Monthly Archives: December 2012

Eat, Drink, Be Merry and Go Up A Dress Size

I’d made a vow this Christmas that I was absolutely determined not to break. Up until this year I’ve always had at least a week off over the Christmas/New Year period, and all those days off would have involved at least three of the following; Quality Street, Baileys, cheese, pistachios, wine, cashews, mince pies, Christmas cake, turkey sandwiches, Celebrations, chocolate truffles, Doritos and cocktail sausages.  A fine selection I think you’d agree and that’s just counting the snacks, not the meals. This year though, I’m having to work in between Christmas and New Year, so my vow was to eat as much as humanly possible on my days off to make up for all the binge eating days lost to work, in the hope that all that sugar and fat would trigger a minor health problem that would get me out of work. Well I certainly tried my utmost but it would appear my body is far more capable at dealing with saturated fat than I thought as I ended up on the M1 at 8:30 this morning feeling pretty sorry for myself, and a few pounds heavier. I’ve not done much cooking really and definitely haven’t done a lot of kitchen experimenting due to the fact that I stick to fairly traditional Christmas food, but I’ve made up for this with sheer greed. My main downfall this year would have to be mince pies. I cannot believe I’ve spent the past twenty seven years turning my nose up at them, I’ve been missing out for so long!        Naturally, being the food snob that I am I went for Tesco Finest Mince Pies which are made with Courvoisier and Cognac no less and they are divine. Unfortunately, the obese inner child guiding my appetite meant that I found myself last night diving into a warm mince pie not only swimming in a pool of double cream but also with a big dollop of brandy butter melting onto it. Yes that’s right, two accompaniments, I told you I was taking this vow seriously. If you’ve not had brandy butter before then you need to re-evaluate your Christmas priorities. Butter as it is is already a pretty fine ingredient, but add in some sugar and a slug of brandy and not only have you made butter even more detrimental to your ticker, but it tastes sublime. I could eat it out of the tub purely on its own, no problem, but I do manage to juuuust about stop myself and chuck it on a mince pie instead. It’s booze and pastry heaven and I’m so glad The Boyfriend hasn’t taken to it the way I have, those beauties are all for me.

Of course, the highlight of Christmas food is the most anticipated meal of the year, Christmas dinner, and this year was no exception. We went to the in-laws for dinner this time and it’s a massive understatement to say they fed us well. I’m not exactly stingy with portion sizes myself but the in-laws make my plates look half empty. Plates piled like a little Mt Snowdon with crunchy potatoes roasted in beef dripping, carrots, sprouts (which as tradition dictates, I never eat), mashed swede, parsnips, and then a platter to help ourselves from covered in what seems like never ending turkey, ham, pigs in blankets and sausage meat stuffing. It’s excessive, it’s gluttonous, it’s more than I could ever eat on any other day but it’s bloody amazing. When a few years ago I first finished a plate of their Christmas dinner I felt like I’d finally jumped the last hurdle to true acceptance into the family, proving my appetite was just as hearty as theirs. I know everyone goes crazy for goose fat potatoes this time of year, but worth a go as well is beef dripping, as it delivers super crunchy potatoes with a deep, meaty taste. If it’s good enough for chip shops up north, it’s good enough for me. The turkey was tasty and moist thanks to being roasted breast side down so all the fat soaks into the breast meat, a trick I appreciate hugely as someone who spends Sunday afternoons picking at the underneath of a roast chicken to get the moistest bits. I’ve already converted several others to ‘bottom feeding’, it’s the future people. Basically, Christmas dinner was worth the year long wait, even though I do miss being with my own family for it every other year.

Boxing Day brought with it mine and The Boyfriends usual traditions, which in short are stay in PJ’s, watch films, eat chocolate and cook some gammon. With our gammon The Boyfriend knocked up his ‘signature dish’ (he got the recipe off the BBC food website) of dauphinoise potatoes which are mind blowingly good. How can it not be after all, its only ingredients are potatoes, garlic, double cream and cheese? It’s idiot proof, if anyone could manage to mess that up they should be locked up for crimes against humanity. The soft potatoes in a creamy, cheesy sauce go really well with gammon and mellows the salty taste it can sometimes have, while the saltiness also cuts through the richness of the potatoes. This was pretty salty gammon though and I could only manage one slice which went against all my principles and indeed the vow that I had made. Perhaps if I’d been able to eat one more slice I’d have got that minor health problem that would have got me off work. Damn that ham.


