Speculaas – Merry Christmas!

I’ve been suffering from the dreaded lurgy for the last week, so sadly haven’t been able to post any of the Christmas recipes I’d planned to over the last few days. I did manage to drag myself off my sick sofa for an hour or so today (and away from repeats of Nigellissima and Jamie’s Christmas…mmmm…) to make another batch of Speculaas however. Speculaas, or Speculoos, depending on where you’re from, is a traditional continental European Christmas biscuit. When I was younger my aunt and uncle lived in Holland and always brought all sorts of exotic festive goodies over for Christmas. Remember this was in the days before Aldi, Lidl and German Christmas markets up and down the UK so the sight of things like lebkuchen, gingerbread houses and speculaas was so foreign and exciting and just meant one thing – Christmas is here!

I found this recipe on BBC Food a few years ago and have made at least one batch every year since. They are really easy, keep brilliantly in the biscuit tin for ages (as if that’s really going to be a problem!) and most of all, they just smell and taste like Christmas!

It depends on what size of cutter you’re using, but this makes around 20. I have a snowflake and Christmas tree cutter from Munich Christmas market, suitably festive I think!

You’ll need;

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g muscovado sugar
  • 70g butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped candied peel
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • flaked almonds

Mix together all the ingredients apart from the almonds and mixed peel. Once the mixture is beginning to come together, add in the peel, and continue to combine until it has formed a dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out until around 1/2 cm thick. Mmmm inhale that Christmas smell! Cut out and place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Decorate with the flaked almonds and bake at 180 degrees for around 10-12 minutes. The biscuits will still look quite soft and doughy at this point but don’t worry, they will harden up as they cool! Dust with a little icing sugar and that’s it, easy peasy! Perfect with a Baileys coffee! ūüėČ

 

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Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you all have a fantastically festive time ūüôā

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Happiness on a Friday… Part 2

To continue the Happiness on a Friday series, with a continued pasta and wine theme…

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Fusilli with a courgette, white wine and parmesan sauce, with a crisp glass of white courtesy of Fortnum & Mason, thanks to a supplier Christmas gift for the OH today! Oh, go on then!


Christmas is coming…

The  nights are drawing in, twinkly lights and trees are cropping up in front room windows across the country and gluwein is being consumed in ever increasing quantities (at least in this house) yes, the festive season is upon us and somehow Christmas is just around the corner!

A few evenings ago we ‘festive-ised’ some of our lovely little Victorian fireplaces to get in the Christmas spirit. Cue lots of twinkly fairy lights and candles! And some ‘helpful’ cats!

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All that decorating was of course hungry work, fueled by those classic Christmas snacks – gluwein, twiglets and dark chocolate covered lebkuchen!

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With the house looking festive and sparkly, it would have been rude not to invite some friends round for an evening of Christmas-themed food and drink! Mulled wine, mulled cider and winter pimms were accompanied by lots of goodies! One of my friends brought this awesome cranberry and walnut ‘festive bark’ – extra chocolately! Check the festive gold stars!

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I made some mince pies and speculaas – a Christmas spiced German biscuit. Yum! ¬†Unfortunately I was a bit rubbish with the camera (a bit busy with all that important alcohol mulling! ūüėČ ) so have no pictures of the mince pies, but here is one from last Christmas! (it’s been my trusty recipe for many a year now!)

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The speculaas fared slightly better, I do have a picture, but not quite of the end product! Here are some on the cooling rack, yet to receive their magic icing sugar dusting!

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I will post the recipes for these another day, right now I’m still recovering from last night’s over-indulgence in all these goodies and an early night is calling with a work Christmas party tomorrow! Hope you’re all having a good festive season too!


Tomatoey prawn curry with carrot and cumin seed salad

A fairly short and sweet post tonight as I’m feeling somewhat fragile not to mention sleepy after a little Christmas soiree we had at ours last night. (Impressive amount of gluwein, mulled cider and winter pimms empties this morning, not to mention icing sugar and mince pie crumbs EVERYWHERE). I may just follow up with a little festive post after this one in fact.

