Affogato – a ridiculously simple yet sophisticated dessert

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Affogato is a sophisticated and grown up Italian dessert that also happens to be ridiculously simple and quick.  Affogato, meaning ‘drowned’, is just vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it.  I topped mine with toasted almonds to give it extra flavour and texture, and it was gorgeous.

You need to eat the affogato straight away before the espresso melts the ice cream.  To slightly delay the melting you can scoop the ice cream in to a shallow glass or cup and put it in the freezer for a few hours before adding the espresso.  Genius!

If you can’t make ‘proper’ espressos at home, just dissolve a tbsp of instant coffee in a little hot water instead.

Affogato (serves 1)

2 scoops vanilla ice cream, in a shallow glass/cup (freeze the ice cream in the cup for a few hours to get it all really cold)

1 shot of espresso (make this with instant coffee as above if you need to)

A sprinkle of toasted, flaked almonds (to toast them yourself dry fry them in a pan for 30-60 seconds, until lightly browned, shaking regularly)

Make the espresso.  Take the ice cream in it’s glass out of the freezer and pour over the espresso so it covers just half the ice cream.  Quickly sprinkle over the warm toasted almonds.  Eat instantly!

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Mince pies of course!

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This was my first attempt at mince pies, and they turned out really well, in a chunky homemade sort of way! The recipe uses homemade pastry (which, if you have never made before, is surprisingly simple), shop-bought mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest. The pastry lids are finished off with a pinch of sugar, as suggested by my oldest son. He also suggested we use chopped pecan nuts as an alternative topping for a couple of them, which was a rather excellent idea.

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My oldest felt his sugar and pecan suggestions were enough input, so my youngest actually helped with the making. He rolled out some of the pastry, cut the lid shapes with cookie cutters and put them on top. Hence the interesting array of shapes! Don’t worry if you don’t have cookie cutters – use the rim of a glass or a bowl instead (make sure they are slightly bigger than the muffin tray holes to allow for covering the sides too).
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If you want more sophisticated mince pies then aim for thinner pastry, as since the pies are quite small it is easy to end up with more pastry than filling. Don’t worry if you have some leftover pastry, just make sure it is rolled out flat, put it in a freezer bag and freeze. You could use it to make something else another day (I made cornish pasties!)
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For the mince pies you will need a muffin tray, cookie cutters or glasses and a straw.

Mince pies (makes 12)

For the pastry

125g butter, melted (I do this in the microwave for 20 second bursts – takes about 1 min)
250g plain flour
2-3 tbsp water

For the filling

Approx 1/2 jar (220g) mincemeat
Zest of 1 orange
Optional – white/light brown sugar for sprinkling

To make the pastry, mix the butter and flour together with a spoon and your hands if necessary, add the water and squeeze in to a ball. It shouldn’t be too sticky. Flour a surface and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out (in two lots if short on space) until it is about 5mm (1/4 inch thick). Don’t press too hard with the rolling pin as it may stick, and use more flour on the surface and rolling pin to avoid it sticking if necessary.

Use a large cookie cutter (around 10cm) or the rim of a similar sized glass or bowl to cut circles out, and gently place them in the muffin tray holes, ensuring they cover the sides too. Add around 1 tsp mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest to each pie (avoid overfilling or it might overflow in the oven). Cut smaller circles/cookie cutter shapes for the pie lids, pierce a hole in the middle with a straw and place on top of each pie. Sprinkle each pie with a pinch of sugar if you like.

Bake the pies on gas mark 5/190 degrees for 15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven), until lightly browned. Check every few mins after 10 mins to avoid burning. Once cooked leave to cool a little – they are nicest when still warm! Will last a couple of days in a sealed container.

Speedy Hot Chocolate

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This creamy, silky hot chocolate recipe is a big treat and takes the edge off the suddenly very cold weather!  It only takes a few minutes to make and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

To make it extra special top with marshmallows or whipped cream; for an extra kick go Mexican and add a pinch of chilli powder; for a boozy drink add brandy; and for alternative flavours try substituting the cinnamon with ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.

Speedy hot chocolate (serves 2)

600ml semi-skimmed milk
142ml tub double cream
100g chocolate, broken up (use milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on your taste)
Optional – 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the milk, double cream and broken chocolate into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, whisking or stirring until smooth. Pour in to a flask or mug and drink!

Elf donuts

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In preparation for Christmas Eve we made elf donuts.  These are super simple – you just need cheerios and sugar for the plain donuts and cheerios, chocolate spread and sprinkles for the chocolate donuts.  They look very sweet and my two boys are proud of their little creations.  Obviously they ate most of them.

For the sugar donuts – lick each side of the cheerio (or wet them with hands if, like my boyfriend, you think this is gross!) then roll them in sugar.

For the chocolate donuts – melt chocolate spread for 20 seconds in the microwave/briefly on the hob then spread them on to cheerios using a glue stick or teaspoon.  Top with sprinkles.

