they've gone a bit biscuity on top but they're all stuck in the wrapper (as so often happens to me....but after a few hours they tend to firm up).

Making the cream cheese frosting was easy but don't under estimate how long you need to beat it together for. I'm used to making frosting quickly by just bunging it all in and blitzing it but this needed a good few minutes of constant beating to get to the right consistency.

Well the verdict - they tasted good even if the crispy top wasn't perfect and the kids enjoyed them too. Downside is they leave your tongue bright red, not such a good look if you are going out anywhere!

I'd probably make them again sometime but I'm a little put off seeing as everything within a 5 metre radius is now dyed a lovely shade of pink - that red food colouring gets everywhere!

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Ingredients
60g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 egg
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1½ teaspoons white vinegar
1 quantity Cream Cheese Frosting

Method

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Line a 12-hole cup cake tin with cases.

Put the butter and the sugar in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling racking to cool completely.

When the cupcakes are cold, spoon or pipe the Cream Cheese Frosting on top.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold

Beat the icing sugar and butter together in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy – for at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 7 December 2009

Chris-dingle


Or as most of us know it, Christingle. Yes, the above wonky orange with the half-nibbled dolly mixtures is our Christingle from yesterdays church service. Whilst I was aware of Christingle, going to the service is a pretty new one on me as I was brought up a Roman Catholic and we certainly didn't do the ritual of decorating oranges with sweets at my school, however my children are part of the Church of England and so we like to attend these special services with them and I really enjoy it too. Okay, it's the carol singing that I really enjoy - yesterday I was spoilt with O Come Emmanuel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful and Once in Royal David's City. (It's the bacon sarnies that they dish out that Mr M really enjoys I think - they are pretty impressive).

So, of course like good Christians we all know what the Christingle represents don't we? But for those who are a little befuzzled over it here's a basic explanation.

The orange represents the world.
The candle represents Jesus - the light of the world
The red ribbon represents Jesus's blood
The cocktail sticks & sweets - the seasons and all good things in the world

I personally like to think that the sweets are there just to keep the kids quiet, and in fact last year they were diddled with only raisins on the cocktail sticks. I was pleased to note a return to tradition in 2009.

Christingle is a complete health and safety nightmare - imagine swarms of small children wafting lit candles around, which to be fair, are not very well secured in their little oranges - mine was wobbling all over the place and I have to say I was a little concerned for my own safety at one point. Last year all the little children gathered at the back of the church with their lit Christingles to sing Away in a Manger. It was quite an emotional moment made all the more so with the fear that at any moment my daughters hair was about to go up like a roman candle. Obviously I wasn't the only one who felt like that and this year we were asked to stay in our seats and do not move which was an altogether better plan. I joked that it wouldn't be long before real candles would be replaced with LED versions for health and safety reasons but having researched them quickly on the web, I think the last laugh will be on me as the perfect LED candle actually exists! We'll wait and see what Advent 2010 holds.....

Now all I need to know is when it is acceptable to chuck your Christingle in the bin? Last year I think I left it to fester a good while but it just feels a bit wrong lobbing something that is meant to represent Jesus into the trash.

Sausage Casserole


I originally posted this on my old blog but am going to be making it again this week so thought I would re-blog it here.

I'm not sure where I originally found this recipe but it's very tasty and perfect for chilly evenings. You can serve the casserole with pretty much anything that takes your fancy - rice, bread, pasta or my personal favourite, mashed potato.

When I first made this I was a little hesitant as it's quite tomato-based and Mr M has quite an aversion to tomato heavy food but it's got such a lovely flavour, the tomato isn't that overpowering. The kids weren't so keen the first time we had it which was strange considering they have an obsession with sausages - they do tend to be creatures of habit though and the second time we had it, they just wolfed it down without comment. I think they just weren't used to seeing their beloved sausages all chopped and smothered in sauce.

This recipe serves 4 (*ahem* dwarves) and is very good as leftovers the next day.

Sausage Casserole

Ingredients

8 good quality pork sausages, cut into bite size pieces

tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped
handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced

4
sun dried tomatoes, chopped
175ml red wine

500g tub of
passata
1tsp sugar

1/2 tsp paprika
handful of chopped basil

Method

Gently fry the sausages in a large pan in the olive oil until cooked through and golden brown.

Remove the sausage and keep to one side. In the same pan fry the onion and garlic until softened. After 5 minutes or so add the peppers, mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes and cook or a further few minutes then return the sausages to the pan.

Turn the heat up high, add the red wine and cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Add the passata, sugar, basil and paprika and simmer for 30 minutes.

Season to taste and serve with your preferred accompaniment!
love & kisses
Mrs M x