Festive Flies’ Graveyards

by Miss South on December 27, 2013

 

Screenshot 2013-12-27 21.58.46

Being organised enough to make my own Christmas pudding this year is fantastic because it’s given me the opportunity to make these fabulous festive flies’ graveyards (or fruit squares for the more squeamish) with the leftovers.

These buttery pastry squares packed with dried fruit were a must have at every tea time get together when I was a child. Both my granny and my Aunt Kathleen made them beautifully and I felt I had a lot to live up to trying to get mine right, so I’ve kept it simple here for this Observer Food Monthly piece and used my granny’s recipe to be sure.

These are fantastic with some leftover cranberry sauce dolloped in and make a great alternative to mince pies when you are a month into the season. Enjoy with custard or brandy butter for more of a dessert feel. I’m off to whip up another batch for the family now I’m home.

You can find the full recipe here. What other leftovers are you using up this week?

{ 2 comments }

Christmas Wishes

by Miss South on December 22, 2013

I honestly can’t believe where this year has gone. It seems like no time since ushering 2013 in, but I don’t think I’ve had a busier year than this. Writing two cookbooks in the space of five or six months has kept me busy on shopping, cooking and washing up, while being  enormous fun. I’ve been cooking lots of things that are new to me and so now that I’m back home in Belfast for the first time in twelve months, it’s wonderful to to take a break and return to the familiar, but with a freshness that keeps it interesting.

Mister North is England bound this Christmas so there’s just me and my mum eating together on Christmas Day and we’re revisiting our Christmas classic of beef, but with the twist of it being Dexter beef. I have to admit I hadn’t heard of this native Irish breed until my mum phoned a few weeks ago asking if I fancied a fillet of it for Christmas dinner, but in that way that once you’ve heard of something, you hear about all the time, I realise Dexter beef is the very thing.

A slow growing and smaller sized beef breed, the Dexter gives well flavoured and firm meat that is the very opposite of the soft, almost flabby steak one buys in supermarkets these days. Short and squat, these bulls are like the hard men of the paddock except that they are as renowned for their lovely temperament as the quality of their meat. Almost always organic meat, the Dexter is the breed to watch if you like good quality beef.

I’ve been so focused on recipe testing that I haven’t given a moment’s thought to what to serve with this beautiful bit of beast and if I’m honest, as long as there are roast potatoes and parsnips and a glass or two of red wine, I’m not too bothered about what else goes on my Christmas dinner plate. For me the day is more about the people I spend it with, the love I show them and of course all the other food traditions around the season.

Christmas isn’t Christmas in our house unless there’s a Coca Cola ham. Or some get your hands dirty seafood that involves piling shells up on the plate as you talk and eat and enjoy on Christmas Eve dinner. We often score a Lidl lobster or two, but this year it’s Dublin Bay prawns from there steamed over beer with some of my mum’s excellent home made sourdough to soak up the juices.

I take time off thinking frugally for a day or two around Christmas and raid the spoils of her fridge and her beautiful greenhouse by sampling homemade pickles to put mine to shame and to mainline cucumber relish and slow cooked green figs on the side of cold cuts. I pinch dried chillies, snaffle the remaining raspberries and toast it all with a hot port or two. This year I’m also thinking of a smidgeon of Irish cheeses on the side, some homemade Christmas pudding and custard and a few Freddo frogs with popping candy as the height of indulgence. I might even get the chance to sample some food and drink in the ever changing restaurants and bars of Belfast with friends.

What about you? What are your Christmas must haves or festive maybes? Do you try to try something new every year or do you have yearly traditions? Is Christmas about food or is about the social joy of sitting at a table and sharing the same dishes? Tell all. I love a Christmas tradition story. Almost as good as finding a spare present in the toe of your stocking…

I hope whatever you are doing this Christmas, you enjoy it. And thank you so much for your support and encouragement here over the years, it’s the blogger’s perk above any freebie!

{ 7 comments }

Sprout Stuffed Squash

by Miss South on December 12, 2013

sprout squashChristmas is the spiritual home of Brussels sprouts. People have very strong feelings about them one way or the other. Except in our childhood home. I don’t really ever remember eating them on the festive plate when I was wee, possibly because we don’t do turkey either (and don’t even mention bread sauce.)

The first time I really remember them appearing was a few years ago when both our mum and I spotted the same recipe for sprout gratin in the Guardian and were keen to make it. I can’t remember whose recipe it was and I’ve long since lost the cutting, but basically the sprouts are lightly boiled and then blended up with cream and parmesan and baked with more parmesan and breadcrumbs on top. Very simple and utterly amazing. I’ve seen people get territorial over the last spoonful of it.

So when I was coming up with something for £3 Christmas Challenge for the Trussell Trust, this dish was at the back of my mind but I wasn’t quite sure where to go with it. But as you all know, if I’m stuck for an idea, my mind turns to stuffing. And what better to do with the spare Crown Prince squash I’d had sitting getting its gourd on since Hallowe’en on the window sill?

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Sowing the Seeds

by Miss South on December 1, 2013

nigella bookWatching the ghastly events at Isleworth Court this week, it was pretty much a forgone conclusion I’d be Team Nigella since it would take a lot for me to back a man who throttled his wife. But it was also because Nigella has probably been the biggest influence on my cooking career of anyone.

It was her columns in Vogue in the very late 90s that turned me from being able to make food to being able to cook and understanding the power of writing and talking about food. Prior to that, most of my food influence had been from family or watching people like Keith Floyd on TV, but Nigella introduced me to food writing. Her columns seemed incredibly grown up and very cosmopolitan. I felt so very adult cooking things she wrote about while friends made baked potatoes and Old El Paso kits when we went round for dinner before a big night out.

[click to continue…]

{ 17 comments }

Surprisingly, I’m not yet thinking of what to have for Christmas dinner. Instead my mind is occupied by what I can create for this fantastic challenge by BuyAGift.co.uk in aid of the Trussell Trust who run many of the foodbanks in the UK. Setting aside my annoyance that foodbanks need exist in this day and age, this is a great idea.

The challenge is to  see if you can cook a festive meal for two people for just £3 in total. You can then enter your dish(es) into the competition and help win £600 for your local Trussell Trust food bank and a little something for you as well. Rules and full details can be found here. The competition runs until December 15th and is a great way to challenge yourself to try something different on a budget.

I’ll be very impressed if you can buy the entire dish for £3, but you can use portioning to keep within the budget. So if your bag of sugar costs £1 and you use a quarter, then it’s 25p of your whole budget. This challenge is likely to test my maths skills to the maximum as I go!

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }