Festive Food …

I’ve really enjoyed preparing all of our festive food this year. I started a few weeks ago with a Beetroot Chutney that I first made this time last year, it proved to be delicious again and will no doubt be made again next year. I also tried a Plum Jam recipe, this tasted incredible with the turkey – a truly delicious combination. Also served with our turkey were Turmeric & Polenta coated Roast Potatoes, Glazed Carrots and Parsnips and a Sausage-meat, Apricot and Butternut Squash Stuffing:

xmas collage 2The Salmon Blinis were made yesterday (Boxing Day) and were served alongside various leftovers, Confit Turkey Legs, Sausage Rolls, Focaccia Bread and Lamb Samosas.

The cheesecake in the photo above was a ‘Trifle Cheesecake’ – I don’t think I’ll ever make a trifle again as this was so much better! The base was a simple buttery biscuit base (click here to see a you tube clip that we are reminded of each time we hear the words ‘Buttery Biscuit Base’!), the cheese layer was a killer combination of cream cheese, double cream and custard and the final layer was simply raspberry jelly with fresh raspberries. It turned out to be a huge cheesecake (weighing over 2 kilos!!) – it’s no wonder that it has lasted 3 days so far and there’s still more left for tomorrow. It’s a gift that just keeps on giving!!

Other festive treats have included Chocolate Truffles with orange matchmaker ‘sticks’, Coconut & Chocolate Caramels (the Caramel was infused with cardamom pods, star anise, fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick) and Strawberry Cream Shortbread Biscuits:

xmas collage 3

Finally, it just wouldn’t be Christmas with out our Biscuit Tree. We’ve made one each year for the past 7 years, it has become as much a part of our family Christmas as our Christmas tree and Christmas crackers:

xmas collage 1


It’s been a wonderful feast of a festive time and we will no doubt be enjoying the left overs for many more days to come 🎄




Cheerful Chicken and a Tricky Trifle …

Yesterday, my parents and my parents-in-law came for our annual triple birthday lunch, both of my children and I have birthdays around September/October and we’ve got in to the habit of hosting a lunch to celebrate all three in one go. I decided to try a new bread recipe – Ficelles with Truffle Oil. These were incredibly easy and satisfying to make, first in my mixer with a dough hook, they then rise a phenomenal amount, they are then cut into strips and left for a second proving. The smell of the truffle oil was amazing, it filled the kitchen. Alongside the ficelles, I served one of my family’s favourites, Lemon Chicken with Herbed Rice. The combination of paprika and flour coated chicken, drizzled with a lemon, soy, olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a winner. To follow, we had a choice of Beetroot and Chocolate Cake and/or Trifle. It’s been a long time since I made a trifle and chose to make all the components from scratch. Vanilla cupcakes were used for the base layer, soaked in sherry, these were followed by raspberry jelly – I used frozen raspberries and leaf gelatine both of which worked a treat. Now for the ‘tricky’ part – the custard. I’ve made vanilla custard before and have never had an issue with curdling. Yesterday however, I did have such an issue. When my second batch curdled, I was convinced I’d have to resort to my tin of ‘Bird’s Custard Powder’ – I decided to look to Google to help me out and after sieving, blitzing, adding a tiny amount of cornflour (custard made without starch is particulally prone to curdling apparently) and gently re-heating, I had a custard that I could use on my trifle. As custards go, it wasn’t the most solid but the taste was definitely there. Our trifle was topped with lightly whipped cream and caramel-chocolate chunks. Everyone seemed to enjoy their food:


My mum, who’s blog is here: www.leadupthegardenpath.com asked me yesterday about collaging photos, it reminded me that I can do this too, hence my photos of our food from yesterday. If you get the chance, take a look at her blog, she is after all where I get my sense of creativity from!

Baking Hot …

Phew, yesterday was another scorcher, so what did I decide to do to keep cool? Yes, I decided to bake. We were going out in the evening (to see Giffords Circus – if you get the chance to see them, do, they were incredible, funny and surreal, all at the same time) and due to the timing of the show, we decided to take a picnic.

For our savoury dish, I wanted to use some lovely Scottish salmon fillets, I wanted something along the lines of a Salmon en Croûte. In the end I made a combination of several recipes. The pastry was rough puff – the first time I’d ever made it – and it was layered with a herbed pancake, saffron rice, finely chopped and shallow fried onion and mushroom, chopped hard boiled egg and a seared salmon fillet (skin removed). It took several hours to prepare but it was fantastic to have that time available to make it:

An added bonus is that we have enough of these left for us to have for our tea tonight.

