Made TV-Christmas Rocky Road

Christmas Rocky Road:

Rocky road is great at any time of year, but especially at Christmas!  This is a classic recipe from Nigella that I make year after year, and I often mix it up by changing the type of fruit, nuts or biscuits I use.

Jamie from Made TV was surprised at how easy it was to make, so I hope you will give it a go. I am sure if you turned up to a party with a plate of these you would be very popular!  But be warned...they are super moorish...

Remember to check out the fuss-free mince pies we made too and the edible Christmas gifts that I made recently on the Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas show...Truffles and Panforte & Amaretti and stained glass window biscuits

Christmas Rocky Road

  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 175g soft butter
  • 4 tbsp. golden syrup
  • 200g ginger biscuits
  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 150g red glace cherries, chopped
  • 125g  mini marshmallows
  • edible stars or glitter
  • Approx 25cm x 20cm tray or disposable foil tray, parchment
  1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and then put it into a heavy-based pan with the butter and syrup, then melt over a gentle heat
  2. Put the biscuits into a bag and bash them with a rolling pin to get big and little-sized crumbs
  3. Put the hazelnuts into another bag and bash them as well
  4. Take the pan off the heat, and add the crushed biscuits and nuts, chopped glacé cherries and mini-marshmallows. Stir well to coat everything with syrupy chocolate
  5. Tip into a foil tray or dish lined with parchment (I used one approx 25cm x 20cm, smoothing the top as best you can with a spoon.  Sprinkle over the edible stars or glitter if using
  6. Once cooled, leave in the fridge until firm enough to cut, which will take about 1½–2 hours. Then take the set block of rocky road out of the foil tray onto a chopping board and get ready to cut with a sharp knife
  7. Cut it into bite-sized squares (or larger!) It is quite rich, so it can go a long way if you chop it small!

Cracking Christmas Cooking

Christmas chocolate truffles and Panforte

The last few weeks have been the craziest in the 1-year lifespan of The Fuss Free Foodie! A last minute shoot working on short foodie video for a British food maker, local TV network Made coming to do Christmas cooking in my house, and not to mention all the chat about my Hairy Biker appearances! (Click here to see Ep. 8 29 mins Ep. 9 29 mins on the iPlayer)

It made me wonder; at this time of year in the nature of living my brand...how does the Fuss free Foodie keep life fuss-free?! Well first of all in true FFF nature, let's keep things real. I don't always manage it! But I am aware of how it needs to be and I am getting better at living life this way.

It's so easy, at this time of year to feel the weight of the 'to-do' list on your shoulders. Balancing the daily routine whilst working towards making the magic of Christmas come alive and putting things in place for the big day.

This year's journey has been very much of a journey of self, as well as bringing the FFF to life. If there is one thing I have learnt to do more this year is trust that things will work out as they are supposed to.  So I'm trusting that Christmas will happen!  No amount of me playing over my to-do list in my head will make it happen any faster...or easier.  The doubts and negativity (monkey chatter!!) do not help!!

But what I do listen to more is my internal sat nav....or intuition! Those things that pop into your consciousness, normally at random times...in the shower for me. Maybe, someone, I've not contacted in a while, or an event I need to book or an idea of how to do something better. These are the things I'm listening to. So as I'm internally directed as to what 'feels' right for me, I get less caught up in the things I feel I 'should' be doing.  At this time of year, fuss-free is for me!

As the last week draws in, I am conscious I need to dedicate some time to my family and enjoy our Christmas. So I will be posting up my pieces from Made TV and see below some of my classic Christmas recipes from last year. Remember to follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to not miss a thing!

I hope you will continue to join me on the journey in 2018. Thank you all for your kind comments, loves, likes and shares this year!

Merry Christmas all!  Lisa x

Christmas Spiced Truffles (Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas Ep.   mins)

Syrup

  • 50g dark brown sugar
    • 250ml water
    • 1 mulled spice bag
  1. Put everything in a pan. Stir, bring to the boil, and simmer for a minute
  2. Pop into a jar and leave overnight or at least for a few hours.

