Thursday 17 December 2015

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home

I’m a sucker for most cookbooks, but even so, more recently I’ve been more selective than ever, which is partly financial and partly the fact that we are fast running out of space, the normal places for keeping books have long been filled and there are piles of books growing wherever I can fit them in.   I know I am due a clear out, but if I’m honest, I’m so dreading doing this that I’ve been putting it off… 


Anyhow, there are genres of cookbook that I have especially soft spots for and one of them is Christmas books and cookbooks. This book from the other side of the pond has a foot in both types, being a memoir of Christmases past with recipes.  An Old-Fashioned Christmas Sweet Traditions for Hearth and Home by Ellen Stimson (The Countryman Press 2015) I had not heard of this author, but will get her other (non-cookbook) in the New Year to read.


I just love the cosiness and wrap-me-up-in-a-warm-blanket with a roaring fire in the fireplace feeling it has.  Perhaps with snow falling softly outside. Ellen is a Christmas girl as she says, and she really is, she gets the very best feelings of Christmas and Winter, and can transfer them to the written word very well indeed.  When I first started reading this book I found it evocative of Laurie Colwin and Diana Henry’s writings. Which for me is a very good thing, though this lady has a voice all her own too.


There are her family’s stories and pictures of some of their precious Christmas tree ornaments or baubles if you prefer.   Of course there is also food, divided up into different sections  like Butter & Sugar, Cabin Food, Treats for Four Legged Friends, Party Foods, Christmas Eve Brunch, Christmas All Day Long and The Next Day.


I’ve not made anything from this book yet, but I had to share it with you now, before the big day arrives for this year. It’s an easy read, and could easily be binge-read (awful phrase, but you know what I mean), but I’m stretching it out in the evenings to last me up until Christmas Eve.

Saturday 12 December 2015

Christmas Rocky Road with Turkish Delight and Pistachios

I posted my take on Christmas Rocky Road adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe in Christmas a few years ago, by changing the dark / milk chocolate ratios. Here I’ve taken it further away from the original. This year I felt like changing it up a little. 

Last year I was frantically busy for most of December, so much so that there was no Christmas Rocky Road made.   I have been toying with the idea of adding pistachios and chopped up Turkish Delight for a while, and when I eventually tried it is was really gorgeous. Give it a go!  

Christmas Rocky Road with Turkish Delight and Pistachios
Adapted from Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson 2008.
85g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g amaretti biscuits (the hard ones), crushed into crumbs and lumps
65g mini pink and white marshmallows,
75g glace cherries (bright red ones look best here!)
40g pistachio nuts
1 x Fry’s Turkish Delight bar chopped into 12 pieces

1 teaspoons icing sugar, to dust
Edible white glitter, to dust (optional)

(1)Heat the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat, then cool a little for 5 1 10 minutes.

(2)To the melted chocolate mixture add the biscuit crumbs, marshmallows, glace cherries, pistachio nuts and Turkish Delight, fold in well to coat everything.

(3)Tip the mixture into a 7” square baking tin and smooth the top the best you can with a spatula.
Refrigerate until set.

(4) To serve, cut into 12 bars and dust with icing sugar and optional edible glitter for the festive factor.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Christmas Gingerbread Men Reindeer Cookies

A couple of years ago a mum at my daughter’s school Christmas Fayre made the red nosed version of these. Search for ‘upside down gingerbread reindeer cookies’ to see them.  I tried to find the original idea for these online, but I couldn’t.  I’m not going to use the picture without crediting it, hence the what-to-Google bit above.
Anyhow, I made these for my daughter’s party bags one year, and other times beside.  The gingerbread recipe in the link  here works like a dream, and is gingery enough, without having an off-putting level of spice for children too.
They are very cute. You need a sort of rounded gingerbread man cookie cutter, but I found mine easily and cheaply online.  A few smarties and some white and black icing and you are ready to create. It’s a fun and easy little project for Christmas-time.  There is only one red nosed reindeer in my picture, and this is because I was told in no uncertain terms that there is only one Rhudolph! =)

