Christmastime 2013

Sparkly mince pies, breakfast cronuts, prezzies galore, venison feast, baked alaska, dancing, wine & merry times… Happy Christmas 2013, and hello 2014!

Pablo's Christmas Wishes

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What every 4-and-a-half-year-old wants this Christmas...

1. A skateboard, so he can at last join the big boys in the skate park... £74.99 by Dusters California, available here

2. Badass tattoos (sort of)... from Tattly, $5

3. Make Your Own Robot, with designs from David Shrigley, Donna Wilson & others - these are loads of fun and look fantastic... by Laurence King, £17.95

4. Some snuggly thermal pjs, especially these beauties... from Goat-Milk, from $40

5. A Ninja Turtle! Every 4.5 year old really really wants a hero in a half shell... £9.50, available here 

6. Something to wear on his feet that's not school boots or wellies. These Feiyue sneaks are totally perfect... 55 euros

And...anything by Oliver Jeffers

Home sweet sweet sweet home

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Pablo has been on a mission to get a candy cane unwrapped, under any circumstances, and he finally hit on a successful angle when he begged to build another gingerbread house ("mum! The candy canes need to be the gateway!") Last year we bought this awesome mould from Lakeland and had so much fun decorating it, so I couldn't refuse! Plus the candy canes do make a perfect gateway... This year Indy joined in too and they both took the whole thing VERY seriously, with only the occasional pretend cough to sneak a sweetie or murmur of "mmmmmMMMM!" as Indy licked yet more royal icing from her fingertips... If you can get your hands on one of these moulds from Lakeland they really are fantastic and make the whole process very easy and painless, with beautiful results. If you're feeling brave you could also just make your own templates! I added some cute little clay figures and deer from my grandmother's Christmas cake tin, and the kids decorated with sprinkles and sweeties galore, plus some glittery pumpkin seeds. 

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Time to gloat over prezzies and dip into Christmas stocking treats...

Christmas bake

The couple of weeks leading up to Christmas were INTENSE, mostly due to baking commitments (ok, and whims...) Here's a few things we got up to:

L-R from top...

  1. cutting heart shaped doughnuts
  2. double choc 70th birthday cake
  3. making christmas biscuits with Elton John
  4. incredible rolls by Konch
  5. red velvet christmas cake
  6. finished doughnut heart
  7. cassis mince pies (with cinnamon-chic ice cream)
  8. our gingerbread cabin
  9. proud biscuit baker
  10. all iced and packed up for the school party
  11. cinnamon-choc ice cream getting going
  12. satisfying gingerbread poke by Pablo

elf

Pablo had the starring role of elf-at-the-front-chewing-on-a-bell-off-his-shoe-instead-of-singing in his school Christmas concert 'Ralph the Reindeer' (me neither...) Costume making was a bit more fun than last year's "Biblical villager"... Thank god for old pillowcases, H&M and Dylon! The ears are his own...

After an exhausting performance, and an even more exhausting photo shoot by me, he was allowed home to open his first Christmas present - 'Farts Around the World' - from his best friend & fellow elf Edie...

christmastime: pablo's wishlist part 1

Technically Pablo's wish list can be bought exclusively from the Marvel wall at the Disney store. So this is really the things I want for him (all of these are secretly my wish lists! Sorry I'm not sorry...)

1. Feiyue sneakers - these are so cool! Can't really justify the winter spend as it's going to be too soggy/muddy to wear them till Springtime, but still want them... 
2. Erzi Sardines in a tin - need to up the play-food collection and these are extremely cute. Perfect to go with the toy cash register and shopping basket we got him.
3. Radio Flyer - a girl can dream. I mean a boy can. It's for him, but it would make us BOTH so happy! Have wanted one of these forever... 

christmastime: mama's wishlist part 2

More beautiful treasures from my prezzie dreamscape....

  1. Stocking stuffer of dreams - Anthropologie have this rad little spice jar with a heap of different coloured lids (obvs I'd like them all, please, except maybe not green...). I could decant all my ugly baking powder etc into these dreamy little jars! They are only £8! Come on, Santa...
  2. Oh the bakes I could make! I have one pretty little blue and white enamel pie dish but I clearly need more. SO so lovely, especially in the red. And the grey. And the blue. From Falcon Enamelware. 
  3. These are all depressingly kitcheny, but whatever. I have wanted this *apparently sold out - HORROR* cloud cookie cutter for about 5 years and counting. It feels like 5 million years. Whoever buys it for me gets cloud-shaped biscuits, doughnuts, marshmallows and pies for all eternity... from Herriott Grace

thanks oh thanks oh thanks

Yes, I'm English and live in London... but I'm also in love with food, and I grew up in the States. Therefore I love Thanksgiving! It is a big, wonderful excuse to gather together with friends, force yourself to feel grateful for things, and eat stuff that is not at all savoury enough to be served as a main course.  My brother Xander or I often host a big get together, but this year I was asked to do a Thanksgiving pop up at the local pub by friends who run the E17 Pop Up Project. Kind of scary but a chance to learn some new cooking skills and get a bit of catering experience. I roped Xander in to help, and his wife Zara for decorating back-up, and we set about prepping Thanksgiving for FORTY TWO!