Truffles

    • 100ml of syrup
    • 25g brown sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
    • Cocoa powder, chocolate strands or edible bronze rocks (Waitrose)
  1. Finely chop chocolate on a chopping board
  2. Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside
  3. Place the syrup, sugar and salt into a pan. Bring to the boil for 30 seconds
  4. Pour the syrup over the chocolate
  5. Leave for a couple of minutes, to let the warmth start to melt the chocolate. Stir the mixture, starting from the inside and working your way outwards
  6. Cool and then place in the fridge until it is firm but not too hard
  7. I always feel less is more with the stirring to avoid splitting potential. If there are a few little bits of choc it actually gives the truffle a nice bit of crunch!
  8. If you chill the mixture overnight pull it out of the fridge half an hour before rolling
  9. Dip your hands in cocoa to stop the mixture sticking to your hands. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into lots of little balls
  10. Then re-roll the balls in the palms of your hands to make them sticky, then dip them in your chosen coating
  11. Pop into a cellophane bag or box....or just enjoy!

Panforte (Original recipe from Nigella Christmas )

Chewy Tuscan fruit and nut dessert. Great with a cup of tea, coffee or a great addition to a cheese board esp a sharp white cheese!

Ingredients

  • 20cm springform tin
  • Parchment
  • Extra butter for lining the tin
  • 125g almonds in skins
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 120g whole hazelnuts
  • 75 soft figs, cut off the stalk, snipped into little slithers
  • 200g orange and lemon peel
  • Shake of white pepper
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g honey
  • 30g butter

Prepare the tin

  • Rub the base of the tin with butter, then add a disk of parchment the size tin to the base and around the sides
  • Rub butter over the parchment to ensure it is easy to remove at the end

Prepare the wet ingredients

  • In a pan gently melt the butter, sugar and honey until the sugar is no longer grainy and all nicely melted. Mix

Prepare the dry ingredients

  • Meanwhile, place the whole nuts and chopped fruits in a heatproof bowl. Stir
  • Add the spices, flour and cocoa into the nuts and fruit. Stir
  • For a fully traditional Italian version you can add separate spices, but for a more fuss free recipe you can use mixed spice. (1/2 ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, grating of nutmeg)

Make the batter

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir thoroughly so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together with no bits of flour left un-stirred

Pour into the tin and cooking

  • Pour the mixture into your springform tin. Pat down with the back of the spoon
  • Wet your hands and push the mixture into the tin to compress it all together and achieve a flat surface. Use your fist in the middle and knuckles to get around the edges.  You could wear disposable gloves if you prefer!!
  • Cook in an oven at 170 deg/gas mark 3 for 45-1hr. It is ready to come out when the top of the cake is bubbling all over the top, not just around the edges. Leave the cake in the tin to completely cool before removing from the tin. At this point the cake should feel firm to the touch

Cutting and presenting

  • Remove the collar and paper and place onto a chopping board and chop into quarters and then into eighths. Chop each eighth into 3.
  • A tip for cutting is to go in with the tip/point of the knife into the middle and carve without using the back of the knife, as this can result in it breaking.
  • Place 6-8 in a bag and tie with ribbon
  • If your panforte feels too bendy and not hard. Reline the tin and stick it back into the oven for another 20-25 minutes until its really bubbling. It needs to reheat totally and then it will start the bubbling process again.

See the blog with the recipes from the first 2 episodes of The Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas

How to put together your Christmas cheese board

Christmas Chicken liver parfait

Made TV-Mince Pies

Fuss free homemade mince pies

Amidst the Christmas craziness of launching the FFF website, my clips airing on the Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas,  I found time to welcome Jamie from Made TV into my kitchen!

After agreeing for him to cook with me, I had a slight panic about letting them all into my home...my sanctuary .....for all to see! But I needn't have worried. Jamie, Ingrid and Tom were a pleasure to work and we were soon relaxed enough to be getting our hands into the same mixing bowl like we'd know each other for years!

Jamie made no bones about the fact that he's not much of a baker, and comes from a long line of non-bakers.  It was at this point I was wondering how the next few hours were going to pan out!

I believe enthusiasm in the kitchen makes up for any lack of skill ...and  Jamie was no exception! As he discovered new things you could just see his mind being blown.... who knew that the flecks in the mincemeat were suet and not rice?!! I could see we were starting to open Jamie up to the magic of the culinary world...

Being from a similar part of the world, we established that despite the decades between us, we had a few things in common.  It turns out he shares my annoyance for chefs on TV who don't fully scrape out a bowl when demonstrating a recipe ...the others I shall reveal over the next few posts alongside the next cooking instalments!

