Easily the best present…ever

From my 13 year old….a hamper of home made goodies.

She actually made 6 of these for various members of the family – each tailored with a different selection of goodies.

Mine contained:

Fridge cake (a family recipe of chocolate, golden syrup, butter, digestive biscuits and fudge)

Spiced Nuts

Gingerbread spiced Nuts

Baileys cheesecake truffles

Cheese straws

Chocolate and orange cantuccini biscuits

I’ll try and get hold of the recipes she used as they are all delish and great gift ideas.  She also bought boxes, lined them with shredded tissue paper and hand printed notes for each box with details of the contents and best before dates.  Some of the items she had put in cellophane bags and some she had sourced different shape and size jars for.  Each item had an individual hand written labelled.

It was no mean feat and she’d put together a file of her recipes, spreadsheet of who was getting which gift and a timetable setting out which days she was cooking which item.  Pleased to now have free access to the kitchen again, but very proud of such a clever and generous daughter.



Our Christmas Menus

A very quick post before I forget…

Christmas Eve

Starter was home made (by my mum) chicken liver pate with freshly made melba toast, followed by slow cooked pork shoulder (marinated in a soy sauce and tahini mix, based on a Nigella slow cook recipe) with boulangere potatoes, cabbage with nigella seeds (also a Nigella recipe) and mixed green veg.  Dessert was a gingerbread cake (recipe from BBCgoodfood) made by my 13 yr old daughter.  All finished off with cheese and tiffin.

Christmas Day

Traditional turkey with all the trimmings, following a starter of Smoked Salmon (always supplied by Springs Salmon in West Sussex) and traditional christmas pudding, this year supplied by the Ultimate Plum Pudding Company

Boxing Day

Left over cold turkey, cold ham, home made winter coleslaw (a Jamie Oliver recipe), green salad with honey and soy dressing and jacket potatoes.  Dessert was Ottolenghi flourless coconut and chocolate cake (from Sweet) as it was my Dad’s birthday

27th December

Tartiflette made with leftover jacket potatoes and ham and mixed with some gently fried onions and topped with a mixture of cheese, heated in the oven and then grilled to crisp the topping

This brief post and listing does no justice to the hours of searching through recipe books that I did in early December 🙂

This week’s food

Some of the dinners we had this week:

Thai Red Chicken Soup

From Jamie Oliver’s latest ‘5 ingredient’s book’ – super easy, as long as you remember to put in on in advance, and liked by the whole family

Chilli – with all the trimmings

My chilli is a bit of a cheat – I use the schwartz packet mix and follow the instructions on the packet, although I did it with casserole steak and slow cooked it for the afternoon, to mix it up a bit.  For us, chilli is as much about the bits that come with it.  We always serve it with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped avocado, tortilla chips and a tomato, red onion and coriander salsa

Chicken and chorizo veggie fried rice

Just me and D2 one evening, who loves chorizo, so I fried up some chicken with some cooking chorizo, added a pack of whole grain microwave rice, some sweetcorn, chopped carrot and broccoli adding a bit of sun dried tomato paste mixed in water to make a stock to keep it all moist whilst cooking

Pasta with oil, garlic, chilli and parsley

A quick recipe that came in the magazine that accompanied my Hush clothes delivery last week.  Very quick and tasty.

Chicken in sesame seeds

Another Jamie recipe – this time from his family superfoods book.  Butterflied chicken breasts, coated in a little oil grilled, then sliced and sprinkled with sesame seeds, served with rice noodles and broccoli.

Slow cooked pork belly

Today’s snow meant we were housebound, so I marinated a piece of pork belly in tahini mixed with soy sauce, lemon and lime juice and then it cooked for 3.5 hours at 150 deg C, followed by 30 mins at 225 deg C to crisp off the crackling.  Served with egg noodles and broccoli and edamame beans.  The pork belly is a Nigella recipe – called slow roast pork belly, from her Kitchen book.

I think I might do a variation of this for Christmas Eve dinner.  Same marinade but on a slow cooked pork shoulder and will serve with boulangere potatoes (which I can cook in advance and then heat up at the last minute) and probably the broccoli and edamame veg mix

Chocolate cookies

D1 is sitting her mock GCSEs and I like to make some treats for her to come home to.  I decided to give Jamie Oliver’s chocolate cookies from his latest ‘5 ingredient’s’ book.  They were super easy and delicious – a bit of a cross between a cookie and a brownie and included rye bread as a hidden ingredient instead of flour.  Needless to say, not many left  🙂

PS I definitely need to work on my styling

In praise of Nigella

Saturday lunch – pitta bread pockets with soy and honey coated sausages and grated carrot

Saturday supper – steaks with salt and vinegar potatoes

Sunday supper – aromatic slow roast pork shoulder

I’m a sucker for new cookery books.  I love the books themselves and I love the feeling that this book will be the one to turn me into the creative genius I’d love to be in the kitchen.  One of my recent purchases is Nigella’s ‘At my Table’ and maybe at some stage I’ll review it however, the point of this post is that over the years I’ve collected all sorts of recipes and often do them to death and then forget about them for several years until one of my children will say “Why don’t you ever cook xxxxx anymore, that used to be my favourite!”.  So it was that I made Nigella’s cocktail sausages for lunch on Saturday.  This recipe is originally from ‘Nigella Express’ and was a big favourite for parties.  They travel well so I also often made a big batch and took them to buffets, or bring your own food evenings at social events.  Anyway, for lunch I made the delicious soy and honey coated sausages, grated some carrot and toasted some pitta breads and the girls spent a happy lunch reminiscing.


