23 December 2012

Almond Ginger Thins

For us Swedes, it is the day before The Day today and most people are probably rushing to finish off all the preparations, but for those of you who celebrate on Christmas Day and fancy a bit of last minute baking, here is an idea.

My grandmother always used to make these slightly more sophisticated ginger biscuits with almonds. She was adamant they had to be sliced very very thinly, fat ones were simply not up to her standards. This year I modified her original recipe slightly, cutting out some ingredients (not sure where I would find potash?) and eliminating the obligatory overnight rest in the fridge. I was worried the result would be less successful, but I have to say these are as nice as the ones I made last year following the original recipe.

125 gms Butter
115 gms Sugar
300 gms Plain Flour
50 ml Golden Syrup
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Cloves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Cognac
100 gms Almonds

Start by blanching the almonds and take the skins off. Let them dry, then chop them quite finely without turning them into dust. Combine the sugar and butter, then add all the dry ingredients and work the dough until it is smooth and shiny. Add the almonds and carry on kneading until the are evenly distributed. Shape the dough into a log about 8 cm wide. Wrap it tightly in clingfilm, then press it down gently on two sides to create an oblong shape. Put it in the freezer for about and hour until it is solid enough to slice but not completely hard. Using a very sharp knife, slice the log as thinly as you can. I would aim for about 2 mm. Put the slices on greased baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes - it will smell amazing!

22 December 2012

A Magical Evening

What an amazing feeling to walk out of the office yesterday evening knowing that there are two whole weeks ahead without alarm clocks and to do lists. Instead there will be peace and quiet, family and friends, good food with drinks to match and lots of sleep.

To celebrate the fact that we have got through another year of hard work with plenty of challenges along the way, I met my husband at J Sheekey Oyster Bar for a glass of champagne and a bite to eat. Afterwards we headed to the London Coliseum to see the Nutcracker. I can't think of a more romantic Christmas tradition than this. A truly magical evening.

At the table next to us in the restaurant was a lady celebrating her 99th birthday. I wished her Happy Birthday and got a stroke on the cheek and a compliment which I swiftly returned - she was 10 times more glamorous than me. Wonderful. And that little exchange enhanced the evening and will now be part of this memory.

17 December 2012

Christmassy Shopping

There is nothing like a visit to the right shops to get the Christmas spirit going. For a proper old school Christmas feeling, a reliable friend recommended skipping Harrods and Liberty and heading straight to Fortnum and Mason. She was right - this is Christmas as I remember it from when I was 10 years old. Afterwards a stroll down Bond Street added to the experience with all the gorgeous lights and decorations. The lunch I enjoyed beforehand at the Wolseley with the best company was pretty OK too. Not bad for a Monday!

11 December 2012

10 December 2012

Red Ribbons

The candle consumption is at an all time high this time of year in our house. I think it is a very Swedish thing, having candles lit most of the time to make the darkness seem a bit more bearable. The ribbons are from Sweden too.

7 December 2012

Christmas Card from Columbia Road

On the coldest evening of the year we went along to the Christmas Shopping evening on Columbia Road. The mulled Cider with Rum helped warm us up. I left with one hand painted bauble and a pot of jam. And with a lovely Christmassy feeling inside.

6 December 2012

After Work

At home on the sofa with bubbles. Because Thursday means it is almost the weekend.

4 December 2012

Smoked Mackerel Pate with Chives

I have love smoked mackerel since I was a little girl when we used to buy them straight from the smoke house down in the harbour in the village where we spent the summers. The fish would hang from the ceiling in a dark room and the smell was just amazing. These days the smokehouse is no more, but instead I have my very own smoker.

Back then my favourite way to eat smoked mackerel was on a rye bread sandwich with thick slices of big, juicy tomato and lots of mayo. Although that is still hard to beat, I now prefer a bit of variety and the other day I finally tried making my own smoked mackerel pate. It took about 5 minutes and the result was pretty fantastic if I may say so myself. And although I would of course have the gorgeous whole smoked fish every time, this pate was made using the shrink wrapped supermarket variety and that worked just fine. Here is what I did:

250 gms Smoked Mackerel
100 ml Double Cream
A Handful of Finely Chopped Chives
A Handful of Chopped Spring Onions
Juice from 1 Lemon
Plenty of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Take the skin of the fish and put it in a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blitz until you get a nice smooth consistency that still has some texture. Check for seasoning and serve with sourdough toast, watercress, rocket and apple for a sort of fishy Ploughman's Lunch.

2 December 2012

Happy First of Advent

A crisp, cold, beautiful Sunday perfect for buying the first hyacinths of the season and going for a long walk with a pub lunch as a reward at the end.