So here is the recipe I cook with Jamie ... Mince pies.  If you have any questions or comments please come and find me on The Fuss Free Foodie Facebook page. Remember to like and follow so you don't miss the next cracking Christmas recipes we cook together! Merry Christmas!!  Lisa

Mince pies with homemade pastry 

  • 340g plain flour
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 2 large free range egg yolks
  • 500g of mincemeat for mince pies
  • 1 whole egg, beaten
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 tbsps. water
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • Rolling pin, cake tray (12), 10cm round cutter, 7cm star cutter
  1. Preheat the oven to 200degC
  2. Sieve the flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt
  3. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs
  4. Stir in the caster sugar, then the egg yolks. Mix with a knife. Add 3-4 tbsp, mix with a knife until you can pull it together into a dough
  5. Press the dough into a flat oval, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 10 minutes
  6. Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick using a rolling pin. Use a 10cm fluted cutter to cut out about 12 bases and place them in small cupcake tray, pushing the pastry down into the edges of the tray
  7. Put about 1 tsp of mincemeat into the pastry case (don't be tempted to overfill the case!) Cut out the top of the mince pies with a 7cm pastry star. If you need more stars, pull the pastry back together and roll it out again to 3mm. Brush each mince pie with a little-beaten egg
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tray. Then take out and place on a plate or bag up for edible Christmas gifts!

Jamie does Christmas Rocky Road

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Fuss Free

Stained glass window decorations and amaretti biscuits

I can't believe that this time last year I was only just posting up my first blog and hoping a few people would be interested enough to read! In fact, over 17,000 of you did! It's been quite a 12 months with many highlights but the last 2 weeks have been the cherry on top!

My first two films of edible Christmas gift aired last week on The Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas series (Episode 1:24 mins Episode 2: 9 mins) The response from everyone has been so positive, and really well received. The best bit has been seeing some of the kids at school work out that I was on the telly! Sweet!! I know some of you were very keen to have a go at making the tree decorations, so remember to have a go and please share the recipe with your friends too!

There has been so much going on that in the new year I will send a newsletter about what's happening across all social media platforms to FFF subscribers. You will get each new blog post directly into your inbox, and you won't miss a thing! So remember to hit the sign up tab and pop in your email address.  

So, for now, I'm going to leave you to check out the new website! Let me know what you like best on the FB page, and please share it with your friends too! I'll be back shortly with an extra post with the last 2 recipes from the Hairy Bikers episodes. Plus I will tell you more about 2 more bits of filming and a new club I'm starting!

Lisa x

Amaretti biscuits

200g ground almonds
225g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
Icing sugar for dusting

  1. Place the almonds and half of the caster sugar in a bowl, mix and set aside
  2. Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and whip with a whisk until they form soft peaks
  3. Add the remaining caster sugar to the egg whites and continue whisking to form stiff peaks
  4. Add a little of egg white mixture to the almonds/sugar and mix in. Then add the remaining mixture and almond extract and fold in carefully
  5. Put the mixture into a piping bag (or food bag with the corner cut off about 3/4 of a cm) and pipe little rounds the size of a walnut onto the tray and baking parchment
  6. Cook for 12-15 minutes at 180/gas 4
  7. After 12 minutes watch them like a hawk as you want them dark golden brown to get the crunch…but they could burn in a minute too long!
  8. Cool on a wire rack then place in an airtight tin or put into little bags for gifts

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice or ginger
  • 100g cold butter, chopped
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Bag of fruit boiled sweets
  • Parchment
  • Cookie cutters (round, stars, holly)
  • Ribbon 1m
  • Blender
  • Rolling pin
  • Cocktail stick

Making the biscuit dough

  • Place the flour, mixed spice, cold butter, salt and zest into the blender
  • Put the flour in first so the butter doesn't stick to the bottom
  • Pulse for a minute until the butter is blended into the flour and it almost resembles breadcrumbs or rub in by hand
  • Add the sugar and milk, and pulse for 30 seconds until it has a more defined breadcrumb mixture
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Start pushing the mixture together to try and make a ball.  Knead briefly and roll into a flat disk, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
  • By making the dough into a flatter shape before chilling will make it easier to start rolling out

