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Nigella’s Clementine Cake is a firm favourite in our household. I’ve been making it since Nigella’s How To Eat came out, all the way back in 1998. (I can’t can’t believe it’s been so long!)
It’s an incredibly easy cake to make, especially if you have a food processor, and very useful if you have gluten-intolerant visitors as it uses ground almonds rather than flour. It’s gloriously squidgy from the clementines, which are simmered in their skins until squidgy and then puréed. They also give the cake a gorgeous orange hue, which always makes me smile when I cut the first slice and reveal it.
For extra citrus punch, I decided to get all fancy and plate up the cake with some Clementine Curd (more on that another day) and Chantilly cream. Normally we just eat warmed wedges of the cake with some clotted cream dolloped on top, or even some custard, but since I just bought some slates, I wanted to have some fun with them!
Nigella’s Clementine Cake, from “How To Eat”
375g clementines, whole
6 large eggs
225g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Happy Friday, everyone! Twelve sleeps till Christmas!
My little car has passed its MOT with flying colours, so with no fear of a massive garage bill, I can get my shop on! (A December MOT is just evil.) I’ve spent a happy couple of days shopping and I think that I’ve bought almost everything…
Famous last words?
Favourite Decorations: Star Wars Snowflakes
Our neighbourhood seems to have gone snowflake crazy. I’ve seen lots of paper snowflakes appearing in windows. I haven’t seen any Star Wars themed ones…we should get right on that.
Favourite Crafted Gifts: Last minute handmade gifts from the Purl Bee
|© The Purl Bee|
The Purl Bee blog is one of my favourite places to haunt for knitting and crochet inspiration. If I ever manage to make it to America again, I’ll make a beeline for their shop which looks absolutely gorgeous in every single photo I’ve seen. It’s yarn heaven, basically.
Their round-up of last minute handmade gifts is particularly handy if you always feel a twinge of guilt–like me–for being a crafty person who never seems to actually give crafty gifts. I always remember too late, but now I have no excuse as these are all fantastically quick!
Favourite Recipes: Thoroughly English’s Hamper Series
|© Thoroughly English|
I’ve been really enjoying Bess’s Christmas Hamper series over at Thoroughly English. Not only is she running an amazing giveaway to win a hamper stuffed with all sorts of homemade goodies, she’s giving us the recipes for everything!
Favourite App: Clumsy Ninja
I have to say straight up that our friend Rob was the lead artist on this project, but that doesn’t take away from how fun and awesome this game is! I’m afraid that my ninja is still very clumsy–I got sidetracked from training because tickling him is so much fun–but Dave and Lucas have been playing avidly and their ninja is slightly less clumsy but still very cute!
Have a wonderful weekend!
|© Martha Stewart|
We’ve reached the point where Lucas is coming home with handfuls of Christmas cards in his book bag on a daily basis and the postman is cheerfully posting more through the letter box, too. There’s only so much space on the mantelpiece, so it’s time to think about how to display those cards!
I’m not a fan of Martha, but I do love her Christmas Card Tree (above). It’s very easy to make and it looks fantastic if you’ve only got a few cards to display.
If you grew up with cards hooked over a length of twine (or yarn) pinned to the wall, then this pretty garland is a nice upgrade on that idea. It would look stunning against a white wall! You could also use clothes pins to clip cards onto a length of tinsel that’s been pinned to the wall!
I love this garland, ribbon and clothes pin combination on the bannister in what surely must be a gorgeous home! If we had a bannister like this–ours is just a solid sheet of wood–I would totally wind greenery around it and pretend that I lived in a stately home!
If the thought of doing anything remotely crafty in December makes you laugh slightly hysterically, then you can buy some beautiful card holders! I really like this over the door one from Lakeland.
As for me, I’m going to arrange our cards into a Christmas tree shape on the kitchen door! I think I’ll have to make a little star for the top…I don’t think I’ve ever had a triangular-shaped card in the post before!
