Monday, 30 November 2015

Getting ready for the start of December!

Today I spend a long night wrapping books for our book calendar, beer for the husband's advent calender and making sure everything is ready for tomorrow!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Printing Christmas Cards

Today each of the girls designed and printed Christmas cards.  I cut some pre-bought (from Amazon) styrofoam sheets to make them smaller than the cards.  Then the girls drew their design on the sheet with a felt tip pen and when they were happy we used a pencil to create a relief drawing.  The print will only stick to the surface of the styrofoam that is not basically does a reverse of how you draw it. (We avoided words for this reason).

We then added some printing ink to a baking sheet and used a roller to add the ink to the Styrofoam block and then we printed.

We found simple designs were most effective!  G was brilliant and her robin and deer designs were amazing.  I came up with a present design which looks very modern.  G and E both did Baubles.  P also tried a snowman but it wasn't as effective!  

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Stir Up Sunday - Nigella's pudding recipie and a lucky sixpence!

Stir Up Sunday is traditionally the day when Christmas puddings should be made, in order to give them enough time to mature before Christmas. It’s a day to bring the whole family together, as it is tradition on Stir-Up Sunday for every family member to take it in turns to stir the Christmas pudding mixture and make a wish. A sixpence is traditionally added to the mixture and cooked in the pudding – as it is said to bring luck and wealth to whoever finds the coin on their plate on Christmas day.

And I was lucky enough to win one of 2015 sixpence from the royal mint this year.  

To make our Christmas pudding I used Nigella's ultimate Christmas pudding recipee.  

  • 150 grams sultanas
  • 150 grams roughly chopped prunes
  • 175 ml pedro ximenez sherry
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
  • 150 grams suet (i used veggie suet)
  • 150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • teaspoon baking powder
  • grated zest of lemon
  • large eggs
  • medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
  • tablespoons honey
  • 150 grams currants

  1. Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.
  1. When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.
  1. Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned six-pence!
  1. Ask every house hold member to have a stir and make a wish!
  1. Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid. Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.
  1. When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen.  

we made 3X1 litre Christmas puddings.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


P and I made pizza for tea.  She helped me make the dough and then she decorated them with tomato puree, fried onions and mushrooms, olives, mozzarella and Chorizo.

We used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's dough recipe. It is super easy and really yummy!

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain white flour
5g powdered dried yeast
10g salt
325ml warm water
About 1 tbsp olive oil
1 handful coarse flour (rye, semolina or polenta), for dusting

In a bowl, mix the flours, yeast, salt and water to form a sticky dough. Mix in the oil, then turn out on to a clean work surface and knead until smooth and silky. (Alternatively, if you have a mixer with a dough hook, mix the flours, yeast, salt and water on a low speed, add the oil and knead for 10 minutes). Shape into a round, and leave to rise in a clean bowl, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven ( as high as it will go. Take a lime-sized piece of dough and roll it into a 5mm thick round. Dust a rimless baking sheet with coarse flour, lay the dough on it, add your toppings and place in the oven. Bake until any cheese is bubbling and the base is taking on some colour, - about seven to nine minutes. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Baked Bean Tin Christmas Cake

Today we made individual Christmas cakes,
Christmas Cake(Makes 2 small baked bean tin cakes)
50g glace cherries
100g mixed dried fruit
100g sultanas
50ml sherry or other suitable alcohol like whisky, brandy or sloe gin (if you don’t want to use alcohol, use orange juice instead)
57g butter, softened
57g dark brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
57 plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1) Put cherries and other dried fruits plus zest in bowl and soak in sherry overnight.
2) Line a tall cake tin: Lightly grease base and sides. Line sides with a double thickness of baking parchment that stands 5cm above tin. Make 1 cm cuts at base to help it lie flat. Line base with double layer of parchment. 
3) Preheat oven to 150°c. Whisk butter and sugar for 5 min till light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs slowly. When almost added, whisk in some flour to stop it curdling. Fold in flour, spices, fruit and almonds. Spoon into lined tin and make a small dip in the middle of the mixture. Wrap tin in a double thickness of brown paper (or parchment) and tie with piece of string. Cook for 60-90 minutes. If you want the top of the cake to brown a bit more untie the string, so the top of paper is open, for the last quarter an hour.
4) Once cooked, poke lots of holes in the top of the cake with a skewer and drizzle a teaspoon of sherry over cake. Don’t overfeed it or the cake will go too soggy. Leave to cool in tin. Then remove from tin, remove paper and wrap well in a clean lot of a double layer of greaseproof paper and foil. If you want to you can feed it every week or so with sherry before decorating to keep the cake moist.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Gruffalo theatre show and Viennese fingers

Today P and I went to see the Gruffalo. The Gruffalo Live is a stage show of the ever-popular book performed by just three actors.  However, it is not a straight adaptation of the book; as well as the original rhyming story, there are songs, dancing and a bit of audience participation. The characters are interpretations of the creatures; the fox was a country gent (sort of); the owl is a RAF officer; the snake is a brilliantly funny with his maraca-swinging, moustache-toting, and sequined jacket-wearing !   It was fab - suitably scary and funny! We left the the theatre singing "guh guh guh gug gruffalo".

