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Christmas drinking!

"A refreshing long drink for the drivers!"

Ginger Syrup 

Not just a refreshing drink for those who do not wish to drink, but a tummy settler after too much good food and a welcome sweetener for a 'lemsip'.

225g sugar
300ml water
2 lemons un-waxed or organic
1cm slice of ginger

Put the sugar and water to a saucepan.
Finely grate the zest from the lemons into the saucepan.
Grate the ginger and add to the saucepan.
Put the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Cover the pan with a lid or cling film and leave overnight.
Next day cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the saucepan.
Strain the contents of the pan through a sieve and into a sterilised bottle. Dilute to taste with still or sparkling water.


"Helpful Hints for Christmas Food"

I am going to post a series of thoughts and photos over the next while under this title. I am starting the post with these notes which formed the basis of a cookery demonstration I did for my parish last Monday. 

Christmas cookery notes
         Start clearing the freezer this week!

This will give you an opportunity to see what fruit you have in there and turn it into jam or chutney to give away as presents.

When it comes to the "Christmas Dinner" plan your cooking schedule and delegate!

Work back from the time you plan to sit down to dinner and plan what has to be done from the time the roast goes into the oven onwards. Write a timetable and stick it on the fridge. If you can keep a copy with you!

In some families it is usual to descend on one household for Christmas dinner, if that is your house do not be afraid to DELEGATE. Spend a little time working out what your guests are good at and ask them well in advance to do something small that will help you enormously and if they are forgetful a quick text a day or two before reminding them how much you are looking forward to their contribution will nudge their memory!

It could be to bring a bag of logs because they have access to them or a dessert because they make the best one you've tasted. Flattery will get you places!

         If you have children in the house who are use to eating at a particular time and you'll be eating later feed them something small, but sustaining at their usual meal time so that hunger does not fray their tempers & yours!

Do not attempt to have *deep breath* prawn cocktail/smoked salmon, soup, turkey, ham, spiced beef, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, red cabbage, cranberry sauce, gravy, Christmas pudding, Brandy butter, trifle, mince pies, tea/coffee and Christmas cake! all at the one meal!

         Choose the elements that you and your family will enjoy! If you want to have all the trimmings have them as elements of the different main meals over the festive period.

Nothing bad will happen if you don't have Brussels sprouts on Christmas day!

Consider portion size, less is definitely more on Christmas day.


         The day after boxing/Stephan's day strip the turkey carcass and make stock. Freeze the meat in manageable amounts and label them. Do the same with the ham and spiced beef. Freeze the stock, I use ice cream tubs. Don't forget to label them.

Most of all try to remember to enjoy yourself! Happy Christmas :) 


Bread, The Staff of Life?

The two finished loaves.

           I love bread! Sadly bread does not love me, I won't go into details but I find it has an unpleasant effect on my lower gut.

          I have been fascinated with it since doing the Bible story of the Passover and the Israelites not having time to let the bread rise. Unleavened bread became my goal what did it taste like and how was it made? 
I found a sort of an answer in a remaindered copy of 'The Royal Cook Book" a collection of recipes from the Royal houses around the world. It was a recipe for Poori or Puri a deep fried Indian bread.
I got quite good at making these and was given a little book on breads by some visitors we had staying at the time. My attempts at making yeast breads from the little book were not so successful. It did give me a life long interest in bread and all things bread related.

The dough ready for it's ten minute kneading!

           Over the years I have experimented with different breads, both yeast and soda. Earlier this year I went on a course to learn how to make a Pizza oven and that re-sparked my bread interest. Even though I was eating less and less of the stuff.
          I have always liked the breads from Declan and Patsy Ryan's Arbutus Bread started in Cork in 1999. They also run a four part bread course and last Wednesday I did part  three and was given a portion of the sour dough starter they use.
          Declan explained to us on the first night how using sour dough makes the loaves more digestible that even some coeliacs can eat it. This got me thinking....
Spelt, I knew is an old form of wheat with lower levels of gliadin, a protein that effects the gut.
          Could I combine the sour dough starter and spelt to make a loaf I can eat?
The starter is based on wheat flour, but over time feeding it with spelt it will become almost all spelt.
It was worth a try.

The round loaf just before it went into the oven.

         So, yesterday I used some of it to make my first seeded spelt sour dough loaves! As I was a bit hazy on the quantities and method so I used Patrick Ryan's "Bread Revolution" recipe.
          I made two small loves the round about 180g of dough only got one very long prove the other had seeds added to it. It was about 400g of dough and it had two provings, the second in a loaf tin.
The double proving was more successful with a slightly deeper flavour and seemed a little lighter.
I do not expect to get super light and airy loves from spelt, but if I can get a more digestible loaf I will be very happy.  

The inside of the round loaf.

          The experiment has begun, I need to refine the recipe and keep feeding the starter. When it all comes together I'll let you know.

Thanks for reading and please do leave a comment.