Hello there! It’s been a year now since I last blogged. I have a good reason though as two months ago we welcomed baby no2!! A little brother Oisín (Osheen) for my two and a half year old daughter Isla. … Continue reading
As promised here is a second installment to my Christmas themed entries. Today is a recipe of an old classic but with my own personalised packaging, much like my Chocolate Truffle Gift Jars post which were also presented in recycled baby food jars. A perfect little gift of…
Charlton Christmas Chutney
(Incase you didn’t know already, my surname is Charlton, hence the name of the post).
I will admit that I am a novice chutney maker so I have cheated slightly by getting some inspiration from various books. But then again, I don’t believe you can be completely unique when it comes to this kind of chutney as its so simple and to be Christmassy you have to stick to traditional spicing. I do think I’ve played around enough with flavours to brand the family name!
The recipe fills about 8 x 250ml baby jars or 4 x Ikea’s smallest rubber sealed jars.
Make sure that the jars and lids are thoroughly cleaned in hot soapy water, rinsed and left to dry in a oven of 150c for at least 15 mins. Making sure that they do not touch in the oven. As this is a hot recipe you need your jars to be hot from the oven to stop the glass shattering. So have your jars in the oven 15 mins before you chutney is finished. Also, if you can have a small extra jar for any extra chutney you make as it will be too late to sterilise anything when you begin to transfer things.
**I wasn’t quite sure about putting the rubber bands from the Ikea jars in the oven, so I washed these in soapy water and then left them in a bowl of boiling water for 5 mins**
For the chutney:
- 800g of cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 500g fresh cranberries
- 250g pitted dates, chopped in three
- 2 satsumas/clementines
- 400g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- 250ml white wine vinegar
- 250ml cider vinegar
- 1 tsp table salt
- Wax paper for sealing
You can mix you the recipe as much as you want depending on what you have in the house. I made two batches and one had plums in it that I needed to use up, it also didn’t have the cayenne pepper as my father in law is allergic. So make sure to think about that sort of thing when giving any food as a gift!
I didn’t have a large enough pot for this recipe so I split mine into two. So to begin with I combined my apples, onion, cranberries, dates, sugar, spices, vinegar and salt into a bowl and gave it a thorough stir. Take your 2 satsumas and zest them over your bowl. Cut in half, squeeze in the juices and then scrape the pulp in also. Give everything another stir and than transfer into your two large pans, or one if you have it!
Bring to a boil and then turn down to the a very low heat and leave for about a hour, stirring occasionally to check it doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’s done when the fruit is no longer recognisable.
Carefully take your jars out of the oven and fill with your chutney. Seal with a piece of wax paper and leave for 1 minute then seal your lid on too. And thats your chutney done! Happy to sit unopened for 1 year!
Now for my little bit of crafting!
Before anything else, I painted my small jar lids with specialist metal and glass paint in a shimmer teal colour to cover up any old text from the baby food.
I’ve decided to make some personalised labels and Christmas Pom poms to go on my jars to make my gifts look that bit more special than supermarket conserves. You can find printable labels in lots of places online, especiallyPinterest. I’ve done a combination of bought paper and printed labels. There are so many beautiful papers out there at this time of year, with colours that you’d never get with printing. Mine is from Paperchase and has a vivid magenta, violet and gold pattern.
Depending on the size of my lid, I cut a circle of the special paper to cover top of the lid and then a smaller printed circle with my chutney name to stick on top. If you want to keep things simple though, the paper on its own looked great with the teal edge of the lid.
Then for my finishing touch, my teeny tiny pompoms! The easiest cutest thing you will ever make. They can then be reused by the recipient as a Christmas tree decoration. So hopefully a little part of you will be around long after the chutney is gobble up. Aw!
You will need.
- Some wool that compliments your label.
- Ribbon that’s contrasts or matches your wool.
- Small scissors
- A fork
- Crimping scissors for you ribbon (optional)
Take your wool and wrap and over lap it approximately 20 times around the centre of your fork prong. Cut a length of ribbon, long enough to wrap around your small jar or shorter to dangle from you large one. Thread you ribbon through the centre prong of your fork and tie the ribbon as tight as possible into a double knot. Slip the wool off the fork and snip down the tow edges to get your fluffy Pompom.
Enjoy with a cheese platter or as we have been doing in our house, with a teatime cheese toasty! Yum!
The Christmas season has arrived and with it comes a never ending list of craft and food ideas. Toddler permitting, I’m hoping to be able to make a few festive treats to show here.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a stay at home mum, so in order to fit with the one salary budget, there will be a lot of homemade gifts in my household this year. So, watch this space! For now though, I’m going to combine both food, craft and my most popular post to date my homemade cardboard dolls house, with a…
Homemade gingerbread house…
First things first, the recipe I use isn’t exactly gingerbread, but tastes just as (if not more) christmassy. Spiced black pepper bread house just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!
