Food Gifts ~ Candied Clementines

I’m always looking for new and unusual things to make for the markets, particularly the Christmas Craft Fairs.  One of them I’m doing on the 8th is going to be situated at a hand-made shop; no, I don’t mean the shop is handmade, but that they sell handmade items!  So I thought it appropriate that I have some different homemade items other than my preserves and chutneys.

I found a recipe a few weeks ago for Candied Clementine Slices.  The picture with the recipe had them set into a pretty gift box so I decided this would be a nice item to have on offer at the fair.

It’s a fairly straight forward and easy recipe; it just takes a good bit of time: 2 hours simmering, 2 hours baking plus an hour for drying prior to dipping in chocolate.

***Candied Clementine Slices***

  • 600g (1½ lbs – about 9 fruit) clementines
  • 1 kg (2 lbs) granulated sugar
  • 500ml (17fl oz) cold water
  • 5-6 Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100g (3½ oz) dark chocolate

♣ Cut the clementines into thin slices (about 4-5 per fruit) and discard the ends.

Sliced Clementines

♣ Put the granulated sugar into a large pan with the water and heat gently, stirring until dissolved.  Bring to a boil and let bubble for 5 minutes.

Sugar syrup - pre-boil

Boiling sugar syrup

♣ Add the fruit slices, lower the heat and give it a little stir.  Simmer for 2 hours, carefully stirring occasionally, until the peel is translucent and tender.

Clementines in sugar syrup

♣ While the fruit is simmering, line two baking trays with nonstick baking paper and set aside.

♣ Preheat the oven to a low setting (gas ¼, 110°C, fan 90°C, 230°F).

♣ Using a fork, transfer the slices to the lined baking trays in a single layer.  Bake for 2 hours.

In the oven!

♣ Put the caster sugar into a bowl.  Leaving the oven on, remove only one tray from the oven at a time.  Dip each slice into it and place on a wire rack to dry for 1 hour.  You’ll need to work a bit quickly for this step because the slices will start to dry on the baking sheet and the sugar won’t stick.  If that happens, put the tray back into the oven while you work on the other tray.

♣ If not needed immediately, store the slices in an airtight container.  I put them in single layers separated by greaseproof paper.

Drying...

♣ Shortly before giving, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Dip the slices into the chocolate to cover half.

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♣ Place on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper, leave to set at room temperature, then gift wrap as desired.  I put about 9 slices (100g) into a disposable mini loaf pan lined with a doily, put each one into a decorative bag and folded down, taped and then put ribbon and a Christmas sticker.

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Have fun with these on the decorating and gift wrapping.  If giving these to a foodie, perhaps wrap them and put them into a cookie canister or a pretty serving bowl to give to the recipient.  Give with a bottle of Port or Whiskey.  How about with some tea leaves and tea cups?  The possibilities are endless…just use your imagination!

These make great little gifts for perhaps your neighbors, the babysitter, the mailman, the paperboy, your child’s teacher, your hairdresser or dentist or your favorite clerk at the bank.  Going to a party this holiday season?  Bring some of these to your hostess along with a small candle or bottle of their favorite wine.  Who would you give these to?

♥♥  Terri  ♥♥

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Are you Ready for Christmas??

Christmas is a wonderful time of year for getting together with family and friends, enjoying great food, listening to favorite holiday tunes, decorating the house and exchanging gifts.  It’s also a terrible time for encountering stress along the way.

Even for the most experienced cook, hosting the family Christmas meal can seem a bit daunting.  With a bit of forward planning, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the festivities, and treat your guests to some really special food.  With only four weeks to go, hopefully you’re already on your way to planning the big meal.  Here’s some tips for your preparation…
Do a Kitchen Inventory ~

Make sure you’ve got enough cutlery and crockery for all of your guests.  Making the traditional turkey?  Make sure you’ve got a roasting tin big enough to hold it.  Stock up on turkey foil and greaseproof paper.  Don’t forget napkins, wine glasses and candles.

Confirm your Guest List ~

Get a proper count of the number of people you’ll be feeding.  Does anyone have any special dietary needs?  Any vegetarians?  Your guests will appreciate your concern and everyone will be happy.

Plan your Menu ~

Once you know who you’re cooking for, you can start to plan your menu for the day.  Start making a shopping list of everything you’ll need.  Go through all your recipes and make sure you’ve got everything, including any special pans you may need.  Put your order in to the butcher for your turkey or other meat such as a beef roast, ham or in our case, a duck!

