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Hey everyone! 

I’ll keep this short and sweet….after four lovely years here at WordPress we’ve stepped it up, taken the plunge and gone self-hosted! From now on you’ll be able to find us at:

http://www.teacupsandpearls.co.uk

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Big hugs to you all, 

Hannah xxx

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Christmas Pudding Cheesecake

Christmas and cheesecake; two of my most favourite things, so imagine my delight when I first tasted this culinary marvel last year. Probably the most iconic Christmas sweet combined with one of the most versatile desserts I can think of and I knew I wanted to create my own version for this years festivities. Very rich, very decadent and highly calorific this is not an every day dessert, but hey, it’s Christmas so surely we’re all allowed to indulge? This makes a huge cake which should easily serve 16-18. 

Firstly cook a standard sized Christmas pudding accord to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, turn it out and break it up into little pieces allowing it to cool completely.

Whilst the pudding is cooling, make a start on the cheesecake by melting 100g butter and mixing it into 300g crushed ginger biscuits mixed with 1 tsp of ground cinnamon.  Press into the bottom of a large springform tin and put in the fridge to chill while you make the cheesecake mixture.

Whisk together 300ml creme fraiche, 500 ml Double cream, 100ml Baileys (you can omit this if you want, just replace with another 100ml of cream), 400g full fat cream cheese and 1 tsp vanilla bean paste until well combined and nice and thick. Fold in the cooled christmas pudding (making sure it is completely cold otherwise it’ll melt the cheesecake mixture) and spread on top of the ginger biscuit base.  

Chill overnight, or freeze for use at a later date.  Decorate with a spring of holly and serve with pouring cream. Delicious!

Surviving Christmas Dinner

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For many of us the thought of getting Christmas lunch to the table is a daunting one. The seemingly endless hours of preparation, the impending doom that is the threat of under cooked turkey, potatoes better suited to being fired out of a cannon than served on a dinner plate, and not forgetting the obligatory bitter, soggy sprouts.  It’s enough to make even the most au fait home cooks quake in our boots.

Rewind to Christmas 2003. I was a newlywed, 21-year-old girl who’d suddenly found herself  single-handedly cooking Christmas lunch for the in-laws at my parents house, who, incidentally weren’t there, as they were spending the holidays in New York with my sister who lived in Cape Cod at the time. I remember feeling pretty out of my depth about the whole thing, wanting to impress and, more importantly, not wanting to land my m-i-l in a&e with food poisoning on Christmas Day.  Thankfully, I’d had a practice run with my Dad who showed me what to do and when, writing down the methods and timings as we went. Thank goodness for Dad’s eh? Thirteen years later and I’ve built on my Dad’s way of doing things, adapting recipes to suit our tastes and learning a few new tricks here and there.

In this post I’m going to talk you through how I do Christmas Dinner. Firstly I want to make something quite clear…It is totally acceptable to take shortcuts.  It has taken me 13 years of marriage and a whole lot of soul-searching to actually get to the point where I am comfortable in saying that it is perfectly ok to use frozen parsnips and stock from a cube! It’s Christmas Day for goodness sake. You should be spending it with your loved ones, not chained to the kitchen. This is quite comprehensive, but don’t be put off, just pick and chose the bits that work for you.  Another tip is to invest in plenty of disposable foil trays.  It makes clear up so much easier!

Lets begin:

The Pescatarian: My Christmas dinner actually starts a couple of weeks prior to the big day where I set aside some time to bake. My husband is a pescatarian so I try to make him a decent alternative to the traditional turkey or goose.  Last year he loved my Vegetarian Christmas Dinner Pie so much he has requested it again. After baking I simply freeze them and take one out on Christmas Eve to defrost before putting it back in the oven for twenty minutes to reheat.  Perfect. That’s the veggie sorted.

