November 26, 2014

There is nothing I like more than making up festive hampers for loved ones over Christmas. Of course you can get gorgeous hampers from places like Fortnums, and if you are short of time they are beautiful gifts,  but if you do have the time there is nothing like making up one yourself, not to mention it is pretty impressive and great fun.

Mum and I have had this tradition for years and around about this time we start brainstorming ideas for this years round of hampers.

We always try different goodies but keep a few favorites that we know always go down a storm.

When I tell friends and family about the hampers they too are always keen to make up a selection of hand made gifts for loved ones too so I thought I would put together my ultimate Christmas hamper kitchen essentials kit for you to get for those keen bakers out there either as early presents for this year or so they can get stuck in for 2015.

Cutters  - festive cutters are great, you can hand ice your creations once baked with pretty designs and make them look beautiful. 

10 of the best Christmas Cookies from around the world: Linzer Cookies recipe at A Fox in the Kitchen

Mince pie cutters - these are great roll your pastry thin and fill with delicious mincemeat.

Pâte Frolle Mince Pies / Top with Cinnamon

Everyone can decorate their own gingerbread house this Christmas, with Sarah Cook's cute mini versions

Piping bag and nozzles  - great to decorate cookies or your gingerbread houses 

Four Easy Ways to Frost a Cupcakes with an Open Star Tip! #chocolate #buttercream #cupcakedecorating

Bunt tins - these mini cakes are great and once out of their packaging can be dusted liberally with icing sugar and served with sticky sauce. 

Lingonberry Gingerbread Cakes {styling}

Loaf tin - make up a sticky gingerbread loaf.

Chocolate Gingerbread 1C+1T flour 1/2t bak soda 2T cocoa pdr 1t grd cinnamon 1t grd ginger  pinch grd nutmeg 1/4t salt 4T unsalted butter 1/2C packed brown sugar 1 egg 1/2C buttermilk 1/3C molasses 2T flaxseed meal(opt) 2T crystalized ginger chips 3/4C cup coarsely chopped chocolate   Oven 350F Lightly grease pan

Mini jars - perfect to fill with toffee sauce, a great gift that can last for the Christmas period and be enjoyed drizzled over puddings.

Salted Caramel Sauce - Great for gifting!

Ribbons - these can be tied, threaded, looped and wrapped around your creations. 

Gingerbread men ornaments for packages

Cellophane & Cellophane bags  - great for wrapping liberally around all your goodies.

White Toasted Almond Bark with Sea Salt.. tagged and wrapped for gifting

Silicone ice cube tray - This is a great essential to any kitchen, for the winter hampers they are great to make chocolate stirrers. Pour melted chocolate in your tray, place in a lolly stick and sprinkle with nuts, once set take out of the tray and wrap in cellophane. 

Mint Hot Chocolate Stirring Stick

Lolly Sticks  These are a great baking accessory, you can stick marshmallows on the end and dip in chocolate...

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows Hot Cocoa Stirrers

These all make great stocking fillers and fun gifts for any bakers out there! Less than a month till Christmas...get baking! 

(Images all taken from my Pinterest boards

November 25, 2014


The Tramshed is a great restaurant over in the east of London in Shoreditch. It is the idea of Mark Hix with a simple sharing concept and the choices are chicken or beef. 

Both sourced organically, the chicken from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire and the beef,  Himalayan salt dry-aged steak, from hand selected cows.

 It's fairly inconspicuous from the outside but once you are over the threshold it is just mesmerizing. 

You walk into a huge barn and are greeted with a Damien Hirst work right in the centre; one of his controversial sculptures of a Cow and a Cockerel immersed in formaldehyde. 

Celebrating a best friend's birthday, we wanted the best of the best of the menu and went for the whole roast chicken with chips and stuffing. 

Once ordered we sat back and watched the waiters hurry around with plates piled with chicken and  platters scattered with steak. 

After ooing and aahing, it was our turn. 

Our chickens arrived, strung up by their feet, not the most elegant of presentations but perfect for carving off the succulent meat of a perfectly roasted chicken.

For 5 we shared two chickens and we were all pretty satisfied.

You then get to work, carving, tearing and sharing your chicken with mouthfuls of deliciously crispy chips and crumbling stuffing 

Once finished, lean back and marvel at the sculpture somewhere overhead. 

You can book tables here...

November 17, 2014

This time of year calls for warming comfort food that can be enjoyed with a cup of steaming spiced apple cider or mulled wine.
Doughnuts conjure up memories of tea parties when I was little, and in particular the ‘no licking of lips’ game where you are challenged to eat your doughnut without licking your lips. It of course becomes increasingly hard the more sugar-coated your mouth becomes, and eventually you cave and give in because the sugary doughnut is just too delicious to tarnish struggling trying to win this frustrating game!

To keep things in season, I went for spiced apple compote to plump up my doughnut holes and rolled them liberally in pure white caster sugar with a hint of cinnamon. 

For 12-15 Doughnut Holes you will need…

1 ½ cups of Plain Flour
2 tbps Baking Powder
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ cup Milk
2 tsp Melted Butter
1 Egg
1/3 cup Caster Sugar 

3 large Apples 
1 cup Soft Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon 

500-600ml Sunflower Oil for frying 

Extra sugar for dusting! 

Mix together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Separately mix the melted butter, egg and milk.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients to form a dough. 

Fill a saucepan with 500ml of sunflower oil; take care not to over fill your pan.

