Popcorn

popcorn box

So here we are, the very last day of 2014.

We have worked, partied, played and pontificated in equal measure over the last few weeks, with some of the loveliest people in our lives.  And now, in the final hours of 2014, we are sat at home with the fire burning wood from our garden, and access to as much popcorn as we wish, via a Christmas present to the wee boy of a popcorn machine, courtesy of my lovely big sister.

What more could a girl wish for?

So, whatever you do this evening, I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to sharing some more little titbits of food and nonsense with you in 2015.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this…

At the wee boy’s 5th birthday party, he eventually blew out the candles on his cake and was encouraged to make a wish.

Later on his grandma turned to him and said,

‘What did you wish for?’

To which the wee boy replied,

‘I can’t tell you, it’s between me and the candles’

Which still makes me smile from the inside out.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

carrot and corriander soup

This is probably one of my favourite soups.  Not only is it a doddle to make, but it always smells and tastes divine.

And this is how it goes…

Chop up a couple of onions and dice some carrots.  Fry the onions in a little butter, add the carrots, a splash of salt, a sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper and a teaspoon of cumin.  Stir it all around then add chicken or vegetable stock and some boiling water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrots are soft then add a good handful of chopped coriander.  Let it all simmer for another couple of minutes.

Take off the heat and blitz.  I use my trusty hand whizzer, but anything that makes it look soup-like, works.  Then add another big handful of chopped coriander and stir.

It is now ready to eat.

Sadly, my gang are still in the ‘munching through boxes of sweets’ phase so have turned down the offer of soup.  Thankfully a lovely friend came by and happily shared a bowl with me.  The rest I have placed in a tupperware box with lid and put into the fridge, where it will either freeze, or just sit there for days until it begins to emanate a slight odour.

At this point I will either take it out, reheat and eat the last portion on my own, or, if it’s gone past the point of no return, throw it away with my head hung in shame.

You see that’s the thing about leftover food, it’s all fine and dandy transforming it all from one foodstuff to another, but if those you are feeding have no appetite for such delicacies, it remains uneaten.

There is, however, a slight chance that somebody may have a pang for something savoury in the next few hours which will vindicate my desire to have ‘just in case’ food prepared.

And it is with that eternal optimism that I am now going to retire to the sofa, having eaten enough Christmas cake and cheese for the week, in just one sitting.

Eating Chocolate

chocolate

Well, that’s it for another year.  We have, over the last three days, over indulged in almost everything, and rolled ourselves in and out of bed with an enthusiasm only reserved for Christmas.  At last we are safely snuggled up in front of the fire at home with only one minor crisis now behind us.  That of losing Boba Fett, the wee boy’s Santa present.

The thing about going away for Christmas is that everything needs to be packed up, which we duly did this morning.  The whole floor space was checked over to make sure that not one iota of paper, small piece of lego, or sparkly thing was left behind. So imagine our surprise when, on returning home, we couldn’t find Boba.

All the bags were emptied with an increased fervour, some may call it panic, as it gradually dawned on us that we may have thrown him away, inadvertently, with the copious amounts of recycling that we conscientiously disposed of.

However, we live in an age where telephone calls can be made, and actions put into place.  Situations such as this also serve to remind us that actually, most gifts are replaceable.

Thankfully Boba has been found, hiding behind cushions in the cottage.  Easy to lose, you might think.  Therefore, it is only right I point out that he is a three dimensional figure, who is approximately 40cm tall.

I know, incredible.

Anyway, all is now as it should be and we have absolutely nothing to do except lounge around, eating chocolate.

Magic and Sparkle

decorated Christmas Cake

So here it is, at last, the day before the day.  With only one more sleep to go until the big man flies by, we are ensconced, with family, in a place none of us have ever been to before, but that has enough comfortable sleeping spots for everyone to fit in.

We have released the Christmas Cake from it’s catacomb of greaseproof paper and tin foil, and duly covered it in the requisite marzipan and icing. Then, just for good measure, we have sprinkled a little edible glitter on the top.

Of course we haven’t, as I write this, managed to wrap all the presents yet, but then it has become tradition for himself and I to leave some wrapping for the dying embers of Christmas Eve.  I remember one year I was still wrapping presents on Christmas Day as the family were walking up the drive, which does somewhat eradicate the notion of being ‘ready for Christmas’.