Turkey Butter: I also often make Herby Butter to slather under the skin of the turkey before roasting to add flavour and help to keep the meat moist.  This too can be frozen and taken out a day or so before you want to adorn the bird with it. Finally, if you should wish to make your own stuffing (bearing in mind loads of supermarkets are now stocking their own wide variety of flavours) I can recommend Delia’s Pork & Chestnut Stuffing recipe, which can also be made in advance and frozen.

Stock: Now, I realise I’ve already said it’s fine to use pre-made stock, and it absolutely is, but should you be inclined to make your own here’s how I do it, and the benefit of doing it this way is that you can do it way in advance. Throughout the year I save up any chicken bones and freeze them in a ziplock bag.  Every time I cook a chicken I strip it and add the bones to the bag.  Once the bag is full I roast them in a hot oven for 30 mins, then throw them in the slow cooker with a couple of carrots, celery and leak, cover with boiling water and leave them to cook for about 48 hours, topping up the water when necessary. After a couple of days drain to remove the bones and vegetables and you’ll be left with the most amazing stock.  Leave to cool and then freeze in a ziplock bag.

Pigs in blankets: Again you can make these ahead, put them in foil trays, freeze and cook on the day. An even easier option of course would be to buy pre-prepared ones and freeze.

Seriously, if you have a freezer, use it to your advantage. You’ll thank it on Christmas Eve when you’re taking all the stuff out of it and have halved your prep time.

Right, lets move forward to Christmas Eve:

Firstly, if you haven’t already take all the goodies you’ve already prepped out of the freezer to defrost. Now allow yourself and hour and a half or so to get all the following done (allow longer for cooking the ham).

Ham: If you’re planning on serving ham with your Christmas Lunch I’d get it on in the morning. I swear by Nigella’s Ham in Cola recipe.  It really is delicious and like all of her recipes, pretty straightforward. You can either serve it cold or heat it up right before serving.

Roast Potatoes: Everyone loves a good roast spud, but who wants to be peeling a bag of maris pipers on Christmas morning?  Definitely not me. I prep mine on Christmas Eve following my Ultimate Roast Potato recipe. Instead of cooking them all the way through though, I put them in a hot oven for 40 minutes to get them going then remove, allow to cool and put in the fridge to finish off for another 45/50 minutes on Christmas Day.

Cauliflower Cheese: While the potatoes are getting their sizzle on in the oven make a start on the cauli.  I’ll be using my Whole Baked Cauliflower Cheese recipe, but should you wish to segment the cauli to make serving it up easier than just reduce the steaming time to about 5 minutes.

Carrots and Broccoli: I just tend to wash and prep these and put them in the steamer ready to go the following day.

Braised red cabbage: Again this is something a lot of supermarkets are now selling pre-prepared, but should you wish to make your own, I love this BBC recipe and you can easily reheat it the following day.

Sprouts: After washing and removing and tough outer leaves, I slice them in half, throw them in a roasting tray with a good glug of oil, some diced pancetta (or bacon) and a couple of cloves of garlic, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the fridge for the following day.

The Turkey: The main event! The star of the show! The one thing you really want to get right. If you’ve bought frozen make sure you allow plenty of time for it to defrost in the fridge.  Remove the giblets and save for the gravy. Gently slide your hand in between the meat and the skin.  It should come away fairly easily and you’ll be able to smear the herby butter in between the flesh and the skin, and on top of the skin on the legs.  Stuff the neck cavity with the pork and chestnut stuffing, but I tend to leave the cavity empty. Crisscross smoked streaky bacon on top. Cover with foil and put back in the fridge.

Christmas Morning:

Whack the oven up to full blast and pour yourself a bucks fizz, glass of prosecco or something stronger if you’re hardcore.

