Friday 18 December 2015

A taste of Christmas

Christmas. The most wonderful time of year, in my opinion. And not least because of the food.

I love everything about this time of year but the food has to be one of the best things about it. As soon as December starts, it's all about mulled wine, gingerbread and planning a feast for the big day itself.

I am so excited!

And our house is already littered with Celebrations wrappers.

We live by the old excuse, 'we'll make up for it next year'. I will, promise.

I was asked by The Co-operative what my favourite Christmas recipe was (you can see their Christmas ideas here). But in my true style, why pick one when you can pick three?

As the weekend, I popped to my local store determined to start the festive season with some tasty food.

First up, gingerbread. 

I love the way it smells, the fun shapes you can make (with a little help from little hands when it comes to decorations) and it's so easy. For a couple of Christmases, I've made gingerbread as a gift idea, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow, and this is basic recipe I use:

  • 350g plain flour, plus a sprinkle to roll out your dough
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2-3tsp ground ginger
  • 1-2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125g butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3tbsp golden syrup
  • Icing sugar and chocolate buttons or raisins to decorate

All you need to do is sift your flour, bicarb, ginger and cinnamon into your bowl. Melt the butter a little in the microwave, then blend together (don't be afraid to use your hands). Stir in the sugar, then make a well for your egg and syrup, before mixing together.

The trick is then to wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for a short while before rolling out and cutting your shapes. They then only take 8-10 minutes to bake.

Or, for ease, you could just buy a ready made kit like this Gingerbread Bake Kit from The Co-op. They still went down a treat!

Next up, mulled wine.

It's just Christmas in a glass isn't it?

My recipe, that I've just made up as I've gone along with a case if trial and error, is to add a glass of red wine per person to a saucepan and pop it on a low heat. Throw in a cinnamon stick and a couple of cloves per glass that you're making. 

Squeeze the juice of an orange and then leave the flesh to stew in the juices. Add half a lemon too.

Stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar per person, and taste.

You can leave this for just 10 minutes or so, simmering and not boiling, before sieving then drinking, but the longer you leave it, the richer the flavour.

Finally, looking ahead to my Christmas dinner plans, we almost always have a prawn cocktail starter. It's just always been tradition.

Here's what I put in mine:

  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Prawns in Marie Rose sauce (obvs)
  • Diced cucumber
  • Sliced spring onion
  • Cubed avocado, half per person
  • Buttered bread in triangles (or half a bread roll) to serve

You can make this in a glass or pretty bowl and for an extra special touch, perhaps add crab or some smoked salmon - it is Christmas after all!

I've also come across a great recipe for the perfect parsnips by Crisp and Dry - I'll definitely be giving this a go on Christmas Day, I love a good parsnip!...

·     750g parsnips, peeled and halved if large
·     50ml Crisp ‘n Dry cooking oil
·     50ml runny honey

Heat the oven to 200°c / gas mark 6.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Put on a baking tray and cook for 30 minutes.


Left over parsnips can be blended with stock to make a delicious and nutritious soup in seconds.

What are your winning recipes for this time of year? I'd love to hear them!

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