Sunday, 30 December 2012

60th Birthday Bash

My father turned 60 about a week ago, so I thought I'd share just a handful of photographs from the day.  
Of course, there was plenty of food and drink - but this time I decided to focus on the decour. 


My mother decided to coincide my Dad's Birthday party with the family's Christmas Party, hence the Christmas party paper crowns.  It was a wonderfully noisy, yet a laid back family affair.
Some toy guests invited by the nephews and nieces.
Nephews and nieces posing for the camera. 
A very cool gingerbread man flower bouquet adorns my mothers living room.  There was also a snow-man bouquet, but I didn't manage to get a picture of that, maybe I'll get to snap a picture of it on New Years Eve.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Vegetable Bourguignonne with Sundried Tomato and Rosemary Polenta

After a couple of days of cold, buffet style finger food, its nice to return home to warm food.  One of the dishes we have been tucking into is this deep chocolate brown Chestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne.  The slow cooking process has tainted the orange of the Chantenay carrots and creamy lace colour of the parsnips.

Also, please forgive me for the darkness of the photographs, but it is that time of year again when natural light is overshadowed by sulky dark skies.  Regardless of this very honest excuse, this is still a deep dark meaty looking dish.  What it lacks in vibrant colours, it makes up in bold flavour.  To make it appeal to the eyes moreso, I accompanied the dish with pan-fried golden polenta cut into the shape of Christmas trees and studded with winter herbs and minced sun dried tomato to mimic Christmas baubles and decorations that adorn festive trees this time of year.  I really enjoyed the pan-fried crunch.
I would strongly recommend that you make this dish a day or two in advance for the flavours to meld.  Its a dish that re-heats wonderfully.  And the polenta can also be made in advance, only needing to be pan-fried in a little olive oil.  If you don't fancy polenta, you could also accompany this stew with mashed potatoes or a good crusty home-made bread. 
I am submitting a generous bowl of this Chestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne to December-January editiion of Simple and In Season, a monthly event created by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food. This month it is being hosted by Lavender and Lovage

A2KChestnut Mushrooms and Vegetable Bourguignonne
Serves 4 - 6
A2K Ingredients
200g cooked whole chestnuts
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 bulb garlic, peeled and cloves left whole
200g shallots, peeled and halved

100g baby or Chantenay carrots, unpeeled
100g parsnips, peeled and sliced into bite size chunks
3 - 4 sticks celery, peeled and chopped
300g chestnut mushrooms, stalks removed
2 bay leaves
Sprig of fresh rosemary from the A2K herb plot
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
120ml red wine
1 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon tomato puree
800ml stock made with 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
A2K Method
Preheat oven to gas mark 6.
Heat the olive oil in a large baking tray. Add the garlic cloves and shallots and roast for until the shallots are tender. Then carefully transfer  the roasted vegetables and all the other vegetables into a large slow cooker; or ovenproof casserole dish with a lid. Stir in the cooked chestnuts, mushrooms. Add the wine, tamari, tomato puree and stock, herbs and season to taste. Stir well to combine. Now either reduce the heat in the oven to Gas mark 3 and cook for 2 hours or on high to medium heat for 2 - 3 hours in a slow cooker. Stir occasionally to prevent vegetables sticking. Check for seasoning before serving in large deep bowls.  Adapted from this recipe.

A2K Ingredients for the Sun dried Tomato and Rosemary Polenta Christmas Trees
200g instant polenta
800ml vegetable stock or water
sprig of rosemary, minced
40 g sun dried tomatoes, drained of its oil and minced
A little olive oil to pan-fry the polenta
A2K Method
Bring stock or water to the boil, when boiling steadily pour in the polenta whisking all the time for the polenta to thicken, as it begins to thicken stir in both the minced rosemary and sundried tomatoes.  When the polenta starts to bubble and spit, pour into a large oiled baking tin.  Allow to cool completely, before turning out and cutting into wedges or using a cookie cutter for your desired shape (as you can see above I used my Christmas Tree Shaped Cookie cutter). 
Heat oil in a wide pan and pan-fry on both sides for a couple of minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Festive Vegetarian Christmas Burger

Firstly may I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.
I have taken a few days off from work.  We will be going over to my parents later this evening, and tomorrow morning travelling to D's mothers. Having rested the last couple of days, I thought I'd play catch up with a little blogging. 

