A Gingerbread Tree of Stars

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a lovely time celebrating Christmas with family and friends and got one or two things you wanted. We’ve still got two days of celebrating at our parents house (today and tomorrow) and then we’re returning to London town for the customary flat sort out and organisation before the New Year. As well as saying Happy Christmas I wanted to share one of my favourite Christmas bakes from the last week – I think this is the item I am most proud of this year, so let’s get to the story shall we?!

A few years ago Lau and I bought this ingenious cutter set from Lakeland (AKA the shop of dreams) so that we could bake up a storm and end up with a pretty darn awesome biscuit tree. Two years ago we made said tree out of shortbread and it looked rather nice and tasted even better. See below:

shortbread tree

But this year we decided to up the game a bit and create something that would be even more awesome for the Christmas drinks party the parents held last weekend. This time we went for gingerbread stars. But how could we make it even better than two years ago? Answer: Layers of fondant icing plus smarties as baubles. Damn near genius, yes? So here’s the final creation. Thoughts?

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Let’s just say people went slightly crazy for it and assumed it had taken hours. It didn’t it took an hour at most. So if you’re planning an exciting New Year’s Eve party and want to wow your guests – this is the thing. Or you could go for piped icing like the team at Domestic Sluttery did here. Also pretty cool, but possibly a bit more effort.

You’re welcome.

-Fi xx

Christmas Baking

The last post on here was all about our Christmas Recipe plans, which means that today’s post is all about what we actually baked. It’s the only logical way this post could go. It just makes sense!

In the past week we’ve had a Christmas Films night with a group of friends and a Sunday drinks party, both of which (of course) signalled the need for homebaked goodies. So of course we got our bake on and baked the following treats…

  • Mince Pies – A Christmas classic!
  • Mince Pie Fudge – apparently delicious, although I don’t like mince pies so I can’t actually agree with this claim.
  • Sausage Rolls – another Evans family Christmas essential.
  • Gingerbread biscuits – It is my opinion that you just can’t go wrong with these. They taste so perfectly chewy and gingerbready, click for the original recipe and 2012’s versions.
  • Snowman bread – yes it’s really a thing. Okay it’s not I made it all up! Basically I made some bread dough and then positioned two round balls next to each other in a vague representation of Mr Snowman. It might have looked a tad weird but it tasted delicious and that’s the main thing in my opinion!
  • Reindeer cupcakes – as seen here.

Although we’ve made most of these before, I thought I would include the recipes for the sausage rolls and mince pies below. Both are very easy as it’s all about the ready made ingredients, but just incase you need them here they are…

Sausage Rolls
Frozen puff pastry
Sausage meat
One red onion
An egg

  • Let the pastry thaw out (it takes a couple of hours) and then roll out into a rectangle shape.
  • Next cut the rectangle in half lengthways to get two thinner rectangles.
  • In a bowl add the sausage meat, about half of the egg and a chopped onion. Mix these together.
  • Now place the sausage meat in a line down the middle of each pastry rectangle.
  • Brush one edge of the pastry with more egg and then bring the other edge over to join it. Press down the two edges so that they stick together.
  • Now you’ve got two long sausage rolls just cut them into normal sized rolls – about 1 inch each.
  • Snip two cuts in the top of the sausage rolls and then brush the tops with egg.
  • Cook in a preheated oven – 180°C for about 20 minutes. You want the pastry to be a golden colour.

Mince Pies 
Frozen shortcrust pastry
Jar of mincemeat
Two cookie cutters; one circle and one star shape that is about the same in terms of diameter – the circle shape needs to be a little bit bigger than your baking tray

  • Again let the pastry thaw for a couple of hours before rolling out. Cut out equal numbers of circles and stars
  • Place the circles in the greased cupcake baking tray
  • Now add a spoonful of mincemeat mixture
  • Top with the star shaped lids
  • Brush the top with egg and bake in the oven – 180°C for about 20 minutes
  • Once baked, let them cool before removing from the trays. Then sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.

Happy Baking!

