Christmas food, the verdict…

Here in Kent we have had some early Christmas celebrations.  First came the snow (you would have to be very blinkered not to have been news overloaded on this subject), last Thursday night we had the most snow in one night I have ever seen here in the South.  On Friday, F’s school was closed, I very optimistically got F dressed in his uniform…I think it’s the Yorkshire lass in me and the fact my parents very rarely let us off school for snow but to be fair they grit and plough at home but here the roads were like ice rinks.  My brother was braving the drive down and leaving the farm in the control of a local 17 year old who had agreed to look after it so he could visit us for some early Christmas celebrations.  As expected my Friday Ocado delivery (bringing all my ‘Christmas’ food) was cancelled so I had to venture out and do a big shop locally.

All went well and we had a fantastic early Christmas lunch, the stuffing was great and my Gran’s recipe Christmas pudding was a triumph.  Sadly I managed to put the bag of rum sauce from the freezer (see last post) in a pan that I accidentally put on the induction hob plate that was on and so ended up with a nice melted plastic mess but it was easy enough to make new.  Oh, to re-heat the pudding I steamed it for 2 hrs and served with rum sauce and brandy butter, again my Gran’s recipe which is:

Brandy Butter

4 oz Unsalted Butter

1 Raw Egg Yolk

12 oz Sifted Icing Sugar

2 Fl Oz Brandy

Rind of 1 Orange

Cream butter, orange rind and half of sugar.  Beat till fluffy, add egg yolk and rest of sugar and brandy and beat again and chill.

As you can imagine, there was no chance of digging up the parsnips I have been growing especially for Christmas, luckily I had bought some as back-up in case of frost.  We also had my Gran’s stuffing balls, which are a must and go beautifully with the bread sauce (I made fresh, saving the freezer lot for Christmas day).

Stuffing Balls

4 oz Fresh white breadcrumbs

2 oz suet (you can use vegetable or beef)

1 x Egg

Fresh or dried thyme

Lemon rind and juice of half a lemon

Basically mix them together with seasoning and roll into small balls.  Cook for about 30 mins.

We had a great lunch followed by some playing in the snow

I feel a little odd, almost like Christmas Day is over even though it’s not here yet.  I have decided not to do a full lunch now, as it’s only me, M and the boys so I’m aiming for cold turkey with mini roast potatoes, something like that as yesterday even with my effort at pre-prep lunch I still spent a large chunk of the morning in the kitchen and would rather play with the boys on the day itself.

I meant to mention we started the festivities with some Kir Royales using the homemade Cassis started back in June which was the best.  I hope to have some spare next year to give away as presents.

Right, I fancy a nice cold chicken sandwich with some stuffing and maybe a touch of bread sauce, yummy!

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Bring it on!…

It’s been a hectic weekend around here.  I had planned a big tidy and decorate weekend but everything was rather thrown by waking Saturday after a night of little sleep with a stinking cold.  To be very exact we had Mr C singing the theme to the Goodies (nothing like a bit of retro TV for the boys) throughout most of the night whilst laying between us, having woken also with a bad sore throat.  Still, not to be beaten I went ahead with Christmas Tree cookies (Nigella’s recipe ) with lots of help from the boys, especially in the taste testing department.

I also continued with my pre-prep Christmas lunch.  It’s usually my Mother’s ‘job’ to make Christmas Pudding to my Gran’s recipe.  We’ve always had it, every year since I was a child, as she will be ‘Up North’ this year I was going to cheat and buy a Pudding but I felt bad after seeing how much dried fruit I had in the cupboard that will go to waste, so armed with my Gran’s old cookbook

(can you read any of that?!  I struggle each time I look at this book, especially as Gran didn’t write down many of the amounts) and a lot of cross referencing with Delia I came up with measurements for a single pud (approx 600ml pudding dish, my Gran’s original makes 4).  I’m not sure if it will work, I noticed D uses a lot less flour and of course SR, so I have estimated this and added an additional bit of zest.

