Tag Archives: Christmas

Our Christmas Gifts 2013

Happy New Year! We hope everyone has had a good start to 2014. We’re back at home now after a brilliant holiday with Fats’ family, lots of films, lots of slobbing in front of the fire, a few walks and LOTS of food! We were also extremely lucky and got some fantastic gifts, most of which were food oriented so we thought we would share them with you! It was also Bird’s birthday over the festive period so a couple of these gifts were for that too.

FoodieGiftsNumbered

1. Italian Cheese Kit – this looks like so much fun! Apparently you can make lots of different types of soft cheese with it and it makes 6kg (!!!) of cheese. Looks like any ambitions to lose weight in 2014 are off.

2. Chocolate selection – you can’t go wrong with this… 6 mini bars of chocolate – some milk, some dark, with varied flavours. We plan to use some in cooking/baking and some we’ll probably just scoff!

3. Green & Blacks Sea Salt Milk Chocolate – we love this stuff, it’s beautiful, creamy milk chocolate with little flakes of sea salt. We might bake a bit with it but again, this will probably get nibbled while watching our new David Attenborough DVD.

4. Mini copper pan – pretty much THE CUTEST pan imaginable this was a gift from Fats to Bird, she wants a collection of them one day so this is the first one. It will be perfect for making sauces in, hopefully it will feature in a blog post in the not too distant future.

5. Australian ground coffee and a subscription for 3 months of a coffee club delivery – this is a great gift, we love coffee so the prospect of a different coffee every month is very exciting! We’ll let you know which ones we get and what we think of them.

6. Mason Cash Bread Baking set – a gift from Bird to Fats, this is a terracotta mixing and proving bowl with a lid that doubles as a bakestone and promises to give a great crust because it helps draw moisture away. We’re especially excited to try making focaccia on this.

7. Sloe gin – Bird has been a bit hooked on sloe gin since her grandparents let her try some of their homemade stuff as a teenager. We’ll get a couple of cocktails out of this and feel classy for an evening!

8. Le Creuset Espresso mug – isn’t this adorable? Someone obviously read our gift guide as Bird unwrapped this little beauty on Christmas morning. We’ve heard rumours that Bird’s dad got two of these for his birthday (Happy Birthday for yesterday Daddy Bird!) so we might have to buy Fats one so he doesn’t feel left out.

9. Le Creuset Petite Casserole – this was a birthday present from Fats’ family to Bird along with a continuation of the Olive Magazine subscription that they got her two years ago. It’s absolutely gorgeous, you could make a meal for one or a brunch for two and it would be great for melting cheese in…

10. Handcrafted mug – Fats finally has his own mug! He’s been borrowing Bird’s flowery number up until now but he finally has his own, very manly, chunky mug.

11. Apron – Bird finally has her own apron! This is a short apron (perfect for shorties) with a beautiful chilli print and huge pockets at the bottom.

12. Tapas bowls – this picture really doesn’t do these justice, three gorgeous little bowls which are crying out for a dollop of hummus and some dolmades…

13. Mr Vikki’s Chilli Jam – chillies? Jam? Sold. Apparently this is also great in stir frys so we look forward to trying that out. Made locally to Fats’ parents in Carlisle!

14. Mary Berry Recipe for Life – another birthday present for Bird. Mary Berry is an absolute star, this will definitely be an interesting read and it might have some recipes in there too!

15. Niki Segnet Flavour Thesaurus – another one from our gift guide here, we’ve only had a brief flick through so far but it looks fantastic, perfect for us as there aren’t that many recipes, just hundreds of brilliant flavour combinations which are sure to provide inspiration for more recipes of our own invention.

16. and 17. Cordon Bleu Cookery Book and Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery – these weren’t Christmas gifts but were kindly given to us by Fats’ grandparents, look out for some vintage cooking on the blog!

18. Rachel Khoo Little Paris Kitchen – Bird loves Rachel Khoo, her life in Paris seems like a dream, so we can’t wait to try out lots of these updated French classics.

19. Bordeaux Quay pastry course – this wonderful gift was a present from Fats to Bird for her birthday, in 2 weeks we are off to Bordeaux Quay (one of the best restaurants in Bristol in our opinion) which runs lots of different cookery courses. We’re learning to make several different pastries, both savoury and sweet, we can’t wait! Pastry is something we’ve only really dipped our toes in (not literally…) so hopefully this will help us gain some confidence and insider knowledge.

Before Christmas, we celebrated Bristmas – Bristol Christmas! Bird’s parents dropped off a little hamper and we had another few presents to unwrap before we made our way up north. Bristmas is a tradition we definitely want to continue!

