Fabulous Festive TV

At last, something with a real feel-good factor on TV. For three nights last week I was glued to Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas.

What a fantastically inspiring program. Of course, for us normal people finding the time (and money – £75 for teddy bear fabric!) is not that realistic, but I did take inspiration from many of her ideas.

Gilding pears with real gold leaf was a touch decadent, but I will certainly be using ordinary fruit – possibly apples, dusted in powdery silver glitter, with a name card inserted into each stalk. I have also tied lengths of ribbon around each dining chair to give the Christmas table a more opulent look (see p38 of the 2009 Dairy Diary for this and more ideas for the table). Instead of hanging up the old tired-looking artificial wreath Kirstie and our gardening book, Seasonal Garden Ideas, inspired me to make my own. Armed with handfuls of foliage from the garden, I pinned and tucked evergreen twigs onto a moss-stuffed wire ring and finished it off with fir cones (collected by my two year old), cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices. It’s a very lovely addition to my front door.

Of course, I haven’t escaped cooking this weekend, I finally – yes late I know – made my Christmas cake. I love the Jewelled Christmas Cake from the 2009 Dairy Diary; it is simply delicious and looks so impressive. It’s a shame my decorating skills are not so impressive, though without having to use icing (which is always a disaster) perhaps this year, I may just create something worthy of the table.

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Jewelled Christmas Cake

A fabulous Christmas cake that is both delicious and a beautiful additional to the dinner table.

Jewelled Christ Cake

Jewelled Christ Cake

Makes 20 slices
Time 3 hours 45 mins
408 calories per slice
16g fat of which 6.7g is saturated

Unsalted butter 225g (8oz), at room temperature
Soft dark brown sugar 225g (8oz)
Orange and lemon 1 of each, finely grated rind
Eggs 4 large, beaten
Plain flour 225g (8oz)
Ground almonds 110g (4oz)
Sultanas 350g (12oz)
Soft pitted prunes and apricots 110g (4oz) of each, chopped
Raisins 375g (12oz)
Glacé cherries 275g (10oz), halved
Mixed cut peel 75g (3oz)
Glacé pineapple rings, halved glacé cherries, walnut halves, blanched almonds and angelica leaves to decorate

1 Grease and line a 23cm (9in) round cake tin. Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2.

2 In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar, orange and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs, then add flour, ground almonds, and fruits and mix well. Spoon into tin and spread evenly.

3 Decorate with pineapple, cherries, nuts and angelica.

4 Bake in centre of oven for 2 hours, then cover with foil and cook for another hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin until cold.

5 When cake is cold, carefully turn cake out of tin and wrap in cling-film and foil. Allow to mature for a couple of weeks before eating. Store in a well ventilated cupboard. It should keep for 6 weeks.

Recipe taken from Dairy Diary 2009.

Frosty frivolities

We had the first real frost last week – a beautiful, thick white crust enveloping the blue/grey fields and trees, sparkling when touched by the morning sun.

It made me feel very Christmassy but reluctant to go to work.

A walk in the countryside would have been much more preferable! However, work’s been great, we are still selling lots of diaries, gift packs and cookbooks, all the books for next year have been sent to print and we have been designing our radical Dairy Diary sticker sheet. This is a new addition for 2011, which should make weekly planning easier. No excuse for forgetting a birthday with a Dairy Diary sticker sheet!

The cold weather has set off Christmas preparations with fervour – present wrapping, card writing and even making festive bunting for the house – triangles of wrapping paper (in teal of course, to match the décor) threaded onto wool (thank you Prima). Of course, there is the obligatory cook-fest that comes with this time of year. This weekend I decided to get ahead of the game and did some Christmas cooking for the freezer.

For the Big Day I have made Cranberry Stuffing Loaf from the 2010 diary and I also made a couple of batches of the Chestnut soup (also from the 2010 edition) – perfect to defrost as a lunchtime winter warmer.

