The rolling buffet of Christmas is losing momentum and we find ourselves winging it on leftovers for the next few days. I ate all the food and drank all the drinks and I really need to get to work on the yoga DVD I got for Christmas.
It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas. Sort of. Well, alright not really. A few shops in town have started to turn over their floors to Christmas Stuff, including one of my favourite places for Christmas decorations – Butlers on North Street in Brighton.
January isn’t normally a month I look forward to in any way, but so far it’s not been half bad this year. I’ve rediscovered evening and weekends to do stuff – something of a rarity back in December, and tackled the spring cleaning by de-cluttering the wardrobes and cupboards of stuff – swiftly followed by a trip to Ikea to fill the house with more stuff.
I had always intended to take a whirl around the Royal Pavilion ice rink in Brighton during the run up to Christmas but never got round to it in my lurgi-ridden state. So as a treat to cheer us up from the post-Christmas blues, my husband and I visited one evening after work.
This cheese is mad. A 1kg grenade of super mature Lancashire cheese. Really tangy and crumbly. PLUS the added adventure of figuring out how to get into it – it’s wrapped in hessian and thick black wax. Answer: set your dad on it with a Swiss army knife.
The 72 hour rolling buffet has now ceased service and we’ve emerged from a food coma feeling pretty pleased with how that all went. Like any good Christmas though, it was not without its drama (not quite the Eastenders type of drama, we all survived this one) as we almost ended up Turkeyless for Christmas dinner. Unthinkable.
Having arrived at Chez Taylor, the parentals unloaded their sleigh of goodies and in amongst the collection of boxes and bags I couldn’t spot the star of the show.
The house has smelled delightful all day with the aromas of gingerbread baking in the oven. I treated myself to an early Christmas present in the shape of this silicon gingerbread house mould from Lakeland and decided today was the day to get baking and building.
Making gingerbread is incredibly simple. I’d never made it before today but it’s pretty much a case of melt this, stir that and squish into the tin. Here comes the recipe! Video of us assembling the house below…
Gingerbread House Recipe
125g brown sugar
300g golden syrup
500g plain flour
Half tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Few rasps of fresh grated nutmeg
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1. Preheat the oven to 170C.
2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over a gentle heat, swirl from time to time to avoid it browning.
3. Remove butter from the heat and stir in the sugar and syrup. If it doesn’t combine quickly then switch to a whisk and it’ll amalgamate eventually with a bit of welly.
4. Add in all the dry ingredients and mix til fully blended into a thick dough.
5. Tip out on to a board and knead in a little extra flour til the dough is completely smooth.
6. Tear off chunks of dough and squish into the mould, taking care to leave no air bubbles and get right up into the corners.
7. Bake for 25-35 minutes or til firm to the touch.
8. Allow to cool completely before removing from the mould.
The pieces are stuck together with Royal Icing which is made as so:
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Gradually add in the egg whites, whisking with an electric mixer. You may not need all three so go easy and keep mixing before adding more.
3. The mixture should be a thick paste that holds its shape. Add more icing sugar if it doesn’t.
4. Put into a piping bag (or plastic sandwich bag) and chop a millimeter or two off the end.
And here is how to assemble (excluding the bit where the front of the house falls over at the start, not recommended)
The house is decorated with pink smarties, white chocolate buttons and rice paper snowflakes. Now, to destroy it. Please excuse me, om nom nom.
Pre-ordering the Christmas turkey is something our household has been doing for a few years now and it spares a great deal of time and effort from trawling the supermarket shelves to then take your pick of what’s left of the selection. What could be a nicer way to kick off Christmas weeks in advance than with a cosy Sunday afternoon browse of the M&S Christmas food catalogue, armed with a steaming cup of tea, Sharpie poised and Post-It Notes at the ready?
The Christmas turkey range from Marks & Spencer has produced us with some pretty reliable birds over the years that have all cooked exceedingly well but varied in terms of on-the-plate satisfaction. Having dabbled with various stuffed whole turkeys over the years, our default go-to option is the Free range butter basted turkey breast joint (£32) which is an absolute bargain for feeding 8-10 people and comes prepared in a large foil tray ready to sling in the oven with the minimum of effort. As a breast joint (also known as a crown), it’s also super quick and easy to carve, leaving nothing wasted and a swift turnaround at serving time. A crown also cooks quicker and more evenly as you’re not having to risk dry breast meat while waiting for the legs to finish cooking all the way through.
The downsides? A crown joint won’t offer the morsels of brown meat found in the legs that a full bird would do, and there’s no carcass to make delicious stock with. The oven-ready tray leaves no room for snuggling roasties around the bird in the oven – but cooking them separately gives you better browning control on the bird and potatoes so no great loss. If you’re a showman, the crown isn’t as impressive as bringing a plump, bronzed bird to the table for carving – but I do all this in the kitchen anyway.
Pro-tip: The stuffed birds, have, in my experience, been less of a success on the plate as the stuffing texture doesn’t hold up so well in the carving process. The stuffing tends to spill out of each slice, making a bit of a mess on your carving board and plate.