Nordic Afternoon Tea at Aster, Victoria


Its no secret that I love cinnamon buns. 50% of the few recipes I've posted so far this year have all been bun related. My quest for the year is to learn the perfect knot and unlock cinnamon bun superstardom.

So when I was invited down to Aster in Victoria to try their new Nordic afternoon tea, firstly I was thrilled to try their cinnamon buns. And secondly, I love Nordic food so was intrigued as to how they'd translate it into an afternoon tea menu.


First up, cocktails and bubbles. My choice was the Greenway with gin, St Germain, matcha tea syrup, fresh basil and lemon juice. Super fresh and infinitely better than a matcha latte, i.e. matcha with gin!

For savouries, Atlantic prawn skagen on sourdough, blackcurrant herring with egg on dark rye and pork rolls with aquavit mustard. I love Finnish egg butter karelian pies so was thrilled to see it on the menu in an open sandwich. 


And for sweets, cinnamon knots, blueberry pie rye croute and lingonberry macarons. The softest macarons around with lingonberries sourced straight from Finland.

Executive chef Helena Puolakka then gave us a demonstration on how to make the best cinnamon knot. Gone are the days of a big roll and slicing each bun, its all about knots to keep optimum filling in each and to maintain light airy buns. It really does make the difference!




If you fancy getting your fika on, I thoroughly recommend Aster's and its such a gorgeous venue! Served from 3.00pm-5.00pm everyday for just £20 a head, you can't go wrong.

For more information, and to drool over the menu, take a look here.

Thanks to Sheepa for inviting me, I had a fab time. Although my food was complimentary, all opinions are my own.


Poppy Seed & Marzipan Buns


I've made plenty of buns recently and have no intentions to stop. Especially after visiting Aster last week and watching their executive chef Helena Poulakka expertly knot some cinnamon buns. Whilst mine are never uniform in any way I did learn a few tricks. I thought cinnamon was my favourite, then cardamom, but after making these marzipan and poppy seed ones I just can't decide which comes up trumps. Other than the fact that this recipe is the most easiest I've ever made!


For these buns, I tried rolling the dough out into a shorter rectangle before spreading over the filling. After folding in half and rolling into a longer length, the filling is perfectly sealed which reduces some of the sticky mess I usually experience, and helps to give a nice layered profile after twisting. The next trick is not to twist, knot or roll too much or too tightly. You need all that air in there to get soft cloud like buns.

These buns are made by simply twisting a length of dough a few times, knotting once and tucking the ends under. Although I still quite like my trousers method for knotting, found here.

I also accidentally forgot to buy strong white flour so used brown instead and it totally worked. Next time I'll try a rye mix as I love the balance with sweet fillings.


P O P P Y   S E E D   &   M A R Z I P A N   B U N S
(Recipe adapted from Trine Hahnemann, makes 12-16)

Dough:

12g fast action yeast
300ml whole milk, lukewarm
1 egg
700g strong brown flour
50g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 beaten egg, for brushing

Filling:

200g marzipan, grated
250g unsalted butter, melted
4tsp poppy seeds
150g golden caster sugar

  • Add the yeast to the milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix gently with a spoon to allow the yeast to start dissolving. Add the egg, flour, sugar, salt and butter and mix on a low speed with a dough hook until the mixture forms a ball. Continue to knead with the dough hook on a low-medium speed until the dough becomes smooth, around 3 minutes.
  • Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for at least an hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling by combining the marzipan, butter, poppy seeds and sugar together until a gritty paste forms. I chilled mine in the fridge a little to firm up. The marzipan will melt into lumps if the butter is still pretty hot but this will roll into the dough anyway.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, upturn onto a well floured work surface and roll out into a 30 cm long rectangle. Scoop the filling onto the dough and spread with a palette knife leaving a half inch gap around the edges. Fold the dough in half length ways and roll once again to seal the filling in the dough, up to 60cm in length.
  • If there are any gaps where the filling hasn't spread, trim the edges. Score even lengths of dough before slicing with a palette knife.
  • To shape, take each length and gently twist and twizzle a few times before knotting and tucking the ends underneath. None of my buns ever end up being the same size or uniform at this stage!
  • Place each on a lined baking tray leaving plenty of space between each bun. Leave to prove once again in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden on top. 


These buns are definitely best served fresh and warm straight from the oven but can be gently reheated over the next few days if necessary.


Daim Blondies


The days are finally getting longer, hurrah!