Honey and Soy Sausages


Cocktail sausages – 500g – separated if linked

Sesame oil – 1 x 15ml tablespoon

Honey – 75g

Soy sauce – 1 x 15ml


1. Preheat oven to 220 deg C/gas mark 7

2. Mix together the oil, honey and soy sauce in a bowl (I usually use a whisk)

3. Tip the sausages into the bowl and mix around well so that all the sausages are well covered with the glossy sticky mixture

4. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning them part way through if you remember


I always cook these in a foil tin, which I then throw away afterwards – so no horrible washing up of a very sticky pan.

Having refound Nigella for lunch I sought out her older books and spent a happy hour browsing Nigella recipes and being inspired for cooking for the rest of the weekend.  I’d already bought steaks for Saturday supper but thought I’d give her Salt and Vinegar Potatoes a try instead of the usual, slightly too greasy, chips that I make.  The recipe for these is from Nigella’s new book ‘At My Table’ and was a massive success – I’m thinking of using this recipe for my Christmas roasties.


Salt and Vinegar Potatoes


Potatoes – 500g (Nigella says baby new potatoes but I used Maris Pipers and peeled them)

Olive oil – 3 x 15 ml tablespoons

Apple cider vinegar (raw unfiltered)  – 2 1/2 teaspoons

Sea salt flakes – 1 1/2 teaspoons


1. Steam the potatoes for 25-30 minutes until tender.  When cooked, turn off the heat and pour away the water, then sit the potatoes back on top the pan to dry.  This step can be done up to 2 hours in advance, just leave them on the side to dry, do not put them in the fridge

2. Preheat the oven to 220 deg C/200 deg fan and pour the oil into a roasting tin and heat in the oven for 5 minutes

3. Tip the potatoes onto a plate or chopping board and crush roughly with a fork. Ideally you will then have a mixture of larger pieces, say half the size of the original potatoes, together with some smaller pieces that will crisp and brown in the oven

4.  Take the hot tin out of the oven and carefully tip in the potatoes, carefully turning them in the oil and then roast for 20 minutes.  After this 20 minutes, turn the potatoes and cook for a further 10-20 minutes until they are a deep golden brown, with crisp edges.  The smaller pieces will be dark and crunchy

5. Tip the hot, roasted potatoes into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar and salt, then taste one of the potatoes to see if you need more of either


That leads me onto our third Nigella recipe of the weekend.  I knew we were going to be all home for Sunday.  My eldest daughter has her mock GCSEs coming up so was going to be revising all weekend and we’d all had a busy week, nothing in the diary for Sunday and wet and cold outside.  The perfect day to have something slow cook in the oven, filling the house with delicious smells and easy for me, so I could help out with revision, homework and finish some chores.

I chose to give Nigella’s slow roast pork shoulder, with caramelised garlic and ginger a go.  This is also a recipe from her new book.  I loved in particular how the recipe talks you through the timings.  Incidentally, you need to do step 1 the day before you want to cook the pork.

Slow Roast Pork Shoulder


Garlic – 2 bulbs

Pork shoulder – 2.5kg boneless, skin on, scored

Ginger – fresh, 1 x 15ml tablespoon finely grated

Soy sauce – 2 x 15 ml tablespoons

Apple cider vinegar – raw, unfiltered, 1 x 15ml tablespoon

1. Preheat the oven to 220 deg C/200 deg C fan.  Cut the tops off the 2 bulbs of garlic, so that you can just see the cloves peeking through, and sit each of these heads of garlic, cut side up, on a piece of foil large enough for you to be able to pull up the ends and scrunch them together to form a foil parcel.  Put both of these parcels in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes, by which time the cloves will be soft and caramelised.  Then remove from the oven and leave to cool, still wrapped in their foil parcels.  This can take several hours.  Best to do it the day before 

2. 7.5 hours before you want to eat, take the pork out of the fridge, so that it can sit at room temperature for an hour or so

3. Towards the end of that hour, preheat the oven to 150 deg C/130 deg C fan.  Whilst the oven is heating up, unwrap the garlic parcels and squeeze the bulbs, pushing the sticky caramelised cloves into a bowl.  Add the ginger, soy and vinegar and mix together to form a runny paste

4.  Sit the pork, skin side up, in a roasting tin in which it will fit snugly and spread the garlic and ginger paste into the pocket where the bone was.  If there is any paste left over, smear it gently on the sides of the meat, but take care not to get any on the skin.  Pour some freshly boiled water into the bottom of the tin, just to cover the base by about 1/2 cm.  Roast in the oven for 5 hours

5. After these 5 hours, gently baste the sides of the pork with the juices that have collected in the pan, then leave to roast for another hour

6. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and turn the oven temperature up to 220 deg C/200 deg C fan.  Spoon the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan to a heatproof jug and return the pork in the roasting tin to the hot oven for 30 minutes, to allow the skin to turn into top rate crackling

7. Transfer the pork to a board and leave to stand for 10 minutes or so, while you spoon off the fat from the top of the meaty juices in the jug.  The juices may need reheating – this can be done either in the microwave or in a saucepan

8. Remove the crackling, break into pieces, then carve, shred or pull apart the meat and serve with the delicious juices


I served with steamed potatoes (I was going to do mash but changed my mind at the last minute – I think I decided that the meat flavours and juice just needed pure potatoes, without the added richness of the butter and milk that I always put on my mash) and a plate of steamed mixed green veg – peas, beans and broccoli.

It was completely delicious, the crackling worked perfectly (which I wasn’t originally convinced about) and the flavour so much more subtle than I thought when I originally prepared the pork.  I also made a separate gravy as I thought the girls might turn their noses up at the juice, which was still quite watery, however I wouldn’t do this next time, the juices were perfect in every way.

I now have to find something to do with left over pulled pork for supper on Monday – I’m currently thinking of frying it with cooked rice and chopped veg and a bit of soy or hoisin sauce to make a kind of special fried rice.  Any other suggestions?


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