Wednesday 25 November 2015

The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays

I’m a huge Ree Drummond fan, I just love her! All her cookbooks are good, and although I’m planning to post about Dinnertime, her newest (fabulous) cookbook soon, the one I’m posting about today is her one from a couple of years ago.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks A Year of Holidays by Ree Drummond, William Morrow 2013. Ree says there is nothing more delicious than a holiday. It’s true too! This could be down to many factors, taking time to plan and anticipate special meals, having a little more time to prep and cook, perhaps spreading the workload of the cooking amongst family and friends attending a holiday gathering.  I know when I recall holidays past it family and food that I remember most! I hope that isn’t just me!
Ree covers 12 holiday occasions from New Years Day to New Years Eve. Some are ones I am very familiar with like Mothers’ Day, Easter and Christmas. Others are new to me like The Big Game and Cinco de Mayo. Although the book is set out in chapters for each holiday, at the back there is a list of dishes by type, so it is easy to pick out a main course or dessert if it isn’t a holiday time.
I’ve cooked quite a number of dishes from this book. And although I have some pictures of sweet things, I have also cooked many dishes that I don’t have pictures of.  The four that are standouts and I make again and again are Turkey tetrazzini (unbelievably delicious, great with chicken too), potato skins, scalloped potatoes with ham (mmmm) and  Mummy dogs. Though I must mention cranberry sauce, orange smoothies, BBQ cocktail wieners, yoghurt-brown sugar and berry parfaits, broccoli-cheese soup, devilled eggs, perfect egg salad, straight up pico de gallo, perfect potato salad (though I keep my potatoes in chunks), cheddar chive biscuits, Chocolate mint shooters, lemon crème pie shooters and peach cobbler. Whew! And I’ve still got lots I’d like to try! It’s a great book.
Of the three sweet things that I do have pictures of, the cake is particularly swoon worthy.
Chocolate Strawberry Cake
When I make this one I halve the recipe, the whole thing would be great for a big party, but I have a small family and tend to therefore have smaller gatherings,  a one tier cake is still a thing of great beauty.  A brownie like fudgy base spread with chocolate hazelnut spread which is topped with sweet vanilla cream then topped with strawberries. Oh my! Amazing. Recipelink here.
Super easy to make, my daughter loves these. Recipe link here.
Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
A Chocolatey cookie, dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy canes. Sweet!  The only change I would make to this recipe is to fully coat the tops of the biscuits in chocolate and candy cane sprinkles as I like to have both in each bite.  Recipe link here.
 Just one more of that cake, in cake you needed a closer look!

Monday 23 November 2015

Ina Garten's Wild Mushroom Risotto

I don’t know if it’s the time of year – Autumn just tipping into Winter – but I have been really craving mushrooms for a couple of weeks now. If we are out for dinner then that might be crispy battered mushrooms with garlic mayo.  At home though, it is more likely to be mushroom soup, mushroom stroganoff or mushroom risotto. 
I’ve made a lot of different mushroom risottos from a lot of different books, and my two favourites are one by Giada De Laurentiis and this one from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter 2008.  I quite often like Madeira or Marsala as the boozy part because the flavour goes so well with the mushrooms, but the white wine here is milder. Use what you like or have to hand.
We like our risotto a little soupy, not too much mind! For my tastes a dry risotto is a chance of a great supper wasted. It all depends what you like best though, there is no right or wrong in my book, just different tastes.   
This one must have been on on of Ina’s T.V. shows, as I found the recipe for Ina's Wild Mushroom RIsotto online here at the Foodnetwork to share.

