Thursday, 15 January 2009

What I Got For Christmas

I hope that all my readers had a good Christmas and New Year, and wishing you all the best for 2009! I had a great Christmas break, very busy but got good nonetheless. I spent Christmas day with my fiancées family, the first time that I haven't spent it with my family and it was great getting to know all their family customs and especially the food! We had a traditional turkey roast dinner with all the trimmings - and some more! There was roast and mashed potatoes, parsnips, sage and onion stuffing, chestnut stuffing, pigs in blankets, brussel sprouts (despite their bad reputation, I am partial to a sprout) cauliflower cheese, carrots and mushy peas! The last one was a new one on me for Christmas dinner, and a great addition!! Obviously plenty of wine was drunk, puddings, sweets and chocolates eaten! The rest of the holiday was spent drinking, eating and visiting my family and friends.

Its difficult to do this without sounding like I am boasting, but I wanted to show some of the presents that I got for Christmas!! My family and friends obviously know how much I like food and cooking, so I was lucky to receive loads of foodie presents.

I got a couple of good books, which I will be reading throughout January. Raymond Blanc's autobiography, "A Taste of My Life" which is also signed by the author!

Another good book from my fiancée was "The Burger Book" by Gina Steer. There are loads of great burger recipes here and most of them are not beef burgers - there are all kinds of fish burgers and fish cakes, pork burgers, vege burgers... I will be making some of these soon - my regular readers will know that I have got a taste for burgers.

A selection of chocolate - once this is finished, it might be time to go on a diet.

And some more chocolate - a well packaged gift set from Green and Blacks.

I have been after one of these griddle pans for ages. I was unsure whether a cast iron or a non stick one would be better, but this is what I got! I think that this is better actually since I am a bit lazy with seasoning it after cooking so it will last longer. The downside is that, not being cast iron, it seems to be difficult to get those griddle lines in the meat.

Here is a picture of my lovely Tefal griddle pan...

A little stocking filler, some scorpion vodka. Alcohol infused with scorpions, the bottle claims, is said to remove toxins from the body. I don't know what it does about the toxins from the booze, but perhaps it cancels them out and eliminates any hangovers! The scorpion is edible as well, so when I get round to trying this I will be sure to eat the scorpion too. I have never eaten insects before, so it must be worth a try.

... and if the scorpion vodka gives me a craving for scorpions, then never fear - here is an edible toffee scorpion candy! Yummy! Both of these delights are from

This next present is one that I am particularly pleased with - a microwave egg poacher. I often have poached eggs on toast for breakfast, so this will get used plenty. You crack one egg into it, add a little water, pierce the yolk then microwave for ~45 seconds, depending on the size of the egg. Our microwave at home has a dial rather than a digital timer, so setting 45 seconds when the smallest increment on the timer is 1 minute can be a little tricky - I have had several overcooked eggs this week - but I am going to take it to work to use in the microwave there, and I should be able to get precision timed poached eggs done there.

These bright blue things are interesting. The big square one is a heat proof mat for resting pans on, resistant to something like 300C (I don't know where the packet is now, but it was pretty hot anyway). The tubey looking one is a garlic peeler. I haven't tested this out yet, but what you do is place the garlic clove in the tube, roll between your hands and then easily peel off the skin. The idea is that i
A few assorted baking bits and pieces including a loaf tin, with sexy pink spatula, and a Yorkshire pudding tin. We have needed one of these for some time, hopefully I will now be able to perfect my Yorkshire puddings.

Next up is something I have been after for a while. Luckily my fiancee listens to me and puts this to good use in her present buying! I have mentioned in earlier posts (like in this one for spicy chicken drumsticks) how much I would love a really heavy granite, non porous pestle and mortar for making curry pastes, grinding up spices and just generally mashing things up. And this is the one that I received - perfect!!

The final cooking realted present, well almost anyway, is this fantastic tagine. This one came with a packet of couscous as well, so I am now ready to start making some tasty North African style dishes in the traditonal style. I have made tagine type meals before, like this chicken tagine with lemon couscous, but now I don't have to use a casserole dish, it will be (almost) like the genuine article.

Finally, we also got given a bit of money for Christmas from parents and other family members. This has been put to good culinary use, and we are going to replace the absolutely awful oven and hob that was in our house when we moved in. The make of the old hob and oven is something like "New World" and whilst it looks reasonably ok, this is not the case. The hob is completely uncontrollable - it takes forever to reach the temperature, and then when you have to reduce the heat, say to a low simmer, you have to allow another half an hour or so for this to actually happen. The old oven, likewise, is completely impractical. It seems to heat as unevenly as is imaginable, ensuring that at some times everything is burnt on the bottom yet pretty much uncooked on the top, whilst at other times everything is burnt on the top and uncooked underneath. The oven also takes between 4-5 hours (I exaggerate, but only slightly) to heat up. So with the Christmas money, we have ordered a Neff double fan oven and a Hotpoint ceramic hob. The oven is pretty amazing, according to the reviews I have read, and the hob should be good as well. Obviously gas is the ultimate for hobs, but the amount of work involved in installing gas to the kitchen would make it far too expensive. This ceramic hob should be far superior to what we have now, and that will be good enough for me!

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