Heat the oil. Sauté the onion for 3 minutes until translucent.Add the diced cleriac and parsnip. Cover and cook on a low heat until the veg is tender about 5 minutes. Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning except the chilli flakes. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg is tender.
Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender. Sprinkle a few chilli flakes on each serving. Serve hot,or portion and freeze when cold.
And next Easy, Peasy, Spinach (and anything else in the fridge that’s green) Soup
Again about 150 calories per mu-full
You will need exactly the same equipment as for the Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip soup.
Makes enough for approximately 6 servings
400g (ish) frozen peas
1 large pack of fresh, baby spinach
Any salad leaves, watercress, rocket that might be lurking in the fridge begging not to be thrown away
1 clove of garlic, grated
1 litre of veg stock
A sprinkle of seasalt
A shake of white pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional – Half a teaspoon of dried mint
A dollop of Greek yogurt to serve if desired.
Put all the I gradients in a pan. Bring to simmering point. Do not over cook. Allow 3 or 4 minutes to simmer. Blitz with a hand blender.
Serve with a dollop of Greek yorgurt if desired, or freeze for later in the week.
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)
I like gin and so was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Plymouth Gin on a recent visit to Devon. I discovered everything I ever wanted to know about gin.
A visit to Plymouth Gin Distillery
The cost of a tour of Plymouth Gin http://plymouthgin.com/ is £7 (no concessions) and it is worth every penny. There were about 18 others on the tour too. We were asked to lock away our bags and cameras and switch off our phones.A strict ‘no photography allowed’ policy is observed. Which is a shame, Iwould like to have iincluded an image or two of a Victorian copper vat or perhaps a few ‘botanicals’.
The tour lasts for forty minutes and is finished off in the bar with either a complimentary gin and tonic or a miniature gin or sloe gin to take away with you.
The oldest distillery in England
Plymouth Gin has been on the Barbican near the famous harbour since 1793.Parts of the building date back to the 1400s when it was a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars… and their distillery – it is now the oldest working gin distillery in England.
A link with the Pilgrim Fathers
Plymouth is renowned for its associations with the navy.One of its most famous sons being Sir Francis Drake. It was also the last port of call for the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail for the New World in 1620 https://www.mayflower400uk.org/visit/scrooby-babworth/notts-attractions/mayflower-pilgrim-visitor-centre/. A wooden plaque in the upstairs cocktail bar lists some of those who boarded the Mayflower on their way to lay down the foundations of what we know today as the United States of America.An image of the Mayflower, the ship on which the Pilgrims departed these shores, is on every bottle of Plymouth Gin.
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has developed from a herbal remedy to a major player in the spirit industry. Gin was based on the Dutch drink known as jenever. It became popular in Britain when William of Orange became King William III of England.English soldiers who fought in Holland in the 17th century, drank jenever to calm themselves before battle.It soon became known as ‘Dutch Courage’ which we know today as drinking alcohol in order to steady the nerves.
Gin was also known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’. In the mid eighteenth century the effects of gin on the family and economy were disastrous. Gin was the poor man’s drink because of its affordability. Drinking it had started out as a medicine but as it was cheap and readily available, men became impotent and women became sterile. This caused the London birth rate to drop. Also, drinking a pint of gin and having an extremely hot bath was recommended as a way to induce a miscarriage during the 1950s and 60s.
Botanicals are the core flavouring agents for gin. They can be roots, fruits, herbs or spices.The botanicals used vary but all must contain juniper berries by law.
Juniper is the most important botanical in gin. In the 16th century it was used as a remedy for indigestion. The juniper is a hardy bush and grows wild all around the globe. And it is juniper that gives gin its pine aroma and bitter(ish) taste.
When dried the essential oils obtained from coriander seeds provide an unexpected citrus top note to gin.
Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices.It is from the ginger family and is often found in the rice portion of your Indian takeaway.Not much cardamom is needed.It can provide gin with a distinctive, spicy flavour that works with juniper and coriander.
Orris root is from the rhizomes of the Iris plant and has a faint, sweet aroma. If you are old enough to remember Parma Violet, then it is very similar to that.However, it is not used for its scent but for it’s fixative powers.
Angelica root, which we know as the crystallised green streams used in cake-decorating and trifles, adds another earthy note to the gin and marries the other botanical ingredients together.
The oil derived from lemon and orange peels is used as flavouring in gin. Different brands of gin use varying blends of botanicals which gives them their individuality.
The alcohol that carries the botanicals in Plymouth Gin is wheat-based and comes from Yorkshire.
Exit through the shop
Three types of gin are on sale in the shop at the end of the tour: Regular Plymouth Gin is 41% and is generally used for a standard gin and tonic. (Tonic water originally contained quinine which was used to protect against malaria in the tropics.The gin was added to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine).
And Navy Strength
Navy Strength Plymouth Gin which is 57%. It seems that ordinary strength gin – if leaked onto the gunpowder on board ship – would render the gunpowder useless. But they found that the higher proof gin, if accidentally spilled onto gunpowder, would enhance the properties of the powder.And so Navy Strength was provided for officers of the Royal Navy, which they drank with water.Ratings, however were still issued with their rum ration.
And Sloe Gin
Sloes are harvested locally from Dartmoor. They are stored in sugar and gin for four months to make a delightful, slightly almond-flavoured liquer.It goes well with Stilton as an alternative to port.
Copa Balloon Glass
I also purchased a Copa glass.This is the type of balloon glass that has a stem, a bit like a red wine glass. The Copa de Balon glass dates back to the 1700s – so not as modern as I imagined.
A Gimlet is gin mixed with lime cordial.Again, this has its roots in the Royal Navy, the lime provided the vitamin C and is where English sailors got their name ‘Limeys’ (from the Yankees).
A Pink Gin is again thought to have originated from the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin is a ‘sweet’ gin, as opposed to London gin which is ‘dry’, and had angostura bitters added as an antidote for sea sickness.
A typical pink gin is one part gin and one dash of angostura bitters.
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about gin. Drink anyone?
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.