12 Treats to Make Before Christmas.

In a month and a half, we will be getting ready for a Christmas dinner. Maybe sooner if you’re holding a few events for friends before the day! And harvest season is coming to an end, with frosts quickly advancing and only a few baskets and boxes of fresh produce left. Soon there will be turnips, parsnips, some berries and that’s about it.

So why not take advantage of the last few batches of harvest and make some amazing food to preserve for our dinner tables over Christmas? Here are twelve of my favourites.

1: Plum pie filling.

The last few batches of plums should be dewey and bursting with flavour round about now, but they won’t last until December. Make the most of them and make a thick plum jam to can and preserve until Christmas.

2: Pumpkin ice cream.

Cook down some pumpkin flesh with a bit of sugar and a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Stir it into cream, drizzle with melted toffee, top with walnuts, freeze and forget about it for a month and a half.

3: Christmas pudding.

If you didn’t feel confident enough to cure your English Christmas pudding for six months, you can always make one now and hang it up in cheesecloth in the pantry to cure just a little bit.

4: Cranberry sauce.

Bring a few bowls of cranberries to a simmer until the juices escape. Strain and keep the liquid. Add a cup of sugar for each cup of cranberry juice. Boil for a few minutes and then can it to save for roast dinners.

5: Mincemeat.

If you want to make your own mince pies, now’s the time to make mincemeat from fresh and dried fruits, to cure and ferment a bit by December. Chop up half fresh, half dried fruits, mash with flour and plenty of brandy, heat, can and leave in the fridge until needed.

6: Pumpkin chutney.

All that remaining pumpkin and pumpkin rind can also be used up efficiently! Chop it roughly and cook it with plenty of sugar, some salt and some vinegar. Maybe a little chili too. Then, bring to a boil and can it. Keep in the fridge until needed.

7: Glacé fruit.

If you have a lot of fruit and time on your hands, you could try and make glacé (candied) fruit ready for cake toppings and snacks. You need 1lb of sugar for every 2lbs of fruit. You boil the fruit in a pan of water several times before adding the sugar to coat it.

8: Marzipan.

From stollen, a traditional German Christmas cake made with a marzipan filling, to your cheeseboard, this rich and tasty almond treat is worth making in advance.

9: Applesauce.

Essentially, apple jam. Boil your apples down with 1/3-1/2 sugar and can for later use.

10: Pear confit.

Bake pears and onions with oil and salt until soft. Bring to a high heat in a saucepan. Can, refrigerate and save.

11: Elderberry wine.

With the last of the elderberries, consider making your own elderberry wine to wow your guests at the dinner table. It is simple and doesn’t take long to ferment.

12: Sloe gin and cherry brandy.

Or, if you’re not that adventurous, get a bottle of gin and place a few sliced sloes in it and a bottle of brandy to fill with cherries.

And those are my top twelve things to make in time for Christmas! What other treats do you like to prepare early?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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20 Food Charts To Take You From Beginner To Pro.

I don’t normally do posts like this, but I recently realized what a collection of charts I was accumulating and how useful they have been to me. So, as a special treat of sorts, here are my top 20 useful charts that should help any beginner cook (and even some great cooks) learn some skills. Maybe you can save them as a file or maybe you can print them for your walls. Maybe you already know 99% of this or maybe you haven’t a clue yet. All I know is that these charts helped me and therefore I will share them.

First our utensils. Chasing Delicious have a great range of unit conversion charts.

1: Unit conversion by volume.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

2: Unit conversion by weight.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Next, there is a range of kitchenware you might want to consider getting.

3: Kitchenware.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

4: Knives.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

And finally, some tips on storing food once you’ve got it.

5: General storage guidelines.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Once the kitchen is all in order and stocked and we have an idea what the recipe is saying, we may want to look at cooking technique.

Again, Chasing Delicious have some great guides.

6: Cooking methods.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

7: Mixing methods.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

8: Techniques using eggs.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Definitely check them out for their Kitchen 101 charts. 🙂

Or you could try some quick and healthy simple cooking by mastering your pressure cooker.

9: Pressure cooker.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

But it doesn’t just boil down to the right technique. There are little differences between very similar foods that can make big differences in the end result. Try and use these guidelines next time you’re cooking…

10: Grains.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

11: Pasta.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

12: Boiled eggs.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

13: A turkey.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

But we still aren’t done. We know what to cook, what quantity to cook and how to cook it, but what about seasonings? If you want to improve your seasoning, look no further than these charts.

Try and use flavour pairings not just to work out how to season one item, but to work out what foods taste best together. If they have no shared seasonings, they may be a bad combination!

14: Flavour pairings.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

If you are making a certain type of food, check which spices work with which recipe. If you cross-reference flavour pairings and cooking pairings you should find some fail-safe ideas for your next recipe.

15: Cooking pairings.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Whether you’re cooking meat or vegetables, a roast a braise or even a pan-fry, a dry rub rarely goes amiss. You can even use it as a sort of marinade for the surface of your food.

16: Dry rub mixes.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

If you’re looking to cook something with an ethnic feel, but you don’t have the right spices or aren’t sure what exemplifies that cuisine, try these combinations.