I’m a big fan of seafood in a curry, this is a really straightforward quick and tasty prawn curry.

To make this for two you will need;

  • 200g raw king prawns
  • White onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chili (seeds left in)
  • Chunk of ginger
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard ¬†seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground¬†coriander
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp malt vinegar
  • Tin of chopped¬†tomatoes
  • Chopped fresh¬†coriander

For the salad

  • Peeled and grated carrots
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Good shake of cumin seeds
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the onion. Once softened add the grated ginger and crushed garlic. Cook for a few minutes then stir in the sugar and spices for 1 minute. Splash in the vinegar and tomatoes, season with a little salt then leave to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in the prawns , reduce heat and simmer for 7 or 8 minutes until the prawns are cooked. Sprinkle with fresh coriander to serve. Meanwhile make the salad by mixing the grated carrots with some olive oil and lemon juice, add the salt and pepper and sugar and a decent shake of cumin seeds. (In my usual style I have no actual measurements for the salad!) and Enjoy!

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Jamie’s garlic rosemary chicken with green bean and pesto linguine. Sort of.

While I was in the doctor’s waiting room a few weeks ago I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals. I missed the start and I missed the end, after being called in for my appointment (how inconsiderate! Trying to watch something here!) but I really liked what I did see and thought the recipe in question was an excellent idea for a quick but interesting and tasty mid-week meal (blimey, I’m doing Jamie’s marketing for him now). When I got home I hit t’interweb in a bid to find the actual recipe, but no luck! I guess if it’s in his new book he’s probably not going to post it online for people like me to nab for free…

So, I took the basic idea from what I saw on the programme and had to freestyle (clearly spent too long watching Jamie) a little with what I could remember and sort of make up the ingredients as I went along.

This is what I used

  • Enough fresh linguine for two (I think tagliatelle would have been better, but linguine was all I could get my hands on at the time)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • handful of garlic cloves
  • a little rosemary (preferably fresh)
  • handful of juicy cherry tomatoes (I always think buying on the vine means you get much sweeter and tastier tomatoes)
  • Pot of basil
  • grated parmesan
  • blanched flaked almonds
  • olive oil
  • green beans
  • salt & pepper

I bashed the chicken breasts out to flatten them a bit to help them cook evenly then rubbed them in olive oil, a little crushed garlic and plenty of rosemary. I cooked them in a hot pan with olive oil with a few extra whole cloves of garlic in the pan (peel left on) which were lovely and sweet to eat at the end. I added the halved cherry tomatoes around halfway through.

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Meanwhile, I put the green beans on to cook and made the almond pesto by chucking in liberal amounts of fresh basil, grated parmesan and almonds (that had been blanched in hot water) to the blender. I didn’t¬†measure¬†out exact amounts but used around two parts basil to one part parmesan and one part almonds. I whizzed up, added a glug of olive oil then a ladelful of water from the pasta which has also meanwhile been cooking away (a good tip from Jamie to stop the pesto from being too naughty by just using loads of olive oil!) I added salt and pepper then blended some more. Yum.

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I drained the pasta and green beans and stirred through the pesto, adding the chicken breast, tomatoes and garlic cloves on top. Then just added a few leaves of fresh basil on top to finish. Slurp!

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The calm of the Loch

So it’s been a few weeks since I last posted, I’ve unfortunately been somewhat in the proverbial black hole for the last wee while. While I won’t go into the details here, suffice to say it’s not been the most pleasant or enjoyable last few weeks nor the most calm or stress-free!

I did manage to disappear home to my village in Scotland for a quick weekend respite from it all at one point however and thought I’d share a couple of pictures that I took of the serene, calm loch at the foot of our village while I was there. The snow dusted hill in the background is the hill that our village perches at the bottom of. I saved these as a wallpaper on my phone and everytime I felt stressed or frustrated recently, I’d take a quick look and the picture would instantly transport me back to a place where I always feel calm and happy.

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I’ve still to catch up on all my favourite blogs, so I think I’ll take some time now to sit here in my battered wooden rocking chair in the window with my hot steaming mug of tea to catch up on what you’ve all been up to. ūüôā