Sausage rolls for superstars

Glenn and I now have one proper honest-to-God birthday party under our parental belt. The kind where you invite the whole kindergarten class because you can (and so you do). The kind where you get overly ambitious about how much goddamn fun they will have thrust upon them and enlist your visiting in-laws to  help you cut out large cardboard glider planes, for each little guest. A back breaking and seemingly endless task that possibly made them wish their son had married someone a little less  bossy enthusiastic.

Almost everyone in G’s class RSVP’d a big fat yes, which thrilled us. Except that when I did the maths we realised that with at least 16 kiddies, multiplied by parents and younger siblings, plus our family and friends– we were looking at somewhere about sixty people or more. Whoa. We had hired a local playgroup hall for the event. But food was still going to be an issue. If only the gazillion cardboard glider planes had been edible we would have been set.

When this happens to you, don’t panic. Just make an absolute shitload of these pork and apple sausage rolls. This is a modified version of Glenn’s recipe. I have to mention this otherwise someone will call copycat.

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You will need:

1 packet of puff pastry (4 sheets)

4 Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples (peeled and chopped)

400g pork mince

400g of sausage meat (you can either buy a tube or use the filling from good sausages)

1 bunch fresh sage

1 bunch thyme

2 grated carrots

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

3/4 cup bread crumbs

4 tablespoons sesame seeds (for garnish)

To cook:

Chop the herbs and put everything in a large bowl. Wash your hands and get in there and mix it up. I won’t lie, this is not at all enjoyable. It’s cold and sticky but over quickly and you don’t have to haul out the heavy mixer.

Tip: pre fill the sink with warm soapy water so that you don't have to muck around with taps with your manky hands afterwards.
Tip: pre fill the sink with warm soapy water so that you don’t have to muck around with taps with your manky hands afterwards.

Right, you’re ready to roll. Cut one square of defrosted puff pastry in half. Spoon a good strip of mixture length ways across the pastry. Fold pastry over. Roll and seal gently. Roll again so that the sealed edge is underneath. At this point you can cling wrap and freeze if you like. Otherwise cut into 6 – 8 even pieces.

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Place on a baking tray on a sheet/baking paper, daub with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden.

Pop them out on the party table with some relish and say goodbye!

Makes about 60 sausage rolls. Triple the recipe for outrageously large birthday parties.

 

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Gingerbread Men

Nothing screams Christmas like a gingerbread man. They’re a consistently charming and amusing thing to make (and eat) and although I can just about deal with not getting a stocking anymore, I would be heartbroken to have a Christmas without gingerbread.

These ones are not fancy. They’re not even symmetrical. For some reason our family G-man cutter has always had one leg longer than the other and I believe it just adds to their charm.

simple currants and cherry mouth are the cutest
simple currants and cherry mouth are the cutest

We’ve been making this same simple recipe since we were children. Back in the day, decorations were always just glacé cherries and currants. Occasionally some would be hung in the tree and forgotten about but they would still taste good long after Santa had been and gone.

 

If placed into small cellophane bags and sealed tightly with knotted ribbon - these guys will last a couple of weeks at least.
If placed into small cellophane bags and sealed tightly with knotted ribbon – these guys will last a couple of weeks at least.

In more recent years we’ve let our own kids have a go at decorating them which ends up being a bit more… elaborate. They like to add extra eyes and accidental genitals. But for me it will always just be currant eyes, cherry mouth and currant buttons. Simple and sweet. You can pop them into cellophane bags and give them away. Or take a tin of them to work to spread some gingerbread love. They’re charming and they’re easy. I’m not just saying that. They really are.

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Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped butter

2 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 pinch salt

4 tablespoon cinnamon

4 cups plain flour

4 teaspoon ginger powder

 

Method

Cream the butter and sugar

Beat in the eggs

Add golden syrup and mix well

Add dry ingredients and mix well

Roll into three large discs, wrap in cling film then pop in fridge for half an hour to get cold

Roll each disc out to 1/2 inch thickness and use your cutter to cut out the G -men

Place on a baking tray and decorate with whatever you like (joking – you must use glace cherries and currants!)

Bake in a moderate oven for 10 – 12 minutes

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

Gingerbread creatures made by G.
Gingerbread creatures made by G.

 

 

The spider-faced G-Man. By Bubby. I feel this is excellent.
The spider-faced G-Man. By Bubby. I feel this is excellent.

Pistachio and Cranberry Christmas Marshmallows

 Its Christmas time!
Pistachio and cranberry christmas marshmallow
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Its Christmas time!

I love marshmallows. Soft and gooey. Light and fluffy. Melted or baked. Their sickly sweetness is heaven to me. This recipe falls into the firmer, stickier category but the pretty red, white and green colours and subtle infused flavour of minty citrus are are ingrained in my idea of ‘Its Christmas time!’ and is a perfect one for making ahead of time to wow the family with on Christmas day or to include in your gift hampers.