 Making the biscuit shape

  • Bring the dough mixture out of the fridge 10 minutes before you are due to roll it
  • Dust the surface with flour and place the dough in the middle
  • Roll out the dough to about £1 coin thickness. Choose a large cutter to make the outer shape and then choose a smaller shape to cut out a hole in the middle. Re roll any leftover dough to make more
  • Place on a baking sheet
  • Don't forget to bake the bits from the middle, these are great to give to the kids to eat and the others go on the tree!
  • Using a cocktail stick make a small hole at the top so you can thread a piece of ribbon through to hang the biscuit on the tree

Making the stained glass

  • Meanwhile, put about 10-15 boiled sweets in a bag and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are smashed into small pieces
  • Using a teaspoon place a scant amount of the sweets into the cutout shape of the cookie. 
  • Fill to the edges but don't be tempted to overfill as it will boil over into the biscuit and have a less sharp look
  • Place into a preheated oven 180 deg c. For 12-15 minutes. Until golden but not dark brown. 
  • Leave to cool slightly on the tray and then lift carefully with a fish slice onto a cooling rack to cool

Threading through the ribbon

  • Cut a 10cm piece of ribbon. Thread it through the hole at the top of the biscuit and knot it.  You can now hang your biscuits!

With thanks to Blue Ochre Design

Pea and Ham HO HO HOCK soup….

Pea and Ham Soup

New Years Eve Eve: sugar hangover for me, husband sleeping off daytime drinking in bed and kids arguing over the bug in the kitchen. The house smells of boiling ham hock and in my mind's eye I am fast forwarding a week to when the house will be quiet and it's just me again and certainly not in my dressing gown at 10 am......I'm going to enjoy the last of the craziness and then look forward to regaining my house again!

A week ago my fridge was filled with 10kgs of Christmas meat, and the ham hock that had been patiently waiting in the fridge was turfed out.....no room at the inn and sent to sleep in the freezer with the lowly loaves!!

Now the Christmas meat leftovers have now been turned over to the freezer having had three roast dinners in as many days; (awaiting further inspiration) But in the meantime, out comes the ham hock, released from its humble Christmas lodgings.....as the call for a tasty, hearty, fuss-free soup is needed!

This is an absolute beauty. If you can get the hock in the fridge and waiting, it can be cooked whilst you are doing other things, and then the pea soup is easily made in 20 mins, as it uses fresh rather than split peas. Doing this in stages makes it more fuss-free I think.

There is normally enough hock leftover to freeze for more pea and ham soup or to pimp up a lovely fuss-free veg soup. Cooking the hock in a big enough pan is also a must, as this will make plenty of stock to use for the soup and to freeze. It really makes the fresh pea soup.

This would be great as a starter, could be served in small Chinese rice bowls, canape style or as a hearty lunch after a New Years day walk. At £3.50 a hock.....it's a fuss-free price too, and a little goes a long way. Equally, if you still have some Xmas ham left, skip the hock bit and just make the pea soup and warm through the ham when ready to serve!! The true Fuss Free way!!

Pea and Ham Soup
Serves 4

To cook the hock. (Can be done a day or 2 in advance)

1 ham hock
2 onions
1-2 sticks celery
1 leek
2 bay leafs
1 tsp peppercorns
2-3 litres of cold water

1. Put all the ingredients in your largest pan or stockpot. Making sure the ham is mostly covered by water. Top this up as it cooks if needs be.

2. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Skim off any scum on the top of the pan as it arises and discard.

4. Cook the hock for up to 3 hours (depending on the size of hock) until the ham is easily pulled off the bone and or pulls apart when pinched. I prefer to leave mine longer (sometimes 3 1/2)

5. Strain and keep the stock. Take off the fatty layer of the hock, and then pull the meat off the bone and reserve. Discard the bone and the vegetables.

To make the pea soup.

Knob of butter
1 onion, diced
1 medium potato, approx 200g diced or grated (for speed!)
500g frozen peas or petit pois
1L of ham hock stock

BBC Good Food Pea and Ham Soup

1. Melt the butter in the pan, and add the onion. Cook on a medium heat until soft and translucent.

2. Add the potato, coat in the butter and then add your stock and simmer for 5 minutes until the potato soft.

3. Add the peas, bring back to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, then blend until smooth.

4. I add the meat to the top of the soup....about 50g per serving. It's your personal preference, my husband likes less and chopped/shredded fine. I am less fussy 😉

Wishing you all a very happy new year and the very best in 2017! Why not come join the Fuss Free Foodie FB group and let us know where you are and what fuss-free recipes you would like to see next year! Lisa. x

Chicken Pate with Marsala

Chicken Liver Pate

In a photo album 20 years old full of recipe clippings from Pru Leith, Sainsbury's magazines and my time at Bordeaux Quay cookery school sits this classic recipe from 2007.