We made it through winter, ish, and here's to daylight a fresh new start. I always consider February as my new year, the rigmarole of January just feels like an extension of the festive season. I've been trying my very hardest to do some baking, but everything has flopped so far.

There's been a spiced pear bundt with whiskey caramel...that fell into pieces as soon as I upturned it from the bundt tin. A peanut butter and banana loaf...that was so totally over cooked it tasted rubbish. A cardamom, hazelnut and bourbon cake...that just did not quite work.

So you'll know by now that when all else fails, I always resort back to brownies. For brownies are kind and they are forgiving when you're in a baking funk.

This time blondies packed with my one true love, daim. The chunks of daim melt down to form the most fudgiest, toffee like base which lends itself perfectly to a blondie. My favourite thing to do is to dunk them in a steaming cup of strong coffee.


D A I M   B L O N D I E S
Makes 16

125g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
240g, golden caster sugar
125g salted butter, melted
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
150g daim bars, chopped into rough chunks

  • Grease a 20cm square baking tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Whisk together the sugar, melted butter and egg together until light and creamy. About 5 minutes on a low-medium speed of a stand mixer.
  • Gently beat in the egg and vanilla extract before folding in the remaining dry ingredients, including the daim bars, until just incorporated. 
  • Pour into the prepared baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the centre starts to firm with a slight wobble.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray on a wire rack. Once fully cooled, I like to chill in the fridge for at least a few hours to firm up in order to be able to slice the blondies neatly. You can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature afterwards for a few days.



Cardamom Buns


I'm so excited that we've booked a trip to Copenhagen for February that I just had to bake some buns to celebrate. I love the flavour of cardamom so thought I'd try a variation on the regular cinnamon ones I make.

I must say that sometimes I find making them a labour of love. Although I can't pretend I don't cheat and use the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid. I also leave them to prove overnight in the fridge so they get plenty of time to relax and do their thing. As folding and shaping goes, I've given up trying to tightly roll long lengths of dough and loosing filling whilst slicing.

The method of shaping is a little more relaxed even if it does take more time doing each bun individually.  I take individual strips, cut mostly down the centre to make a dough pair of trousers. Twist each leg, knot a few times and then tuck under and seal underneath.  I prefer this look too!


C A R D A M O M   B U N S
(Makes 12, recipe adapted from BBC)

20 cardamom pods
350ml full fat milk
125g unsalted butter, cubed
500g strong white bread flour
150g golden caster sugar
7g fast action dried yeast
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
vegetable/sunflower oil for greasing
1 egg, beaten
  • Break open 10 cardamom pods and add them to the milk in a small pan. Heat gently until the milk starts to steam without boiling. Add 50g butter to the milk and stir until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Into the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, 75g sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon. Add the milk and mix with a dough hook until the ingredients have combined to form a soft ball of dough. Continue to beat for up to 5 minutes until the dough ball is soft, smooth and shiny.
  • Lightly oil the edges of the mixing bowl, loosely cover with cling film and leave to prove for 2 hours, until doubled in size. Alternatively, leave to prove overnight in the fridge allowing 30 minutes in the morning for it to get to room temperature.
  • Crack the remaining cardamom pods and blitz in a food processing to make a powder. Combine with 75g sugar. In a bowl mix all of the cardamom sugar but 2tbsp with the remaining butter until smooth.
  • Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Remove the dough from the bowl onto a well floured work surface. Knock the air out and roll to form a rectangle. Spread the cardamom butter mix over the entire surface of the dough rectangle.
  • Longest side facing you, fold the top third down to the centre and the bottom third up, like an envelope. Score 12 even slices before cutting (I find scissors handy). Unfold each individual piece and slice each strip down the centre leaving a little at the end, like a pair of trousers. Twist each half outwards a few times before knotting together and tucking the ends under each bun.
  • Place all buns evenly spaced onto the prepared baking trays. Cover the buns with some lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to prove again once again. This time for 30 minutes - 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees.
  • Once the buns have finished their second prove, brush each with beaten egg and scatter over some sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
  • Whilst the buns are baking, tip the reserved 2tbsp of sugar to a pan along with 50ml of water. Bring to the boil and remove to cool. Once the buns are baked, remove to a wire rack and brush with the sugar syrup 2-3 times as they cool.
Buns will keep in an airtight container for a few days, or in the freezer for 6 months - just heat them up in the oven before serving.


