Wishing you warmth and good cheer this Christmas

Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.
Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.

This image makes me think of the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.   It contains all the names of the reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen and of course Rudolph.  Which got me nine points in a recent pub quiz!

Wishing you warmth and good cheer this  Christmas.

 

 

Make a stunning Christmas centrepiece

A very effective table centrepiece

It takes a bit of patience but it’s worth it

Make a stunning, table centrepiece using your Christmas cake and fondant icing.

Fondant icing reindeer and trees with tea lights to make a woodland scene
Fondant icing reindeer and trees with tea lights to make a woodland scene

You will need:

  • Christmas cake with marzipan icing
  • Large pack of fondant icing, I got mine from https://www.aldi.co.uk/
  • Rolling pin
  • Scalpel or small, sharp, pointed knife
  • Cardboard, pencil and scissors to make template
  • Icing sugar and water for the grace icing
  • A few toothpicks

Ice the cake

Roll out the fondant to the size of the cake, leaving enough spare to make the reindeer.  Dampen the marzipan and place the fondant over.  Smooth the surface.  Leave for a couple of days to harden before making the reindeers snow scene.

Christmas cake with a layer of marzipan under a layer of roll-out fondant icing
Christmas cake with a layer of marzipan under a layer of roll-out fondant icing

Make the template

Find a simple line drawing or picture of a reindeer.  Sketch onto a piece of card.  It doesn’t need to be posh card, I used a piece from a tea-bag box https://www.yorkshiretea.co.uk

Cut out the shape and then… carefully and painstakingly cut out the reindeer.

Carefully cut out reindeers shapes using a card template
Carefully cut out reindeers shapes using a card template

Leave them alone

Put them on a board to dry out for a couple of days.  Leave them out of reach.  They become quite brittle and so need to be treated with great care.

Glace icing snow

Place three tea lights on the cake. up a paste with icing sugar and a few drops of hot water.  Use this to make snow drifts in which the reindeer will stand.

Set the scene

With great care place the reindeer in the snow as in the picture.  Use toothpicks to prop them up until they have set.  Some of the legs may come off! In which case they become  laying reindeer.  Some of the antlers may snap off – in which case they become does!

Use toothpicks to prop up reindeer until they have set into position
Use toothpicks to prop up reindeer until they have set into position

In the woods

Trees can be made from simple, right-angle triangles.  Lean three together in a puddle of glacé icing with a little icing spread on the edge where they join together.

Centrepiece

Light the candles and turn out the lights for a stunning, Christmas  centrepiece.

 

 

 

Christmas Market Time!

 

Wonderful creations on every stall of the Saint Nicholas Market
Wonderful creations on every stall of the Saint Nicholas Market

It’s Christmas market time

Where better to indulge in the sights, sounds and smells of the yuletide season but your nearest Christmas Market.  With the Yuletide season upon us, the aroma of mulled wine and spices, and the sounds of Christmas songs… we’re ready to fully immerse ourselves into the festive spirit with a visit to a Christmas market.  The streets of all the UK’s major cities – and some of the towns and tsbrave the chilly winds and visit one before it’s too late!

Crowds flock to the Vity of York for the Saint Nicholas Fair
Crowds flock to the City of York for the Saint Nicholas Fair

The Saint Nicholas Fair

The Saint Nicholas Fair, York.  My Christmas market of choice this year is – the Saint Nicholas Fair in York www.visityork.org/whats-on/christmas.  It is even better when you let the train take the strain https://www.lner.co.uk

The lovely Christmas aromas coming from the traditional chalets
The lovely Christmas aromas coming from the traditional chalets

Traditional chalets

The historic streets of York come alive during the  winter months.  Take a stroll through the vibrant market stalls of the St Nicholas Fair.  Peek inside traditional chalets prettily decked-out with fairy lights and just follow your nose.

From baubles to baskets, an interesting mix of wares on every stall
From baubles to baskets, an interesting mix of wares on every stall

It makes Christmas shopping very nearly enjoyable

The St Nicholas Fair is at the heart of Christmas shopping in the City of York https://www.visityork.org/whats-on/christmas .  Over 100 traditional style chalets are dotted along Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, The Judge’s Lodging and Coppergate.  A million visitors enjoyed the delights of the Christmas market last year.