Friday 20 November 2015

Rachel Allen’s Double Chocolate Cookies

I had Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen: Simple, delicious family food by Rachel Allen , published by Harper Collins 2013 for a good while.  I’d made and enjoyed a number of recipes, when my friend Kathryn said had I tried these cookies?
I went and had a look at the book, and they read as ordinary cookies… but once you make them they are really fabulous (just as Kathryn said they were). Not long out of the oven they are crunchy, chewy and gooey. Next day they are good too, which I haven’t always found to be the case with cookies!  I usually halve the recipe for 10 generous cookies. Give them a whirl!  
As I make the recipe exactly as it is, with no changes from me, I’m not keen to publish it, as it’s not even an adaptation of Rachel’s recipe, but luckily I’ve found the recipe online, so even if you don’t have the book you can still give them a go.  It’s on RTE LifeStyle, just follow the part for the cookies only in the recipe here.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Raffaello Macarons

I have a soft spot for many kinds of cookbook. Which I don’t expect is news, ha ha! One of my little soft spots though is Irish books.  The book here is a sweet baking book, Like Mam Used to Bake by Rosanne Hewitt-Cromwell, published by Mercier Press 2013.  

It has the feel of an homely  passed down kind of kitchen notebook, but there are also some more modern recipes as well as classics. There are some mint chocolate (sandwich) cookies that I must make soon.

These little beauties come from this book, Raffaello Macarons. Rosanne took her inspiration from the famous sweets of the same name, and the work incredibly well.  

Sunday 14 June 2015

The Pioneer Woman's Flat Apple Pies

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl  by Ree Drummond,  William Morrow 2009.  Do you remember when this book came out? Everyone was wild for it! It was all over the internet and getting rave reviews.  At that time our internet was very poor and dropped out if you just looked at it, so I found it hard to load the posts from Ree’s website.  Still, I bought the book, flicked through it, and that was that.  A few years later, after seeing Ree on her foodnetwork show I decided to start cooking some of her recipes…. And I’ve never stopped! 
I can see that Ree is someone you like a lot or not at all, and I just love her! I so enjoy watching her TV show that I keep some on Sky Plus, just to clam me down if I’ve had a bad day.  This was one of the first recipes of hers that I cooked…. And boy oh boy is it good.  The first time I cooked it I made it for Mothering Sunday for my Mum. I didn’t think apple pie was really my thing, but I cooked it for my mum as I knew she would like it. Well how wrong could I have been, it was simple and so delicious!  I’ve made it many times since, and I’d actually go as far as to say it is one of my very favorite desserts.   Of course Hubby loves it, but he loves all fruit puds.  
The pie crust recipe make two pie crusts, and I always pop one in the freezer for next time. I also use all butter, as I refuse to use shortening.  On the TV Ree serves it with caramel sauce, and I’m sure that would be really good, but alas I’ve never made it past a little dribble of cream. One day I will though...
Recipe link to Foodnetwork site here.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Nigellissima - Third Helpings!

Here is a bumper  round up post for my cooking from Nigellissima, that I’ve not blogged so far.  Been a while since Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson published by  Chatto & Windus 2012 came out.  Whilst it isn't my very favourite book of hers, we have eaten a number of good meals from it.   As an aside I am so looking forward to her new book Simply Nigella due out October 2015! Not long to wait now….   Roll on October…..
Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
I first ate this cake at my friend Anna’s house. It was really good. I then made it myself, but I used too strong an olive oil and it was ok-ish, but you could taste the olive oil.  Still my friend’s cake was great, so it has potential with the right oil!
Italian Roast Chicken with Peppers and Olives
This was good, lovely Summery roast.
Vanilla Mousse with Berries and Pistachios
A nice simple pudding for when the berries are perfect.
Fettuccine with Mushrooms, Marsala and Mascarpone
I used spaghetti as we as a family aren’t that keen on Fettuccine. A rich vegetarian pasta.
Instant Chocolate-Orange Mousse
I halved this recipe, and it worked out just fine.  Chocolate and orange is one of my very favourite flavour pairings.

Chicken with Tomatoes and Peppers
I pepped this one up with some olives, bit of pancetta or bacon would have been good too.
Figs with Honey-Cream & Pistachios
I don’t think the figs I had were up to much to begin with, so even sweet cream wasn’t enough to perk them up.  However if you have some great fresh figs go for it.  I’d double the sauce.
Mock Mash
I was in two minds if or not I’d post this one, as if I really don’t like a recipe my usual stand is just not to post it.  Quite simply awful! Waste of good ingredients! At least to our tastes anyhow.  I’d imagine this is a marmite recipe love it or hate it, no middle ground.   
One-Step No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream
Amazing! Make it soon….

