Monday, 31 December 2007


Tonight is New Years Eve - or Hogmanay. While I like a party, a few years ago we stayed in on our own for Hogmanay and had a really good time cooking dinner for ourselves and relaxing, eating the food we like and watching the bell's come in. And so that is what we have done since. Sometimes, like tonight, my sister and my best friend will come round before the bell's - and I make my best friend first foot me just after midnight.

For dinner, my husband is cooking this time around and he is making his famous mushroom risotto. It has a mix of mushrooms, a load of parmesan, and I love the smell and sound of the Vermouth as it goes into the pan. He serves it with a good crusty bread and a salad of green leaves and cherry tomatoes. The toms are a good companion to the creaminess of the risotto. He got the recipe from a Jamie Oliver recipe book and it has become a firm favourite. The basic risotto recipe can be adapted to whatever takes your fancy.

For the bell's, I don't really make much myself but we have some items that are traditional to have. Some are traditional all over Scotland, and some are traditional to my family:

Shortie (shortbread. Sometimes I make my own but I have gone with Dean's all butter shortbread this year)
Cherry cake (because my Gran always served this)
Ginger cake (my own favourite - with real butter)
Cheese balls (must be from M&S!)
Madeira cake
Christmas cake
Hot Bites - sausage rolls, and the party food you get from the freezer section - usually some asian inspired snacks appear!

It sounds like a lot but you pick at it through the evening and over New Year's Day.


Some people work out their Christmas meat very carefully so they don't have many left overs but I love leftovers. First, I love a Christmas sandwich and I like to be inventive about what to make.

This year, I was at my Mum's for Boxing Day, where she made a great buffet, and I had my sister round the next evening, so my leftovers had a day to sit and relax! I made the turkey breast by setting it in an oven proof dish with the gravy. This way, the leftover meat which is usually not as good as what you had on Christmas Day can benefit from the gravy juices as it heats up. I also made a recipe from my 'Nigella Express' book - a very welcome Christmas present - a potatoe and mushroom gratin. In the recipe, she finely slices potatoes. keeping the skins on, and part cooks them with some full fat milk (enough to cover the tatties) and some white wine (I added a tbsp for each portion), while cooking finely sliced mushrooms in garlic and butter and oil. I followed the same outline but I had some cream left over, and it is the season of indulgence, so I added that to my potatoes. I also used more garlic because I love it and added a spoonful of mustard. It worked very well - a tasty alternative to roasties.

After that, I cut up the rest of the meat and divided it into freezer bags. It is always nice to have home roast poultry in the freezer to use when you are to busy to actually go through the rigmarole of roasting something when you are late in from a busy day at work.

Another left over I have is some mincemeat from making mince pies, so for New Year I am going to make a 'christmas' apple crumble. You make up your crumble ingredients as usual but to make use of the mincemeat I put a layer of apple on the bottom of the dish, then a layer of the mincemeat, the the rest of the apple. It makes for a really good pudding on a cold day.

Christmas and New Year!

So I started doing this site in May last year but I was studying for my MBA which is now over so now I actually have some time to do fun stuff! And I have had two weeks off over Christmas which has meant I have been able to do a bit of cooking. So I am now, for 2008, going to try and keep a note of all my recipes and what I learn about cooking.

Christmas Dinner!

This year the menu was (for two):

Arbroath Smokie pate and oatcakes
Roast turkey served with roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, chipolatas, pork, cranberrie and apple stuffing and cranberrie sauce.
Christmas Pudding

The Arbroath Smokie pate is really easy to make and I got the recipe from the Arborath Smokie website. I like to put a bit more horseradish in it than the recipe says but you can try it out and then modify to your taste. It was yummy with some Nairn's oatcakes. I thought about making my own but then couldn't be bothered!

For the turkey dinner, I got my meat from our local butcher - West End Butchers. If you are ever in Dundee you should get your meat from them (195, Perth Rd, Dundee, Angus, DD2 1AT, Tel: 01382 667718. In particular they are good at helping you work out what amount you need. Because a lot of my recipes are just in my head, or are made up of several recipes, I don't always know how much meat I need, but if you say 'I need enough steak mince for 5 people' they can tell you. When roasting the turkey I tend to just go with my instincts on time to cook but if you are a bit unsure, and if you have bought from a butcher rather than a supermarket it's likely the turkey won't come with instructions, you can check with the British Turkey website which has a roasting time calculator. The key think is to use a skewar or knitting needle to poke your turkey to see if pink or clear juices run out - clear is good, pink means more cooking time! I used the calculator this year and it was spot on.

When I cook my turkey, I put some olive oil on its skin and I rub it in gentely with my hands - like a massage! Then I place it breast side down in the roasting tray. I cook it breast side down for the first half of the cooking time because then the juices collect in the breast meat while it is cooking which is important to keep the breast meat succulent. I also cover the bird with foil. Then, halfway through, I take the foil off and turn it over. Then the skin can brown and get crisp during the remainder of the cooking. I always let the bird rest for 30 minutes, covered in foil, after cooking. It keeps it's heat and lets the juices settle. And this year my husband told me about a technique for carving he saw on a Jamie Oliver programme which worked really well. I always struggle with carving eth legs, but instead of using a knife, I pulled the leg back towards me as if you were pulling a lever, then twisted it - and it came clean away and ready for eth meat to be taken off. Much easier than mt usual hacking-at-the-bones effort.

The chipolatas were easy - wrap in streaky bacon and roast! Yum!

My roast potatoes are something we don't have often but when I make them I make plenty. I like to use a good quality olive oil but because it seems extravagant I mix it half and half with normal vegetable oil. That way you don't feel to guilty but you still get that lovely nutty flavour coming through. A wee trick I learnt - once you have par boiled the potatoes, let them cool a bit and then 'rubble' them about in the pan - shake them in the pan to make their outsides fluffy. Then, when you add them to the hot oil you have heated in the oven, the contrast in tempratures and the increased surface are from the 'rubbling' will make for very crisp outsides to your tatties.

I made the cranberrie sauce up myself - I just got a bag of cranberries, heated some water and dissolved some sugar in, then boiled the cranberries till they started to burst at which point I reduced the heat to simmer for about ten-fifteen minutes. Then take a wee taste and see if you need more sugar or not. I put in a small cupful of sugar for 500g of berries. Not sure if this is what a recipe would tell you but it works for me!

The Christmas pudding was a bought one - I have never made my own pudding although I used to help my Mum make hers. I will need to try that next year. The one I got though from Tesco was really rather good though.

The meal went down really well with my chief taster, my husband. And it was much better than last year when, due to study stresses, I managed to buy stuffing but didn't make it and forgot to get bread sauce and cranberries!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Jane-Claire's Kitchen

I love food, cooking, eating with friends, sharing recipes and baking tips and collecting and reading recipe books. So I thought I would start a blog on foody related stuff to keep all my recipes and cooking tips in one place!