Food & Seasonal, Out & About

Festivities

Yesterday, I visited my second-home city of Edinburgh AKA ‘The Capital’ to divulge deep into the seasonal festivities of Christmas markets and shopping, topped off with a glass of mulled wine (or two).

So pretty.

My favourite hotspot and a must-see: The Dome

Happy Festivities!

Dx

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Food & Seasonal

5 steps to get you into the Christmas spirit

So it is officially the 1st of December and the first door of my advent calendar has been opened! But if today, and unlike me you are not feeling Christmasy enough, then why not try out these 5 easy steps to get yourself into that Christmas spirit…

1. Dance & Decorate

It’s time to dig out all of your Christmas decorations (if you haven’t already done so) and prepare to add a bit of sparkle to your home. It is a tradition of mine to put my decorations up whilst listening to some good old Christmas anthems. My favourite albums are ‘Michael Buble Christmas’ or ‘Now that’s what I call Christmas’ for all the oldies but goodies.

2. Roast some chestnuts

You may have noticed by now that the supermarkets are stocking up on bags of these little gems.  Or why not go one step further and go chestnut hunting yourself? Remember not to pick the chestnuts from the tree as they are only ripe after they have fallen (and be careful of their prickly outer shell).

It is always fun to roast your chestnuts over an open fire. Always prick or slice the chestnut first to prevent it from exploding with the heat – this happened to me once when I had cooked them in the oven and forgot to prick them, let’s just say it left my kitchen in quite a mess!

For those of you who would prefer to pop them in the oven, do so at around 200C for approx. 15-20 mins. Let them cool before digging in as it can be quite tricky peeling off the outer shiny brown shell. Eat on their own or with your selected dip – I love mine with Nutella!

chestnuts

3. Make a pot of home-made mulled wine

Wash down those roasted chestnuts with a glass of cosy mulled wine. I always think home-made tastes better! Follow this simple recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 grated nutmeg
  • 2 sliced oranges
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 100g of brown sugar

Method:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer gently for 6-8 minutes, without boiling.
  2. To serve, pour the mulled wine into heat-proof glasses. Simples!

mulledwine

4. The smell of Christmas

By now your home should be smelling of cinnamon and nuts – not christmasy enough? Then why not try throwing orange peel on the fire, or lemon peel in your oven once it’s turned off to get the fragrance flowing? Another idea would be to add a sprinkle of herbs and spices to your tea lights holders or invest in some Christmas fragrance oil. My favourite is ‘Winter fragrance’ from The White Company – a spicy warm scent that blends notes of sweet cinnamon and clove with a dash of fresh orange.

5. Get creative

Now that the mood has been set, it may make you feel a bit less apprehensive about wrapping that lump of presents you have hidden under the bed. Again, I think wrapping is always easier with a bit of Christmas music on in the background and a glass of mulled wine at hand. Your wrapped Christmas presents should act as part of your decorative feature and therefore time and effort should be put into making the presents look less like a wrapped up fish supper and more like a beautiful hidden treasure too pretty to open!

Rather than trying to wrap awkward-shaped gifts, collect some empty shoe boxes to give your presents a box-like appearance; making your life much easier in the wrapping department! Invest in some pretty ribbon and trimmings for you gifts and a home-made Christmas tag to top it all off.

tag

Now relax and enjoy… it’s only 24 days until Christmas!

Dx

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Food & Seasonal

Texas-style omelette

Fancy something quick, easy and healthy too? You can never go wrong with an omelette; where ingredients is vast and flavours are experimental. This particular recipe is with thanks to my partner Stefan. He likes to experiment when cooking and decided to spice up our omelettes by adding some Texas BBQ seasoning. I can truly say – but hesitant to admit – that it was the most tasty omelette I have tried in a while (but shh we won’t tell him that!)

Here is how it is done…

Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 5 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pepper
  • 4 slices of pastrami
  • A handful of grated cheese
  • 1 tbps of Texas BBQ seasoning (you can experiment with spices here)
  • A sprinkle of salt & pepper

Method:

1. Whisk 6 large eggs in a container and add the Texas BBQ seasoning and salt & pepper.

2. Chop finely the onions, peppers and slice the pastrami into small pieces. Add the ingredients to the egg mixture and mix together.

3. Melt the butter in a pan (on medium heat) and slowly add half of the mixture to make the first omelette. As it begins to thicken, add a sprinkle of cheese and fold the omelette in half, cooking for a further 1-2 minutes (flip over for even cooking).

4. Repeat step 3 for the second omelette.

5. Get stuck in! Simples.

omelette

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Food & Seasonal

Get into the Christmas spirit

Christmas shopping; to start or not to start? That is the question!

