A Harrods Christmas hamper, and a champagne chiffon cake

Christmas hampers are one of those things that are synonymous with the holiday season. Each departmental store has it’s own twist on the Christmas hamper – but there is one thing they all have in common: they are all beautifully packaged. Because good things come in beautifully wrapped packages, no?

Harrods is, of course, one of the stores that has some gorgeous hampers on offer – they range from affordable (under £50) to ‘blow the budget’ (over £2000!). Don’t get me wrong through, the more affordable hampers certainly shouldn’t be scoffed at, and make an equally impressive gift.

I recently received a Harrods ‘Pamper Hamper’, which contained pink champagne truffles, Marc de champagne milk chocolate truffles, Laduree candles, a Laduree room spray, and a bottle of rose champagne. A perfect girly present really. Just look at all the lovely pastel colours… (sorry, boys.)

A special mention is needed for the gorgeous rattan basket/box housing the gifts within. It was so pretty that I could not bear to put it away – and this is how it has earned its place as my Christmas tree ‘stand’. Looks much better than my makeshift stand from last year, might I add.

harrods hamper 1

We’re not huge drinkers (we drink the occasional glass of wine/bubbly), so I thought I would use the leftover champagne in a chiffon cake. I know it hasn’t made it on to the blog, but I’ve been on a chiffon cake kick recently – I’m enjoying experimenting with various flavours and combinations of recipes, and am still in search of my perfect, ‘even bubbled’ chiffon. As you can see from my photos, I am not quite there yet. But practice makes perfect, and I’m certainly not complaining about the sampling I get to do along the way!

There’s just something about the lightness of chiffon cakes that make them so addictive. I can honestly eat half a cake in one sitting, and be under the impression that I have not consumed any calories whatsoever. Ha. Delusional much?

A few notes on chiffon cakes – 1) Never ever grease the tube pan. You need the batter to ‘grip’ onto the sides, so it can rise up high. This is why tube pans all have a smooth flat edge (as opposed to bundt tins which have intricate designs), as you have to run an offset spatula/knife around the tin to release the cake at the end of the baking/cooking process. 2) Patience is key! The cake needs to be left to cool (upside down) before you cut into it. Yes, this is unfortunately one of those cakes that you can’t dive into straight out of the oven – if you do so, the cake will end up dense and we can’t have that now can we? 3) Try not to overmix the batter. Treat the batter gently when folding in the whipped eggwhites. I find that mixing in 1/3 of the eggwhites in the first instance loosens up the batter, and makes the subsequent folds much easier. You can also be a little less gentle with the first ‘fold’.

Champagne chiffon cake
Makes one 20cm chiffon cake

  • 190g cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 130g champagne
  • 50g corn oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 egg whites
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 165’C (fan forced).
2. Sieve the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and 50g sugar in a large mixing bowl, until the yolks turn thick and pale. Add the champagne, corn oil and vanilla extract, and whisk until just combined.
4. Slowly add in the sieved dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture, whisking whilst you add. Ensure there are no lumpy bits in your mix.
5. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites on high speed until they become foamy. Add in the 50g caster sugar and cream of tartar (if using) gradually, and continue whisking until you reach stiff peaks.
6. Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to your cake mixture – this helps to loosen the cake mix.
7. In 2 additions, fold in the remaining egg whites into the cake mixture, until just combined. You should ideally not see any lumps of whites. Take care to not overmix though!
8. Pour the cake batter into an ungreased, 20cm chiffon cake tin (tube pan).
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.
10. Remove tin from oven, invert, and leave to cool upside down (either by sticking the tin on a bottle top, or placing it on a wire rack if your tin has ‘feet’). Leave the cake to cool completely.
11. Once cooled, run a knife along the edges of the tin, and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Cut, serve, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I received a Harrods Pamper Hamper as a gift, but all opinions expressed are my own.
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Gingerbread Cookies

As cheesy as it sounds, I love homemade Christmas gifts. Over the years, I’ve come to love making gingerbread cookies – I would be kidding myself if I said they aren’t one of my favourite Christmas cookies.

Another obsession that has become fairly evident in recent years is my love for cookie decorating. I still remember the mess I made the very first time I attempted piping royal icing onto my cookies… *shudder*. Thankfully I am now much more organised, which makes the whole process go much more smoothly.

gingerbread christmas snowflakes 5

gingerbread christmas snowflake 4

I decided to make something different from last year, and made 1) snowflakes, 2) stars and 3) Christmas ornaments. Because, you know, I get bored easily. It was also a good excuse to add to my growing cookie cutter collection. Ha.

