Yesterday, I (hopefully) made a new friend. I very nearly didn’t go with The Husband when he went to trim some trees for someone he knew – but I am so glad I did! It’s very easy to get caught up in the busyness of the Season and take time out. In fact, we were talking about time on Sunday. Thirty years ago, with 3 children, I worked full time, not getting home till 6.00, but every night I still produced a 2 course meal on the table for 7.00 and also did the paperwork and invoicing for my (then) husband’s business. I’ve come to the conclusion, that you can make time for what you really want to (which is why I am writing this at 6.00am before going out for the day) whether it be hobbies (time for reading is a necessity), sport, COOKING and friendships. I make a lot of my Christmas presents and always hope that the recipients will realise that in the time of making I was thinking of them so this week I thought I would give you a few ideas of edible gifts so you, too, can enjoy the giving!
My Best Friend Sandra’s Tablet (Scottish Fudge)
- 150ml evaporated milk
- 150ml water
- 75g butter
- 450g granulated sugar
- 1/4 teasp vanilla essence
Put the milk, water, butter and sugar into a heavy saucepan and heat through slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Then, boil steadily for 10- 15 minutes, stirring constantly so that the tablet doesn’t stick. After 10 minutes or so, test by dropping a little into a cold glass of water. If it forms a tiny blob, remove from the heat, Add the vanilla and cool slightly – then get rid of any angst by beating it hard until it starts to crystalise and thicken. Pour into a buttered dish and cut into squares when set.
Raspberry, gin and tonic Syrup
- 800g frozen raspberries
- 150g icing sugar
- Juice 1½ lemons
- 500ml tonic water
- 10 juniper berries, lightly crushed
- 6-7 tbsp gin
Put the raspberries, icing sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook until the raspberries have broken down and are well combined. Push the raspberry mixture through a sieve into a bowl using the back of a spoon. Rinse out the pan to get rid of any remaining seeds, then pour the purée back into the pan with the tonic water and juniper berries (discard the seeds). Reduce the purée for 15-20 minutes over a medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until syrupy. Add the gin and stir to combine. Leave to cool before packaging into sterilised jars or bottle
Lemon and Cranberry Shortbread
- 200 g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 125 g icing sugar
- 300 g plain flour
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 50 g dried cranberries, finely chopped
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- To finish (optional) 150 g white chocolate, chopped edible sprinkles
Line a 20.5cm square tin with baking parchment and set aside. Rub the butter, sugar, flour and a pinch of salt until the mixture just clumps together. Add the vanilla, cranberries and lemon zest. Press mixture into the prepared tin and level (using your hands or the back of a metal spoon is easiest). Prick dough well with a fork, then chill for 30min. Preheat oven to 170°C (150°C fan) mark 3. Bake the shortbread for 45-50min or until nicely golden. While it’s still warm, cut the shortbread in half across the middle. Then cut each half into fingers 1.5cm (2/3in) wide. Cool completely in tin. If finishing the biscuits with chocolate, line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Using a pastry brush, paint chocolate on one end of each shortbread finger, then arrange on prepared baking sheet. Decorate with sprinkles and leave to set, or chill for 15min.
PS Hetty Hen, continues to live in the kitchen but getting better. We have found that she has sprained her ankle (do hens have ankles?) or leg and she finds it hard to weight bare. However, she is definitely getting better and starting to hop around the kitchen a little and when the sun is out, she is carried out to sit on the grass with her friends. Daughter No1 has now dislocated her knee so we are looking forward to having her home, sitting in the kitchen being looked after and, hopefully, hopping around, too! The power of love!