Monday 22 December 2008


Well I was back and then I was gone and now back again but, sorry, only briefly as I'm off to Mum's in a few hours. I may give myself a hernia with all the books I have to carry as presents so wish me luck. But until then, and until next week, a quick Christmas update from my kitchen.

After spending last Monday chopping dried fruit I spent Tuesday fruitlessly hunting for whole strips of candied peel only to admit eventual defeat and buy ready chopped candied lemon peel before baking the cake and steaming the pudding. As in previous years I used Nigel Slater's cake recipe from The Kitchen Diaries. It contains a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries, peel, figs, prunes, apricots, hazelnuts and ground almonds. It is heavily fruity but not the kind of solidly dense fruit cake that makes my heart, not to mention my stomach, sink. I have been feeding it with brandy and will be marzipanning today. My snowy icing will go on tomorrow as it is easier to pack it for travelling without. The pudding is Nigella's recipe and one I haven't tried before so we'll see, I will report back next week. One quick thing though, she says that if you decrease it from a 3 pint pud to to a 2 pint one then 3 hours of steaming/boiling should do it. It didn't. I boiled it for another hour then turned the heat off and left the basin in the water with the lid on to get the last of the heat (it was midnight by then and I needed to go to bed) so it may have been ready after 4 hours, it may have only been ready after slowly cooling in hot water and residual stem, I can make no promises.

And what else... there is a jar of dried fruit covered and gently swelling in Pedro Ximénez sherry for Chris to take to his parents, a few small loaves of gingerbread, there is cranberry sauce which I think tastes a bit weird so I will try it again before deciding whether to take it away. There will be white chocolate, cranberry and pecan cookies, a fallen chocolate cake with grand marnier cream for Christmas Eve, and maybe a cranberry and vanilla cake to use up the rest of the fresh cranberries when I get back to London. Anyone curious can find the first five of these recipes in Nigella Christmas.

On Sunday we had a pre-Christmas dinner as Chris and I are heading off in opposite directions. Saturday's trip to Stoke Newington farmers' market yielded a chicken, chipolatas, smoked streaky bacon, potatoes, parsnips, sprouts and carrots. I roasted the chicken with lemon, thyme, and garlic, wrapped the sausages in bacon and eventually added these to the pan with the chicken, roasted the potatoes in goose fat along with the parsnips, boiled the sprouts and part steamed part boiled the carrots. A light gravy made with the chicken's juices and some wine and we were done. As always I filled up super fast so had cold chicken and sausages with potatoes and parsnips for lunch, last night there was a leftover veg frittata with the rest of the cold meat. God I love Christmas.

Wednesday 10 December 2008


Since the end of November and the end of NaBloPoMo I have, clearly, vanished from view on here. With perfect timing the last day of November coincided with the start of a bout of tonsillitis which left me sick and dosed up on penicillin for the rest of the week.

I was just well enough to go to an Ottolenghi cookery class at Leith's on the 6th but all the exertion left me a quivering wreck for the remainder of the weekend, fun though it was. I'm definitely hanging onto the buttered spiced rice and the meatballs so they should crop up here eventually.

So, I was back at work last week but not back to cooking. A week away from the kitchen ended with a good food weekend in Edinburgh that mostly consisted of revisiting old favourites while we had the chance, I'm a little sad that the weather made eating German Christmas market food an unappealing prospect but with our favourite Chinese takeaway, three great lunches with friends, and a delicious Edinburgh pizza we couldn't complain.

Now I'm back in London and back in the kitchen. I spent this evening scissoring dried fruit while watching Nigella's Christmas Kitchen and am keeping my fingers crossed for finding somewhere, anywhere, to buy whole pieces of candied peel tomorrow and hoping that if I add enough booze to my Christmas cake and pudding no one will notice that they only had a week to mature...