Take care to not roll out your dough too thinly if you decide to make ornaments for your tree though – they tend to be rather fragile (as I have found out).

gingerbread christmas ornaments 1

gingerbread christmas ornaments 2

And it’s not just the ornament-shaped cookies that can be hung on the tree – I also hung up some snowflakes. The snowflakes are actually a little more sturdy than their ornament counterparts, something I didn’t expect before I started this baking-icing-gingerbread-madness.

gingerbread christmas snowflake 2

A large snowflake…

gingerbread christmas snowflake 1

…And a mini snowflake. For balance.

I also pondered over whether I should dust glitter onto the snowflakes (because anything glitter during Christmas has to be a good thing), but decided against it as I felt it made the piping stand out less. When you’ve put in so much effort into piping, you will most definitely not want it to fade into the background! Trust me.

gingerbread christmas snowflake 3

I swear by this Peggy Porschen recipe for my gingerbread cookies, as I find that they keep their shape very well (which is what you want if you’ve spent all that time cutting out lovely shapes from your dough!). Another handy tip is to refrigerate your cut (pre-baked) cookies for 5-10 minutes, and bake them from chilled.

You can pipe with or without a piping tip – I prefer using a piping tip (with a coupler) and a large-ish piping bag, as I find this gives me more control over how my icing flows. I use either 00, 0 or 1 tips, depending on how small/large the cookie is. Some people prefer to use a smaller sized piping bag without a piping tip (i.e. just snip off the tip of your piping bag), but I tend to not do this as I have to keep on refilling/make more piping bags… and I am too lazy for that.

I also highly recommend having toothpicks to hand, as they come very handy when you make mistakes! 😉

gingerbread christmas star

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season – may it be a wonderful one filled with love, laughter & food!

Gingerbread cookies for the holidays

There’s something about gingerbread that is synonymous with Christmas. Maybe it’s the deep spicy notes of the ginger and various spices, or maybe it’s just what we’re conditioned to think. Regardless of why, it is definitely a holiday cookie.. to me anyway!

This year, I decided to try making my very own gingerbread cookies for Christmas. This is a HUGE thing for me, as I am not a fan of ginger. Sure I will use it in cooking – but I either blend it into a pulp (where I can’t pick it out), or use large chunks (which I then fish out pre-eating). I’ve actually improved loads from my childhood days, where I would categorically refuse to eat anything with ginger in it.

I used a recipe from Peggy Porshen’s Cake Chic. I find her cookie recipes very reliable, as they always turn out well, with minimal spreading – which is perfect for cookie decorating. I remember using this other cookie recipe previously, and the cookies turned out slightly domed… but when I turned to Peggy’s recipe, the cookies turned out beautifully flat.

This gingerbread cookie recipe was no different, and turned out very well – despite me tweaking the recipe. As always, I cut down on the amount of sugar used in the dough, and added more cinnamon (because I’m slightly obsessed with cinnamon in baked goods).

The other main modification I made was to use a mix of treacle + maple syrup + liquid glucose (instead of treacle + golden syrup) – this was primarily because I didn’t want to buy a whole can of golden syrup just to make these, especially when I’d only need a few tablespoonfuls! I wasn’t too fussed about the treacle as I can use it to make Sarawak Seri Kaya cake (a Malaysian steamed cake which is absolutely delicious). The extra treacle definitely makes the cookies a tad darker than the original recipe though.

And because it was Christmas, I fished out all my festive cookie cutters, and went a little cookie crazy! 🙂 I realized I don’t have a snowflake cookie cutter though, which means I will probably own one by next December.

Cookie decorating definitely gets easier the more you do it though – it’s only my third time doing this, but I am definitely working more efficiently (and neatly!). Unfortunately my royal icing was a little too thick, but I was too lazy/impatient to thin it out more… oops. I think they still turned out ok though, but the piping just wasn’t as precise as I would have liked. Live and learn.

