Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas (and baby!)

Well despite my best efforts to be more consistent at writing in my blog, I have once again failed miserably! It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it or cooking, it’s just the days seem to be morphing into one and before I knew it, the majority of my advent calendar has been opened and it is only 2 days until Christmas! The arrival of Christmas is being overshadowed by the arrival of the baby which is so imminent I can’t believe it and after a very over-active week on the baby’s behalf last week, I have to say I am definitely looking forward to that day. My only stipulation is that the baby does not arrive on Christmas day!!!

Because of the fact I am so unbelievably large and ready to have this wee one at any point, I have managed to remain fairly organised for Christmas “just in case”! The tree is still looking as lovely as ever, especially now that it has a nice selection of presents glistening underneath it, my cards have all been written and posted, the Christmas cake is made and I have managed to make a few big batches of soup to keep the fridge and freezer well stocked! For me it wouldn’t be Christmas without my broccoli and nutmeg soup. I started the tradition quite a few years ago and now it is as necessary as turkey or cranberry sauce! As a family we always ate our Christmas dinner in the evening so this soup is perfect for lunch along with a nice selection of canap├ęs (either homemade or bought – whatever works for you!) and of course a glass or 2 of champagne! If Christmas dinner is an earlier affair for you then you should still try this soup as it’s perfect for slurping on boxing day or even Christmas eve – it is delicious.

And of course in the lead up to Christmas you have to have baking in the house!!! Well I do anyway! I’m really not much of a baker since it tends to involve precise measurements and cooking times so I use other people’s recipes instead. Last week I made Nigella Lawson’s Sticky Gingerbread which is a winner in my opinion. I made it last year so it was a must repeat recipe for this year. (I highly recommend her Christmas book as it has lots of delicious baking and other festive recipes in it – as previously mentioned it is Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities and can be bought from any good bookstore or Amazon) I also made a batch of Tiffin cake which was something I grew up with. This is one of my recipes as it isn’t a cake but rather a delicious chocolately tray bake that has been completely devoured by Mr. Vanilla and I since I made it last Thursday (meaning I will have to make some more!!)

I tried to convince myself that the baking was to have at the ready in case of any friends or family that popped by but really I’m kidding myself – it is purely for my own indulgence…. Ok, so I might share some of it but more than likely the first batches will be considered ‘trials’ and I will make some more to share with everyone this week!

Tiffin cake

Despite its name this is actually a biscuit tray bake as opposed to a cake. It’s perfect for when you have those chocolate cravings as it is quick and easy to make and if you bake you are likely to have most of the ingredients in your pantry anyway. Be sure to make lots as it won’t last!

4oz/ 115g unsalted butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
8oz/ 225g digestive biscuits
1oz/ 30g cocoa powder
3oz/ 85g glace cherries
6oz/ 170g milk chocolate
1oz/ 30g white chocolate (optional)

Line a square tin with cling film then set aside. In a medium to large sized pan melt the butter over a gentle heat with the syrup. While it is melting place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until you have crumbs or simply put them into a sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin. Chop up the cherries into fairly small pieces. Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter and syrup along with the cocoa and cherries. Stir well so that everything is well mixed then put it into the lined tin. Press down firmly using a spatula or the back of a large spoon then put in the fridge until it is cold and firm. Melt the chocolate either in a microwave in 20 second intervals, or in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Pour the chocolate over the tiffin cake then spread it so it is evenly covered. If using, melt the white chocolate in the same way then drizzle it over the milk chocolate. Pop back into the fridge until the chocolate has completely cooled and hardened. When ready to serve simply cut it into squares and enjoy!

Mars Bar Krispies

As with the tiffin cake, these aren’t particularly Christmassy, however they are so easy to make and I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t love them! They work well for parties as well as Christmas and if you have children they are an easy and delicious treat for them to make.

3oz/ 85g Rice Krispies
3oz/ 85g unsalted butter
4 Mars Bars*
6oz/ 170g milk or dark chocolate

In a large pan gently melt the mars bars and butter. When completely melted stir in the rice krispies until they are all completely covered in the chocolate mix. Pour into a tin then leave to set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. As soon as it has melted pour it over the krispie mix, making sure every little bit is covered. Leave to cool for about 20 minutes then put back in the fridge to completely set then cut into small squares and keep in an air tight container or eat!

*The recipe used to be really simple to remember as it was a ratio of 3/3 and 3 however I have noticed that Mars Bars are smaller now than they used to be so to keep the deep full, chewy chocolately flavour I have upped the quantity to 4 Mars Bars. If you like you can use 3 1/2 and keep the other 1/2 for the cook's treat!

Iced Gems (White chocolate discs)

Again perhaps not very Christmassy, but definitely easy and one for the children to do (and a little pick’n mix nostalgia for the grown ups!). I tend to make up a few batches then put them into nice bags cellophane bags to give to the kids.

8oz/ 225g white chocolate
Sprinkles of your choice (I use hundreds and thousands)

Put the white chocolate into a bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Gently melt the chocolate. Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment then put small spoonfuls of the melted chocolate onto the sheets. Using the bag of the spoon spread out the chocolate so you have lots of white chocolate discs. Try to keep the chocolate the same thickness so that it doesn’t break. Scatter over the sprinkles that you are using then put in the fridge (or another cold place – for me the garage works perfectly for that at this time of year) and chill until set.

(I also tried a sort of ‘after-dinner mint’ version using crushed candy canes to sprinkle over the chocolate. Initially they tasted great and worked well but after a few hours the crushed candy canes started to go a little sticky and wet. If you are planning on making them and serving straight away then definitely give it a go, otherwise miss out the candy canes and experiment with something else instead!)


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks Lucy, I really appreciate it. I am going to try my best to post more often in the New Year (despite the arrival of the baby!). Your comment has certainly inspired me. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and New Year.



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