A Stuffed Bird

FINISHED MOUSE

MAÎTRE D: And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.

MR. CREOSOTE: Nah.

MAÎTRE D: Oh, sir, it’s only a tiny, little, thin one.

-Monty Python

Dearest ample followers, I pray this belated Christmas blog finds you comfortably full and content this December. As per usual this past week couldn’t have shot by any quicker if it had tried! The festive lead up to the 25th has come and gone and has left a fair few turkey carcases along the way. However, fear not! There is much more to be done and to be enjoyed. Firstly, I have a few recipes from 19th December when I had my beloved drinking gang over (and a few extras!) which could come in handy for a New Year’s party or even a little soirée for the sake of seeing friends and family. Secondly, I plan on trialling a few cocktail recipes this week so we can all tick into the 2014 with ease. I do warn those readers who wish to go on a ‘super healthy’ detox that the following text does not support these wishes in neither mind, nor body so I suggest you stop here, have a lemon and hot water and lower the laptop screen….

detox

Detox juice? I’d rather not.

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Carol Vorderman’s detox for life? Never.

As a waitress at present, we are instructed to give party guests a drink almost instantly upon their arrival. It makes them feel welcome, gives them something to ponder over and acts as a social lubricant if their well, a little dry in the conversation department! No matter if you’re on a budget or not, a decent cocktail can be fabricated out of almost anything! For my dinner party I used elderflower cordial and cava. Using the elderflower as I would any syrup, I poured a small amount in the bottom of a champagne glass and topped with a good dose of cava. For presentation’s sake, I threw in a raspberry which sits on the surface just so. This drink is quick, easy and looks quite delicate. I recommend that to save you time, you nominate a party guest to be in charge of dishing out further liquid when your back is turned and your eyes firmly on the stove.

DRINKS

As much as we all enjoy a canapé, I decided against them this time round. I find I often run around like a headless chicken beforehand (more like a stuffed bird now), and I was concerned about the juiciness of my ham. I sound utterly pathetic don’t I?! Fancy crisps, nuts and fresh French bread with oils and balsamic work just as well instead of smoked salmon on blinis etc so you can spend more time on your main. For our main course I cooked Nigella’s infamous Coca cola (not COKE!) Christmas Ham, dauphinoise potatoes and green beans with almonds. I have heard for years that this ham is an absolute MUST and quite frankly, I agree. The ham simply sits in a vat of coca cola for three ½ hours with a sliced onion and is then glazed with black treacle, mustard powder, mascavado sugar and pierced with cloves et voilà! It was moist, rich in colour and most importantly rich in flavour. Potato wise, I believe that the Nigel Slater recipe below is the best ever. The garlic is merely rubbed against the baking tray to give a hue of flavour and it is just perfect. Before I forget, I had never heard of the cooking term ‘scalding’ before. All it means (in this case), is heat the cream to almost boiling point before pouring over the sliced potatoes. Lastly, the beans! I actually forgot my almonds when I did the meal however, it’s very simple to do. Boil the green beans to al dente and drizzle with a little oil, and season. Toss in a few broken up almonds, a rolling pin and a plastic food bag work well here and serve altogether on a HOT PLATE. Hot plates keep the food warmer for longer. No sauce is needed with this dish as the ham is just perfect.

HAM CUT

POT

Finally, the dessert aka Emily’s favourite part of the meal. Everyone always has more time to appreciate the look of a sweet I find. It always feels like a mini firework display with all the ooooohhhs and ahhhhhhs that can be heard. For the dinner party, I made two desserts; chocolate mousse and mini almond cakes. The mousse was a classic Raymond Blanc recipe and does not use any cream what so ever, just lots of egg whites! This recipe is almost fool proof and delicious. The little cakes I have written about the recipe on my blog before. It was the Nigella Almond cake, divided into small cases and covered with homemade chocolate frosting and adorable little hearts. Again, this is a must do for little treats.

MOUSE

MOUSE WARS

DESSERT

Having relived that dinner party I feel quite full again. I better stop here and stretch my legs! I will be back just after NYE with cocktails a plenty, I promise. Thank you to the wonderful Grace for all her lovely photos and oh, Father Christmas for my excellent new stamp!

stamp

Love to all,

E. Wells

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An amusement of the mouth

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“Hey, Joe, what happened?”

