Christmas Cake Is In- Autumn Has Arrived

Finally got round to cooking my Christmas cakes today. They are in the oven as I type. I’ve been very tardy this year- I am normally done by early October but life is just busy!

I love making the Christmas cakes because, for me, it marks the start of autumn and the countdown to Christmas.

Christmas Cake

The smell of them cooking is so much more evocative than my normal baking. Now I can smell the cake it is legitimately time to start making my lists: presents, foods, nights out, nights in. I start scouring Pinterest for cake decoration ideas I will never try to emulate* and quirky gift ideas. I think I maybe love the run up to Christmas as much, maybe more, than the big day itself.

In terms of the cakes, my hubby loves Christmas cake but it has to have no icing or marzipan for him, so there will be a couple of loaf-shaped ones for easy cutting for us. I am making one for my best friend, and a few small loaf ones which I will give to various family members as Christmas treats. So that’s seven cakes of various sizes today!

Christmas Cake

I use Nigella’s traditional Christmas cake recipe which has never let me down yet as it gives quantities to scale up / down.  My booze of choice for the past couple of years has been orange liqueor. Nothing fancy, a £5 Aldi one. I soak the fruit in it before hand and then feed the cakes in it whenever I remember up until Christmas. It’s not a super strong taste, but for me it is just perfect with the spices.

So I’ve got The Goonies on the TV, a house which smells delicious,  Christmas cakes in the oven, an extra hour to my day (the clocks went back in Britain last night) and a warm glow in my heart- this is why I love autumn!

 

 

*I am the least artistic person in the world so cake decoration is pretty much beyond me.

 

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When Slow Cooking Goes Bad…

I love my slow cooker and it is a rare event that anything really bad happens. But when it does….

I put a veg and bean chilli in there to cook over night on Thursday. Big mistake. When I got up on Friday it had gone mushy- even though it was all cut chunky, nine hours was just too long.

It tasted fine, but looked a right pigs ear, so someone at work suggested, very sensibly, to whizz it up and serve as soup. Great idea! Except for the kidney beans. I got the hand blender out and as it pureed it went browner and grainier! I added an extra tin of tomatoes, some hot water to thin it out and some extra cumin and seasoning.

When slow cooking goes bad

See, I told you it looked bad…

It was really, really tasty and without a doubt the healthiest thing I will eat all week. But it looked vile. I mean really. It looked like a bowl of puke!

So why am I telling you this? Well I love blogging and I love to look at all of the gorgeous food blogs, Instargram and Pinterest accounts which are full of immaculate food photography. I long to be able to style and photograph like that. But in real life, we all have crap days in the kitchen and I think there is no shame in sharing that!

So embrace your culinary disasters. Try and rescue them if you can, but if not, hey, no one’s perfect. Have a takeaway and a glass of wine, and laugh about it.

Happy weekend xx

 

 

 

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Creamy Saffron Risotto

Whoa, it’s blowing a hooley out there today! I couldn’t wait to get home and get something super comforting made for tea.

Creamy saffron risotto

Risotto makes an appearance on my table nearly every week in autumn and winter in some form or other. Tonight I kept it simple and made a saffron risotto topped off with some prawns.

Regardless of what people say, you don’t need to stand over it stirring non-stop. a stir after each addition of stock is enough I find.

I bought a variety of Spice Drops a while ago so tonight got to use the saffron drops for the first time. Spice Drops are nifty little bottles of spice extract which I am finding really useful. The saffron drops are beautiful golden yellow in the bottle and give a good subtle flavour. The finished risotto didn’t keep the colour the way it does with saffron strands but it was a lovely creamy pale lemon and hey colour isn’t everything, it’s all about the taste. And it tastes delicious!

Saffron Risotto

Creamy Saffron Risotto

Serves 2 greedy guts

  •  Risotto rice (I use carnaroli) – 200g
  • Saffron Spice Drops (or pinch of saffron strands)
  • Dry white wine – small bottle
  • Hot chicken (or veg) stock -750ml
  • King prawns, cooked – 200g
  • Onions, finely diced – 2
  • Frozen peas – 1 cup
  • Garlic cloves, crushed or grated – 2
  • Parmesan, grated – 20g
  • Butter
  • Olive oil

What you do

  • Put two pipettes of saffron Spice Drops into the wine
  • In a large saucepan, put a good drizzle of oil and knob of butter (approx 20g) in a pan and heat until butter begins to melt
  • Add your onions and soften on a low heat, around 5 mins, then add the garlic and cook for another minute
  • Put the risotto rice in the pan and stir so it’s covered then add the wine, season and stir
  • When the wine has nearly all gone, add a cup of hot stock and stir
  • Continue adding stock and stiring until the rice plumps up and softens (I had to use about 600ml of stock tonight. Sometimes it is more, sometimes less)
  • Add a cup of frozen peas and a good handful of parmesan. Stir well and take off the heat
  • Add a generous knob of butter and leave for two minutes
  • Stir well, season and serve topped with prawns

Post Script: Gouri, the lady who has brought Spice Drops to the UK, got in touch with a tip. Rather than add the saffron drops right at the start, add them towards the end of cooking and add just 2-3 drops rather than the two pipets full. She reckons this way you need to use less because you won’t losing any of the delicate saffron flavour, or colour,  to cooking. I shall certainly be trying it this way next time. I love experimenting with new products like this so am always thankful of tips and hints. Thanks Gouri! 

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