To be honest, I’m never quite sure what ‘being ready’ means, although I must have been asked the question more than fifteen times over the last week.

To which I always reply, ‘no, not quite’ and raise my eyes skyward.   It’s a tradition.

Meanwhile, the wee boy has managed to spend the whole day, once again, in his pyjamas, whilst son #1 is experimenting with various drinks combinations, most of which include pepsi – a drink he is only allowed on special occasions – all of which, in my humble opinion, taste vile.  I don’t however, have the palette of an 11 year old boy.

The chocolates, nibbles and various other food items we don’t buy any other time of year, have all been opened, and we are slowly devouring our way through the lot.

If we’re not eating food, we are talking about it.

Gradually, throughout the day, we have sashayed from drinking tea, to coffee, to something that sparkles.

And so the magic begins.

Only one more sleep to go…

Reflections

glass bauble

Someone described the Winter Solstice to me the other day as the longest night, which I find extremely endearing.  Not only because it seems to sum up perfectly the blanket of darkness that has gradually been swallowing us up over the last few months, but it also puts the darkness into a finite concept, which can often be lost amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas life.

Indeed, it is with great relief that we have shimmied into a natural pace of Christmas which is much slower than my imagined perception.  And whilst we’re on the theme of the Winter Solstice, I always thought that the sun stayed in the same position for three days from this point on, before the nights start to become lighter. That is, until I found this little nugget,

http://www.timeanddate.com/sun

the science of which, astonishes me.  There’s probably a scientific reason for how Father Christmas and his reindeer can fly, but there are some things that I enjoy being ignorant about.

Moreover, tonights longest night coincides with the new moon, which, for those of us who have a sneaking suspicion that everything impacts on everything else, is very auspicious indeed.

But back to the Christmas kerfuffle.  A moment for reflection there.  What a fabulous word kerfuffle is.

Anyway, we have almost bought everything needed for our shindig extraordinaire. If I’m absolutely honest, we definitely don’t need half the things we have acquired to have a wonderful time, and, on reflection, the furore of trying to sort everything out is an indulgence we are able to partake of, but in no way necessary.   How lucky we are to be able to indulge.

Meanwhile, we are settling down to watching the classic Christmas movies, eating after eights in the middle of the day and acknowledging, but not necessarily eating, the copious amounts of fruit languishing in a plethora of bowls. Ooooo….

*tingles inside*

I love Christmas

 

 

Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake

We are nearing the end of our family birthday season as son #1 celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday.  As usual, we made a birthday cake which the wee boy decided should be a strawberry cake.  In December.

Funnily enough, I had seen some strawberries (from Egypt) in our local supermarket the other day as I was flying in for yet another thing that I had forgotten, so we, once again, flew into the shop and picked up a couple of punnets of strawberries.

I made a Victoria Sponge which consisted of 225g of butter, castor sugar and self raising flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 4 eggs.  But instead of adding vanilla extract, put a splash of strawberry essence into the mix.

Now here’s an interesting thing.  I used to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and extract/essence then sift in the flour and baking powder before folding it all into the creamed butter scenario.  However, I watched this very informative food history programme a couple of months ago which said that the only reason people sifted their flour, was to make sure there were no bugs or remnants of other wee beasties, hanging out in the flour.  No other reason.  So, now I just shove the whole lot into my glorious Kenwood and turn the knob on.

I tell you what, I think the cake comes out lighter than it used to.  Obviously both tins of mixture, when cooked, still resemble an attempt at K2, but that’s my oven.

So, back to the cake.  Having successfully cooked the sponge I turned my attention to the icing and, having tasted the strawberries, decided that they were not pleasant enough to plonk on top of the cake, and went on to severely reprimand myself for even considering buying strawberries in December.  However, as I had already purchased said offending article, I thought it probably best to whizz them up with icing sugar and a little butter to bring out their sweetness and make a beautiful coloured icing.

And this is where everything went a little pear shaped.

Firstly, I hadn’t taken into consideration the amount of water strawberries hold, naturally.  So, having whizzed up the amounts I normally use (half amount of butter to icing sugar) I found myself faced with a beautiful river of deep pink sweetness. No problem, I thought, I’ll just add more icing sugar.  After all, I had plenty.

After the whole jar of icing sugar had been used to no avail, I then did that thing which I presume most people do when they haven’t quite come to terms with the inevitable.  I opened the fridge door, and looked inside.