Mountain Macaroni
I’ll come clean and tell you that although this is a pasta and potato recipe, I dispensed with the potatoes. The reason for doing this was twofold. One although it was a cold, cold Winter’s night when I made it, I’d not been skiing or clearing snow, so didn’t need the double carb hit, and secondly my daughter would not have eaten the pasta if she found a potato bit in it, and as it was she ate it happily!  Still, it was comforting and delicious, so result.

Peas with Pancetta
Can’t go wrong with this one, peas, bacon, mint, wine, garlic…
Pasta with Courgettes
I made half of this recipe one lunch time for just me, I really liked it, but I love courgettes, alas my family don’t.  Going to add in some cream or crème fraiche next time, just a touch. 

Wednesday 10 June 2015

New England Open House Cookbook

New Book!  I’ve been anticipating this book for months now. New England Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase, Workman 2015.   I have all Sarah’s book, and especially liked The Nantucket Open House Cookbook and also Cold-Weather Cooking.  She hasn’t written a book in a long while though, which has made for a long, long wait! 
It’s a lovely book, not a book if you need a picture of every recipe, because although there are pictures of some recipes and also scene setting ones too, there is not a picture of each dish. That aside it is a cooks’ book, one to read then cook from. I like the friendly way the pages are set out. It reminds me very much of the late, great Sheila Lukins’s books.
The geographical reach is bigger in this book, spanning New England or ‘300 Recipes Inspired by the Bounty of New England’ as the cover has it.  There are year round recipes and plenty of chat from the author in the recipe introductions. Some recipes are inspired by or from local eateries and people, and Sarah always credits them, a trait which I respect in a cookbook writer.
Now what to make first? Greek Girlfriend Baked Chicken and Orzo – Our House Vinaigrette (which her husband says he married her for!) – Maple Glazed Salmon – Maple Pear Muffins with Walnut Streusel – Daffodil Picnic Chicken Curried Salad – Blue Hill Blueberry Bliss (cake)……

Monday 8 June 2015

Ree Drummond Raspberry Tiramisu

For quite a while now I’ve been having a bit of a Ree Drummond Pioneer Woman recipe obsession.  This recipe is a dessert I made this last weekend as a trial for having friends round later in the Summer. I know one of them can’t go past Tiramisu on a dessert menu, so I had to try this raspberry tiramisu to make sure it was good!
It was gorgeous, the raspberries add a nice fruity edge to the Tiramisu.  Now, I have a slight confession to make, I don’t really like mascarpone in sweet things, so I used light cream cheese, and it worked out just fine.   At the time of posting this it is not in any of Ree’s books, but you can find the recipe for the raspberry tiramisu here on the Foodnetwork website.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Rachael Ray Cashew Orange Chicken

Hello!  I’ve been gone from the blogsphere for a good while now.  In the meantime I’ve been posting (much more) regular updates in the Facebook page, and although I enjoy that I miss blogging.... so here I am, back again. J   Sometimes you’ll get food, sometimes recipes, sometimes pictures of my latest books, because despite attempting to curb by cookbook-aholic tendancies I still get such a huge thrill from holding a new book in my hand, sometimes I’ll read through them for ideas and sometimes cook from them, neither is a waste to me!

The recipe here is one I have made so many times, it’s from Rachael Ray’s Look + Cook book from Clarkson Potter 2010.  Rachael gets a bit of a rough ride sometimes, but you know I can’t help but like her.  Especially when she comes up with recipes like this one, make your own takeout Cashew chicken with orange sauce and scallion (spring onion) rice.  I’ve made it with broccoli or tenderstem broccoli and both are good. I also thicken the sauce with 1 level tablespoon of cornflour slackened with 2 tablespoons of cold water added in right at the end to thicken. Other than that little change the recipe can be found here.