MY CHRISTMAS WISH LIST

So its nearly that time of the year again. I absolutely adore Christmas and I especially love the build up to it…booking my flight home, listening to Christmas songs, watching Christmas movies, the Christmas trees and lights sparkling all over London, buying presents for my friends and family, and especially decorating my home.  My flat turns into a Christmas grotto on the last weekend of November every year. Yes, you may think that’s a tad early, but I always spend Christmas at home in Scotland with my family so I technically only get to hang out in my personal grotto for a few weeks before I have to leave it.

Its also that time of the year when people are making Christmas lists. Now to be perfectly honest, I just want to be with my family over Christmas, eating Chocolate Oranges by the fire and watching movies. However, if I had to make a list of items I would love for Christmas, quite a few things come to mind! Mostly things I can’t afford, so they will have to stay in my head, but these are a few things I think are just wonderful.

First and foremost its the Copper Kitchenaid. I have been coveting this for a few months now. Isn’t it beautiful?? I have a photo of it on my phone which I gaze at probably at least once a day. Alas, its £615!!

Copper Kitchenaid

Its available to buy in Selfridges. I sometimes pop in there during my lunch hour or after work, just to look at it, maybe stroke it. But I can’t afford it and I’m not sure I could ever justify spending that amount on a mixer. However, I can still appreciate its beauty and still long to own one.

I also love these wine and cheese boxes from Entwine, a new company from Lancashire specialising in personalised wine and cheese gift boxes. They have a great selection of wines and the cheese is straight from their award-winning, local farmer.

Entwine

For each wine, they suggest the perfect cheese to accompany it, but it’s completely up to you how your box is made up. The boxes are shipped using a Royal Mail 24 hour service and can be delivered to the recipient on a date of your choosing. Perfect for a Christmas gift! Prices range from £22.06 to £50.96. To see the full range, click here.

Now, I love gin (and I’m pretty sure gin loves me) so this Ginvent Calender by Drinks by the Dram and Gin Foundry is a dream!

Gin

Behind each of the 24 windows lies a different 3cl sample of fantastic gin. There are market leaders and craft treats alongside new brands and even some hard to find gems. Again, this is something I wish I could have but I just don’t have a spare £114.95 lying around this close to Christmas to spend on myself. However, if you do, this sounds like the perfect way to get through December.

The wonderful House Of Hackney have a website I spend a lot of time staring at. I adore their prints, especially the Palmeral and I love this plate…

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Its £35 but I only ever buy one of each plate design. I don’t do matching. Why on earth would you limit yourself to just one crockery design?? You can find it here.

One of my favourite shops is Anthropologie. I absolutely adore it. Its so perfect, I feel like it was invented just for me. Up until recently I would go to their branch on Regent Street every pay day to buy myself one treat. As a result, my kitchen now looks like the store! One item I am loving at the moment is this Garonne Beverage Dispenser

drink dispenser

Yet again, this is another item I would love but cannot afford.  This stunning drinks dispenser is £398.

While I’m on Anthropologie, I am also slightly infatuated with these Twisted Twig Measuring Spoons (£24), this Turquoise Martini Glass (£32) and this Aureate Plumes Pitcher (£88)…

Anthropologie

I have a slight obsession with anything in the shape of a pineapple. I have a couple of pineapple-inspired candle holders and I am after this table lamp from Rocket St George. However, I also have my eye on these salt and pepper shakers that I saw on Pinterest which you can find here and here for about $35….

Salt & Pepper Pineapples

I also think these Mason jar measuring cups are really cute…
Mason

You can find them here for $12.99.

One of the lovely treats each Christmas is truffle brie. If you haven’t had it, look out for it in your local cheesemonger. It’s essentially a Brie de Meaux with a sandwich filling of crème fraîche, mascarpone and chopped black truffles. Its earthy, creamy, rich and decadent and I love it.

truffle brie

As a huge tea lover, I constantly have a cup of tea on the go. My favourite is White Tea, and I go through about two boxes of Clipper’s White Tea every week. With that in mind, I think this Teaspoon Tea Bag Squeezer (£15) from Alessi is a rather clever idea.

Alessi-Tea-Strainer

Simply dip the spoon into the tea cup, scoop up the bag and draw it out through the tapered handle!

