Category Archives: Christmas

Almond Milk Jelly

Here’s another recipe from my Supper Club Feast. I’m releasing them slowly, in drips, to keep you on your toes.

This is not necessarily a winter pudding, it will make a lovely light desert for spring (now that it has arrived) and is a perfect way to use the last of the pomegranates that are still just in season.

Jelly had always been on the agenda for the Supper Club and was, I think, the first decision I made. It was decorative, light, wobbly and unusual. The one I made was a lovely delicate creature, flavoured with almond essence and only slightly sweetened. It actually surprised me just how easy it was. Now it seems, the jelly possibilities are endless.

Sadly I have no picture for this. The one I took looked like some massive sea anemone which was so far from the elegant truth.

I served it with pomegranate seeds and pears poached in red wine and mulling spices.

Almond Milk Jelly

500 ml (17 fl oz) organic whole milk

2 tsp powdered gelatine

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp pure almond extract

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

First test your jelly receptacle(s). Make sure the amount of milk fits, you don’t want to be caught short with jelly as it does start to set quite quickly especially as it hits the side of the mould.

Now add the gelatine to 150ml of the milk and leave it to soak for 5 minutes.

Warm the remainder of the milk, caster sugar and almond essence in a pan. It needs to be below boiling point, not very hot but not only luke warm either … When it has reached this very approximate temperature slowly mix it into the gelatine infused milk and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. If you get lumps, put it back on a low heat and whisk like mad until they have dissolved.

Now pour it into your prepared mould (or moulds) and refrigerate until it has set (at least a couple of hours)

TIP: To remove your jelly, find a bowl larger than your mould and put a small amount of of boiling water in the bottom. Lower your jelly (open side UP) into the water making sure the water doesn’t rise too high and spill over into your jelly. Leave it for about 5 seconds then remove the mould from the water, put a plate on the open top, flip the plate and the jelly will slide out. It’s pretty robust so don’t worry that it might slide into a disappointing puddle.

Serve it with the pomegranate seeds scattered over or around. The combination of milky, delicate jelly and the sweet pop of the seeds is truly lovely.

Alternatively you could put the seeds into the mould at the start and pour the jelly over so they become suspended in a wobbly jelly force field.

TIP: To remove seeds from a pomegranate cut it in half, take a large bowl and a wooden spoon and smack the un-cut side of the pomegranate hard with the spoon over the bowl and the seeds will fly out at a most satisfying speed!

OK… here’s the sea anemone…

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Filed under Catering, Christmas, Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Pudding, Quick, Recipes, Supper Club

Elizabeth David’s Sugary, Spicy, Sticky and Square Chelsea Buns

‘There’s a charm in the sound, which nobody shuns
Of smoking hot, piping hot, Chelsea Buns’

                                           Eighteenth century song

Reading Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery is like visiting the most eclectic bakery you can imagine and being given a taste of every development in British baking from the middle ages to the modern day. As she rolls out the history of every bun, cake and bread,she puts them in context, describing where they came from  and  how they were  invented or discovered. The book I have was bought for me by my mum and for me, is the ultimate guide to bread and yeast cooking.

This book is amazing. Sometimes it takes a few goes to actually get a grip on a recipe and it always takes a couple of thorough readings, but because they are such a joy to read, this is no bad thing. That said, they are not always the easiest recipes to follow, for example the recipe for Chelsea Buns tells you to follow the method for Bath Buns on the previous page which is rather confusing when they contain different ingredients in different quantities! However, my first batch of Chelsea Buns turned out exactly as I remember them, therefore, exactly as they should be.

Before we begin, I’ll pay homage to the great Elizabeth David by filling you in on the history of the wonderful and decadent and apparently ‘friendly’ (according to my friend who assisted with the baking) Chelsea Bun, in her own words. Hopefully this excerpt will whet your appetite to go out and buy this lovely book and explore it for yourself. It certainly makes me want to open a cafe in the style of the wonderfully described Chelsea Bun House…

