Category Archives: Christmas

Christmas Canapés

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Christmas Canapés

For our early family Christmas dinner, I was responsible for starters and desserts. For starters I decided to do canapés, so people could eat as much/little as they liked, and still leave space for a huge turkey dinner.

Of course, stupidly I decided to make everything from scratch, rather than buying some from M&S!

Whilst each individual canapé was easy to make, it did end up being very time consuming. Most of them had aspects that could be made ahead, leaving just simple assembly on the day, so that helped. And I know that I’m biased, but they were delicious.

Our menu was:

  • Beetroot and goats cheese napoleons
  • Pears with blue cheese and prosciutto
  • Goats cheese and asparagus frittata
  • Scotch quails eggs
  • Caprese bites

In terms of make-ahead, I did the following:

Bake beetroot, Boil and peel quails eggs (fiddly!), Make frittata (but leave whole, and cut up on the day). I also made the scotch eggs the night before, but didn’t bake them until the next day.

All of the recipes are online, and I’ve just given my tips/thoughts below.

Beetroot and goats cheese napoleons

These went down an absolute storm, with adults and children alike. They are so delicious! I made them a little too ahead of time, so the goats cheese filling went a bit pink too. When they are freshly made the white goats cheese contrasts beautifully with the beetroot. I am definitely going to make these again with beetroot from my allotment, where I grow a range of different types of beetroot.

For speed you could make them with those packets of pre-cooked beetroot. I also used whatever vinegar I had in the cupboard as I didn’t have rice vinegar. I also didn’t bother with the dressing. And I put skewers in the stacks to help with eating.

Recipe from Saveur.com – check it out here

Pears with blue cheese and prosciutto

These are very simple, and lovely and fresh. I used dolcelatte cheese, which is quite mild, and I didn’t bother adding in the rocket. I also didn’t bother with the lemon juice because I was serving them straight away.

Recipe from Realsimple.com – you can find it here

Goats cheese and asparagus frittata

Super simple and quick to make. I didn’t have as many eggs as the recipe said, so I just used what I had and made it in a small pan. I added random herbs from my garden. You could add any veg or cheese you like.

Recipe from thecooks pyjamas.com – see here

Scotch quails eggs

No photo for these – I forgot to take one, and they had disappeared by the time I remembered!

It’s nice to have a hot canapé as well as the cold ones. And these are perfect two bite scotch eggs. The recipe is for 12 eggs, but I used a pack of 6 sausages, and managed to make 20 scotch eggs.

I made them up to the point of frying, and then baked them just before we needed them.

A top tip when putting the flour, egg and breadcrumbs onto the sausage covered eggs is to have one hand for wet and one hand for dry. So (for example), with your left hand toss the egg in the flour, then pick it up with your left hand and drop it into the egg. Pick it up and toss it with your right hand, then pick it up with your right and drop it into the breadcrumbs. Toss it with your left hand and then pick it up with your left and drop it into the frying pan.

I used a frying pan and a small amount of fat. I do think it would be better to deep fry them to get a more even colour.

Recipe from Good Housekeeping. Recipe here

Caprese bites

Super simple, super quick and popular! Just thread a cherry tomato, a bocconcini (tiny mozzarella ball) and a basil leaf onto a skewer.

I served them on a large wooden platter, and bought some nice bamboo cocktail sticks from Amazon to make them look a little more special. They disappeared in no time, and I was really pleased with how they looked and tasted.

Related posts: Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova, Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

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Tiny Gingerbread Houses

If, like me, you are a Pinterest addict, you will no doubt have seen lots of lovely photos of tiny gingerbread houses beautifully balanced on mugs.

I’ve wanted to make them for ages, so I ordered a set of cutters online from eBay. I think they came from China!

Once they arrived I used the recipe in the Biscuiteers book that I mentioned in the Iced Biscuits (Cookies) post. It’s got treacle, and a range of spices in it, and I doubled the ginger, and added the grated zest of an orange, which was a genius move, because it tasted great. I didn’t want to over mix it so it was a bit streaky when I rolled it out, but it got less so when I gathered up the scraps and re-rolled it. The recipe is here. I also recommend checking the biscuits after 12 minutes (the recipe says 14-18, but I find that a bit long).

I used this new rolling pin with the rubber rings round the end to get an even thickness all round – the only disadvantage is that it’s a bit small, so you can’t do a massive piece of dough all at once.

The cutter is a front/back, side and roof. You need two of each per house. If you’re sensible (unlike me), you will cut an equal number of each so you have complete houses. Of course I didn’t and ended up with a few odd pieces, which were the cooks treat, and good for testing the icing before committing to the houses!