Since I will no doubt be going on a full on detox in the New Year, I am desperate for this Nutribullet.

Nutribuller

My good friends Jan and Mark have this and they love it. They prepare all the fruit and veg every night before bed then in the morning they get up, blitz, then they go off to work with their healthy drinks. For £99.99 I think its actually pretty good value as everyone who has one seems to get a lot of use out of it.

This is just a silly little thing but I think its so cute…a baker’s necklace I saw on Etsy, with a mini Kitchenaid and a cupcake baking tin. At just £17.03, its the perfect gift for any baking-loving friends out there.

Kitchenaid chain

And as always…my ultimate Christmas treat…a dark Terry’s Chocolate Orange…

chocolate orange

Just the smell of a Chocolate Orange can transport me straight to Christmas morning, sitting on my bed with my brothers while we go through our stockings. At the bottom of each stocking is always a Chocolate Orange which we open instantly, much to the delight of our dog Jackson who can seem to smell it from downstairs! The aroma of a Chocolate Orange will forever hold a lifetime of precious memories for me. At the end of the day, if I get nothing but a Chocolate Orange and a Christmas with my family, I will feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

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WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE

White hot choc

I was watching the Food Network yesterday, (surprise surprise) and Ina was on, as always. I have a deep love for Ina, or the Barefoot Contessa as she is otherwise known.  I have expressed my love for her before and always take great pleasure watching her programmes. Yesterday, in an episode I have watched more times than I care to mention, she was making up a surprise basket of food and drink for her friends and one recipe that really caught my eye was for this white hot chocolate.

As I sat on my sofa…transfixed, and with my tummy starting to rumble…I quickly messaged my friend Cassie to make sure she was watching.  She was.  As my mouth watered, I vowed I would have to make that hot chocolate, and so I did.  Running through the rain to my local shop to get provisions, I kept the picture of that white hot chocolate in my head. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Grand Marnier but I had some Cointreau at home so I knew I could use that instead.

Ingredients
100ml/ just under half a cup double cream
125ml/ half a cup whole milk
100g/3.5oz white chocolate, I used Green & Blacks
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste, I used Nielsen Massey. Or you can use vanilla extract (not essence!)
Splash of Grand Marnier or Cointreau

It was so easy…I poured the cream and milk in a pan and heated gently. As little bubbles appeared around the edge of the pan, I added in the chopped bar of white chocolate and stirred until it melted.

Then I added half a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. If you’re using vanilla extract you could add a teaspoon, or however much you like, its up to you and your personal taste.

Next I added a good splash of Cointreau. Its not needed, but it does give a nice kick at the end. Again, add however much you want.

I whisked it up in the pan and poured the silky, creamy drink into a glass.  Then I sat on my sofa, savouring every sip.

Its very rich and creamy and oh so comforting…like a warm, silken embrace. You can obviously tinker about with the measurements to make it just how you like it. If you don’t want a heart attack you can of course omit the double cream, but please try this out if you can. It makes such a wonderful change from standard hot chocolate and its perfect for a cold winter’s day.

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NUTTY, BUTTERY, ADDICTIVE FLAPJACKS

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I’m not usually a fan of flapjacks.  Generally I think they’re a waste of calories. They look deceptively healthy and yet they’re usually full of fat and if I’m going to eat something like that I’d rather it involved chocolate.

However, the last time I was at home visiting my parents, my mum was making her flapjacks, or as she calls them, energy bars. She bakes a batch before she goes golfing with her friends and they snack on them around the course to keep their energy levels up. The smell when they came out of the oven was heavenly, so I tried a corner of one while it was cooling. Then another little corner, then another, until I’d demolished 3 full squares! Worryingly, this stuff is quite addictive.

They’re buttery, toasted, nutty and sweet and so, so delicious.  You can add what you want to them…seeds, other preferred dried fruits and nuts.  I personally love pecans, almonds and hazelnuts and I think the three worked well together, especially after toasting them first.  I really hope you try them out. Yes, they have butter and sugar in them, but they also have oats, nuts and fruit so in a way they are still healthy. Kind of…

Ingredients
175g/6oz rolled oats
175g/6oz self raising flour, sifted
175g/6oz soft brown sugar
175g/6oz butter or margarine (I used Stork as per my mum’s instructions)
Handful of whatever nuts of dried fruits you like. I used pecans. hazelnuts, sliced almonds, dried apricots & dried cranberries)

Start by preheating the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 4. Then grease and line a 7inch/18cm square baking tin with parchment paper.

