Mince Pies and Fairy Lights

2016-12-19-15-07-19

I still can’t quite believe I’ve had nearly a whole year off from writing. Writing in almost any form, at the minute completing a shopping list is about my level! But there is something extremely therapeutic and rewarding about capturing these thoughts and adventures on this little ‘ole blog, even if most of the time we are too busy enjoying them to worry about documenting any of it. And that’s ok, that’s the way it supposed to be.

Surprisingly the sleep fairies aligned this morning giving me a short window of time that didn’t need to be filled with anything immediate, and I’ve already showered and had breakfast. Life goals right there.

At some point I’ll do a bit of a wrap up of 2016, as its been quite a year! But for something a little lighter today. We recently went back to the UK and indulged in countless roast dinners with many trimmings, spending lots of time with family and friends, leaving us feeling like we have already half done Christmas. Whilst for some the holidays may not be a joyous occasion, especially as there are so many ‘should’s’ wrapped up in these few days. In a bid to not treat Christmas as something to be done, or checked off the list, and ignoring all the should’s, here are the top 5 things I have and am doing to enjoy these holidays.

  1. Holiday baking. At a recent yoga class we all discussed what our favourite part of the holidays are, and tried to narrow it down to one thing. This was pretty tricky. For me it has to be the food. When else do you get to eat so many delicious treats. I love baking, all year round, so having time to make and decorate cookies, make eggnog – delicious by the way! and my favourite every year, mince pies, is a real treat (have you seen all the puns so far *smug face*).
  2. Fairy lights. You cant have too many. Which is good, because the fairy light monster sneezed all over our house. But they are amazing, I might just leave them up all year.
  3. PJ’s. Be it pj’s (matching!), lounge wear, sweats or whatever, I’m fully embracing the chance to have a few lazy days. I’ve stocked up on popcorn and am choosing some movies. Anyone got any favourite must see Christmas movies?
  4. Snow. Our Christmas plans aside from the above are to make a snowman. We will be in Utah where it is looking very much like we will be having another white Christmas. 10 inches of the white stuff in fact! Whilst kiwi will be hankering after a beach and bbq, I love going for a walk in the snow, and this year being a big kid and making a snowman. It’s been so long I’m not even sure I know how!
  5. Go on an adventure. Once the turkey is finished – we are forgoing it this year, pigs in blankets as a main? followed by cheese. Sure why not! But after lazing around eating all the chocolate, get outside, go somewhere, do something. We plan on walking,  skiing and visiting a state park, then after all of that, playing some new board games!

 

2016-12-17-17-15-312016-12-22-09-39-412016-12-22-21-00-43

Advertisements

December favourites

December has whooshed by, but we have enjoyed being extremely festive and taking some time to recharge ready for a full speed new year. Some of my favourite things this month have been enjoying the Christmas lights, Salt Lake City you really know how to put up some stunning light displays, although there were no roasted chestnuts/hot chocolate and Christmas markets!

I took part in a choir performance in the state capitol, a beautiful building with amazing acoustics, this was quite magical and one of my favourite moments. we also went ice skating and enjoyed the snow. I baked all the festive goods, two roast dinners with all the trimmings, chocolate truffles, mince pies, cake and biscuits. We had several board game evenings and I also enjoyed visiting the local zoo and aquarium as part of the free zoo days events.

2015-12-25 18.36.15

2015-12-25 18.31.11

2015-12-22 20.09.11

2015-11-27 17.17.23

Sprinkles and buttercream frosting

20151105_203243

A few weeks a go I had a jolly evening, I trundled down to the City creek shopping centre – this is quite new and contains a little stream – well a creek that runs through with trout in, obviously. The roof is retractable so depending on the weather you can be indoors or outdoors. there are also multiple fountains and wood fires where you can sit and while away a few hours. regardless of the actual shops this place is a treat in itself.

I signed up to a cake decorating class. I’ve done a few classes in the past and always figure practising decorating skills, picking up new tips and spending a few hours of talking about cake is time well spent.

The class didn’t disappoint we talked about cake construction, and pesky crumbs, the perfect butter cream and how to frost a cake to make it look smooth and petty. we then set about putting this into practice.

Sadly I still need to practice lots on this, although I’m pretty handy now with a palette knife and can make a good consistency of butter cream – the secret, lots of butter and sugar!!! lots of beating!! My decoration still isn’t quite the neat finish I’m after, I’m also out of practice. On the plus side this means more baking and more cake eating!

