Tuesday, 24 December 2013

12 days of christmas: apple & mincemeat crumble

At the cafe I used to work (where Kate met Wills, no less), they used to serve a Christmas crumble every day in December. It was filled with every Christmassy taste imaginable - cranberries, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mincemeat, apple, orange, ginger... You name it, they'd packed it in there, and it was served with great big dollops of vanilla ice cream in bowls too hot to hold. Now, I've never quite managed to recreate that particular recipe - the owners were notoriously protective of their creations - but this bad boy comes in at a pretty close second. In fact, curled up on Christmas eve with a big bowl of this stuff in front of the fire as the rain pours down outside, it might even come in first.

The tart & sweet tastes of two different types of apple alongside the heady richness of boozy mincemeat make this an indulgent treat, whilst the ground almonds & cinnamon in the crumble topping amp up the sweet, Christmassy factor. I made this as pudding for the pre-Christmas Christmas dinner I mentioned recently, and since it's incredibly easy & quick to prepare I think it makes the ideal Christmas pud. Minimal fuss, minimal spend, maximum result. Plus, there's fruit! So! Healthy!

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas tomorrow, and if you don't celebrate it I hope you have a lovely day with your family nonetheless. Best wishes from The Hobbit Kitchen!

Monday, 23 December 2013

12 days of christmas: christmas dinner baguette

As yesterday's post may have indicated, I'm staying with a friend in Devon right now & yesterday we made a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner, with meat and stuffing and honey roasted vegetables galore. What's particularly exciting about this, though, is that today I've had the glorious joy of pre-Christmas Christmas leftovers. Ahhh, leftovers. Boxing day may almost be better than Christmas dinner for the endless possibilities that are offered by the humble leftover. Turkey curry, mashed potatoes, reheated veg as a vague stab at getting some of your 5 a day... What we decided to go for, however, was the Christmas dinner baguette. All the best bits of Christmas dinner stuffed inside of warm, buttered bread, just to ease the sting of the fact that Christmas is over for another year :(

I realise that Christmas is still 2 days away, and you're probably in enough of a panic thinking about Christmas dinner – let alone what comes after. But I hope, perhaps, in the food fuelled haze that you'll hopefully be in soon enough, it will occur to you to whip these bad boys up on the 26th, whilst nursing the inevitable Christmas hangover and wondering which box of chocolates to have for breakfast first. It'll hopefully use up the majority of scraps you have left lying around, with a bit of extra brie & cranberry in there too, just for good measure. It's still the holidays after all, right?

Sunday, 22 December 2013

12 days of christmas: honey roasted carrots & parsnips

D'you guys remember vegetables? I don't. As I think this blog is pretty good evidence of, Christmas time in the hobbit kitchen is all about butter and bread and cake and sugar. They don't call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing, you know. But, alas, we cannot survive on sweets alone, and no Christmas dinner is complete without a hefty helping of your 5 a day alongside all that meat and pudding. But of course, if I'm gonna eat vegetables in December, I'm obviously gonna want them smothered in oil & honey & mustard. I'm sure most of you have had honey roasted vegetables before, but if you haven't, it takes your average roast dinner to a whole other level. The addition of mustard here adds an extra level of depth & kick, and it couldn't be a simpler food to prepare.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

12 days of christmas: french toast

There's nothing quite like Christmas morning. For me, Christmas is basically over after lunch, because all of the good stuff happens in the morning - and it's been that way ever since I was small. We always did the same thing: I'd wake up first, inevitably at some horrendously early hour, and feel about at the bottom of my bed to see if Santa had been, and my stocking was full. If it was (and I was a very good girl, so it always was) I'd go into my little brother's room to wake him up, and then together we'd go into my parents room and wake up a very disgruntled & sleepy Mum and Dad. We'd both tumble onto their bed, in a state of excitement that I doubt adult me will ever experience again, and open our stockings as Mum & Dad rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Chocolate coins, small toys, maybe even a CD - we unwrapped them all eagerly, before we were then finally allowed to go downstairs and creep excitedly into the living room. Presents! Presents under the tree! God, I was such a lucky kid to always have so many presents under the tree, and it's a feeling of overwhelming gratitude & luck (and of also being overwhelmingly loved) that I've never really gotten over. We'd unwrap our presents as Dad lit the fire, then we'd generally have breakfast. Now, you know me - the main event in my life is always food, and the main event at Christmas is obviously food! Now that I'm a grown up that's as true as it's ever been, if not more so, and that Christmas breakfast is such an important meal to me. If your family is anything like mine you'll probably only have one big meal on Christmas day - a giant Turkey roast which doubles as both lunch and dinner, as well as lunch & dinner for the next few days as well, really - so that breakfast is super important in getting you ready for the big eat. And, since you probably won't be eating for a little while, it might as well be something rich & indulgent & filling, to tide you over until the Christmas dinner is ready... Or until Dad opens the box of Quality Street, at least.