Please do send over any Copenhagen recommendations, I'd love to know. In the mean time I'm eating buns every day for breakfast and doughnuts all day long at work because who needs any self control after Christmas? On a more serious note - if anyone has seen my will power...


Salted Caramel and Chocolate Brownie Mini Trifles


I'm on dessert duties this year for Christmas and I intend to take this great responsibility very seriously. So far the list includes mince pie ice cream, limoncello sorbet, mincemeat frangipane and these guys. I did a little trial run with a few slices leftover from a batch I made for work colleagues.


An old brownie recipe but simply transformed into a speedy dessert, with lashings of extra caramel, booze and chocolate custard. So I cheated and melted dark chocolate into some shop bought custard but it just goes to show how versatile these mini trifles can be. Make your own brownies, buy some brownies, make your fillings or buy some too, it really doesn't matter.

You could bung everything together in one big trifle bowl, or I served mine in a selection of jam jars and small tumblers...whatever I could find in the cupboards.


S A L T E D   C A R A M E L   A N D   C H O C O L A T E   B R O W N I E  
M I N I   T R I F L E S
(Makes 6 generously sized mini trifles)


4 slices of my salted caramel stuffed brownies (approx 400g), recipe here
500ml chilled ready made vanilla custard
100g dark chocolate
250ml double cream
25g icing sugar
3tbsp strong baileys coffee
salted caramel sauce for drizzling round each glass
1 large bag of maltesers

  • Bake the brownies as per recipe and allow to cool before firming up in the fridge for an hour or two to slice into neat mini cubes. I like to make these the night before.
  • Heat the custard in a small pan over a gentle heat with the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and cover with a layer of cling film over the surface to prevent a skin forming whilst it cools.
  • Whisk together the cream and icing sugar until soft peaks form.
  • Crush the maltesers in the bag with a rolling pin.
  • To assemble, layer even helpings of brownie cubes between each glass, coffee, half the crushed maltesers, drizzle caramel round the inside of each glass and top with further layers of chocolate custard, the whipped cream and scatter the remaining crushed maltesers. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.



Mac n Cheese with Anna Mae's & Lactofree


I never make mac n cheese at home. I don't think I trust myself not to add more cheese than white sauce and not to eat it all from the pan. There's no sharing when it comes to mac n cheese, its got to be unadulterated and extremely decadent.

So when Lactofree invited me to a masterclass hosted by Anna Mae's to learn how to make their lacto free version, I was a little sceptical to say the least. But I love Anna Mae's and I genuinely love Arla's Lactofree range so was convinced to give it a try.

A little background aside, a few years ago I suffered problem skin. Along with a few treatments and some changes to my diet, I'm pretty much over it. And Lactofree milk was the most obvious improvement for me. So any way to reduce some of the triggers in my diet has got to be good. Aka let's eat all the mac n cheese and still have lovely clear skin!


On the menu for the evening was mac n cheese topped with beef short rib and pickled red onions; deep fried mac n cheese balls with chipotle mayo; and doughnuts with butterscotch sauce. Stuff of dreams!

We started off by making our own white sauces, left to our own devices with adding in our preferred amount of cheese (in my case probably a whole block) before adding in the mac and sour cream to ensure it was super creamy. Topped with bbq beef short rib, sour cream and coriander, it was out of this world kinds of great!


Any mac n cheese left was scooped into balls, wrapped and smothered in breadcrumbs and fried. The sauce we made to dunk them in was a mix of cream cheese, coriander and chipotle paste. I managed to smuggle some of these home and had to fight for a share for lunchboxes the next day with the man friend.


And of course, not forgetting dessert: the doughnuts with a super quick and simple butterscotch sauce. These tiny balls of wonder were deep fried, tossed in sugar and then smothered in butterscotch. You'll see my elegant shot of my 'small' serving, but in reality I ate closer to a plateful.


No pressure in flipping the doughnuts in the fryer!

Everything in each of the recipes was fully free from lactose, from the Lactofree butter and cream in the butterscotch sauce to the cheese and milk in the mac n cheese.

So I suppose I ought to share a recipe. I'm super excited to make this mac n cheese over the weekend. I've never picked onions before and I absolutely love them and we've loads of beef in the freezer ready to roast away.