Start your Cooking Early ~

Anything that can be made ahead of time is worth doing, be it a Christmas Pudding or Cake, mince pies or cookie dough.  These can all be made ahead and stored in the freezer until needed.

Shop now to Save Money ~

If you plan your menu early, you’ll have plenty of time to hunt down money-saving deals on everything you’ll need. Shop around now for a well-priced turkey, and make the most of bulk-buy deals on wine, beer and spirits.  And save yourself some more stress….leave the kids home with your spouse or the grandparents while you go do the shopping.

These are just a few things to get you started if you haven’t already.

These ideas pertain mainly to the food, but what other things do you do to plan ahead?

Can you add to this list? How do you stay stress-free for the holidays?  Please share your thoughts!

♥♥Terri ♥♥

Nigella’s Pie – Christmas Eve Open House

Photo compliments of BBC GoodFood Magazine Dec 2010

Pork pies are a big thing over here in the UK.  Personally I’m not crazy about them as they are traditionally eaten cold and that just doesn’t sit well with me.

I found this recipe last year in my December 2010 issue of GoodFood Magazine and it actually sounded good…especially since it should be eaten warm or even room temperature.  I’m a bit of a fan of Nigella so thought I’d give it a go to serve at our Christmas Eve open house.  Needless to say, it went over quite well so I’m making it again this year.

This comfortingly chunky pie is a slight anglicisation of an Italian pie I do, using more familiar and easily accessible ingredients.  Should you have any left over, it’s wonderful cold too, ideal for serving on Boxing Day.  It’s great for family entertaining and, by all means, if you want to, make up your own filling mixture to suit yourself. ~ Nigella

~~~NIGELLA’S PIE~~~

(PIZZA RUSTICA ALL’INGLESE)

Cuts into 8-10 good-size slices ~ Prep time: 55 minutes plus chilling and cooling ~ Cook: 1 hr 10 minutes ~ Completely make ahead ~

Can be frozen prior to baking ~ You will need a 22cm (8 1/2 inch) greased springform pan

FOR THE CONFIDENT COOK

FOR THE FILLING

  • 200g / 7oz lean pork, chopped
  • 200g / 7oz streaky bacon (normal bacon strips in the US), chopped
  • 125g / 4oz mild or stronger cheddar, grated
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz Lancashire cheese, crumbled (or any other crumbly cheese)
  • 250g / 9oz cottage cheese, well drained in a sieve then processed until smooth in food processor
  • 2 big or 4 small spring onions, chopped (scallions, green onions)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 heaped tbsp dried breadcrumbs (I used Progresso Italian)

FOR THE PASTRY

  • 250g / 9oz plain flour
  • 125g / 4oz cold unsalted butter, cut into dice-sized cubes
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp iced water
  • 1 heaped tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caster/fine sugar

FOR THE GLAZE

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • pinch of salt


Mince the pork and bacon in a food processor.  Render (melt down) the fat from the bacon and fry the minced pork and bacon for about 5 minutes, breaking it up as you do so.  Transfer to a bowl and let it cool, then add all the other filling ingredients except the bread crumbs.  Season with black pepper and set aside.

For the pastry, put the flour and butter in a dish and put this in the deep freeze for 10 minutes.  Stir together the yolks, water and salt in a cup and put this in the fridge.  When time’s up, tip the flour and butter into the bowl of the processor, add the sugar and pulse to combine.  You want a soft, crumbly mass, somewhere between sand and porridge oats.  Bind with the egg yolk mixture and when it looks like it’s on the verge of coming together (you have to stop slightly short of this actually happening), tip the pastry out on the counter and wodge it together with your hands.  Don’t worry if the pastry is a little too damp.  The miracles of this pre-freezing pastry technique is that it makes it more foolproof on every level.  It always seems to roll out well.

Divide into 2 discs, cutting off just over a quarter for the lid and 3/4 for lining the tin.  Wrap both in cling film/plastic wrap and put into the fridge to rest for about 15-20 minutes. (if cooking immediately, preheat oven to 400F/200C/180C fan oven and put in a baking sheet.)

Roll out the larger disc of pastry so it will line the bottom and go 4cm(1 1/2inches) up the sides of the buttered pan.  If it breaks when you lift it in, press the pastry into the base and sides with your fingers.


Sprinkle the bottom of the now pastry-lined tin with the breadcrumbs and then fill with the filling.

Roll out the smaller disc and trim or cut into a circle large enough to make the lid.  Place it carefully on top of the filled pie.  It should sit very slightly below the pastry lining the tin so you can then turn over the edges to form a border and press down with the tines of a fork.

If you are going to freeze this and bake when needed, now is the time to place a double layer of cling film directly on the pastry top and then cover the tin with foil and place in the freezer.

Just before baking, glaze the pie by brushing over the the milky, salty egg yolk, stab it here and there with the prongs of a fork for steam holes and place it on the baking sheet in the preheated oven.  If the pie was previously frozen, thaw in fridge for 24 hours before baking.

 

 

 

 

Give it 10 minutes at this temperature, then turn it down to 350F/180C/160C fan oven and bake for a further 45-55 minutes.

Leave the pie to cool for at least 10 minutes prior to serving, but it’s at its best after about 25 minutes and is still wonderful at room temperature.

I do not have my own photo of it cooked as I’ve frozen it to use on Christmas Eve, hence the picture at top from the magazine.

Christmas Martini

Photo complements of Mr-booze.com

I usually enjoy a martini on Friday night…and Saturday night…and…oh, sorry.  Anyways….I have a hardcover book of martini recipes with over 200 to choose from.

Here are just two of them to enjoy over the Christmas holiday.

