No. 84 - Christmas and New Year 2009/10

This is the last newsletter for 2009.  Once again, thank you  for your support in 2009 and hopefully, your continued support in 2010.   I will be taking a break over the holiday period, so  the next newsletter will be sent during the 1st week in February 2010.


With Seasons Greetings and very best wishes for a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.


Happy Cooking !







Florence Sandeman,






Recipes4us Recommends


Small Gifts for Cooks

from Amazon


Below are some gift ideas which may be of interest to keen cooks and which they may not already have.  Click to view and buy.


Some make great Stocking fillers.




Recipe of the Month (December)


The Ultimate Fudge
Perfect for giving as a pressy to someone special

Click the picture to see a video of Phil Vickery making these

Makes approx. 1kg (2¼lb)   Prep & cook time: 45 mins


397g can Carnation Condensed Milk
150ml (¼pt) milk
450g (1lb) Demerara sugar
115g (4oz) butter
Optional ingredients:
150g (5oz) glace cherries, halved
55g (2oz) stem ginger, chopped
150g (5oz) dark chocolate chopped
85g (3oz) toasted hazelnuts
150g (5oz) raisins soaked in 3tbsp rum (until  absorbed)


1.   Grease and base line a 20cm (8”) square tin with baking parchment.

2.   Heat the milks, sugar and butter in a large, non-stick saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously and scraping the base of the pan, until a soft ball of fudge is formed when a little of the mixture is dropped into a jug of ice-cold water.

3.   Remove from the heat and beat the fudge until thick and grainy (about 10 minutes).

4.   Gently stir in the remaining ingredients then pour into the prepared tin and leave to cool before cutting into squares.


2 ways with

           . . . Brussels Sprouts

Perk up your Brussels with this delicious but simple recipe  - guaranteed to go perfectly with your roast turkey

Brussels with Brazils    Veg  HT  ACC   20mins

Did you know...
               Brazil nuts are a food source of Selenium


Use up any leftover cooked Brussels sprouts in this easy to make Brussels, Bacon & Butter Bean soup served with croutons and bacon strips.


It's so tasty, you'll be tempted to make it using fresh Brussels. Click the picture for the written recipe plus  a video of me making it or scroll down to the soup article below.


Cooking Skills

                  . . . Homemade Vol au vent


9th December is National Pastry Day


Did you know....

                  The name vol au vent means "fly with the wind" i.e. vol = Fly + au = with + Vent = wind


Although vol au vent can be made as large as you like, here I am concentrating on the smaller "cocktail" versions which are sometimes called  Bouchées à la reine (queen's mouthfuls) in honour of  Marie Leczinska, wife of Louis XV, who is believed to have invented them.


Although you can buy ready made cases, your local store may run out during the holiday season, so here's one of the latest Recipes4us videos showing you how to make them at home.

These delicious morsels can be filled with anything you fancy and are ideal for parties or just served with drinks, so are especially useful during the party season.

Click here for the full size video and written instructions.



To make things even easier, I've just added a whole page on the site dedicated to vol au vent which has loads of filling recipes and ideas including hot, cold, vegetarian, fish, poultry, meat and even  some sweet ones. . . all in one place.   



Let the Festivities begin!



  Countdown to Christmas .....


5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .


1st week in December

Christmas Puddings

Continue re-boiling home made Christmas puddings once every 2 weeks

Christmas cake

Now's the last chance  to marzipan your cake if you haven't already done so.


Now's a good time to make your own mincemeat especially if you find shop-bought varieties too sweet or not to your liking.


2nd week in December


There may still be enough time to order your turkey but don't delay. Many specialist suppliers are sold out by now especially if you want  the delicious Bronze  or free range birds.


Now's a good time to stock up on items such as extra wide aluminium foil, wooden cocktail sticks, festive linen or paper napkins, crackers and any bakeware items you may need such as large roasting tins and baking trays.

Christmas cake

Ice your cake


3rd week in December

Christmas cake

Now's the last chance to ice your cake.

Christmas Puddings

Last re-boiling of  home made Christmas puddings before the day.


There's still time to make your own mincemeat.


Now's the time to buy in less perishable  items such as potatoes, parsnips, chestnuts, nuts, streaky bacon etc. Don't leave it until Christmas week to avoid disappointment.

Time Plan

Take an hour out, put your feet up and make a list of all the remaining things to do. Include things like making mince pies, planning meals on Christmas eve,  Christmas day  and Boxing day.


Christmas Week

If you've followed the above, the only things left to do are collect the turkey and buy last minute perishables such as cream and green vegetables.