R I B S   A N D   R E D S
L A C T O F R E E   M A C   N   C H E E S E
T O P P E D   W I T H   B E E F   S H O R T   R I B   &   P I C K L E D   O N I O N S
(Recipe from Anna Mae's and Arla Lactofree, serves 4)

For the ribs:

6 thick cut short ribs  |  350ml red wine  |  1 onion, roughly chopped  |  1 carrot, roughly chopped  |  1 celery, roughly chopped  |  1tbsp tomato puree  |  4 garlic cloves  |  1 litre beef stock

For the pickled onions:

1 red onion, finely sliced  |  1tbsp sugar  |  1/2 tsp salt  |  3/4 cup cider vinegar  |  4 black peppercorns  |  2 cloves  |  1 bay leaf

For the mac:

400g macaroni  |  50g plain flour  |  50g Lactofree spreadable butter  |  1 pint Lactofree whole milk, warm  |  300g Lactofree cheddar, grated  |  1tsp mustard

For the sour cream:

4 tbsp Lactofree cream cheese  |  2tbsp Lactofree cream  |  juice and zest of one lemon

  • Heat the oven to 160 degrees.
  • Season the short ribs. Place in a roasting tray with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with foil and roast for 4 hours, until the meat falls off the bone.
  • Add the pickled onion ingredients to a jar, cover with vinegar. Keep in the fridge till ready.
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil 20 minutes before the beef is ready. Cook the macaroni until just cooked. Drain thoroughly.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat, add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook for a few minutes, until it starts to turn golden. Slowly add the milk, continually whisking as you go. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until the sauce covers the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Continue to cook on a low heat and add the cheese and mustard. Continue to mix until melted before adding the cooked macaroni and gently fold together.
  • In a small bowl, combine all of the sour cream ingredients together.
  • Transfer your mac n cheese to a serving bowl, top with short rib, pickled red onions and a big dollop of sour cream.

Thank you to the Lactofree team for letting me loose with all the cheese and to Anna Mae's for all your mac wisdom. So excited to recreate!


Christmas Gingerbread Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


I wouldn't say that gingerbread cake is the most synonymous with Christmas for me, I love it all year round. But in lieu of not making an actual Christmas cake this year I decided to make it so. With the minimal amount of decorating I am patient enough for.

This super moist, gently spiced gingerbread cake is layered with a big thick layer of cream cheese frosting and topped with a mini rosemary and cranberry Christmas tree. The addition of some strong coffee into the mix helps give a rich flavour which I love with the ginger.


This layer cake is now a firm favourite within the family. I almost definitely deviated from the recipe and made it in one giant deep cake tin and simply sliced it in half once cooled to save on washing up. Even better still, this recipe is a one bowl method that Mary Berry would be proud of.


C H R I S T M A S   G I N G E R B R E A D   C A K E   W I T H  
C R E A M   C H E E S E   F R O S T I N G
(Makes a 3 layer 8 inch cake, or 2 layer 10 inch cake)


For the cake:

375g plain flour
200g golden caster sugar
1tbsp ground ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4tsp ground nutmeg
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
2 eggs
240ml vegetable oil
180ml molasses
240ml freshly brewed hot coffee

For the frosting:

225g full fat cream cheese
225g unsalted butter, softened
345g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract

Rosemary and dried cranberries to top, optional!

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line your baking tins.
  • Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a large stand mixer and give a quick whisk on a low speed to incorporate.
  • Add the eggs, vegetable oil and molasses and whisk once again, this time of a medium speed, until well combined.
  • Add the coffee and gently fold together until smooth.
  • Divide between the prepared baking trays and bake for 18-20 minutes in the 8 inch tins or 20-25 minutes in the 10 inch tins. Once baked, a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before upturning onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  • To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth on a medium speed of a stand mixer.
  • Sift in the icing sugar, give a super gentle fold with a spatula to avoid a dust cloud before beating on a low speed. Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat for up to 5 minutes until fluffy.
  • To construct the cake, layer the bottom layer of the cake on a large plate. Top with a big dollop of frosting, smoothing round with a palette knife before adding the other layer(s). There should be enough frosting to sandwich a 3 layer cake including the top layer - I had loads leftover, but decided to do a super thick middle layer only. 

Decorate with sprigs of rosemary and dried cranberries to make a christmas tree. Alternatively, lashings of glitter or a dusting of icing sugar for snow would also work.


Tandoori King Prawns with Godello - M&S Regional Food and Wine Pairing


Sophie loves food? Check. Sophie loves wine? Also check.

