My Favourite Christmas Recipes

Oh how time whizzes by, now it’s only a week until Christmas day. I’ve been much more organised this year, so I’m feeling pretty pleased. Although, it’s been tricky with us all fighting off coughs and colds. I’m sure I’ll make last minute batches of cookies and mince pies but I’d love to squeeze in time to make a gingerbread house. Not forgetting that I need to decorate my Christmas cake too, I guess I’m going to be busy.

In case you missed them, here are my easy but very tasty Christmas recipes for 2014.

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

There’s something very Christmassy about cranberries and pistachios. I love the flecks of green, red and white in these cookies and they are simply gorgeous.

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake

A real party dessert tasting like the creamiest ice cream ever. It’s the perfect make ahead dessert.

Chocolate and Caramel Meringue Dessert

Chocolate and Peppermint Christmas Tree Cookies

These yummy chocolate and peppermint cookies will definitely please everyone. They are quite moreish, it’s hard to only eat just one.

Julie's Family Kitchen

Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Incredibly easy and a bit of a cheat I admit, these quick puff pastry mince pies and can be rustled up in no time at all.

Puff Pastry Mince Pies

I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas.

Until next time.

Julie
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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Nigella Christmas

Julie's Family Kitchen

I simply couldn’t let December pass by and not feature Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson in ‘My Kitchen Cookbooks’ series. Nigella Christmas is an iconic Christmas recipe book full of enticing and decadent delights. It oozes Christmas charm and is a joy to browse through whilst planning your Christmas feast. I received my copy as a Christmas present quite a few years ago and it’s a book I turn to every year for festive inspiration. It has recently been republished with a stylised front cover but I quite like my retro looking copy.

Nigella has all manner of Christmas meals catered for in this book from informal suppers to the main event featuring roast turkey. There’s a huge variety of side dishes, starters, canapés and cocktails too.

The Spruced Up Vanilla Cake recipe is one I’ve been meaning to try for a long while, in fact I bought the Nordic Ware Holiday Tree bundt tin especially a couple of years ago but just never got round to it. I have to admit the thought of using a bundt tin for the first time was a little scary, I had visions of bits of cake clinging to the side and the resulting cake looking a complete disaster. As you can see from the picture, I shouldn’t have worried. I sprayed the tin inside liberally with cake release spray and the cake came out with no bother at all. The Spruced Up Vanilla Cake really has the WOW factor and is an ideal centre piece for a Christmas party.

Julie's Family Kitchen

I don’t know about you but I actually like brussels sprouts. Inspired by Nigella’s recipe, I now always cook my brussels sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta. I don’t bother with the Marsala wine as Nigella recommends but it’s definitely a great way to liven up sprouts.

My favourite chapter in Nigella Christmas has to be ‘Joy to the world – Christmas baking and sweet treats’, I just wish I had enough time to bake everything. One year I baked two batches of the super chocolatey Christmas Chocolate Biscuits for my girls to take into school for the class Christmas parties. I’ve also baked the very delicious Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies as presents for the class teachers and the school lollypop lady.

I don’t usually make a Christmas pudding as I always make a Christmas cake instead. This year I’m seriously considering making the ‘Chocolate Pudding for Christmas Pudding Haters with Hot Chocolate Sauce’, it looks like a chocolate lovers dream dessert and I think it will please everyone. There’s an amazing chapter on edible gifts, perfect if you like to make and give your own Christmas hampers. Nigella really has got everything covered with a fabulous selection of chutneys, flavoured vodkas and sweet things.

Nigella Christmas is a cookbook I’d definitely recommend and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for the foodie in your life.

Until next time.

Julie
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Seasoned Pioneers Product Review

Julie's Family Kitchen

I was recently sent a package of goodies from Seasoned Pioneers to review. You probably have come across the brand for selling around the world spices in resealable foil pouches (designed to retain the freshness and protect the spices from light). Their range includes over 300 authentic spices, chillies, herbs seasonings, specialist ingredients plus a range of organic products too. I’ve been using their tamarind paste for a long time in a lamb dhansak recipe so I was very confident about the quality.

Seasoned Pioneers sent me their Mulled Wine Spices and their Eight Seed Mix. With the Christmas festivities almost upon us I was keen to try out the Mulled Wine Spices to make up a jug of mulled wine, something I’ve never tried before! Containing a mix of cinnamon, cassia, orange peel, allspice berries and clove buds, the aroma that filled the kitchen whilst the spices were simmering with sugar and water was intoxicating. I then added a bottle of Merlot and heated it through. The mulled wine tasted divine and it’s certainly a drink I’ll be serving at Christmas. The instructions also tell you how to make a non alcoholic version too, perfect for children and those who can’t drink alcohol.