Cranberry Stuffing Loaf

A delicious alternative to traditional Christmas turkey stuffing.

Cranberry Stuffing Loaf

Cranberry Stuffing Loaf

Makes 8 slices
Time 2 hours
282 calories per slice
15g fat of which 4.4g is saturated
Suitable for freezing

Frozen cranberries 200g (7oz)
Caster sugar 25g (1oz)
Frozen peeled chestnuts 175g (6oz)
Chicken stock 300ml (1½ pint)
Thin orange slices 1½ , to decorate
Bay leaves 2, to decorate
Onion 1, peeled, finely chopped and softened in 2 tsp light olive oil
Tomato purée 1–2 tbsp
Lincolnshire sausages 454g packet, skinned
Cooked ham 1 thick slice, approx. 150g (5oz), cut into small cubes
Wholemeal breadcrumbs 40g (1⁄2oz)
Eggs 2 extra large, beaten

1 Grease a 1 litre (1¼ pint) non-stick loaf tin and line base with non-stick baking paper.

2 Cook cranberries in a small pan with sugar and 1 tbsp of water until just softened. Strain off and cool juice.

3 Cook chestnuts in stock until just softened. Strain stock into a small pan and boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Arrange orange slices, bay leaves and a few cranberries in loaf tin.

4 Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas 5. In a large bowl, mix together onion, tomato purée, sausagemeat, ham, breadcrumbs, eggs and 2 tbsp of stock. Stir in remaining cranberries and chestnuts.

5 Spoon into tin and smooth top. Cover with foil and cook in oven for 1¼ hours, or until juices run clear when a skewer is inserted in centre. Cool and refrigerate overnight before serving. Serve sliced with turkey.

Recipe taken from 2010 Dairy Diary.

Preparing for Christmas

 

What a mixed week last week was! It was a mixture of feeling extremely festive and extremely stressed!

We have been flooded with orders on the week that Nick, the divisional manager, decided to take a golfing holiday!

We sold the entire cookbook reprint before it had even arrived but luckily we have a second delivery on its way very soon. It’s great that the books are so popular. As a Christmas special we are also offering a lovely free Dairy Diary pen with each giftpack sold (yes I have kept a few for the pen pot on my desk!)

On a festive note, tomorrow of course, we can open the first window of our advent calendar! I still get embarrassingly excited about such Christmas traditions. We have a very traditional Christmas dinner in our household and as Christmas orders need to be made soon I have started planning Christmas lunch and how much I may cheat this year.

For many complex reasons, last year we enjoyed a completely shop-bought lunch. It was tasty but nothing in comparison to proper home-cooked fayre. One side dish which will definitely be on the menu is the Treacle-glazed red cabbage from the 2004 Dairy Diary (contact me if you would like the recipe). It’s always really popular with everyone reaching for second helpings. I think I will also bake the Honey roast parsnips from last year’s diary (see below). Of course, everyone’s Christmas lunch varies and today Jamie Oliver tweeted a picture of Christmas tree-shaped pizza, consumed for Christmas lunch! Each to their own.

 

Honey Roast Parsnips

 

Christmas isn’t Christmas without roast parsnips. The honey in this recipe adds a little extra sweetness and turns the humble parsnip into something very special.

 

Honey Roast Parnips

Honey Roast Parsnips

Serves 4
Time 35 mins
Suitable for vegetarians

 

Olive oil 2 tbsp
Unsalted butter 50g (2oz)
Parsnips 900g (2lb), peeled and quartered lengthways
Clear honey 2 tbsp

1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Heat oil and butter in a roasting tin on top of the stove. Add parsnips and fry until golden on all sides.

2 Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

3 Pour honey over roast parsnips and coat evenly. Season and return to the oven for 5 more minutes, or until tender.

Cook’s tip
Small or medium sized parsnips give the best flavour and texture.

A Dairy Diary recipe.

 

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