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That’s it!  For once the elves will get a little recognition and it won’t just be Santa and Rudolph who enjoy a treat…

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Thank you to http://www.unconfidentialcook.com for the inspiration.

 

Cranberry sauce for veggies!

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I vividly remember going to a Christmas market in Poland in minus 12 degree weather, and eating these amazing, steaming street snacks of smoked Polish cheese with cranberry sauce.  They were a warming, smokey, sweet delight.

So last week I found a really simple 3-ingredient cranberry sauce recipe that had (deservedly) great reviews and can be made 1 week ahead.   I thought about/experimented with what it can be enjoyed with apart from meat and concluded: it is lovely dolloped on top of yoghurt or swirled through porridge; great with pancakes; yummy in a cheese toastie; or alongside a cheese board (particularly with warm smoked cheese or with baked brie/camembert).  Here is the recipe, which takes just 15 minutes!  You could add extra flavours like orange/satsuma zest or ginger if you like.

Cranberry sauce (serves 8)

100g muscavado sugar/soft brown sugar

100ml orange juice, fresh or from a carton

250g fresh or frozen cranberries

Tip the sugar and orange juice into a pan, then bring to the boil. Stir in the cranberries, then simmer until tender but still holding their shape – this will take about 5-10 mins if using frozen cranberries or 10-15 mins if using fresh. The sauce will thicken as it cools.

Will keep in the fridge for 1 week. On the day, bring to room temperature before serving (or warmer if you fancy).

Recipe from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com

 

 

Leftover parsnip rosti

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I love parsnips.  And I hate waste.  So, with 3 uneaten parsnips in the fridge and some online inspiration, I decided to make parsnip rostis.  I simply grated the (unpeeled) parsnips with some potato, added herbs and seasoning and fried the whole lot in butter to make a sort of parsnip pancake.  Instead of attempting to flip it over I finished the top off under the grill.

The rosti was easy to make and turned out to be rather special – it became sweet, crispy and caramelised when fried in the butter, with an almost nutmeggy taste.  We cut the rosti in half and topped each with a poached egg.  Seriously good!

The recipe would make a great Boxing Day brunch and if you wanted to be really organised you could make it in advance then freeze!

Parsnip rosti (serves 2)

3 medium parsnips, grated

2 medium potatoes, grated

Small handful chopped rosemary or dried herbs

Salt and pepper

Butter

Mix the grated parsnips and potatoes together and put in a dry, clean tea towel.  Squeeze the tea towel in to a ball to get rid of any excess water.  Put the mixture in to a bowl and add the herbs and some salt and pepper.  Mix.

Heat a little butter in a frying pan and add the mixture, pressing it down in to a tight roundish shape.  Fry for approx 5 mins then transfer the pan to the grill to fry the top for around another 5 mins, until golden and crispy on top (or you could try flipping the rosti and frying the other side if you have the right tool!)  Cut the rosti in half and use a spatula to carefully take each half out (don’t worry if it falls apart a bit – it will still be delish!)  Eat topped with a fried or poached egg and with mayo on the side.

If freezing, simply store the rosti in a freezer bag/s and cook  straight from frozen in the frying pan until warmed through and crispy.

 

Blue cheese and poppy seed biscuits

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These scrummy blue cheese and poppy seed biscuits can be eaten straight away, kept in a container for several days, or made ahead and then frozen.  They are really simple to make and look impressive so are great to have handy if you are expecting people (or need an edible gift idea).  They were also wolfed down by my kids as an after school snack!

The biscuits are from a recipe in Jane Lovett’s new ‘Make It Easy’ cookbook and she often serves them after meals instead of cheese (although I reckon they would be even better WITH cheese!)  We ate half and froze half so we could have some over Christmas.  You need clingfilm. Allow about 15 mins prep, 1 hour chilling and 10 mins baking.

Blue cheese and poppy seed biscuits (makes approx 25)

110g self-raising flour

110g butter

Large pinch mustard powder

50g blue cheese, crumbled (any is fine – I opted for the cheapest!)

50g cheddar cheese, grated

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 tsp salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Process the flour and butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (if the mixture seems too wet, gradually add flour until it is thicker).  Add the mustard powder, cheeses, poppy seeds and salt and pepper and process until well mixed.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the mixture in to two fat sausages and wrap tightly in clingfilm.  Chill for at least an hour (it will firm up).  Unwrap and slice into discs about the thickness of a pound coin.  Place on baking paper and bake for at least 5-7 minutes, turning halfway through when golden.  They should expand a little.  Cool slightly then eat!

If you want to freeze any then do so, either after baking OR after you have sliced in to discs, but before baking.  Put the biscuits spread out in freezer bags.  Cooked frozen biscuits can be briefly heated in the oven to take the frozen ‘edge’ off them and uncooked frozen biscuits can be baked as above.