Gingerbread cookies
Adapted from Peggy Porshen’s Cake Chic

  • 250g cold salted butter, diced
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 560g plain flour

For the hot mix:

  • 5 tbsp cold water
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp treacle
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp ground ginger
  • 4 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves

1. Place the hot mix ingreadients in a medium sized saucepan. Cook over medium high heat (stirring semi-constantly with a spatula) until it starts to boil.
2. Remove saucepan from the heat. Add in the cold cubed butter, and stir it into the hot mix until all the butter is melted.
3. Add the baking soda, and stir/whisk until it is well combined.
4. Pour the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer, and leave to cool slightly.
5. In the meantime, measure out your flour and sieve it.
6. With the paddle attachment on at a low speed, slowly add in the flour to the liquid mix (I added 1/4 cup flour each time), until all the flour is used up. You are aiming for a sticky wet dough. It might seem like the mixture is too dry, but fear not as it will form a nice ball of dough.
7. Divide the dough into two portions, and form a round with each portion. Wrap in clingfilm, and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight).
8. Once the dough is well chilled, roll it out (with a rolling pin) into a 5mm thick rectangle. I prefer to roll out my cookie dough between two sheets of clingfilm, as I find that it is much neater/cleaner to do it this way. Just remember to lift the top layer of clingfilm from time to time, to avoid creases in clingfilm indenting on your cookie dough.
9. Using cookie cutters, cut out your desired cookie shapes, and lay them on a tray lined with baking paper/silpat mats.
10. Chill the cut out cookies in the fridge for 30 minutes. This step is important as it helps to ensure minimal cookie spreading in the oven.
11. When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 190’C.
12. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 8-12 minutes (cooking times vary depending on cookie size), until the cookies are just firm to touch.
13. Lift the cookies off the baking tray, and cool on a wire rack.
14. Once the cookies are cooled, you can either start decorating them. These cookies also keep well in a cool dry place for up to a month, wrapped in foil or clingflim (and ideally placed in an airtight container).

*This recipe makes approximately 60-70 cookies (again this depends on the size of your cookies). If you wish, you can freeze the cookie dough (wrapped well in clingfilm) in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, you may wish to cut out the cookies into shapes first, and then freeze this instead. You can then pop a few frozen uncooked cookies into the oven, and voila – freshly baked cookies!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and here’s to a great year ahead!
(I still can’t believe it’s almost 2012, eep.)

Spreading Christmas cheer with a chocolate giveaway!

**Giveaway has now ENDED***

I can’t believe it’s December! Time seems to have flown by, as it does every year. (And I’ve also just turned a year older, which I am always in denial about).

I never really celebrated Christmas back home in Malaysia (Chinese New Year in January/February is usually where our focus is!), but since living in London.. you can’t really *not* celebrate it. There’s just something about a roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce…

Christmas is also a time for exchanging gifts. Being a total foodie, I naturally am a huge believer of food-themed gifts, and chocolate is definitely way up there on the list. And as always, Hotel Chocolat have come up with a fantastic selection of (beautifully packaged) chocolates. They’re not only offering Christmas gift boxes, but also stocking fillers! I’ve previously spoken about the quality of their chocolates, so I won’t go into it again – but I’m pretty certain you won’t be disappointed.

When looking through their Christmas catalogue, there were a few things that caught my eye. The first of these was the Mulled wine cherries. Succulent cherries soaked in fortified wine spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, then enrobed in thick dark chocolate. Now, who wouldn’t be drawn it by that? Plus, since it contains fruit it can pass as health food. Sort of, anyway. 😉

I really enjoyed these little cherries, as they’re just the right size for snacking. A word of warning though, these babies are extremely boozy! I suspect that I would become fairly tipsy if I had too much in one sitting… But it IS the season of festive cheer, so some booziness is totally justifiable.

Next up are these Alternative mince pies, which are essentially milk chocolate cups filled with praline and salted caramel. I loved the idea of these, as I unfortunately am not a huge mince pie fan. I can eat two or three, tops. So it was a total no brainer that I’d want to try these – and I was not dissapointed. The salty sweet caramel complements the milk chocolate well, and the crunch of the praline rounds it all off. Like.

I also had a chance to sample The Classic Christmas H box selection, which features a selection of pralines, soft caramels and creamy truffles. All the chocolates are very Christmassy, with the flavours of warming mulled wine, chilli and rum, cherry florentines, gingerbread, and cinnamon. My personal favourites were the Sea salt and caramel bauble (milk chocolate with crushed caramel pieces and a hint of sea salt) and the Ginger cheesecake (sour cream notes of cheesecake on top of a layer of spicy ginger).