Simply place the sifted flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and rub together. Often, brown sugar has little lumps in it so its worth rubbing it together with your fingers to get rid of those lumps.

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Add the oats and pour in the melted butter/margarine then mix together until all of the mixture is coated in the butter.

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Then add whatever nuts and fruit you want to put in there. I toasted a large handful of pecans in the oven on a baking sheet, along with a handful of hazelnuts and a handful of sliced almonds for about 5 minutes. I also added a handful of dried cranberries and a handful of dried apricots which I chopped up.

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Then transfer the mixture to the baking tin, pressing it into the corners and ensuring the surface is flat. Then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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It should look golden on top and have puffed up a little. Just leave it to cool in the baking tin and it will fall.

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I got 20 portions out of this amount but you can cut it up whichever way you like.

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Each mouthful should give you oaty, nutty, buttery goodness with a hit of sweetness from the dried fruit.

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PEAR, PECAN & MAPLE SYRUP BANANA BREAD

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This is yet another recipe from this month’s Delicious Magazine. Yes, I know it sounds like I work for them but I don’t. I just love it, and this month’s issue is fantastic as always. This recipe for Pear & Maple Syrup Banana Bread by Rosie Ramsden jumped out at me and I knew I had to try it.

Ingredients
100g/3.5oz unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
3 (about 250g/9oz) really ripe and speckled bananas
100g/3.5oz golden caster sugar
2 ripe but still firm comice pears, cored and chopped, dusted in a little flour
1 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra to serve
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free-range egg
150g/5.3oz plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g/2oz pecans, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Grease and line a 1 litre loaf tin with baking paper so it overhangs the short edges of the tin. The excess paper will help you lift out the baked cake.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl, then stir in the melted butter and caster sugar until well combined.

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Stir through the chopped pears, the maple syrup and vanilla extract then beat in the egg.

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Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda, then gently fold in, along with the pecans.

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Pour the mix into the loaf tin, then bake for 45 minutes.

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The cake should be dark on top with a soft, moist sponge. Check its done by poking a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, its ready.

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Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then lift out onto a wire rack to cool. Drizzle with extra maple syrup to serve.

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And there you have it…a deliciously moist, sweet bread, jam-packed full of flavour and texture. Perfect with a cup of tea.

I took this into the office for my colleagues to try out and it went down a storm. In fact, quite a few of my friends said it was their favourite of all my recent bakes.  So I really hope you get a chance to try this out.

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OTTOLENGHI’S CAULIFLOWER CAKE

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As mentioned in my previous post, this month’s edition of Delicious Magazine is a corker. Every page turned revealed more and more recipes I wanted to try out, so here is another one by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi…cauliflower cake.

This is almost like a baked cauliflower frittata. Served warm with a salad, this is a fantastic dish. I baked it a few days ago and took it into the office the next day. Everyone had a slice and loved it, even those who claimed not to be the biggest fans of cauliflower.

I really hope you try this out. Its very easy to make and it will give you about 8 generous helpings, plus it really is so tasty and filling.

Ingredients
1 small cauliflower (450g/16oz), outer leaves removed, broken into 3cm florets
2 tsp salt
1 medium (about 170g/6oz) red onion
75ml olive oil
½ tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
7 large free-range eggs
15g chopped basil, chopped
120g plain flour, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
150g/5.3oz grated parmesan, or other mature cheese, coarsely grated
Melted butter, for greasing
1 tbsp nigella seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/450F/gas mark 6. Put the cauliflower florets in a saucepan and add 1 tsp of the salt. Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes or until the florets are quite soft. Strain, and set aside in the colander to dry.

Cut 4 x 5mm thick slices off one end of the onion, break into rings and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest of the onion and put in a small pan with the oil and rosemary. Cook, stirring from time to time, over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put the cooled onion and rosemary mixture into a large bowl, add the eggs and basil, and whisk well.

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Add the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl, and add the parmesan, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper.

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Whisk until combined before adding the cauliflower and stir gently, trying to keep some florets whole.