While you wait for your oil to heat up get a dish and fill with white caster sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon, ready to roll your Doughnut Holes in once cooked.
Test the oil for temperature by placing a cube of bread into the oil, once browned your oil is ready for frying. 

Using two spoons scoop out a teaspoon of dough shaping it into a ball. It is tempting to try rolling them by hand; this dough is wet and sticky so using your hands will be almost impossible.

I decided to keep slightly more towards the traditional end and keep mine sweet, however I went for the smaller, slightly different version of this deep fried sweet, known as ‘Doughnut Holes’. Supposedly the missing part of the traditional ring doughnuts, these are smaller than the traditional doughnut in size and can be demolished in a couple of mouthfuls.

Plop each ‘hole’ into the oil, which will make it bubble furiously. Leave for a couple of minutes and then flip over. Once golden lift out and role in sugar.

Continue until you have run out of dough.

        Next make the spiced compote filling.

Peel and chop three large apples and place in a saucepan with 1 cup of sugar, cook until the apples have softened and then mash with a fork to a pulp.

Add some cinnamon to your compote filling and mix well.

Using a squeezy bottle or a piping bag inject each doughnut hole with the warm sticky compote.

Pile high and serve with a piping hot glass of mulled wine!

Small bites of autumn to enjoy as the last of the leaves fall.

November 11, 2014

When I am home a Sunday rarely goes by that we do not have a long country walk followed by a traditional roast of some kind.

This Sunday was no exception and taking advantage of the crisp autumn weather we did just that. After a long walk, working up a fantastic appetite, we returned home to cook up a great Sunday lunch.

Rather than chicken, always a favourite, this weekend we decided to attempt the perfect roast duck.
Crunchy crispy skin on the outside and tender melt in the mouth for the meat.

Rather than a whole bird we chose the quicker option and decided to use just the duck breasts.

In place of our usual choice of roast potatoes we made the creamiest of Dauphinoise (with a little help from Delia.)

For four you will need...

4 duck breasts
3/4 sprigs of fresh thyme
A good chunk of butter
Salt and Pepper
3 large potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
3 small onions chopped
Extra butter for dotting between the layers of potato
300ml Veg stock
300ml milk (or cream if you are feeling indulgent)
A generous pinch of ground nutmeg

And whatever other veg you fancy to accompany.

Start by preparing your duck

Score the top of the skin and season with salt and pepper.

Leave the duck to one side and start to slice up your potatoes, if you have a mandolin or a mixer with a slicing attachment this speeds up the process and leaves you with perfect thin slices.

Grease the tin well with butter and cover the bottom with a layer of potato, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, some chopped onion and knobs of butter, repeat the layers until you have run out of potato (about two more layers) and then finish with a good sprinkling of nutmeg and dot with some more butter. 

Place in a preheated oven (180C) for 45 mins until nice and golden on top.

Start your duck cooking after the potatoes have been in for half an hour. 

Heat up a pan with some butter and fresh thyme. Place the duck skin side down cook like this for about 5 mins until the skin is crispy, repeat with all four pieces of duck.

Once crispy place flesh side down into a roasting pan with some extra thyme and roast for a further 8 mins if you like your duck pink or 12 if you like it well done.

Once your duck is resting you can take out the potatoes which should be bubbly and golden and smelling delicious. 

A perfect Sunday roast.

November 05, 2014

Once the leaves have turned and there is a really chill in the air, so much so that the sunshine fools you into thinking it is still warm and you venture outside only to be underdressed and cold, it is time for filling, comfort food. 

This time of year I long to be in France where you can forage through the forest for your pick of mushrooms (and after a quick trip to the pharmacy - in France any pharmacist will check your mushrooms are all edible) and get about cooking up a storm.

With all of this is mind, I decided this weekend to make an autumnal pate. 

A dish inspired by Michel Roux's Chicken Terrine but with the addition of wild mushrooms.

You will need an 8 inch earthenwear bowl or pyrex dish and...

20-25 rashers of streaky bacon ( I used smoked as I think it really adds flavour but you can use unsmoked if you prefer) 
3 chicken breasts sliced into medium strips 
180g chicken livers
100g shelled pistachios 
180g mince pork belly ( If this is too hard to get as I found, fatty mince pork from the butcher works just as well)
2 shallots finely chopped
3 sprigs of chopped fresh thyme.
a good shake of salt and pepper
200g wild mushrooms chopped

First gently fry up the mushrooms in some butter, this reduces a lot of the liquid they contain and makes them tasty. 

Next mix the livers, fatty pork, thyme, shallots, salt and pepper with the pistachios, once well mixed add in the mushrooms. 

Now get to work making up the pate. 

Get your dish you are going to cook in ( make sure it is a complete tin that doesn't have a loose bottom)

Line with your rashers of bacon, making sure you leave no gaps until it looks something like this...

Now start to pack in the filling. Put half of the liver and mushroom mixture in the bottom and then place the chicken strips on top.

Top with the rest of the liver mixture.

Now fold over the bacon, keeping it pulled tight.

This needs to be cooked in a bain-marie. Place the dish into a tin and half fill with boiling water and place into the oven at 180C.

Cook for 45mins-1 hour until when pricked in  the middle the juices run clear. Your bacon will go nice and crispy on top.

I then drained off the excess fat. 

Once cooled lift out onto a board to serve. 

Decorate with some dried mushrooms for an added autumnal feel. 

Tuck in with some crusty sourdough and enjoy! 
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