As you can imagine, over the past few months I've created a number of seasonal dishes and some of these have been for the festive season.  The one I would like to begin with today is my Festive Vegetarian Christmas Burger. 
When I began my little business venture, I had no intention of serving burgers, well not on a daily basis, but people have been asking for them and they have been featuring on the menu for the past three months.  Variations include those made with beans and vegetables, such as beetroot, parsnip, pumpkins, butternut squash, sweet potatoes and the flavours are equally diverse, from Indian, Jamaican to Mexican, oh I even featured my Haggis Burger for St Andrews day last month.
These Vegetarian Christmas Burgers are served in a large granary roll, with winter greens, a slice of mock 'turkey' and a generous spread of cranberry sauce.  I am submitting these Festive Burgers to December-January editiion of Simple and In Season,  a monthly event created by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food. This month it is being hosted by Lavender and Lovage

For those of you with left overs tomorrow, yes you will be able to make these left over cooked vegetables from you Christmas Party menu. 
Vegetarian Christmas Burgers
Makes 8 burgers
A2K Ingredients
100g Fairtrade whole Quinoa
175ml vegetable stock or water
1 medium parsnips, grated (or cooked and mashed)

1 medium carrot, grated (or cooked and mashed)
4 raw Brussels sprouts, grated (or cooked and minced)
1 medium onion, grated
200g chickpea flour

40g dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vegetable oil to shallow fry
A2K Method
Rinse the Quinoa in cold water. Boil in 175ml water for 10 minutes covered with a lid. Remove the saucepan from the heat, mix in a little salt and level on side for 10 minutes covered. In large bowl, add the grated vegetables, stir in the flour, cranberries, herbs and season to taste. When the Quinoa has cooled down add to the bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. 


Divide the mixture into 6 – 8 burger shapes and place on a tray. Leave to rest for a while to firm up. When ready to eat, heat oil in a wide frying pan and cook them gently, flip over and press them gently whilst cooking. Cook for about 3 - 4  minutes on each side until brown and crisp. Serve immediately.
Vegetarian Christmas Burgers with all the trimmings
To assemble into a proper Christmas Burger, you will also need
Large granary roll
a couple of slices of mock 'vegetarian or vegan turkery'
Cranberry relish
Winter Salad Leaves including some red leaves and optional pretzels in the shape of snowflakes.
Enjoy!
Updated: January 2013 - Fellow blogger Nic at Lemon and Cheese made a variation of these Burgers, follow this link to view.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sleekster Christmas Chocolate

Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my previous post.  Just to keep you informed, I am working on the subject matter and will let you know of progress early next year. 
 
Today, I want to write a review on one of my favourite chocolates.  I don't indulge in chocolate much, only when the mood gets me and then it has to be a proper bar or box of chocolates - one that actually tastes of cocoa in the chocolate, not just a sugar overload.  Well to cheer me up the wonderful people at Hotel Chocolate sent me their luxurious Sleekster Classic Christmas Selection to review. 
 
I first have to apologise as my camera is not working proper at the moment, so you will have to forgive me and check out this link for close up details of the individual chocolate pieces.  There are 29 gorgeous pieces and as much as I have enjoyed most of them, (some of course I have had to share with the lovely husband) my favourites have been Christmas Mess, Clementine Truffle, Gingerbread Truffle, Mulled Wine and the Tawny Port Truffle did knock my little socks off. I know the hefty tag of £22.00 may put off some people, especially  in time of recession, but these are not for every day eating, and are a real treat either for yourself or a present for someone else.
I have to add the kind people at Hotel Chocolat had agreed to give one of my readers a chance to win one of their chocolate delights, but due to my delay in posting this review, sadly this will not be happening this year.  I hope next year, perhaps around Valentines day they will give me an opportunity to review another delicious chocolate product and give one of my readers an opportunity to win and sample some of their delights.  Until then, trust me - these are really good, so do check out their website to satisfy your chocolate cravings or to treat that someone special, family or friend. 

Disclosure: I was sent a box of chocolates in return for this post.  The opinions expressed here are my own.