At the weekend I came to the conclusion that I would perhaps only start to look for Christmas ideas, not necessarily buy anything. Although I only live a 15 minute walk-away from Aberdeen’s city centre shops, I decided to take my car because of the freezing north-east climate and park at the large multi-story. As I drove toward the entrance, bright green letters hit me. FULLOh bugger! Are people starting the panic present buying already? It was only Halloween just over a week ago!

As the cheerful gentleman at the entrance told me I was more than welcome to enter and search around for a parking space, I thought I may as well since I’m here now. And to my luck (and after a little road rage) I secure a space. Phew, panic over. Now to get stuck into some retail therapy!

The word ‘therapy’ should perhaps be used with caution here. As I enter the shopping centre it is madness; woman scampering around like headless turkeys, men with that look of dread spread across their face, and children on the hunt for Santa’s Grotto. Yet, because I really am a sucker for Christmas, I grin and bear it and get to work with my fellow Crimbo shoppers.

I have to say, some of the shops have went to a great effort with their window displays. As I observe the winter woollies on mannequins, the foam snowmen and the sparkle of the decorations, that warm fuzzy feeling settles in the pit of my stomach. This lands me in the right mood for my Christmas tree mission.

Now that I have my own home, it’s not only about the present shopping for me but the decorations too. After only 1 hour, I have successfully selected a tree and a handful of decorations.

Here is one of my favourites:

Woven Reindeer - TK Maxx £15.99

Woven Reindeer – TK Maxx £15.99

My wish list for Christmas decorations has suddenly got a lot longer. And to help get you into the Christmas spirit, here are some bargains that I have picked out:

vintagechristmasjarMS£25

Vintage Christmas Jar – M&S £25

robinNXT£15

Christmas Robin – Next £15

Reindeer Lantern - Dunelm £2.99 Why not add some sparkle with fairy lights inside

Reindeer lantern – Dunelm £2.99
Why not add some sparkle with fairy lights inside

heartJL£18

Woven Heart – John Lewis £18

birdhouseMS£4

Birdhouse Tree Decoration – M&S £4

setof10£6

Make your house smell of Christmas with Cinnamon Sticks – John Lewis set of 10 £6

jumperTK£16.99

And who can forget that cosy Christmas Jumper – TK Maxx £16.99

So as I arrive back home having left the panic-stricken shoppers behind and with a much longer wish list, I wonder…

Is it too early to put up my tree??

Dx

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Food & Seasonal

Pumpkin soup

It’s that time of year again to get your pumpkins out and start the carving competition. Rather than waste what is left over, why not use your excess pumpkin to make some tasty soup perfect for the cold weather approaching.

First of all start with 2 large pumpkins, similar in size to these ones…

p1

Use a sharp knife to cut out the tops (be careful!)

p2

As you can see there is a lot of excess pumpkin seeds and what I call pumpkin goo inside. The messy part of this job is to scrape all of this out  so that you are left with only the shell.

Once this is complete, the fun can begin! Use a black marker to draw your face or design, then carefully use a smaller sharp knife to start carving out your shapes. If you are a talented pumpkin carver (like me of course) then you can skip the black marker part and get started straight away!

The chunks you cut out can now be used as ingredients for your pumpkin soup, just be sure to cut or peel off the skin. These two large pumpkins should provide you with approx 500g of pumpkin for your soup. 

In addition you will need:

  • 2 tbps of olive oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 onions
  • 100ml of double cream
  • 500ml of vegetable stock 
  • Salt & pepper

Start cooking…

  • Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the finely chopped onions. Cook for 5 mins.
  • Add 500g of chopped pumpkin and 2 chopped carrots to the pan. Carry on cooking for 8-10 mins, stirring occasionally until it starts to soften. 
  • Pour 500ml vegetable stock into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins until the squash is very soft.
  • Pour 100ml of double cream into the pan, bring back to the boil, then purée with a hand blender. 

And whoalaa! Hopefully you should end up with something similar to this…  

Enjoy!

Dx

 

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Food & Seasonal

Spicy onions takeaway style!

I am sure most of us have found ourselves in a situation where you have went to dig into your home made tikka masala and only wished you had some delicious spicy onions as your side – similar to the freebie pot you find in a standard Indian takeaway?

Well worry no longer as here I will provide you with my very own and very simple recipe to help spice up your dish.

Mmm is your mouth watering yet…

onions

Ready in 10 minutes : Serves 4

All you need:

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspon hot paprika powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mint sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mango chutney

1. Chop the onions finely

2. Add the hot paprika powder and salt – mix well

3. Add the tomato ketchup – mix well

4. And mint sauce – mix well

5. Finally add the mango chutney and mix

6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let all the flavours develop and hey presto!

Serve as a side dip alongside your favourite curry dish or as a starter with poppadoms and some mango chutney. Very delicious!

Dx

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