I was thrilled when Marks and Spencer invited me to an evening of regional food and wine pairing a few weeks ago for their wines of the world campaign. I would say that I'm pretty talented at pairing food and wine together, as in I drink wine with my food a lot and absolutely I love it! But jokes aside, it was super interesting to learn about different wine regions and exactly why certain wines go with certain foods.

The evening pretty much felt like being on a jet set world tour with a heap of wines from England, France, Spain, Argentina and South Africa all made especially for M&S. It almost felt like speed dating. The aim of the game was to pick a favourite and pair it with our own dishes at home testing out our newly polished food pairing skills.

Starting off in England with the Marksman English Sparkling Brut Blanc de Blancs 2011, we learnt the difference between sparking wine and prosecco. Prosecco is made in big vats and can be on sale from as little as 12 months after grapes are picked. Sparkling wines like the Marksman are fermented for much longer in individual bottles with yeast and sugar. This traditional method helps to give a super toastiness and really fine bubbles which feel almost like a mousse on the tongue. Retailing at £26 a bottle, this is definitely more of a festive treat but certainly one I'm looking forward to with breakfast on Christmas day this year. Its truly the perfect match for smoked salmon or seafood canapés as the acidity and bubbles will blend perfectly together.

Moving onto France and another favourite of mine the Florent Rouve Viré-Cléssé 2014, a Chardonnay produced in the Burgundy region. Its crisp, citrus and mineral taste are the perfect balance to cut through the salt and fat of dishes with chicken or cold meats like Serrano ham. I'm not usually one for Chardonnay, but with a generous helping of ham I was definitely swayed by the peach flavour. I've definitely learnt that I can enjoy this type of grape with the right meal.

Next up, South Africa and the Paul Cluver Late Harvest Riesling 2014. Although I may have a  super sweet tooth, I'm not usually one for super sweet wines like a Riesling. But hear me out as M&S have converted me with a humble slice of mature cheddar alone. This late harvest grape introduces some fungus into the mix from something called noble rot. This helps to shrivel the grapes up and increases the intensity of sugars. The result is a golden honeyed flavour as the yeast in the wine making process can't ferment all of the sugars. Its surprisingly fresh and not cloying. From here on my ultimate indulgent Friday night's home alone will involve me consuming blocks of mature cheese with this stuff. Umami here I come.


And my absolute favourite, Castillo de Monterey Godello 2015 from Spain. Of all the glasses laid out in front of me on the table I found myself keep going back to glass 'number 6', one of the cheapest of bottles from the evening at £9.50. This zingy, fresh and light wine is perfect to cut through oil and saltiness in a variety of different dishes like seafood and cold meats. I've been really getting into prawns recently so decided the ultimate match would be some spicy prawns.



A super speedy side or starter, these prawns can be marinated in advance ahead of a dinner party and presented on a nice platter. Although I'm not one for frills, so I threw these together on the weekend for a late lunch because it's excusable to drink wine with lunch on the weekend!

I loved just how much the citrus of the wine cut through any oiliness of the prawns. As spice tends to make alcohol taste hotter the mint yogurt dip is the perfect accompaniment. And, marinating included, can be knocked up in under 30 minutes.

T A N D O O R I   K I N G   P R A W N S   W I T H   M I N T   Y O G U R T   D I P   &   F L A T B R E A D S

300g large king prawns
1-2tbsp tandoori spice mix, depending on taste
3 tbsp natural yogurt, plus extra to make a dip
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
handful of fresh mint
handful of fresh coriander
flatbreads to serve

Tandoori spice mix:

1tsp each ground ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper
  • In a small mixing bowl, add the tandoori mix, yogurt and lime. Mix well and season. 
  • Remove the prawn shells and devein, leaving just the tails.
  • Marinate the prawns in the spice mix in a large shallow dish for 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat a large griddle pan with a little oil and gently toast the flat breads until a little golden on each side. Wrap in tin foil to keep warm and set aside.
  • Add the prawns to the griddle pan and grill for 6-8 minutes ensuring to turn and brown each side. 
  • Serve the prawns hot with the flatbreads dunked in the yogurt topped with mint and coriander.


And so for future wine pairing endeavours, I will ensure to match fruity with meats and fish and sweeter wines with lots and lots of cheese!

For more info and pairings, visit the Marks and Spencer International Wine Guide here.

Thank you Marks and Spencer for having me and for sponsoring this post. I've learnt loads and can't wait to try some new food and wine pairings!