Original and unique. Items crafted from the wood from old wine barrels
Original and unique. Items crafted from the wood from old wine barrels

A seasonal tradition

Visits to Christmas markets are fast becoming one of the UK’s favourite seasonal traditions.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the country, you are never too far away from a Christmas market.

Hurry, only one week left…

York is a Christmas shopping heaven with its eclectic mix of shops and the magical Christmas market. The festive shopping started at St Nicholas Market In mid-November and will continue until December 23rd. The ancient city and the market combine to provide a very Dickensian feel with a hint of Victoriana with the busy market stalls which sell everything – crafts, local produce, and lots of quirky things made in Yorkshire. 

 

Colourful, eye-catching and tasty. A homemade confectionery stall
Colourful, eye-catching and tasty. A homemade confectionery stall

York Railway Station
York railway station is a ten minute walk from where it is all happening.  This is a really great opportunity to soak up the city’s medieval charm and enjoy the festive flavours that transform York into such a magical place.

Traditional chalets

The St Nicholas Fair is at the heart of Christmas shopping in the City of York https://www.visityork.org/whats-on/christmas .  Over 100 traditional style chalets are dotted along Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, The Judge’s Lodging and Coppergate.  A million visitors enjoyed the delights of the Christmas market last year.

Traditional wooden cabins that house the Christmas market traders
Traditional wooden cabins that house the Christmas market traders

Visits to Christmas markets are fast becoming one of the UK’s favourite seasonal traditions.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the country, you are never too far away from a Christmas market.

A good excuse to experience a local hostelry

And of course there are many pubs – many of them boasting their own unique piece of history and local ales and homemade food.

How to Make the Perfect, Braised Red Cabbage

How to make perfect Braised Red Cabbage

Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage
Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage

This is the perfect vegetable accompaniment to many of our favourite,  comforting, winter dishes.  It goes just as well with a hearty Cottage Pie as it does with Christmas dinner!  And it’s the perfect fruity, side-dish for game – particularly venison.  It is so easy to make and it freezes well.

All the ingredients needed to make the perfect, braised, red cabbage
All the ingredients needed to make the perfect, braised, red cabbage

It’s definitely a family-pleaser – even for those of us who aren’t that keen on their veggies… well not yet anyway!

Ingredients

These quantities make enough for a decent-sized portion for eight to ten people.

Chopped and sliced! All the lovely ingredients prepared to make braised, red cabbage
Chopped and sliced! All the lovely ingredients prepared to make braised, red cabbage

What you need to do

  • Put the cabbage, onion, apples, sultanas, sugar and seasonings in a large pan
  • Pour the stock and vinegar over
  • Cover and bring to the boil. Turn down to simmer for approximately 45 minutes until the cabbage is tender
  • If there is still some liquid left at this point, leave the lid off and boil for a few minutes until reduced and syrupy
  • Serve hot or cold

This dish can also be cooked in the oven.  Place all ingredients in an ovenproof dish, cover and bake in a preheated oven 180oC for about an hour.

Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage
Ready to serve. Colourful, tasty, braised red cabbage

Make it now and put it in the freezer for Christmas!

So that’s another job crossed off the ‘Christmas-to-do’ list. Get it in the freezer!

How to Make a Traditional Christmas Pudding

All about the traditional, humble, Christmas Pud

It is thought that the humble plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to medieval England. It seems that the pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity and that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the wise men and their journey in that direction. 

A colourful array of fruits and spices to make A traditional, British Christmas pudding
All the ingredients needed to make a tradional, British, Christmas pudding

The Church and the Pud

However, recipes for plum pudding mostly start to appear in the 17th century. It had a very strong connection with the church. 

The ‘collect’ for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works.’

This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’. Stir Up Sunday for 2018 would be 25 November.  I am ahead of the game this year.

Fruits from all corners of the world

There was a variety of ingredients and methods of making plum puddings.  Many pudding recipes often contained meat, as well as the sweet ingredients.  Before being steamed in a cloth the ingredients were sometimes stuffed into the stomach of an animal – similar to that of the Scottish haggis or sausages. 

I like to think that the fruits and spices represent all the corners of the world and symbolise the harvest and survival food for winter.  A pudding fit for a king!

A favourite recipe

It’s really quite easy to make Christmas pud.  Especially if you have a tried and trusted recipe – like Delia’s. https://www.deliaonline.com/   It’s always a winner and it always turns out just right.  Thank you Delia… although over the last 30 years,  I have made it my own.  It makes 3 – 4 puddings dependent on the size of your bowls.

