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Ate, Christmas, Made, Recipe

A Last Minute Gift. Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio Biscotti.

Last year I made a pact with myself to start making more of the presents I was giving in an attempt to reduce the amount of things I bought at Christmas. It’s not that I don’t love the huge array of things out there to buy, but that it just feels so much more satisfying to give someone something you’ve had a part in creating. It doesn’t need to be something grand or all that elaborate, I think it’s just nice for it to be something you spent time on.

 

Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

 

Each year I make large batches of chutney to include with my friend’s and family’s Christmas presents. I try and do this a few months in advance to a) get it out of the way, b) make use of particular fruit being in plentiful supply and c) allow the flavours to mellow. As Christmas starts to draw closer and the presents start to be given I like to add some kind of baked good in there too.

Through trial and error over the year I’ve settled on biscotti being the perfect gift. Some years I’m in the mood for something citrusy and others for something involving a little more chocolate. (Next year’s is going to be chocolate orange, I’ve already decided.)

 

Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

 

It keeps perfectly well for days and when combined with a tin of tea leaves, a bag of freshly roasted coffee or a bottle of something is the perfect last minute gift for someone. No matter how hard we try there’s always someone we didn’t think we’d see but now seemingly will or maybe even someone who got you a present you entirely weren’t expecting. This is where the biscotti and the coffee come in.

This year I played around with adding herbs to the mix before finally settling on Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio. When you’re done simply add a good handful to a bag, tie up with string and add a label.

 

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

 

These little brown paper bags are from IKEA and perfectly match the wrapping paper I went with this year. If you’re into your wrapping you can take a closer look at that here.

 

Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio Biscotti

150g plain flour

125g caster sugar

2 tsp baking powder

Zest of 2 lemons

100g dried apricots

150g unshelled (and unsalted) pistachios

A handful of thyme sprigs

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan.

In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. Once this is done set it to one side and roughly chop the apricots and pistachios – you want to be able to see the colours from both as you slice the biscotti. Pick the leaves from the sprig of thyme and add them to your flour mixture and stir in the apricots and pistachios.

In a separate bowl lightly beat eggs and milk together before adding to the dry mix. Fork through until it starts to clump together before getting your hands in and bringing together into a dough. If it feels a little too sticky add a fraction more flour.

Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and need briefly to make sure all of your fruit and nuts are combined. Split the dough into two equal balls, roll into a fat sausage and place each on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Once it’s on the sheet you can perfect the shaping, don’t worry. You’re looking for them both to be around 20cm long and 6cm or so wide. The mixture should be playable so shape as you will.

Bake the biscotti in the oven for 25-30 minutes. In this time you’ll see it will have risen and spread out slightly, along with taking on a soft golden colour.

Remove from the oven and careful transfer the loaf to a chopping board by just picking up the greaseproof paper. With a serrated bread knife cut the loaf diagonally into 1cm thick slices.

When both loaves are slices, lay the pieces out flat on the baking trays and return to the oven. As you do turn the temperate down to 130 degrees fan and bake for 10 minutes before flipping the biscotti over and baking for a further 5 minutes.

When you take the biscotti out of the oven it should be firm and crisp but when pressed still retain a slight toast-like texture when pressed. Transfer to a rack to cool down before packaging up the biscotti in little bags or glass jars.

 

Lemon, Thyme & Pistachio Biscotti Recipe

 

 

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Ate, Cook, Made

A Sunday In September.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

If I were to take December and its connotations of Christmas out of the equation, September would be unequivocally my favourite month of the year. I’ve always had more of an affinity with the colder months, I put it down to the fact I was born in a snowstorm. September is the month that bridges the gap between the final days of summer and the undoubtedly soggy October that lies ahead. There’s a fresh nip to the mornings but a blazing sunlight to the afternoons. The light manages to hold on until the early evening as the mornings slowly but very surely get that little bit darker with each passing day. We all know it’s coming, but September breaks it to us gently.