Turkey: Take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it to bring it back up to room temperature. Pop it in the oven then immediately turn the oven down to about 180oC. Baste it every 45 minutes or so with all those lovely juices. This year I’ll be getting an 8 or 9kg bird as we’re feeding a crowd, and it will probably take between 4 and a half and 5 hours to cook. I’ll probably put it in the oven at 8am, and expect it to be ready between 12.30pm and 1pm.  About half an hour before the allotted time remove the tin foil to allow the bacon to crisp up a bit. Once the juices run clear from the thickest part of the thigh it’s done. Remove from the oven, cover in with two layers of tin foil and place two clean tea towels on top.  It will happily rest here for an hour until everything else is cooked and you’re ready to serve and by that time the meat will be lovely.

Gravy: Once you’ve got the bird in the oven take your giblets, and a diced onion and saute in a pan with some oil. Add in the stock, some sage and a bay leaf, and simmer continuously for a couple of hours adding more stock or water as needed.  Add in the juices from the turkey once it has cooked, and thicken with cornflour. Taste and season accordingly.  Pass through a sieve to remove all the bits et voila, beautiful gravy.

Everything Else: When the turkey is cooked and is resting, it’s time to get on with everything else.

  • Put the part cooked potatoes on the top shelf and the parsnips just below.  I will be cheating on the parsnips and relying on good old Aunt Bessie because her parsnips are arguably the best I’ve tasted!
  • While they’re cooking slice the ham, put in a dish with a tablespoon of water and cover with foil.
  • After 20 mins toss the parsnips and potatoes and put them back in along with the cauliflower cheese, brussels sprouts, pigs in blankets and veggie pie if you’re doing it.
  • Cook for another 20 mins before adding the sliced ham and red cabbage to the bottom of the oven to warm up.
  • Add boiling water to the bottom of the steamer and steam the veggies for 8 minutes. Pour the water away but leave the lid on to prevent over cooking.  There’s nothing more disgusting than soggy broccoli.
  • Stick the plates in the microwave to warm along with the bread sauce (again I will be cheating on this year and buying it pre-made)
  • Put the turkey on a platter and surround it with the pigs in blankets and roasties.
  • Put the veg in serving dishes.
  • Get a helper to move it all out onto the table.
  • Top up your wine glass and…….

ENJOY!

Phew!  I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Of course the other option is doing what by BFF does every year and ordering it all in ready prepared on foil trays….now there’s a thought!

 

Rosemary and Lemon Salt Scrub 

It baffles me why people are sucked into spending so much money on exfoliating scrubs when they’re incredibly easy to make using ingredients you’ve probably already got in your home or garden. The variations you can make to the basic recipe are endless. Flower petals, buds, essential oils and fresh herbs all work beautifully and stay well preserved for months in the oil and salt. 

I used a blend of fresh rosemary from the garden and the zest of two large lemons in this one. Rosemary is known for its astringent and antiseptic properties and also contributes to skin elasticity helping prevent premature aging. Lemon on the other hand has been used for centuries as a natural skin brightener as well as bring great for cleansing and toning.

For this recipe I used:

600g fine sea salt (Epsom or Himalayan would be brilliant in terms of the mineral properties they contain if you prefer) 

Approx 300ml olive oil, or oil of your choice. 

3 large sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped

And the zest of two large lemons, chopped finely.

All you need to do is mix it all together and store in a 500ml jar making sure you’ve got  enough oil to just about cover the salt. So easy! 

In  terms of applying it, I highly recommend standing in the shower or bath on a flannel or hand towel to prevent slipping (remember there’s oil in there!) and rubbing into dry skin in circular motions before rinsing. Your skin will be bright, smooth and the oil will sink in leaving it lovely and soft too. Perfect! 

Caramel biscuit, chocolate and peanut butter no bake tray bake!

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Oooh I love a good tray bake, especially when it’s a minimal fuss, no bake, tray bake. The amalgamation of caramel, chocolate and peanut is a heavenly flavour sensation, and not to mention a reliable crowd pleaser.

This recipe makes quite a large batch (these were for church), so by all means halve the quantities if you want,  or alternatively freeze any leftovers (if you can resist the urge to hide in a dark corner and demolish them).

I whizzed up two 250g packs of Lotus Biscoff biscuits in a blender with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar, before adding in dollops of crunchy peanut butter. When the mixture starts to clump together you’ve added enough. Press these sticky crumbs into a shallow tray (I think mine was probably about 12″ by 8″). Now melt 300g milk chocolate in a bain-marie, adding in a cup of Smooth Lotus Biscoff spread. Stir until it melts and pour over the biscuit base. Now melt a couple of additional tablespoons of the biscuit spread and drizzle over the chocolate topping. Use a skewer to unleash your artistic talents and make swirly patterns on top. Leave to set in the fridge for a few hours before slicing into fingers or squares. Delicious!

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If you prefer a more uniform pattern on the top pipe little blobs of the melted biscuit spread onto the chocolate in straight rows and then drag a skewer through the centre of each blob in the row to create perfect little hearts. Here’s a pic from another test bake I made a while ago to demonstrate the technique.

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Bundt tin meatloaf

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I had a crowd to feed today, and a crowd calls for a lot of food.  For lunch I’d done a chicken and pearl barley broth and a broccoli and cheese soup served with crispy smoked bacon, freshly grated parmesan, savoury scones and ciabatta. For dinner I did pork meatloaf, but baked it in a bundt tin as I didn’t have a loaf tin large enough, plus I didn’t want to free-form it on this occasion.

This meatloaf fed 11 of us with leftovers to boot, so by all means halve the recipe if your crowd is smaller than mine.

First I lined the bundt tin with two packages of smoked streaky bacon.

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Then, using the dough hook on the Kitchen Aid (a large bowl and your hands will of course do the job perfectly), I mixed together 1.5kg pork mince, breadcrumbs made from four slices of bread, two very large eggs, three cloves of minced garlic, a large finely diced onion, a large handful of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of mustard, salt and pepper.

Once it’s well mixed, press it into the bacon lined tin, and flip the excess bacon over the top.

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Cover with foil and place in a deep baking dish. Pour boiling in so it comes about two thirds up the side of the bundt tin. Bake for an hour at 200oC.

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Turn out the meatloaf into an oven proof plate and bake uncovered for a further half hour to crisp the bacon up.

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I served this with a homemade onion sauce, roasted baby potatoes, simple steamed veg and gravy. Enjoy!

Vanilla Scotch Pancakes

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We love a good pancake in our house, be that a crepe, American style or a good old Scotch. These are really quick and easy to whip up and can be adorned with pretty much anything you choose.

You’ll need
300g self raising flour
250ml milk
2 large eggs
80g caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
And of course whatever toppings you choose.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time and drizzle in the milk and vanilla to form a thick batter.

Heat a nonstick frying and pan over a medium heat and swab with a little vegetable oil using a wedge of folded up kitchen roll.

Use a dessert spoon of batter per pancake and when you see bubbles starting to form on the top of the batter they’re ready to flip.

These are really easy to reheat in a toaster so I tend to make the whole lot, use what we want then either freeze the remaining, or put them in a bag to toast the following day.

These are Phoebe’s topped with yoghurt and strawberries and grapes. She loved them!

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Ste and I had ours with butter and maple syrup (wish I’d had some smoked bacon in too!)! Not quite as healthy but I did wash mine down with a green nutribullet smoothie!

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Which army are you fighting for?

This is still as relevant this Halloween as it was last year…

Teacups & Pearls

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It will come as no surprise to you that we don’t celebrate Halloween at home or in our church. Whatever its historical roots, these days there is no denying that it has evolved into a celebration of all things dark and evil, and I for one do not buy into the “oh, it’s just harmless fun” mentality.

The Word clearly states in Ephesians 6:12 that, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen (spiritual) world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Whether intentional or not, when we buy into the Halloween ‘celebrations’ we’re buying into something much greater, far more powerful and darker than just costumes, scary faced pumpkins and trick or treating.  However melodramatic it sounds, there’s no getting away from the biblical truth that there is a constant battle in the…

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