The Crazy Kitchen: 2013

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Friday, 27 December 2013

Family Christmas and Boxing Day Soup

It's been a busy couple of weeks and just when I thought I was over my illness I was struck down again, right before we visited London for a few days. I dosed myself up and braved the wind and rain and we had a fabulous weekend sightseeing, shopping, watching a show and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

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It was then off to the local garden centre for a Christmas Eve breakfast with the big fella, before an afternoon with family.

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Checking on Santa's location

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We then had a manic Christmas day swamped in wrapping paper and presents, and the men folk spent hours building Playmobil (and napping) whilst the women prepared veg drank fizz in the kitchen.

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We enjoyed a great Christmas day with family and friends, laughing at terrible cracker jokes and random secret Santa gifts.

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As usual, I cooked far too much food, meaning that there was plenty left over for Boxing Day Soup. Unfortunately I felt too ill on Boxing Day to go anywhere near the kitchen so instead we enjoyed it earlier today. Once again the soup turned out better than I could've expected and it went perfectly with home baked Focaccia.

Boxing Day Soup

Boxing Day Soup

Christmas dinner leftovers, including :

4 bird roast
Roast potatoes / parsnips
  • Add everything to a large pan or slow cooker
  • Add a couple of pints of stock and bring to the boil
  • Simmer for around half an hour if using a pan
  • Blend until smooth using a stick blender
  • Add extra stock/water/milk and season to taste

Simple yet so tasty....

Boxing Day SoupBoxing Day SoupBoxing Day Soup

I hope everyone had a great let's bring on New Years Eve!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Make Ahead Holiday Cookies

It's that time of the year again when we buy gifts for our children's teachers. We've given all sorts of gifts in the past but I usually like to give edible ones. Often the support staff get forgotten, or parents can't afford to give more than one gift. We have some great support staff at our Primary school, and many that I've known for years, so I decided to make them all some cookies.

This recipe is one that I've been using for a while, with variations on the basic recipe. I made three varieties this time and as each batch makes quite a few cookies I decided to freeze some at the dough ball stage. They can then be taken out of the freezer, left to defrost, and then baked whenever you want freshly baked cookies without any of the hassle of making them.

Make Ahead Holiday Cookies

Make Ahead Holiday Cookies 
115g Butter, softened
230g Caster sugar
35g Golden syrup
1 Egg
230g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • Beat the butter and sugar together
  • Mix in the golden syrup & egg
  • Stir the flour and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the butter/sugar mixture
  • Roll mixture into small balls (approx tbsp) and place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
  • Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack
  • Store in an airtight container
Lemon & Ginger
Add 1.5tsp of ground ginger and zest of 1 lemon with the flour

Cinnamon Raisin
Add 1.5 tsp of cinnamon with the flour and stir in 100g of raisins (or sultanas) before forming mixture into balls

Substitute 30g of flour for 25g of cocoa powder

I boxed up a few of each cookies ready for all the staff at school...

Make Ahead Holiday Cookies
Make Ahead Holiday Cookies Make Ahead Holiday Cookies
ready for the freezer

Monday, 16 December 2013

Santa Hat Cupcakes

It's the first of two Christmas parties at school tomorrow and for this one we've been asked to bring in cakes or biscuits. The next one is easy as it's our turn to take crisps, nice and easy.

I was all out of chocolate so I was going to make some simple vanilla cakes in festive cases with sprinkles on top but earlier in the day caught sight of some Santa hat cupcakes whilst browsing online. They didn't look too difficult so decided to give them a go. There are lots of versions of Santa hat cupcakes on Pinterest, including some with strawberries that look great.

Santa Hat Cupcakes

To ice these cakes it's just a case of making some buttercream (or you could buy some ready made vanilla buttercream), and mixing approx 2/3 with red food colouring - I used gel colouring but it was more of a deep pink than the bright red that I had in mind.

I used disposable icing bags and snipped the end off, piping a ring in the white icing and then squeezing the red on top, tapering upwards, and then finishing off with a blob of white.

Santa Hat Cupcakes

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mint Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road

Whether you call it Rocky Road, Fridge Cake or maybe even Tiffin, there is no denying that it is good. You can add whatever ingredients you like to the mix, and also whatever you have in the cupboards, which is what I did here.

After seeing this Malteser Rocky Road Christmas Pudding I was dying to give it a go myself and thought it would be a perfect way to use my Wilton ball cake pan, but you could use a pudding basin.

It doesn't have the neatest of finish but a length of ribbon tied around the middle disguises that a little. The proof, they say, is in the pudding and nobody really notices the rough edges once it's sliced as everyone is drooling as they wait to get their hands on a piece.

MInt Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road

Mint Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road

550g Chocolate - I used a mix of milk & plain (reserve a little to glue the halves together)
100g glacé cherries
125g Cadbury chocolate fingers, chopped
75g mini marshmallows
100g sultanas
100g Cadbury snow bites (the shells add a crunch)
1 box of After Eight Collection mint chocolates
140g white chocolate

  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water (or use a microwave)
  • Line the 2 pans - you can use clingfilm but I find a piece of slightly damp scrunched up baking paper works much better as it doesn't get brittle in the freezer
  • Stir in the cherries, fingers, marshmallows, sultanas, snow bites and the After Eight Collection (reserving the white ones)
  • Divide mixture between the two pans
  • Place in the fridge for around 15 minutes, or until completely set
  • Turn out and use a little of the reserved melted chocolate to glue the halves together
  • Return to the freezer whilst you melt the white chocolate (including the white After Eight leaves)
  • Allow the white chocolate to cool a little otherwise it will just run straight down the sides of the pudding
  • Spoon the white chocolate on to the top of the pudding, one spoonful at a time, allowing each spoonful to firm up slightly before spooning the next on.
  • The chocolate will slowly start to drip down the sides of the pudding, once you have enough topping then return to the freezer for a few minutes

MInt Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road

I used some leftover white chocolate to make Santa pops.

Chocolate Santa PopsMInt Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road MInt Chocolate Christmas Pudding Rocky Road

I was sent some After Eight chocolates to use in a recipe, the recipe is my own

Friday, 13 December 2013

Mini Christmas Pudding Cheesecakes

After the success of my Christmas Pudding Cheesecake that I made for a Selfridges blogger competition I decided to rustle up some quick mini cheesecakes. These are perfect to make quickly if unexpected guests turn up, although they are nicer if the mixture is left overnight to allow the flavours to infuse.

To be honest they're not really Christmas Pudding Cheesecakes as there is no christmas pudding in them, instead I used home-made chocolate mincemeat. Whether you use shop bought or make your own I would recommend that you warm it up to melt the suet as nobody wants raw suet in their cheesecake!

Mini Christmas Pudding Cheesecakes - makes 8

300g Full at cream cheese
300ml Double cream
300g Mincemeat (warmed through to melt the suet and then cooled)
8 Digestive biscuits

  • Beat the cream cheese and cream together until smooth
  • Beat in the mincemeat until well combined
  • Line 8 holes of a muffin pan with clingfilm
  • Fill the holes with the cheesecake mixture and place in the fridge to firm up 
  • To serve turn out the cheesecake onto a digestive biscuit
Mini Christmas Pudding Cheesecakes

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Getting Ahead for Christmas - Roast Parsnips & Parsnip Mash

After making the roast spuds for Christmas dinner earlier in the week I cracked on with the parsnips yesterday.

I started with around 1.2kg of parsnips. Peeled, topped & tailed I used the fat end for roasting and the skinny end in a mash to avoid those burnt thin pieces of parsnip.

Again I part boiled them and roasted for around 30 - 40 minutes in Trex vegetable fat, then once cooled I added them to a disposable foil tray to go in the freezer. These trays from Asda are great as I can fit 2 on each shelf and therefore 8 in the oven at one time - plenty of space for all the roasties, stuffing and pigs in blankets for the 10 of us.

Roast Parsnips & Parsnip Mash

Parsnip & Butternut Squash Mash

Butternut squash
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves
salt & pepper
dried rosemary
large knob of butter

  • Add the peeled parsnips, squash, onion & garlic to a pan of water
  • Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, then drain
  • Add the salt & pepper, rosemary & butter & mash or blend with a stick blender

I added the mash to another disposable foil tray, covered with clingfilm and froze. On Christmas day I'll sprinkle over some breadcrumbs and reheat in the oven.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Leerdammer Toastie Challenge

You've got to love a toastie, there are so many fillings you can add, either sweet or savoury. I remember when we got our first toasted sandwich maker in the early 80's and my brother made me a surprise filling. I was expecting savoury but it was cornflakes and golden syrup! Not great when you're expecting to bite into cheese..

I can't say that I have ever tried that filling again, it definitely wasn't my cup of tea. If I have a toastie it has to be with cheese.

When Leerdammer sent me a package of goodies for a toastie challenge I knew that the first one on the menu would have to be my ultimate favourite cheese, chilli, mango chutney and banana. yes it may sound like a strange combination but it works and it works well.

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Next up was a simple seasonal toastie of cheese and cranberry sauce. Fruit and cheese is a great combo and in a toastie it all melts together, mmmmm.

Among the ingredients I was sent in the package was a lovely Chorizo sausage, some mushrooms and Tabasco sauce. I fried the chorizo and mushroom for a few minutes before adding a few dashes of Tabasco and adding to the sandwich with a slice of Leerdammer.

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Leerdammer Toastie is a mild and creamy cheese sliced perfectly to fit into your toastie and is priced at £1.75 from major supermarkets for a pack of 6 slices.

I was sent samples of Leerdammer toastie along with a toasted sandwich maker and a few ingredients to use in this challenge

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Getting Ahead for Christmas - Roast Potatoes & Stuffing Balls

I've finally got some antibiotics from the doctor and I'm slowly starting to feel a little more human. Today I've started to get prepared for Christmas day and over the next few days will be preparing as much as I can in advance of the day itself to give me more chance to spend time with the family on Christmas Eve and Christmas day rather than in the kitchen.

I always find that there never seems to be enough space in the oven on Christmas day so pre-cooking some of the food frees up a bit of space as it means that everything needs less time to cook.

We always have chestnut stuffing from M&S but I also like to serve some sage & onion stuffing for the more fussy guests. I've made up a packet of sage & onion stuffing, rolled into balls & pre-baked them. They have now been frozen on disposable foil trays ready for popping in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

I also have 2 large trays of roast potatoes ready to go straight in the oven, with no part boiling or basting necessary - I just add a little butter to the tin as they're cooking (who's worried about extra calories on Christmas day!).

Roast Potatoes - plenty for 10 guests

2.5kg King Edward potatoes, peeled
2 large spoonfuls of Trex (or your favourite lard or goose fat)

  • Cut the potatoes into 1.5-2" pieces 
  • Add to a large pan of water
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Drain well
  • Heat the fat in 2 large baking tins in a 220C oven
  • Add the potatoes and baste in the melted fat
  • Roast for approx 40 minutes until crisp & golden - don't overdo them as they will brown more when they're heated again
  • Allow to cool and add to 2 disposable foil trays before wrapping in clingfilm and freezing
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Monday, 9 December 2013

Use up the leftovers

I don't like waste so if there's ever any leftovers in this house I always use them up in something else. Last Christmas I made a delicious soup on boxing day from turkey stock and meat and vegetable leftovers. I can't tell you precisely what was in it and would never be able to recreate it exactly but no doubt I will make something similar this boxing day.

Unilever sent me a variety of their condiments to enjoy with our Christmas dinner and challenged me to get creative with my leftovers.

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At the weekend I had some pork loin steaks leftover. There wasn't enough to have one each so I decided to use them up in a pie.

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Pork, Apple & Stuffing Pie

Puff pastry block
Roast pork or loin steak leftovers, cut into small pieces
1 small pack of sage & onion stuffing
1 jar of Colman's Bramley Apple Sauce
milk or egg for brushing
  • Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle
  • Make the stuffing up as per directions on the pack
  • Spread the stuffing over half of the pastry, leaving a 1.5" gap around the edge
  • Top the stuffing with the pork and then the apple sauce (you might not need a whole jar)
  • Brush around the edges with milk or beaten egg
  • Fold the pastry over and seal the edges
  • Brush the top of the pastry with milk or beaten egg
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 20 minutes, until nicely browned

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I didn't stop at pie and decided to make Nigella's ham in coke and put half in the freezer for Christmas and half to use now. I baked some lemon & garlic focaccia and prepared some tasty sandwiches using some Hellmann's mayonnaise with a twist of pepper and a zing of lemon - who knew that there were so many varieties of mayonnaise! I spread lemon mayonnaise on one slice of bread and pepper on the other and sandwiched a couple of juicy slices of ham in between.

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Lemon & Garlic Focaccia

350g strong white bread flour 
7g yeast
7g salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
75ml olive oil 
280ml cool water 
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
  • Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, garlic, thyme & oil and half of the water together in a food mixer
  • Add the rest of the water with the motor running until you get a thick cake like batter, adding more water if necessary
  • Mix for approx 10 mins on high speed
  • Put dough in a large silicone baking pan & cover with clingfilm
  • Leave in a warm place to prove for approx 2 hours
  • Bake in a 200 C oven for approx 15 minutes until golden on the top

Nigella's Ham in Coke

2kg gammon joint (I used unsmoked)
2 litres of cola (I used 17p smart price!)
1 onion, cut in half
  • Add the gammon & onion to a pan
  • Pour over the coke
  • bring to the boil & simmer for approx 2 hours
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I was sent the selection of condiments for the purpose of this post

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fruit & Nut Panettone

I think I've only ever tried Panettone once previously and could never understand what the fuss was all about as it just seemed like a stale fruit loaf. That was until I tried a Selfridges Panettone that I received in a hamper. This was gorgeous, so soft and not at all dry, and filled with big pieces of fruit.

I knew that I wouldn't be able to recreate this moist & sticky loaf but when I received a Silverwood Panettone tin from Lakeland I thought I would give it a bash.

Although there is a recipe on the Lakeland website it uses fresh yeast & as I only have the dried variety I opted not to use this one, to be on the safe side, and instead followed a recipe on the BBC Good Food site, with a few amendments.

Not having made Panettone before I was unsure what the dough consistency should be like. Mine was quite sticky but I decided not to add anymore flour as I know that a very sticky Focaccia dough produces a very light bread. Despite my loaf not doming on the top it rose considerably in the tin, right to the top, although after slicing the loaf it would appear that it decided not to take most of the dried fruit with it on it's rise to the top!

The resulting loaf however is very light and airy and delicious on it's own, slathered with butter or toasted.

Fruit & Nut Panettone

Fruit & Nut Panettone

6 tbsp warm water
2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
500g Strong white bread flour
125ml warm milk
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
180g butter, softened
1 tsp mixed spice
300g dried mixed fruit
100g pecans
Beaten egg or milk for brushing
18cm x 18cm Panettone tin

  • Warm a small bowl by rinsing in hot water
  • Add the warm water and one sachet of yeast, mix & leave until dissolved
  • Stir in 60g of flour, cover and leave for 30 minutes
  • Sprinkle the other sachet of yeast over the warm milk, mix and leave until dissolved
  • Beat together the sugar, eggs and egg yolks
  • Stir in the milk/yeast mixture and the yeast/flour mixture, mix well
  • Mix together the remaining flour & softened butter until crumbly
  • Beat the flour/butter & mixed spice into the egg mixture on high speed for 3-4 minutes, until the dough is elastic
  • Add the fruit & nuts and combine
  • Put the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 2-3 hours
  • Rub the insides of the Panettone tin with butter and sprinkle with flour
  • Add the dough to the tin, cover and leave in a warm place until the dough has reached the top of the tin (approx 1.5 - 2 hours)
  • Brush the top of the dough with an egg wash or milk
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for 10 minutes
  • Reduce the temperature to 190C and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out and cooling fully on a wire rack
Fruit & Nut Panettone Fruit & Nut Panettone Lakeland Panettone tin

Next time I'm determined to get the dough to rise up out of the pan and hoping for a proper muffin top!

I was provided with the Panettone tin for the purpose of this post

mummy mishaps

Saturday, 7 December 2013

After Eight Mint Chocolate Brownies

It's less than three weeks until Christmas and the organised feeling that I had in October has faded, leaving me with a bit of a panicky feeling having not even thought about what food we'll be eating over the festive period.

I've been feeling rough for a week or more and haven't managed to rustle up the motivation to start list making but fear not, I have managed to find motivation to make some chocolate brownies, with thanks to After Eight.

These brownies are crispy on the top and lovely and gooey inside, with a layer of After Eight mints running through the centre. They are delicious warm or cold, with or without ice cream, and would make a perfect dessert at a Christmas dinner party. I based the brownies on a Nigella recipe but changed the quantities a bit.