I kid you not it is scribbled on the back of a sheet of NHS instructions for how to give a 'sample'.....(now that made me smile last night when I unfolded the sheet!) It was copied down from a Christmas cookery programme as it seemed very simple and wanted to give it a try.

Before Kids (yes the tests came back fine!!) this was always on our Christmas menu, but as you know these little things get lost along the way when there are other things to do. But in the last couple of years it has reappeared and always gets the thumbs up whether it appears on Xmas day, impromptu friends visit or as a New Years Eve starter.

I serve it simply with melba style toast...basically a piece of brown bread half toasted, then taken out sliced in half and re-toasted, being careful not to burn it! Its a job for one person with a glass of something fizzy and to not move from the toaster. It's great with an onion marmalade too, I find shop bought from a deli, or this year we have a specially selected one from Aldi.

If you don't have any Marsala, forget the fuss and use Port or Madeira as an alternative! This recipe is easily doubled to make party sizes. Merry Christmas!

Not going to blog until next Friday now, but feel free to join me in posting up any Christmas delights you are proud of and say hi! The Fuss Free Foodie FB group

Chicken Liver Pate with Marsala
Serves 4-8

50g butter, melted (30g extra, melted)
150g Chicken livers, left whole, trimmed of any sinew
4 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped finely
75ml Marsala (or alternative)
1 onion, coarsely grated
15g thyme leaves pulled off the tough stalk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg or pepper

1. Put the chicken livers, garlic, marsala, onion, thyme, salt, pepper or nutmeg in a frying pan.

2. Simmer on a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until the livers are slightly pink in the middle.

2. Take the pan off the heat straight away and cool over iced water to stop the cooking process.

3. Put in a food processor with the melted butter. Pulse until smooth. Spoon into molds. Set in the fridge.

4. Melt the extra butter. Scoop off the white milk and leave the clarified butter behind. Tilt your pot and gently pour on the butter and leave to set. Put a piece of thyme in the butter to set for decoration!

Fuss free and TASTY!!

Cheese – a course to be reckoned with!

How to pick the cheeses for a cheese board....

In our house Cheese is for life not just for Christmas, but I appreciate not everyone feels the same way! Sometimes the thought of tackling 'another course' where there is SO much variety, is enough to put you off and grab a prepackaged option. So enter stage left (with a tinsel halo) the Fuss Free Foodie guide to making a cracking Christmas cheese board!

I didn't need a big excuse to go and hang out in one of Bristols best Deli chains, Chandos Deli, Henleaze, as it has an amazing and to some maybe, an overwhelming selection of over 50 cheeses. The great thing is that the staff, and in particular, Matthew Hunt, who has worked for them for over 12 years are experts and can guide you through and let you try some too! But I wanted to lay it down, to give you a fuss free guide , which is a formula you could follow wherever you live by popping into your local deli.

SO where to start?! Firstly, look at how many people will be eating; Generally, if you have 4-6 people eating, a selection of 3 cheeses will be fine, over 6 people I would consider choosing 5 cheeses. But which styles of cheese should be going on the board? If you are choosing 3, a soft, hard and either a blue or goat cheese. For 5, I would choose all of the aforementioned and add on either a sheeps cheese or an unusual smoked cheese.

Other things to consider are, if you have anyone who is pregnant or of a vulnerable age group to choose pasturised and unpasturised options. Also, are you trying to choose cheese from a particular country, or just have a cracking International cheese board? (Certainly the latter is the fuss free way, as it has less constraints, but worth considering if you are doing micro details! I won't be!!)

The UK produces some great cheeses in the style of traditional French cheese, and taste as good, if not better in some cases. So use this as a guide, go with what feels right for you. My only request is that you add in 1 or 2 that you wouldn't normally choose to mix it up a bit! Now, let's talk specifics ....

Soft cheese

Classic one to choose here is the Brie de Meaux. It's creamy, soft and quite a crowd pleaser, as it's not too strong. Alternatively, you could choose a Camembert. I love a Bath Soft Cheese which is available from Molesworths the butchers, Henleaze or something like Stinking Bishop is another UK alternative.