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Line the base and sides of a 24cm springform cake tin with baking paper. Brush the sides with melted butter, mix the sesame with the nigella seeds, then toss them around the inside of the tin so they stick to the greased baking paper.

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Tip in the cauliflower mix and arrange the onion rings on top.

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Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

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Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature.

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And there you have it…a cheesy, cauliflower cake, perfect for lunch or light dinner.

Incidentally, the Evening Standard printed a really interesting piece on Ottolenghi last week, and how he has rescued the modern dinner party. You can read it here.

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CARIBBEAN SWEET POTATO PONE

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Every month I look forward to the new issue of Delicious Magazine landing at my front door, and this month was no exception. It was jam-packed full of amazing Autumnal recipes and this recipe in particular caught my eye. I have never heard of sweet potato pone before but reading chef Shivi Ramouter‘s tale of how she used to love it as a child growing up in Trinidad, and the fact she described it as halfway between a chewy flapjack and a moist carrot cake, I had to try it out straight away.

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Ingredients
250g/8.8oz sweet potatoes, grated
60g/2oz polenta or cornmeal
100ml/3.4fl oz coconut cream
50g/1.8oz desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
150g/5.3oz demerara sugar
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper so the paper overhangs – this will make it easier to lift the pone out once baked.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, polenta/cornmeal, coconut cream and desiccated coconut.

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Stir in all the spices, demerara sugar and a small pinch of salt. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract then mix well.

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Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin using the back of a spoon or a spatula to spread it out evenly.

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Bake for 55-60 minutes until the pone is golden, then remove from the oven.

4When the pone is col enough to handle, carefully lift it out of the tin on to a wire rack (keep it on the baking paper). Cut the pone which ever way you want…into squares or at angles to give irregular pieces.

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Serve warm with custard, or leave to cool completely to enjoy with a cup of tea.

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It really is a perfect mix of a chewy flapjack and a moist carrot cake, and absolutely delicious. I really hope you try it out.

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SALTED CARAMEL MILLIONAIRE SHORTBREAD

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I was recently luckily enough to be sent a copy of Jane Hornby’s new book What To Bake And How To Bake It.

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The book is aimed at amateur bakers looking to master the classics and expand their repertoires. Each of the 50 delicious recipes is accompanied by photographs of the ingredients, each step of the process and a finished dish shot, ensuring foolproof results every time. Every element of the baker’s craft is covered, from everyday cakes and cookies to special occasion breads and pastries.

If you follow my blog, you will see that I do the same thing…printing step-by-step photos throughout all the recipes I post. I have always thought that if you can read, you can bake. But so many people still find baking hard, so I thought it would help people to see how each stage should look so they know they’re on the right track.

Flicking through the book, I wanted to bake almost everything, but I decided to begin with this salted caramel millionaire shortbread recipe. I don’t have much willpower against the words ‘salted caramel’. I’m so glad I did as they tasted AMAZING. They’re ridiculously rich but not overly sweet as the salt cuts through the cloying sweetness. They’re also annoyingly addictive.

INGREDIENTS

For the base
110g /4oz  soft butter, plus extra for greasing
50g/2oz sugar
a pinch of flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
140g/5oz plain flour

For the caramel
110g /4oz butter
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 x 400g / 14-oz can full-fat condensed milk

For the topping
200g/7 oz bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

Lightly grease a 23cm/9-inch square baking pan, then line with parchment paper. Make the base first. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and very pale. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat again until even paler.

Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an evenly blended dough that starts to clump together.

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Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. If using a fan oven, lower the temperature by 20°.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.

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Now for the caramel. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a pan, then stir in the condensed milk.

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Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for 4 minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee. It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don’t leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, as it can easily burn on the base.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let cool completely.

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Once the caramel has set and cooled, it’s time to finish the layers. Melt the chocolate either over a pan of water or in the microwave, stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel.

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Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.

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When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares, then chill until completely firm. (As you can see, mine hadn’t completely set in the middle yet.)

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Cut into cubes to serve. I got 30 out of this recipe. I decided to go for smaller cubes as I knew it would be very rich,  For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slicing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (Phaidon, September 2014). The illustrated cover is by Kerry Lemon and photography is by Max and Liz Haarala Hamilton.

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