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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Salted Pecan & Pretzel Brittle

I've always fancied making peanut brittle, but as I didn't own a candy thermometer until recently, I didn't want to risk making it without. I loved the sweet & salty combination of this pretzel crust, so I wanted to try adding pretzels to the brittle, and combined it with one of my favourite nuts, pecans.

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Salted Pecan & Pretzel Brittle
250g caster sugar
tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
40g salted pretzels, roughly broken
50g pecans
sprinkle of sea salt
  • add the caster sugar, vanilla & salt to a wide based saucepan or deep sided frying pan
  • scatter the pretzels & pecans onto a 8" square silicone baking sheet
  • heat gently until the sugar melts - be patient & don't stir it!
  • increase the heat and simmer until it reaches 260F (hard ball) on a candy thermometer
  • pour the caramel over the pretzels & pecans & sprinkle with a little sea salt
  • set aside to cool & firm up
  • break into shards

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Why not bag a few of these up and give them away as gifts this Christmas, or pop a few in a festive tin or box.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Pea & Ham Soup

This pea and ham soup is not only very cheap to make (less than 50p for the peas) it also makes use of leftover gammon that I'd boiled in Dr Pepper at the weekend. There wasn't enough left to make a meal, but it was the perfect amount to add to the soup.

Whilst I'd cooked this in a saucepan it would be an ideal slow cooker recipe, which could be left cooking all day on low.

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Pea & Ham Soup - serves 4/5

300g dried marrowfat peas
cold water
splash of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 litre stock (vegetable, chicken, pork or ham)
salt & black pepper
200g ham or gammon, diced
  • add the peas to a large bowl and cover with cold water
  • leave to soak for 6 hours, or overnight
  • heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat
  • drain and rinse the peas and add them to the saucepan with the stock
  • bring to the boil and simmer for around 30 minutes, until the peas are soft
  • remove from the heat and blend until smooth, with a stick blender
  • add salt & pepper to taste, and the diced ham
  • return to the heat until the ham is heated through 

The kids absolutely loved this with fresh crusty bread, and have asked me to make it again very soon!

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Marshmallow Cookie Sandwich

I've recently discovered the art of marshmallow making, and it's a lot easier than I thought it would be, as long as you have a decent stand mixer, and use the correct ingredients.

The first batch I made were a little soft, as I didn't use enough gelatine. The next batch didn't even get off the ground as I used vegetarian gelatine. The third batch were just perfect though, so this is the recipe I'll be using in future to make various flavoured marshmallows.

I added some crushed freeze dried strawberries to this batch, and some dried strawberries to the cookies, and sandwiched them together to make cookie sandwiches.

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Marshmallows - makes 25/30

8 leaves gelatine
cold water
400g caster sugar
50g golden syrup
1/2 tsp salt
100ml water
tsp vanilla extract
20g freeze dried strawberries, crushed
equal parts cornflour & icing sugar
  • add the gelatine leaves to a bowl and cover with cold water & set aside
  • prepare an 8"x10" baking tin by lightly greasing with a flavourless oil, or cooking spray (I use a silicone baking tin which makes it easy to remove the marshmallows)
  • add the caster sugar, golden syrup, salt, 100ml water & vanilla to a large saucepan
  • gently heat until the sugar has dissolved
  • increase the heat and bring to the boil
  • let the syrup bubble away without stirring, until it reaches 235C on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage)
  • squeeze the liquid from the gelatine leaves and add the leaves to the bowl of a food mixer
  • with the motor running and a balloon whisk attached, pour the syrup onto the gelatine leaves
  • whisk for approx 10 minutes until soft peaks form, and then add the crushed strawberries & whisk to combine
  • pour into your prepared tin and leave for a few hours to set
  • once set, turn out onto a surface dusted with your cornflour/icing sugar
  • using a sharp knife (lightly greased) cut into squares, dusting with the cornflour/icing sugar as you go

Cookies - makes 12 large round cookies

225g caster sugar
60g butter, softened
225g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
50g dried strawberries
  • beat the sugar and butter together
  • stir in the flour, salt, vanilla and egg, until well combined
  • stir in the dried strawberries, and mix well
  • if you want large round cookies then divide into 12 and roll dough into balls, then place well spaced apart onto one or two greased & lined baking sheets
  • for square cookies :spread the dough onto a greased & lined baking sheet and flatten out
  • bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 10-15 minutes until puffed up & golden brown
  • cool the round cookies on a wire rack
  • for square cookies :slice the large cookie into squares and allow to cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before cooling on a wire rack

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For added indulgence, add a little strawberry jam onto the cookies, and microwave for 5-8 seconds

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Monday, 16 November 2015

Pegboard Advent Calendar

The new John Lewis Christmas ad has appeared on our TV's, which means I can now mention the C word on my blog once again. The last few months have flown by and I can't believe that Christmas is almost here again. I'm determined to be organised this year and get the Christmas presents bought before the beginning of December, and it all seems to be going to plan so far. The tree won't be going up for another month as the decorator is coming to finish off our lounge just before then, although I will probably be pestered into putting one in the kitchen at the beginning of the month.

Last year I made a gingerbread house advent calendar, but I've kept it nice and simple this year with a pegboard advent calendar on my desk (waiting for the decorator to come before I hang it on the wall).

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It takes only a few minutes to put together, and you can hang your favourite chocolates on it. I used these Lindor chocolate orange truffles, but if you want to go for a Scandi look you could use the milk truffles in red packaging.

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You will need :

length of ribbon
24 mini pegs
Sharpie pen
24 sweets/chocolates
  • tie loops in both ends of your ribbon & attach to hooks on your pegboard or wall
  • number your pegs from 1 to 24 with the Sharpie
  • place each peg over the ribbon, gripping both the ribbon and the edge of a chocolate wrapper

It's a simple, yet effective, advent calendar that can be used year after year with your favourite chocolates

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I bought both the ribbon and pegs from Ebay.

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As always, Lindt has a fab range of Christmas chocolates, including the famous Reindeer, and these mini Santas, bears and Santas Helpers, which make great stocking fillers.

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I wonder how long it will be before they disappear from my desk!

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I received a selection of Lindt chocolate to use in this post


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