And because I love you, I’m delighted to announce that thanks to Hotel Chocolat, 3 lucky readers will get a chance to try one of the three items above! I personally picked out these items after much consideration, so I do hope that you will enjoy them too.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Chocolat

There are a few ways you can enter:
1. Leave a comment below, answering the following question – What will be you be doing on Christmas Day?
2. Follow Hotel Chocolat on Facebook, then leave a comment below telling me you have done this.
3. Tweet about this giveaway: Like chocolate? Win some to brighten your Christmas from @HotelChocolat and @breadetbutter! http://wp.me/pAcXx-DO #giveaway
4. Subscribe to this blog, then leave a comment below telling me you have done this.

Three winners will be chosen at random (the first will win the mulled wine cherries, the second: alternative mince pies, the third: Christmas H box selection). If winners do not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is open to all residents of UK, Europe and USA, and closes on Monday 12th December 2011, 23:59 BST.

***Giveaway has now ENDED. Congratulations to Nicole, Meryl and Azra – I hope you enjoy your chocolates! 😦

Good luck! 

Disclaimer: Hotel Chocolat kindly provided the review chocolates (and the prizes), but all views expressed here are my own.

A Magical Christmas with Hotel Chocolat

Chocolate is one of those comfort foods that I’ve always had a soft spot for. My earliest memory of chocolate is probably Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars, which I used to eat almost religiously. And then there was Kit Kat, which still remains one of my favourite chocolate bars up till today.

Through the years, I’ve tried lots of chocolate – some good, some not so good, and some absolutely amazing ones. Hotel Chocolat is one of those amazing chocolate brands that I’ve come across. I still remember my first ever experience of the Hotel Chocolat range of chocolate gifts – one of my best friends bought me one of their chocolate slabs for my birthday, and I was so in awe of its beauty that I simply admired it for a whole month before actually eating it. Yes, I am strange.

This Christmas, Hotel Chocolat have as usual outdone themselves and come up with a fantastic selection of chocolate goodies. From dark chocolate truffle trees to advent calendars to gingerbread liquid chocolat (hot chocolate), they have it all. Now, who wouldn’t want to receive such lovely treats for Christmas?

Definitely not me. Which is why I jumped at the chance to try out some of the chocolates from Hotel Chocolat’s Christmas present range.

The Ultimate Advent Calendar for two is one of the most beautifully packaged advent calendars I’ve ever seen. Boasting a selection of luscious luxury truffles behind each window, this advent calendar is a guarantee of a very happy and fulfilling run up to Christmas.

One of the most enjoyable things about advent calendars is the mystery of what is concealed behind each numbered window. I was swiftly transformed back to my childhood when I was opening up the windows to reveal the simple yet classy looking truffles. We don’t really do advent calendars back in Malaysia, so I got *slightly* over excited and opened every single window… I blame my inner child.

What I like most about this advent calendar is how there are TWO mini truffles behind each window – i.e. no need to fight your other half/siblings for the chocolate… which is what I know both my sister and I would have done if we had one of these growing up. We’re both slightly obsessive about chocolate, you see.

The truffles consist of six different flavours: liquid caramel (brown line – you can’t see this as it’s been halved in the photo above), gingerbread truffle (green topped), orange liquer caramel (orange topped), rum liquid caramel (light brown topped), mousse au chocolat (red line) and house milk praline. My personal favourites were the rum liquid caramel and the gingerbread truffle – nothing like a bit of rum and ginger to bring a bit of festive cheer.

And then there was Mr. Best Dressed Reindeer, who was made from 70% dark chocolate. This was another one of those “I can’t bear to eat this, it’s too cute/pretty” moments. After some oohing and aahing, I finally nibbled at his ear – and my, it was good. If dark chocolate is not your thing, you could always go for the milk chocolate Santa, or the white chocolate Snowman. All “Best Dressed”, naturally.

And then there were the Tiddly Snowmen. These adorable white chocolate mini snowmen would be a perfect stocking filler – and trust me when I say no child (or even adult!) would not want to find this in their stockings come Christmas morning.

