Friday, 28 December 2012

Turkey and Ham Pie with Stars!

I have a confession to make.  I don't like the traditional Christmas dinner very much.  I don't care for turkey and roast potatoes aren't my favourites either.   But I do like making this from the left over bits of Christmas dinner...

It's a turkey and ham pie!  It's so easy to do and I like it better than the original Christmas turkey dinner. 

I don't really have  a recipe for Turkey and Ham Pie but you don't need one.  It's an assembly job rather than a recipe. But here are the ingredients I used:

1 onion diced
Left over slices of ham and turkey cut into bite sized pieces
2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
2 heaping Tablespoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
1 package of store bought puff pastry
1 egg
Turkey stock or stock made from a cube
Cream - come on, it's the holidays!

Turn on the oven to 400F or 200C.   Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish or pie dish.

Place the vegetable oil into a large sauce pan, add the onion and cook gently until the onion is soft and translucent.  Add the mixed herbs and two heaping tablespoons of plain flour.  Stir together until all the flour has coated the onions.  Pour in a cup of stock and cook, stirring constantly, until you have a very thick sauce.   To make the sauce really rich and tasty, pour in a big splash of cream.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.   Stir in the cubed turkey and ham, pour the filling mixture into the baking dish and set to one side to cool a bit while you work on the pastry.

Now here comes my favourite part, the PUFF PASTRY!   

This stuff is great.  You can buy it in any grocery store.  You can even buy it ready-rolled so you just open the package and cut the pastry to fit your pie.   I had this block of pastry in the freezer waiting for pie making day.  Just place the pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap and roll it out to about 1/8 -1/4 inch thick, cut a piece to fit the baking dish and pop it on top of the pie filling.

If you are feeling frisky, you can cut out decorations from the scraps of pastry. I thought stars were appropriate since it is still the holiday season.  Beat an egg and brush over the top of the pastry to make it glossy and golden.   Place the pie on a tray and bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is crisp and golden and the gravy is bubbling like lava!  

Served with roasted carrots and some bright green peas or broccoli, this meal looks just as festive as any fancy Christmas dinner!

Actually, I think it's better!  For another variation on the Turkey Pie, try this lovely Turkey and Leek Pie from Jamie Oliver:  Jamie Oliver's Turkey and Leek Pie 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy Holidays!

Here at our house, we've been very busy preparing for Christmas and enjoying the all that Christmas and Boxing Day brings; food, music, decorations and exchanging presents.   Even the Dust Bunny got a gift from Santa!  

We wish you all the best in this holiday season and all through the New Year, too!   For now, let's just ENJOY!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Last Minute Tweaks

It's Christmas Eve! I can't believe how quickly time has passed.  All the gifts are wrapped and under the tree.  The kitchen is full of food just waiting for Christmas dinner.  Technically everything is ready.  I said 'technically'.  

We could have Christmas right now and it would be lovely, but I am a 'Tweaker'.   I will fuss and fluff around with the decorations, presents and food until the very last minute.

For example, I found these beautiful little deer at the farm shop when buying vegetables for our Christmas dinner.   I had to have them and add them to our hall coat hooks.

Then I spotted these little buckets.  They are really candle holders but I filled them with little gold ornaments and popped them on the dresser.

While I was looking for the gold ornaments I found some silver hearts.  They ended up on the light over the dining table.

I realised that we didn't have any Christmas cookies left, so I've baked some chocolate snowflake cookies.  Not that we needed cookies, we have mince pies, candy, nuts, Christmas pudding and trifle.

You can see what I mean.  It's Christmas Eve and I am still fussing about with trivial things. The baking and decorating are my favourite parts of Christmas and make me feel festive.  I hope you are enjoying the bits of the holiday season that makes you feel festive, too.   Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Wrapping Parcels

If you are like me, you are still wrapping gifts and baking cookies.  I love wrapping parcels but I don't like gift tags. Instead of tying on a gift tag, I try to  decorate the parcels with something that indicates who will be receiving the gift.  It's a surprise up to the last minute!

For example, my Mum-n-Law loves feeding the wild birds in her garden so her boxes are decorated with these little bird ornaments.  Next year they will be added to her Christmas tree.

Young children's gifts are wrapped with a lollipop, a small toy or an appropriate ornament.  You are never too young to start collecting decorations for your Christmas tree.

Ribbon roses are simple to make and are perfect for 'girlie' gifts.  There are lots of great video tutorials on you-tube that will show you how to make ribbon roses.   Right, I must get back to wrapping and cookie baking.  It's nearly Christmas Eve and there are still cookies to be baked and decorated!  