“The famous Bun House of Chelsea was probably build towards the end of the seventeenth century or in the early years of the eighteenth. It was a large establishment, situated near Sloane Square in what was then Jews Road, later the Pimlico Road, and within easy reach of the river. Evidently a bakery, pastry cooks’ and refreshment shop combined, the Bun House provided tables at which the customer could sit down and eat their cakes and buns fresh from the oven. In its early days the Bun House was renowned chiefly for its hot cross buns, sold in massive quantities on Good Fridays and during Easter celebrations, when great crowds flocked to Chelsea expressly to visit the Bun House. Caroline of Ansbach, Queen of George II, was a frequesnt visitor to Chelsea during the early years of the reign (he succeeded in 1727) going there by water –  tradition has it that she, her family and the King himself visited the Bun House on many occasions. Possibly, then, the popularity of the Chelsea bun , as distinct from the older and more famous Good Friday buns, dates from the days of Hanoverian royal patronage, although already in the days of Queen Anne, Swift, staying at Chelsea for a change of air, reported to Stella how ‘Rrrrrrrare Chelsea buns’ were cried in the streets, and how the one he bought for a penny was stale adding, not surprisingly, ‘I did not like it’ (1) [This exchange refers to Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels among many many other things, and ‘Stella’, real name Esther Johnson, who was his student, the daughter of a servant of a friend of Swift’s and they remained in rather ambiguous contact for the rest of Stella’s life.]
A century after Swift’s brief stay in Chelsea, the Bun House was still flourishing. For four generations it was in the ownershp of a family called Hand [see illustration below] and according to Chamber’s Book of Days ‘families of the middle classes’ would sill walk a considerable way to taste the delicacies of the Chelsea Bun House (2). Demolished in 1839, the original Pimlico Road Bun House was re-created in Sloane Square for a brief period in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.

For four generations the Chelsea Bun House belonged to a family called Hand. One of them became an officer in the Staffordshire militia. Inevitably he was nicknamed Captain Bun. From a print dated 4 January 1773; Chelsea Public Library

‘It is singular’ wrote Sir Richard Phillips (1), an addict of the original Chelsea buns, ‘that their delicate flavour, lightnedd and richness, have never been successfully imitated… for above thirty years I have never passed the Bun House without filling my pockets’
Sugary, spicy, sticky, square and coiled like a Swiss roll, the Chelsea bun as we now know is a pretty hefty proposition. That it can be very usefully adapted to smaller scale needs was demonstrated to me in the letter quoted further on. So it worth knoing the principle on which Chelsea buns are made. Recipes vary considerably in details, the but the basic bun dough is fairly constant…”

1. Journal to Stella, 2 May 1711
2. Chamber’s Book of Days, Volume 1, 1869 *

So now we can proceed with the recipe, but in my own words…

Chelsea Buns

Dough

550g flour

2 eggs

225g butter, softened

150g milk

15g yeast (or  1 sachet of dried yeast)

Grated peel from 1 lemon

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp salt

2tbs sugar

Filling

85g currants

85g butter

85g soft brown sugar

85g castor sugar

1tsp cinnamon

Glaze

1tbs milk

2tbs castor sugar

First make the dough:

Warm the milk very slightly in a pan and then pour a little over your yeast in a bowl. This activates the yeast and should make it bubble a little and become smooth. If you are using dried yeast, it will dissolve and become silky.

Mix the salt and sugar into the flour then rub the softened butter into this mix until it resembles breadcrumbs (rather like when you make a crumble)

Add the creamed yeast, eggs,  milk, cinnamon and lemon peel and mix to a light dough. I would add the milk in increments until you have a stiff-ish dough that isn’t sticky. (If you are going by my mum’s description, it needs to look like a baby’s head! We always affectionately pat the ‘baby’ when it is ready…It makes a fat little sound: ‘plap plap’)

Now cover the bowl with cling film and leave it in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours until it has roughly doubled in size. It’s quite a slow process with this dough, especially if you’re making it in winter so don’t be afraid to leave it a little longer.

While it is rising mix together the currants, sugars, and butter (cut into little pieces) to make the filling you do not want to combine the sugar and butter, but have each thing separate (see picture below)

When the dough is risen well, punch the dough down and then knead it well for about 5 minutes. I do this in the bowl but you can do it on a surface, just try not to add any extra flour as this will stiffen the dough.

Now divide the dough into 2 equal portions and roll each into a rectangle about 20cm x 30cm (it is important to try and keep them fairly square, I had trouble doing this but have a bash.

Sprinkle the filling over the rectangles, spreading it as close to the sides as you can

Now, fold the filled dough rectangles into 3 (as your would for puff pastry if you have ever made that) up from the bottom along the longest side so you have 2 short sausages. Seal the edge with a bit of milk or water and press together. Then give it one turn and roll the dough out again to roughly it’s original rectangle size

(can you see the smear of butter on my camera lens in these pics?!)

Now you make the final roll. Roll the dough up firmly along the shortest side (as you would a Swiss roll if you have ever made that) so you have 2 long sausages, seal the edge again and turn it over so the seal is on the bottom. (I forgot to seal mine so the square shape was a bit undone once they were baked, never mind, see pics below)

Now cut the sausages into your buns around 4cm thick (you can actually make them as small or big as you like but remember once they have proved and cooked they will be approximately double in size)

Arrange your buns in a greased dish or 2 (seven to a row used to be the rule of professional bakers) with about 4 cm between each bun. The spacing is important, for during the proving period the buns grow in size and move together assuming their characteristically square shape.. I didn’t leave quite enough space as I had so many (about 26 I think) and not enough tins! It didn’t seem to hinder them too much…

Now leave them to prove with cling film over the top in a warm place, until they are all but touching (probably around 45 mins but keep an eye on them)

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees or gas 7

When they have proven, sprinkle them with castor sugar and bake them for 15 minutes. during the baking, the merging process is completed. You want them to be golden brown and soft to the touch

Make the sugar and milk glaze by warming the milk and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved

 When they come out of the oven brush them with the glaze.

