Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (Happy New Year)! And a happy 2018! Hope you had a lovely Christmas, wherever you were and whoever you were with. If you read my post a couple of weeks ago about Hosting Christmas then you’ll know that Sunny’s Mum, Dad and little sister came to stay and that I was in charge of cooking Christmas Dinner for everyone, including my Mum and Dad who popped over for the day too. It was waaaaay more chilled than last year; with plenty of food, presents, drink and an epic three hour long game of Cards Against Humanity. I managed to get everything out on the table by 3pm hot and not burnt… but, I did forget to buy crackers. Oops! 🙂
Bungle wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but he did enjoy all the wrapping paper. He vanished while we were unwrapping our presents first thing in the morning and when it was all over and we went to find him, we found him in his bed in the kitchen amongst a massive pile of shredded paper! He was more interested in the wrapping paper than his presents, which was predictable, I guess!
Sunny got me spot on and gave me this massive book full of short stories about and written by women like Angela Carter (my fave!) and Margaret Atwood. One a day will definitely help me pull me through those January blues!
I’ve made (and scoffed) Madeleines more than a few times. They’re so easy to make and are the perfect kind of tea cake to stick out on a plate whenever you’ve got someone coming over for elevenses (they’re made to be dunked!). Traditionally they’re flavoured with lemon, but since it’s Christmas I thought I’d do something a little more fancy pants. These ones are dunked in melted chocolate and then sprinkled with praline and a little bit of edible glitter (if you can’t use glitter at Christmas, then when can you?). I’d never made praline before and to be honest it took two attempts; I made the mistake of stirring the sugar as it was heating and it crystallized in the saucepan and looked like snow. Oops! How many times have I rolled my eyes as Bake Off contestants make exactly the same mistake?! Typical! I got it the second time round though and had more than enough left over. It’ll be jazzing up my porridge over Christmas I think! 😉
100g butter melted (and a little extra to grease the tin)
100g chocolate (I used milk, but I bet dark chocolate would be even better!)
100g chopped hazelnuts
50g brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 200° and grease the madeleine tin with a little butter.
Whisk together the eggs and the caster sugar in a bowl until combined and frothy.
Pour in the melted butter (be careful if it’s still hot – if you pour it in too quickly you’ll get scrambled eggs!), and then stir in the flour.
Pour the mixture into the tray – about a desert spoonful for each madeleine mould should do the trick. Leave them to rest for about 10 minutes before you whack them in the oven.
Bake for around 10 minutes until the madeleines have risen and cooked through. Leave the madeleines to cool while you work on the toppings.
To make the praline, scatter the chopped hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes until golden. In a saucepan, heat the sugar and water together on a low heat until it caramelizes (don’t stir!). Pour the caramel over the roasted hazelnuts and leave to cool. Once it’s cooled, smash it with a rolling pin.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave, then dunk the tips of the madeleines. Once they’re all coated in melted chocolate, dunk them into the praline to coat the melted chocolate tip. Leave to set, then scoff! 🙂
Have a great week everyone! Hope the final run up to Christmas hasn’t got you too stressed! X
Last year Sunny and I hosted Christmas for the first time. Buzzed about being in a brand new house – and finally one that was actually big enough to have people stay over – we invited everyone (and when I say ‘invited’ I mean insisted/pestered/begged everyone to come). In the weeks running up to the big day we brushed off all the “Are you sure?”s and “It’s a lot of work for you both!” and “What can I bring? How can I help?” and instead got excited about all the things we were going to do and the food we were going to serve and how we were going to make it the best Christmas ever.
And it was! On Christmas Eve we put on a massive buffet complete with a massive Gingerbread Cake I baked myself, I managed to serve up Christmas Dinner on time and hot on the plate (even though I had to borrow my brother’s oven to fit all the food in!), and late nights spent playing game after game of Cards Against Humanity had us all in stitches. But, by Boxing Day we were both exhausted; I felt like I’d been held captive in the kitchen for three days, and the pressure of herding everyone from room to room, coordinating games and keeping everyone watered and fed began to take its toll on Sunny. By Boxing Day he was in a stinking mood and I was disappearing into the downstairs loo every now and then to have a gin-soaked sob.
So then what the hell possessed us to perform an encore this year? Well, (and get ready to gag) because there was nothing better than having everyone crammed together. Plain and simple. For the first time in our relationship, Sunny and I didn’t need to split the time between my family in Cardiff and his in London. Instead, we were all together. It was cosy and fun and full of colliding traditions, as well as the start of a few new ones.
It was lovely, and I enjoyed every second – even the difficult ones. Plus, it has to be said, I’ve always been a bit of a Monica Geller when it comes to having people over (“I’m always the hostess!”). I LOVE it.
But this year – with lessons learned from last year – we’ll be keeping it simple, and giving ourselves permission to let things spill, boil over and burn if it means we can spend more time enjoying Christmas with everyone. 🙂
Lesson One: Have a Game Plan (and keep it for next year!)
One thing we did pretty well last year was to plan ahead. Ahead of time we decided exactly what we were going to be eating on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, made space for everything in the fridge, and got the house looking clean, tidy and Christmassy before everyone arrived. Knowing that we didn’t need to pop to the supermarket for milk or brussel sprouts made things so much less stressful. I used a notepad to keep track of everything, and even sat down with it before everyone arrived checking the cooking instructions on food packs and writing down timings. It was a simple, but genius idea – having a cooking game plan for Christmas Day prevented burnt turkey and soggy sprouts! Plus, I packed it away with the decorations so I’ve got something to go on this year. Handy!