Hard cheese

A great opportunity to bring out the cheddar, as lets face it, most people will eat this! By all means use your favourite cheddar at this point, or if you want to try something a bit different, Keens unpasturised cheddar is made in Wincanton, or a pasturised alternative would be Barbers 24 month aged cheddar.

If you didn't want to use Cheddar, how about going back to France and choosing a Gruyere or Comte, which have a lovely nutty, creamy flavour.

Blue Cheese

Now, I know this is not every ones cup of tea but stay with me! Blue cheese isn't all about stripping the skin off the roof of your mouth! If you think it may not be your thing, try a buttery, crumbly and slightly salty Italian Gorgonzola or play it safe with a classic British Stilton. But if you are looking for an alternative, we love Bleu d'Auvergne, Picos blue or Roquefort. They are bold and strong!

Goat Cheese

Goat cheese can be fresh or firm. The fresh style is really easy going, citrus flavoured, creamy and fluffy! You can get little round crotins or a mini lingo, which are like little ingots. If you want a showstopper, my personal favourite from Chandos is the Belle de Sancerre. Made in the region of the wine of the same name, it was once described to me by one staff member as 'the booby cheese', which is more about its shape than the milk used!! A firm goat cheese option would be Rachels, washed rind goat cheese from Somerset or a chevre fermier (firm goat).

Sheep or smoked cheese or 'unusual' cheese

This is where you could freestyle a bit or just stop if you feel its all getting a bit much!! Your 5th cheese could be something like a Italian Pecorino or Roquefort, Spanish Manchego or Appleby's smoked Cheshire, the latter I shall definitely be trying this year!

Now let's get to the crackers; I am a bit of a purist when it comes to what I put my cheese on! I just want to taste the flavour of the cheese, so I look for a neutral cracker, so we are Carrs Water biscuits all the way! However, these days there is a lot of choice, and crackers don't need to be an after thought. In France, cheese would be served on a baguette, but you can also use oat cakes for harder or blue cheese, Peters Yard Swedish crispbreads, Bath Olivers, (quite plain and simple) or Italian Piedmont crackers, which are light and crisp and made of ciabatta flour. Most Deli's will have a good selection.

Accompaniments, are what really finish off a cheese board, and make it into that course to be reckoned with! There are no hard fast rules, and its always good to pick things you are likely to enjoy at any other time of the year. So things like, onion marmalade, gooseberry jelly, spicy tomato chutney, pickle, membrillo (quince paste) are all fabulous options. Chandos stock some lovely jars so enjoy picking something tasty! Simple vine tomatoes and grapes will also set off your cheese board if you want to keep it totally fuss free.

If you are buying your cheese this weekend, wrap your cheese in cling film and check it very few days to make sure the film isn't wet (if it is just change for fresh cling film) and if there is any cheese left over, keep it wrapped in baking parchment or cling film. To serve on the big day, let your cheese sit outside the fridge for 2-4 hours before you are ready to serve, so that the cheese comes to room temperature, so it tastes at it's best!

FORGET THE FUSS....

No time to get to Chandos or a Deli to try the cheese?

Aldi have an amazing selection of cheeses under their specially selected label...My Fuss Free Foodie picks for a bespoke International cheese board would be...

Soft- Pont l'Eveque (pasturised cows milk)
Hard- Ossau Iraty pasturised (pasturised ewes milk)
Blue-Tuxford & Tebbutt Mature Stilton (pasturised cows milk)
Goat-Gevrik Cornish Goat cheese (pasturised goats milk)
Sheep-Spanish Manchego (pasturised ewes milk)

Have a Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy your holidays....look forward to more fuss free fun in 2017...hope you'll be there too! Lisa.x

Tis the season….

Christmas pudding making....

In sub-zero temperatures at the end of November; armed with an apron, bowl and wooden spoon, I bravely left my toasty warm house to embark on my first steps towards Christmas 2016. For me it's as symbolic as the lighting of the first candle of Advent, marking the start of the new festive season. Arriving inside the beautiful City Church in Redland, you are hit by warmth (physically and metaphorically speaking!), Christmas carols, fairy lights and the heady smell of spices, dried fruit, mince pies and mulled wine all mixed together! This amazingly well run event, of which this is my third year of attending, makes for a wonderful evening, but with the best gift at the end...a handmade Christmas pudding, made with love!

It really is child's play. 8 tables full of catering sized quantities of ingredients with cups and spoons with marks on, so you don't even have to weigh anything. Just scoop, pour, mix and keep on adding and mixing as you go around like a classroom carousel! Simple!