Julie's Family Kitchen

The Eight Seed Mix contains mix of white sesame seeds, brown linseed, black sesame seeds, nigella seeds, chia seeds, blue poppy seeds, white poppy seeds and golden linseed. Described on the packaging as mini seeds, I think the eight seed mix would be ideal to use in baking homemade bread and rolls. Something that I’m planning on experimenting with soon.

Until next time.

Julie
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Disclose: I was sent free samples of Seasoned Pioneers products to review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Chocolate and Peppermint Christmas Tree Cookies


Julie's Family Kitchen

Are you starting to feel Christmassy yet? Well I certainly did last night. My youngest daughter was singing Christmas carols with the school choir in the local church for their annual Christmas concert. It was a lovely evening and I felt so proud of her performing to a church full of people. There’s nothing like singing and listening to Christmas carols to get you feeling festive.

This is undoubtably mine and my children’s favourite school term, next week there is the school nativity play to see and more carol services. Plus, not forgetting the Christmas class parties to supply with goodies, I’ll probably bake a few batches of these incredibly moreish Chocolate and Peppermint Christmas Tree Cookies for my girls to take in. Super chocolatey with a hint of peppermint, I’m sure the kids will love these cute cookies and you too. If you’re not keen on peppermint just leave it out. Otherwise, my top tip is to only add one or two drops of peppermint extract so the flavour is not too over powering.

Julie's Family Kitchen

Here’s my recipe for Chocolate and Peppermint Christmas Tree Cookies.

Ingredients (makes 20 depending on cutter size)

50g golden caster sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
75g unsalted butter (softened)
335g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
75g golden syrup
1 large egg
1½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
200g icing sugar
green gel food colour
1 or 2 drops of peppermint extract
silver sugar balls

Method

1. Cream together the butter, golden caster sugar and light muscovado sugar until well combined.

2. Add the flour, cocoa powder, golden syrup, egg, milk and vanilla extract and mix until the mixture becomes a dough.

3. Shape into a flatten ball and place in a plastic food bag then refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

4. Pre heat your oven to Fan 160c and line 2 or 3 baking sheets with baking parchment.

5. Roll out the cookie between two sheets of baking parchment to a thickness of 5mm. I usually cut the dough in half and roll out half at a time as it’s much more manageable.

6. Using a Christmas tree shape cutter (mine measures 8cm in length) cut as many shapes as possible and place on the lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining half of cookie dough.

7. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes. Once baked remove from the baking sheets and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

8. Once the cookies are cool make the peppermint icing by mixing the icing sugar with just enough water to create a thick spreadable icing. Add a few drops of the green gel food colour to get the desired green colour, then add 1 or 2 drops of peppermint extract and mix well.

9. Using a teaspoon spread a triangle of icing on top of each cookie, then decorate with silver sugar balls. I recommend you decorate 3 cookies at a time, so the sugar balls stick to the icing.

Julie's Family Kitchen

Making Christmas tree cookies has become a real family tradition of ours, I hope you enjoy them too.

Until next time, happy festive baking.

Julie
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Giveaway: Win a copy of Charcuterie by Miranda Ballard

Charcuterie by Miranda Ballard

Charcuterie by Miranda Ballard, photography by Steve Painter, published by Ryland Peters & Small rrp: £16.99

I have a fantastic cookbook giveaway on the blog just in time for Christmas. One lucky reader will win a copy of Charcuterie by Miranda Ballard, courtesy of Ryland, Peters and Small. This inspiring book is essential reading if you enjoy eating and cooking with cured meats, like chorizo, pancetta and prosciutto. Providing you with in depth knowledge of the different types of charcuterie and salumi (yes, the spelling is correct!) from Italy, France and Spain you will be transported to sunnier climes.

There’s a number of tasty looking recipes in the Small Bites chapter that I’d like to try over the festive period. If you’re looking for a lighter meal over the Christmas holidays, why not try the Pancetta, Brussels Sprout, Chestnut and Camembert Christmas Salad with Cranberry Sauce, I’m sure that will convert anyone with an aversion to sprouts.

I tried my hand at the Chorizo and Bean Burger recipe, as you can see it’s a mighty burger packed full of punchy flavours and it tasted amazing.

Chorizo and Bean Burger

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Charcuterie you will need to complete the Rafflecopter entry form and provide an answer to the giveaway question as a blog comment. Once, you have done that there are further chances to win.

Click here to enter the giveaway

The giveaway is open until 00:00 on 18 December 2014 and is open to UK entrants only.

I wish you all the very best of luck.

