A fun thing to do this time of year is prepare your stock for your gravy for Christmas (or even Thanksgiving). This firstly takes the task away from you closer to Christmas as you can just whip it out of your freezer, but it also lets you spread the cost of ingredients between now and Christmas. I think the most efficient way to do this is to buy a turkey or chicken for Sunday lunch (one that includes ideally the giblets and neck) and just save them and make this recipe at the same time. Once done just allow to cool and freeze.
1 onion sliced and halved
1 carrot, sliced lengthways
1 celery stick
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp salt
1.5 pints cold water
Put all in pan and boil for 30 minutes
Remove the surface scum with a spoon
Remove giblets and onion
Boil for another 30 minutes
Allow to cool then freeze
When it’s time to use the stock this is the recipe to use below:
Gravy (see Giblet stock as optional above)
Turkey pan with fat and burnt bits stuck to the bottom once the Turkey has been removed
2 tbsp flour
1 pint giblet stock or beef stock from a packet
Pinch of salt and pepper
Splash red wine
1 tbsp cranberry sauce
Gravy browning if you want to cheat a little
Pour off the majority of the fat left in the pan
Add the flour and put the pan on the hob on a medium heat
Using a wooden spatula scrape the bottom of the pan until all the black bits mix with flour and it starts to form a paste and the flour cooks out for a few minutes
Add the red wine and cook out for another 2-3 minutes
Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until the thickness of gravy you like
If it’s not brown enough add a little gravy browning
I have a few different technique for keeping organised with shopping lists. The ultimate goal I believe is to make sure you don’t miss anything but also to be efficient therefore save yourself money over time.
The first method is to always have a paper notepad stuck to the fridge. You can now buy cheaply magnetized ones so they stay put nicely. Anyone in the family can write on what they’d like or when they use the last of something they write it on the list.
The second method is to have a range of lists on your phone. Most phones have reminder or digital notepad areas. If I suddenly remember something whilst I’m not in the kitchen I usually have my phone so can add it. My favourite app at the moment to do this is ‘Google Keep’.
The third method and one I would highly recommend is to have your food shopping delivered. Most supermarkets do this cheaply or you can use whatever loyalty scheme they have to pay for your deliveries annually using their schemes. The trick is that the supermarket remembers what you buy regularly so you can go through your favourites list and never miss an item. Be careful though. The item you usually buy may not be the cheapest so remember to look up whatever it is unless you particularly love a branded item and does a quick comparison check.
Finally, I’m very lucky that in my area I have a milkman who delivers for free and with cheaper than supermarket prices. You can order your regular items such as milk and bread to always be on your doorstep and if you are short of an item you can get it delivered for free the next morning which is incredibly useful when you suddenly discover late into an evening your cat’s food is low.
I finally decided to try the tips; tricks and products as recommended on the ‘Home Edit’ TV show/Instagram. I’ve been following the ladies for years on social media and often pour over the images of newly styled pantries and closets from celebrities in America. Their efficiency and style is incredibly impressive, as is their work ethic. I believe you can buy the actual ‘Home Edit’ drawer and organisational inserts in ‘Walmart’ and over here in the UK in ‘John Lewis’. I decided instead, mainly due to cost to order some very similar ones from Amazon and set about organising my desk drawers.
The next thing to do is to lay out your draw organisers and play a game of Tetris to most efficiently fit them into each drawer.
Then based on the quantity of each item I had I put them in the containers and just played around until they fitted the best.
‘Home edit’ is all about form and function. I think I cracked the function but I had to do some work to make the colours work well together to meet the form element. I do love a good rainbow 🙂
Stir up Sunday is November 20th. This is the day whereby you prepare your Christmas cake and Christmas mincemeat so it can age beautifully over the weeks before Christmas so it tastes incredible on Christmas Day. It also allows you to add alcohol such as rum or brandy to the cake every week to let it soak in slowly. This year I’ve chosen to use a bottle I already had of Black forest Gâteaux flavoured rum.
In preparation I’ve included my ingredient lists so you can shop in advance.
Victorian Christmas Cake
350g glace cherries
150ml sherry or brandy or rum
2 oranges juiced and zested
250g butter softened
250g brown sugar
4 eggs beaten
1 tbsp black treacle
75g blanched almonds
75g self raising flour sifted
175 plain flour sifted
Apricot jam or any if you are stuck
Any decorations you like
I tend to make my mincemeat at the same time as I do my Christmas cake as the ingredients are broadly the same and you can avoid wasting items. You can add whatever else you really like such as cherries or different fruits or spices to make it really personal. Let people know if you’ve add the alcohol if you are giving them away.
Once my friends and family started having babies I organised and ran Baby Showers. Baby Showers are an American tradition, I believe that has become more common in Europe in the past few years. What it does is give the family having the new baby a special celebration and can provide them with starter tools such as nappies and baby outfits to support them financially in the early days of the baby being born.
Firstly, don’t throw the too early just in case something happens to the mum to be in the process of being pregnant. It’s unusual but can happen so you don’t want to have it too early just in case. Tradition dictates a month before the birth date is sensible.
Agree with the mum to be the best location because they may want to not have to clean their house for guests when heavily pregnant or equally may want to stay at home close to the birth of their child.
Send out invites to the family and friends desired with the mum to be and advise everyone if gifts are desired. Gifts don’t need to cost anything if that’s not an option but can be words of wisdom or advice to family on raising children.
I like to organise games or quizzes at the shower itself as they are traditional. There’s a huge range now online you can download or buy items for. Traditional ones include getting a piece of string and tying it round the mum’s bump and then everyone guesses the size; or filling nappies with different smells and textures such as chocolate and then everyone has to guess what’s in the nappy!
If you are organising drinks remember the mum to be can’t drink alcohol so I organise some big jugs of fruity non-alcoholic cocktails so everyone feels excited drinking the different drinks and the guests who can drink can add alcohol without the mum to be feeling left out.
Good Links to cocktails I’ve tried. I highly recommend the Margharita Mocktail:
I love cooking with herbs but buying them is so expensive. I have a large array of dried herbs, but fresh herbs are really useful for pastas or even cocktails such as minty ‘Mojitos’. You can grow herbs in anything really.
I like to have a couple of pots on my windowsill and a nice basket outside because outside they water themselves. Also, you can cheat if you want to and buy some herbs from the supermarket that are in little pots already and plant them up. Instant herb garden. I will say though, be careful with mint. I love it but it takes over anything you grow, so keep that one in its own little pot.
Don’t grow what you think you should but grow what you actually like to eat or drink with. I had a lovely coriander once, only to realise I hate coriander. It tastes of soap.
If you start an outside basket in the Winter or early Springtime, I’d recommend starting off the seeds indoors first until they are few cm large.
A basket with some form of liner (you can buy the liner or use paper) or plant pot on the kitchen window
Compost or good soil
Seeds for the herbs you like e.g., parsley, basil, chives
Fill your lined basket with some compost.
Add the seeds and water.
The more you cut back the herbs and use them, the healthier the plant becomes so I’d recommend doing it regularly. If you have excess herbs, you can always freeze them in ice cube trays in water to preserve them until you have a recipe ready for them.