Not Enough Fairy Lights in the World

I think I have reached maximum fairy light capacity in my house. If there are any stray Santa’s out there that need a grotto, drop me a line, you can totally use my place.  Its been a bit of a weird week. I have a ton of work lined up from January but the next couple of weeks are of course quiet. I am suffering from cabin fever. This  is the longest I have not been booked for work. I should be relaxing shouldn’t I? I should be preparing for Christmas, enjoying the kids, doing all those jobs that I have been putting off….etc etc etc…..NOOOOOOO I prepared for Christmas last week, I did it in a day and half. I cannot be more prepared. Christmas could arrive tomorrow with 7 hours notice I could make it happen….

In order to make my ‘cabin’ more bearable I filled it totally with fairy lights. Its magical, I totally love my bedroom/office. I have (not so secretly) always wanted to put a Christmas tree in my bedroom. I remember visitin my father in France at Christmas and instead of sleeping in my room I slept on the sofa so I could see the tree…No I wasnt 12, I think it was probably 8yrs ago! This year the tree is in my bedroom. I am happy. Just to clarify I live in a ground floor live/work apartment. My bedroom is also an office. I didn’t schlep it upstairs..I’m not that weird!!

This week I also attempted to make a Tunis Cake. I had never heard of it until 3 or 4 years ago when my friend asked me to pick one up for her. I believe McVities used to make it. I think I brought it from Tesco. Its a sponge cake topped with a thick chocolate icing (that cheap gacky icing that you can only get on a brought cake). The cake is finished off with three pieces of marzipan fruit. It is truly horrible but wonderful at the same time. It has been discontinued. My friend asked me to make one. I did. It didn’t really work out. I googled it, found a recipe. I strayed from the path and added too much buttermilk (not in the recipe). It wasn’t sweet enough and also for the topping I melted a couple of chocolate bars, milk and dark. But it was just too posh, didn’t have the claggy consistency. The marzipan fruit was probably the only success.

Anyhoo, I leave you with a festive recipe for edible tree decorations. A bit Nigella and a bit me….

Happy Christmas

Rachelle x

 

 

 

Edible Christmas Tree Decorations

This is based on a recipe by Nigella. I use it every year. This year I added some stem ginger.

For the biscuits

  • 320 gram(s) plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon(s) ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoon(s) black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 100 gram(s) butter (soft)
  • 100 gram(s) soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 large egg(s) (beaten)
  • 2 tablespoon(s) honey (runny)
  • 3 tbs stem ginger (chopped)
  • 2 tbs stem ginger syrup

For the icing and trimmings

Icing sugar mixed with fresh squeezed lemon juice

Edible glitter or whatever you choose to decorate with

Method

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper in a food processor and, with the motor on, add the butter and sugar, then, slowly, the beaten eggs and honey and chopped stem ginger with juice though don’t use all of this liquid if the pastry has come together before it’s used up.

Form 2 fat discs and put one, covered in clingf ilm or in a freezer bag, in the fridge while you get started on the other.

Then dust a work surface with flour, roll out the disc, also floured, to about 5mm and cut out your Christmas decorations with cutters of your choice, which could include fir-tree shapes, angels, stars, snowflakes, and so on.

Re-roll and cut out some more, setting aside the residue from this first disc, well covered, while you get on with rolling out the second. When you’ve got both sets of leftover clumps of dough, roll out and cut out again, and keep doing so till all the dough’s used up.

Now take a small icing nozzle and use the pointy end to cut out a hole just below the top of each biscuit (through which ribbon can later be threaded).

Arrange the pastry shapes on the lined baking sheets and cook for about 20 minutes: it’s hard to see when they’re cooked, but you can feel; if the underside is no longer doughy, they’re ready. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Make up the icing. Make it thick enough to use in a disposable piping bag. If you dont want to use a piping bag just use a fork and make the icing runny enough to drip from the ends of the fork. I use this method loads and it looks fab.

Carefully ice the cold decorations, using a teaspoon (the tip for dripping, the back for smoothing), and scatter sparkles or sprinkles as you like. When the icing is set, thread ribbon and hang on the tree.

 


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Aside

Oi Bird!

The summer holidays are torture. They are! I don’t care what anyone says. I raise my hat to all single mums and dads who have to juggle work and kids. Especially when living on a tight budget.

My kids have a pretty low bar when it comes to entertainment. Last year we went to the car wash,  they were beside themselves! In fact they liked it so much the first time, we went back at the end of the holidays and I packed popcorn!

Usually entertainment for my family involves some kind of eating experience. Going out for lunch is a treat and happens rarely but when it does happen the kids are beside themselves

Dalston is great for cheap eats. The Red Art Cafe is mine and my kids favourite. I can feed the rabble and have a glass of wine for under 20quid. My kids love the jacket potatoes (they are huge) and they come with a really delicious salad of grated carrot, lettuce, beetroot and have a great tangy dressing.

I would like to say that my kids were appreciative wonderful darlings after that experience….Hmm well lets just say the day ended with the two girls standing in the doorway of their bedroom shoutiing “Your the worst mummy in the world and we are never speaking to you again”!! The small one even agreed with  a “Yeah”. Oh its so rewarding being a mum……

I am rewarding you with a basic recipe for roast chicken with roast veg. It is a staple in my house and if you are on a budget then one chicken goes very far. A chicken in my house has about 3 incarnations before its tired dry bones finally get trashed!  I stir fry the meat with noodles, cover the carcass with water throw some root veg in unpeeled with a few peppercorns and bay, simmer for an hour or so. You then have a base for a soup. I throw rice in and more veg to make a hearty soup.