Leave them to cool for a couple of minutes then separate them with a knife and put on a wire rack. They are truly amazing eaten still warm, even hot. They are so soft, so sticky and fragrant you’ll probably eat them all in one sitting but make sure to invite some friends over and munch with a cup of tea while everyone goes silent. When there’s a warm Chelsea bun in the room, on your plate, in your mouth; nothing else matters.

They keep well in an air tight tin and can be quickly re-heated in a hot oven for a couple of minutes. They are perfect for breakfast.

The ‘letter’ Elizabeth David refers to in the excerpt above is a lovely thing, taken from correspondence she had with her lifelong friend, the painter Arthur Lett Haines with some incredible sounded alterations to the Chelsea bun which I really want to try:

” [He] always had interesting and beautifully imaginative ideas about food. He writes “I like Chelsea buns. But find them rather large and bucolic [Surely not?!]. So make them very small, exaggerate the quantitiy of fruit, chopped small, and serve them no larger than big petit fours, coated with Royal icing.
1. lemon-flavoured and peppered with a crushed pistachio
2. Royal icing flavoured with angostura and sprinkled with poppy seeds’
Now that seems to me a most admirable approach to the problem of re-creating a speciality which would otherwise have little place in our lives today” *

Now Elizabeth David, that is one thing we disagree on, I cannot imagine a world where the Chelsea bun would take a little place in my life today and I encourage everyone to disprove her theory.

*Excerpts from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Penguin Books, 1977, pg474-484

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Cake, Christmas, Pudding, Recipes

Feasting, Scrooge, and a Christmas Party

It’s all over… I ache, and my hands are a sight to behold with burns, grate marks and beetroot stains…but it was all worth it!

I have been cooking since Friday.

I started with the pork pies as I knew they would give me a huge sense of pride right at the beginning of the marathon but I also knew they would be tricky, nerve wracking and time consuming. They didn’t disappoint on all fronts!

Next I tackled the sweets, late at night with a glass of wine I stuffed orange flower scented almond paste into sticky prunes and dipped them in dark 70% cocoa chocolate… my gosh they are delicious (if I do say so myself!)

I was on a roll that night and because we had decided that of course we could throw our traditional Christmas party for 30 people the next day, I made 2 batches of pastry, 1 for the sausage rolls and 1 for the mince pies.

On Saturday I made the next pork pie, the pork stock for jelly (more on that debacle later), wrapped the sweets in waxed paper squares, 50 wild boar and venison sausage rolls, 50 mince pies and the pickled beetroot slices. We had a party inbetween.
Sunday was the mega marathon. I did the Tudor mince pies, jellied the pork pies, made the pheasant main dish (to marinade overnight) and 2 almond milk  jellies. With a break in the midle to watch the 1951 Alistair Sim Scrooge with that memorable line: “Oh Peter Peter, come and hear the pudding singing in the copper!” (You thought I was going to say “Gawd bless us, everyone” didn’t you!?)

Monday was veg: I peeled and trimmed all the little carrots, scrubbed, chopped and pre-roasted the artichokes, made the pearl barley salad, de-seeded the pomegranates, poached pears in wine and spices and made a syrup, baked the vegggie main and got everything packed into a hundred and one boxes and and traveled on down to another, slightly less well equipped kitchen…to feast.

I want to say thank you to all my wonderful guests and incredible waiters. Your enthusiasm and clean plates were a joy. Thank you for making the first supper club such a magical memorable event. Watch this space for all the recipes so you can recreate the fun at home (!)

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Now for the next one….

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Filed under Baking, chocolate, Christmas, Crafts, Decorating, Kitchen Tips, Meat, Supper, Supper Club

A Festive Feast for 20 guests

So I have finally completed the Supper Club menu. It was a long and arduous task which involved waking up every morning with recipes stampeding through my head and worries about how to get enough serving dishes and a balanced yet crazy menu. All is now calm as the menu is set, the guests are booked and now all I have to do is cook, shop and plan (my 3 favourite things)


So here it is, the great unveiling of the Festive Feast Menu

***

Monday 19th December, 7:30pm

Peckham Hotel, 137-139 Copeland Road, SE15 3SN

***


Warm Spiced Cider with Cloves and Cinnamon

Rechewys Close and Fryez (Tudor Mince Pies)

.

Pork Pies

Pearl Barley and Beetroot Salads

Brandied Mushroom and Chestnut Pate

.

Pheasants Braised with Madeira

Glazed Carrots

Savoy Cabbage

Jerusalem Artichokes

Stuffed Pumpkins (for the vegetarians)

.

Almond Milk Jelly with Pomegranates and Grapefruit Syrup

Poached Pears

Almond Stuffed Chocolate Dipped Prunes

.

Port

Cheshire Cheese

If THAT doesn’t give everyone gout I don’t know what will.

I can’t wait to see you all there!

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Filed under Baking, Cheese, chocolate, Christmas, Drinks, Fruit, Meat, Pudding, Pulses, Recipes, Supper, vegetables, Vegetarian

Why I’ve been away…

…for far too long!

Well it’s December! And I get very excited in December. I never thought this blog would have stuff like this on it, but below I’m showing you why I have not been cooking… I’ve been obsessively making Christmas decorations!

There will be a couple of recipes winging their way to you very soon, but I thought I’d excuse my absence with a little bit of paper folding, and decking of halls.

Little Paper Wreaths

1. Take millions of pieces of paper (use quite sturdy paper or they fall apart)  cut into 8cm x 4cm strips (or if you want to make bigger or smaller just make sure width is half length)

2. Fold them in half lengthways, then widthways

3. Then fold down their corners so the open side is facing up

4. Now take 8 little bits and with the open side always facing up, slot the pointed ends into the open pockets of the tops (make sense? see illustration below if not!)

How they fit together…

Bauble Wreath

This was an unfinished project from last Christmas, I got so bored making decorations last year that this one sat on my desk looking mournful for a further 12 months. That is why I start so early in December!

1. Get a wire coat-hanger and bend it into a circle. Bend the hook around to form a loop.

2. Wrap the whole thing in something pretty (tape, ribbon, raffia, golden thread spun by angels?!)

3. Now make your baubles. You will work out how many you need as you go along:  I used 3 different sizes for mine and I was left with 1 spare at the end; not sure how that happened.

4. Get some circular things to use as templates (cotton reel, bracelet and jam lid were mine)…

5. …And some nice paper. I used printed out William Morris textiles, and tracing paper (translucent and sturdy, perfect!) for the white ones…

6. …And some stiff card.

7. Use your template to cut 8 circles of paper per bauble (you can do 8 at once if you stack or fold the paper, just be careful to keep all the circles the same size otherwise you’ll have to trim later… If you are American, you will probably have a fancy circle cutting stamp gadget.)

8. Cut out one circle of  the stiff card per bauble too, this will be the flat back piece .

9. Fold the paper circles in half (if you are using a coloured paper with white on the other side fold so the colour is on the inside of the fold)

10. Now get sticking. Glue an outside half of a circle and then stick 2 circles together matching up the the straight folded edge. Continue until you have all 8 circles attached but leave them open as if in a fan shape with a flat bottom.

11. Continue making your half baubles until you have enough to circle the entire wreath. Trim off any white bits from imperfect baubles as you go.

12. Now decide what order you are putting your baubles in, and attach them by gluing one half to your stiff card, slipping it over the coat-hanger, and then gluing the other half so it is attached with a flat back and a bauble fan on the front. Continue until all are attached, they will hold each other in place.

Then make a stylish 80s ribbon (or not) and ta daaaaaa! Wreath.

Garland I

This was the easiest project in the world.

1. Buy 50 felt balls on ebay

2. Thread them onto about 10ft of red embroidery silk.

3. Tie a loop at each end.

4. Hang up.

5. Brilliant.

Garland II

More paper baubles…
This one isn’t finished yet so I’ll put up better pictures later…

1. Get an old book you have read twice by mistake and were going to give to charity because it wasn’t very good either time around

2. Pull out about 12 pages and use a circular template again to cut out circles.

3. Fold each circle in half and gather all 12 together (this is important as it helps keep you stitches straight)

4. Thread a big embroidery needle (anything smaller won’t get through the paper, but make sure it isn’t a child safe embroidery needle as this will be totally blunt, you need a good sharp point) with a long piece of black thread.  Don’t measure out the total length you want to achieve or you’ll get in a tangle. Use just enough so you can get about 3 or 4 baubles on

5. Now sew along the folded middle of your 12 circles keeping to the straight folded line… when you reach the end of the circle don’t cut the thread, just leave it and then when you have made your next set of circles, just start sewing again leaving a few inches in-between each bauble. When you run out of thread, just knot the end and cut and then start again threading through the last hole.

6. Fan out the individual leaves of each bauble starting from the centre until each page is evenly spaced. They have a tendency to ‘open’ on the sewn edge.

7. Carry on until bored.

8. String up along the bannister, or across a window, or on the kitchen ceiling and relish the fact that you can never mistakenly read that book again…

I feel like these craft ‘recipes’ read a little bit like Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole when he writes his recipe for scones… “Make a tin greasy; bung it all in”

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Filed under Christmas, Crafts, Decorating