Well, yes it is....but not without its rookie errors! On my first year, I think the mulled wine hit me as I arrived at the 'alcohol' table. The smell of brandy and stout got me a little excited and whilst chatting poured in my cup of mulled wine instead of the brandy, that I had duly measured out! At least I didn't neck the brandy I suppose! The extra alcohol certainly didn't impair the taste or flavour that year, in fact, the more senior end of the Christmas table (all who were in-laws of my in-laws!) hailed it as the best Christmas pudding they had had since childhood. After such high praise, and as we had Christmas in Bristol on our own last year, I felt duty bound to send them last years offering as it had evoked such strong memories.

This year, I am in the driving seat and hosting Christmas here for the first time. Eeeeek! I felt this evening was symbolic at the start of advent to spend time with friends, chatting and making our puddings that were to be enjoyed around the table in 24 days time with my husbands family. I look forward to hearing their thoughts....my 7-year-old son is a big Christmas pud fan, I wonder what he will think of this year's efforts!

SO ....do you fancy having a go?! Look...I know we can buy Christmas puddings quite easily and they will taste good and Christmas is a busy time. But why not gather a few friends, multiply the recipe quantities by the number of friends that are coming/how many puds you want to make. One person could buy all the ingredients or divide them out and everyone brings a few ingredients and make an evening of it! If you all weighed out the big ingredients ahead of time, it will be quicker.....but maybe some mulled wine and a leisurely evening is what you need! You can get 3 x 1.2 litre steamed pudding bowl from Lakeland for just £5.99! And the difference will be amazing...homemade is always the tastiest...and this is my most fuss-free way! If that's not for you, whizz to the bottom to find out how you could win an extra one that I made!!!

Ingredients you will need to make a 1 litre/2 pint Christmas Pudding.

110g Vegetarian Suet
110g Wholemeal breadcrumbs
50g Wholemeal self-raising flour
1/2 tsp Mixed spice
1/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
160g Muscovado sugar
225g Sultanas
225g Raisins
75g Glace cherries, chopped in half
(or leave them out if you don't like them!)
160ml Stout
30ml Brandy or Rum
2 Eggs
1/2 Orange-grated rind
1/2 Lemon-grated rind
1/2 Apple-remove core and grate

1. Place the measured suet, breadcrumbs and flour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and sugar in the bowl, and mix together thoroughly.
3. Add the dried fruit and stir.
4. Measure the brandy and stout and add into the bowl and mix in.
5. Add the 2 eggs. Stir and combine.
6. Add the grated half apple, and zest of lemon and orange.
7. Now mix, stir, stir and mix. It should be a 'dropping' consistency.
8. Thoroughly grease your pudding bowl with butter (or it won't come out on Xmas day!)
9. Pour your mixture into the bowl, leaving about a 1-inch gap from the top. Cover with a disc of greaseproof paper (just cut it 1cm bigger than the diameter of the bowl) and on top of the pudding.
10. Get a piece of tin foil with 2 inches bigger than the diameter of the bowl. Fold a pleat across the middle of the foil. Place over the top of the pudding and secure with string tightly. Do not use the lid of the pudding bowl until the pudding is cooked and cooled and ready for storing.

So once you have made your pud, you need to steam it within 48 hours. You can do this either in a slow cooker or just in a saucepan. Whichever method you use, make sure you remove the plastic lid, you will need this to store the pud once its cooked. Leave the foil in place for steaming and ensure its a tight fit!

In the slow cooker, place the pudding on an upturned saucer in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour boiling water 2/3 of the way up the side of the basin. Switch your slow cooker to high and leave on for 13 hours. For peace of mind, check the water level on the odd occasion throughout the process. Best to be safe than sorry!

Similarly, in a saucepan, put the pudding on an upturned saucer in a deep saucepan, and fill the pan almost to the top of the pudding basin. Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave to simmer for 8 hours. Make sure the water is just simmering.....this can take a little bit of tinkering with to get the bubbling right! Check the pudding every hour to make sure the water doesn't boil away and top it up with boiling water from the kettle if it does.

If that's all a bit too much, click on this link to be entered into my Christmas pud giveaway, as a thank you for reading my blog!

I'm happy to post the pud out before Christmas, so be sure to share my posts with your friends too around the UK too! Good Luck....and Merry Christmas! X