We had our annual outing to the panto yesterday (Oh yes we did!) - Aladdin at the Theatre Royal in Winchester with my mother in law who buys us the tickets as a Christmas present, and then went out for a pizza before returning home. I'm not a lover of panto, but I like the one at Winchester. This is the third year we've been. A lot of the actors are the same every year, and the dame is always exceptional. This year there was much heckling from the junior members of the audience and as a result, much improvisation from the cast, which is always a good thing. We had a good meal, and despite the unseasonally mild, wet and windy weather, Winchester looked beautiful with the lights illuminating the high street. Actually, I watched the Wartime Farm at Christmas the other day, and was very interested to learn that the myth of our 'white Christmases' is almost entirely down to Charles Dickens who experienced the frost fair years of the early 19th century and perpetuated the idea that it is always a white Christmas, frosty, glorious in his novels. But I digress.
I was up early this morning. There's no denying that I am a 'lark' and I consider the early morning at the weekends to be 'my time'. The kids have unfettered access to the TV, the Husband sleeps, and usually, I will be out walking the dog. The dog has been staying with mum for the last 10 days, so this morning, I had a rare opportunity to potter in the kitchen.
First up was a mushroom and bean casserole to go in the slow cooker for lunch. My mother in law is a vegetarian, and this seemed to be a likely candidate for an easy lunch, out of a book by Rose Elliot which my mum gave me as an early Christmas present - quick vegetarian meals: a kind of 30 Minute Meals for veggies. Obviously, by adapting it for the slow cooker, I extended the cooking time somewhat, but the principle was the same - easy and tasty. Necessary food sorted, on to the good stuff.
Cranberry Bakewell Tart. I made cranberry jam yesterday, and the pastry (left overnight in the fridge), so it was a matter of lining the tin with the pastry, spreading in the jam and making the almond sponge topping. The pastry was direct from the recipe in Feast - it's a great pastry: including ground almonds, clementine zest and icing sugar with the flour - but you could use shop bought. The quantities in Feast are for a 26cm loose bottomed tart tin. Mine is smaller than that so I had the opportunity to make more mince pies.
The sponge is made by beating together 125g of caster sugar and ground almonds with 3 eggs, and then mixing in 125g of melted slightly cooled unsalted butted. Once it's all mixed, pour it over the jam, sprinkle over some flaked almonds and bake at 180 for about 45mins. You might want to check after 20 minutes and if it's looking like it might brown too much on top, cover with foil.
Just before serving I made a runny icing using the juice from half the clementine and drizzled it over the top of the tart. Nigella goes for a full on covering of royal icing and golden stars, but I've got wise to her sweet tooth, and the clementine-tinged drizzle was enough.
With the left over pastry, I made some more mince pies. The ones I made a couple of days ago were OK but this pastry was much better, and if I get a chance tomorrow, I may make some more. I used the Cherry & Almond Mincemeat I made a few weeks ago.
Once the tarts were in the oven, I got on with some bread. I have been neglecting my bread making, but re-enthused by the River Cottage course, I've had a sourdough starter up and running and it's now ready to use. I mixed up a 'sponge' last night (using a third of the flour, dried yeast and liquid I was intending to bake with), and then made my full dough this morning, using the sourdough starter as part of the liquid content, as well as the 'sponge'. There's going to be a lot more of the bread in the New Year, so for now, you'll just have to be satisfied with a photo.
|good & "rustic"!|
Last but not least, I iced the Christmas cake. In the end, Dr Oetker answered all my decorating needs. I came across a can of silver shimmer spray in the Co-Op yesterday when I was supposed to be buying a paper, and was irresistibly drawn to it. I already have a pack of ready to roll white icing in the (beautifully ordered) cupboard, so in the end I went for the path of least resistance. After a minor panic when I couldn't remember where in the beautifully ordered cupboards the box of decorating bits had gone, including the heirloom Father Christmas and Polar Bear, all was well, and I went for marzipan and icing stars, all sprayed liberally with silver shimmer. Marvellous.
All in all a very satisfying potter.
After all that, the mother in law enjoyed her casserole and left with a big slice of the Cranberry Bakewell, and my parents have arrived, bringing the dog back. We've been out for a long walk to gather in holly, the tree is up, the presents are bought and wrapped. We have a full house till Friday, my parents, one of my brothers and his wife, then my father in law. On Saturday, we're off to London to see some fabulous friends, then we're back to host more fabulous friends here for New Year. It will be busy, foodie and fun. So now, with the scent of clove and onion infused milk wafting from the kitchen, ready for the bread sauce, I am setting down the lap top for a while, but I'll be back in 2013, refreshed and ready to blog.
I wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy!