New Things For New People: Clair (November)

Oooo it’s getting festive! And how cute are these biscuits – I might have to borrow my nieces for the same activity. Here are my guest blogger Clair’s new recipes from November.


Gingerbread people

1a_kindlephoto-3520708I knew I would be looking after my 7 year old niece for the afternoon and thought it would be nice if we could do some baking together. I chose to make some gingerbread shapes rather than people, with Christmas themed cutters that I’ve had for a while.

What’s new?

I don’t think I’ve ever made gingerbread before, certainly not with a child! I’ve never iced biscuits before either. I’d bought some ready made tubes of coloured icing (some glittery) that we could pipe onto the biscuits. We were both very excited about making it and my niece brought her Frozen themed decorations to use!

How did it turn out?

The taste of the gingerbread was really lovely. My niece was very enthusiastic about the icing which I hadn’t realised was flavoured, so I found it a bit sickly on top of the gingerbread.  She, however, enjoyed licking it off the biscuits.

The dough wouldn’t come together at all for a while, it remained at the breadcrumb stage so I put it in the fridge for 15 minutes which helped, but I still ended up just clumping it all together with my hands. It wouldn’t roll properly as it was so crumbly. We were careful about being accurate with the measurements so maybe it was the quantities. My niece found a good way of rolling it, by thwacking the dough with a rolling pin so that it flattened out slowly. I then rolled it to the right thickness but it was initially too thin and we couldn’t cut out the shapes without destroying them. The second round was much better.

It was great fun making the gingerbread together, measuring the ingredients and laughing at our mistakes, even though I was a bit scared about health and safety when she was stirring the melted sugar mixture and it spattered on her and then she tried to pick up hot baking trays!

The biscuits smelled amazing while they were cooking, very christmassy. I’ll make them again on my own when I can use normal icing. If you look in the photo of the finished product, I don’t think you can tell who decorated which ones so I think that says more about her skills than mine!1d


Rachel Allen’s chocolate cake

My brother, his partner and my 2 year old nephew came round for tea and cake! Victoria sponges like this are always easy to make and chocolate always goes down well.

What’s new?

The recipe.

How did it turn out?

I was a bit disappointed as the sponge was a bit dry. Maybe the oven was a bit too hot as I put the mixture in for the correct amount of time. I don’t make many chocolate sponges so it was hard to tell what stage they were at but my trusty bamboo stick that I use to tell if cakes are cooked came out clean. Usually I have to give more time in my oven at a lower temperature.

It was a good flavour because of all the chocolate. The buttercream recipe was lovely and I’ll use that again. Very light and fluffy. I used raspberry conserve which is always yummy with chocolate.2c

It was an easy recipe and I’ll try it again one day.

(Sorry I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo!).2d


Kale and sausage stew

I had bought sausages for dinner one evening in the week but hadn’t decided on a new recipe so I decided to find one for sausages. I like Jamie Oliver recipes and found this one, which looked simple, tasty and quick.

What’s new?

Cooking with kale, which I’ve eaten in restaurants recently and when I was quite little (for some reason I always remember being served this strange green veg but really loving it). I’ve never added stock to tomato sauce either.

How did it turn out?

It was a bit too intense for me, but my husband liked it.

I used a sauté pan to cook the onions and garlic in initially, but found that the onions were slowly getting darker and darker in colour once the spices had been added. They were about to burn, especially while the sausage was being fried, as it needed a higher temperature. The flour seemed to compound the situation! So I transferred it all to my large non-stick frying pan, which saved the day, but I think it added to the intensity of the flavour, which is good or bad, depending how you feel about it.

I’m not sure what the flour was for, I presume to stop the sausage from sticking and giving it colour? I ended up not quite browning off the sausage but I figured it wouldn’t matter too much seeing as they were effectively being poached in the tomato liquid, which turned out to be correct.

The kale added some nice texture, as it was a bit crunchy. I felt healthy eating it all!3g


Traditional mulled wine 

I realised that I’ve never made my own mulled wine before. We have a Christmas tradition where each year when we decorate the tree I make mince pies and we warm up some mulled wine, cider, or beer (the best mulled cider we’ve ever had is Wassail Mulled Cider, try it!).

I was inspired to make my own mulled wine by an item in the latest Sainsbury’s Magazine which gave three different recipes. I chose the traditional mulled wine recipe but there was one that involved orange liqueur, which I’m not keen on, and one for Glögg which involved vodka and I decided this was probably not conducive to tree decorating).

What’s new?

Making Glühwein! This week though I am including my favourite recipe for mince pies:

Nigel Slater’s mince pies

With this recipe, just make sure that you add enough water to help the dough bind together, as it’s quite a short (i.e. crumbly) pastry. Add it very gradually though! I usually buy a good quality mincemeat (although I really should try making my own one day!). I also like to use star shaped cutters for the lids of the pies, and I brush each one with milk and sprinkle demerara sugar over them.


How did it turn out?

Regarding the mulled wine: mmmm is all I can say! It definitely tasted authentic to me.

I enjoyed using all the spices, which smelt amazing.

I had never appreciated that you have to boil the water and spices down into a kind of syrup. I had to start again actually as I added the sugar by mistake at that stage. I always have to read and reread recipes as I go along, but I still manage to miss or skip stages!

I chose a French shiraz wine (shiraz was recommended by the magazine) to make it with, which seemed to work well. Apparently you shouldn’t buy a cheap wine, rather one that you would drink on its own.

It tasted great with the mince pies and the Christmas tree looks nice too!

Regarding the mince pies, I think they are the best I’ve ever made; the pastry was lovely.


(I apologise for the blurriness of the photo of the mince pies, wine and Christmas tree –  it had nothing to do with drinking, honestly!)4m


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