in my kitchen…….
……. I’m loving Ruby’s excitement as she jumps out of bed every morning and comes downstairs to look in a pocket of her advent calendar. In the pockets are a mixture of little gifts and notes. On weekend mornings there may be an “Ask Mummy to make Christmas biscuits note” or “Make decorations with lots of glitter.” Maybe a tiny tube of red icing for decorating; on others there’s a little chocolate or a glitzy festive hair-slide. Pegged to the pocket for Christmas Eve is the reindeer food Ruby made. This morning it was a big treat from Daddy that went down particularly well: a note directing her to a gaudy set of lights for the den she’s made with a shelf and a blanket.
What’s really lovely this year is that Ruby decided it wasn’t fair having just one thing in each pocket, so she’s crammed in some gifts (mainly items found around the house or chocolate bars saved from party bags – my daughter’s a hoarder!) for Mummy and Daddy too.
The advent calendar is also reminding me of the mix of home-made/natural and the outright gaudy that my kitchen inevitably ends up with at this time of year. I make Christmas granola and cranberry breakfast cookies, gather holly and have ideas of home-made gifts and decorations while admiring the simplicity of Scandinavian Christmas style.
My daughter, meanwhile, is craving tinsel and foil-wrapped novelty chocolates and of course would prefer this:
Obviously we end up with a chaotic mixture of the lot.
in my kitchen…..
… it’s starting to smell like Christmas. The quince-meat oatie slices include a mix of booze-soaked dried fruit that can’t help but remind you of the spicy fug of festive baking, whether they’re cooking or being eaten.
There have been quinces simmering slowly for Jelly, the Christmas Cake cooking at a low heat for several hours and the Christmas pudding steaming slowly on top of the wood-burning oven. As there are storms outside, it all feels very comforting. As I write, a gale is whipping leaves up into a frenzied dance outside the kitchen window and I can see our cat trying to chase them. Not sure who’s more entertained, Mog or me.
But back to the Quince-meat Oatie slices. I used the home-made mince-meat including my quinces here, but you can obviously use any preferred mince-meat, bought or home-made. I was going to use Quince-meat in the Oatie slices I made here with greengage but as my vegan friend Chava was visiting (she took the lovely pics in this post and has a lovely piece here on advents for grown-ups I thought I’d experiment with a Little Leon bar recipe which doesn’t have fat. I substituted the dried fruit and nuts in the original Leon recipe for Quince-meat and it was so quick and easy to make. Even easier than my fruity Oatie slices, these are perfect to rustle up if you’re in the midst of a busy mix of work, Nativity plays, Christmas shopping and school runs.
Quince-Meat Oatie Slices
450g quince-meat or mince-meat
60g wholemeal flour
120g rolled oats
Preheat oven to 190C. Mix mince-meat with oats and flour and a drizzle of honey depending on how sweet your taste/mince-meat is. Smooth the mixture into a 25 X 30cm baking tray lined with baking parchment. Drizzle with a little extra honey. Bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden. Allow to cool before cutting into bars/slices. They will keep for a week in an airtight container.
These are lovely warm as a pudding too with a little cream or thick Greek yoghurt. We ate some with the wonderful cream I brought back from Woefuldane Dairy and the combination of boozy, nutty, fruit and rich cream reminded us of Christmas pudding with brandy cream.
in my kitchen….
……my Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are based on traditional recipes but with a twist. Not always intentional. My Christmas pudding does have dried fruit soaked in alcohol but, inspired by Sarah of the Garden Deli, I substituted some of the bought dried fruit for the boozy sloes from my sloe gin. While the Christmas pudding had a generous drizzle of my home-made Quince Ratafia from Diana Henry’s Salt, Sugar, Smoke while it was still warm from the oven. And I have to admit that it’s also heart-shaped. This wasn’t planned, more a result of my shoddiness.
Basically, I’d soaked the fruit in alcohol, taken the butter from the fridge and knew that I had a full school day working at the kitchen table; it was a perfect day to have the cake baking for several hours while I worked. Obviously I’d already mixed the cake before I attempted to line the cake tin and realised I didn’t have greaseproof paper. In a rash mood I decided to use my Ikea heart-shaped silicone mould. Very luckily it didn’t burn. Not sure how I’m going to ice it though!
in my kitchen…..
……some of the home-made booze is ready and offering double treats. As I said, the sloe gin has contributed to the Christmas cake, I’d also like to try the boozy sloes in a cake with almonds and orange. The blackberries from the blackberry whisky are also great with vanilla ice-cream for an extremely easy pud – drizzle over a little of the blackberry whisky too and it’s delicious. I’m still looking for inspiration for the sweetened and brandy soaked quinces from the Quince Ratafia. Any ideas very welcome.
I’m enjoying preparing a little of the food for Christmas feasting ahead – the red cabbage to go with the turkey is in the freezer, Scandinavian pickled beetroot to go with gravlax is in jars and labneh is preserved in oil to do with leftover meat and flatbreads. When it all starts to get busier and I’m more frazzled later in the month, a tipple of my home-made booze may be just the job though!
Would love to join in once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s fab In My Kitchen, enjoying a nosy peep at kitchens around the world.