Thursday, 16 December 2010

Nigella's Christmas Puddini BonBons

My plan this weekend is to make these.

Oh my lord aren't they beautiful? This is a picture I took last year and looking back at it makes me a bit excited about what lies ahead this weekend. I also thought I'd post the recipe before the weekend so if anyone wants to make them, they can give it a go.

I shall be making these to hand out as little presents for everyone in the office on Monday. I have a lovely wicker basket which will contain little bags of 5, decorated with ribbon.

Now in the picture there are roughly 70 bonbons and I cannot remember how many batches I made. Probably 2.

For a batch you will need:
125g plain or dark chocolate
350g christmas pudding (either leftover, or cooked and cooled)
60ml sherry
2tbsp golden syrup
100g white chocolate (though I'm pretty sure I used 1 100g bar to cover all of those babies)
tub of glacé cherries
tub of angelica

The only expensive thing in this is the sherry, and I will be using the bottle I bought last year - so it really is a good investment. I only wish I'd bought brandy last year as well as I could have done with some of that in my cupboard! (Please don't skip the sherry, it really does make all the difference). I used cheap christmas pudding (80p for 454g!) because lets face it, you're not eating it on its own.

First of all, line a tray (or plates) with baking paper, foil or cling film. Ensure it can fit in the fridge.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. As this is gently melting, crumble the pudding in a large bowl and mix in the sherry and golden syrup. (I learnt a tip of Kirstie & Phil's Perfect Christmas - lightly grease a measuring spoon with a little oil and the syrup should just pour off). Add the chocolate once it has melted, and stir again so all the pudding is covered.

Now take out small amounts of mixture and roll into a ball. Keep a cold tap running and once you feel your hands getting warm and the mixture is sticking, run your hands under the cold water. This should cool your hands down enough to get a few more done without melting all the chocolate (a tip I learnt when learning how to make the perfect crumble at Jamie Oliver's Recipease).

You'll need to make sure you keep the ball the same size. About the size of an average chocolate. These things are seriously rich, so don't make them any bigger or you'll struggle to eat them!

Arrange on the lined tray or plate and pop in the fridge while you sort out the decoration. Melt the white chocolate and keep on a low heat whilst you prepare the cherries and angelica. Count the bonbons and cut the cherries into enough pieces to pop one on each. Cut double the amount of angelica.

The next bit is the tricky bit and requires some patience, but it's oh so worth it and really is the wow factor about these beauties.

With a teaspoon, drizzle the melted white chocolate on the top of the bonbons. The key is to not make this too perfect - the dribbles of chocolate down the side make the 'sauce' look more 'realistic'. Whilst the chocolate is still liquid, add one bit of cherry and two bits of angelica on either side. Unfortunately, you really do have to do one bonbon at a time or the white chocolate hardens and the cherry and angelica don't stick. This will take a long time - so I recommend popping on the radio and enjoying it.

Once you've finished - keep the chocolates in the fridge. They are absolutely ideal as gifts, wrapped in a clear bag and tied with ribbon, or put in a little box. I think that out of everything I've ever made - these have gotten the best response. I really wish I could hand them out as gifts every year to the same people, but I would rather not be predictable.

If you have the time this weekend - make these. You will not be disappointed - I promise you!

(Note: I will be making my own gluten-free version using gluten-free pudding so all you avoiding gluten can do the same and not miss out!)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Light Christmas Lunch - Courgette (Zucchini) and Watercress Soup

I find (like many others out there) that during the festive season, I tend to eat a lot. Lots of chocolates and nuts, crisps and dips, 3 course meals and plenty of tipple.

My parents and sister came to visit last weekend and I ate so much that as soon as they left, I clutched my tummy and fell to the sofa and couldn't even think about food... until an hour later when I dipped into the Quality Street.

So while it's all very well to indulge a little over the Christmas period, you may want to settle down with something light for lunch (or indeed, later on in the evening after scoffing away most of the day).