Cornflake, Sultana & Chocolate Chunk Cookies


There's always time for cookies!

I've sort of had a love / hate relationship with baking cookies. Who would have thought there'd be such a battle to get the perfect texture, crisp on the outside and chewy in the centre. Not to blow my own trumpet but, ok maybe a little, these cookies have not only the best texture but the cornflakes are also a surprisingly great addition. I think I've cracked them!

Yeah oats would do, but cornflakes lend a great golden flavour and a good crunch alongside some super plump sultanas. And who doesn't love chocolate chunks too?



I'm most certainly baking these again on the weekend. If they've got cornflakes in then I'll be eating them for breakfast. All part of a balanced diet!


C O R N F L A K E   S U L T A N A   A N D   C H O C O L A T E   C H U N K   C O O K I E S
(Makes a dozen large or two dozen small cookies)


120g unsalted butter, room temperature
115g soft light brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
150g sultanas
75g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
145g self raising flour
50g cornflakes
pinch salt

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and cover two cookie sheets with baking paper.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla extract and egg, and gently beat until combined.
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients and gently fold together to form a dough.
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a minute or two until smooth.
  • Use a tablespoon to scoop a cookie at a time onto your prepared cookie sheet, or an ice cream scoop if you're making large ones. Place evenly spaced on the tray, leaving plenty of room between each.
  • Bake for 12 minutes until golden, but soft in the centre. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.


Christmas Canapés with John Lewis


So now we're in November I can talk about Christmas, right?

I'm not sorry to say that I'm fully in the festive spirit after John Lewis invited me to an evening of canapés and cocktails at the Waitrose Cookery School in Finchley.

The cookery school has long been one of my favourites in town - possibly because a selection of Christmas inspired cocktails were ready and waiting for us at the bar - but also because of the huge variety of classes they have on offer.

When I first heard we'd be making up to 5 different canapés in just a few hours I was pretty intrigued as to what was on the menu and how much cooking we'd actually do. I'm not one for fiddly bits and finesse but Chefs Gerry and Shauna expertly guided us through each step and added a whole heap of new recipes to our festive repertoire. So if you fancy some confit duck samosas with spiced pear puree or maybe parmesan risotto balls, I'm your girl. And cocktails? I'm a dab hand at a spiced gin and tonic and my new favourite, the spiced blackberry fizz.


I've decided to share my favourite recipes from the night because the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear! Especially as I've recreated them at home since the class and LOVE them.


S P I C E D   B L A C K B E R R Y   F I Z Z
(Recipe from Waitrose Cookery School, serves 1)


For the spiced blackberry cordial (easily doubles)

400ml water
200g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
peel of 1 orange
200g punnet of blackberries

  • Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon and orange to a gentle simmer before adding the blackberries, cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool fully before straining the juice through a fine sieve, pressing out the juices from the berries.

To serve:

white/spiced/dark rum or vodka, your choice
ginger beer
tonic water or sparkling water
freshly sliced ginger
orange slices
fresh blackberries

  • Fill your glass with ice and pour over a measure each of your preferred spirit and blackberry cordial. Top with equal amounts of ginger beer and tonic water. Add a slice each of ginger and orange and a blackberry to finish.



H A Z E L N U T  &   C H O C O L A T E   O R A N G E   B I S C O T T I
(Recipe from Waitrose Cookery School, makes up to 30 biscuits)


50g blanched hazelnuts
120g plain white flour
pinch salt
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp cream of tartar
35g dried cherries
25g orange dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 egg
zest of 1/2 an orange

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  • Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until just golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  • Place all of the remaining ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix to form a biscuit dough, adding a few drops of water if needed to bring the mixture together.
  • Upturn onto a floured work surface and knead until soft. Roll out the dough into two sausages the length of your baking tray.
  • Place the dough sausages on a tray spaced apart and bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch, but still soft in the centre. 
  • Remove from the oven and reduce to oven to 140 degrees.
  • Leave to cool slightly before diagonally slicing into 1cm thick pieces. Place on the tray once more and bake for a further 12-15 minutes until crisp.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool fully before serving.

And now we're all feeling super festive, I'm off to have a peak at John Lewis' Christmas gift inspiration. Thanks for inviting me guys, I learnt so much and would seriously recommend the cookery school classes to all.

I have not received payment for this post - just some canapés, which I greatly enjoyed. All opinions genuinely my own.