New Post for a New Year

I know what you are all thinking. Just how busy can one guy be that he neglects the blog for so long? The reality of it is that I have been horrendously busy. I mean, if I use hindsight, I would have had a cheeky half hour here and there, but it has been a family fest, a Christmas baking bonanza, a preserve making factory, on top of buying presents, wrapping them, stuffing my face and generally relaxing. My festive period was great. From the staff Christmas party which went down a storm. To the pre Christmas 10 hour days at work due to the madness going on, to our actual Christmas, I’m not sure how festive it was in actuality.

I did have a warm glow when I made chocolate orange cupcakes which I turned into a homage to that cartoon image of a Christmas pudding.

Using a basic chocolate cupcake recipe, a few tablespoons of orange zest gave it a real Terrys Chocolate Orange flavour. It was immense. But the fact there was no wind down, and I didn’t get to watch all my festive favourite films due to having no time for tv, I had no time to really feel that magic. Next year I will use my leave before the big day to allow me to feel that warm glow. I have also discovered a great recipe for a gingerbread layer cake. A Christmas Gift to myself has been an iPad subscription to Martha Stewart Living Magazine. It’s like my Good Housekeeping guilty pleasure but with less HRT or Sandi Toksvig. Let’s just say I will never have that odd moment on the train where I noted down my health symptoms and found that those in the institute would have me believe I had endometriosis. I find it a stretch to think I do. We mere mortals cannot live like Martha. I don’t have time to craft and create the way the magazine wants us to. But I have access to some fabulous recipe ideas and lifestyle dreams. The layer cake issuing US cup measurements, but I think a lot of us have these now do it shouldn’t be a burden. But I’m blogging the equivalence. Gingerbread Layer Cake with salted caramel and cream cheese frosting 230g unsalted butter at room temperature 430g plain flour 410ml boiling water 1 tablespoon baking soda 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 tablespoon ground ginger 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 3/4 tsp ground cloves 3/4 tsp grated nutmeg Pinch salt 180g brown sugar 3/4 cup black treacle 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger 3 large eggs Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees celcius. Line, butter and flour three 8 inch sandwich pans. It’s a triple layered one you know…. Cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the brown sugar. In a bowl, mix the baking soda in with the boiling water. In a seperate bowl, Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the black treacle and grated ginger to the butter and mix. Add the flour mix and baking soda liquid in batches. Martha didn’t say to do this, but otherwise the liquid would go everywhere. Divide the batter between the three pans. Bake for around 40 minutes. Check after 35 mins, as ovens may vary. One cooled, ice with a cream cheese frosting mixed with a cup of salted caramel. Salted Caramel Two cup granulated sugar Half cup water 1tsp golden syrup 1/2 cup double cream 115g butter 2 tablespoons creme fraiche Sea salt- as much as to taste. Add the sugar, water and golden syrup to a pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. Don’t stir, shake the pan. Once is turned a more golden grown, and reduced to a syrup, add the cream. It will bubble and spit. Add the butter and creme fraiche, and stir to a creamy consistency. Add the salt to taste. It will thicken as it cools. Cream cheese frosting 80g soft unsalted butter 250g Philadelphia cream cheese 500g icing sugar Cream together the butter and cream cheese. Don’t over mix, as it will loosen. Sift the icing sugar in and mix until it comes together. Again, don’t over mix. Add the caramel bit by bid, unsure you can still ice. Don’t make it running, err on the side of caution, if you’d rather. Add the caramel as a layer between sandwiches if you would prefer. But either way, go for it. This is a warming, wintery treat. It tastes like cold days, in front of the telly, watching something cosy like It’s Complicated, Mean Girls, Home Alone or Ratatouille. Imagine a cup of tea, a slab of this cake, Mumford and Sons or Laura Marling on the stereo, a magazine to peruse and the promise of days to come. Winter food is all well and good. A period of slow cooking, inviting aromas, strong flavours and invariably large portions. I have a pair of skinny jeans. Levi’s, purchased on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I was close to my birth weight at the time. I can’t get them over my thigh now. I could in November. I weighed myself before Christmas and then shortly before New Years Eve? Half a stone. A fortnight of puddings, mid meal snacks, Prosecco daily, wine, chocolate and every indulgence I usually save for a Friday night had attached itself firmly to my bum thighs, belly and face. I need to diet. Have ran and been to the gym. First day of smoothies with my fab new Kitchenaid blender, first day of only one indulgence if I’m very good. And? Ok. I’m relieved. My digestive system is out of seasonal shock now. I often find myself post Christmas with the most ridiculous belly ache as, after Christmas dinners, I eat a high proportion of buffets, and little salad and veg. I was relieved when for new years, we stayed in with a modest sized cheese fondue, salad, crudités and a modest amount of fizz. The salad was lovely. Light, non-carb, and a revelation to my palate.

It was a quiet night. Alan Carr’s NYE Specstacular, which was genius, a few glasses of Prosecco, a bit of Jools Holland, the fireworks over the Thames (which were amazing, and I am so not bothered by fireworks), and bed before 1am. A result. Until my new our decided to act out a Hollyoaks style drama the other side of the party wall. I couldn’t catch it all, but I think that she had a lad round, but he wasn’t her boyfriend. He turned up. He was gunning for blood, he was gonna kill the other lad. He and she were finished. She cried. He cried. All next to the party wall. Eventually they retired to the kitchen. We fell asleep. Got up about 7ish on New Years Day. They were down stairs still arguing. Oh to be 21. But at least my 2012 started with a more appropriate set of fireworks then theirs next door….. And that’s enough for now. Apologies for the delays. Hope you are all well. A prosperous 2012 to you all. Here’s to some new episodes of a barefoot Contessa this year please. If I see Ina make Jam Thumbprint cookies anytime soon. That holiday special was on daily in December. That and the one where she made trifle and linguine with truffle butter for the girl from the blog big girls small kitchen. Infuriating woman. I love the one with TR and Michael decorating Joey and Mo’s tree and Ina making the gift basket. It’s so cute. Here’s to 2012. Who knows what this year may bring. Blog laters folks xxx

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