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I have never been particularly keen on cooking turkey. They are MASSIVE! They take up entire ovens and never seem to cook properly and often end up dry and are regularly a huge disappointment. I had to find a way not to disappoint my 42 paying customers, though, and after extensive turkey research I found the most amazing recipe. I will never cook turkey another way again. It came out absolutely perfect, moist and scrumptious - and I don't even like turkey, as a general rule. Just in time for Christmas I've copied it out below. Seriously it's nuts how good - and easy - this is...

Malt-Beer-Brined Turkey with Malt Glaze

original recipe from bonappetit.com

Glaze
160ml barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
60ml malt vinegar
6 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Brine
4.5 litres water
400g coarse sea salt
3 x 340ml bottles/cans of stout 
1.5 cups barley malt syrup (can substitute black treacle or molasses)
thyme

This recipe will give you enough for a 14-16lb turkey/8-10 servings. Multiplying it for more was simple. Also we prepared two giant turkey crowns, not a whole turkey, but I can't see it making much difference.

Brining the turkey helps to infuse juiciness - there is a full on technical explanation of the whys here - and is crucial to the success of this recipe. I am never not brining a turkey again! You need to  brine the turkey for about 16-18 hours so start the day before. Pour the water into a non-reactive pot. Add the salt and stir to dissolve, then add the beer and malt syrup. The original recipe calls for you to then place two oven bags (one inside the other) into a large bowl, rinse the turkey inside and out, place in the bags (in the bowl) breast side down and pour in the brine. We had so much turkey I just brined it in one immense pot. Either way, chill the turkey in the brine for the aforementioned 16-18 hours. I chucked in some thyme sprigs for kicks, as I rather over-bought it. After brining dry the turkey and, if possible, return to the fridge to further air dry for an hour or so. 

Brining the night away

Brining the night away

You can make the glaze in advance too. Bring the malt syrup, vinegar, herbs and pepper to boil in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer until the glaze coats the back of a spoon (5ish minutes). Mix in the butter. 

Cook your turkey at 170C for 20 mins/454g plus 20 additional mins. Add a couple of cups of water to the pan and keep topping it up if it dries out. For gravy purposes it is a good idea to add some celery, onion and garlic to roast with the turkey, but actually I didn't get round to it and the gravy was awesome regardless. Leave the turkey to cook for a couple of hours before opening the oven and brushing with the glaze. After that continue to brush with glaze every 20 mins until cooked. Remove the bird an hour before serving (ideally) and cover with foil to rest the meat. For gravy I poured the sauces from the roasting tin into a jug, separated the fat and returned it to the tin on the hob, added a handful of flour and made a roux, then slowly added the reserved juices plus about a bottle of red wine. it was DELICIOUS and took about five minutes... 

A big shout out to Smitten Kitchen whose faultless recipes I relied upon for sweet potato biscuits (which were un-be-lievable), the best homemade pumpkin pie I've ever tasted, and the best excuse to finally attempt homemade marshmallows - s'more pie. IT WAS EPIC. And it turns out marshmallows are not that difficult to make! An extra shout out to my brother, who lugged big tins of pumpkin and bottles of corn syrup over from a trip to New York so we could be as sickly sweet as we could. 

Now I never want to see another orange food again. Until next November, maybe...

seeing stars

Pablo's awesome auntie Zara took him to a movie premiere in Leicester Square last night, mega exciting! He had a dinner of mostly sweets, with a side of crisps, and stayed up till 10pm pretty much exploding with joy. They went to see Nativity 2, and so far I haven't even had a proper account of what happened because this morning he was so tired it was like breakfasting with a tiny manic depressive. Worth it though.

Pablo on the red carpet

Pablo on the red carpet

Indy and I brave the night bus home IN RUSH HOUR after dropping Pablo in town. We are heroes. 

Indy and I brave the night bus home IN RUSH HOUR after dropping Pablo in town. We are heroes.