A few things I learnt, if you really want  a great finish then do a crumb coat first. Make sure your crumb coat is quite thin. If your cake is super crumbly freeze or refrigerate it as chilled cake is easier to work with. Use complimentary colours. I use gel colours for icing – and almost anything else now, I find these give a better colour and finish. and if in doubt sprinkles fix everything!!

I’m still getting to grips with baking in this climate. The altitude does crazy things to cooking times, everything is dryer and raising agents do weird things. Any advise of adjusting recipes for altitude would be extremely helpful! Let me know in the comments.

20151013_131454

20151025_162045

20151105_193252

20151105_190456

 

 

Pickle, pies and lemon curd

wpid-20150915_191432.jpg

I had a bit of a baking marathon last weekend. Mostly because Kiwi and I really wanted a pork pie and watching the latest series of the Great British Bakeoff has got my fingers itching to make some new cakes. First up I finally got around to making some pork pies, I’ve not really used hot water crust pastry before, and it was surprisingly easy to work with, although in hindsight I would have kneaded it for longer. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe, and found it rather successful! I swapped bacon for choritzo, and used cut up normal eggs instead of quails eggs, because who has quails eggs lying around?! It took me a while to find some lard in the supermarket – it was with oils and shortening, whereas I had been looking next to the butter! I doubled the recipe and found it relatively simple to follow. The pies turned out pretty tasty and didn’t last all that long.

I also used up all of the apples I had picked last week, and made 6 jars of apple chutney. I thought I’d use a recipe form the Edmond’s cook book (recipe below), which although quite sweet tasted good, and will go well with cheese and a ploughman’s lunch.

Lastly I intended to make some pear butter with the extra pears I picked, I still intend to, but instead I made lemon curd. Because lemon curd is delicious. I ended up making a hybrid lemon and lime curd as I had lot of limes that needed using up. I struggled to find many recipes or reviews of at would happen if I added in lime, but I can happily say the end result was brilliant! Now I need to figure out what to make to use up all of the curd, before I eat it all out of the jar. Any suggestions let me know in the comments!

Lemon & Lime curd

300ml citrus juice, 4-5 beaten eggs, 200g butter, 500-600g sugar

Melt butter, sugar, juice and zest if using. once dissolved, beat in eggs cooking and stirring until thick. sieve and jar.

New Zealand apple chutney

2kg apples (or other fruit), 500g chopped onion, 1 cup raisins/currants, 1 cove garlic, 1 cup chopped dates, 3 cups sugar (brown), malt vinegar, salt, pepper, cloves, ginger.

Put everything into a pan, cover with vinegar, cook until soft, stir in sugar, boil until jam-like.

wpid-20150916_172344.jpg

wpid-20150916_172413.jpg

Scrumping and pickle

wpid-20150911_160752.jpg

One thing I would usually look forward to this time of year is the imminent arrival of autumn, complete with beautiful leaves, crunching around parks and hunting for damsons , blackberries and any other hedgerow delights. Since moving to Utah I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled, when the Mormons first settled SLC the soil was either really fertile or they worked incredibly hard to make it so. Along many streets there are fruit trees, and remnants of old orchards. Mostly apples, some plums, and a few peach trees. I’ve seen a few apricots growing in peoples gardens but not too many available for picking.

Whilst consulting the googlewebs for possible fruit locations I first came across this amazing website, falling fruit, which lists free fruit foraging spots all over the world. Awesome! This lead me to find the green urban lunchbox. A local scheme that lists volunteer fruit picking events, often in community veg patches or orchards or peoples excess fruit trees. The idea is that you sign up for an event, go help for a few hours to pick fruit or whatever, then you keep a third – for free! give a third to food banks and a third to the owner. Win win win. I loved the idea of this and signed up for a few events. So far I’ve already picked pears, plums and apples, and am looking forward to some more fresh produce. The picking is interesting and I’ve now learnt some different types of apple trees and how to use an apple picker.

More excitingly I’ve been looking at what to do with my hoards of hard picked fruits. Since seeing a picture on fb the other day of a cheese and Branston pickle sandwich, I’ve wanted one sooooo badly! I am fortunate to have found an English imports shop down the road – twirls, scones, monster munch, clotted cream, proper tea and other awesome delights although the pickle is incredibly pricey. I thought I’d test out some of my chutney recipes and start research pickle ones to try my hand at making some. This weekend is set to be another scorcher but I’ll be spending some time in my kitchen pickling some apples. Any one have any good chutney recipes please do share!

wpid-20150818_144446.jpg