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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Recipe of the week - 14th December 2011

Gingerbread Tree Biscuits


75g softened butter
50g caster sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g golden syrup
2 egg yolks
250g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Beat together the softened butter and caster sugar until pale and creamy.
3. Add the bicarbonate of soda, golden syrup and egg yolks, stir to thoroughly combine.
4. Sift in the flour, ginger and cinnamon. Stir again.
5. Place your hands into the bowl, and kneed all of the ingredients until you form a ball of dough.
6. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
7. Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour.
8. Place the dough on the surface and pat to flatten. Then, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is the thickness of a one pound coin.
9. Use a tree cutter to cut the biscuits.
10. Then place onto a greased baking tray and pop into the oven for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden.
11. Place the biscuits on a wire cooling rack to cool.
12. Decorate your tree biscuits with white icing (made by sieving icing sugar and mixing with a dash of water) and silver edible balls.

Feel free to hang the biscuits on the tree for a home-made touch or simply scoff the lot!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Taste of Christmas - 4th December

It all started badly the day before when I jumped out of bed and announced that it was time for Christmas to begin. By this I meant, the day had finally arrived for the eagerly anticipated first visit to Taste of Christmas. I dressed particularly carefully - seeing as 'I would need to be warm enough walking to and from the tube, but not so warm, that I spend the whole day inside the exhibition centre sweating.' Outfit decided (the warm, yet armless gillet - offering the perfect temperature for such occasions), I was ready to venture out on the DLR (a tube line that, despite my three month habituation of London, had never actually been ridden on).

We were then thwarted by my boyfriend asking what the date was 'The third, Silly!' I replied. 'Yes, well, these tickets say the 4th'. Somewhere in all the excitement, I had convinced myself that we were due at Taste on Saturday the 3rd, as opposed to Sunday, the 4th. This was all ultra upsetting, but at least we hadn't sat on first the Northern, second the Jubilee and third, the DLR line for no reason whatsoever. As a massive creature of habit, and someone who hates deviations of any kind to plans made, I was understandably excessively disappointed.

Despite all of the laments, there was no possibility of changing the date on our tickets so we had to make do with a visit to Angel (somewhere I would very much like to live, if only finances would permit. I hate being unemployed). I'm dying to pay a visit to the Breakfast Club. Mainly because there was a HUGE queue all the way out the door - a clear sign at least to me (not the impatient boyfriend) that the food inside must be incredible and totally worth the exceptionally long queue. I couldn't see inside this establishment, owing to the length of the queue, but I'm pretty much certain that the food is of Michelin standard. The queue was full of young, trendy types, something which I can only aspire to be. I think that eating at such a place will give me a first class ticket into such a crowd which is why I was insistent that we should wait in said queue. Boyfriend was not. So we settled for the most tasteless, re-heated pasta bolognese I have ever had the misfortune to eat in my entire life. How is it possible for a bolognese sauce to taste so exquisitely of cardboard?! Point proved as far as I was concerned and yes, we will be returning to the Breakfast club next Friday when it theoretically should be far quieter than a bustling Saturday.

Sunday finally dawned, following a Saturday which almost saw me venture, yet again, into the dreaded, but ridiculously addictive Infernos night club (think cheesy club nights at uni and you're pretty much spot on). We didn't go because, even for me, twice in as many weekends, erred on the edge of completely over the top. I donned my gillet jean combo yet again and we made it, with no hitches to the ExCeL exhibition centre.

Sadly, I was hugely underwhelmed by the whole experience. Far smaller than its brother, the Taste of London which I attended back in June, Taste of christmas was certainly missing something. The something being Christmas! Yes, there was a half-hearted attempt at carols and decorations, and yes, there were lots of stalls offering varying amounts of freebies. But whoever booked the stalls missed a key point; that this was all supposed to be about Christmas. This particular show could have happily slotted into any month of the year. I was expecting, and hoping, that there would be an array of mince pies, christmas cake, panettone, stollen, turkeys, hams.......on offer. Waitrose was the only franchise which really embraced the spirit, everywhere else it was sorely missing.

I was very keen to get my money's worth and watch some expert food demonstrations. Sadly, I missed my absolute favourite chefs, Jamie and Hugh, but none the less, I was more than happy to wait for 30 minutes for Jean Christophe-Novelli. Yes, he's ultra smooth and good looking, but the dish he demonstrated left me in disbelief. I did not want to spend 60 minutes of my life first waiting and then wishing I could escape from, Jean showing us how to make chocolate pots. I am perfectly capable of adding milk, cream, chocolate and a variety of spices (cardamon, cinnamon, star anise) to a pan without his help. I would have escaped but I was too trapped in, owing to my overwhelming obsession to get a seat at these things - hence the 30 minute wait beforehand, to ensure that no one else took it.

The highlight of the whole thing was bumping into a couple of friends - it's always nice to have an impromptu catch up. I will be returning to Taste of London next year, but sadly a ticket to Taste of Christmas will remain on my pile of unwanted presents.