No. 95 - Christmas and New Year 2010/11

This is the last newsletter for 2010.  Once again, thank you  for your support during the past year and hopefully, your continued support in 2011.   I will be taking a break over the holiday period, so  the next newsletter will be sent during the 1st week in February.


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


Happy Cooking !







Florence Sandeman,





Site Updates


Culinary Videos



Click the picture to find the latest Recipes4us additions, the next in the Phil Vickery pudcast series


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



Notable food celebrations in December include


2nd - National Fritters Day

6th - Microwave Oven Day

9th National Pastry Day

13th National Cocoa Day

15th National Cupcake Day

17th  Maple Syrup Day

21st California Kiwifruit Day

24th National Eggnog Day

27th National Fruitcake Day


Absolutely nothing to do with Christmas

This section is for those of you who either don't celebrate it or would rather not think about it just yet. Of course I couldn't send out a newsletter in December without some festive editorial and this is towards the bottom of this newsletter.



Recipe of the Month (December)


Crispy Vegetable and Couscous Salad

Don't be fooled by the fact this is a salad as this mouth-watering, meat-free recipe courtesy of is a substantial dish suitable for winter eating. 


Serves: 2    Preparation time: 5 mins + soaking time      Cooking time: 15 minutes

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 red onion, sliced
100g/ 4oz chestnut mushrooms, halved
100g/ 4oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp olive oil
4 tbsp pine nuts
150g/ 5oz couscous
1 tbsp pesto sauce
1 (200g) bag crisp salad mix
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  Preheat the oven to 220ºC/Fan 200ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 7. Place the pepper, onion, mushrooms and tomatoes in a roasting tin, add the olive oil and toss well. Roast for 15 mins. Stir in the pine nuts and roast for a further 5 mins or until the vegetables are tender and lightly charred.

2. Meanwhile, place the couscous and pesto in a large bowl and season to taste. Pour over 300ml/ ½ pt boiling water, stir well, then cover the bowl with an upturned plate. Leave to soak for 10 mins or until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff the grains up with a fork.

3. Stir the roasted vegetables into the couscous along with the salad leaves.

Serve straight away.

Cook's Tip....


Serve with warmed toasted pitta bread


3 ways with

                      . . . Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup is probably best known as a pouring sauce, however  its exquisite flavour and natural properties should rank it higher than other ingredients of the kind such as treacle or golden syrup, as when properly processed, it is a very pure product with nothing being added or taken away…. apart from water. It's an especially useful ingredient for vegans and it's totally animal-free.


First used by native Canadian Indians, maple syrup has been popularised throughout the western world by North Americans who have been using it as a sweetener for centuries however, there are many recipes, both sweet and savoury, which take advantage of its unique flavour. as 17th December is Maple Syrup day, here are three to whet your appetites.


Maple Ginger Salmon     Maple Butternut Squash    Baked Maple Custard


For more recipes and detailed information about Maple syrup visit

National Maple Syrup Day  |   Maple Syrup Ingredient Analysis  |   Recipes using Maple Syrup


2 in 1 . . .

9th December is National Pastry day and 13th December is National Cocoa Day so here's a recipe for chocolate shortcrust pastry which is made using cocoa powder. Use it in place of ordinary shortcrust pastry for your favourite sweet tart.

Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry   Veg     

Prep time:  15mins    -      Makes 225g/8oz Dough


175g/3oz Plain Flour

50g/2oz Cocoa Powder

A pinch of Salt

75g/3oz Butter

1 tbsp Caster Sugar

1 Egg Yolk

2-4 tbsp Water to mix





1. Sieve the the flour, cocoa powder and salt together in a large mixing bowl and stir well.


2. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.


3. Add the sugar and mix well then add the egg yolk and half the water and mix with a knife until it begins to bind.


4.  Add enough of the remaining water to give a soft enough dough which enables you to gather the mixture together with your hand and knead to a smooth pastry.


5. Wrap in clingfilm and chill until ready to use.





Food in the News . . .


Polyphenol-rich choc may ease chronic fatigue symptoms: Study

Consumption of a flavanol-rich chocolate product may ease the symptoms of chronic fatigue, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Hull in England.

> > > > More  External Link


Focus on                   

               . . . Microwaves


6th December is Microwave Oven Day


        Did you know....

                           The prototype of the first microwave oven  was over 5 feet tall !


Thank goodness they managed to bring the size down to enable even the smallest of kitchens to hold one. Once considered a luxury gadget, today a large proportion of households own a microwave oven. They are an invaluable kitchen appliance the benefits of which include

- Faster cooking times
- Shorter cooking time  means fewer vitamins and minerals are lost in cooking
- Economical Fuel consumption
- Cooking directly in serving dishes means less washing up

Apart from cooking food, there are also lots of instances where microwaves come in handy and make tasks easier. Here are just a few:-


•Getting more juice from citrus fruit: heat on full power for 10 seconds.