Julie
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Terms and Conditions:
This giveaway will close at 00:00 on 18 December 2014. This prize is offered by Ryland, Peters and Small and I am hosting it on behalf of them. Please note, I am not responsible for posting the prize out or providing it. The winner will be selected at random from all correct entries received by the Rafflecopter widget. The winner will be notified within 7 days of the closing date. Ryland, Peters and Small or their representative will send out the prize within 14 days of the winner providing me with their name and address. The prize is as stated, a copy of Charcuterie by Miranda Ballard, no cash alternatives are available. This giveaway is open to UK entrants only.

Disclosure:
Ryland, Peters and Small are kindly offering the prize to one lucky reader. I have not been sponsored or paid to host this giveaway, although I have received a copy of Charcuterie to review.

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Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake

Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake

The festive period is the perfect time for family and friends to get together and enjoy good food. When entertaining for lots of people it can be quite easy to buy too much food and drink. So when Sainsbury’s asked food bloggers to come up with ideas on how to use up leftover chocolate I decided to create a centre piece dessert ideal for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Tasting simply like creamy ice cream this indulgent dessert with chocolate chunks and caramel swirls is absolutely heavenly. This extremely easy to prepare dessert should hopefully wow your guests.

Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake

Here’s my recipe for Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake.

Ingredients (Serves 8-10)

600ml double cream
200g meringue nests (I used 16 meringue nests)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
75g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
397g tin Carnation caramel
silver sugar balls

Method

1. Line a 9inch/23cm cake tin with 2 over hanging layers of cling film, lay one horizontally and the other vertically across the bottom of the tin.

2. In a bowl whip the double cream until you reach the soft peaks stage, then stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Crush the meringue nests and crumble into the whipped cream.

4. Using a sharp knife chop 50g dark chocolate and 50g milk chocolate into small chunks (about 5mm) and add to the mixture, then gently fold in so everything is mixed together.

5. Place half the mixture in the lined cake tin, add 5 tablespoons of the caramel on top and swirl in the mixture using a blunt knife. Add the remaining mixture and repeat with another 5 tablespoons of caramel.

6 Cover the top with the over hanging cling film. Freeze overnight.

7. Transfer the cream meringue cake to a serving plate. Melt the remaining chocolate in a bain marie and then drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle over the silver sugar balls.

8. Allow 15 minutes before cutting the cream meringue cake, then serve with the remaining caramel if you wish. Enjoy!

Frozen Chocolate Caramel Cream Meringue Cake

Until next time.

Julie
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Disclosure: Sainsbury’s sponsored me to write this blog post. All words are my own. All opinions are honest and my own. The recipe is my own.

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Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies


Puff Pastry Mince Pies

It’s only 5 weeks to Christmas, yes 5 weeks! Really, where has the time gone? I’m feeling quite good about my Christmas preparations, my Christmas cake is baked, my family have been invited for Christmas dinner and I’ve done about half of my Christmas shopping. This year I’m on track to get Christmas organised, stress free (I hope!).

I do love a good mince pie to put me in a festive frame of mind. Well to get into the spirit of all things festive, I rustled up these super Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies and they went down a treat with everyone. They really are the ultimate cheat using shop bought puff pastry and mincemeat but no one need ever know! With so much to do around Christmas time, a few shortcuts and cheats makes life a little easier, don’t you agree?

Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Here’s my recipe for Quick Puff Pastry Mince Pies.

Ingredients (Makes 10)

375g ready rolled puff pastry
½ jar of mincemeat (I used half of a 411g jar)
½ tablespoon demerara sugar
1 egg

Method

1. Pre heat your oven to Fan 180c.

2. Remove the pastry from the packaging and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

3. Unroll the pastry and using a 7.5cm round pastry cutter cut out 20 pastry rounds.

4. Evenly space 10 pastry rounds on two non stick baking sheets, then place about 2 teaspoons of mincemeat in the centre of each.

5. Moisten the inside edge of the pastry rounds with a little water and place the remaining pastry rounds on top to form the mince pies.

6. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with a tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the mince pies, then sprinkle with demerara sugar. Pierce each pie on the top in the centre with a knife to allow steam to escape.

7. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown and puffed. Enjoy with a dollop of extra thick cream.

Puff Pastry Mince Pies

Until next time.

Julie
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Tomato and Basil Soup

Tomato and Basil Soup

How hard can it be to make a simple tomato soup? Seriously, I was beginning to question this myself. Well, a lot harder than I originally thought that’s for sure because my first attempt failed miserably. Thankfully, I’ve now come up with this Tomato and Basil Soup recipe that tastes utterly delicious with a beautiful balance of sweetness and acidity (which is where I went wrong before). Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make too. Using storecupboard ingredients this flavoursome soup is most definitely a soup I’m going to make regularly.