FoodieGiftsNumbered_2

1. and 2.  75 Simple Middle Eastern Recipes and 101 Global Dishes – presents from Bird’s friend who knows her very well! We always loved Middle Eastern flavours but fell even more in love after our holiday to Marrakech so we’re looking forward to trying out lots of these recipes which won’t require a trip back to Morocco to source the ingredients! The 101 Global Dishes looks like it’s full of inspiration too and as it’s produced by BBC/Olive we’re sure they will be foolproof.

3. Moroccan Spiced Chutney – we’ve obviously been banging on about Marrakech a lot! This will probably be lovely with salads, cheese and meats but hopefully we can find some different inspiration in our Middle Eastern recipe book too.

4. Pomegranate Molasses – another Middle Eastern staple, we can’t wait for the weather to improve so we can start having more salads that we can dress with this.

5. White Truffle Oil – a little bottle of indulgence, it suggests using on risotto, pasta and eggs and that is exactly what we intend to do!

6. Lindt Lindor – ’nuff said really. These are a favourite and probably won’t hang around for long!

7. Heston Chocolate Box – sadly we weren’t Golden Ticket winners but we are still the proud owners of a delicious box of typically inventive chocolates with flavours such as Thyme & Rosemary and Earl Grey.

8. Pepper Mill – our current pepper grinder is completely useless and we’re pepper fiends so Bird’s parents got us a replacement, we can season away to our hearts content without swearing at the pepper mill!

9. Confit Duck – gorgeous French confit duck with Toulouse sausages, we’ll save this for when we’re feeling lazy and in need of a treat.

10. Balsamic Vinegar – a timely gift as our last bottle just has a few drops left in it, Belazu is a fantastic brand too so we’re sure this will be delicious.

11. Fats & Bird Merlot! – you may have seen this on our Instagram but it’s our very own wine!!! Well… nearly. It’s a merlot made by Fat Bird which Bird’s dad painstakingly drew an “&” and an “s” onto! It had us fooled for a good few minutes and once we’ve drunk it we’ll definitely be saving the bottle.

12. Steamer – a new steamer to replace our old one which lost it’s lid in the depths of Bird’s student houses, this one is a considerable step up anyway with deep steamer inserts and a base and lid which can be put into the oven up to 180°C.

That’s our haul, we are so lucky to have such generous friends and family and we are looking forward to sharing these with you in more depth throughout 2014!

Advertisements

Cinnamon Rolls

If you’ve been following our instagram recently you’ll have spotted this little beauty. Not completely stuffed to bursting with all of the wonderful home-made treats provided by Mama Fats over the festive period – not to mention the mountains of chocolate we received on Christmas day – we thought we’d top it all off with some extra-special cinnamon rolls, especially for Bird’s Birthday! We’ve got a lot more confident with our bread making in the last year, and couldn’t have imagined attempting something like this at the turn of 2013. This is a really easy recipe though, and as long as you give the dough time to rise you’ll end up with beautifully fluffy rolls, a real treat! Even Fats’ little brother loves these, and he “doesn’t like cinnamon” (at least one of us must be adopted…).

For 12 cinnamon rolls, you’ll need:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g light brown sugar (we used light muscovado sugar)
  • 1½ tsp dried yeast
  • 175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 free-range eggs, plus one egg yolk, for glazing (in all the excitement we forgot to glaze ours!)
  • flavourless oil (e.g. sunflower, vegetable) for oiling
  • 1 orange, zest and juice (optional)
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon

Start by making the dough. Mix together the flour, 50g of the sugar, 75g of the softened butter, the salt and the yeast in a large bowl, making sure that the butter is well rubbed in. Add the milk and one of the eggs and combine with your hands – it will start off quite sticky and very messy, but should come together once the flour has been incorporated. Put the mixture onto a clean surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is nice and springy. Place in a bowl, cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size – it should take about 1 1/2 hours, but this depends on how warm it is.

Cinnamon roll dough before rising
Cinnamon roll dough before rising
Cinnamon Roll Dough After Rising
Cinnamon Roll Dough After Rising (and a bit of prodding…)

To make the filling take the rest of the butter, sugar, cinnamon and optionally the orange zest, and combine together in a bowl with a fork to form a paste.

Once the dough has risen, oil a surface and tip the dough onto it. Roll out the dough into a rectangle so that it is at least 30 cm long in one dimension, and about the thickness of a pound coin (3-4 mm). Smear over the filling, ensuring that it reaches the sides of the dough that will form the ends of the roll.

Cinnamon Roll Dough Rolled Out

Cinnamon Roll Dough Covered in Filling

Now roll it up tightly – you’ll get a good roll if you ensure that the first roll is really tight. Slice this up into 12 rolls of even width, and place into a lined and oiled baking tray, leaving a small gap between each roll. Leave to prove until most of the gaps are filled in.