We’ve recently discovered the restaurant chain ‘Bill’s‘, we love the way the restaurant is set out with the combination of old industrial pipework and ornate chandeliers, we also love the food, its range, freshness and all round yumminess. After our first visit there, I bought the cookbook ‘Cook, Eat, Smile’ and yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to  try out one of the recipes. I chose the Beetroot and Chocolate Cake. In the same way that Carrot Cakes are almost always moist, the beetroot in this cake kept the sponge deliciously so. The beetroot also gave the sponge an incredibly rich colour and wondrous depth of flavour. Sandwiched between the two sponges, were a chocolate buttercream and a Black Forest Gâteau inspired cherry jam. This is a definite crowd pleaser and I’ll certainly be adding it to my list of favourites:

Something Fishy, Birthday Celebrations and a Colourful Curry …

I thoroughly enjoyed painting today. I used salt to add texture to the sky within the fish – it was good to use it again and had forgotten how effective it can be:
IMG_2706It was my parents’ birthday lunch at the weekend. It went really well, there were a few surprises along the way and luckily all the food turned out as well as I had hoped;

Chicken Risotto with White Truffle Oil, served with Foccacia Bread was our main course. This was another recipe from Katie Quinn Davies ‘What Katie Ate’ and it was very tasty indeed. To follow, we had a choice of 3 desserts:

Tiramisu has been a long term favourite and here we had our own individual servings. I’d made the sponges and had assembled the puddings the night before, this gave the sponges plenty of time to soak up the coffee and brandy.

Strawberries dipped in melted chocolate and served with the buttery-est of shortbread biscuits went down well too.

I couldn’t give my parents a special celebratory lunch without meringues, it’s amazing how egg whites and caster sugar can transform themselves in to such deliciousness!! The leftovers were good the next day too 🙂

Yesterday we had a hot, spicy and very colourful curry. The weather has not been great so far this week and this hearty dish was just what we needed to brighten our day:


A Birthday Surprise …

It was my Dad’s 70th birthday last week, both he and my Mum hit this milestone within a few weeks of each other. They are both coming for a celebratory lunch in a couple of weeks – I’m having fun trying out a few different dishes on my family as I decide what to cook for the day itself. On my Dad’s birthday, we decided to surprise him by turning up at the restaurant Mum was taking him to that evening. Staff at the restaurant had suggested to my Mum that a cake could be brought for us to have at the end of the meal, chocolate is my Dad’s favourite and this is what I made for him:

It was lovely to spend some time with them both on Dad’s birthday, driving 2 hours each way was definitely worth it.

It’s Been a While …

It really has been a while since I last posted and I’ve got lots of things to share. A combination of lots of work and my friend’s funeral have meant that I’ve not really been in the right frame of mind. However, I’ve had a lovely, relaxing weekend at home with my boys and I decided it’s time to post again.

The new header above was done today, here’s the full image:

Purple FlowersI’ve been looking at a couple of websites which permit you to upload an image (provided you have the rights to it) and create a ‘phone cover with it. I’ve used some of the above painting to do just that, I’ll let you see the finished article once it’s arrived here later this week.

There was a ‘New Moon’ here in Bristol a couple of weeks ago, it was simply a large illuminated balloon but it made the surrounding buildings look beautiful:

Here we have a sweet treat – puff pastry rolled out and lined with ground ginger, cinnamon and finely chopped apple, rolled up and then cut in to slices before being baked for about 10 minutes. A dusting if icing sugar ensured this was indeed a very sweet treat:
The morning of my friend’s funeral dawned and we were bathed in sunlight. It was a truly beautiful day and I had the tremendous honour of being one of her pall bearers, being so close to her on her final journey was incredible. Back to baking. I’d not baked a carrot cake for quite some time and I’m not sure why I baked one last weekend, I obviously had a sudden urge to make one. This one was made using Nigel Slater’s recipe from volume 1 of Tender. It’s a beautifully moist cake and the frosting is astonishing being a combination of mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, icing sugar and orange zest: This is a lemon chicken that we had mid-week. It has to be one of the tastiest chicken recipes I have ever had. It’s from the stunning book “What Katie Ate, Recipes and other Bots and Bobs’. The chicken is actually baked in the oven, first covered in a simple paprika and flour combination, then covered in a sauce made up of soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic: Final photo for tonight, Chocolate Cupcakes – with a difference! These had their centres removed, the holes were filled with chocolate buttercream icing, melted chocolate was then poured onto the top where it was left to set, dusted with purple sugar crystals. They were delicious – soon, when it’s my husband’s birthday, I plan to make him some of these but with salted caramel centres instead…


Bread, Chicken Noodles & Chocolate …

This title is a summary of our food this weekend. We had the bread yesterday for tea, it was really tasty and was great fun to make as it contained both bacon and grated cheese :

Bacon & Cheese BreadTwo of these loaves were eaten almost straight from the oven, we had another warmed through for our breakfast this morning and will probably have the last one at some point tomorrow.

Today, friends came for lunch and we had Chicken & Coconut Noodles followed by Chocolate Lava Cakes. The noodles were the highlight of our main meal, they were cooked as normal, then a ginger and coconut sauce that had been made yesterday, was added to them and warmed through whilst the chicken, chillies, ginger, onions and red pepper were stir fried:

Chicken & Coconut NoodlesThis was served with salad and spicy dressing:

Salad & Spicy DressingDessert was Chocolate Lava Cakes. I’ve always shied away from these as they have appeared quite tricky to master. Ensuring the outside of the cakes are cooked whilst the middle is still runny was a bit of a challenge, but I think I just about succeeded:

Chocolate Lava CakeThese were served with raspberries and home made vanilla ice cream. I couldn’t get a decent photo of the inside of the cakes as I’d put them in bowls – next time I’ll serve them on plates just so I can get a shot of the runny insides!!