•Plumping and softening raisins and other dried fruit: Place the fruit in a small bowl; sprinkle with water. Cover tightly with clingfilm, pierce and microwave on full power for 30 to 40 seconds.

•Drying fresh herbs: place a small bunch of fresh herbs between paper towels . Microwave on full power for 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool, then check to see if they are dry enough to crumble. If not, continue to microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until the herbs are completely dried.

•Softening butter or margarine:  Microwave at 50% power for 10 seconds at a time until the hu7tter is as soft as you need it.

•Melting butter or solid shortening:  microwave 100g/4oz of butter on full power for about 45 seconds

•Softening brown sugar: Place in a plastic bag and microwave on full power for 10 seconds at a time until softened

•Liquefying crystallised honey: microwave at 50% power for 15 seconds at a time until it's back to its natural state

•Softening tortillas and pita bread: loosely wrap in waxed paper. Microwave on full power for 15 seconds at a time


Cooking vegetables in the microwave is great and in one of my latest  videos, I show you how to cook spiced red cabbage - a wonderful winter vegetable dish which goes well with poultry and pork.


Not only is it done in a fraction of the time it takes on the stove top, but it also freezes well so can be done well in advance. In this version I use apples but it works just as well with pears.


For the full sized video and written recipe click here



Reader's Tip

For years I have prepared a bread stuffing with crumbs, onion, thyme, salt, pepper, egg and milk in large quantities. I divide it into portions for a single chicken and freeze in sandwich bags.

Then when I need a quick roasted chicken, while I am cleaning the chicken I defrost the bag of stuffing in the microwave.



Bonus Recipe of the Month


Roast pork loin with warm plum and ginger chutney

“We all know that roast pork goes very well with apple, but plum and ginger is also a wonderful accompaniment to cut through any fattiness in the pork. Not to mention the ginger, to give it a bit of a punch. The red colour of the plums comes from all the antioxidants they contain, which are great for skin, hair and all matters of keeping healthy. Ginger is also brilliant to boost a lacking immune system. Apart from all the science, the colour of the deep pink plum compote, bright green cabbage and succulent pork makes an uber-satisfying dish.” -  TV Chef and Author Sophie Michell

Serves 4
Preparation time 30 minutes
Cooking time 60 minutes


500g/1lb 2oz Pork loin
4 Garlic cloves
250g/7oz New potatoes
2 tbsp Olive oil
450g/1lb Red plums
1 Medium shallot
2.5cm/1-inch piece fresh ginger
90ml/3fl.oz. Cider vinegar
75g/3oz  Brown sugar
1 Medium Savoy cabbage
Pinch of sea salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 200C/350F.

2. Wash and halve the potatoes and lay in a large roasting tray. Scatter over the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and season. Also season the pork and lay the whole loin on top of the potatoes in the roasting tray. Place in the oven and cook for around 45-60 minutes.

3. Peel and finely slice the shallot and ginger. Stone the plums and cut into 8 segments, add to a saucepan along with the sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 20 minutes, until cooked down and until the vinegar smell has completely cooked out.

4. Then trim the ends and any torn leaves off the cabbage, cut out the core and finely slice. Heat up a little oil in a saucepan, add the cabbage, season and sweat down with a splash of water.

5. When the pork is cooked, rest for 20 minutes and then serve with the chutney and cabbage.


2nd December is National Fritter Day

But what exactly is a fritter?

Certainly in the UK, many will immediately think of foods such as spam, which are sliced, dipped in batter and shallow fried. However, whilst the use of batter is an intrinsic part of a fritter recipe, it can also be incorporated with the other ingredients. For example, Indian Onion Bhaji's are a form of fritter. These are made by mixing together sliced onion and exotic spices with a light batter.

Other vegetables also work well when cooked this way such as coarsely shredded beetroot or carrots or leafy vegetables such as spinach.

They make a delicious light lunch served with a salad or salsa and can be made extra tasty with the addition of herbs or other seasonings

Fritters can also be sweet. Sliced fruit such as apples and pineapple make an easy dessert and are simply dipped in batter and shallow fried until crisp and golden brown on the outside and succulently soft on the inside. They are a great way to use up over-ripe bananas: simply mash them up and mix with self raising flour, cinnamon, sugar and enough milk to give a dropping consistency. Fabulous served at teatime sprinkled with extra castor sugar.




'Tis the season



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.


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.





A starter with a difference


On the big day, why not try something a little bit different from the usual prawn cocktail starter and wow your family with this luscious lettuce soup courtesy of You can even use up leftover salad leaves from the day before. As a bonus, you’ll be serving a nutritious boost as a single bowl constitutes one of your five recommended daily portions of fruit and vegetables. It's really quick too.


Cooking & Prep time: 15mins
Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil
8 spring onions, sliced
4 (50g/2oz) bags lambs lettuce
1.2L/40fl.oz. chicken or vegetable stock
180ml/6fl.oz. single cream
½ teasp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp lemon juice



1. Heat the oil in a medium pan, add the onions and lettuce. Sauté for 1 min. Add the stock then bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins.