“Oh, that Jim Williams went and shot somebody. Canapé?”

– Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Seasons’ greetings ample darlings! I hope this blog finds you all festive and well. As promised, this latest edition to the ample servings blog collection, samples a few canapé favourites in order to make sure you pick the right little nibbles for your Christmas party this year. Believe me when I say it was an absolute pleasure to act as a culinary Sherlock Holmes and sift through various recipes, the good, the bad and some just plain silly! The three recipes that I have chosen for today will hopefully be to your liking however, fret not if you detest the idea of fruit and cheese (food sacrilege!) because I have a few more coming your way next week. I have noticed that many canapés involve cheese so, vegans may want to look away!

strawberry

The Good.

bad taste

The bad. Found at a wake.

bad

The Silly. Who would want to eat these? Looks like a Bush Tucker Trial!

I can’t quite remember where I heard this but a canapé is supposed to be devoured in one bite. The idea is that a guest should be able to hold good conversation and a glass of something bubbly (could be seen as the same thing) and yet, still be able to pop a tasty morsel into ones mouth. As previously mentioned, a cocktail sausage is simply delightful. Nigella does an excellent sausage on a stick (why does her name always follow with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink comment!?) of which you can find in her Christmas cookbook. An excellent read if I do say so myself!

me with stick

One bite. Otherwise you look like this.

nigellaaa

Goose fat potatoes all the way!

Cocktail sausages aside, the following recipes are just as delicious and warming. Do note that all these canapés must be served hot from the oven! Figs are a fantastic fruit and made just that little bit better with a goats cheese filling, a parma ham jacket and a sprinkling of pine nuts and honey. Stuffed dates with manchago cheese, wrapped in bacon and brushed with a little maple syrup are perfect to eat in number and on a stick. Finally, a maple glazed camembert stuffed with a little rosemary and garlic served with homemade soda bread for dipping. This is ‘what I like to call’ cheese heaven. Unfasten your belts friends; it’s easier this way….

fig main

Stuffed Figs:

Two figs

Two pieces of parma ham

Tbsp. of pine nuts

Two tbsp. of honey

Two tsp. of goats’ cheese

This recipe is the easiest thing in the world to make. Cut off the stalk of the fig and cut a cross shape on the top, no more than half way down the fruit. Using your finger, push the bottom of the fig together so that the cuts you made sort of ‘open’. Place a tsp of cheese into each fig maybe a little more if you just LOVE goats’ cheese. Drizzle in a tbsp of honey and wrap around a piece of ham. Use a cocktail stick to keep the ham in place, place the figs on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Toast the pine nuts in a pan and sprinkle on top of the figs. Place in the oven for 10 minutes and 180ºC and serve immediately.

wrap fig

done fig

wrap date

A Christmas Date:

Ten stoned dates (a Christmas joke hoho)

Maple syrup

Small block of manchego cheese

Five rashers of bacon or serrano ham

Once again this is terribly simple. Cut a portion of cheese that is able to fit into the date with ease and wrap up with half a slice of bacon. Season with salt and pepper, brush with a little maple syrup and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes at 180ºC. Serve with cocktail stick and a cheeky smile.

cooked figs and dates

cam cheese

Glazed Camembert

One camembert

Maple syrup

A few sprigs of rosemary

One garlic clove

Homemade bread (see recipe link below)

Take the wrapper off the cheese but keep it in its wooden container and make very small incisions all over the surface. They should be no more than half way down. Into your incisions stuff tiny pieces of chopped garlic and bit of rosemary. Brush with a generous helping of maple syrup and pop in the oven at 180ºC for ten minutes of so. You want the surface to darken and the cheese to be wobbly and melting. Serve on a pretty board or plate with warm pieces of fresh bread.

cooked am

It’s quite nice with chorizo too.

I am slightly concerned that all I have offered you this week is savoury so, before I scamper off in search of further recipes I want to leave you with my gingerbread house recipe. The decoration side to this activity is well worth doing with little ones however, the construction side can be incredibly frustrating at times therefore, it should be left to the bigger ones. I once made a gingerbread house with my brother Henry when he was very small and when I wasn’t looking he ate part of the roof. Needless to say, the construction was a little trying! In the words of my stepfather, my finished version looked like a nuclear reaction had taken place. Unfortunately, I had to agree but hey, you can always say the kids did it. Laugh away at my decoration but respect my gingerbread.

golden syrup
gingerbread house

rolling pin

me and rolling

cut

great shot

makin my house

construction

gingebread done

cute

Far to go on the decoration front but I’m proud nonetheless!

