I don't like mince pies very much ... but obviously when it comes to Christmas I will have the odd one or two ... then last year a friend's girlfriend made some lovely pies with a frangipan topping. Wow! These were amazing and have (almost!) converted me to mince pies! I was also intrigued by Paul Hollywood's deep mince pies which have chopped apple and satsumas in ... anything to water down the richness of the mince meat is good in my book! So this week I found myself spending an evening in the kitchen making a rather huge batch of pies!
The frangipan topping is also nice and simple:
Cream 200g butter, 200g caster sugar and 200g almonds
Add 50g flour, 2 eggs and 2 tbs brandy/rum
This made a huge amount of topping so I would suggest for 12 mince pies - half the quantity would be needed. Just dollop a teaspoon on top of your mince pie rather than a pastry lid!
Well ... here we are, Christmas Eve! What a lot of festive blogging I have done! Let's hope I can keep it up in the new year!
I once again used Ruth Clemens' recipe for Boozy Fruit Christmas Cake and left it rather late to marzipan and decorate them! So with the Christmas countdown getting nearer and nearer and with my plan to cut one of my cakes into 8 portions to give as gifts I needed to get a wriggle on!
I'm rather pleased with the results. I have kept it simple this year. We have a house full of colds and coughs and I wasn't feeling particularly inspired!
But what are your favourites? Is there a film, which signifies the start of the festivities? Do films hold special memories of being young?
Here are my favourites ... it's an ever-evolving list with new ones added every year. Let me see if I can limit it to 10. In no particular order (that would be far too tricky!)
Meet Me In St Louis. For me, this is the start of Christmas. I love it. I LOVE IT! I often wonder how I got into my 30's before seeing it. How did that happen? My favourite scene is the Christmas ball when Esther is dancing with her grandpa and they waltz behind the Christmas tree and she reappears the other side with John. Wonderful.
Home Alone I & II. I saw both of these films when they came out at the cinema with my family. We laughed so hard that I thought we were all going to die! Both films are watched multiple times in the run up to the big day. Can you believe that Mr Plum had not seen either of these films until he met me?
Santa Claus: The Movie. I can remember my dad taking me and my brother to see this at the cinema one Christmas Eve. It's the ultimate in American 80's cheese.
White Christmas. Of course! What's not to like?
Elf. A recent addition to my Christmas film must sees! 2 year old Miss Plum is also a fan.
Miracle on 34th Street. I watched this for the first time at the weekend. I know! Where have I been? Living under a rock??? I had recorded the 1990's version off the telly ...and Mr Plum has come home with a DVD with both versions on!!
Arthur Christmas. I saw this for the first time at the weekend and we had to buy it.
The Holiday/Love Actually. Christmas schmaltz in perfect London/perfect England/perfect LA.
It's A Wonderful Life. Mr Plum STILL hasn't seen this film! We have now got it on DVD and will be watching it on Christmas Eve.
The Snowman & Mickey's Christmas Carol. I have put these films together as they remind me of the children's Christmas parties that my Dad used to organise at his work (although apparently we only watched Mickey once!). Every year we would watch the Snowman and I can't wait to introduce Miss Plum to it.
I used to subscribe to Marie Claire when in my early 20's ... but soon lost interest in that kind of glossy magazine in favour of my Mum's old copies of Good Housekeeping or Country Living.
I occasionally find myself buying a knitting magazine or cookery mag ... but really fancied looking for a mag that I could subscribe too. A magazine which would drop through the letter box each month without me having to battle the crowds around the magazine stands in the local supermarket!
Recently I have tried out three potential subscriptions:
So far, Homemaker and Mollie Makes are my favourites. I have taken advantage of a '3 issues for £5' for The Simple Things and a '3 issues for £6' for Homemaker Magazine. I just need to decide which will be my new year subscription!
Anyone who follows my Christmas board on Pinterest will have seen a few things ...
1. My, perhaps overly ambitious, list of Christmas craft ideas!
2. I love the Cath Kidston Christmas Deer!!
Lucky old me ... Mr Plum bought me the iphone case as a little treat. I hadn't been feeling at all festive and I think it was because I just didn't have enough Christmas deers in my life!! It is so cute! I also have the Christmas organiser which is slowly getting filled up!
I have to say that I am a rather latecomer to the wondrous website that is Pinterest. Are you on there? Leave me your Pinterest name in my comments - I'm always looking for new people to follow. You can find a link to my profile on my blog side bar.
I started taking Miss Plum to Baby Ballet last month. She enjoys it and adores the teacher (Miss Zoe). I think she is the oldest ballerina in the class (which ranges 18months-3 years) and as a result I think she get's a little bored that the other ballerinas can't keep up with her ... Antics!!
My parents came to visit this weekend and we headed to the Albert Hall for the famous sing-a-long carol concert! It was great fun! After a slight stress with my brother organising and then managing to double book himself (and turning up to the concert slightly squiffy!) we had a lovely time singing all the fabulous Christmas carols and other popular songs! One of the most memorable moments was singing the descant to Hark The Herald ... and my brother singing along in a scary falsetto voice!! Ha ha! Also, doing the mexican wave to Slade's famous Christmas hit was brilliant!
Miss Plum enjoyed herself and lasted until about 30 minutes before the end ... such a good girl!
So, after feeling completely unfestive for most of the month ... a couple of days of baking, card making and writing and Christmas cake decorating - I AM FEELING CHRISTMASSY! (I also had my first snowball of the festive season with my mum last night!)
Last Christmas a friend at work spotted a recipe for Christmas mini-muffins on the BBC website. I wanted to make them but didn't have a mini muffin tin - but picked one up during the year and made some last week. I would have taken a photo ... but they have all been scoffed, so you will have to make do with the BBC picture!! Here's a link to the recipe ... so easy, so tasty!
I first found out about the Advent Scarf at my work knit and natter. The pattern is posted daily on Ravelry and you do a bit of knitting each day. Needless to say, it is the 15th December and I am still knitting the pattern for day 4!! Hey ho! I'm knitting at my own pace and really enjoying it!
It's been a while, I know! 2012 has whizzed by in a blur ... but recently I have started to want to blog about Plum Cottage again and the stuff that we get up to. It's just finding a time when I am not at work, rushing around taking Miss Plum to ballet or various play dates, not stressing about the state of our flat (I would love to have a cleaner!) or asleep (usually in front of the TV at 9pm)! yes, my life is still as rock 'n' roll as ever!
So suddenly, December is upon us. I had thought of a festive re-launch of my blog, but as it is now mid-December that is unlikely! ha ha! December is here ... and I don't feel very festive.
This is unusual for me. Christmas cakes are usually baked in October and decorated at the beginning of December. This year's are still sitting on my work top waiting for their marzipan. I must get on with that. I have normally started the Christmas weight gain by now having started truffle making and cupcake baking ... but (thankfully, for once!) this has been delayed!
I had lots of plans to get on with various crafts - a felt Christmas tree for Miss Plum, an Advent Scarf that I had seen on ravelry, a tutu for Miss Plum to wear to ballet, a sleeping bag for her favourite doll. Most of these are still on my to do list! I must sit down and get on with them!!!
So here I find myself on a rainy Friday morning, recovering from the bug that has been doing it's rounds at nursery, sitting with a sleeping babe beside me on the sofa (I have exhausted her out with Christmas card decorating and biscuit dough preparation), watching Meet Me In St Louis (this, if anything will make me feel Christmassy I hope!).
We have decided, for the first time in a long time, to spend Christmas in London, rather than go to our parents (we alternate). Miss Plum is 2.5 years old (can you believe it?) and we wanted her to have Christmas morning at home. We are looking forward to it - and will be heading to my parents on Boxing Day and then up to Yorkshire to spend New Year with my inlaws. But I think that I have been in denial about the whole thing as .... I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM GOING TO HAVE FOR MY CHRISTMAS DINNER! So I am having a flick through my favourite cook books to decide on a nice veggie dinner ... anyway, here I come to the reason for my post.
My inlaws are rather partial to port and Stilton ... not separately, which would be nice (!) but Stilton with port in it (this is far too strong for my palate!) They discovered it while cruising and are often prepared to pay up to £30 for a tiny jar of it in Fortnum & Masons. Crazy! One year I made them some. I think they liked it, although they may have been humouring me! On a recent visit to Fortnum's, my mother-in-law glanced towards the Stilton ... but came to her senses and didn't buy any as she thought that she would be able to get it in Waitrose. (Waitrose did it for about a tenner last year, I think). It turns out that Waitrose aren't doing it this year ...
I have found a recipe for potted cheese in my Betty's "A Year Of Family Recipes" cookbook
250g hard cheese (such as Wenslydale, Stilton, Cheshire, Swaledale, Single Gloucester) - finely grated.
85g butter at room temperature
2-3 tablespoons of port
pinch of cayenne pepper
1. Place the grated cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix together to form a paste.
2. When well amalgamated, work in the port and cayenne pepper.
3. Transfer to one large pot or individual ramekins and place in the fridge to set.