Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve - At Home

It's Christmas Eve and we are at home, family all here. With all the wonderful snowy (and treacherous for travelling) weather over the past few days, I just feel grateful that we are all together, safe and happy with a lovely Christmas at home to look forward to. This evening we will go to the carol service in the village church. It is so beautiful and joyful, all by candlelight. And it's a time to think about friends and family who are not close by. The recipe and story that follows is about one such dear and distant friend.
Wishing you all a blessed and happy Christmas!

Growing up, my family travelled and lived around the world because of my dad’s diplomatic career. In my early teens, we moved to Dallas, Texas and spent the next few fun, fabulous years there. I loved Texas - the generous and extravagant spirit, the old fashioned manners (some of my school friends called their parents Ma’am and Sir - and not even ironically!) and a great sense of occasion. Texans really know how to party! They also know how to put on a really festive Christmas, with decorations and groaning tables of delicious treats.

I have a lot of wonderful memories from those days and this, one of my best and most profound Christmas memories, is among them. Every year, the mother of my dear friend would carefully roast huge batches of glorious Texas pecan nuts with butter and salt, and pack them into gift jars to share with family and friends over the holiday season. These pecans were the most delicious present, rich and aromatic, and utterly addictive.

This year, my friend became a mother herself, giving birth to her beautiful baby daughter. And now, she prepares the pecans as gifts to share at Christmas.

I love to make them too, and doing so always takes me back to Texas for a moment.

For those pecans roast them on 140 degrees centigrade in the oven until they start to brown and go aromatic 45-60 minutes.  Pull them out and toss with unsalted butter to coat and put back in the oven for 10 minutes or so.  Pull out, toss with salt to taste and you're ready to go!

Snow Houses

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Getting ready for Christmas

Christmas is truly upon us here in our part of England, complete with frosty weather. We even had some snow flurries today! I really love Christmas -twinkly lights, all the social and community activities, the music and of course, Christmas food!
We do a lot of baking in our house and no one escapes getting involved at this time of year. D is King of the Christmas Cake and it his his special project every year - especially the part of 'feeding' the cake with rum or brandy in the weeks leading up.
Our little boy loves being in the kitchen and he gets busy rolling and cutting out festive cookies.
This week we made some little buttery galettes sprinkled with gorgeous amber grains of sugar from Barbados. L was born in Barbados and likes to bring bits of that lovely island to our life here in England. I was delighted to find a box of Barbados sugar in our local supermarket. (See Plantation Reserve.) We sometimes like to dust with spice or infuse the sugar with vanilla. A recipe for the galettes follows below.

Boy Baking

Xmas Cake, Holly & Sherry

Christmas Galettes

225g plain flour
175g butter, chilled and diced
130g caster (finely granulated) sugar
1 egg yolk
Barbados golden sugar or demerera sugar to sprinkle
Dusting of cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)

Put the flour and butter into a food processor and whiz to a texture of breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and egg yolk and process until it forms a ball.
Turn the mix out onto a floured board and knead for a minute or and then wrap and allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Roll the dough out thinly (about depth of a pound coin) and cut out with a crinkly edged round cutter. You can make other shapes if you like, however these biscuits are quite delicate and break a bit easily for some shapes. Dust with spice if using, and sprinkle with the demerera sugar. (Or the wonderful Bajan sugar if you can find it.)

Bake the galettes on parchment in oven (preheated to 180 degrees centigrade) for about 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

These biscuits go very nicely with a small glass of something festive!