French toast is a breakfast food which can definitely be classed as rich, indulgent, and filling - and this french toast does not mess around. Slices of white bread are soaked in a gooey mixture of cinnamon, milk, vanilla essence, golden syrup & one egg, and I used a duck egg to make it eeeeeven richer. The soaked bread is then fried in melted butter until toasted, before it's topped with a final drizzle of golden syrup and a spoonful of granulated sugar. You probably don't need the extra syrup & sugar, and you probably don't need to use syrup in the mixture either, and you probably don't need to fry it in buttr - but, you know exactly what I'm going to say... It's Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

12 days of christmas: except not really

No recipe today I'm afraid guys; I managed to drop my phone in a full glass of water today & have spent most of the day running around like a headless chicken trying to fix it, since as I'm sure you can appreciate it's pretty annoying being sans phone this time of year. I'll be back with a Christmas breakfast recipe tomorrow, but, in the meant time, I hope this video of Christmas pugs will make it up to you.

Only 5 sleeps left!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

12 days of christmas: sweet shop cupcakes

I've got a heck of a sweet tooth. I mean, obviously I also have a heck of a savoury tooth, and essentially just have very food-friendly teeth in general, but I do really love sweets. And it's totally genetic. When I was little my parents tried to say I was only allowed sweets on Saturday afternoons after ballet class... But I don't think that lasted very long! We've always had a drawer full of sweets in our house free to dip in & out of, and they're an integral part of family days spent lazing in front of the fire watching The Hobbit. Plus, whenever I'm having a bad day at university, the sweet shop is always the first place I head to.

At Christmas, sweets become even more important - because they're everywhere! So for those of you with an authentic sweet tooth, these sweet shop cupcakes are ideal at this time of year. And, since Christmas really is all about the little ones, they're perfect for them too - though that said, I took these into work today & the grown ups loved them! It's basically just a super light & fluffy fairy cake recipe which I've been using for years & which has never failed me, topped with a classic buttercream icing adorned with sweets. I chopped up some strawberry laces to make the red strands, then stuck on some gummy teeth & lips and some sugared fruit pastilles. But obviously, use whatever you'd like! This is the time to indulge in all your favourite sugary sweets to transport you back to childhood; to when Christmas really was the most wonderful time of year. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

12 days of christmas: cinnamon & cream cheese dip

Today's post is a little different, because I'm actually sending you away for this one. All the way over to the marvellous Sally at Sally's Baking Addiction; a blog which needs no introduction, and which I'm sure you already drool at on a regular basis. This is one of her recipes - a cinnamon & toffee cheesecake dip, and it pairs wonderfully with the gingersnap biscuits I posted about yesterday. I made only one teeny tiny variation to the recipe, and that was to just add a drop of extra vanilla extract in order to make my dip slightly runnier in order to dunk the biscuits into. But it's totally up to you!

Sorry this is a little bit of a cop out post; I'm rushing out of the door as we speak to finish off a final bit of Christmas shopping. The rain is pouring & the wind is howling - it's a truly authentic British winter - so wish me luck!

Only 7 more sleeps!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

12 days of christmas: gingersnap biscuits

There is, in the blogosphere of late, a bit of a preference towards soft, chewy biscuits. Melt in your mouth, crumbly little morsels of deliciousness... Mmm. I'm a big fan of the soft biscuit trend. However, these biscuits are not that, and I'm a pretty big fan of them too. They're traditional ginger biscuits (fittingly enough borrowed from this recipe entitled "Grandma's Ginger Biscuits"), and they snap and crunch just like the ones you had when you were little & left out for Santa Claus on December 24th. I hear they're his favourites, you know. That said, they still melt in your mouth! The secret to keeping these super traditional biscuits exciting is the cinnamon & cream cheese dip that I paired them with, and which I heartily recommend... The recipe will be coming tomorrow!