Now on to the exciting part! Thanks to Hotel Chocolat, one lucky winner will win an Ultimate Advent Calendar to accompany his/her countdown to Christmas! Just imagine how much more pleasant December will be with the knowledge that you’ve got chocolates to look forward to every single day… 😀

To enter, do any (or all) of the following: (Each will get you ONE entry)

  • Visit the Hotel Chocolat Christmas site, and leave a comment below telling me what your favourite chocolate gift is.
  • Tweet about the giveaway: I just entered the @breadetbutter giveaway for a @HotelChocolat Ultimate Advent Calendar! http://wp.me/pAcXx-oI #giveaway
  • Like Hotel Chocolat on Facebook, and leave me a comment below telling me you’ve done this.
  • Stumble this post, and leave me a comment telling me you’ve done this.

This giveaway is open to all residents of UK, Europe and USA. Giveaway ends Friday 19th November 2010 at 23:59 BST. A winner will be chosen at random, and once he/she confirms their address, the Ultimate Advent Calendar will be sent out to them. If the winner fails to confirm their address within 24 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Good luck! 🙂

***Giveaway has now ENDED***
Congratulations to Alison, who has won herself a Hotel Chocolat Ultimate Advent Calendar!

* non-watermarked photos courtesy of Hotel Chocolat

Having fun with turkey leftovers

I have a confession. I cook turkey for Christmas so I can have tons of turkey leftovers. You see, I think there’s just something so enjoyable about coming up with new dishes from something old. 🙂

As most of my friends have either left London or were not here over Christmas, it was just R and I trying to eat a 5kg turkey. (I did try to look for a smaller turkey, but that was the smallest one they had in store!) But I wasn’t complaining, as it meant I would have lots and lots of leftovers to play around with!

One of the dishes I made was a turkey leftovers pizza. This was inspired by a pizza feature in one of the issues of Donna Hay magazine… as you can see, I am easily swayed by good looking food. Although I’d never tried anything like this before, I decided to just go for it as I figured it would be hard to go wrong when it came to pizzas.

I made the pizza bases with wholemeal flour as I had run out of plain bread flour, and I must say I could hardly tell that it was wholemeal. In fact, I might start using a mix of plain/wholemeal flour for pizzas in the future. For the fillings, I used all the leftovers from the dinner (except the gravy) – turkey, brussel sprouts, stuffing, potatoes and even the cranberry sauce!

And despite the fact that this was a very ‘thrown together’ (or as we Malaysian’s would say – “rojak” style) dish, both of us really enjoyed it! Though to be fair, it’s hard to not like pizzas. 😛 I do wish that I had rolled out the dough to make thinner pizzas though. I should also seriously consider getting a pizza stone…

I also made some Asian inspired turkey ‘salad’ , which I also made last year. This is a Jamie Oliver recipe, which I originally thought was no longer available online. (I have since found the recipe here). As I didn’t have a recipe at the time, I decided to just work from memory. What I like most about this is that the turkey becomes really nice and crispy – slightly reminiscent of crispy duck. When eaten with the crunchy cashews and sweet cranberries… yum. We had the salad with a hoisin based sauce, smeared on a homemade tortilla.

The last thing I made with the turkey leftovers was a turkey and leek fusilli. This was a very simple dish, tossed together in a matter of minutes. Rather terribly, I had leftovers from this dish itself, so baked it with a mozzarella topping the following day – and I have to say it tasted better baked. Or maybe it was all that cheese….

I really enjoyed our turkey leftovers this year, and am already counting down to the next time I get to do this all over again. So if you ever are faced with tons of leftovers, just remember that there is always a good way to use them! 🙂

Turkey leftovers pizza

For the pizza dough:
Recipe from Donna Hay magazine, issue 47

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour (I used wholemeal bread flour)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Place the sugar and water in a bowl, and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the sugared water, and leave for 10 minutes until bubbles appear on its surface.
2. Place the flour, sea salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture, and mix using the dough hook on slow speed until a dough is formed (this normally takes me 7-10 minutes). The dough should be soft and elastic.
3. Divide the dough into (roughly) equal sized balls – you can make either large or small pizzas, depending on what you prefer. Cover with a teacloth or clingfilm, and leave to rise for 30 minutes, or until it doubles in size.
4. Press each dough ball into a round, and roll out to the desired size. The pizza dough is now ready to use.

For the toppings:
I don’t have a proper recipe for this, but I used the following ingredients, and just randomly threw them onto the pizza bases. 😉 Quantities don’t really matter as it really depends on how much of each you have available.