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned it before, but our fridge is a little temperamental and has taken upon itself to make unilateral decisions as to the level of cold it pumps through itself.  Recently, it’s gone to full blast, almost freezing. As a consequence of which, a can of fizzy pop that has been lingering in the fridge for the last few months, decided it had had enough of hanging around in the ever increasing cold with no attention being given to it, and exploded.  Inside the fridge.

The thing about Christmas, is that the amount of time I can dedicate to menial tasks diminishes exponentially with the amount of time left until the big day.  In reality, this means that anything, such as the fridge wearing the after effects of an exploding can of pop, that should really be given my full attention, is given the ‘quick flick’ treatment.  As in, wipe away what you can see, leave the deep clean for another day.

I know, it’s appalling behaviour and I should feel much more ashamed than I do.  It’s on the list.

Back to the icing.  Having stared, mid distance, into the unappealing fridge, I realised that I had no option but to go out and buy some more icing sugar.  Which I duly did.  And this is where things took another interesting turn.

It seems that the weekend before Christmas, the world and his wife suddenly takes a fancy to buying icing sugar.

Of all the things that worry me, my local supermarket running out of icing sugar has just never made an appearance.   Until now.  Thankfully there was a box of royal icing sugar hiding away at the back of the shelf, so I swiped it up, paid for it, and made a quick exit.

To be honest, it didn’t make that much difference, and I should have maybe let it get itself together in the fridge for a while before popping it onto the cake however, as you all know, birthdays are only 24 hours long, and the clock was ticking.

You’ll be pleased to hear that eventually, everything came together and we managed to put candles onto a sloping cake sat in the middle of a strawberry river. But, as always, once a candle or two is lit, the magic always appears.  And yesterday was no exception.

It tastes pretty good too.

Now then, what else do I have to do?

*pulls out a list as long as your arm*

Turkey

turkey

Of all the different meats, turkey is the one I find I have the least confidence in cooking.  And the only reason for this, is that other than at Christmas time, we never eat it.  If I’m absolutely honest, I don’t really care for it that much.  It always seems quite tasteless to me.  However, that could be because, actually, I have never quite succeeded in cooking it properly.

I remember once buying a no nonsense, 5 star hotel bred turkey that had been read a story at bedtime all it’s life whilst being allowed to roam free during the day, every day.  In a nutshell, it couldn’t have had a better life if I had dedicated my whole time to hand rearing it.

After we invested in said bird, I duly followed Nigella’s ‘soaking a turkey’ recipe, which included amongst many other things, star anise and allspice berries.  In essence, this highly privileged bird was soaked in a no nonsense infusing juice and treated, even in death, like a King.

It still tasted rubbish.

So it is with some trepidation that I have spent today, roasting a very large turkey, for a very large Christmas meal.  But the story starts before this…

Having had the above experience, and knowing the budget was tight, I bought an extra large frozen turkey from my local supermarket, covered it, and left it in the outhouse to defrost, slowly, for a few days.  After 24 hours I thought I’d better check to see how we were getting on.  All was well, although hardly any of the turkey had defrosted.

It was some time later that, in passing, I thought I’d have another cheekie peek.  The bird felt much more malleable, so I thought I should bring it into the kitchen for a closer inspection.  Imagine my horror, then, when I realised a not so small chunk had been nibbled out of the bird.   I have glared at both cats since, and asked them directly, whether they were the turkey munching culprit, but, as with any cat, they just stare back at me with semi glazed indifference, and a look that says,

‘Who cares about what happened yesterday?’

I concluded, after much soul searching, that birdy would be cooking for many hours and therefore more than likely bacteria free by then, so I cleaned up the aforementioned unmentionable, and allowed the bird to continue to defrost.  This time swathed in bags and secreted into the top of our wardrobe.

Which brings me back to today’s cooking.

Having squeezed the bird and all it’s bits and pieces into the oven, covered with tin foil, I nipped out to pick up the wee boy and left himself in charge.

On my return there was a more than slight wiff of ‘burn’ in the kitchen, so, I opened the door and was greeted by a magicians puff of smoke and an even stronger smell of ‘burn’.  It turns out that our oven had a disagreement with the tin foil tray said bird was bathed in, obviously it was too close to the flame.  Himself had checked the bird, but only at the front, wondered what the smell was, and opened a window.

Never mind, it was only the tray.   And a wing.   And they taste awful anyway…