2. Blend the mixture with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth.


3. Return to the pan and stir in the cream, nutmeg and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Serve topped with a swirl of cream and sprig of lambs lettuce if liked



2 ways with . . .


                        Christmas Cake


If you seem to have Christmas cake coming out of your ears then these two recipes may be just what you're looking for. Both recipes can be made with stale or fresh fruit cake and despite their simplicity, make as unusual and delicious way to use up and serve fruit cake.


Christmas Cake Iced Terrine Recipe

Serves 8   Prep time: 10mins plus freezing

275g/10oz (about 2 cups) Fruitcake - fresh or stale, broken up into small pieces
1L/32fl.oz. Vanilla ice cream, softened


1. Line a 20x10cm/8x4” loaf tin with a double layer of clingfilm making sure you have a 7.5cm/3-inch overhang of clingfilm on all sides. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix together the fruitcake and half the ice cream until well blended. Using a spatula or large knife and a "cutting" motion to mix works best.

3. Place half the cake mixture into the loaf tin, spreading it evenly over the bottom and making sure you press it well down and into the corners.

4. Place the remaining plain ice cream over the top of that, spreading it evenly as above then finally place the remaining cake mixture over the top, again spreading it evenly and pressing down firmly to ensure there aren’t any air pockets.

5. Fold the clingfilm overhang over the top securely then freeze for at least 6- 8 hours until completely frozen.

6. To serve - unmold the terrine onto a flat surface, remove the clingfilm and serve it sliced.

Below is a video in which I show you how to make this delightful frozen dessert.

An ideal lighter alternative to Christmas pudding but with the same Christmassy flavours.

For the full sized video click here


Christmas Cake Pops

Cake pops seem to be all the rage at the moment. Normally they are made with a plain cake mixed with a frosting then decorated in all manner of ways.  These Christmas versions are just as easy to make and the recipe can easily be trebled (or more) depending on how much cake you have available.  They make a novel sweet course at parties.

Makes 8  

Prep time: 20mins plus setting

100g/4oz Fruit Cake, crumbled

2 tbsp Icing Sugar

2 tbsp Rum

50g/2oz Dark Chocolate, melted

To decorate

Melted White Chocolate


Glace Cherries



1. Place the crumble fruitcake, icing sugar, rum and melted dark chocolate in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Leave to firm up for a couple of hours at room temperature.

2. Roll into balls (about 1 tablespoon of mixture for each ball) then push a lolly-pop stick into each ball. Gently lay each on it's side on a plate or tray lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours until set.

3. Remove the pops from the refrigerator and stand upright. You can use a block of polystyrene  or florists' oasis or halved oranges or grapefruits to support lollypops.


4. Decorate with melted white chocolate and little pieces of glace cherries and angelica to resemble a traditional Christmas pudding.

Chef's comments....

If you are making these for children, then you can substitute the rum with orange juice.


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.


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 currently has a 12 day sale on selected items ending at 23:59 on 12 December 2010. 

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.



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






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


1st  New Years Day

4th National Spaghetti Day

7th National Tempura Day

8th English Toffee Day

9th National Apricot Day

16th National Pizza Day

25th Burns Night

26th Pistachio Day

29th National Potato Day (UK

National Soup Month (US)

National Egg Month

January is National Soup Month

Here are 4 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.

Broccoli & Stilton



Brussels, Bacon & Butter Bean



Ham and Split Pea Soup


Click the titles for full sized video plus written recipes

Recipe of the Month (January)


Peach and vanilla Crème Brulée

Serves 6

Preparation time 30 minutes
Cooking time 60 minutes

2 Large peaches
50g Caster sugar
Dash of peach schnapps (optional)
450ml Double cream
200ml Milk
5 Egg yolks
100g Caster sugar
1 Vanilla pod (split and scraped)


1. First of all de-stone the peaches and cut into approximately 1cm dice. Add these to a saucepan along with the sugar and a splash of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, until softened, then take off the heat and cool.

2. Next, heat the cream, milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Just as the mixture comes to the boil, remove from the heat and strain into the egg and sugar mix and stir well.

3. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and slowly bring back up to simmer again, keep stirring and do not heat too much or too quickly. You want it to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

4. Place 6 ramekins on a tray and add a tablespoon of the peach mix to the bottom of each dish, then top up with the custard.


5.  Cool completely and then place in the fridge to chill overnight.

6. To serve, sprinkle some Demerara sugar over the top, grill or blow torch until caramelised and serve.


Chef's comments....

“People are often nervous about making this dessert but these are my fail proof, very easy crème brulée! It can be awkward cooking them in a water bath and getting the timing and temperate just right. In this recipe they don’t get cooked in the oven at all, just on the stove and then they cool into a perfectly rich, smooth custard. Peaches and cream are classic aromatic, complementary flavours and these will get made again and again.” - Sophie Michell


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