Ingredients

85g  Fresh white breadcrumbs

85g  Suet

85g Currants

85g  Raisins

85g  Sultanas

35g Candid Peel (finely chopped)

15g  Glace Cherries (chopped)

15g  Almonds (chopped)

100g Soft Brown Sugar

Pinch Salt

1/2 Tsp Mixed Spice

Grating of Nutmeg

1/2 Carrot, Grated

1 Tbls Brandy

Grated zest of 1/4 Orange and Lemon

Mix all the above in a bowl and leave overnight.

1/4 Pint Milk

1/2 Tbls Treacle

1 Lrg Egg (beaten)

Mix the above wet ingredients (next day) and then add to the bowl and stir well.

50g SR Flour

Add sifted flour, mix well and pack into bowl.  Cover with 2 layers of baking parchment and 1 layer of foil, tie around tightly with string.  Steam for 8 hours then when completely cold, replace backing parchment and foil with new.

We sometimes ate Gran’s puddings the next year (she always made 4), so they store well if kept in dark dry spot.

Whilst on a roll, I decided to make the Rum sauce as Delia recommends this as something to freeze and whilst I had some lovely Channel Island Milk I didn’t want to waste it so made a batch of Bread Sauce, also to my Gran’s traditional method, for the freezer.

I have never frozen bread sauce before, it kind of seems wrong but I am trying to enter into doing as little as possible on the day and again D says it freezes well.  If you haven’t eaten Bread Sauce and think it sound revolting TRY IT!  I have never had a family roast chicken (or pheasant etc) without it and for me it one of the highlights so if you’re game here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

1 Lrg onion

15-20 Cloves (depending how ‘clovey’ you like it, less if you’re not keen)

1 Bay Leaf

1 Pint whole milk

2/3 Loaf of white bread, crusts removed and blitzed into crumbs (I used to just cut it roughly with a bread knife into smallish bits when I was a student)

Knob of Butter

Seasoning

Grate of nutmeg if you fancy it

You basically peel and cut the onion in half then stud with the cloves (I stick a fork in the skin and push the cloves into the holes) add to the milk with the bay leaf, bring to the boil, take of the heat and leave for at least an hour to infuse.

When you are ready to serve, reheat the milk, remove onion and bay and add the breadcrumbs (Add more milk of needed, or more breadcrumbs, should be quite think).  Let it heat through slowly for a while so the bread swells and goes mushy, then season (and grate nutmeg if using) and serve with a blob of butter on top.

My final pre-make is the stuffing.  I love the traditional 18th Century chestnut kind, I see quite a few people do a version, again including Delia and there’s also one in the Duchy Cookbook.  I have my own version, mainly dictated by the size of a packet of pre-cooked chestnuts and sausages.  I also didn’t have any parsley but luckily I grow Parcel in one of my pots (like a cross between Parsley and Celery) and it’s still going well so I substituted some of this.

Ingredients

100g Fresh breadcrumbs

200g Cooked Peeled Chestnuts (I use Vacuum packed pre-prepared)

Parsley – good handful

1 Lrg Onion ( diced  and softened in butter and stone cold if you plan to freeze stuffing raw)

330g Sausage Meat (I just use a pack of sausages as I like organic)

100g streaky bacon

Good grating of nutmeg

I basically use my blender attachment cutting thing (that’s a technical term you know) to cut the lot, not too small, then I pack it into the dish I plan to cook it in and cover and feeze raw.  I have also cooked and frozen before.  I prefer the chestnuts cut not overly small and I usually cut the bacon with scissors so there is a bit of texture.  It’s a good cavity stuffing as well as the fat keeps the bird moist.

My last photo is of the seed heads from the Purple Sensation, that have been sitting in my greenhouse waiting to be sprayed silver since summer.  Last year I sprayed them gold, which I actually prefer but they still look great once the stems have been trimmed and they have been added to the tree.