Thank you Grace for all the wonderful pictures and thank you to all my lovely followers for reading my blog.

E. Wells X

The Indulgence List

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“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it.
“Good thinking,” said Luna seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”

-J.K Rowling (5th Potter Book)

Hello all ye followers, joyful and terribly full of food- or soon to be! The lead up to the most gluttonous time of the year has begun and I promise to not let you down on the naughty front. Over the past few years, I’ve always felt like I’ve wished the days away until 25th, so in an attempt to pace myself and actually enjoy the big build up, I’m planning to make a selection of delicious Christmas inspired treats along the way. Expect maple glazed gammon, lots of juicy birds (nudge, nudge) and a variety of amuse bouche to entertain your winter palate. I should inform you now that, my December blogs are not for the food, faint-hearted. Fore, ample servings brings you a Christmas that spares no expense. There WILL be goose fat, there WILL be port and by God, there will be butter! Now, I suggest you pull on your trainers and go for a quick jog before you continue reading.

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On 19th December I am due to have the infamous ‘Drinking Gang’ chez-moi for an evening of merriment. It’s been in the diary for some time now and I want to do my menu justice. I’ve already been caught leafing through Nigella’s Christmas cookbook (she is definitely on the naughty list this year!) and searching the web high and low for the best canapés recipes. Feel free to judge me all you like, but nothing gets me more excited than a cold glass of Prosecco and a honeyed cocktail sausage on a stick. Do stay tuned into my blog for a list of tried and tested delights to make you’re cocktail party or day of festivities a guaranteed success!

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This weekend I was yet, again playing with some salted caramel, the most popular food fad to date. I’ve found that it not only makes lovely truffle centres but it also turns regular brownies into something a little more special. This recipe is terribly rich and therefore, suits the Christmas theme down to the ground. These are perfect with a cup of tea or with a dollop of vanilla ice on the side, homemade ice-cream of course!

salted brownie shot

Nigella’s naughty list brownies

375 g soft unsalted butter

375 g best quality dark chocolate

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

500 g caster sugar

225 g plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

300 g chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan. In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour. Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan. Bake for about 25 minutes. When its’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey. Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.
pouring
dasd
Like I said before, I added salted caramel to the recipe above. The best advice I can give you is simply to ignore the sugar content. I used Rachel Khoo’s salted caramel recipe again (150g caster sugar melted in a pan, then add 150ml of double cream and a tsp of salt) and remember NOT to stir the caramel, swirl the pan to combine and shake the sugar about. I poured most of the salted caramel into the chocolate mixture before placing it into a baking tin and I kept a little to pour upon the top, making a nice pattern.
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If you’re still able to function after the brownies, I have a slightly lighter option to keep your mouth preoccupied this winter. I consider this recipe a more interesting flapjack that incorporates oats, fruit and a few seeds to give it an extra crunch. Ideal for a four o’clock pick me up and lunch box snackettes. You can exchange the jam for any flavour you wish and feel free to add chopped nuts and dried fruit to spice it up a little.

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http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-thornton/raspberry-crumble-bars-recipe/index.html

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Finally, I have a little technique that I wish to share with you today. I am fully aware that salad takes a back seat during winter and yet, it’s always good to learn something new and to top up those long lost vitamins and minerals! This culinary technique is wonderfully easy and yet, looks beautiful. I call this ribboning as it does exactly what is says on the tin (or vegetable) and it works perfectly in making a fairly average salad look great. Often on Boxing Day, my family eat all the cold cuts left over from the day before alongside a big jacket potato and usually some greens. A few lettuce leaves, some raw carrot and cucumber with a honey mustard dressing may seem dull but I assure you, it comes as a welcomed gift to both you and your body. Plus, look how lovely this salad looks!

Salad

To use this technique, simply take a vegetable peeler and ‘peel’ said vegetable over and over again in the same place. I saw Jamie Oliver use this method in his fifteen minute meals and it truly works a treat. Then, arrange the ribbons on the plate similar to my salad above and huzzah! It’s ready. Until next week festive followers!

Love,

E. Wells