  • torn pieces of leftover turkey
  • sliced leftover brussel sprouts
  • sliced leftover potatoes
  • 2cm cubes of leftover stuffing
  • mozzarella, torn
  • cranberry sauce

Turkey and leek fusilli

  • 500g fusilli
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and chopped into ~2cm pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can chicken/mushroom soup (I used Campbell’s chicken soup)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the fusilli in a pot of salted boiling water, for about 7-10 minutes, or until it is cooked al dente. Drain the fusilli and set aside.
2. Heat some olive oil in a pan over high heat. Fry the garlic for 1 minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
3. Add the chopped leeks, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
4. Add the shredded turkey, followed by the can of soup. Turn down the heat, and leave to simmer for 1 minute.
5. Toss the fusilli with the sauce, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you wish, grate some parmesan to serve.

*Alternatively, cook the pasta as above, top with torn mozzarella and put in the oven until the cheese melts to become a yummy gooey mess.

Asian inspired turkey ‘salad’
Inspired by this recipe from Jamie Oliver

For the turkey ‘salad’:

  • 2 cups brown turkey meat
  • 1 cup  cashew nuts
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons ground five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey

For the sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons plum sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch of brown sugar

1. Put a pan on medium high heat, and shred the turkey meat into the pan using your fingers.
2. Add the cashews, dried cranberries and five spice powder. Stir till all the ingredients are well mixed, and let it toast whilst you make the sauce.
3. To make the sauce, just mix all the ingredients in a bowl until they’re well combined.
4. Smear some sauce on a tortilla, top with the turkey ‘salad’, wrap – and serve!

Note: I also served my tortillas with (leftover) potatoes and stuffing.


If you’re interested in making your own tortillas:
Homemade tortillas
Adapted from this recipe from Cooking Mexican Recipes

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons corn oil
  • 3/4 cup warm water

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and oil to the flour mixture, and mix with the dough hook attachment until a dough is formed. (This took about 7 minutes for me.) If your dough is too sticky, add more flour 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach the right consistency.
2. Divide the dough into equal sizes (mine were probably 30-40g each), and leave to rise for a few minutes.
3. In the meantime, heat a pan (nonstick or cast iron) over high heat.
4. Flatten the dough rounds (on a lightly floured surface), and roll them out into rounds roughly 4-5 inches in diameter.
5. Place the rolled out tortilla in the heated pan and cook for 30 seconds until brown spots appear on its surface. Flip over, and cook for another 30 seconds on the other side. Be careful to not overcook the tortilla as it becomes very hard and crunchy if you do so – I made this mistake with my first tortilla, but I can’t say I was complaining as I thought it tasted like a healthier version of Doritos! 😛

Of turkey, cranberries, and the end of 2009.

I still remember the first time I had a proper Christmas dinner with roast turkey – it was in my third year of university, where my flatmates and I decided to take the plunge and cook a turkey for the first time ever. And it turned out pretty well! I have fond memories of that dinner, mostly because I spent a fair bit of time decorating the table, and was really pleased when it turned out nicely!

My first ever Christmas dinner!

Since then, I’ve tried to cook a Christmas dinner every year. It’s lots of fun, and it creates a lot of leftovers – which I love.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of the food channel, and I watch as many Christmas specials as I possibly can. 😛 My favourites are Nigella (because she’s Nigella), and Jamie Oliver. Rather dissapointingly, Nigella didn’t have a Christmas special this year, but thank goodness for reruns!

I normally cook the turkey in the traditional way – butter on the turkey skin, with some herbs stuffed in the cavity. However, Jamie had this interesting method of cooking his turkey, what he called the “self basting turkey” method. This simply meant he stuffed butter under the turkey skin, which helps to crisp the skin as well as keep the breast meat nice and juicy. What was even better was the fact that he used flavoured butter – which I thought looked amazing.

The bad thing about stuffing butter underneath the turkey skin is that the areas with the flavoured butter looked darker (and “dirtier”), due to the herbs in the butter. It still tasted delicious though, and the skin was amazingly crispy – the crispiest skin I’ve had on a turkey to date.

And of course, what turkey is complete without some stuffing? I like cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey, and usually cook them in individual “meatball” sized pieces. This year, I decided to do something different, and cooked it in a loaf pan – which made it look a bit like meatloaf! There are cranberries and walnuts in addition to the sausagemeat, which I enjoyed as they provided a nice contrast of textures.