17: Spices by Cuisine.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Or if you aren’t sure and want to rely on the tried-and-tested but add a bit of a twist, why not mix your own sauces?

18: Sauce mixes.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

Finally, the drink can matter as much as the food you’re serving. For dinner parties or fancy meals, or just for ordering when you’re having a meal out, these guides can be a great help.

19: Wine pairing.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

20: Beer pairing.

20 Charts To Take Your Cooking From Beginner To Pro.

And those are my favourite food charts. I hope you found at least a couple useful!

I won’t be making many posts like this, but if you have any awesome charts to share I’d love to see them. 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

WWW. Rich Risotto and Plum Tart.

Been a busy week for cooking. Risotto, mince stew, chicken, tarts, satay, bread, cupcakes…

Decided to write up the risotto, as I haven’t put  a risotto up before (I don’t think I have anyway), the plum tart and the walnut bread.

Risotto.

Ingredients:

(Serves 6.)

-300g rice

-3 parsnips

-6 medium carrots

-300g celeriac

-2 onions

-1 head garlic

-300ml double cream

-300ml red wine

-1tbsp sage leaves

-2tbsp salt

-1tbsp pepper

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-large pot

Recipe:

1: Peel and finely chop the onions, celeriac, parsnips and carrots.

2: Peel and crush the garlic cloves. Place all the vegetables in the pot.

3: Add the wine and set to simmer.

4: Salt, pepper, add the cream and stir well.

5: Once the cream and wine have combined and become more fluid, add the rice. Add the sage and keep an eye on it, stirring to make sure the rice doesn’t stick.

6: If it boils low, add a bit of very hot water and keep stirring until the rice is cooked.

7: Serve with pan-seared chicken.

Bread.

Ingredients:

-500g flour and raising agents

-3 eggs

-150ml milk

-1 cup walnuts

-1tbsp nutmeg

-1tsp cinnamon

-1/4tsp cloves

-water as needed

Utensils:

-mixing bowl

-greased loaf tin

Recipe:

1: Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.

2: Incorporate the eggs and milk.

3: Add water whilst stirring until the mix is runny and fluffy.

4: Bake at 160C for 45min, or until a skewer comes out clean.

5: Remove from tin and cool upside down.

Tart.

Ingredients:

For the base:

-200g flour

-100g butter

-100g white chocolate

For the top:

-2 fresh peaches

-2 fresh plums

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-mixing bowl

-greased or nonstick tray

Recipe:

1: Chop the chocolate into crumbs.

2: Mash the flour, butter and chocolate together. Use to line the tray.

3: Slice the fruit. Arrange decoratively on base.

4: Bake at 160C until the fruit is soft but not too discoloured.

5: Serve with cinnamon-sugar cream.

Forgot to ask Jon to borrow his phone for the good pictures today, so will post them tomorrow!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Jon’s Birthday.

How it went, along with recipes and stuff, because I’m nice. :p

 

Around 6.30 I got up as usual, fed the chickens and the cat, cleaned the litter tray, washed last-night’s remaining dishes and tidied the hall.

By 7.30 I had made Jon a tea and returned to bed with it. We spent all morning watching random videos and cuddling.

At 9.30 we got up, I made a point of wearing some nicer, form-fitting clothes as opposed to my usual Sunday gardening attire. I then made him some Celt-fuel for breakfast.

Celt-fuel recipe:

Ingredients:

-1/4 chicken

-2 large eggs

-200g mixed vegetables (courgettes, carrots, cabbage; pre-cooked)

-butter

-salt

Utensils:

-frying pan

-poultry scissors

Recipe:

1: Cut up the meat from the chicken quarter and pan-fry it in butter.

2: Add the eggs and vegetables. Add salt and stir-fry.

After breakfast he played Diablo III for a while and had one of his favourite energy drinks.

We went to Sainsbury’s and got a load of sugar so as to jam our 12k of damson plums.

After that Jon did his weights whilst I started on the jam. Once the weights were done and Jon had washed, we went upstairs and I gave him a hot lather and shave.

Next it was some more games and a bit of a kung-fu film.

We then went for dinner at a local pub. Jon had a burger and I had a mixed grill. We had my cheesecake for pudding at Jon’s mother’s house.

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Cheesecake recipe:

Ingredients for the cheese:

-600g cream cheese

-100ml double cream

-5tbsp sugar

Ingredients for the base

-200g spelt flour

-100g white flour

-25g plain butter

-25g soft brown/palm sugar

-80g chocolate

Toppings:

-25-30 raspberries

-raspberry juice

Utensils:

-large mixing bowl and fork

-small mixing bowl and spoon

-1 baking tray (preferably loose-base)

Recipe:

1: Mix the cream and sugar in the large bowl until smooth.

2: Whisk until smooth.

3: Mix the two flours in the small bowl with the butter and brown/palm sugar.

4: Grease the tray. Push the flour mix into the base until the base is covered and it fills out to the edges.

5: Preheat the oven to 160C.

6: Keeping the chocolate wrapped in the foil, smash it with a rolling pin or heavy knife until the pieces are all 1cm or under.