Take care

Rachelle x

 

Kids at the Red Art Cafe Dalston

A holiday treat. Bounty Bars

I designed a wedding this week

Poor Lola my trustee assistant helped me deliver the wedding. She was up early!

Roast Chicken with Roast Potatoes and Roast Parsnips

This is a simple Roast lunch/dinner which will also provide left over’s for lunch or supper the next day.  All you need are a few tips in order to get the best out of your bird.

Ingredients

For the Roast Chicken

  • 1 Free Range / Organic Chicken
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Bulb of Garlic (optional)
  • 1 Lemon (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Roast Potatoes

  • Maris Piper Potatoes (1-1.5 per person)
  • Goose Fat or Vegetable Oil
  • Cornmeal or Polenta
  • Sea Salt

For the Roast Parsnips

  • Parsnips (1-1.5 per person)
  • Veg Oil
  • Runny Honey
  • Sea Salt

For the Gravy

  • 1 Brown Onion (optional)
  • Cornflour or Plain Flour about a Tablespoon
  • Stock Cube and hot water (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper

Method

Timing is everything with a Roast Dinner, here are a few tips to help you plan your meal.

  1. Take your bird out of the fridge at least half an hour before putting in the oven. This will help shorten the time the bird needs in the oven.
  2. Pat the chicken dry, and sprinkle with Sea Salt, this will give your roast bird a lovely crisp skin
  3. A bulb of garlic sliced in half and half a lemon inside the chicken, not only flavours the chicken from the inside, but also enhance any soup or left over dish you make the next day.
  4. To check that your bird is cooked through, you can use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird (thigh or breast).  Or you can insert a knife between the thigh leg and breast of the bird, if the juices run clear then your bird is cooked. You can also insert a sharp knife into the thickest part of the bird and place it very briefly (flat side down) on your lip, if it makes you go “Ow”, the bird is cooked
  5. Cut your potatoes and any Veg you are roasting the same size to enable them to cook at the same time.
  6. Add a sprinkling of dry herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Sage before you roast the vegetables. The herbs taste wonderful with all roast veg

Roast Chicken

(serves 4-6)

Temp 180.C Gas Mark 6

Place your bird on in a roasting dish which is just a bit bigger then the bird itself. Season the bird inside (with Salt and Pepper) and fill the cavity with a bulb of garlic halved and half a lemon (optional). Drizzle some olive oil on the bird and season well with salt.  Place in the oven and Roast for 1hr and 20 mins. Check after an hour and give it a baste with the juice if you wish.  When the Chicken is cooked take it out of the oven, cover with foil and leave to rest for 20mins before carving.

Roast Potatoes

Peel and cut your potatoes into 3rds, you want the maximum amount of surface area on each potato in order to get lots of crunch.  Place the cut potatoes into a pan with plenty of salty water and gently boil until the potatoes are beginning to soften around the edges and they are halfway cooked. While your potatoes are cooking now you should be heating the oil or goose fat.

If you are lucky enough to have a separate oven then put the heat on maximum and place a good cup or so of oil into the pan, or your goose fat. Heat the oil until it is smoking or as near to smoking as you can get it. If you don’t have a separate oven, place the roasting dish on the top shelve of the oven at the same time you put the roast in

When your potatoes are ready drain and give them a gentle shake in the colander so the edges become ruffled (maximum crispiness with occur with this method). Sprinkle a handful or so of Cornmeal onto the potatoes, this enables a crust to form on the potatoes, you don’t have to do this but somehow it feels wrong not to.

Gently tip the potatoes (away from you) into the hot oil and place back in the oven until brown and crispy on the outside. This should take 45mins to an hour depending on how hot your oven is.

Roast Parsnips

There is nothing to stop you placing the parsnips into the goose fat or oil with the potatoes. If your pan is big enough just add them to their own side of the pan. Admittedly if you are coating your Parsnips with Honey, they may char a little but that has never bothered me.

If you wish your Parsnips to roast independently then take your Parsnips and cut them in half, then half again lengthwise. You can peel them if you want to, I don’t bother unless they are particularly woody.  Place all your quarters in a roasting dish and drizzle them with vegetable oil and honey, toss them until they are slick and coated then season with salt.

Place in a hot oven for half an hour to 45mins until they are crisp and golden.

Gravy from your Roast Chicken

I sometimes quarter an unpeeled  brown onion, and throw the pieces in to the roasting dish with the chicken, this adds flavour and colour to the Chicken juices, which in turn adds flavour and colour to your gravy.

When the chicken is cooked remove the chicken and cover with foil tip the juices from the pan (remove the onion if using) into a pyrex jug. Tip off the excess oil which will float to the top. The rest of the liquid is pure flavour.  I simply place the roasting dish on top of the stove on a low heat and tip a tablespoon of corn flour or plain flour into the pan and mix it around scraping and picking up as much of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan then very slowly return the juices back to the pan, stirring fast so the gravy doesn’t form any lumps. Turn the heat up to medium and keep stirring until the gravy thickens.  Taste and if need be add a little more stock (hot water and a stock cube will do). Adjust the seasoning and pour into a jug and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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