Monday, 19 December 2011

Happy Christmas!!

It’s Christmas week and I am so looking forward to a lovely sociable time and a good break.  I finally finished my stained glass windows and installed them on Friday morning before my last client sessions.  It is such fun to finally see them in place.  When working with stained glass panels you only know what they will look like when they are up and the light can shine through.  It feels like such an unveiling and then I have to keep looking at them at different times of the day because the light changes depending on the time and weather.

Blue window

Pink window

This was my first peek at the windows all finished

Here they are installed.  What you can’t see are all the black fingermarks everywhere from the lead blacking stuff!

Then it was time to do a major mucking out of the house ready for the Open House we hold every year.  We serve mulled wine and mince pies and the alternative of spicey apple juice and satsuma cake / fairy cakes / bread and cheese.

Mince pies :)

I brought a satsuma cake into the Enquiry Unit last week and everyone loved it so much and demanded the recipe en masse, as did those who attended the Open House ... so here you are!  It is one of my favourite cakes for this time of year when satsumas are so plentiful.  My friend Carey wrote it out for me and maintains that it so healthy you can eat it for breakfast without feeling guilty!

Satsuma Cake
For the cake:
5-6 satsumas  (weight about 375gm)
250g ground almonds
225g caster sugar
6 eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

For the topping:
Crème fraiche with lemon or orange zest stirred in
1.     Place satsumas in a saucepan of water with lid on.  Boil then turn heat down to gently simmer for 1.5 - 2 hours until soft and pulpy. Check every so often and top up water as necessary so they don’t boil dry. Don’t heat them or boil them too rapidly or they will burst.  
2.     Drain the water off and leave them to cool.  You can leave them overnight if you haven’t got time to make the cake immediately.
3.     Either mash with a potato masher or blitz them in a food processor - skin, pith and all - until pureed. (There will be some bits of skin left but I find these just add to the flavour.)
4.     Beat the eggs then add them and the other ingredients. Blitz or stir until smooth.
5.     Cook in pre-heated oven at 190oC for about an hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. For a fan oven use temp of 175oC
6.     Leave to cool on a rack.
7.     Apply topping.
It tastes even better the next day! You need to store it in the fridge but it is nicer at room temperature or just cut off a piece and zap in the microwave for 30 seconds.  I made this for my friend Melody’s birthday and decorated it with bright pink crème fraiche and holographic edible glitter.

My other achievement this week is that I have finally mastered making WI standard fairy cakes.  After much internet research I found that the trick is in the mixing in of the eggs after creaming the butter and sugar together.  Although it is so much easier and cheaper, I really hate using margarine in baking as it is so processed and never tastes as lovely as buttery ones.  It has taken me so long to achieve this miracle that i am going to share it with you!

Fairy cakes:
4 oz butter
4oz caster sugar
4 oz self raising flour
2 large eggs
A little milk and a few drops of vanilla

Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature. 
Heat the oven to 180oC (175oC for fan ovens)
Prepare your cake tins – either lay out the little paper cases on a tray or wipe some butter paper around your fairy cake tins.
Beat the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon until creamy and soft.
Beat the eggs just until, no more.
Now for the tricky part.  Add the egg to the sugar/butter mix a teaspoon full at a time and beat it in alternating with the flour.  It is crucial not to add the egg too fast or the mix will curdle. That’s the bit that is missing from so many recipes! You should end up with a lovely creamy mixture if you are patient and mix the egg in small enough quantities.  Add a few drops of vanilla and a dash of milk and put a spoonful into the centre of each fairy cake paper or holder.  Don’t bother smoothing it out – it will do that itself in the oven.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Place on an airing tray (or just a spare oven slide) and cover with a tea towel to cool.

When the cakes have cooled – go mad and creative with your icing, decorations and glitter!

So you probably think I am fairly food obsessed!! Well this time of year food and ritual is so important and symbolic of family, relationships and culture. I love watching my children creating their own rituals, incorporating those from their childhood with new ones they develop with their partners.

We have been enjoying the online Advent calendar my Oz big sister Jackey sent me.  Jacquie Lawson does the most amazing London one and each day I click on a new number to open a wonderful little scene accompanied by different Christmas music.  I was quite amused that it was sent to me from 12,000 miles away but it originated in Jacquie’s studio in Lurgashall about 2 miles away from my daughter Kate’s house! If you want some wonderful Christmas cheer, download it!

The calendar is all snowy with all our familiar London sights.  First thing in the morning I have to rush in, stick on my headset and click on the snow globe icon to see today’s scene.  You can’t cheat and look at the next day as the whole thing is connected to the computer clock.

The Enquiry Unit is looking very Christmassy with far too much food and treats to keep us going answering all those last pre-Christmas enquiries.

EU Christmas tree
Sam's Christmas tree

I am working the last Friday before the university is shut down until the New Year and luckily I have the next few days off as I really need to get out and do my Christmas shopping! I also need to have a few days off to keep me away from all the food here in the office! I hope the weather does something more interesting than the dreary drizzling happening just now.  At least last year we had the drama of snow.  The temperature in Melbourne is expected to be 30oC on Christmas Day so I would like it to be lovely and snowy here – but only after my daughter gets to us from West Sussex.

Santa must get very hot by the time he has finished in Oz!  It must be quite a relief to get back to the Northern hemisphere!

Surfing Santas 

So all that there is left to do is to wish you a Very Happy Christmas and see you in the New Year when I will continue to regale you with my epistolary** account of my student life at Greenwich.

**this is my new favourite word as explained to me by Cherie – my fellow blogger.  I had to keep writing this blog until I could figure out how to get it in!

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