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tom Lehrer's Christmas Carol

Sometimes even the most enthusiastic supporters of Christmas can get a bit disheartened with all the hype of the holidays.  Here's a little song to lift your spirits if you are suffering with Seasonal Overload.  Click on the link below and Enjoy! 

Tom Lehrer's Excellent Christmas Carol

Friday, 21 December 2012

Lollipops and Boiled Sweets

When I was very young, people used to make all kinds of home made candy at Christmas time.  Chocolate fudge and Divinity were the two most popular, but I remember hard boiled sweets too.  Usually they were flavoured with peppermint or cinnamon oil.  

I've been thinking about those old fashioned Christmas treats and decided to give it a go.  Boiled sweets are easy to make.  You probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboards.  

Click on this link to learn how to make your own old fashioned lollipops:
Lollipops and Boiled Sweets

I don't have lollipop moulds so I used a foil mince pie tins. Cut a slot in the side of the tin and insert a lollipop stick or wooden coffee stirring stick.  Then pour in the hot candy syrup.   Remove the pie tin once the candy has cooled.

Using a pair of kitchen scissors, I cut some of the candy into pillow shapes..

I rolled some of the candy into small balls.  A dusting of icing sugar will keep the candy pieces from sticking together.  Store the candies in airtight containers.  I like to use pretty little jam jars.

Wrap the lollipops in plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon.  Add a lollipop to the bow on a child's gift for a tasty and colourful decoration.  You could even hang them on the Christmas tree or make lollipop bouquets.  I used red food colouring but you can use any colour.   You can make candy to match your Christmas decorations.  They didn't do that when I was a kid!  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Holiday Doors in Old Lacock

In old Lacock they know how to 'Deck the Halls' for the holidays.  Each of these festive doors could be on a Christmas card.  I wonder how many Christmas Days these old doors have opened to welcome friends and family.

Welcome to the holiday season!  

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Sign of the Angel - Lacock

The Sign of the Angel Inn is haunted.  That is a fact, no debating if ghosts exist or not.  Who could blame a ghost for not wanting to leave a cosy fire like this on a cold winter's day.

This is a friendly spirit, a former owner of this 15th Century Inn who still attends to the Angel's customers.  

The Sign of the Angel Inn was built to be an Inn.  The name, Angel, refers to the gold coin used as currency not a heavenly host.  

It's one of those buildings that pulls you in off the street, powerless to resist it's charms... 

through an ancient oak door, down a passage and into the first dinning room with a blazing fire.

The tables were set for lunch and we were more than ready for a seat by the fire and a hot meal.

The food was delicious and the staff was friendly and welcoming.  We didn't see the ghost.  It is said she frequently visits the guest rooms.  I assume she was upstairs overseeing the preparations for the night's visitors.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lovely Lacock

Take a look at the photos of this village.  Does it look familiar to you?  Imagine there are no cars or delivery vans.  You probably have seen this village many times before. It was used in the television series Cranford  and in the BBC's production of Pride and Prejudice and in the Harry Potter movies.  This is Lacock.

This ancient village is busy, bustling and beautiful and will make you feel as if you are in Charles Dickens'  Christmas Carol.  

Andy and I visited Lacock today and took lots of photographs.  We had a delicious lunch in one of the haunted pubs and visited Lacock Abbey.  I'll tell you more about it soon. In the mean time, let's have a look at  some of shops of Lacock or is that Cranford?

Lacock is lovely, isn't it?  Next time we will visit the haunted pub, The Sign of the Angel.  

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Gingerbread Men, NOT! Part II - Royal Icing

There are some fantastic cookie decorators on the web.   I am NOT one of them, but I am learning.  All of the best decorators use Royal Icing.   I have only made Royal Icing once before today.  Making the icing is the easy part, piping is tricky.... VERY tricky.  

Making Royal Icing takes only a few ingredients and a sturdy electric mixer.  Here's how to do it:

2 cups (226 grams) icing sugar
1 Tablespoon meringue powder or 1 packet dried egg white
3 1/2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the powdered egg white and water until the mixture is slightly foamy.   Add the vanilla and sift in the icing sugar.  Beat for 7 to 10 minutes until the icing is very thick.  Now you are ready to fill your pipping bag and begin decorating cookies.

You must keep this icing in an airtight container, it will dry and become hard very quickly. That is what you want it to do on your cookies, not in the bowl. I used the icing as it is, but you can add paste food colouring to make more colourful cookies.   

OK, my boys aren't perfect but making them was so much fun!  Give it a go and bake yourself a few new friends!