Ultimately autumn is about comfort. Spending entire days in doors, hiding out from the showers and keeping warm. Catching up on all those little things you’ve been meaning to do all summer but haven’t quite got round to yet. Those books you never got round to reading, or the film you keep saying you’ll watch but never seem to be able to settle enough to put it on. The term ‘hygge’ seems to be a little too commonly used of late, but nonetheless belongs in these time of the year. Find something to do, take it slowly and most importantly, enjoy it.

Nigel Slater's Sticky Fig Chutney

And so to chutney. September is fig season, potentially the best of all the fruit seasons. For those of you who have more important issues than to spend a Sunday contemplating your favourite fruit harvest, I can assure you it’s a good one. Figs find their way to my toast and onto my granola, grilled with honey and almonds and served with coconut yoghurt, caramelised with balsamic vinegar and tossed into a salad; in short, I can find a home for them just about anywhere. Nothing is quite as satisfying as making a warm sticky fig chutney however.

There’s something so peaceful about chopping onions I find. My eyes have become so accustomed to it now I don’t even emit a sniffle, let alone a tear. Chopping the onions and layering them beneath mounds of sliced figs, dolling out lashings of all spice and gently smashing peppercorns to pieces for the final flourish before dousing the whole thing in vinegar – it’s a Sunday well spent.

Sticky Fig Chutney

As a child my Grandma had to hide the bottle of vinegar in the highest of cupboards, I was known to try and drink it. Yes, I’m aware it’s quite bizarre, but even now as a pool of balsamic vinegar sits at the bottom of my salad bowl, I know I could drink up every last drop if I wanted to. That sweet, spicy smell of the vinegar mingles with the all spice and juicy sultanas to result in the most comforting of September feelings. It’s not quite the baking of the Christmas cake, but it’s a very close second.

I always turn to a Nigel Slater recipe for my fig chutney, taken from potentially my favourite cookbook of all, The Kitchen Diaries II. Whilst several blogs have chosen to write up the Sticky Fig Chutney recipe, I can’t help but feel that isn’t right? If you’d like to make it the recipe is easily Google-able; my only amendment to the genius of the original recipe is to throw in some bay leaves. If you don’t have the book – I whole heatedly recommend it.

Sticky Fig ChutneyAutumn Fig Chutney

The jars are now neatly lined up on my the shelves awaiting some kind of minimalist labelling technique that I’ve yet to fathom. I recommend sloshing it on crusty sourdough, topped with goat’s cheese.

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Christmas, Fashion & Style, Made

A conscious effort.

As summer was coming to a close and the first signs of autumn were beginning to rear their head my mind started to wander towards Christmas. This is certainly not an unusual occurrence; my mind can quite happily spend a great deal of time thinking about Christmas. On this occasion however I was thinking about what it was I would begin to look for to give to those around me and it was there, right then, on that wet Sunday afternoon in September that I decided to try and make as many presents as I could.

For me to gift things that I have made is not all too unusual, in the past it has mostly been a mixture of biscotti, marmalade and chutney, with only the occasional alternative. For Christmas 2016 I wanted to do something different – give something truly different. I quickly had my heart set on making my closest friends their own linen dressing gowns, each completed with their initial to the chest. I won’t lie and say it was an easy task because quite frankly, it wasn’t. After cutting the pattern and producing several rough iterations of the gown, I began work on the final product.

Washed linen in a soft grey hue meant the kimono-like silhouette draped perfectly, its pebbled surface offering an almost dappled effect. Deep cosy pockets and a generous belt, I hope, give it an inviting look overall. Finally an embroidered initial sits to the chest, a series of three tonal grey threads embroidered separately to a raw-edged patch.

This Christmas I made the conscious effort to make things people will hold onto hopefully for a lifetime however they weren’t the only presents I gave, I did purchase many things to sit under the tree. For Christmas 2017 I plan on making absolutely everything that I gift. If the dressing gowns are anything to go by then I have about a month’s rest before I’ll need to dust off my sewing machine.

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Christmas, Made

Black, White & Hint Of Brass.

The wrapping of Christmas presents deserves a long Sunday afternoon. Christmas songs should be playing, a mince pie should always be on hand and a large pot of coffee must be handily positioned beside the magic tape.

This year it’s all a bit of graphic monochrome. With a touch of brass polka dots.

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