For the dough you will need:
- 600g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 2 tsps ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 2.5 tsps freshly ground black pepper
- 200g soft unsalted butter
- 200g dark brown sugar
- 2 larges eggs beaten with 4 tablespoons of runny honey
In a food processor, combine your flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. With the motor on medium speed, slowly add the butter and sugar. Then very slowly add the egg mixture. Do not use all the mixture up if you find the dough comes together before it’s been used up.
Split your dough into four balls, flatten a little into disks, cover in cling film and store in the fridge until needed. The most important thing about a gingerbread house is to draw out your design first and create template of your walls. A simple design is best as a gingerbread houses detail and wow factor come from the decoration.
Cut out your templates. Lightly flour your surface and rolling pin. This is important so you dough does not stick to the surface. Roll out your first disk till in it around 2mm deep. Place your chosen area over the dough and cut around the shape. I use a pizza roller cutter but any sharp knife will do. You can decide here where you’d like to cut out your windows and doors, or you can ice them on later. Continue until you have two of every template and transfer onto a lined baking tray. Depending what size your house is, you may have to do these in batches, so I recommend not to start rolling out all your parts at once.
Place in a preheated oven of 160c (fan assisted) for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. This should only take 10 minutes. Once you have all your pieces baked and cooled its ready to start icing together.
Find a very sturdy base to mount your house. I’m using a spare tile we had lying a round. You can buy good large cake bases though from most cookery shops.
For the icing you will need:
- 2 large egg whites
- 500g sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar for all my US readers)
Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and slowly add the sugar stirring every so often. The mixture should get quite stiff but don’t add all the sugar if you think it’s going to be too still to pipe. Once all mixed and your happy with the mixture, fill a piping bag or gun with your icing. For the wall gluing I would use a nozzle the same thickness as you wall. If you have more icing than will fit in your piping bag/gun, put the rest into a small airtight container or cover with clingfilm. Lay your four walls out on your base to show how big your footprint will be and pipe the outline. Take your first piece of wall and again pipe along the bottom edge and two sides and stand in place. I found that my icing was thick and secure enough to hold this in place but if yours isn’t find something like a small box or some glasses to hold it upright. Repeat this for each wall until you have the outside shell of your house. Leave to dry for at least an hour.
Once dry pipe another thick line around the four top edges of your shell. Take your first piece of roof and secure in place. Pipe icing down the central line of the roof and then secure the second piece in place. Secure with books or boxes or even a little masking tape if you have to and leave to dry completely again. You may also wish to add a chimney once this is dry. For this, follow the same rules as before.
Now the fun bit. Collect all the sweets, sprinkles and cake decorating pieces you want and use the remaining icing as a glue and painting tool. I think all gingerbread houses look great no matter how messy or neat they are. Its definitely fun to do with your kids or some friends instead of cupcake decorating parties. The more sweets and icing you use the tastier it will be when you eventually come to eat it! I’ve been a bit more of a fancy pants because I wanted to test my icing skills as I’ve not got the most steady hands. I also baked some window frames with leftover dough, painted them with a bit of watered down icing and carefully stuck them with icing inside the house frame. I think I did well considering it’s only my second attempt at building one.
Happy house making!
Also, if you have dough leftover why not get some star, snowflake or any shaped cookie cutter and make some Christmas tree decorations. Just roll out the dough as before, cut your shape and make a hole in the top to put string through before baking and then ice and decorate when cooled. The combination of the spiced smell and the aroma of a real Christmas tree is just wonderful.
This week I had a few mummy and baby friends over for lunch and decided I would cook my chicken and bacon pie. Although it turned out fine, I took for granted that it’s usually a weekend pie, especially when you’re cooking the chicken from scratch and don’t have hubby to watch the baby.
What I should have cooked was my simpler and more summer lunch appropriate…
Roasted Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, Chorizo & Ricotta Pie.
This is a sweet, creamy, cheesy savoury pie that I got from an old cookery book my mum gave me years ago. Although, I’ve mixed the recipe up a bit over the years.
For the shortcrust pastry base;
- 200g Plain Flour
- pinch of salt
- 50g White vegetable fat (cut into small pieces)
- 50g Butter (cut into small pieces)
- 2-3 tbsp Iced water
You can of course use shop bought pastry for extra ease but I find this pastry very easy to make.
Sift the flour and salt in a bowl and then rub the fat and butter into this using your fingertips until it becomes a breadcrumb consistency. Next sprinkle drops of the ice water over the top and blend the mixture with a spoon until it clumps together (you may not need all the water). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and press together to form a ball of dough. Chill for at least 30mins.
For the filling;
- 3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes
- 1 large red pepper
- 3 garlic cloves (left in skins)
- 150g Chorizo, sliced into 1cm chunks.
