End of year kitchen nightmares

gnocchiing.jpg The recipe made it all look so simple. Just a handful of ingredients to make a delicious Italian starter – ricotta and spinach gnocchi.
Thanks to Christmas, I now have what is described on the cover as “the bible of authentic Italian cooking” called The Silver Spoon and planned to spend today creating fantastic little dishes to delight Himself (and the occassional seasonal caller).
Maybe the muse just isn’t with me today. It all started quite well. I wilted the spinach with just a little water, as described. Then drained it as well as I could do first with a saucepan lid, then with kitchen towels.
Mixed in the ricotta and beaten egg. I made them into balls and dusted them lightly with flour. But they still seemed too wet, hardly holding their shape at all.
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Once I’d dropped a couple into the pan there was no way these were going to form into the tasty little dumplings I had been hoping for.
This is what they looked like in the book. Just mouthwatering!
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In desperation I added another egg to the mixture but still ended up aith a saucepan full of chopped spinach.
So, what to do? Rather than keep wasting the ingredients, the cheesey, eggy spinach mixture came in handy as a layer in a rather hastily concocted lasagne.
Oh well, tomorrow’s a whole new day.

Cranachan with raspberries

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With New Year’s Eve fast approaching it seemed fitting to get a little inspiration from Scotland for a seasonal recipe. This version of Cranachan is pretty traditional and comes from British Regional Food.
What you need:
(serves four)
60g medium oatmeal
150g raspberries
600ml double cream
4tbsp runny honey
4tbsp malt whisky
What you should do:
Scatter the oatmeal on a baking tray and toast in a low oven or under a medium grill until golden. You’ll have to watch it closely or it may burn.
Blend 50g of the raspberries in a liquidiser until smooth.
Whip the double cream until stiff, then stir in the honey and whisky, and mix well but do not over-whip.
Fold in 50g of the oatmeal, then fold in the raspberry puree to form a rippled effect.
Spoon the mixture into glass coupes or a serving dish, then scatter the rest of the raspberries and oatmeal on the top.
Verdict: The beauty of this dish is that it’s so simple to make while also managing to be indulgent.
British Regional Food, by Mark Rix, is published by Quadrille, priced £25. Out now.
Have you got a recipe for me? If so, send it with a photo of yourself and tell me who you are. If it looks tasty enough, I’ll try it out.

How was it for you?

So that’s it then. All over for another year. The stress of anticipating the family row, the joy of Brussels and that hangover of all hangovers – all finished with.
How was it for you?
Were your carrots soggy or your brandy sauce solid? Did the timings work out like clockwork or was the bird cold? Whatever your Christmas was like, you can share it all with us here.
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Here’s a snap of my lunch, complete with a generous helping of Guinea fowl. And it may be the only time these words are uttered by me – thank goodness for small children.
Well small children who have no sense of adventure with their food anyway as, while they argued over how much chicken they could have, the sight and smell of Guinea fowl and pheasant turned them off – leaving all the more for Aunty Sarah!
* Don’t forget to share your Christmas with me and the rest of the world by sending in your lunch pictures.
Here’s what to do;
1. Save the following number to your phone: 07841 996 767.
2. Make sure you have your phone camera set to the highest resolution.
3. Take your picture and add your caption underneath, making sure you put the word “CHRISTMAS” in the text and include your name, location and phone number.
4. Send it to your saved number (07841 996 767)
Or, send them by email to newspictures@manchesteronline.co.uk.

The winners are……

The lucky winner of the tickets to the Establishment NYE grand ball is Kevin Linehan of Tyldesley, Greater Manchester.
His name was picked out of the 1,836 entries we received during the week to spend New Year’s enjoying seven gourmand courses at Establishment in the city centre.
Hope you enjoy it Kevin, why not let us know what it was like or send me some pictures.
* Don’t forget to share your Christmas with me and the rest of the world by sending in your lunch pictures.
Here’s what to do;

1. Save the following number to your phone: 07841 996 767.
2. Make sure you have your phone camera set to the highest resolution.
3. Take your picture and add your caption underneath, making sure you put the word “CHRISTMAS” in the text and include your name, location and phone number.
4. Send it to your saved number (07841 996 767)
Or, send them by email to newspictures@manchesteronline.co.uk.
I’ll start publishing them on Boxing Day so don’t forget to check back on this blog.
Have a merry Christmas lunch.