After Eight Mint Chocolate Brownies

After Eight Mint Chocolate Brownies

300g 70% Dark chocolate
300g unsalted butter
300g dark soft brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
5 eggs
175g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 box of 300g After Eight mints

  • Add the chocolate, butter, sugar & salt to a large pan
  • Heat gently until melted & smooth
  • Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly
  • Beat in the eggs
  • Beat in the flour and cocoa powder
  • Add half the mixture to a lined & greased 13"x9" baking pan
  • Lay a single layer of After Eight mints on top of the mixture - you may need to have a row of halves (you will have 3 or 4 leftover to enjoy as a treat another time)
  • Pour the remaining mixture over the mints
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approximately 20-25 minutes
  • Allow to cool slightly in the tin before cutting into squares

After Eight Mint Chocolate Brownies

You might also like my After Eight Ice Cream

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Selfridges Challenge - Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

Today I will be venturing off to London on a very exciting challenge.

Today I will be visiting the Selfridges Oxford Street store with three other bloggers to meet the head chef from one of their restaurants.

Today I will be taking something that I've made to be judged by this chef with a chance to win a great prize.

Today I will be very nervous.

The challenge

Last week I was sent one of the fabulous Selfridges hampers filled with some bright and sunny Selfridges own label products and given the challenge of creating a recipe around the products in the hamper.

Selfridges Hamper 
After much deliberation I decided to go with a cheesecake, using the following items from the hamper (along with a few more of my own):

Brandy Butter
Handmade Chocolate Butter Shortbread Biscuits
Christmas Pudding
Giant Milk Chocolate Coin

Selfridges Hamper
Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

200g Selfridges Handmade Chocolate Butter Shortbread Biscuits, crushed
90g Selfridges Brandy Butter, melted
400g Full fat cream cheese
400ml Double cream
40g Caster sugar
zest of 2 clementines
1 tsp Cinnamon
450g Selfridges Christmas Pudding, cooked, cooled & crumbled

To decorate
200ml Double cream
3tbsp Malteser vodka (or Baileys)
90g Selfridges giant milk chocolate coin
  • Mix to the crushed shortbread biscuits together with the brandy butter
  • Press into the base of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin
  • Place in the fridge whilst the filling is made
  • Beat together the cream cheese, cream, caster sugar and orange zest until smooth
  • Fold in the christmas pudding until evenly distributed
  • Spread the filling over the base and smooth the top
  • Place in the fridge for 4-6 hours or overnight
  • Make the chocolate holly leaves by melting the chocolate and piping leaves onto a sheet of baking paper
  • Before serving whisk the remaining cream by hand with the Malteser vodka until it is the thickness of thick clotted cream (careful not to over whisk)
  • Remove the cheesecake from the tin and smooth the cream over the top
  • Decorate with the chocolate holly leaves and cranberries

I had a practice run at the weekend and the husband said that this is by far the best cheesecake that I've ever made & he's ever tasted, I just hope that the Selfridges chef thinks the same and I don't have to endure any 'Paul Hollywood spitting out into his hand' style moments.

I also need to thank the lovely Brian from my local nursery who supplied me with the Holly for the photos, who incidentally said that this is the best cheesecake he's every tasted too!

Wish me luck.............

Christmas Pudding Cheesecake Christmas Pudding Cheesecake Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

I was provided with the hamper to enable me to take part in this challenge

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Chocolate Chai Cheesecake

Degustabox is a new to the UK subscription surprise tasting box. Each month they send out a box filled with surprise food from well known brands for a fee of £12.99 per month (including shipping). There is no fixed contract and you can cancel at any time.

For a limited time you can receive the December box for just £4.99  (inc shipping) which is a bit of a bargain, considering the 2 boxes of Belvita Breakfast are priced at £2 each. Just visit their Facebook page to find the code.

If this offer has expired then fear not, I have another code that can be used to get a box for £9.99 (inc shipping), just enter 'crazykitchen' when you checkout.

You can see the full list of the box here.

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I decided to use a couple of the ingredients from the box in a cheesecake.

Chocolate Chai Cheesecake

Chocolate Chai Cheesecake

200g Belvita Breakfast chocolate chip, crushed
80g butter, melted
400g Full fat cream cheese
400ml double cream
50g caster sugar
75g Drink Me Chai Latte powder

  • Mix to the crushed biscuits with the melted butter
  • Press into the base of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin
  • Place in the fridge whilst the filling is made
  • Beat together the cream cheese, cream, caster sugar and chai latte powder until smooth
  • Spread the filling over the base and smooth the top
  • Place in the fridge for 4-6 hours or overnight
  • Remove the cheesecake from the tin and sprinkle with cocoa powder & chai latte powder

Chocolate Chai Cheesecake Chocolate Chai Cheesecake

I was sent the Degustabox for the purpose of this review

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