Laura

Christmas Recipe plans

I think it’s fair to say that Lau and I have shared before that for us Christmas if about the two ‘F’s: Family and Food. So today I thought I’d share some of the recipes I hope to make over the next few weeks. The recipes are a mix of old and new/favourites and newbies. If you have any other suggestions let us know and who knows we might add them!

Hot Chocolate – Nothing can beat it when you’re watching a Christmas film or playing board games with the family. I think this year though I might try this Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate from How Sweet Eats. How amazing does that sound? I feel the texture will be akin to the river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Marshmallows – I had no idea you could make them so easily, but now that I do I’m thinking these would be perfect with the hot chocolates!

One hot drink I’ve never tried is Eggnog and I feel like amending that this year, maybe at the parentals’ Christmas drinks party before Christmas. Especially as it looks so easy, thanks Rosie for sharing the recipe for hot and cold eggnog.

Mince Pies – Mum’s recipe where the lids are stars, super-cute!
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Stained glass window biscuits – we used to make these as a kid and they were so cool. I definitely want to find time to make them this year too, especially after being inspired by this Domestic Sluttery post here recently, where they made something similar. Such cute Christmas stars!

Sausage Rolls – Dad does the best ones having been taught by Nanna, but this year I fancy trying a twist on the recipe that I saw in Emerald Street recently. They shared a Ginger Pig recipe for pork and cranberry sausage rolls – don’t they sound divine?

Reindeer Cakes – We often make the reindeer cupcakes we shared here, but I think this time I might make chocolate balls that are transformed into reindeers. I’m thinking either truffles or chocolate crispy cake. That could work right?

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What are you planning on making this Christmas? Any of the same things as us and are they favourite recipes or are you introducing some new ones too?

– Fi xxx

Banana and Walnut Bread

So every now and again I have this grand plan that I’m going to eat copious amounts of fruit instead of the usual crap that has infiltrated my diet. When this happens I head off to the supermarket and stock up on apples, bananas and some more exotic looking/sounding fruit and make a pact to switch the chocolate for the fruit. And then 24 hours pass and my enthusiasm wanes and the bananas go brown before I remember they even exist. When this happens I tend to whip up my standard banana cake with cream cheese frosting, courtesy of the Australian Women’s Weekly Kids Cookbook that I’ve had for eons. But a few weeks back I decided I needed to try something new and step out of my comfort zone – I’m not a fan of such things if I’m honest! So I decided on a banana and walnut bread. Yes big things happening over her, I’ve added walnuts and made a bread instead of a cake – get me. Give me a day or so and I’ll be taking over the world with giant leaps like this!

So back down to it I decided on a recipe from DK’s Step-by-Step Baking book and I’m glad it’s the one I chose as it’s super-easy and has helpful instruction pictures. Phew! So here we go, here’s the recipe. First off you’ll need…

  • 375g strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 125g walnut pieces (chopped)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas (chopped, oh and peeled obvs!)
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Now down to the method (it’s easy I promise!):
First off preheat the oven to 180oC and grease your loaf tins (2 x 1lb loaf tins)
Sprinkle flour into the tins and tap to remove all the excess flour
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and mix together.
Mix in the walnut pieces and create a well in the center

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Mash the bananas with a fork until they create a smooth paste and add to the beaten egg with the lemon zest

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Add the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and lemon juice and stir together

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Pour 3/4 of the banana mixture into the well in the flour and stir well
Gradually blend in the dry ingredients, adding the remaining banana mixture until the mixture is smooth

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Spoon the mixture into the tins

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Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaves start to shrink away from the sides of the tins and a skewer comes out clean
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Enjoy your banana bread and you know it’s fine to have for breakfast as it’s a bread AND it contains fruit – winning!

– Fi xx

Chickpea and Vegetable Thingamagig

Hello you lovely people. Firstly Happy Happy December! Isn’t it exciting? I can almost hear Santa’s sleigh bells!