But having said that, there's nothing wrong with enjoying these biscuits alongside a tall glass of milk or a warm mug of tea. They're jam packed full of warming spice, incredibly easy to make & use very few ingredients - so if you're looking for an easy home made gift to give, or a way to spend time with little ones that doesn't involve TV, I've got you sorted. Thank me on December the 25th, yeah? I'll take Louboutins, please. Size 4.

Monday, 16 December 2013

12 days of christmas: cheese, bacon & apple baked potato

I'm back working at the local supermarket for Christmas break, just spending hour upon hour sitting at the checkouts scanning food through the till. As you can probably imagine it's not the most thrilling job in the world, though it's vastly improved by pleasant customers. And, for the most part, working in retail at this time of the year does restore ones faith in humanity - people are kind, talkative, infinitely endearing even when stressed. Of course you get the grumpy ones, the irritable ones, but primarily it's the chatting with customers that makes the job bearable. One thing I'm really noticing right now, with the good customers and the bad, is that everyone is busy. I'm sure I don't need to tell you how hectic this time of year is, so with that in mind I've whipped up a tasty, filling lunch which shouldn't take much longer than 10 minutes to prepare & which will provide you with plenty of carby energy for the hectic day ahead.

I was in a hurry to catch the bus to a Christmas party the other day & needed to throw together something super quick. There wasn't much in the house but I picked a killer combination of flavours that you just cannot go wrong with, and basically let them speak for themselves. I then piled them on top of a baked potato, cooked in the microwave because I'm a filthy cheater. Anyway, as you might have gathered by now if you've been reading for a while, simple & tasty is my favourite sort of food. And there ain't nothing wrong with simple at all - especially at this time of year!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

12 days of christmas: gingerbread cupcakes & cream cheese icing

It's been a weird few weeks, you guys, and I'm sure you're getting that from my frustratingly vague melancholy of late. But, today I went on a 10 mile sponsored walk for Teenage Cancer Trust, and it was pouring with rain and the sky was an unfaltering slate grey, and the forest floor was made of slippery leaves & deep mud. But I went with my friends, and with my Mum, and I bundled up in Hunters & a Barbour and those were all pretty good defences against the storm. So too was the laughter. Endless, endless laughter, as we cascaded down hills and trudged through dirt and waded through puddles. And I s'pose that's the best defence against most things, really, isn't it? Against the dark, against the cold, against the weird and strange and small days where you feel weird, and strange, and small. But anyway - I realise this isn't the most food bloggy sort of chat for a food blog, but I'm defrosting in front of the fire now, with aching legs & an aching stomach from laughing so much, and it just felt like the sort of thing I'd like to write down.

Of course, when we're considering defences against life's hurdles, cake comes in at a firm number two. And you guys, I love these cupcakes. Dense, dark, rich, treacley, full of flavour & warming spice - offset by deliciously light and tangy cream cheese frosting with every bite. I've shamelessly stolen it from here, but I hope you guys don't mind because I couldn't not share this with you. They're Christmas with every bite, and would make the ideal thing to box up & ribbon up & pass out to only your very favourite people. The sort of people who will splash through the muddy forests with you and make you laugh the whole time, not batting an eyelid when you hair becomes inexcusable because of the rain. Yes, these cupcakes are worthy of even the very best sorts of people. Make these. Make. These.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

12 days of christmas: honey & cranberry camembert

This is very much nota recipe. There are only 3 ingredients, and the steps are essentially: put honey on camembert, bake camembert, put cranberries on baked camembert. And you're done! But sometimes (and especially around this time of year) I find it's best to keep things simple. Furthermore, I thought this was probably worth including in the christmas countdown simply because it might not have even occurred to you to put honey & cranberry camembert on your christmas cheese board. And, well. I simply couldn't have that.

How are you guys getting on with your Christmas preparations? I've been home for a week now & I really do not know where the time's gone. Because I was so busy, and then ill, this whole festive season seems to have totally snuck up on me & I'm not really in the Christmas spirit yet, no matter how much Love Actually I watch. It probably doesn't help that my mother's replaced our nice golden tree lights with god awful multicoloured ones, and it genuinely hurts my eyes a little... Where do you guys fall on the light spectrum? Clear or coloured? Anyway, perhaps the Christmas spirit will befall me soon enough; for now I will just have to keep on eating mince pies & fancy cheese & candy canes until it hits me. What a pity!

