Rural life in North Nottinghamshire has provided us with many opportunities. I think we have embraced them all. Not least our latest and most productive hobby: sausage-making!
We have been given quantities of game birds from local shoots and so it has become necessary to be inventive. Roast pheasant, roast partridge, game casserole, pheasant bolognese…
Recipes coming soon
I can share the recipes and methods with you in the New Year, perhaps you would like to see them?
A very merry Christmas
In the meantime here is a picture of our Christmas wreath. Created from feathers and a biodegradable OASIS https://www.oasisfloral.co.uk/ base. It hangs on my front door. A seasonal image to wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Light the candles and turn out the lights for a stunning, Christmas centrepiece.
I have a confession to make which might shock: I don’t like cake. There, I said it!I don’t ‘do’ puddings and cakes.The only thing I might eat, to be sociable, is biscuit or cookie. So here is my mahoosive, celebration cookie recipe…
Don’t buy one, make one!
To buy a celebration cookie from a specialist cookie maker at the shopping centre can be fraught with problems.Celebration cookies can be expensive and they are difficult to get home.
It is far more rewarding to make your own.And it is really easy.
You will need:
Ingredients for one 14” cookie
225g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
175g dark brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
280g plain flour
1/2 a teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
340g chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate of your choice)
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.
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:
450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
Now is the time to harvest the lavender that is probably growing in your garden. If not your garden then someone else’s close by! Let’s make a traditional, English lavender bag together.
Granddaughter Evie came to stay and so she was put to work with the scissors in the garden. A good bunch of lavender spikes later makes a lovely display as they dry out for a couple of days – without water.
Ready to create an English lavender bag
OK so now we have our lavender spikes. Here’s what else we needed:
A meter of netting (cost £1.50 from the local market)
A meter of ribbon (cost .75p from the local market)
And of course… lavender spikes
And here’s what we did with the lavender
After leaving the lavender spikes for a couple of days to dry out pull off the flowers into a pile onto some paper
Cut x2 9”/23cm squares of net, lay one on top of the other for double thickness
With the net partially placed under the paper, push a quantity of lavender onto the net as shown
Draw up the corners and sides of the net without letting the lavender escape
My able assistant then tied a length of ribbon around the enclosed lavender – very tightly. Learning to tie a knot in the process.
A souvenir of a lovely summer
We made enough lavender bags to give to Mummy to make her drawers smell nice and even one for Daddy for the car. The smell in the kitchen was just divine. When we learned that the smell is ‘soporific’ and relaxing grandson Jack said that he would like one for his bedroom ‘Because sometimes it’s just too hard to get to sleep!’
I make Elderflower Cordial every year and the time to make this wonderful, refreshing ‘summer in a bottle’ is now! Get out and pick some of those lovely, fragrant blossoms fast – before they fade. Top tip – try to find an elderflower tree that is not on a busy road. They grow just about everywhere and should be easy to find,
Refreshing Elderflower Cordial is so summery
Every year at this time I collect elderflower heads and remember my Mum. It was the last thing that we did together a couple of weeks before she died twelve years ago. She had a large elderflower tree at the bottom of her garden. She reached up with her walking stick to bring down the biggest blooms for me. This refreshing, summery drink is literally bittersweet for me, she loved it – and everyone who has tried it since loves it too.
Refreshing Elderflower Cordial is such a good mixer
Mix it with prosecco, gin, vodka – or sparkling water of course – and it can be used to flavour cakes and desserts. It is so easy to make, I ans sure that you will be impressed at just how good it is – and everyone else will be too. Here’s how to make elderflower cordial:
One and a half litres (two and a half pints) cold water
A large saucepan
A large mixing bowl
A wooden spoon
A clean muslin cloth
Some clean, reusable plastic or glass bottles
Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any ‘wildlife’
Put the sugar and 1.5 litres (2 ½ pints) of water into a saucepan, bring to the boil. Stir from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Remove the zest from the lemons in broad strips with a peeler and put in a bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons thinly and add to the bowl. When the sugar syrup has come to the boil, pour over the flowers and lemons. Stir in the citric acid. Cover with a clean dry cloth and leave in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.
Strain the cordial through a muslin-lined nylon sieve into a large bowl or container. Pour into warm, sterilised bottles and seal. (Or plastic water bottles for the freezer, just remember to leave enough space for expansion. This way you can have the taste of summer at Christmas!)
Leave to cool and keep in the refrigerator. It will last for four to six weeks.