Today’s recipe post is all about a chickpea and vegetable stew/ratatouille/concoction that I made a couple of weeks ago out of a lot of leftovers. I’m still working on the name but whatever it’s called it’s absolutely stunning taste-wise. I made eight huge portions of this and while three are still in the freezer waiting to be consumed the rest have been eaten in a variety of ways; with pasta, over rice and on top of a jacket potato. All perfectly lovely ways to stay warm at this magical time of the year.

Right onto the method of my cooking madness…

To make this you will need:
1 tin of Chickpeas (or other beans/lentils)
400g of Chopped Tomatoes
400g Tomato Passata
Mixed Herbs
Olive Oil
Vegetables; 2 Aubergines, 3 Sweet Potatoes, 1 Onion, 2 Garlic Cloves and a handful each of Spinach, Tomatoes and Mushrooms

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First off, slice all your veggies into chunks. I tried to keep everything to quite similar sizes. Now pop them into a roasting tin (minus the spinach) with a good glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs. Make sure you mix these up so that everything is nicely coated.

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Place in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for about 30 mins. You want everything to be almost soft – so that there is a bit of resistance when you spear with a fork.

Next add your roasted veggies into a giant saucepan and pour in the chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and passata. Let this bubble away for a good 30/45 minutes (depending on how much sauce you want) on a low heat, stirring occasionally. I was the laziest person ever and just set a 15 minute alarm to keep going off as I hate standing by the oven all evening!

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At the halfway point add in the spinach leaves so that they can wilt into the rest of the mixture.

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When you’re ready take the pan of the heat and dish up your delicious thingamagig with your favourite carbohydrate! Simple right? Don’t forget to portion up the leftovers for the freezer.

Happy Cooking, Lau xxx

November Eats

Eating out Last month’s eating out was definitely less than normal, but we still managed to fit in some absolutely amazing places. Between us we made it to Wagamamas, Nandos, 1 Launceston Place and Homeslice. I wanted to mention two of these now:

Firstly, 1 Launceston Place was absolutely perfect. This was a treat for my Mum birthday and it was everything you’d expect from a Michelin starred restaurant. Tim Allen’s food was heavenly and I still can’t decide which was my favourite part!

Secondly, Homeslice. This is an awesome pizza restaurant in Covent Garden. Think shared wooden tables, huge pizzas on wooden boards and no other food option. Yes, it only sells pizza but it’s so delicious that you don’t want anything else. We went as part of a group of 5 and got 2 pizzas between us. Each pizza had half and half toppings. My favourite was the butternut squash, roasted onions and pancetta topping – simply divine. The squash is like a puree and used instead of tomatoes. Whoever thought that up was a genius.

Other foody discoveriesThis month has been all about the Peanut Hottie, Christmas Sandwiches and bread mix.

Peanut Hottie – Please tell me you have tried this. What is it? Well, it’s a peanut butter flavoured hot drink, which I may have talked about this a bit too much on twitter and instagram but it’s absolutely amazing! It not only tastes delicious but the smell is heavenly too.

So in love with this stuff.

A post shared by Laura Evans (@lau_evs) on

Christmas Sandwiches – my current favourite is the M&S turkey with butternut squash stuffing. So good. Try it. Now! Also how cute is the Christmas packaging from Eat? It certainly cheers up eating at your desk!

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Artisan bread mix – I made this when I was at home visiting my parents, it was so unbelievably easy to do. Just follow the recipe exactly and you’ll end up with a delicious seeded bread.

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Home Baking – We have also baked an awful lot this month. Here goes with the long list; fruit crumblesChicken live pate, sticky gingerbread cake, raspberry brownies, toad in the hole, Aubergine Parmigiana, white bread loaf, turkey & tarragon sweet potatoes, a four tiered birthday cake for Mum’s birthday, chickpea and vegetable stew, peanut butter brownies (yes, again), Reindeer cupcakes and banana and walnut loaf. As is the normal routine recipes for new things will be typed up and posted over the next month or so, between Christmas baking of course!

What about you lovely lot? Any delicious bakes, makes or eatings out to share with us?

Lau xxx