Later on the girls made Vienese Fingers:  
  100g unsalted butter, softened
  25g icing sugar
  1tsp vanilla extract
  100g plain flour
  1tsp cornflour
  1/4tsp baking powder
  100g milk chocolate, chopped
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  • Tip the butter and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and beat until pale and light. Add the vanilla extract and mix again. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into the bowl and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined
  • Use a spoon to make circles onto the prepared baking tray. Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 10–15 minutes until pale golden
  • Remove from the oven and cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack until completely cold
  • Tip the milk chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt either in the microwave on a low setting or over a pan of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir until smooth
  • Dip one end of the biscuit in the chocolate.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Today we read the story behind Diwali.

We also made clay diva lamps (which were lit of guide Rama and Sita home). We used air-dying clay. The girls made a hole for the tea light, shaped the clay and then decorated with with sequins.

 We lit the lights, ate curry and tried different Indian sweets.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Penguin Bars

Today we made Penguin biscuits.
For the biscuits
  • 115 g unsalted butter
  • 115 g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g plain white flour
For the buttercream
  • 115g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 115g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp Horlicks
For the coating
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 125g milk chocolate
  • 1 tbsp neutral flavoured coconut oil
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Then add the cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Then fold in the flour until the dough is smooth (it will be soft).
  2. Scrape the dough onto a piece of baking parchment, add another piece of parchment on top and roll out to a rectangle roughly 6mm thick. Place on a tray and freeze for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees oC. Line two trays with baking parchment. Remove the dough from the freezer, remove the top piece of parchment paper and cut into 28 rectangles. Place the rectangles on your prepared trays, a few millimetres apart and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays while you make the buttercream.
  4. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly beat in the remaining ingredients until smooth and light. Use the buttercream to sandwich together the cooled biscuits then pop in the fridge to chill while you make the coating.
  5. Melt the chocolates and coconut oil. Once melted and smooth, remove the sandwich biscuits from the fridge and dip, one at a time, into the chocolate. Once completely coated, remove to a baking parchment lined tray and repeat until all your biscuits are coated

It was quite messy covering them in chocolate!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bonfire night

Today we went to watch the fireworks in Cambridge.

Later we had sparklers in the garden.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Christmas Cake

Today the girls helped me make our Christmas cake.  We followed the recipe on the guardian website which is:
250g currants
250g sultanas
100g dried figs, roughly chopped
100g glacé cherries, cut in half
100g mixed peel
125ml whisky, plus extra to feed
125g butter, softened
125g muscovado sugar
4 eggs, beaten
130g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
50g ground almonds
Grated zest of 1 lemon
50g whole almonds
25g crystallised ginger, chopped
1. Put the dried fruit and peel in a bowl along with the whisky, cover and leave to soak overnight. Stir well before use. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with 2 layers of baking parchment.
2. Preheat the oven to 140C. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition so the mixture doesn't curdle.
3. Mix together the sifted flour, baking powder, spice, ground almonds and a pinch of salt and then fold this into the butter and sugar mixture. Add the soaked fruits, and any remaining whisky, the lemon zest, chopped almonds and ginger, and stir to combine.
4. Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the surface, scooping out a small hollow in the middle to prevent a doming effect.
5. Put the cake in the oven for about an hour, then cover with foil, and bake for another 30 minutes and then check the cake. It's done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean – check every 10 minutes until it's cooked.
6. Leave to cool in the tin then use the skewer to poke a few holes almost all the way through the cake, and brush them with more whisky. With the baking parchment still attached, wrap well in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin or a layer of foil, repeating the feeding every week or so until you're ready to ice just before Christmas. (I'd recommend Nigel Slater's instructions on these matters.)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Soul Cakes

Today we made soul cakes, which are a biscuit/scone hybrid traditionally made on All Soul’s day and distributed by the rich to the poor of the parish.  You need:

  • 175g butter 
  • 175g caster sugar 
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 450g plain flour 
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 100g currrants 
  • a little milk to mix
Pre-heat oven to 180oc.
 Cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Shift the flour into another bowl with the mixed spice and then add them to the butter, sugar and egg yolk mixture.
Stir in the currants and add enough milk to make a soft dough, similar to scones.
Roll the dough out and cut out little cakes with a biscuit cutter. Mark each cake with a cross (I did this by pressing on the top with a the back of metal teaspoon) and then place them on a greased and/or lined baking sheet.
Bake the cakes for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Leave to cool on a cooling rack!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Spooooooky Halloween train ride

Today the girls and I went on a spooky Halloween train ride through the woods to visit the witches at their Haunted House on the Audley End Miniature Railway. it was fab - the decorations were amazing and all the staff were in costume and in role!  The witches were brill (and P was just a little bit scared!).  The girls can't wait to go next year!