A baker friend recommended using meringue powder to make the icing, so I bought a tub from The Vanilla Valley. It’s known as Meri White. It means you don’t need egg whites, so don’t get loads of left over egg yolks. It was really easy, and once I had followed her recipe (1kg icing sugar, 10tbsp meringue powder, 180ml water) I then added orange juice to water it down to the right consistency – so it enhanced the orange in the biscuit. Note this makes a lot of icing – but you can freeze it, and it works just as well when you’ve defrosted it as it does fresh. Some people use less meringue powder, but my friend recommends the recipe from Sweet Ambs, who says it gives more stability, and stops the icing crusting over so quickly before you use it.

We iced the individual pieces first, and left them to dry before building the houses. My 8 year old particularly enjoyed this bit – not sure how much arrives on the biscuit, and how much in her mouth! I think I cut the hole in the icing bag a bit big, but pretty pleased with the results.

She went off to bed once we had done this bit, and I stuck them together later on.

I just piped thick lines of icing on the joins and stuck them together.

I left them to dry for a while before adding the roof.

And then added extra icing as snow along the ridge and edges.

Here they are decorating the table at my Sister’s before they got rapidly consumed by a load of kids.

And of course the obligatory shot of one on a mug! They were a bit big for that – so check the size of your cookie cutter before you buy it, but they made great table decorations.

Related posts: Iced Biscuits (Cookies)

Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

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Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

I made this for an early Christmas dinner that we had recently. My Sister in Law is gluten free, and I wanted to make something she could eat. It’s also pretty easy, looks great, and tastes amazing. There is alcohol in it, but not so much that anyone is going to get drunk, (our kids ate it), but you can leave it out or replace it with almond essence if you prefer.

Cherry and almond is one of my favourite flavour combinations, in fact anything with cherries is good in my book. Though if we’re being strictly truthful, amaretto is actually made with peach kernels not almonds.

You could replace the almond with chocolate if you want something more Black Forest gateau flavoured.

On top of the eggs and sugar for the meringue, you need almond extract, amaretto, a large pot of double cream (600ml), 400g fresh cherries (pitted), 200g fresh raspberries (you can use just cherries if you prefer, but I like the freshness of the raspberries too) and a jar of Cherries in kirsch. I used these from Lakeland. Sainsbury’s also do some as do Waitrose and probably loads of other places. Drain them and cut them in half. Beware it’s a sticky job.

I used my trusty meringue recipe, which you can find here, added a teaspoon of almond extract at the very end. I use the Sainsbury’s French Almond one, which I think is great – make sure you use extract not essence as essence is not a natural product. I then divided it into three circles of about 20cm – I drew round a small plate onto the underside of some parchment paper. If you want it to be taller – make four smaller circles.

To add a lovely flavour I made a purée by blending a handful of the fresh (pitted) cherries (about a handful) and a handful of the raspberries, sieving them to get rid of the seeds, and boiling to reduce it down a bit.

I then splodged it onto the meringue circles and swirled it around with a wooden kebab stick.

I try and bake meringue on as low a heat as possible. My own only goes to 80 degrees centigrade, so I use that. It takes several hours to dry out the meringue. The cream will soften up the meringue, so I wanted it to be quite crisp and baked for around 3 hours.

Once the meringue disks are cold it’s time to start layering up. If you want the meringue to stay crisp, leave this till just before you serve. I made mine several hours before we ate, and the meringue went very soft (and still very delicious!).

Add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the cream. Whip the cream to soft peaks and add some amaretto to taste. Beware – it tastes amazing!

Put a little bit of cream on the plate you are going to use and stick the worst looking meringue to the cream. This will stop it sliding around. Add some cream and spread it around to the edge of the disk.

I placed a row of kirsch cherries around the edge, and filled in the middle with the fresh cherries and raspberries- push them down a little into the cream the put more cream on the top so the layer is quite smooth.

For the other layer I placed fresh cherries around the edge and kirsch cherries and raspberries in the middle.

Add the final layer on top, add some cream in the middle of the layer (to help the fruit to stick) and make a lovely pile of the remainder of the fruit.

Don’t worry if any of the layers crack (mine did), just stick them back together with a bit of cream. It’s very forgiving!

Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. I left mine a little long, and it travelled in a car, so became a little soft and squishy. But it still tasted amazing!

I will most definitely be making it again when I have some of my home grown cherries and raspberries next summer.