Yesterday was our school Christmas Fayre, and what a fabulous–but tiring–day it was!
I foolishly said that I’d run refreshments–remind me to sit on my hands next year–so spent half of the day yesterday setting up the stall, artfully arranging cakes, and heaving around the rest of the stock. I really wish that I’d remembered to take a picture of the finished stall as it looked really pretty! I crocheted a “paper chain” garland to swag along the front of the stand as well which several people said really nice things about.
I snapped this picture of my Chocolate-Peppermint Slice fresh out of the tin. I am still kicking myself for not taking a picture of it cut up nicely!! I also made some Chocolate Tiffin and some cupcakes.
The Fayre itself passed in a total blur. I remember serving the first cups of tea, seeing Dave, Lucas, his cousins and Nanny for a few minutes, and then all of a sudden the cakes were all gone and everyone was feasting on mulled wine and mince pies, and then the binbags and brooms came out… I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ve made pots and pots of money for the school!
I’ve spent most of today curled up on the sofa relaxing and starting to think about our own Christmas. I’ve written a grand total of three Christmas cards and am feeling rather accomplished. (I am also covered in glitter just from those three cards! Tis the season to be sparkly, I suppose…)
Just after Lucas went to bed tonight, we heard Christmas carols being played at full blast. Just as I was about to get cross, I heard Dave tell Lucas to look out of his bedroom window quickly! Being nosey, I ran to look, too!
The Great Western Round Table were helping Father Christmas warm up his sleigh in preparation for The Big Night. Lucas ran downstairs and we waited at the door. Lucas’s face was an absolute picture when Father Christmas waved right at him! A lovely end to the weekend!
Christmas preparations begin in earnest tomorrow, with a trip to the Mall. I am steeling myself to buy One Direction make-up for my niece…
I’ve seen a few of my bloggy friends doing Hello Ella’s Christmas Tag recently, so I thought I’d join in with the fun, too! This is a tag-less tag…if you see it, and like the questions, feel free to do your own!
What time of year do you start your Christmas shopping?
Um…I have yet to start my Christmas shopping!! I feel terrible saying that. I’d love to be ultra-organised, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. I’ll start shopping after the school Christmas Fayre is over and there’s room to pile up presents. I did pick up some wrapping paper and bows in the January sales, though!
Do you have any festive recipes for food or drink you limit solely to the Christmas season to share?
I love baking over the festive period. I know Christmas is supposed to be all about family and togetherness, but food is the binding strand. I almost always make Nigella’s Clementine Cake–might be a bit tricky this year due to the almond shortage–and frangipane mince pies. I usually do a ham, simmered in spiced apple juice until the house smells amazing, and then glazed and blasted in the oven.
I don’t bother making a Christmas cake any more as Dave isn’t very keen on them, and Lucas is too young for a properly boozy cake. I do sometimes make one for school fairs, which is almost as good as getting to eat one!
|Christmas Pudding Christmas Cake, made for a school fair years ago|
Tell me how Christmas goes down in your home
We usually get woken up around seven by Lucas running in with the stocking that Father Christmas has left for him. He opens the presents in his stocking while tucked up in bed with us, scraps of paper flying everywhere in his excitement. At some point I’ll get up, and make breakfast for us all. Some years I make Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffins, stuffed full of clementines and cranberries, other years I go for croissants with smoked salmon and super-creamy scrambled eggs on the side.
We always go to Dave’s parents for lunch on Christmas Day along with the rest of his family, and absolutely feast. Then there’s presents to be opened, with the kids having fun playing postman and ‘helping’ open presents if the grown-ups aren’t fast enough!
We usually spend the evening curled up on the sofa watching Doctor Who and nibbling on some cheese and crackers.
Do you have any Christmas traditions?
On Christmas Eve, Lucas always leaves a glass of milk and a plate of mince pies out for Father Christmas, along with a carrot for Rudolph. Other than that…I don’t think we have any real traditions. Oh! We always go and see the Brailsford Lights, which are stupendously tacky but also rather impressive.