Cinnamon Roll Dough Rolled Up

This is what they look like before proving - make sure there are some gaps for them to expand into
This is what they look like before proving – make sure there are some gaps for them to expand into
After proving - almost good enough to eat already!
After proving – almost good enough to eat already!

Preheat an oven to 200ºC. Brush the rolls with the yolk of an egg, to get a nice glaze – we forgot this bit, but they still worked out alright! When the oven is up to temperature, put the rolls in and cook on 200ºC for 10 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 180ºC and cooking for a further 20 minutes. When they’re nicely golden on top, take them out and leave to stand on a cooling rack for a little while, but not too long – these are absolutely delicious when they’re warm! If you forgot to glaze yours like we did – or if you just want a bit of extra orangeyness – you can glaze again with a mixture of orange juice and melted butter once they come out of the oven.

Cinnamon Rolls Done

These won’t stick around for very long, especially if you’re surrounded by a sweet-toothed and hungry family! They’re really good reheated too, so you don’t have to eat them all at once…

White Wine and Fennel Pot Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a classic, and one that can’t easily be improved upon but we’ve found a way which means you still get a classic roast but with a bit of a twist, and the moistest chicken ever! This could make a lovely alternative Christmas dinner for a smaller family or a special dinner any weekend. The chicken sits on a bed of sliced fennel, onions and celery covered in white wine which you can then turn into a delicious sauce at the end. We used a small-medium chicken here so obviously adjust the cooking times if you’re using a bigger one – this recipe is forgiving, you can cook it for a little longer than you should and still have lovely chicken, with no hint of dryness. We served ours like a traditional roast dinner but this would work really well with mashed potato and vegetables or in the summer with bread and salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bulb of fennel, chopped into 1cm strips
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1cm strips
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped roughly
  • 1 large glass of white wine (about 200ml)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Chopped Fennel and Onions

Heat a large oven-proof casserole dish over a medium heat. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour the oil into the casserole dish and when it’s hot add in the thyme. Then pop the chicken in, breast side down to start colouring the skin to encourage it to go nice and golden in the oven. You’ll have to tilt the chicken and move it around, we found that using your hands is the easiest way to do this, just watch out for hot oil! After about 5 minutes the skin on the breast should be lightly golden so take the chicken out and pop it back on it’s plastic tray while you put the vegetables in. Put all of the vegetables into the pot and stir over the heat for a few minutes until they start to cook, but you don’t want them to colour. Pour over the wine after this time and then put the chicken back on top, breast-side up this time. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and rub with a little extra olive oil if needed.

Chicken in pot

Put the dish in the oven, leave the lid off for around half an hour to help the skin crisp up, then put the lid on and leave for 1 hour. Check the fluid levels occasionally and top up with a bit of water if necessary, there should be around 2-3 inches of fluid in the bottom at all times. After the hour take the lid off and leave to brown for another 10-15 minutes and then take out of the oven.

Cooked chicken in pot

Put your chicken to rest on a board, loosely covered with foil, and then you can make a gravy out of the wine/stock if you wish, or you can just serve it as it is. It would be perfect left as it is for a light summer lunch with bread and salad… you could pop the sauce into a bowl for people to dip their bread into! We decided to thicken ours slightly as we were serving it in more of a traditional roast dinner style. To do this simply place about 1 tsp of butter in a small sauce pan, add 2 tsp of plain flour and a little of the stock, stir to make a paste. Then keep adding the stock slowly, making sure it’s completely incorporated before adding the next spoonful. Cook this for around 10 minutes to make sure the raw flour taste is completely gone. You can make it to whatever thickness you fancy, we wanted quite a thick sauce this time so didn’t add too much of the stock and then let it reduce well.

Finished pot roast chicken

And that’s it! Carve the chicken and serve with whatever you fancy. Here we have roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots and some leeks and cabbage which were braised together in a little water and butter and of course some of the deliciously soft fennel, onions and celery. Even though this chicken was only supposed to feed 2-4 there was so much meat left on it, we boiled up the carcass to make soup which made at least 5-6 portions – you can’t get much better value than a chicken!

Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide

We didn’t write this post too early as we didn’t want to make things too easy for our families, but here is a round-up of gifts which we think would make a fellow foodie very happy! Some of the items we’ve linked to are out of stock now on the websites but there’s still plenty of time to nip to the shops to pick up a last-minute present. This post is intended to inspire, and we hope it helps bring some joy to a foodie you love. They range from stocking fillers to big gifts and hopefully there’s a little something in here for everyone.

