magic mince pies

December 10, 2009

So…mince pies. I’m still pushing flamingo biscuits as THE festive foodstuff of 2009, but for those of you who prefer something more traditional, I have sought out a heavenly recipe. It comes to me courtesy of a very good friend, who gave the original author, Josceline Dimbleby, the following glowing recommendation when she passed it on to me:

“She was the unsung heroine of my childhood was Josceline. She managed to persuade my mother to be an adventurous cook and her reassuring words gently coaxed and held my mother’s hands as she took tentative steps into new culinary domains. Almost everything I remember liking as a child came from one of the books she wrote, mainly for Sainsbury’s, including her Christmas Book from which these mince pies are taken. My copy of the book, which I stole from my mother years ago, is a faithful festive friend.”

The Josceline Dimbleby Christmas Book is now sadly out of print, however a quick search on amazon.co.uk at the time of writing unearthed a few secondhand copies. I imagine these will be snapped up quickly though, especially at this time of year.

There are two secrets that make these pies particularly special. Firstly, CLICK TO KEEP READING…>

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festive flamingos

December 6, 2009

Forget Christmas biscuits in the shapes of snowflakes, angels or stars. Enough already with the reindeer, jingle bells and holly. Candy canes and pine trees? Totally over. This year the festive period is all about flamingo-shaped biscuits. Oh yes.

While I was in Paris I picked up the cutest free magazine, le Bonbon, and made the serendipitous discovery of a recipe for Ginger Disco Biscuits. (No, there are no ecstasy pills here; this is much more fun than that.) Surely these were heaven-sent as the perfect vehicle for some edible glitter? And what could be better for CLICK TO KEEP READING…>


ham bone challenge and remember, safety first kids

November 30, 2009

This wintry weather warrants some warming comfort food. Can I tempt you with some pea and ham soup? No? Better stop reading then…

Mum’s Pea and Ham Soup

a ham bone with a little meat left on it (approx 700-800g total weight) – see note below*

1 stick of celery, cut into chunks

1 large carrot, cut into chunks

half an onion, cut into chunks

6 whole peppercorns

1 bag (480g) frozen peas

Place the ham bone in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then discard the water; this helps to remove some of the saltiness from the meat. Return the bone to the pot, cover with CLICK TO KEEP READING…>


yoghurt success, and the perfect lunch on a rainy day

November 29, 2009

Ta-da! Homemade yoghurt. I had one for breakfast and it was exactly what I was hoping for: tangy, with a creamy top (not sure if you can make out the little bubbles around the edge of its surface in the picture below?), the tartness of the yoghurt perfectly offset by the sweetness of the apricot jam. I left this batch in the yaourtière for thirteen hours to account for the cold weather, and it seems to have worked a treat.

Whilst we’re on the subject of breakfast, I must share my discovery of a wonderful local pâtisserie and purveyor of the most heavenly, authentic-French-tasting croissants. I had often walked past its inviting windows and made a mental note to pop in sometime, but had – wrongly – never prioritised it as a destination. I won’t make that mistake again. Charming service, a peaceful ambience, and even a few tables if you want to sit and enjoy your goodies there and then with a cup of coffee. If you’re ever in the area, head to:

Des Lys Pâtisserie Boulangerie, 8 Bedford Hill, Balham, London SW12 9RG (020 8673 0804)

I maintained my French theme for the day with the most satisfying lunch: rotisserie chicken, sautéed potatoes, and green beans.

I am positively evangelical about rotisserie chicken. That ambrosial aroma that CLICK TO KEEP READING…>


daring dairy

November 28, 2009

I first became obsessed with the idea of making my own yoghurt when I lived in France for six months after leaving school. Those cute little glass jars that can be found in even the most unexceptional French supermarket were so much more enticing than the plastic-potted dairy products of my childhood; they were understated, alluring and rich with promise, the contents fresh-tasting, creamy, tart and tangy. You can find such delights today on the Real France stall at London’s Borough Market. But how much more fun to make them at home!

Knowing of my aspirations in this area, a very dear friend went to a great deal of trouble a few years ago to find me an authentic French yaourtière for my birthday. My experiences were CLICK TO KEEP READING…>


deceptively meaty meat-free spag bol

November 27, 2009

A very late night last night, waiting to take the Christmas cakes out of the oven. Here they are in all their glory…

This isn’t too dissimilar to the ‘before’ photo in a makeover feature in a women’s magazine. Think of these cakes as two badly lit ladies, devoid of makeup and in desperate need of decent haircuts, awaiting their transformation. Next time you see them they will be – literally – looking good enough to eat.

My first thoughts are CLICK TO KEEP READING…>


christmas is coming…and recipe swapshop

November 26, 2009

they got a little bedraggled when I walked home from class in the rain...

I started making my Christmas cake this evening. I’ve been going to a cake decorating evening class since September; this week we made reindeer cake toppers out of sugarpaste and for the next few weeks we’ll be working on ‘swags and frills’ (yikes) and modelling winter flowers. I decided that instead of working on a polystyrene dummy I would make my own fruit cake – cue a frantic search for the perfect recipe.

For the past couple of years I have been following a very special Christmas cake recipe given to me by CLICK TO KEEP READING…>