Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The difference a year makes

Last Christmas I made a cottage pie for Christmas eve, ready for when my family arrived.  This time, we were spending Christmas just the two of us, but I still managed to crack out the cottage pie after boxing day when my family came for Christmas number two! Last year, my eldest niece ate the cottage pie, peas and all - this year there was a lot of effort to get her to eat it.  My youngest niece was the harder of the pair to get to eat it last year but this year she happily ate it all and had seconds.  It's crazy the difference a year makes!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Every year Ian and I put together some marzipan fruits for my marzipan loving aunt.  This year, I thought it was about time my nieces had a go at it, so we coloured all the marzipan in advance, and set about showing them how to make the fruits.  Some fell on the floor, but most of it ended up as fruits - I think we kept them occupied for at least 20 minutes before they decided they wanted to be more creative and do their own thing.  You'll notice in amongst the fruit, there is a face, a penguin, a couple of lollipops, a frog...

...and my sisters effort, a caterpillar.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Christmas Pizza

In the run up to Christmas, you can end up having the same turkey dinner over and over again and by the time it gets to the big day, you're fed up.  Enter the Christmas pizza, the ingenious idea from our Basingstoke friends, DL and PG.  Our friends moved into their new house quite possibly years ago, and this was finally our invite round to their house.  I must say, it was a lovely house, and a great evening, made superb by the pizza.

They let me take pictures of each stage, and I even helped make one - that's how wonderful I am!

You can make your own base, but the packet mixes are pretty good, and a good time saver.  DL and PG roll the edge, I assume that's important! 

The tomato sauce of a normal pizza gets ditched in favour of the much better marscapone sauce (add a bit of milk to make it spreadable).  DL didn't see me go to take this photo, so just ignore that bit of turkey there! (It's like a sneak preview)

Next add sliced turkey - if you're eating with PG, you need to be generous with the meat - I got told off for leaving gaps. 

The other toppings are paxo stuffing, a pig in blanket, and some mozarella cheese.  Doesn't it look gorgeous? You'll notice there's only stuffing on one half - that's because it's sage and onion stuffing and Ian is fussy remember!

And here it is all cooked and ready to eat - we ate lots, and it was amazing - I think this might have to happen every year!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Dinner with Friends

Before Christmas we had some friends over for dinner.  It was mid week, so we wanted to keep the meal simple as we'd be cooking straight after getting in from work.  I was going to make my sweetcorn fritter batter up while Ian started on the cherry coke duck, and then he'd make that along with deep fried mozarella, while I chatted to our friends.  Unfortunately, when shopping the day before, Ian neglected to mention that he'd need redcurrant jelly and so I had to dash to tescos to get some, while he took over all the cooking.  All I managed to do to help in the end was line up the plates with salad ready to have the starters laid on top.  And I think it makes for quite a cute picture.

I usually make the fritters smallish, but I clearly didn't tell Ian this, because he made one mahoosive fritter per person! Check out the size of them!

The difference in the mozarella breading is because Ian wanted to experiment with adding paprika to the flour.  We couldn't really tell the difference, but it didn't make them bad - I couldn't tell you which was better.  

You may wish to pop back to the previous cherry coke duck picture first, before looking at the next picture, see if you can play spot the difference.  Ian decided to cook the cherry coke down slightly more this time, so that it turned pretty much to toffee! He said he really enjoyed it, but I think it totally overpowered the duck, and I was really disappointed.  I told him off for altering something I'd specifically chosen to share with friends because it was so good, and making stuff just for his own taste.  He's good at that.- naughty Ian!

For dessert, we cheated and had lemon cheesecakes from Fru.  Very very yummy and much easier than attempting our own dessert. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sticky Pork

The problem with me posting about the yummy stuff Ian cooks me, is that I generally don't have a recipe for what he's cooked, sometimes because he hasn't told me, but generally because he makes it up as he goes! 

But this time, he cooked from one of my good food magazines, so I can actually link to the recipe.  He skipped the couscous part (he's not a fan), and left out the mustard.  Actually, looking at the recipe, I'm pretty sure we didn't buy any orange juice, and I remember him telling me that he added redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce, so I guess the recipe isn't much help! I know he cut down on the honey because I'm not a big fan of the taste of honey.  

The end result was de-lish! You might also have noticed that we have a bit of a thing for mangetout cooked to death in butter.  It's really good, but I have a feeling we might have to scrap it in the New Year diets - boooo!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Cooking Wednesdays - The Last of 2010

My last cooking wednesday happened in November - after that, all routine disappeared it seems.  My plan was to cook toad in the hole.

And here it is!

What? It doesn't look like toad in the hole? Well, that's because we couldn't be bothered! Instead, we got out Ian's new toaster, and christened it!

Here it is on it's first heating (bread free to get rid of the funny smell).

And afterwards, with our toast. It's really cool having my own knob, set to how I like it, and knowing that it will still be on the same setting when I get back.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cooking Wednesdays - Damn This Morning!

I love daytime telly, especially This Morning, but obviously being at work all day doesn't allow me to watch it.  But, they recently decided to do some weekend programmes, with highlights from the week and a few extra bits too, so I caught one of these back in November when Gina D'Acampo was making a pasta bake.  I decided it looked good, so set about making it that week for my cooking wednesdays.  It was epically huge, I probably should have halved the recipe, but instead ended up with tonnes of pasta.  I quite liked it, although it was definitely the wrong ratio with way more pasta than the meat could cope with.  My mum ate it, and I ate it, but Ian just picked at it, and then refused to eat anymore than the mozarella cheesy bit.  This opened a big can of worms about how he never eats the food I cook, and he told me he didn't even like pasta.  I did wonder what he thought was in a pasta bake and why he didn't stop me from making it, but I was more concerned by him telling me he doesn't like chilli - the dish I make quite a lot! So fussy! 

So, because of Ian not liking/eating it, this is being labelled a disaster, even though I'd say it was perfectly edible, and not that bad really.  

Monday, 10 January 2011

Cherry Coke Duck

I don't like coke.  I don't like cherry flavouring (I love cherries).  I do like duck.  But I was a little worried about Ian's choice of meal back in December when he told me about it.  

But, because I love him (and because he doesn't listen to me anyhow), he made it, and it was........ YUMMY! 

It was really good, it didn't taste horrible like coke at all and the duck was nice and tender and it even looks good! 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Work Cake Bake Off

Back in November was the work cake bake off again.  You might remember me saying last time here that I wasn't going to take part again - but I solved the organisation problem this year, by being on the organising team! It was hard work, but we raised over £300 for charity, and managed to announce the winner the same day.

I like to try a new recipe each time, so this year I went for a simple apple traybake (traybakes are easy to cut, and feed more people - more people = more votes!) and a white chocolate spotty traybake.

The apple cake didn't seem to have the correct ratio of apple to batter - I struggled to cover the apples, but it turned out alright.  I think it would be better hot with ice cream though.

The white chocolate spotty cake used yogurt in the frosting, and that made it less chocolatey, more yogurty but as a whole cake, it worked quite nicely.  It won me third place which is good! (Please don't look too carefully at the OCD ordering of the smarties).

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Mint Chocolate Souffles - at last!

A long long time ago (no, this isn't the start of a fairy tale), I promised Ian I would make him a souffle.  I don't remember when, I don't remember why.  I do remember never doing it!

So back in October - yes, I know that was pretty much three months ago - I randomly started about making some.  I found a recipe online here but Ian wanted a mint chocolate souffle, so I used some minty chocolate to make it.

It was surprisingly easy to make - although Ian's one had a big hole in it (so was mainly air - oops, good job I made more than two!)

But they look good don't they!