- 125g ricotta cheese
- 100g Cheddar cheese (grated)
- 2 tbsp Crème Fraîche
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg beaten
- Some sprigs of rosemary
- Salt and Pepper
- 2-3 tbsp Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to170°C(fan assisted)
Cut the sweet potato and red pepper into 2.5cm cubes. Lay these out onto a large baking tray along with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25mins. Then add the chorizo and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool.
While cooling, get a large bowl ready. In it squeeze out the pulp of the roasted garlic. Next add the ricotta, cheddar, crème Fraîche and egg yolks. Mix until smooth and set aside.
Remove you pastry from the fridge. Roll to app £1 coin thickness and big enough for your pie dish. Line your pie dish with the pastry and trim the excess. Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pastry dish and spread to cover the base. Then cover this with a layer of your roasted vegetables and chorizo. Brush the exposed edges of the pasty with your beaten egg, scatter with a few sprigs of rosemary and cook in the oven for 30 minutes.
Season to taste and enjoy. Easy Peasy!
If you are a real foodie like me, you will have noticed a current trend for salt in desserts. Salted caramel and chocolate recipes in particular. Although, in my household there is a bit of a divide in opinion as my hubby isn’t so keen. I on the other hand love it!
When I was researching my chocolate truffle recipe I discovered from chefs and chocolate connoisseurs that a tiny pinch of salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of the cocoa.
Although it seems to be a recent trend in the UK, it’s a traditional addition to sweet baking over in the US. And today’s recipe is an old classic combination…
Salty Sweet Chocolate Covered & Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Pretzels.
The original beloved combination is usually for the small crunchy pretzels covered in chocolate. As much as I love them, I don’t fancy standing around for hours sculpting 100s of tiny knots which, let’s face it, will be devoured in a matter of minutes. I would however still recommend to buy these from the supermarket and dip in melted chocolate yourself. Yum!
Today’s recipe is for the larger soft pretzel that you can eat warm from oven for breakfast or linger over the strange flavour sensation with a cuppa or cold glass of milk.
I will admit the recipe is a tad technical but trust me it’s all worth it in the end.
For your basic soft pretzel
- 450g Strong White Flour
- 150g Strong Brown Flour
- 1 level tsp fast-acting yeast
- 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 375ml Warm Water
Today I have used my gorgeous Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer with the dough hook attachment but you can also knead by hand.
Sieve the two flours together in your mixer bowl and then add your yeast, sugar and salt.
Mix together the warm water and oil in a jug. With the mixer on its slowest setting add the liquid slowly until you form the dough. Let this need for about 10minutes.
Oil a large bowl and place the kneaded dough inside and add another coating of oil. Cover with a damp clean cloth or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-3hrs until it has doubled in size.
Now for the technical bit…
You will need the following:
- 2 oiled baking trays
- A little flour for dusting your work surface
- 2 clean tea towels
- Small glass or water (for finger dipping)
- 75g Bicarbonate of soda
- 1 litrewater
- Large pot
- Large Slotted spoon
- 1-2 tbsp Sea Salt (ground)
Once the dough has risen, knead it a little for a minute or so and then divide into 12 pieces. This division makes 12 large soft pretzels. I have made a number of different sizes today so the smaller you go the more you will get.
As you roll out and sculpt each pretzel place the rest of the mixture back in to oiled bowl and cover.
For the sculpting. Roll out your dough into a long strip to about 1-2cm in diameter. The thinner you go the crispier the result. Now follow the photographs to get your shape. To seal at the end, dip you finger in some water and coat the tips and press in place. Place your finished form on your baking tray and cover with your clean tea towel.
Today I also made some bit size pieces by simply rolling the dough out to the long strip and cutting into 2cm bites. You get about 10 per 1/12 of the mixture.
Leave everything to rise a bit again under you tea towels for about 10 minutes. While this happens preheat your over to 220C.
In a large pot mix the water and bicarb. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Then, three at a time, poach the dough for 30 seconds per side. (This poaching gives the dough a coating that results in the dark brown finish of the pretzel). Remove the dough with your slotted spoon draining as much water as possible and place on your baking tray.
Once all your little sculptures are lined up, sprinkle with your sea salt and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.
For the toppings.
Cinnamon Sugar Dusted.
- 15g butter melted
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
Whilst still warm from the oven, brush the pretzels with the melted butter. Mix the caster sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the pretzels and enjoy straight away.
- 100g Milk Chocolate
- 50g White Chocolate (optional)
Leave your pretzels to cool. Melt the chocolate in a microwave. Dip your Pretzels in the chocolate and place on a lined tray to set. If you are too impatient like me, place in a fridge or freezer. Then for purely decoration purposes, melt the white chocolate and flick a few stripes on top using a teaspoon.
And for a mixture of the two and perfect for a dinner party dessert.
Pretzel Bites with melted dipping chocolate.
Using all the same ingredients from both recipes. Coat your bite size chunks while warm with your butter, sugar and cinnamon. Melt the chocolate and place into individual pots. Then get a cocktail stick or skewer and dip away!