Last night we had some of our nearest and dearest over to celebrate Christmas with some Christmasy treats and a little Vin Chaud (or Gluhwein for my German Sister-in-law). The weather outside was indeed frightful, but the fire(place) inside was delightful and with wine mulling on the stove for most of the night, our little flat tasted, looked and even smelled like Christmas.
I was a little more creative this year with the food I wanted to prepare for this little gathering, as I was a bit tired of the regular rum balls and fruit mince pies, that I feel like I have made for the past 10 years! Without access to copha, I couldn't make White Christmas or other Australian goodies, so thought, with my vastly American audience in mind, I would make something with pumpkin instead!
On the menu for the evening was:
Brandy balls (aka rum balls, but lacking rum in the house, they took the form of brandy balls).
Salted caramel fudge (in.k.redible)
Sausage scrolls (I don't think anyone liked them, they scoffed them down so that they wouldn't offend anyone for too long....)
Spiced pumpkin dip (with a sweet and savoury harmony)
Cranberry, cheddar and almond cheese ball (tasty but tricky to eat)
Pancetta wrapped scallops (is that scalllllops or scollops....)
And the remain-to-be-named invention of fruit-mince-pie-cake-puddings with brandy butter!
Nobody was hoping to come to my house for a detox I'm hoping....
Recipe 1: Salted Caramel Fudge
I hadn't really known much about the joy of adding salt to caramel until (my number one blog fan) Holly introduced me to the concept! I won't tell you what happened to her entire batch of salted caramel cupcakes and their sauce, but, needless to say, first impressions last!!! When we were in Paris two weeks ago we stumbled upon an amazing chocolatier who also dedicated half of his store to the joy of caramel! We didn't purchase much in Paris over the weekend, but safely packed in our suitcases for home was a few pots of Caramel Sale (salted caramel) and a variety of bite-sized caramel pieces. There's something peculiar about adding salt to caramel that takes away a bit of the sweetness but that at the same time brings out the sweetness... I am doing salted caramel absolutely no favours in my description, but just trust me, it is divine.
Each year we would go out to Pete's farm for Easter and spend a few days making Easter goodies. As I haven't been able to eat chocolate since I was 9 (yes I miss it, but no, it is not worth suffering a migraine for) we would make a batch of caramel fudge when making chocolate Easter eggs so that I wouldn't be left out of the sugar binge that seems to be Easter. This very same fudge recipe has been used each year for about 8 years now, and never, had I thought to add salt! Until now!
2 2/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 oz of butter (125g)
200g condensed milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Handful of salt flakes
1. Combine milk and sugar in a heavy based saucepan (the heavier the better and the less attention you will have to pay it), and heat for about 20 minutes to slowly bring the sugar to the boil.
2. Add all other ingredients other than salt, and gently boil for 30 minutes. Stir every few minutes so that the bottom doesn't burn. It will gradually start turning a delicious golden brown colour as the sugar caramelises (funny that!!).
3. As the mixture starts to thicken, stir through a few pinches of salt flakes. I only put a a few pinches in as I wasn't sure how it would taste, and put extra on top before cooling.
4. When the fudge has thickened in the pot and it starts getting difficult to stir and starts to set when left to rest, it is ready! (Warning, it is as hot as lava, don't try and put your finger in for a test!). As soon as you have poured it and evened it out in the dish, sprinkle more salt flakes evenly on top.
5. Pour into a tin/dish that is lined with parchment paper and leave to cool for a few hours in the fridge. If you are impatient like we are, we put it in the freezer, and half an hour later, were thrilled to discover it was ready!!!
6. Cut into rough bite size pieces and devour immediately, or wrap up to give as gifts for the long tube-ride home!
Recipe 2: Spiced Pumpkin dip
I am embracing the tradition that pumpkin is a "Holiday" vegetable, mostly because I love pumpkin and enjoy any excuse to eat it and there doesn't seem to be all that much of it used in the UK. I was going to make this a warm dip, and have it more like a fondue type arrangement, but perhaps I will try that next time! I used a few different ideas that I found on the web and melded them together and filled a hollowed-out pumpkin with this sweet, but savoury dip.
100g pureed cooked pumpkin
9 oz cream cheese
30g icing sugar
1.5 tablespoons of giner
1.5 tablespoons of cinnamon
15g freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. The most time-consuming part of this recipe is cooking the pumpkin! Cut the skin off the pumpkin and place cut up pieces in boiling water. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, or until it is soft when skewered with a knife.
2. Drain the water and leave the pumpkin to cool.
3. In the meantime, prepare the cheese base. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and spices.
4. Add in the grated parmesan and when the pumpkin has fully cooled, add the pureed pumpkin.
5. To puree the pumpkin, wait until it is fully cool and then use whatever blending apparatus you may have to blend until the pumpkin is almost soupy. Be sure you have drained out all the water, as you don't want the pumpkin to be watery, it won't add as nicely to the cream cheese mix.
6. I left mine overnight and then served in the hollowed-out pumpkin that I had leftover, but I do think it would be extremely tasty if it were warmed up and hot bread was dipped into it too.... Something to try next time for sure!
I will continue to post the other recipes over the coming days, but for now, the warmth and comfort of bed beckons!
Happy Christmas week everyone!!!!