Gift Collage

Under £10:

Spices – these are the perfect stocking filler, you can pick a couple up for about a fiver and they will make perfect little presents for a foodie to unwrap. We got some saffron last year which we’ve been having fun playing with – you can go for your favourite ingredient (like our current chipotle chilli obsession) or buy something that they wouldn’t treat themselves to! Rose petals would make an ideal gift for a keen baker or anyone who loves Middle Eastern/North African flavours, Chipotle chillis would be perfect for all of the heat lovers out there (Waitrose has a fantastic range of dried chilli varieties if you’re after something hard to come by!) and saffron always feels special. This brand of harissa is gorgeous, the rose really comes through but isn’t overpowering and it has a brilliantly balanced heat.

Cute apron – go for a classic navy and white (and look like our very own Fats!), a shabby chic style for a girly girl or an Edward Monkton for all round brilliance.

Nice bottle of wine – you can’t really go wrong with this, as long as you know they like wine! We can’t think of any wine drinker who wouldn’t like to receive a nice bottle. You don’t have to spend a fortune, there are plenty of lovely wines out there for under a tenner.

£10-£30:

Cute measuring cup set – any other Brits out there get thoroughly baffled by American recipes in cups? Be baffled no longer with a set of measuring cups, these ones are particularly cute or check out Anthropologie if you want to spend a bit more.

Cookbook – we are going to be putting together a little post on our favourite cookbooks that we own so we won’t blather on too much but they make a great gift that will be treasured for years (you know it’s a good’un when you turn the pages and they’re splattered with sauce and cake batter!). We don’t own either of these and have our beady little eyes on them.

Coffee/tea set/accessories – how about putting together your own hamper, we especially love Twinings, Pukka, Clipper and Illy, all of which can be picked up in supermarkets/local deli’s.

Cheeseboard with knives – know a cheese fiend? (Everyone should!). A beautiful cheeseboard with a set of knives would make a great gift. Go classic with a wooden set or grab a slate for the more modern of your loved ones! We’ve seen these sets in loads of supermarkets, hopefully there are still a few up for grabs.

Fancy olive oil/vinegar/dips – these make a great gift for any foodie, especially one with a love of Mediterranean food. Fats’ brother got us a lovely set of sauces/dips last year which we’re still using now! These ones are sadly sold out but hopefully it will spark some ideas.

Baking stone – we’re pretty desperate for one of these, having got into our bread baking in a fairly big way. This Jamie Oliver one would be a great gift but if you’ve got a bit more cash to splash check out this beauty from Anthropologie.

Over £30:

Coffee/tea club subscription – we know that Whittard do one but check out your local coffee/tea specialists as there are lots of small companies that are starting to provide this service and what could be nicer than a package of joy-in-a-mug being dropped through your door every month?

Bottle of whisky/fave drink – a bit of a predictable one but very appreciated nonetheless! Or if the person you’re buying for has a favourite drink maybe give them an expensive brand to try? Or how about a fancy liqueur for the budding cocktail artist that they would never normally treat themselves to? Bird has her eye on some sloe gin this year, although it probably wouldn’t compete with the stuff her grandparents used to make!

 Cookery course – this could be a brilliant present, and there is course out there to suit any type of foodie! Artisan bread making, wild food foraging, butchery, cocktail making, tea blending… the choice is endless!

Restaurant vouchers – Bird’s parents got us vouchers for The Olive Shed last Christmas and we finally got round to going in November. It was brilliant! There is something so indulgent about going out for a fab meal without having to worry about picking up the bill at the end! Choose your favourite restaurant for someone to try or just have a search for restaurants in their area that you think they would love.

Le Creuset – pretty much anything by Le Creuset will make you the best gift-giver this Christmas. You could go small – Bird is in love with their espresso mugs, go for some of the beautiful ombre colours in Rose and Coastal Blue for a girly vibe or stick to strong, traditional colour such as Volcanic, Satin Black and Teal for a cooler, more modern feel. For those wanting to splash out then you can’t go wrong with a classic casserole dish, a brilliantly heavy griddle pan or some roasting dishes. Just in case anyone is thinking of treating us with Le Creuset ever, all of our current gear is in Volcanic so we’d love it in that colour *nudge nudge*.

Gorgeous knives – we have completely fallen in love with these knives, the bands of copper are not only beautiful but you know this would cut like a dream. For those on more of a budget we have some James Martin knives which have served us extremely well. And for sharpening you can’t do better than a whetstone or an oilstone, we have one which was found in Bird’s garden shed (really!) but they’re available online from loads of places and nothing will sharpen your knives better.

Hamper of luxury ingredients – there are so many of these about but this one tops our lust list this year!

Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas for any last minute panics and if we’re too late for you then we’re sorry, hopefully we can get our act together better next year!