Saturday, 22 December 2012

Mince-pie Day

We made mince pies

Well, obviously we made mince pies, it's that time of year after all.
This is basically a Nigella lawson recipe, with a few alterations*.


240g plain flour
60g Trex-type vegetable fat
60g Butter cut into small cubes
An orange or so
A teeny pinch of salt
Icing sugar
Mincemeat (normally I'd make my own, that being half the point of these pies, however this year, for several reasons, that did not happen)

Put the flour into a big bowl, throw in the cubes of butter, and stir them around a little so they get covered in flour.

Take little blobs of the Trex (or whatever fat you're using) and flick them into the flour bowl too.
Keep going till you run out of Trex, then stir the bowl again until everything is floured.

Now put the bowl in the freezer.
Alternatively, if you live on planet Earth and your freezer is full of food, put it somewhere very cold and surround it with ice cubes.
Traditionally we would put it in our freezing-cold annexe, however, as the annexe isn't actually freezing cold this year, we settled for building an ice-cube igloo around the bowl.

Leave the bowl there for an hour or so and go and talk about global warming, make paper chains, or watch the Muppets Christmas Carol, while it becomes very, very cold.

Squeeze an orange into a cup or jug, add a little salt and put this into your fridge, or, if the fridge is full too, stick it next to the bowl of flour.

Complain bitterly about recipes that assume you own a food processor**

Fetch the bowl of flour and fats, and very quickly rub the fat into the flour to produce a breadcrumbly mess***

Now pour in the salty orange juice, stir it in, then use your hands to bring the whole mess together.
If you need more liquid squeeze another half orange, but only add as much as you absolutely have to.

Make the dough into two balls, stick them in the fridge****.

Now go and sing some carols for a while.
If you have snow, make a snowman.
Also, know that I hate you.

Turn on the oven to a high pie-setting (The original recipe suggests 220).

Now roll out ball of dough number one and cut out as many circles as you can.
You should be able to fill at least one and a half fairy-cake trays*****, but you may need to reroll it a little.
Make sure the circles are big enough to fill the indentations in the trays: they don't need to be big, but they do need to reach the sides******.

Use the left over pastry to cut out little stars, or other fiddly decorative things, to go on top of the pies.

Now repeat this with the other ball until you have filled two trays with little circles.
Leave the rest of the dough for later.

Put a blob of mincemeat onto each circle of pastry and top with a star
Put the pies into the oven for ten minutes.

Meanwhile roll and cut out as many circles and stars as you can manage, ready for the next batch.

As soon as the pies are ready, take them out of the trays and leave them to cool.

The minute the trays are cool, put in the next batch of pies and cook as before.

Once everything's out, sprinkle them with a little icing sugar.
A little.
At least try not to get it absolutely everywhere.

Let them cool.

Eat one.
Save the rest.

Or you could just make more.
You probably have some mincemeat left over, after all.

*And a lot of sarcasm.

**This invocation to the domestic gods is obligatory, even if you do, in fact, own a food processor.
It's not as if the writers could see into your kitchen after all.
Or is it?

***If you own a food-processor you could do this the easy way.
The laws of cosy Yuletide baking, demand otherwise however.

****Or, you know, somewhere that actually has room for two balls of dough.
Somewhere cold though.

*****If you don't have trays with little indentations in them you could probably get away with using fairy-cake cases.
The pies might come out a little crinkly round the edges though.

******Ours do not reach the sides.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Pidea day

We didn't make anything.
We've all had a stupid fluey cold, and nobody feels like baking.
We went to the cinema instead.

We will be making cheese and leek rolls, which are basically just cheese and onion rolls but with leeks instead of cheese.
Since I was feeling guilty for my cinema-enabled laziness* I thought I'd better post something, so here's the basic idea behind the rolls.
You can vary this by changing the cheese you use, or the accompaniments, or the pastry, or all of them frankly.

Cheese and Leek Rolls


Premade puff pastry
Some feta cheese
Some gruyere
A leek or two
A little pepper (and salt if you like that sort of thing)
A beaten egg or a little milk

First chop the leek finely, into itty, bitty, tiny pieces.
Grate the gruyere and crumble the feta.