Do you have a favourite festive coffee?
It’s got to be the Eggnog Latte from Starbucks. I’m sure it’s an entire day’s worth of calories in a single mug, but goddamn it’s good! This is closely followed by gingerbread lattes.
What’s your favourite Christmas song?
“Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. I know that it’s always played to death, but I love it. I’m quite fond of the Tom Jones and Cerys cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” but that’s not strictly Christmassy.
What do you do on Christmas Eve?
Try to find the last two bags of chocolate money in the city, frantically wrap last-minute presents and try to tidy the house for vaguely presentable photos on Christmas morning.
What’s your Christmas wrapping strategy? Do you have a strategy?
I like to wrap as I buy, and I do try to have a general colour theme for the presents so that they all look pretty when they’re piled up under the tree. This year we’re going Scandi-style again, with red and white patterned paper!
What’s your dream gift this year
A new camera. I’ve got my heart set on the Panasonic Lumix GF5 which isn’t cheap, but it takes lovely photographs.
Describe your Christmas tree. How tall? Real or artificial? How is it decorated?
We have a 6ft artificial tree. I’m not a fan of the smell of pine–apparently this is weird?–and I loathe dropped needles, so artificial wins big-time in my book! We haven’t put the tree up yet, we usually do it towards the middle of the month…
Last year I was given some gorgeous hand-blown glass Doctor Who ornaments by my brother-in-law. I’ve got the TARDIS, K-9, and two new-series Daleks. I love them so much, but I may need to find a tree with stronger branches to support their weight!
Do you decorate just the tree or other areas of your house e.g. windows, bannisters?
I love hanging my wreath on the front door! The house instantly looks more inviting. We hang those metallic garlands and chains from the ceiling in the living room and hang up a string of train lights for Lucas. He’s loved their shifting colours since he was a train-mad toddler.
What do you wear to Christmas parties and what do you wear on Christmas day?
I am so the wrong person to ask! I am no clothes-horse. I did get a lovely wine-red top the other day, so I’ll probably dress that up with a necklace, some nice trousers and a pair of heels. A bit of lipstick to match the top, and BOOM! I’m done.
Do let me know if you do Hello Ella’s Christmas Tag, too, and I’ll pop over for a look!
Goodbye November, hello December!
I can’t believe it’s December already; November went by in an absolute flash. We’re now counting down to Christmas–well, Lucas is…I’m counting down to the school Christmas fair.
We got our first Christmas cards at the weekend which has reminded me that I need to go on an epic quest to find my stash of Christmas cards. (Buying cards in the sales is a great idea, assuming you can remember where you stored them!)
I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into Christmas baking. It’s not Christmas until the house is filled with the scents of cinnamon and orange. Nigella’s Clementine Cake is a firm family favourite and I’m also really fond of her suet-free mincemeat recipe, but it might be a little too late to make my own mincemeat… Mulled apple juice and mulled wine are definitely on the To-Make list. And real hot chocolate topped with mounds of whipped cream. Mmm…
Christmas is coming!
It’s a running joke that I practically live in our local supermarket. If my local was Whole Foods, then I really would move in.
Whole Foods is nothing short of amazing. It’s foodie heaven with just about everything you can think of available on their shelves. Need a weird spice for your celebrity chef curry? Whole Foods. Want an unusual veggie? Whole Foods. Need an obscure cheese? Whole Foods. You get the picture, I’m sure!
It’s one of my favouritest places ever and it certainly doesn’t hurt that everything is beautifully displayed.
Let’s go for a little walk around the shop…
|I love the cookie bar!|
I love how the shelves are always full; it’s so welcoming and it makes the store feel positively bountiful. The fruit and vegetable section is a work of art in its own right.
We couldn’t resist trying the DIY nut butter machines–I made a tiny pot of pistachio butter and Lucas went slightly overboard with his pot of cashew butter. They tasted fantastic, but I can totally see why pistachio paste is so expensive and hard to get hold of–just look at the price!!