Festive Entertaining


The holiday season is a traditional time for getting together with friends and family but in these financially trying times, you may feel that your wallets won't stretch to buying in party food. For those on a budget, the good news is that there are lots of finger foods and buffet dishes which can be easily prepared at home at a fraction of the cost. Here are a few suggestions:-


Salmon and Tomato Bites

Vol au vent

Redcurrant Glazed Chicken Bites

Party Satay Drumsticks

Crusted Basil Frankfurters

Devils on Horseback

Spicy Beef Balls

Mini Cheese Croquettes

Mushroom Palmiers


To drink, why not make a traditional Christmas Wassail or  hot Christmas Buttered Rum


Site Updates


Culinary Videos



Click the picture to find the latest Recipes4us additions, the next in the Phil Vickery pudcast series plus a couple of extras


Weekday Menus


Click the picture to find this month's weekday menus to help you plan your meals and shopping in the busy weeks ahead. 



What's in Season in December


Click here to see what's in season this month and to find a UK Farmers' Market near you. There are Lots of seasonal recipes too



How does your  Kitchen Garden grow


Depending on where you live and the weather, there may not be much chance to get out into your garden. However it's an ideal time to start planning what you want to grow next year. You can order seeds online which not only  saves a trip to the garden centre but also offers you more choice of varieties.


For detailed information about jobs to do now in your garden, visit our new sister site


More notable food celebrations in December include


17th  Maple Syrup Day

21st California Kiwifruit Day

24th National Eggnog Day


Festive Food


We tell everything you need to consider or know  about food over the festive season - from buying and preparing to cooking and serving perfect Christmas food.


Buying Christmas food

When to buy, where to buy, how to buy. Your complete guide to all your food needs for the holiday season plus a printable shopping list!

All Things Turkey

Everything you ever wanted to know and buying, storing and cooking turkey, including what size turkey you'll need, how much stuffing for it, plus lots of leftovers recipes.

The Perfect Christmas Lunch

Details on how to cook the perfect turkey with all the trimmings, including preparation, quantities, timings, trimmings and full menu. Plus a printable time plan with tick boxes



Fancy something different for your Christmas or Boxing Day lunch ? 

How about a whole salmon?

If it sounds a little daunting, here's a video showing exactly how to do it by chef and restaurant owner Aiden Byrne, one of Britain's rising stars of the kitchen and the youngest chef ever to win a Michelin star.

As an added bonus,  I'm featuring a  second video in which Aiden shows you how to prep your vegetables the professional way, to ensure perfect results for your special meal.

For full sized videos and written instructions, visit our cooking videos section

Both videos and instructions are courtesy of Tesco Food Club




. . . not forgetting all you vegetarians and vegans


Amongst many die-hard meat eaters, the term Nut Roast often brings a titter to their lips. Well, this recipe is guaranteed to to make them think twice. Not only is it suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but it's also gluten, wheat, dairy free and egg free so great for those suffering from allergies.


This Macadamia Nut Roast is a hearty dish which can be served hot, warm or cold and is a delicious alternative to the traditional Christmas roast.


Picture and recipe courtesy of



Cook's Tip....


If there's any left over, it can be kept in a fridge for a few days. Once chilled it can be sliced and served cold with a salad and is great for packed lunches.


Serves 6   - Prep and Cooking time:   90mins

800g mixed root vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, swede, sweet potato) peeled and roughly chopped
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon macadamia oil
200g carrots, peeled and grated
300g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Cook the root vegetables in a large pan of boiling water until they are just tender.

2. Meanwhile fry the onion, celery and garlic in the oil, until softened.

3. Set the oven to 200°C or Gas 6. Drain the root vegetables, put them back in the pan and mash them roughly.

4. Mix in the grated carrots, most of the macadamia nuts, parsley, lemon juice, and seasoning.

5. Spoon the mixture into a large, lightly-oiled, ovenproof dish, or roasting tin lined with paper. Sprinkle with the rest of the nuts.

6. Cover with oiled foil and cook for 30 minutes then take off the foil and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the top is browned and the vegetables are cooked through. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving with salad or green vegetables.

Did you know ....

Macadamia nuts are not only low in cholesterol and GI but high in plant based phytosterols and fibre, and provide a source of essential amino and fatty acids, important for those on a meat free diet.



Goosey Goosey Gander,  Goose Fat is a wonder!

Thank goodness goose fat is now readily available at most supermarkets and many butchers. I have bought it in tins before now but it's most likely that you'll find it in jars in the chilled foods cabinet, possibly near to butters and spreads.

Although it may seem a little expensive, it is well worth buying because,  so long as it's relatively clear and free of bits after use, once cooled it can be poured back into the jar, refrigerated and re-used. It will keep for 2-3 months - plenty of time to experiment with it.

To read more about goose fat, its nutritional values, uses and recipes click here


Here's a recipe for The ultimate Roast Potatoes, by Chef Mike Robinson  courtesy of The Goose Fat Information Service. Do your turkey justice and try these scrumptious, crispy tatties.


1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 7 or 200°c., 400f

2. Parboil your potatoes for 8-10 minutes, drain and put them back in the pan, shaking to rough up the edges.

3. Measure 1 tbsp of Goose Fat for every 45g into a roasting tray and heat until the fat is smoking.

4. Place the potatoes in the tray and roast for around 45 mins, or until crisp and golden. Baste and turn the potatoes at frequent intervals.

Other vegetables are also great roasted in Goose Fat, try Goose Fat roast parsnips for a Christmas dish with a delicious twist.



Save-the-Day Christmas Pudding



This Christmas Carrot Pudding is a light Lincolnshire alternative to a traditional Christmas pudding. Ideal if you forgot to buy or make one beforehand or if you just prefer a lighter dessert.


100g/4oz plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp of mixed spice
100g/4oz suet
100g/4oz raisins
100g/4oz currants
100g/4oz potato, grated
100g/4oz carrots, grated
100g/4oz Demerara sugar
100g/4oz fine breadcrumbs
25g/1oz chopped glace cherries
1 large egg, beaten


1. Mix the flour, soda, spice well together. Add all the other ingredients except the egg, mix all ingredients well together and thoroughly. Then add the egg and bind well, if it is a little too stiff, add a little milk as well.


2. Pour into a large greased pudding basin, leaving space at the top as the mixture will expand during cooking.

3. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper and tie with string. Steam for 3hrs.

Serve with loads of custard, brandy
sauce or double cream.

Courtesy of



Waste-not want-not

Unless you've been really precise with your weights and measures, you are bound to have some leftover turkey and gravy. Serving the turkey cold with other sliced meats plus pickles, mashed potatoes and salads is the traditional way to use it up the next day, but even then, there is usually lots of flesh left on the carcass. . . . and what to do with that gravy?  This recipe for Turkey Fricassee with Tarragon Carrots is an excellent way to use up bite-size leftover turkey pieces and the gravy. Works just as well with leftover chicken.


Preparation  cooking time: 25mins      Serves 4 

Recipe and picture courtesy of

Garnish with lots of freshly chopped parsley and serve with  rice or mashed potatoes

Cook's Tip....


If you don't have enough leftover gravy, simply make up some chicken stock using a stock cube and thicken with granules or cornflour.



30ml/2tbsp vegetable oil

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced

350g/12oz baby carrots

450g/1lb leftover cold turkey, cut into bite sized pieces

30ml/2tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or 2tsp dried

100ml/4floz dry white wine

300ml/10fl.oz. leftover turkey gravy

60ml/4tbsp half fat Crème fraîche

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly chopped Parsley to serve




1.     Heat the oil in a large pan, add the leeks and carrots and sauté for 4mins.


2. Add the turkey, tarragon, wine and gravy and bring to the boil.


3. Cover and simmer for 6mins.


4. Remove the lid, and simmer for a further 5 minutes then stir in the crème fraîche and season to taste.


Beat the Xmas shopping crush

There are now so many different types of online stores, you can easily buy the bulk of what you need for Christmas on the net: from gifts to food to drink. Saves aching feet, bored kids, grumpy spouses, impulse buys and disappointment when you can't find what you want. Better still, it's all delivered direct to your doorstep.


Deliver worldwide


Wonderful chocolates for him, her, kids, vegetarians, vegans and diabetics !

If you are thinking of ordering Christmas food online in the UK, then it's well worth a visit to UKFoodOnline's Christmas shopping page for everything you need. Christmas Food shopping has never been easier !


Amazon are offering free delivery with no minimum purchase for many items - the price you see is the price you pay. 

Here are just a few ideas for that extra special gift which any home cook would love.
You can also get to all the departments on Amazon by clicking the pictures - toys, books, music CDs, electronics - all the gifts you need in one place.






Weekday Menus


Click the picture to find this month's weekday menus to help you plan your meals and shopping in the busy weeks ahead. 



What's in Season in




Click here to see what's in season in January plus lots of seasonal recipes


Other notable food celebrations in January


4th  - National Spaghetti Day

7th - National Tempura Day

8th  - English Toffee Day

26th - National Pistachio Day

29th - National Potato Day (UK)

January - National Egg Month

New years Day


The song, "Auld Lang Syne," is traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world and is reputed to have been partially written by Robert Burns in the 1700's. "Auld Lang Syne" literally means "old long ago" other words "the good old days."


