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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Stir Up Sunday

Mixey, mixey, mixey!

Miss. B 'feeding' the Christmas cakes

Yesterday was 'Stir up Sunday' in case you hadn't noticed - or as Miss. B renamed it "mixey, mixey, mixey", which was just what we seemed to do most of the day
(but had some good fun along the way).
I am still a bit of a novice with the traditions of this day, but I have enjoyed it more each year, so the date is circled on  my calendar as an annual ritual now.

I was determined to get my Christmas puddings and sweet mincemeat made, and anything else was going to be a bonus.
I achieved the 'must do's', which I was happy with.

The house smelt wonderful and it did make us feel the Christmas spirit (not the rum and brandy variety I hasten to add) despite the dreadful weather.

Christmas Pudding

I have made this recipe for the last few years and so far, it has always delivered.
I have adapted this recipe from the lovely Ruth's recipe at
 The Pink Whisk.
Do give her blog a look, it's a host of wonderful recipes and advice.

(I have tweaked the dried fruits and omitted a few things that are not to my taste.)
That's the beauty of these sort of recipes - you can put in all the things you like and take out the things you don't like, as long as your weights match up.

You will need :

50g currants
50g dried apricots, chopped
30g dates, de-stoned and chopped
140g sultanas
130g raisins
50g ground almonds
2 tsp mixed cake spice
50g plain flour
pinch of salt
110g fresh breadcrumbs (food processor is great for this)
110g soft light brown sugar
110g suet
Zest of one lemon
2 tbsp black treacle
2 large eggs
2 tbsp rum (or brandy if you prefer)

This will make 1 litre pudding in a basin, or smaller if you wish but you will need more basins, obviously.

1. Grease the bowl(s) and pop a small disc of greaseproof paper into the bottom of the bowl to prevent it from sticking.

2. Place the dried fruit, ground almonds, plain flour, cake spice and salt into a large bowl and give it a good mix to coat the fruit with the flour mix.

3. Add the breadcrumbs, suet, brown sugar and lemon zest and give it another good stir.

4. Make a small well in the centre of the bowl and crack in the eggs, dollop in the treacle (great word, dollop) and the alcohol of your choice.
Stir it up really well until everything feels fully combined.
The mix should feel quite soft but if it appears a little on the dry side, just add a splash of milk until it loosens.

5. Put the mixture into the prepared bowl and press down with the back of the spoon the level the top.

6. You will need to cover the top of the bowl with greaseproof paper and foil whilst cooking.
Take a large piece of greaseproof paper, larger than the bowl, and fold a pleat across the centre to allow for expansion during cooking.
Lay it over the top of the pudding and next place two squares of foil on top, and secure firmly with some string.

Ta-dah - bongo drums fit for a king!

7. Now to cook them. For this I used a either a steamer or a slow cooker.
In a steamer, the 1 litre pudding will take 8 hours, and in the slow cooker 10hrs, which I know seems like a long time, but believe me, it will be worth it.
A word of warning, should you choose to steam the pudding, your windows and walls will be a bit damp after all that cooking.
The slow cooker was a much less soggy affair.
Smaller puddings will take less time but if you check Ruth's recipe she gives some really accurate details on this.

8. Once cooked, remove the paper and foil and allow to cool in the basin.
Run a knife around the edge of the pudding to loosen it and wrap in a fresh piece of greaseproof paper and foil.

Tuck it away in a nice cool, dry place - I use the cupboard under the stairs, and allow to mature before Santa comes.

When you are ready to eat your pudding, simply steam it for a further one hour and eat with lashings of whatever topping you like - rum sauce is always my favourite.

I also made the sweet mincemeat but I shall give you the recipe for this a little later.
In the mean time here's a sneaky peek at the finished product - it tasted delicious.
Hopefully it will last long enough to put into the pies.

Enjoy your day.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Some 'Bunny' to Love


Little Cotton Egg Cosy


I just had to share this little chap with you - I have affectionately named him Noel, as he to be a Christmas gift for a dear friend's grandson.

He is made from a pattern by the lovely Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits. She makes the most wonderful bunnys, and some of her work and patterns can be purchased through Etsy here.

I made him using 4ply cotton and chose a festive green to use in his sweater.
I think I shall have to try and make a few more of these little fellows before Christmas comes.

This particular project is perhaps not best suited to the 'novice knitter' but I'm sure if you decide to have a go you will love the end result.
Julie's pattern is very simple to follow with lots of step-by-step pictures to keep you right.

The tricky bit for me was getting the stuffing right to achieve the correct shape of the head, and also attaching the arms so he didn't look like he was about to take off in flight.

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting him and there is such a wide choice of yarns you could use, the limitations are endless.
 Rowan did produce a lovely, soft 4ply cotton but sadly, this has now been discontinued, therefore old stock is very hard to come by - if you find some snap it up as fast as you can.

Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Birthday Cake Fit For A Princess

Happy Halloween Birthday

I finally seem to have been able to grab a few minutes to sit and update my blog. These last few weeks have been VERY hectic (nothing new there then) what with birthdays, half term holidays, and the usual coughs and colds for this time of year.

Miss B celebrated her fifth birthday on Halloween, and the entire half term holiday seemed to end up being a week long celebration - such fun.

There was a pool party for school friends, which was amazing. This was a rather frantic time for me as it was the first childs birthday party I have ever organised. Nobody warned me about these extra things I would have to encounter when I enrolled on the 'parenting course' but it was worth all the stress.
The cake was a princess in all her glory. It took rather a lot of sandwich cakes - 5 in all - filled with butter cream icing and then fondant to cover the exterior. There are some very good tutorials on YouTube and I have linked the one I tried to emmulate here.
Miss B was thrilled with the end result.
It was a shame to cut into it.

 There was also a fairy themed photo shoot (a little something more for me rather than Miss B) which she enjoyed immensely. Shopping for a new bike for her birthday present - Hello Kitty was the only one for her!

Next on the agenda was lunch with grandparents on Halloween itself at our local Italian restaurant.

This has been a favourite of Mr. B and mine for many years, long before little people came along, and has now become Miss. B's first choice whenever we ask her where she would like to go.
Garlic bread being the main attraction!

We also managed to squeeze in a day trip to Helmsley - cream tea being the main highlight of the day as usual.
We enjoyed an open air version of this treat with a lovely chiminea to keep us toastie and warm.

The smell of wood smoke evoked some long forgotten child hood memories. It reminded me of cold winter days at home, my dad stoking the fire and throwing a log onto it, and then watching the burning embers glow orange as it slowly fell to pieces.
The joy of having open fires. It's strange, because at the time an open fire didn't seem anything like as special as it does now. It was just an everyday part of family life as we grew up. It's true that you never appreciate things until they are gone.
Although I'm sure my parents may not have felt quite the same when it came to cleaning the grate, emptying the ash tray and laying the fire every morning!

I am am now fully into the baking swing for Christmas, with the house smelling of some wonderful spiced aromas.
The temptation to tuck into one of the cakes is almost too much to resist, but resist I must.
I will give you a sneaky peak at the goodies soon but until then, enjoy your day!