Friday, 13 December 2013

12 days of christmas: orange & cinnamon plumble

The countdown to Christmas begins here! Over the next 12 days, right up until Christmas Eve, I will be posting a brand new recipe every day to hopefully inspire & excite you all into the Christmas spirit - which I, by the way, am already 100% in. For me, Christmas is all about home, and family, and after such a stressful semester at university it really is insurmountably wonderful to be back in England at this time of year. Though, that said, I've got a family in Scotland too - my friends. I actually made this dessert when I was still at uni, when my best friend Jillian was ill, and I made it at home then wrapped it up in tin foil and carried it over to her house. The wind was howling, the rain was pouring and I was wrapped up in so many layers of knitwear it was impossible to tell where I ended and cardigans began. This was a few weeks ago now, and it was the first glimmer of festive feeling that I've felt this year - because for me, so much of what's magical about Christmas has to do with the sharing of food, made with love, for the people that you love. This is one such food.

This a plum crumble - or as my flatmate Morgan called it, a plumble! - spiced with cinnamon & orange zest. It's an alternative crumble to the usual apple, or apple & some-variation-of-berry, and it makes for a sharper and more grown up festive pudding. I've used my favourite crumble topping, which I used previously for apple & sultana cinnamon spiced crumble, though I left out the maple syrup & just let the simplicity of crispy butter, sugar and flour speak for itself. Like most crumbles, this is best served warm, with cream, on a cold & rainy winter evening - which there's certainly no lack of in England right now. But what would Christmas be without dreary weather and delicious desserts, eh? Certainly not a Christmas I'd be interested in.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

leek & cheese risotto

You guys. It's been so long! I owe you an apology. As I mentioned in my past few posts I've been horribly busy, and then a few things happened which made me a very gloomy little bear, and I basically lost all interest in any food that wasn't pizza. And then (and then!) I got sick, and I am still a bit sick, and it feels like my brain is making a wild dash for freedom via my nose. Isn't that always the way? The moment you stop having tonnes of work to do, you get ill. Classic. But, working my little butt off for a few weeks now means I'm home, and gloriously work-free, until the end of January. The end of January! And you guys, I'm so happy to be back home for the holidays. The decorations are up, the lights are twinkling, and I've eaten my body weight in mince pies & stollen. 'Tis the season, after all! Plus, to make up for my absence, I've come up with a little Christmas plan which will hopefully make it up to you just a little bit. 12 Days of Christmas Recipes! Beginning this Friday, Friday the 13th, I will be posting a different Christmassy recipe every day on the countdown to the big day. So that means 12 days of delicious festive goodness will be coming your way! I can't wait to get started; I've got so many exciting things to share with you guys & I even bought fancy Christmas napkins to take fancy food photos. Such is my level of dedication to the Christmassy cause. So, do you forgive me yet?

But before that, I have to share this risotto with you. We all know how evocative food can be of certain memories, and this risotto is the ultimate nostalgia food for me. My first ever boyfriend used to make it for me all the time, and it was the first thing he taught me how to cook. Since then I've adjusted the recipe a little bit to make it my own, but all the memories of that head-over-heels teenage love come flooding back with every bite. It's also the first meal that I really thought I was good at making, so we can probably credit this dish (and that boy) with igniting a love of cooking - not only of food. I still make it whenever I'm having a really bad day, or whenever I have people coming over and I need to make something delicious & impressive, but still fairly easy and not too expensive.

I begin with melted butter, which of course you could substitute with olive oil if you wanted to, but I absolutely love the buttery flavour - and you know me; if I can make something even more rich & indulgent, I will. Four chopped leeks & a generous sprinkling of tarragon are then added, and if you haven't tried leek & tarragon together, you need to. You won't regret it. Next you tip in the risotto rice, coat up the whole mixture in melted butter, and then slowly feed the risotto with white wine & stock for the next half hour or so. I know I've made an oven-cooked risotto before, and I expect you could cook this in an oven with similar results (and it would certainly save you time), but for me the soothing process of standing & stirring at the stove is all part of the restorative nature of this food. After a while the risotto will becoming creamy and delicious - at which time we make it even more creamy & delicious with a generous handful (or two) of grated cheddar cheese. I used a medium cheddar, which gives this dish just enough cheesey flavour without being too overwhelming. If you'd prefer a slightly milder, creamy taste then go with a mild cheddar, but if strong cheese is your jam then stick some extra mature in there. As always, adjust the flavour & amount according to preference. After all, this is a recipe which I've made my own over the years, so now it's your turn to make it yours.