This soup is one of my favourites. It's from Sophie Dahl's Voluptuous Delights and has only 4 ingredients. An onion, courgette (zucchini), watercress (I use a 75g bag), and 1 litre of chicken stock. All of which are incredibly cheap. I think this soup comes in at under 50p per head! (serves 3-4)

In a large pan, gently heat an onion until soft. Cut the courgette into small chunks and add to the onion, along with the stock. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then add the watercress. Simmer for another 5 minutes, turn off the heat, and puree with a hand blender. Season with black pepper and salt (if you wish - I find it perfect without). Sophie's recipe calls for a tiny amount of single cream but to be honest I can hardly taste the difference without it.

It's deliciously bright green and tastes utterly divine. Perfectly light and full of goodness to help you feel not-so-guilty for munching on treats throughout the day.


Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas Decorations in a Room With No Fireplace

It's a bit of a pickle, really. All our lives we see glorious images of stockings hanging over an open fire and a garland over the mantle. But it isn't the reality for those who live in small apartments. Tiny living rooms with a TV as the point of focus can make it a bit tricky to decorate for this time of year. So I have tried to come up with a few ideas.

Our decorated living room. Matt was admiring the snow out of the window and there was a sense of joy and peacefulness that I had to capture in that moment.

For those of you who struggling to find space to put a tree, why not try a slim pop-up artificial tree? We bought ours last year and it's small enough to store easily, and fits perfectly in a corner, not causing too much disruption to the layout of the room.

A festive red plant is a great way to introduce Christmas colours and can replace any other old plant of vase of flowers. I love the Poinsettia and I have mine sitting on the new coffee table!

A huge bowl full of baubles is a great way to add decoration without hanging some from rented walls. I bought 2 glass bowls I found in the sale and filled one with baubles and another with a huge tin of Quality Street. Having chocolates available in a pretty bowl is a big part of Christmas for me, and is a wonderful little treat when guests are around. And the bowls can be used for deserts or for potpourri at other times in the year.

Candles are also by far my favourtie way of creating a great atmosphere. Tea lights in a variety of holders scattered around the room create yet another twinkle and they work even better in small rooms (I think, anyway). These can be picked up for around a pound and work a treat at dinner parties and other occasions - so really another cheap but great investment.

The Noel sign on the bookshelf was bought on eBay last year and spray painted silver. It cost just a couple of pounds and sits quite boldly in a place that is already crowded with colour.

Finally, add baubles to doornobs and handles of cabinets. It's the simple touches that make all the difference.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A Long Awaited Present to Myself

There has been a new addition to my livingroom.

In our previous flat, I wanted a coffee table so much but as Matt hates them (and I wanted to keep him happy) I didn't get one. When we moved, we had an even bigger room and I begged him to let me have one. I showed him some to see which one he'd prefer and we came to a middle-ground.

I could get a coffee table if it had storage. That was it was really practical. This was the one he agreed on and it took me 8 months to finally get around to buying it. Because it cost a little bit more than I would have liked to spend. So I saved and finally bought it. And it looks beautiful.

It stores guest bedding at the moment (and has given Matt back the drawer in our room that I stole from him to store it all) so he's happy. And no doubt it'll store some extra Christmas decorations, blankets and throws.

It took me so long to get this chest, but I'm really happy I waited to get something I loved, instead of buying something cheaper that would 'just do'. It's the little things that make me happy.

I would stronly recommend to anyone that they should wait and get wonderful gems of furniture, instead of getting the cheapest and quickest thing available at the time. It's false economy really, because you'll only want to get rid of it when something better comes along, and it won't make you smile every time you look at it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hello December!

What more could the 1st of December bring than snow?

It’s just properly hit us here this morning and I couldn’t ask for a more perfect start to December.

Tonight, I shall be warming up the mulled wine, eating chocolate coins and unpacking all the Christmas decorations.

I have been incredibly strict with myself this year and have only bought a glass dish (on sale) for holding chocolates (it isn’t Christmas without a glut of Quality Street) and fabric for my homemade wreath which I shall be making tonight.

My street is beautiful here right now – the old houses look warm and cosy under the thin blanket of snow and I’m so happy we chose this place to live. Nothing brightens up my day more than entering a beautiful street when I walk to and from my home. I guess being choosy about my street really did pay off.

Happy December and have fun getting those decorations looking gorgeous!
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