7: Sprinkle the chocolate over the base so it’s fairly evenly spread.

8: Put the base in the oven until the biscuit is cooked and the chocolate is fluid.

9: Spread the chocolate evenly over the base. Place the base in the fridge.

10: Once cold, spoon the cheese onto the base and smooth the top.

11: Make any designs you would like on the surface of the cake.

12: Use the raspberries and juice to complete your design.

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After this Jon had to sort some work, so we missed out on movie night, but we’ll do that tonight!

Besides that, once Jon was home we had some wine and cuddled and talked before lights out.

Recipe Corner. Roadkill Rabbit.

Yes, roadkill. Yes, recipe. It isn’t half as bad as it sounds!

But it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like.

Basically, we live in the countryside. And there are a few warrens around here. There happens to be one either side of the main road and one just down the lane. So rabbits are getting hit all the time, often right on our doorstep! Sometimes, we can walk down the road and on our way back there’ll be something there that wasn’t there 30min ago. Sometimes it’s pancaked, but others it’s surprisingly whole. This time, we took it home.

Slight amount of blood on the side of its head implies it was “nicked” by a car, rather than properly hit. Rigor-mortis hadn’t even set in and it was warm.

When we got it home, Jon tried to sever the spine to ensure it was 100% dead and not comatose. He missed by an inch, but the fact the throat-wound didn’t produce a flow of blood (more of a spatter) assured us the heart wasn’t beating any more. So the process could begin.

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Now, I’d seen people preparing rabbits in Spain, where they seem to be the predominant form life wishes to take (well, rabbits and cacti). However, I hadn’t done it myself. It appears that, like pheasant-plucking, it came naturally to me, as I did it over the sink and counter without instruction, relying on instinct and memory.

Step 1: Remove the feet. Snap them at the ankles and cut through the skin. Place to one side if you want to make lucky charms.

Step 2: Pierce the skin over the breast bone. This ensures a clean skin at the end and that you don’t puncture the organs before it’s skinned.

Step 3: Pull the skin away from the body and make a clean cut down the middle. Mine turned out at a bit more of an angle, but otherwise it was good.

Step 4: There should be a solid amount of ligament down the breastbone proper, cut this away.

Step 5: Peel the skin away from the chest.

Step 6: There is more strong ligament in the armpit and hip-joint areas, as well as on the knees and elbows. The best option is to cut a straight line down the inner thighs, remove the ligaments and just peel it off by turning it inside out.

Step 7: There are odd bits of strong ligament down the spine. Cut a ring around the neck, remove these ligaments and detach the skin.

Rigor-mortis started setting in near the end of the skinning, but I finished the job nicely. Whilst the description implies it would take longer, I wanted the fur, was working with a hardening animal and inexperienced and I only took around 20min, so it wouldn’t be that hard at all. Really, you could perform step 1, cut the head  and tail off, make a tear down the back and front and peel it in a minute. You could even bypass using a knife, like I did when removing the feet. All you really need is your hands.

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Fur and feet.

Bunny almost ready for food.

Bunny almost ready for food.

Step 8: Cut off the head. The reason I didn’t do this before is that it seemed easier to get a clean skin with the head still attached. I think it worked.

Step 9: I messed up this part a bit, so in case you do too, do it over the sink. Break the hips open. Make an incision directly under the ribs, running along the whole of the bottom of them. Peel the skin back. Insert your fingers between the ribs and the organs. When you find a strong ligament, pull down. The entirety of the offal should come out cleanly.

I managed to get it out cleanly, but in three parts. One was the diaphragm, as described above. The other was the heart and lungs, which I fished out later, along with that magical ligament. The last was the end of the colon which I cut out.

Washed and ready for butchering.

Washed and ready for butchering.

I cut it up into the four limbs, a front piece and a back piece and boiled it in salt water for an hour or so. This is to ensure it’s well-cooked, so any tiny risk of parasites is further reduced.

20140409_202018

Now comes the recipe!

Ingredients:

-1 cooked rabbit

-1 large onion

-4 medium carrots

-6 stalks of celery

-500ml of red wine

-5tbsp chilli olive-oil

-4 tbsp mixed herbs

-2tbsp pepper

-1tbsp onion powder

-1tbsp lemon juice

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-cooking pot

Recipe:

1: Wash, peel and chop the vegetables. Add them to the pot and pour the wine on top. Add the olive oil and then water until the vegetables are covered.

2: Put on a high heat and leave. Note: put the lid on. As the alcohol in the wine will be boiling at a lower temperature the veg will take slightly longer to cook-through, but by keeping the pot covered you can increase the temperature enough so that the difference is hardly noticeable.

3: Strip the rabbit off the bones. Cut any big bits of meat down to size. There should be a lot of meat, so make sure you get the loin, everything from the legs, the pectorals and the strips of meat under the ribs.

4: Once the veg is softened, add the rabbit and the remaining seasonings.

5: Simmer at a low heat until everything is coloured by the wine and the flavours have blended.

6: Serve. We had ours with a bit of wine on the side.

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I will dry the feet and tan the fur. Not sure what I want to do with them, though…