Lesson Two: Be Flexible
Of course, there is such a thing as being over-prepared. Don’t be a Monica Geller! There’s no fun in having a Christmas that’s too organised – it’s stressful for you, and no fun for your guests! Some of the best moments at Christmas are the ones that are unplanned; last year Sunny and I woke up early on Boxing Day before everyone else and watched The Life of Brian together whilst scoffing a Chocolate Orange and it was perfect. Unscripted time to watch films, play games and snooze is what Christmas is all about!
Lesson Three: Let People Help! (And help themselves!)
Last year we wanted our family to have a fun and relaxing Christmas, which to us meant that they didn’t have to lift a finger or do anything, just enjoy themselves. There were times last year where I wanted everyone out of the kitchen and shut the door because I had my game face on, was in the zone and wanted everything to be John Lewis Christmas Advert perfect. I didn’t get that by doing that I was both literally and metaphorically shutting everyone out so they couldn’t help. The truth is that having a spare pair of hands to load and unload the dishwasher (I felt like was constantly opening the dish washer last year!) or peel potatoes or hoover the kitchen wouldn’t be such a a terrible thing at all.
Lesson Four: Give Yourself a Break
This year we’ve got our pup Bungle to worry about too, but, having him around will mean that three times a day one of us will have to leave “Operation Christmas” to get outside and walk him. It’s the perfect excuse to get out of the kitchen, get some fresh air and a bit of space. It’s important, I think. This year I’m going to give myself a break and take the time to chill out more and enjoy myself.
Fist bump if you’re hosting Christmas this year! I feel ya! 😉
Let’s get things straight here; I’m a die hard tea drinker, but when the nights get a little colder and a little darker I ditch my past nine ‘o clock telly and tea for something a little… cosiercwtchier. Nothing beats a cream-capped hot chocolate at this time of year, but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up a bit and ditch the usual recipe and get a little creative 🙂
“It’s not Terry’s, it’s mine”
Hot Chocolate Powder, a splash of Cointreau (or orange extract), Warm Milk, Whipped Cream and Grated Clementine Zest.
Have you ever tried Whittard’s White Hot Chocolate? OHMYGOD. I usually have it with a little bit of cinnamon, but this time I mixed it with Raspberry Vodka (you could also use Chambord or Monin’s Raspberry Syrup), Hot Milk, Whipped Cream and some Freeze-Dried Raspberry or Pink Sprinkles to top.
Donut Knock it ’til You’ve Tried it
Did you know you can get donut-flavoured syrup? Ho yes, and I can’t think of anything better to use it for than spiking hot chocolates. 🙂 Hot Milk, Hot Chocolate Powder, 1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon, Donut Syrup, Whipped Cream and a Mini Donut to garnish.
Christmas in the Tropics
One of my absolute favourite flavours to add to a bog standard hot chocolate has to go to coconut. Malibu (Coconut Rum) has been my favourite spirit since I was teen and a splash of the stuff in your hot chocolate is a wonderful thing. If you’re one of those people who hates Malibu (you’re weird), then a splash of coconut syrup will work just as well.
Fred and Ginger
Gingerbread Hot Chocolate isn’t an unusual hot chocolate flavour, but add a little Disaronno (Amaretto) and it becomes a little more lively.
All the above were created using Whittard’s dreamy Luxury Hot Chocolate Range. What’s your favourite hot chocolate flavour/cocktail? 🙂
It feels like Christmas officially barged its way in this week whether you wanted it to or not! It’s something that seems to divide opinions; when we saw our first Christmas advert whilst scoffing breakfast on Monday morning, Sunny rolled his eyes over his toast and complained that it was waaaaaaay too early, meanwhile I was grinning and updating my Christmas Spotify playlist pronto tonto! So you can imagine how excited I was when I got invited along for a sneak peek of Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland for 2017. So I invited along my the biggest Christmas Cynic I know – Sunny – in the hope that I’d have him singing Christmas songs all the way home in the car. 🙂
All the usual attractions are back from the funfair to the alpine village, along with the Admiral Ice Rink, which is absolutely massive this year and, more to the point, it’s completely enclosed, which means the pesky Welsh Weather has no chance of drizzling on the Christmas Spirit!
We made a beeline for the hot dogs though, which I could smell cooking as soon as I got out of the car. It’s like a superpower, what can I say?
Sunny somehow convinced me to go up the massive ferris wheel. It’s not that I’m scared of heights exactly, it’s more that I’m scared of being trapped up somewhere high! If you caught my Instagram Stories you’ll have seen my shaking hand and pleas to Sunny not to spin the cage – but the views of City Hall all lit up, the funfair (waaaaay down) below us and the Millenium (sorry!)Principality Stadium all lit up were worth the fifteen minutes of terror. 🙂
It was freezing up there, so we popped into the Bierkeller to warm up with a couple of hot chocolates, then spent the rest of the night dueling on the dodgems – which is when Sunny finally got into the Christmas spirit. Sadly I couldn’t convince him on the festive sing-along on the way home in the car, but hey, there’s still six weeks to go until Christmas. I’ll get him! 😉
Cardiff Winter Wonderland is open from now until the 7th of January. 🙂 Now then, tell me the truth, is it too soon for me to put my tree up?