Tomato and Basil Soup

Here’s my recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

½ tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion (very finely chopped)
½ clove of garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried basil
500g passata
400g tin of chopped tomatoes (best quality)
200ml cold water
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
sea salt and black pepper
handful of fresh basil leaves (chopped) plus extra to garnish

Method

1. Heat the olive oil in a large lidded casserole pan, then sauté the onions until soft.

2. Stir in the garlic and dried basil, sauté for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the passata, tinned tomatoes, water, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Season with a good pinch of sea salt and a grinding of black pepper. Stir well.

4. Bring to the boil, then put on the lid and simmer gently for 1 hour. Just before serving stir through the chopped fresh basil leaves. Serve the soup in warm bowls with a couple of basil leaves on top.

Serve the Tomato and Basil soup with crusty wholemeal rolls.

Tomato and Basil Soup

The aroma that filled the house after I made this soup was just amazing. I made the soup in the morning then had to take the girls to their gym class. It was so good to come home for lunch to the welcoming smell of homemade tomato and basil soup on a very damp and cold day. My girls and I loved the soup, I hope you enjoy it too.

Until next time.

Julie
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Have you baked your Christmas cake yet?

Christmas Cake 2014

Have you baked your Christmas cake yet? If you haven’t now is the ideal time, allowing you plenty of time to feed your Christmas cake with rum or brandy before the big day. Quite a few years ago, I found a superb recipe in a Women’s Weekly Cookery and Craft Special and ever since then it has been my go to Christmas cake recipe. The kind editor at Women’s Weekly gave me permission to publish the recipe on the blog last year, so you can find it here.

The recipe is really easy to follow and the cake tastes amazing, it’s a guaranteed way of impressing your friends and family on Christmas day. I’m sure you too will be delighted with the result.

I baked my Christmas cake yesterday (a little later than usual!), now it’s wrapped in baking parchment and foil. When I remember, I’ll feed it with a drop or two of dark rum. Then, during the week before Christmas I’ll begin to decorate it with marzipan and sugarpaste.

Here’s a few of the Christmas cakes I’ve made before.

Happy Christmas Baking!

Julie
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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Paul Hollywood’s British Baking


Paul Hollywood's British Baking

It’s probably no real surprise that Paul Hollywood’s British Baking is one of the latest books to adorn my bookshelf. It was a birthday present from my husband and children along with a copy of The Great British Bake Off Christmas. Perfect for a Bake Off fan like me. I even managed to get my copy of British Baking signed by the very man himself at the recent BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show in London.

Paul Hollywood

In his latest offering Paul Hollywood has researched recipes from up and down the British Isles. The book is divided into regions, the Southwest, the South & Southeast, the Midlands, the North, Wales, Ireland and Scotland which all have their own individual baking traditions but there are many similarities too, such as griddle baking and steamed puddings.

I really like the style and layout of this delightful book, each region is introduced with a charming explanation of its baking history and characteristics. All the recipes have clear instructions and are accompanied by a beautifully styled photo. Some of the bakes I’ve never heard of before e.g Ecclefechan Butter Tarts and Kentish Huffkins, so having that all important photo is extremely helpful. Plus, you’ll find there are a few recipes with step by step photos too.

I think my favourite chapter has to be the one on Scotland, the recipes look incredibly enticing. I’m sure I’ll be making the Raspberry Crumble Cake and Treacle Sponge Pudding featured in that chapter very soon. I did find it quite amusing to see a recipe for Cheese and Chive Scones of which I have my very own version here.

I chose to bake the Marmalade Cake first of all. Worryingly, the mixture did appear curdled quite early on so I added a spoonful of flour with the last two eggs (I think the eggs were too cold!). I baked my cake at Fan 160c and after 40 minutes of baking it looked golden brown but wasn’t cooked through. I decided to cover the cake with a layer of foil and placed it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once the cake had cooled and knowing my family are quite keen on icing I made a glacé icing using orange juice to finish it off. I was pretty pleased with this cake regardless of the minor hiccups I had, which didn’t appear to effect the overall bake. The cake had a lovely tangy sour orange flavour from the marmalade and a little sweetness from the orange icing, it’s definitely a cake I’d make again.

Marmalade Cake

Other bakes I’d like to try include the Denby Dale Pie (a tasty looking meat and potato pie), Chocolate Heavies (a chocolate chip biscuit I think my children will love) and the Dorset Apple Cake (perfect with my mid morning cuppa!).

I would love to know if you have tried any of the recipes from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking and how you got on. Please let me know if you have any recommendations of which recipes I should try next.

Until next time.

Julie
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