The equipment you will need

A bowl, wooden spoon, sharp knife, grater all needed to make Christmas pudding
The utensils needed to make Christmas pudding

Ingredients (a few more than 13!)

  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • A heaped teaspoon teaspoon mixed spice
  • A heaped half a teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • A heaped half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • 110g self raising flour
  • 450g dark soft brown sugar
  • 225g breadcrumbs made from stale bread
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 560g currants
  • 50g chopped nuts
  • 50g chopped mixed peel
  • Grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 1 Apple peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150 ml barley wine
  • 150 ml stout
  • 60 ml rum

Ten easy steps

Get help with the stirring of the pudding
Stirring the pudding. Don’t forget… east to west – and make a wish!

  1. Mix the suet, flour, bread crumbs and spices in a bowl.
  2. Carefully add the dried fruit, peel and nuts to the flour.
  3. Add the chopped apple, and grated orange and lemon peel
  4. Beat the eggs in a roomy jug, add the alcohol to the jug – pour over all the other ingredients
  5. Stir (you may need help) and make a wish – don’t forget to stir from east to west – and make a wish!
  6. Line 3/4 pudding bowls with greaseproof paper – no precision required.
  7. Microwave on high for 5, 6 or 7 minutes – dependent on the size of the bowl (a half litre bowl 5 mins) and the power of the microwave
  8. Allow to cool
  9. Wrap each pudding well in greasproof paper and either store in an airtight container or freeze
  10. Then, when needed, steam the pud for as long as possible – all morning if you can, just keep checking the water level.  My mum told me that the longer you steam your pudding the darker it will become.

Bowls ready for the pudding mixture
The prepared pudding bowls

When it is time to serve the pudding, unwrap, turn upside down on a large plate – flambé and serve with brandy sauce.  Amazing and quite a finale to Christmas dinner.

So, now you have time to get everything you need – just in time for ‘Stir Up Sunday’!

Savour the Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Mincemeat – it goes back a long way…

About thirty years ago a friend convinced me that homemade mincemeat was the best.  She was not wrong and pointed me in the direction of Delia Smith https://www.deliaonline.com/.  Yes of course I had a Delia Smith cook book (well four actually), seriously who didn’t back in the 80s?  I loved that book, I never had a failure from it!  However, I did adapt and ‘improve’ a little and put my own spin on certain recipes.  But in the main, we have Delia to thank for this delight.

Ingredients for mincemeat
The glorious ingredients for mincemeat

The origins of mincemeat

I love the origins of the mince pie too.  The ingredients for the mince pie we know and love can be traced back to the return of the crusaders from the Holy Land.  Middle Eastern methods of cooking (which sometimes combined meats, fruits and spices – Heaven forbid!) were popular at the time. Pies were created from such mixtures of sweet and savoury foods (I am not sure about that either!)  In Tudor England, shrid pies were formed from shredded meat, suet and dried fruit. The addition of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was, ‘in token of the offerings of the Eastern Magi.’  During the English Civil War they were banned, on account of its connection with Catholicism. Crikey! The hubster would never have survived. I also believe it is ‘bad luck’ to refuse a mince pie (I avoid being offered one) and… you should always make a wish as you bite into the first one of the season.

Everyone loves a mince pie… well nearly everyone

They are well-loved in our household.  My son loves them with an almond paste/marzipan top.  The hubster just loves them! Fortunately (or unfortunately) I DON’T.  Anyway, here is my recipe for homemade Christmas Mincemeat:

The equipment you will need:

The equipment needed to make Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 225g ready mixed chopped peel
  • 350g dark, soft brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g ready chopped almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 120 ml brandy

Homemade Christmas Mincemat ingredients
Homemade Christmas Mincemeat ingredients

What to do:

Fresh fruit prepped for mincemeat
Prep the fresh fruit

Mix all the ingredients (except the brandy) in a mixing bowl.  Put the bowl into a preheated oven 120oC for three hours.

Fill your house with the amazing Christmassy aroma.

After three hours remove from the oven and allow to go completely cold – then stir in the brandy.  Fill some clean, sealable jars or plastic containers.  

Christmas Mincemeat
The finished product, Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

It makes this much! Enough for probably 100 mince pies! It will keep for a very long time. Yes, it is a faff but it is definitely worth it.  Savour the Homemade Christmas Mince Pies!