Beside the DIY nut butter machines there were also reusable olive oil bottles where you can bring along your empties, refill and be all eco. Similarly, there are also barrels of wine dotted around the ground floor…
I wish I had a photo of the cheese room. If you love cheese, and don’t have a traditional cheesemongers anywhere near you, this is an awesome place to go. I spent a while pottering around, trying to decide what I wanted to bring home, and finally settled on some gietost. I fell in love with this unusual cheese in Norway when I visited, err…quite a while ago now. Over ten years…I feel old now. I’m going to use it in the sauce for some slightly spiced Scandinavian Meatballs as well as snacking on some crispy crackers!
|In-store chocolate counter!!|
I womanfully resisted buying a jar of bacon jam at the charcuterie counter after I remembered that Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella had a brilliant recipe for it on her website. Lucas wants to bake some bread, so that strikes me as a fantastic excuse to make a jar. Plus, there are all sorts of awesome burger possibilities…
So…can you see why this is one of my favourite foodie places? It may not be quite as jaw-dropping as, say, Harrods Food Hall, but it’s less of a tourist destination and more of a place for serious foodie shoppers. Heavenly!
PS If you’re driving, there’s an NCP just around the corner from Whole Foods. If you spend over £25 then they’ll give you two hours free parking. Which I’m betting gets a lot more people through the doors…bargain!
Whole Foods Market
63-97 Kensington High Street
The Barkers Building
London W8 5SE
|A stunning parade of cakes|
A couple of weeks ago, I joined my friend Georgie and some other cakey-bakey friends in Birmingham for Cake International. We were looking forward to a day of cakes galore and plenty of shopping, too. As it turned out, if you want to munch on cake you need to visit a wedding show and not a cake one, as the only sample I was offered was flavoured royal icing! We did do plenty of shopping, though…
There’d been a lot of fuss in the media about the almost life-size Captain Jack Sparrow cake, so we headed down to the competition cake area first of all. Now, what you have to keep in mind is that not all of the competition cakes are 100% cake. Some of the competition classes do allow for the use of polystyrene dummies, however, some–like the novelty cakes and handbags–are 100% cake and no supports are allowed. Even so, the level of skill displayed was astonishing!
Captain Jack was very impressive–you can look at progress photos in Tasty Cakes’ Facebook photo album–but the Ratatouille cake just edged it for me. It was more imaginative and playful. Both cakes displayed a lot of skill, but Ratatouille was just more fun.
|Who can resist a basket full of puppies?|
I think everyone who saw this basket of puppies did a double-take. They were incredibly life-like, especially the Labrador in the front. Just gorgeous.
|Clockwise Noah’s Ark, Pumba from The Lion King, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ice Age|
I do love a good novelty cake, and there were some real crackers on display. Pumba was incredibly detailed, and I loved his cross-eyed expression as he stared at the bugs. And Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Now there’s a film you don’t see very often these days. I liked the bravery in doing a stylished version of the car rather than trying to make it ultra-realistic. Very brave in a cake show where realism is highly prized.
The wedding cakes were my favourite section of all. There were so many amazing cakes on display, all showing off a dizzying array of techniques.
This gorgeous pink and green cake is possibly the prettiest cakes I’ve ever seen. I came straight home and ordered a bead/pearl mould so that I can have a go at re-creating the middle tiers. So. Much. Technique. It was my personal best in show.
|Nightmare Before Christmas wedding cake|
This was such a cute cake design. The cake, which looked absolutely normal at first glance, slowly revolved on a plate and then revealed a romantic proposal at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in a cut-away segment. Beautifully done!
|A woodland wedding|
I watched part of Mitch Turner’s demonstration but then decided that since I already knew how to make Swiss meringue buttercream, I could better spend my time shopping. I came away with The Mat–yet to experiment with this–a turntable, a scalpel for super-neat edges, and a few other pieces of equipment. I had really, really wanted to invest in some Cake Lace, but luckily the crowds were ten deep at their stand. (I say “luckily” as it is an incredibly expensive product, and I’m not sure I could afford to fall in love with it!!)