Ingredients
½ cup heavy or thickened cream
2 mint leaves
Zest of one large lemon
4 cups white marshmallows
2 Tbsp pistachios
2 Tbsp cranberries

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Delicious ingredients

Once the marshmallows are melted, they cool quickly and become very sticky to work with so a few things to prepare before you start the heating process:

Line a 8x8inch container with grease proof paper including up the sides.
Place the pistachios into a food processor and grind to a mix of dust and fine chunks and set aside. Finely chop cranberries and set aside.
Roughly chop the marshmallows and place in a medium saucepan.

Once these things are ready, place the cream, mint leaves and lemon zest in a small saucepan and heat gently to a simmer. Immediately turn in down and leave to infuse for a few minutes before straining into the saucepan with the marshmallows. Gently heat stirring constantly until the marshmallows have melted and combined with the cream.

Pour half the mixture into the container. Sprinkle the ground pistachios over, then carefully spoon on the remaining marshmallow mixture. Scatter the cranberries across the top and pop in the fridge to set.

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Its a great one to do with the kids
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Sprinkle over the pistachios

Once set, use a knife to help prise the top edge from grease proof paper. Once the top has come unstuck the rest will pull away easily. Slice into squares to serve. Store in an air tight container and cut when ready to serve.

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Serve on your prettiest plates!
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Someone’s excited about marshamallows!

In the Guest House: A Festive Christmas Punch

Here is our dear friend, Lozzie, with her deliciously deadly version of a festive Christmas punch. Innocently pink and prettily topped with strawberries. Drink at entirely your own risk – Lex.

A very festive tipple
A very festive tipple

 

I have recently acquired a love of punch – the alcoholic fruit drink popularised by 70’s cocktail parties, usually served in an ugly glass bowl.

It could be a summer love affair, brought on by the warm weather and long days that make me want to conjure up a jug of fruity goodness. Designed for a crowd, it’s like a convenient cocktail, with an element of virtue (you know the antioxidants, of course…) that’s perfect for justifying an afternoon tipple with friends.

Packed with antioxidants (ha)
Packed with antioxidants (ha)

I thought Lex’s recent birthday would be a good opportunity to debut a punch that I’m planning to make Christmas day. Lex was initially quite reluctant to try the punch, however with a little (very little) arm-twisting, she eventually agreed.

A jug was made and glasses were poured.  The tart, fruity and refreshing punch was delicious and deceptively alcoholic.

The following morning Lex described it as “not so much a punch, as a punch in the face”…and I had to agree that splashing the remainder of the 50% Absolut vodka bottle in the jug was probably not the best idea. Maybe don’t drink the punch if you have to be a sensible parent the next morning. Maybe only drink it if your responsibilities are limited to lying around on the couch calling feebly for water and cheese on toast.

It was while watching Room on the Broom with the boys, after a yummy breakfast of turkey and cranberry jaffles, that we decided: for future events involving alcohol this festive season, we would partake of coconut water, vitamins and hydra light powder prior to drinking. Surely, this would serve to balance the health scales and result in no painful hangover effects such as we were currently suffering?

A good plan until Lex tasted the coconut water and declared it to taste like ‘water that has been in someone’s mouth who has been eating coconuts’.

Without further adieu…

Festive Christmas Punch (or Punch in the Face)

1 bottle sparkling rose

1 cup grapefruit juice

½ cup vodka

¼ cup red wine

2 oranges (juiced)

1 cup strawberries

1 cup soda water

Mix liquids in a big jug or other vessel, add orange juice and sliced strawberries. Stir and pour.

Please note:       * If you don’t want a punch in the face, omit the vodka.

* For a tamer version, add more soda water.

Cheers dears
Cheers dears

Be merry!

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Devils on Horseback

It’s hard to think sexy thoughts about prunes, but if you haven’t tried the old Devils on Horseback then I suggest that you get on board because they’re completely delicious. The baked prunes get intensely flavoursome and sweet and go beautifully with the salty bacon. There are a few different versions around.

Bite sized bacony happiness
Bite sized bacony happiness

 

Some recommend also stuffing the prune with liver or almonds. Others involve soaking the prunes in verjuice to plump them up. I’ve opted to keep things simple and just wrap pitted prunes in really nice free-range bacon.

It's hard to think sexy thoughts about prunes
It’s hard to think sexy thoughts about prunes
I’m pretty sure I first saw Devils on Horseback being made on the Two Fat Ladies cooking series and mentally filed them away under “things I want to eat just because they involve bacon”.  I eventually made these for a seventieth birthday party to have with our bubbly and there were more than one cry of ‘ooh I remember these!’ from the older guests as they got passed around. They didn’t last long. Then again most people will literally eat anything wrapped in bacon (myself included). Yum.

Ingredients

12 pitted prunes
6 rashers of bacon (rind removed)
Toothpicks

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
Cut the bacon rashers into strips. Each strip needs to be the width of a fat prune and long enough to wrap generously around. Fatty bits are good (you’re not going to eat fifty)
Wrap each prune tightly in bacon strips and secure tightly with a toothpick by sliding it through the centre of the prune
Place on a baking tray on either a silicon mat or baking paper
Bake for around fifteen minutes or until bacon is nicely cooked

Serve with bubbles and let anyone who was alive in the prawn cocktail years have one first. Yum. That is all.
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