Christmas Mille Feuille

I love Christmas, especially the buildup. London is amazing at this time of year, with lights decorating every high street, and people rushing around, hot chocolate in hand. I get really into the whole thing, and start feeling festive as soon as the calendar reads ‘December.’

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However, come December 26, I am usually over the whole thing. I want no more mention of Christmas, no more festive songs and certainly no more food! I am ready to move on with my life.

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This year, it’s been a bit different. While I was still a student, I would done with uni and home from Christmas no later than mid-December. I would then still have two weeks before Christmas to be at home and start getting properly festive. But now, I have a job, and that meant staying in London, and in the office, until the 22nd. I got home with three days to spare- and to do all the at-home-Christmas things that I consider compulsory. It has also meant that I have been extremely busy, and therefore baking, and unfortunately posting, have somewhat fallen by the wayside.

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So, the few days after Christmas haven’t felt quite the same for me. The celebration has sort of carried on, and I am still feeling quite Christmassy. It is in this spirit of elongating the festivities, that I share this recipe for Christmas mille feuille with you. Deliciously light puff pastry, sandwiched with ‘chai spiced’ whipped cream and pomegranate seeds make it taste just like Christmas. I have to admit, I baked these about a week before Christmas for some friends, but they would still be delicious eaten during this week of post Christmas revelling.

Christmas Mille Feuille

for the pastry:

25og plain flour

pinch of salt

225g cold butter

For the filling:

25oml double cream

5og icing sugar, plus extra to decorate

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

seeds of half a pomegranate

Put the flour and salt in a food processor. Turn it on and steadily pour in 15oml cold water. As soon as the dough comes together, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest.

Lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle. Place your butter between two pieces of greaseproof paper, and, using a rolling pin, bash your into a flat rectangle, that is about two thirds of the size of the rolled out dough. Place the flat slab of butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold the top third of dough down over the butter, then fold the bottom third up. You should now have layers of dough, butter, dough, butter, dough. Pinch the edges of the dough down, to make sure the butter is completely encased.

Roll out to a rectangle and repeat the rolling and folding process. Then, wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 2o minutes. This rolling and folding process must then be repeated at least 3 more times, with a 2o minute resting period between each fold.

Preheat the oven to 18o degrees celcius. Once your pastry is suitably rolled and folded, roll it out to a large rectangle. The pastry should be less than 1/4 of an inch thick- it will puff up in the oven! Cut out smaller rectangles of pastry, about 3 inches long and 2 wide, and place them on a greased and lined baking tray.

Bake for about 2o-25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up, feels crisp and looks golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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Meanwhile, whisk the double cream until it is firm. Mix in the icing sugar and spices- do this to taste!

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When the pastry is cool, spread whipped cream over half of the pieces, then sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the cream. Sandwich the other pieces on top, and finish with a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.

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Happy (belated) Christmas!

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xxR

Thanksgiving Leftovers

After Thanksgiving, I was left with so much cheese. I had asked everyone to bring a bottle of wine and a piece of their favourite cheese, and, while the wine had been well and truly demolished on the night itself, I have to admit I overestimated just how much cheese there would be.

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I love cheese, but there was absolutely no way I could ever get through all that, so I roped in my dad to help. Admittedly, even with two people, we struggled to finish it all!

The best thing to do with leftover cheese, I’ve discovered, is simply to throw it all into a ramekin or small oven dish (depending on how many cheese eaters you have!) and bake it. Everyone loves a bit of baked camembert, but this is next level. I filled my ramekin with bits of camembert, as well as few pieces of various blue cheeses. Throw a few peeled garlic cloves on the top and bake for 10-15 minutes, and you’ll be left with the most incredible  dip. Definitely not the healthiest snack ever, but hey, it is Christmas!

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I also had about half a butternut squash left over, which I cubed and roasted at 180 degrees with a drizzle of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and pepper and a few cloves of garlic for about 45 minutes. 1o minutes from the end, when the butternut squash is just starting to feel really soft, throw in a few handfuls of kale, which will go crunchy in the heat of the oven. Crumble some blue cheese over the top, as well as the toasted butternut squash seeds, and you have the perfect winter salad that takes literally no effort to whip up!

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xxR

Roast Beetroot and Carrots with Goats Cheese and Almonds

I love Thanksgiving. I feel like it’s all the best things about Christmas- the feasting, getting together with people you love- without all the stress (and cost!) of buying presents. I’ve lived in England for eleven years now, but I’ve still never failed to celebrate Thanksgiving in some way or another! A few times over the past five years that I have been living away from my parents, I have gone home, often with friends in town, to celebrate with my family (and eat my mum’s food!) Other years, I’ve gone solo, hosting from my student house or flat. This year, I went pretty big.

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Let me first just set the scene. I live by myself in a tiny one bedroom flat. There is a separate living room- but it’s certainly not big, and you struggle to fit more than one person in the kitchen at a time. Despite this, and much to my family’s amusement, I invited fifteen people for Thanksgiving dinner. I have a total of eight chairs- although squeezing eight around my table is a stretch! – and six sets of cutlery. The cutlery was not a problem, and I was able to borrow nine more knives and forks. For seating, I had to get a little more creative (again, much to the huge amusement of my family!)

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I got three large cardboard boxes, arranged them in a row on the floor and threw a table cloth over the top- a makeshift table. I then grabbed all the cushions from my sofa, and tossed them around the boxes for seats- Japanese style (on the floor). I was very impressed with my seating arrangements, although some of my longer legged friends were less so.

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But anyway, on to the food. Regrettably, there was too much sheer chaos in the kitchen when it came to serving for me to remember to photograph anything. This recipe was one of my side dishes- and it was so easy to make and delicious to eat that I decided to recreate it for a light lunch. My other vegetable sides were roast potatoes (compulsory, really) and brussels sprouts, halved and fried with parmesan, all covered with a good helping of mushroom gravy.

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Roast Beetroot and Carrots with Goats Cheese and Almond

to serve 6-8 as a side

6 raw beetroots

10 carrots

splash of olive oil

salt and pepper

half a log of soft goats cheese

handful of almonds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Peel your beetroots. Individually, wrap each one in tin foil (I have been experimenting with roasting beets for a while, and I’ve found that this method is way easier (and cleaner) than attempting to peel them after they’re cooked). Peel your carrots, and cut into sticks, then place in an oven dish. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over the carrots, as well as a pinch of salt and pepper.

Bake the beetroots for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are soft and juicy. The carrots need about 25-35 minutes. You want them softened slightly.

When the vegetables are finished, unwrap the beets and cut into cubes. Arrange the beetroot and carrots on a serving dish, and crumble over the goats cheese. Roughly chop the almonds, then spindle those over too. Finish with a  pinch of salt and pepper, and wait for the compliments to the chef to start flowing!

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xxR