Cranberry Sauce Nigel Slater style!

Oh how I love Cranberry Sauce!! When given a chance, I will smother it all over any roast or sandwich, when people ask for mint sauce for their lamb at a Sunday roast, I ask for cranberry sauce. Apart from these here, I have two different jars in the fridge right now. One from my local butcher - cranberry & port and the other the backup, reliable Oceanspray. Marks & Sparks does a great cranberry & port too as do Fortnums.

Every Christmas I buy fresh cranberries- for... wait for it -... table DECORATIONS!!!!! How it never crossed my mind to make fresh cranberry sauce is beyond me!! I probably thought it would be too difficult to make. Boy, was I wrong!!

Thank you Nigel Slater for your fantastic Cranberry Sauce recipe. What I mostly love about it is it's not too sweet- you actually taste the berries and a bit of the sharpness. Just perfect. Of course, if you prefer your cranberry sauce sweeter you just add more sugar as you taste and go.

I encourage everyone to make this if only just to hear the cranberries pop as they get cooked. I was grinning from ear to ear!!

Here we go!!

250g fresh or frozen cranberries (I say use fresh whenever they are available)

100 ml white wine ( I used a Pinot Grigio which worked beautifully but since this post, I tweeted Nigel Slater asking him which wine he would recommend & he recommeded a Ribera which sounds amazing, so please go ahead and use that and let me know what you think! I will also try it the next time)
The deep fruit and spice of a Ribera I think. '

100g castor sugar (I used 115g)
a couple of long strips of orange zest to make into thin shreds (I didn't make mine so thin as I wanted it to look very homey and chunky :D)
*a couple of long strips of clementine peels made into thin shreds (if you like)
*shot of port (if you like)

What to do: 
 Put the cranberries in a pan with the wine and sugar and bring to the boil

Stir in the orange zest strips ( *I added clementine peels as well)

Simmer gently for 10 minutes until the cranberries start to burst ;) I ended up simmering for about 15 minutes
Remove from heat and beat lightly with a spoon in order to break up the berries - I didn't really beat them but just gently pressed on them whilst they were at the late stage of cooking and only slightly beat a few after - but then again, I liked some of my berries to show and didn't want them that smooth

Nigel says to taste the sauce as it cooks and add sugar or a squeeze of lemon if you feel it needs it.
He also points out that Glynn Christian, in his book, Real Flavours, suggests adding roasted black peppercorns, lemon, mace, grated orange or cardamon. Nigel himself often adds juniper berries, *strips of shredded clementine peel and sometimes a *splash of port.

*I added clementine peel and a shot of port. Magic!

Do serve them warm as both Nigel and Glynn suggest. Makes a world of difference.
I've jarred quite a few and am spreading them on my toasted cheese sandwiches for the last three days! Hope I have some left by Christmas!! As you can see the front jar is already half eaten and the funny colour is the edible gold spray I've decorated some with.


A Luxuriously Cheap Christmas

Christmas is a magical time, a wonderful time, an expensive time!!! So, I thought I'd share with you the two super cheap yet super quality items that I have stumbled across in the last couple of weeks!

1. Iceland's Luxury Mince Pies - Well, I didn't quite stumble across them, more like when I heard that Good Housekeeping had voted Iceland's mince pies  the No1 mince pie, better than Harrods or Selfridges, I was honestly very sceptical and as a beloved fan of  mince pies I had to run to the nearest Iceland store and taste this for myself. Well, we've still got 13 days to Christmas and I'm digging into my second box! They are not only delicious and generous but also taste really fresh!
A very worthy £1.50 per pack of 6!
(*Gold Plate -£1.00 at Poundworld , *Gold Tree Decoration - £5.00 at Morrisons)

2. Doulton Courvoisier Liqueur Chocolates - Don't ask me why, I love visiting poundworld, poundland and any shop that contains the word 'pound' in it. I think it's because it's a novelty for me, having never lived near one before. Initially I'd go there just before pay day, then I would go there to buy props for photoshoots where I knew I'd only use the item once- but the more I visit, the more things I like - one example being the Jane Asher's kitchen selection. Such pretty things! But I digress! Back to the boozy choc! 

The other day, I went into my local Poundland looking for small fairy lights and my eyes caught a selection of Doulton liquor chocolates of different variety- There was a Jimmy Bean and a Baileys. I looked at the courvoisier one and had to have it. I think I was just intrigued to see how these would taste when they contained a cognac that costs anything from £20-£6,000!! Also, I wasn't familiar with the Doulton brand.
 So, I come home, put my shopping down, remember I needed to pop into the newsagents, the Doulton chocolate pack stares at me and I decide to pop one in my mouth as I rush out the door. I then rush straight back in. WOAH!! The alcohol content was immense! I could smell the alcohol on my breath and felt I had to wait before going to see my newsagent as he'd surely smell it too and it being the middle of the day, would suspect I was an alcoholic. I now read the box and it says Courvoisier cognac filling 45%!!!  On top of the generous and tasty filling (if you like cognac) the chocolate itself was perfect. not too sweet, not too dark. Just right! :)
For £1.00 this pack (well, the next one I buy as I'm already half way through this one) will be perfect for sharing at Christmas time and keeping people quiet for a few moments, guaranteed!

Merry Christmas!!!