You can find the  traditional words to Auld Lang Syne here.


 >>>>  more 



Celebrate the life and times of Scottish Poet Robert Burns with a traditional Burns Supper on 25th January.


Scotch Broth   to start  

 Haggis  served with 

Neeps n Tatties  

 Raspberry Cranachan  for dessert

16th January is National Pizza Day

Did you know . . .

Although food historians agree that some form of pizza has been eaten for centuries  in the Mediteranean,  the modern day version is believed to have been invented by an Italian baker called Raffaele Esposito, owner of a restaurant in Naples called Pizzeria di Pietro.  In 1889 he is purported to have  baked a dish which he called "pizza" for the visit of Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita.

Pizzas can be as simple or fancy as you like, although after all the rich food you may have consumed over the holiday period, you may be ready for something  a little less elaborate.


Click the picture to visit our Pizza Collection page to find lots of recipes including pizza crusts, tomato sauces and toppings,  plus the Recipes4us video for a really quick homemade pizza.


January is National Soup Month

Written and Submitted by Dave Taylor
(long time subscriber)

I have been experimenting with dried marrowfat peas (partly to do with the recession and rising food costs), and we have been enjoying the results. The cheapest way to buy them is in large packs from the local Asian food store.

My soup may be of interest:-

1 Overnight, soak a mugful of dried peas in 3 mugsful of hot water, with 1 teaspoon of sugar (I have not yet tried "Splenda" which we mostly use instead of sugar nowadays) and 1 teaspoon of dried mint. (Nothing to stop you using fresh mint - just that my mint plant has died for some reason!)

2 Finely dice a medium onion, a stick of celery, and a rasher of bacon.

3 Heat 2 tablespoons olive (or other) oil with 1 tablespoon butter.

4 Gently sweat onion, celery and bacon in a medium size saucepan, stirring to avoid browning.

5 Add the soaked peas and any remaining liquor, and a further 2 to three mugs of water (I usually boil the kettle and add to save time bringing up to the boil in the pan).
6 Add 1 stock cube (chicken or vegetable) a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of dried mint, and a level teaspoon of ground white pepper. (You may wish to use less pepper and add more later).

7 Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until the peas are soft, allow to cool a while then puree with a stick-blender or in a jug blender.

8 Return to the saucepan, add a good handful of fresh or frozen peas. Check and adjust seasoning. A little chopped fresh coriander is a pleasant addition, or some more mint.

9 Bring back to the boil, remove from heat and stand covered for 5 to 10 minutes (this is sufficient to cook the fresh or frozen peas).

10 Serve with some good bread and butter - if you can get stotty cake, all the better!

I prefer white ground pepper in this because of its delicate flavour.

Others things could be added to the base, but I do not like it so much with carrots. If you feel posh, add a dollop of crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt when serving, and dress with a sprinkle of chopped parsley or coriander.

Here are 3 Recipes4us videos for some soups so you can see just how easy it is to make them. Don't forget to visit our soups section  for lots more recipes. Not only are soups easy to make and warming, but many are excellent when trying to lose a couple of pounds after the holiday season's excesses - both weight wise and money wise.

Click the titles for full sized video plus written recipe

Broccoli & Stilton Soup



Brussels, Bacon & Butter Bean Soup

Recipe of the Month (January)


Butternut Squash and Edam Gratin with Sage

Butternut squash and sliced potatoes cooked in a creamy cheese sauce - perfect served with a mixed salad or as an accompaniment to Christmas turkey or nut roast

Courtesy of

Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 1 hour

1 large butternut squash, about 900g (2lb)
750g (1lb 7oz) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
30ml (2tbsp) olive oil
300ml (½pt) reduced fat crème frâiche
150g (5oz) Edam, grated
8 sage leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 200º C, 400ºF gas mark 6. Cut the skin off the squash and thinly slice the trunk into thin rounds. Halve the bulb end and scoop out the seeds, thinly slice into crescents.

2. Place the squash and potatoes in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and the garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place half this mixture in the base of an ovenproof dish.

3. Mix together the crème frâiche with the cheese and spoon half this mixture over the vegetables. Top with the remaining vegetables and spoon the remaining cheese mixture over the top. Arrange the sage leaves on top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Return to the oven and cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes until the topping is golden. Delicious served as a vegetarian main meal with salad or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken.

Cook's Tip....

Try adding a layer of spinach or for  a non vegetarian alternative, you could add some cooked chopped smoked bacon or ham.


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