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Week 52: Christmas Desserts (not pudding)

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Since it is Christmas, there has been a lot of unhealthy (but very tasty) foods being eaten. We made (and ate) 3 different desserts, which I will describe here, and not a single Christmas Pudding in sight.

Waffles, cream and ganache
For breakfast on Christmas Day, we had waffles with fresh cream and ganache. This was accompanied by the traditional bucks fizz, only we made a red bucks fizz using sparkling rose and an orange and raspberry juice.

The next two desserts were larger which we shared when we went to visit friends and family.

Pear Syllabub. The pears were peeled and sliced and poached in a sweet dessert wine. The cake was a simple microwave sponge cake. The syllabub itself was creme fraiche, double cream, icing sugar, the wine from the poached pears, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon, all beaten together. We layered the sponge, pears and cream mixture in a bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

The roulade recipe was from the Daily Mail 'Weekend' magazine but was similar to a recipe on Delia's website.

Week 51: Baked Squash with Orzo

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Orzo is a small pasta, roughly the same size and shape as a large grain of rice, which we first bought a few months ago when a local shop had some on special offer. It seems to be quite a fashionable pasta shape these days and has turned up in a few recipes, such as this one from the You Magazine.

The original recipe called for a round squash but we had a butternut so instead of slicing the top off, I cut in half but made sure there was a 'small' half to use as the lid and the larger half to fill with the cheese mixture.

The squash before it went in the oven

The cheese mixture was equal weights of creme fraiche and grated cheddar, with some nutmeg and white pepper mixed in. I put a few sage leaves on the filling, put the 'lid' on top, and baked at gas mark 5 for about 1½ hours.

Baked Squash

10 minutes before the end, I cooked the orzo. I scooped out the squash and filling (which wasn't easy because it was very hot) and served it with the orzo. The squash hadn't gone fully soft so I slightly mashed some of it with the spoon to give it a smoother texture. I chopped the sage leaves and stirred them in with the cheesy mixture when I served.

Some Google Maps things

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About a week ago or so, Emma was surprised to notice that Google Maps is incapable of calculating a route from Manchester to Buxton. It works if you type in a place within Buxton, and also if you choose to calculate a walking route.

Next, looking at the live traffic on Google Maps, I noticed the region of slow traffic seemed to be concentrated in a band across the middle of the country. When I checked the weather map on the BBC, it looked like this is where all the snow has been.


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Garden Organic Ryton

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We went to the Garden Organic Ryton, hoping to see the reindeer which were supposed to be there over the weekend. The snow has caused chaos on some of the roads and apparently they were held up in heavy traffic on the motorway so we didn't get chance to see them but we had a wander around the shop and garden anyway.


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Week 50: Cheesy prawn gnocchi

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This weeks recipe was based on one from the Cottage Smallholder website. While the gnocchi were cooking, I washed and chopped a handful of watercress. After I drained the gnocchi, I put the creme fraiche in the pan and heated it through along with the watercress, a handful of grated cheese (because we had spare in the freezer), and a pinch of chilli flakes. I stirred the gnocchi into the sauce before pouring everything into a pan, ready to be grilled.

We had a packet of mozzarella which was nearly out of date so that got shredded and sprinkled on top before we added the breadcrumbs and parmesan. The pan then went under the grill to melt the cheese.

The meal was very quick to prepare and could easily be adapted to other ingredients, such as chicken instead of prawns, leek instead of the watercress (which was itself a replacement for the spinach in the original recipe).

Week 49: Fudge

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We have had a couple of goes at making fudge, following this recipe. Since we don't have a sugar thermometer, we have been using the 'soft ball' test, where you drop a small amount of the hot mixture into a bowl of water and check whether you get a soft ball of fudge (meaning it's ready), or a soft squishy mess (meaning it needs to cook for a bit longer).

We tried a few variations, adding maple syrup or ground+crystallised ginger. We might invest in a proper thermometer eventually but the recipe works well without one.

Frosty Weather

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There has been a lot of freezing weather recently, with several days where the temperature didn't get above 0C but here in Coventry we have had very little snow. I took these photos on my way to work. All of the white on the trees is hoar-frost, not snow.


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Week 48: Chicken chilli casserole with millet crust

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We followed the recipe from this website as closely as we could. We had all the ingredients apart from the chipotle in adobo sauce and celery. We used normal mature cheddar instead of monterey jack. The recipe suggests using a gluten free flour so since we were using millet, we used millet flour.

The cheesy millet topping was prepared by dry-frying 1 cupful of millet for about 5 minutes, then simmered in 3 cups of water until the millet is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. A cupful of grated cheddar was then stirred in.

The 'filling' was prepared by tossing chicken pieces in seasoned flour, then the chicken was fried in a small amount of oil. The chicken was removed and the vegetables (onion, pepper, celery) were fried, then the chilli and seasonings (garlic, herbs, cumin, lemon) were added. The remaining flour was added, along with a couple of cups of water, and the mixture was simmered until the sauce thickened.

To replace the celery, we decided to stick with the 'long and green' theme so added some courgette and leek. I had no idea what 'chipotle in adobo sauce' was so I looked it up. The smoked chillies are marinated in a spicy tomato sauce. I decided to use a pickled chilli which I chopped and mixed with a little tomato puree and some smoked paprika.

Our verdict: We liked it, especially the cheesy millet topping.