The turkey “meatloaf” stuffing

There were also dishes served on the side…

Roasted potatoes with a twist – inspired by this recipe by Martha Stewart. There was just the right amount of lemony-ness in the potatoes, which I absolutely loved. I also liked that I got to use olive oil instead of something more sinful like goose fat. All I can say is, if you’re a fan of lemons, you’ll love the taste of these potatoes!

Brussel sprouts, with pancetta and chestnuts. This dish was inspired by the one and only Nigella – she cooked this on her show, and I thought it sounded really interesting. It turned out well, and I really enjoyed the various textures in the dish: the crunchy brussel sprouts, salty pancetta and sweet chestnuts. Can’t say I’m a fan of brussel sprouts though – I’ll eat it but I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, let’s just say.

Cranberry sauce, a necessity for a Christmas meal (to me anyway!). This was cooked with orange peel and and a touch of cinnamon, which gave it a very nice “festive” feel. I didn’t like how bitter the cranberry seeds were, so decided to run the sauce to a sieve – and the sauce became much sweeter. 🙂

In all, I must say that I really enjoyed my Christmas dinner – and I still have some leftovers in the fridge, which is brilliant. I’m one of those people who enjoys turkey leftovers more than the actual meal itself, as it gives me the chance to create new dishes!

On another note, I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve. Time has really flown by, and I can hardly believe how much has happened in the last year. I won’t go into it all as it would be a really long post, but all I can say is that I’ve enjoyed 2009 immensely.

So, here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year. May 2010 bring joy, good health and good food to you all! xxx

Roast turkey
Inspired by this Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 5 kg turkey
  • 2 clementines
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary
  • 200g butter
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary (chopped finely)
  • 2-3 sprigs lemon thyme (chopped finely)
  • 2-3 bay leaves (chopped finely)
  • rind of one clementine

1. Make the flavoured butter: Mix softened butter with the grated clementine rind, chopped rosemary, chopped lemon thyme and chopped bay leaves. You may add dried cranberries to the butter, but I left this out as my stuffing already contained this.
2. Preheat your oven to as hot as it can go (for me, this was 220ºC).
3. Get your turkey, and use a spoon to work your way between the skin and the breast meat. Take care when doing this as you do not want to break the skin. Stuff the butter into the cavity you have just created. Rub any remaining butter all over the turkey.
4. Halve 2 clementines and pop them into the cavity with a few sprigs of rosemary. Jamie says that this is so the fruit will steam and flavour the turkey.
5. Put your turkey into the preheated oven, and immediately turn the oven down to 180ºC.
6. As a rough guide, each kg of turkey will need 35-40 minutes to cook. That said, each turkey and each oven is different, so just check on your turkey every 30 minutes and keep it from drying out by basting it with the juices from the bottom of the pan.
7. When the skin gets golden and crispy, the turkey should be done. To check on this, gently pull the drumstick outwards – if the juices run clear, the turkey is done. Alternatively, it is done when a meat thermometer (inserted in the thickest part of the breast) reads 65ºC.
8. Move the turkey to a platter then cover it with a double layer of foil to keep it warm while it rests for at least 30 minutes.

Cranberry and walnut sausagemeat “meatloaf” stuffing
Inspired by this recipe

  • 400g dried cranberries
  • 150g walnuts, chopped
  • 1kg sausagemeat
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch sage, finely chopped
  • 3 slices of proscuitto

1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
2. Mix all the ingredients (except the proscuitto) together, using either a spatula or your hands. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed up evenly.
3. Put the sausagemeat mixture into a loaf pan. Top with proscuitto slices.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until cooked through.

Cranberry sauce

  • 500g fresh cranberries
  • 400g sugar
  • rind of 2 clementines (I simply peeled the rind off, there is no need to grate it)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • splash of red wine (ideally I would use port, but I only had red wine to hand)

1. Heat all the ingredients (except the red wine) in a pan over medium high heat. Once it reaches a boil, add the wine.
2. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
3. If you like, you can sieve the mixture to get a silky smooth cranberry sauce.

Brussel sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts
See this recipe by Nigella – I followed it pretty closely (by my standards anyway!). Only changes I made were using red wine in place of marsala, and omitting the parsley.

Roast lemon potatoes
See this recipe from Martha – Only change I made was to use fresh herbs (which I used for the turkey) instead of dried.

* I’ve only posted the links for the last two recipes as there would be too many words in this post otherwise! 😉