Wednesday, December 28

Turkey pie

Yesterday I planned to make that Jamie Oliver leftover turkey pie. I think everybody else had the same idea however - not only have I seen it all over Twitter and blogs, but not one food shop I went into had puff pastry in stock!

I didn't have any creme fraiche either so decided to just roll with what I had and make it up as I went along. That's the beauty with pies though - you can throw what you like in, top it with some good pastry and it will probably taste delicious.

This is what I used:

for the filling:
1 leek
Two handfuls of chopped celery
1 medium & 1 small onion
1 fat clove of garlic
Handful of dried thyme
Knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
600g leftover white turkey meat
Around 750ml turkey or vegetable stock
2 heaped tbsp plain flour

for the pastry:
3 oz plain flour
7 oz self raising flour
5 oz butter/margarine
3-4 tbsp water

This is what I did:

I chopped the celery, leek and onion into rough but manageable pieces and steamed them until fairly soft and tender.

In a large deep frying pan, I heated the butter, oil, thyme and garlic together. I added the veg and stirred until everything was well coated.

Then I added the turkey meat, stock and flour. I stirred well and brought everything to the boil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

(For the pastry, both puff pastry and shortcrust work well in this pie, readymade or homemade. If we want puff pastry we usually opt for readymade, but shortcrust is very simple to make from scratch.)

So to make the shortcrust pastry I whizzed together 3 oz plain flour, 7 oz self raising flour and 5 oz butter or margaine. When the mixture became crumb-like, I began adding cold water, a tbsp at a time until a dough formed. I then moulded it into a disc shape and left in the fridge to chill for half an hour.

I poured the pie filling into a pie dish (draining off any excess liquid). After rolling out the chilled dough to about 5-10mm thick I covered the top of the pie with it, and had enough leftover pastry for some decorative festive stars. (If we had a proper pie dish I would have made a thick pastry rim around the pie.)

I baked the pie at 190 degrees for half an hour, and when it was golden brown and any escaped filling was bubbling, served it up with some steamed purple cabbage. Yum.

Thursday, December 22

that christmas tree smell

Last Sunday we donned Santa hats, played Christmas crooners ("let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...") and rummaged in the huge box of tree decorations all afternoon. That box is like concentrated nostalgia for me, the contents ranging from decorations crafted by mine and my brother's chubby 5 year old hands, to ones bought last week. Tree decorating always feels special, and once the tree's up I don't have any Scrooge moments. Just seeing the tree lights twinkling in the corner and catching the Christmas tree smell (I'd never get a fake tree) gives me that surge of childish excitedness. Christmas!!

The festivities extended around the house - cards hung with ribbon like bunting, a Christmas wreath in the hallway, new lights in my bedroom, and a stag cushion from Primark which only cost me £3!

When did you put your tree up? If you've got photos, link me to them - I love looking at other people's trees!

Friday, December 16

the basic and best Christmas cookie recipe

Christmas is a delicious time of year. It's the one time you can open the fridge door in hope and not be disappointed. Mince pies, yule log, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, boxes of chocolates, fudge, candy canes... but sometimes a simple Christmas biscuit is all you fancy, something sweet to fill the gap between that lunchtime slice of yule log and the post-dinner wodge of mincemeat.

There are many types of Christmas biscuit, but the two types I make the most are Christmas shortbread and Christmas cookies. Incredibly easy to make and great to have in the cupboards during Christmas. They also make brilliant Christmas gifts!

Here is my go-to recipe for Christmas cookies. They turn out lovely - slightly chewy (thanks to the addition of golden syrup), slightly doughy and slightly crisp on the edges. A perfect cookie. You can add cinnamon, mixed spice, or even ginger to turn it into gingerbread. Yum.

You will need

4 oz butter
6 oz soft brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
12 oz plain flour
2 tsp spices of your choice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, beaten

to do the following:

1. The boring bit - set oven to 190 degrees celsius and grease a couple of baking trays.
2. In a saucepan gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup together over a low heat. Keep stirring (very gently) so the mixture doesn't catch.
3. Sift the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl.
4. Add the syrup mixture and the beaten egg, and mix everything together.
5. Knead the mixture into a ball. If it's super sticky, add some more flour (but not too much).
6. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.
7. Roll the dough out to about 5mm thick and cut into the shapes of your choice.
8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. They will still seem quite soft, but soon harden a bit once they're out of the oven. Then put them on a wire rack to cool.

Lightly dust them with icing sugar and wrap with cellophane for an easy peasy Christmas present. Or preferably just eat them yourself.

A batch I made last night for a go with a festive Emma Bridgewater biscuit tin!

I can't wait til Sunday lunchtime when I will be free from work-commitments for over a week. Tree decorating will kick off the festivities. I am so excited and there will hopefully be a few Christmassy posts to share with you! Of course typically I've caught a bug that's been doing the rounds at home and my throat is like sandpaper. Instead of moaning I'm trying to think of it as an excuse to drink more hot chocolate. Praying I'll be ok for the work party tomorrow night.

Apologies to those of you still waiting for your Christmas cards. I've posted a bunch this morning, but had a minor disaster last night when I spilt blackcurrant juice over a pile ready to be sent. Classic Kate. You will get one, eventually!

I've had a very productive morning - posting parcels, cashing cheques, doing a bit of Christmas shopping. Now I'm going to go and make a hearty beef and vegetable puff pastry pie for dinner. My brother has baked an amazing-looking yule log for dessert - it's like Christmas has come early in our house! Excuse me while I adjust my waistband...

Thursday, December 1

Happy advent!


It's December! And the above is what I came downstairs to this morning, to my great excitement. You're never too old for a chocolate advent calendar! I have the same one every year - big sucker for vintage Christmas graphics. My brother and I were of course studying the Where's Wally calendar closely over our cereal - I still haven't found Wally yet.

Flashes of festivity are beginning to appear in my room...

Have a fun first day of advent everybody! I can't wait to put Christmas songs on my iTunes (where they will be horrendously overplayed, naturally) and indulge in Love Actually marathons. And complete my mission of trying every Christmas coffee flavour on the high street.