Related posts: Christmas Canapés, Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

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Chocolate and Blackberry Fraisier

We had an early Christmas dinner in our family this year, as some of us are not going to be around on Christmas day.

I was responsible for starters and desserts, and I came across this blackberry fraisier recipe in a Christmas pull-out in Good Housekeeping recipe, which can be found here.

I’ve wanted to make a fraisier since I saw it in bake-off one year.

There are a lot of different steps and layers to get ready so you can layer it all together at once – it needs to chill for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight, so make sure you plan ahead.

The cake is a genoise sponge where you whisk the eggs and sugar to within an inch of their lives, and then fold the rest of the ingredients in. You do lose a little volume when you do this, as it takes a while to get them properly combined, but it still makes a lovely airy cake.

The next step as creme patisserie (ore creme pat as you always hear it referred to on bake off). I’ve never made it before, and it wasn’t overly difficult, though quite hard work on the arm with all the beating!

I did find that when I left it to cool it became overly heavy and solid, so I emptied out of the piping bag, added some milk – gave it a good beating, sieved it, and it turned out perfect! So I would say that you could reduce the amount of corn flour that the recipe recommends, and it would be just fine.

You have to make a liquid to soak the cake – the recipe has lemon juice, sugar and cassis in it, I skipped the lemon juice, added a bit of water, and used creme de mures (blackberry liqueur) instead – it worked fine!

The second to last layer is marzipan – I used bought, and I recommend using more than the recipe suggests. I found it quite hard to roll the amount recommended out to the right size – so use more, and then trim it off!

The glaze is the final thing – it was a bit lumpy when it cooled (I think it was the cocoa that hadn’t dissolved properly), so I sieved it. I probably use my sieve just as much for smoothing our lumpy mixtures as I do for sifting flour! It ran a little over the edges, so if you want a super professional finish, maybe add an extra sheet of gelatine, which will help it be more set.

It’s fun to stack it all together. You do it in the tin (without the bottom), and then remove it after chilling. I forgot to take a photo of each layer, so here is the beginning and end!

I love how it looks, and it tastes absolutely delicious!

I would definitely recommend it as a Christmas Day or dinner party centrepiece, and you could use a different fruit if you can’t get hold of blackberries (which are not in season in December, so harder to get hold of).

Related posts: Christmas Canapés, Tiny Gingerbread Houses, Cherry and Amaretto Pavlova

Homemade Christmas Chocolate Booze

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Homemade Christmas Chocolate Booze

As Christmas is coming, my thoughts are turning to nice warming drinks, and cocktails.

I love a good cocktail, and I particularly like Baileys style drinks at Christmas!

I thought I’d have a go at making my own, and then I thought it would be good to share how I got on and where I got the recipes.

The flip top Bottles are from Wilkos homebrew range. Much cheaper than the Kilner ones.

The first is Nutella liqueur. The recipe I used for inspiration is here. I made a larger batch, used single cream, and added a teaspoon of almond extract to up the nutty flavour (I’m a huge amaretto fan). I didn’t write down my measurements (I converted it into UK measures), but looking at the recipe again, I may have miscalculated and put in an equal amount of cream, Nutella and vodka. I think I did 400g nutella, 400ml cream and 400ml vodka.

I had a shot over ice, and it’s completely awesome.

It needs a good shake before you use it, and I’ve been keeping it in the fridge – it needs to warm a little before shaking it as it solidifies a bit with the high fat content!

The next one is most exciting – caramelised white chocolate liqueur. It’s to die for (if you have a sweet tooth). The recipe is here, but I didn’t have any condensed milk, so I replaced it with extra cream. I also doubled the quantities.

The making of the caramelised chocolate was the best bit. So exciting. The recipe for how to do it is here. I used 300g of Green and Blacks white chocolate, and I got about 200g of caramelised chocolate. I guess some is lost through evaporation, and some through my thorough taste testing!

I thought I would share some photos of the process.

It looks like toffee, but it has chocolatey undertones. Amazing. Delicious. Could eat it off a spoon.

Anyhow, you mix it with warm cream and vodka, and the result is like a lovely boozy pudding. If you like your drinks sweet, you should add the condensed milk, as I’ve tasted mine and it’s not particularly sweet (certainly not when compared to the Nutella one).

And now I have to think about what to do with the leftover chocolate…

Update…

Naturally we drank these at Christmas. They are both quite strong, so if you don’t like strong drinks, you might want to reduce the amount of vodka.

We drank them over ice like baileys, and discovered that if you mix them together they make an amazing drink that is better than either of them separately!