*I have not been endorsed by any of these products

Kahlua Hot Chocolate

Having ignored the shops' Christmas cheer from October (!!!), plus working long hours that prohibited me from seeing any shops in the first place (!!!), suddenly, in the last couple of days Christmas looks like it's on it's way!
Some years I am super organised, but most years I find myself shopping last minute on the eve before Christmas eve. This year, I am just going to go with the flow. I am not going to stress about presents or trees or anything. If I like something and can afford it, I will get it- if not, I won't. My aim is just 'to be' - to be present, to listen, to relax, to not put stress on myself or my family and just 'chill' (ok, I guess this ideal wishful thinking does mean I'll be making that mad dash before Christmas eve then!) . Part of my build up to Christmas' regime will of course include my old time favourite mince pies, mulled wine on tap and spiked hot chocolate for the more cosy nights to come. So, without any further ado, I give you Kahlua Hot Chocolate!!!

(Serves two mugs)
1/2 pint of semi skimmed milk
4 heaped tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Green & Blacks cocoa looks good as it is 'Dutched' which means it has been alkalized so milder but you can use any kind of cocoa depending on your taste
I also recommend trying M&S's 'Christmas Hot Chocolate Flakes - if you use this though remember to not add any sugar)
2 tablespoons sugar (if not using M&S choc flakes)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large shot glass of Kahlua coffee liqueur

What to do:
In a medium saucepan heat all the ingredients together over medium heat. Get it to almost boil and simmer for about 3 - 4 minutes
Take off heat- add your large shot of Kahlua, stir and  pour in your mug.

Don't forget to decorate!! I've just finished drinking this one here, and can tell you a mixture of marshmallows and salted caramel make it taste out of this world!!!

*Please note I like my hot chocolate quite thick - some of you might be happy with only 2 tablespoons of cocoa. Again, I like my drinks boozy so you may want to lessen the amount of Kahlua you add too - it's all really down to personal preference.

Pumpkin Seeds


Back in October I was enjoying my usual Halloween/ Samhain/ Day of the Dead celebrations and as always I carved my pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. The difference that night was that I actually felt it was a waste to throw away all the seeds from the pumpkin- whereas in the past I never gave it a second thought.
That night I decided to give it a go and bake them! Since then, I have baked more seeds and really enjoy the satisfaction of the process, not least the weeks of munching that follow and so tonight, I thought it'd be nice to share this super easy method with you guys.

Here we go!!!

 What you need:
approx 3 Generous tablespoons olive oil
baking tray
big spoon/flat spoon
sea salt or / and any topping you like! Some ideas: chilli flakes/thyme/black pepper/cayenne pepper/ paprika/nutmeg

What to do:
Scrape the seeds of the pumpkin using a big spoon 

Pull apart the stringy flesh and rinse under water

Spread the seeds evenly onto a baking tray and add approximately 3 large tablespoons of olive oil. Then add your topping/s - I used sea salt for one batch and ras el hanout & Paprika (and sea salt) for the other batch

Mix together so all seeds are evenly coated and put into a preheated oven (180C/ Gas 4) for approximately 15 minutes or until you see them turn a light golden brown

Leave out to cool and keep in dry, airtight containers. I've only just finished eating my October batch and they still tasted good now, in December!!


Creole Shrimp Tamarindo

I had never cooked Creole food or knew much about it but when I saw 'Creole Cooking' by Sue Mullin on the book shelf, I had to have it!

I tried this Shrimp Tamarindo recipe the other night. It had intrigued me as it is a very similar dish to an Iranian one - as they are both spicy, use seafood and tamerind!
I found this recipe super quick and easy and really tasty and it made a nice change to what I normally eat here in London on an autumn/winter night.


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 clove garlic (I put about 4!)
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I put just over 3)
1/4 cup sherry
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup *tamarind juice
 2tablespoons honey
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp *hot pepper sauce and taste to add more
1 lb medium shrimp, shelled & deveined ( I fancied fish that night so added sea bass as well as prawns)
1 tsp fresh lime or lemon juice (I used lime juice)

*Hot Hot Hot Pepper Sauce (makes approx 2 cups)
by Sue Mullin
1 cup vinegar
6 tbspoons lime or lemon juice
6 radishes, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. stemmed, seeded and finely chopped hot pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil
fresh ground black pepper & salt to taste

*Tamerind sauce - taken from excerpt of Sue's book:
In recipes that call for tamarind juice, simply simmer 1/2 cup of crumbled dried tamarind with 1 1/2 cups water in a heavy small saucepan for 10 minutes.  remove from the heat and leave to stand for an hour, then strain through a fine sieve into a small bowl. It should be the consistency of heavy cream. if too thick, thin it with a little more water.

What to do:
Heat the butter in a large skillet
Add onion, garlic, green pepper and sauté until tender.
Add the tomato paste, sherry, bay leaf, tamarind juice, honey, allspice and salt and stir constantly until thoroughly heated
Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add hot pepper sauce to taste, depending on how spicy you like it.
Add the shrimp (or in my case fish first and then shrimp a couple minutes after!) and stir until pink, 3-5 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and stir in the lime or lemon juice (I know one should but I don't bother removing bay leaves in my dishes, unless it's my Bolognese sauce! I enjoy taking them out once whilst I'm eating)

Se pou yo manje! :)

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