~~~CHRISTMAS MARTINI~~~

6 measures gin

1 measure dry vermouth

1 tsp peppermint schnapps

2 miniature candy cane, 1 of them finely crushed

Wet the rim of a martini glass with vodka or schnapps and dip into the crushed candy cane.  Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp. of crushed candy into bottom of glass.

Combine liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well.  Strain into martini glass and garnish with the other candy cane.

~~~CHRISTMAS TINI~~~

Same as above except use vodka in place of the gin.

And remember…feel free to enjoy your favorite tipple over the holidays, but please don’t drink and drive.

Toffee Squares

Here’s another installment for your Christmas Baking from Betty Crocker…

~~~TOFFEE SQUARES~~~

1 C butter

1 C brown sugar, packed

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla

2 C plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

4 oz/100g milk chocolate bars, squares separated

1/2 C chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350f/180c.  Grease an 11″ X 14″ baking sheet and set aside.

Mix butter, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.  Stir in flour and salt until well blended.

Spread in a rectangle about 10″ X 13″ on baking sheet, leaving an inch all around edge of baking sneet.

Bake  20-25 minutes or until nicely browned.  Crust will still be soft.  Remove from oven.

Immediately place separated squares of chocolate on top.  Let stand until soft; spread evenly over entire surface.

Sprinkle with nuts.  Cut in small squares while warm.

Makes 6-7 dozen squares.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Another holiday favorite from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book.  These will need overnight chilling.

~~~CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES~~~

1/2 C vegetable oil

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

2 C sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

2 C plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 C powdered/icing sugar

Mix oil, chocolate and sugar.  Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.  Add vanilla.

Stir in flour, baking powder and salt into chocolate mixture.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350f/180c.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into powdered sugar and roll around; shape into balls.

Place about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes.  DO NOT OVERBAKE!

Remove to rack to cool.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies

Russian Tea Cakes

Photo complements of foodnetwork.com

These are probably my next favorite cookies after chocolate chips.  They’re ever so slightly crumbly, yet soft and buttery.  Another of my standard Christmas Cookie fare.  The ingredients are pretty simple:  butter, sugar, flour, salt and vanilla and nuts, and as they have no eggs, they’re good for anyone who has an allergy to eggs.

The first time I ever made these, I thought I would save time and put a few balls at a time into a container and roll them around in the powdered sugar….BIG mistake.  I ended up with a container of crumbs, so please don’t be an idiot like me.  Roll each one on its own.

You can put quite a few on the baking sheet as they do not spread while baking and only take about 10-12 minutes in the oven.  You will also need to chill the dough about 30 minutes prior to rolling therm into balls.

These are also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes and is another recipe from my Betty Crocker Cooky Book.

~~~RUSSIAN TEA CAKES~~~

1 C butter, softened

1/2 C powdered/icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 C / 270g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 C nuts, finely chopped (I use walnuts)

Powdered sugar, for rolling

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly.  In another bowl, stir flour and salt together and blend into butter mixture.  Mix in nuts.

Chill dough about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 400f/200c.

Roll dough in 1 inch balls (about walnut size).  Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until set but not brown.

While still warm, gently roll in powdered sugar.  When completely cool, roll in sugar again.

Store in airtight container.

Note: Do NOT use self-rising flour in this recipe.