In praise of Stilton

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ONE of the best things about Christmas has to be the excuse to have a cheese board in the home at all times.
And the king of cheese, Stilton has to take its place on the throne of the cheese kingdom.

Just what is it that makes Stilton so perfect? It’s creamy, yet crumbly. It holds it’s shape but is surprisingly soft. It’s sweet but piquant all at the same time.

Here’s some top Stilton facts from the Stilton Cheesemaker’s Association
•One of a handful of British cheeses granted the status of a “protected designation origin” (PDO) by the European Commission.
• Stilton can only be made in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire
• It takes 136 pints milk (78 litres) to make one 17 lb (8kg) Stilton cheese
• Stilton takes its name from the village of the same name in Cambridgeshire although the cheese has never been made there.
* Stilton freezes well and can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What more can be said? Pass the port.
* Don’t forget to share your Christmas with me and the rest of the world by sending in your lunch pictures.
Here’s what to do;
1. Save the following number to your phone: 07841 996 767.
2. Make sure you have your phone camera set to the highest resolution.
3. Take your picture and add your caption underneath, making sure you put the word “CHRISTMAS” in the text and include your name, location and phone number.
4. Send it to your saved number (07841 996 767)
Or, send them by email to newspictures@manchesteronline.co.uk.
I’ll start publishing them on Boxing Day so don’t forget to check back on this blog.
Have a merry Christmas lunch.

Share your Christmas dinner with the world

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DON’T keep your Christmas dinner to yourself this year – share it with us all here!

I’m looking for pictures of Christmas dinner – whether its turkey with all the trimmings or beans on toast – we can show the world what a Greatest Manchester Christmas is really like.

So, send me your pictures before you tuck in and I’ll publish them all here – you never know, yours might get featured in the e-view page in Saturday’s Manchester Evening News as well.
Here’s what to do;
1. Save the following number to your phone: 07841 996 767.
2. Make sure you have your phone camera set to the highest resolution.
3. Take your picture and add your caption underneath, making sure you put the word “CHRISTMAS” in the text and include your name, location and phone number.
4. Send it to your saved number (07841 996 767)
Or, send them by email to newspictures@manchesteronline.co.uk
I’ll start publishing them on Boxing Day so don’t forget to check back on this blog.
Have a merry Christmas lunch.

Yes, it is Christmas

OK, the time has finally come. I’ve avoided all mention of it until now but with just a week to go there’s no holding back – it’s time to consider Christmas food.
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This year I am spared the stress and hassle of providing the annual feast which means I can look forward to it all the more.
And whether you’re a traditional turkey household or are looking forward to something more unusual such goose, beef or perhaps even fish, one of the best things about Christmas lunch has got to be the excuse to do interesting things with the vegetables.
Boiling or steaming may do for the other 364 days of the year, but thankfully even the most conservative cook will usually try something different in the season of indulgence.

If could be as simple as adding some nutmeg to the swede, putting a stock cube in the water for the Brussels or sprinkling some carraway seeds over the carrots.

Or you could dress each individual vegetable dish with its own sauce. This treatment of green beans caught my eye as the mustard sauce would make a robust accompaniment to stronger tasty meats.
Let me know how you get on with it.
Why not share your Christmas lunch with other blog readers. Send me your picture of Christmas lunch, tell me what’s in it and I’ll publish it here – don’t forget to send your name and address too.
You can also send the picture from your mobile phone to 07841 996 767. Whatever way you choose, please put the word CHRISTMAS in the subject line.

Thanks to MMS0131 for taking the different seasonal pic I’ve used on this article.