Now roll out the pastry into a reasonable rectangle, and cut this down the middle into two wide strips.

Distract eldest child with workbooks or something and summon toddler for cheese-based bonding** session.

Scrub toddler liberally, then show her*** how to mix the different ingredients.

Let her play.
Hide, if necessary.

When everything is combined, take whatever didn't go on the floor, season, and show her how to sprinkle it onto the pastry.

If anything survives, fold over the sides of the pastry strip to make two long rolls then cut these to whatever length you want.

Arm the toddler with a pastry brush, and allow to splat the beaten egg or milk all over the rolls.

Put them into a medium oven for twenty minutes or so.

If you dare.

*Though given that the film was Tinkerbell: The Secret of the Wings, I don't feel all that guilty.

**Hopefully of the emotional, rather than literal, variety.

***Or him, or whatever, really.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Catching Up

I've been pretty quiet lately, what with one thing* and another**.
This doesn't mean that we haven't done anything though.
In fact, we've finished our Houses project.
I really didn't find this one as inspiring as the others we've done, but I'm glad I persevered as Ellie was terribly keen and, in the end, we got through an awful lot.

So, what have we been doing?

We've experimented with construction materials.

Experimented on our constructions.

Built a dwelling or five.

Re-written the classics***.

And played a few games.

Somewhere along the way education occurred****.



***On the subject of the classics, The Jolly Postman is a triumph of the Wold Newton genre.
Many thanks to Nicky for the loan.

****Ok we did some other things too, like reading books, talking about houses, pointing out different buildings while we were out, and so on.
But I didn't get any good photos of those.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Harried pieday

We made a Homity Pie.

Supposedly this is a frugal recipe from the days of rationing.
I think it's changed a little

Homity Pie

150g flour, in a half and half mixture of white and wholemeal (or whatever you want)
150g butter and another couple of blobs for cooking and greasing
One egg, beaten
A good bit of grated cheese (maybe 200g, whatever you have, really) preferably strong cheddar
Two or three leeks
One or two onions
A clove or so of garlic (just so it doesn't feel left out)
Whatever greenery you want to use up, chopped and/or blanched if necessary
Some potatoes, probably one more than you think you'll need
A little thyme and/or parsley

Peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices.
Clean and slice the leeks, peel and slice the onion or onions (into rings, not fragments) and chop or crush the garlic.

Parboil the potatoes for about eight minutes, drain, and cut into medium sized chunks.

Go back in time to the point at which you put the potatoes on to boil, melt a blob of butter in a pan and sweat the leeks, onions and garlic.

Mix the chunks of potato with the softened, slightly golden allium**, then stir in the cheese.

Leave this for a while and get on with the pastry***.

Stir the flours to ensure they are properly combined, then rub in the butter till it resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in the beaten egg and squidge it with your hands till you have a soft dough somewhere between uncooked shortbread and a raw cheesecake-base.

Do your best to roll out this sticky, crumbly mass, then press it into a pie dish or cake tin, trimming the edges neatly.

Ladle in the filling, sprinkle the herbs on top and put it into a medium pie-oven (about 180 for us) for between forty and forty five minutes.

Serve with mashed squash and whatever green vegetables you have unpied.

*Eleanor, despite still suffering some confusion over irregular verbs, seems to have got the hang of whom, for some reason I find this terribly amusing.

**I just really like using that word.

***Or don't bother, I'm not really sure about the need for pastry here, I suppose it's a more respectable looking main course when encased in a crust, but it makes a fairly wonderful cheese, allium****, and potato bake without it.

****Did you know that chives are also allium?
Allium, allium, allium.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Post Office

Christmas preparation has truly begun, presents bought, credit card crying, and letter to Santa written.

The only problem how to post the letter to Santa?

Well as part of the homes project we were looking addresses and how post works, so Ellie and Amelia (with help from Phoebe), making use of boxes collected through the year (YES their finally gone!) made a Post office

Phoebe Investigates