On to something that I actually cooked myself – the Christmas cake! As I’d never made a Christmas cake before I had to go with my tried and tested favourite cake baker, Nigella Lawson and her book, Christmas. There are loads of varieties of Christmas cake in the book, I was drawn to the chocolate version at first but decided to go down the traditional route for my first attempt. Six weeks after making the cake, it finally got covered in a blanket of marzipan and royal icing and was ready to devour. When I first decorated it I thought it didn’t look too bad for a homemade attempt at decorating, but in a cruel twist everyone on Facebook seemed to upload their cake photos at the same time and mine suddenly seemed very amateurish in comparison to all the other amateur bakers. But you know what, you should never compare yourself to other people otherwise you’ll never be happy, and anyway, it’s about the taste and it tasted wonderful.  Unlike a shop bought cake it wasn’t heavy and dense but surprisingly light, really fruity with a crunch from the walnuts and that delicious taste of marzipan. It wasn’t as boozy as I’d anticipated, with more of a tickle than a kick of alcohol but this didn’t take away from the taste. I’ll just have to keep sneaking more booze into it next year to get it really drunk.

So that was my Christmas, a good one for sure but I can’t wait until next Christmas when we will be in our own home and hopefully a brand spanking new kitchen to cook my first Christmas dinner in – here’s hoping! Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and didn’t put on too much weight, I’ll be spending January in the gym!


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A Chicken Dish Fit For A Wino

Last week on the way to work I was pulled over as part of a drink driving campaign by the police (as in don’t drink drive, of course) and breathalysed. I’m pleased to report that I passed with flying colours and absolutely no alcohol present in my system. Star driver right here! Were I to be pulled over tomorrow morning however, I’m not so sure I’d be feeling quite so smug. I delved into The Little Paris Kitchen today and made chicken and mushrooms in a white wine sauce with some fluffy white rice for dinner. Considering this dish only contains half a glass of wine, the pairing of the winey sauce with aniseed tasting tarragon really intensifies the boozy taste leading you to think there is an obscene amount of wine contained in the sauce. Luckily there wasn’t, meaning I can sleep easy tonight knowing I’m perfectly legal to drive in the morning. Don’t drink and drive kids! I’ve not been doing a great deal of cooking this last week or so, we’ve been busy buying our very first home and going through the intense highs and lows of waiting for everything to be finalised. When you come home from work exhilarated that your offer on the dream house has been accepted, it’s hard to stop jumping around like a frog on acid for long enough to cook anything more testing than an oven pizza. I won’t go on for too long, as I’m fairly certain I’ve been boring everyone I know with how much we love this house and what we plan to do with it, but readers, it was truly love at first sight. I knew as soon as I’d seen it that no other house would match up so its no understatement to say that I would have fought tooth and nail to ensure we got the house. Thankfully I didn’t have to resort to violence of any kind, and we should be moving in in the New Year – celebrate good times come on! Whether I will have time for cooking then is a concern that brings me out in a cold sweat at night, as there is a lot of work to be done on dream house and this blog may turn into a DIY and home makeover blog, horror of horrors. I shan’t let it happen! If there are tummies to fill and books to cook from, then I will be there, cooking in a kitchen last renovated in the 1970’s while covered in paint and plaster.

Now that the excitement has died down a little, I feel more capable of cooking. The Little Paris Kitchen has a lot of recipes that I want to try but with fussy pants home I’m trying to play it safe and go with recipes I think he’d like, and LPK has very few of those things in it. He’s not a big fan of French food and now he’s not a fan of chicken and mushrooms in white wine sauce. It does sound very much like a Chicken Tonight jar of sauce, but the homemade sauce takes a bit of time resulting in a silky smooth, flavourful sauce that packs a winey punch you’d be hard pushed to find in a jar. Too much of a punch for The Boyfriend, but I enjoyed it and certainly wouldn’t turn it down if offered again. It’s the perfect store-cupboard sauce if like me you always have flour, butter, cream, wine and lemons in the house. I used to be a massive div when making sauces from scratch and they would always end up lumpy, but then I learnt the most obvious of cookery skills, following basic instructions. Simple but so easy to overlook, at least in my case anyway. Basically, if the recipe says to add the liquid gradually, heed this advice instead of chucking it in all in one go as you will only end up with a lumpy mess. No one wants to eat a lumpy mess. This much I’ve learnt, professional chefs writing cookbooks know better than me how to make sauces. In other Cookbook Neglector news, my Christmas cake is continuing to be fed a healthy diet of brandy once a week. I’m not sure how much I’m meant to use, it could be a really boozy cake by the time I’ve finished with it, but hey, it is Christmas after all. I’m just itching to ice and decorate it but will have to bide my time until its completely and utterly rat-arsed. Only then can I blanket it in a snug duvet of marzipan and icing before its devoured slice by slice over the festive period. I just hope it’s worth all this time, effort and brandy!



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