Saturday, 19 November 2011

Peppermint Dreams

I have started a new project, which I am very excited about. I have started to learn how to knit. After a couple of weeks of bake-tastic-ness, and an increasingly tighter waistband, I needed to focus on something that was not food realted. I went to visit my gorgeous friend T, who inspried me to learn how to knit. I left with some basic knowledge, a pair of needles and a ball of wool. After a few practice sessions and a few trips to You Tube (thank goodness for you tube!!!) I was away. 

There is something very theraputic about the repetition of kntting and I have to admit that I am hooked! I managed to make J a scarf, which I had to start over about thirty times. It did have a LOT of holes in it where I had managed to drop stitches, but I just sewed them up and I have to say I am chuffed to bits with it!

I have now decided to make J a patchwork blanket. It is very much a work in progress and I have worked out that I will need over a 156 knitted squares, but it should keep me out of trouble!

However, I do have to say that after a week of not baking anything, I did get itchy feet and needed to make something. After stumbling across a recipe for peppermint creams, courtesy of Nigella, following some bedtime reading (I absolutley LOVE to read cookery books like they were novels!), I just had to try them.

All you need to do is:

Mix 500g icing sugar with 2 whisked egg whites (whisk until they are just bubbly and fluffy) and peppermint extract together until you have a firm "dough".  Then roll out until it is about 1/2cm thick and cut some shapes out it.

Leave them on some baking paper on a try over night somewhere cool or in the fridge to firm up.

The next day melt some dark chocolate and paint/dip the mints in whatever pattern or design you wish. Nigella makes them into dominoes, but I went for peppermint circles. you could even add some green food paste to the icing mixture when you are  to make them look "minty". Leave them to set and enjoy!

I managed to get about 32 out of the batch and I did have to add quite a lot of peppermint extract in order to get the right level of mint taste, but just taste as you go and add as much or as little as you like. We also had these one night after dinner with my friend and her husband and they were recieved really well.

So here's to another week of knitting and yummy bedtime reading!!!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

All Hail All Hallows!

It is no lie in our house that I love a good knees up and will pretty much find ANY excuse to dust the old cake pans off and cook up a feast! Hallow'een is no exception. This is pretty much my favourite time of year. I love the weather, the colours and the celebrations and of course the food! Last year I could not indulge my party needs as we were having our kitchen fitted and were not able to produce anything more than some sausages and barms for a family bonfire. It still went down well, but I really wanted to pull out all of the stops for a delicious dinner. After much deliberation, I decided on Butternut Squash Soup, Lancashire Hotpot, Butternut Squash Muffins (there is a theme here!), Creepy Sugar Cookies and of course Parkin.

As I have mentioned before, we recive a veg box every week and I had to get my inspiration form the ingredients that they had sent me. After receiving a glut of Butternut Squash, I needed a few ways of eating them. I stumbled across a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup and I adapted it to what we had  in the cupboard. I managed to roast the squash along with a baby gem squash, potatos, sweet potatos, carrots, garlic, thyme and rosemary in the oven for 40mins on 180C. Then I blended it with a little chicken stock and devoured! Admittedly it's not a pretty dish, but trust me it tasted divine!

The Lancashire Hotpot (sorry I forgot to take photos) was also another "One Pot". Just layer some onions in the bottom of a casserole dish followed by a layer of diced braising steak, a layer of carrots and finally a layer of thinly sliced rounds of potato. Pour in a litre of beef stock and drizzle the top of the potatos with some olive oil and herbs. I used italian herbs this time and it tasted wonderful. Cook on 150C for at least 3 hrs and keep checking it to make sure there is enough liquid in the casserole to stop it from drying out.  Bob's your uncle a really divine and warming dish perfect for this time of year!

Finally pudding!! (The best course!!!). I was struggling to come up with something a bit different that was not too heavy after such rich dishes, but still tied in with the Hallow'een theme. I then stumbled across this recipe from Jamie Oliver: Butternut Squash Muffins. They were amazing. I can honestly say I was a little (read a lot!) bit dubious about using squash in a cake, but they really worked.

They looked a little boring, even in thier silver and black cases, so I made some super quick spooky decorations to stick into them. I am so glad I did, as they just made them look that little bit extra special.

I also decided to make some creepy cookies, recipe here: Creepy Cookies. The recipe suggested icing the whole biscuit in royal icing, but I thought that would have made the biscuits too sweet, so I just piped a coloured edge around the biscuit and used a black cake decorating pen to mark the faces directly onto the biscuits and crushed some edible glitter and sprinkled it onto the stalks, onto which I had put some edible glue, to make them more pumpkin like.

There was nothing at all left after our meal, which we enjoyed with our two very dear friends and thier little girl. Even J ate seconds and thirds of the soup and hot pot, whilst still ensuring he got his fair share of cake and biscuits! A veritable table creaker if ever there was one!