I really wanted to watch Mary Berry’s demonstration, but quickly came to the conclusion that I should have taken a step-ladder with me. The cheer when she came on stage nearly lifted the roof. Next time I’ll grab a seat earlier…much earlier.
If I’ve whetted your appetite for cake and you want even more, Jenny, Alice and Bess also went to Cake International and have written lovely posts about the day. I’m already looking forward to going back next year!
|Lucas, dressed up as Eleven a couple of years ago|
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it can’t have escaped your notice that Doctor Who turns 50 on Saturday the 23rd of November. As a long-time Whovian I am ridiculously excited and may have mentioned it once or twice…
Before the BBC announced their official Celebration event in London, I’d been quietly plotting throwing a party of my own. While I’m super-excited to be caught up in what is sure to be near-hysterical mass excitement in the ‘Smoke’, I’m still slightly sad that I won’t be at home putting the finishing touches to some fish fingers and custard, or proudly displaying a TARDIS cake. (On the other hand, I am thrilled that I don’t need to turn the house upside down to make it party-ready!)
If you’ve been thinking somewhat hazily that it might be nice to have something a little more exciting than a crumpled bag of jelly babies to snack on during the 50th anniversary special–or are throwing a last minute viewing party–here are some awesome ideas for party food, fit to grace any Gallifreyan table!
|via Mike Daws on deviantART|
I loved this Cassandra Lasagne, an edible version of the “last human”, when it was posted on the Doctor Who Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. You could always have a bowl of warm cheese sauce on the side to moisturise each portion!
You could go Old Skool with a Dalek pepperoni pizza… EX.TER.MIN.ATE it with your teeth!
How about some fish fingers and custard? If you’re not brave enough to dunk real fish fingers into your custard, then Domestic Sluttery has you covered with their (very convincing) sponge fish fingers.
|via Domestic Sluttery|
If you’re feeling a little bit brave–and you can hear your Mum’s voice saying that you must eat something savoury–you could always add some yellow mustard to mayonnaise for dipping real fish fingers in!
|via A Typical English Home|
The Adipose are very Russell T Davis, but I’m quite fond of the cute little guys. I wouldn’t be too upset if some of my fat just walked away. These marshmallows adipose are a tasty version of one of the Doctor’s cutest foes and incredibly easy to make, too! They’d make perfect nibbles…
It might be a good idea to have some Jammie Dodgers to hand, in case you need to help The Doctor #savetheday with a biscuit! We Brits can just open a packet, but if you live in a part of the world which is sadly without Jammie Dodgers, then you can make an (almost) copy of them.
To help your party go with a swing–and perhaps help everyone to emulate Eleven’s wedding dancing stylings–how about some Who-themed cocktails?
|(L) Sonic screwdriver cocktail, 11th Doctor edition (R) TARDIS cocktail|
There are cocktail recipes for all 11 Doctors (I particularly like the sound of the First and Second Doctor’s cocktails) and I’ve also discovered a Facebook page devoted to making cocktails themed after the Doctors and Companions!
No Doctor Who party would be complete without a TARDIS! Being me, I’d always opt for a cake version, but you could cover your front door in a vinyl decal (or fabric hanging if your other half or landlord nix that awesome idea).
|via Artisan Cake Company|
If I was making my own TARDIS cake–and I’m seriously considering doing one for my birthday–I’d use this tutorial from Artisan Cake Company. The whole process is beautifully explained. It’s just stunning.
However you choose to celebrate, have a wonderful 50th! We’ll be watching in glorious 3D with one of our friends–he’s come all the way from America for Celebration, now that’s dedication–and then thoroughly rehashing it over dinner. I can’t wait!