Wishing you all a very delicious and Happy Christmas and an abundant New Year!
As a variation to the regular cinnamon spiced Christmas cookies, I thought I’d make these Norwegian Pepperkaker Gingerbread Biscuits instead. I was recently at a Norwegian cooking class with Signe Johansen and she made these amazing biscuits for us. I remember tasting these light, crispy and spicy biscuits and really wanted to try making it myself.
Pepperkaker biscuits are made by every family during Christmas in Norway and everyone has their own recipe. It used to be made with black pepper and I thought that would be a bit overwhelming but I used a little bit to the recipe too. I looked at a few other recipes but not all the recipes seems to use pepper.
The verdict from my Norwegian friend was that it was quite good and not as sweet as most of the shop bought ones. I’d urge you to give this recipe a try.
These delicious dark and spicy Norwegian Pepperkaker Gingerbread Biscuits will be on your Christmas baking list every year once you’ve made these once.
If you are like me and have no clue about matching wines to your festive food, here is a really handy Food and Wine Matching guide that can help you.
You can’t go wrong with some bubbly to serve as an aperitif or with the Christmas canapes. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a bottle of Crystal Champagne, then consider one of the many superb alternatives like a good Italian Prosecco or a sparkling English Wine.
For the main event, whether you are having a Roast Turkey or a Roast Goose, both red and white wine can be a good accompaniment but do have a read of the chart to help you pick the right one.
Don’t forget a good dessert wine. This year, I found a few great new sweet wines from France and Italy, both white and reds. This would be a nice option to go with your Christmas Pudding. Alternatively, you could even opt for a Chocolate Beer from the Meantime Brewing Company.
Have a fun with your festive feasting!
The smell of cloves and cinnamon waft in the air and it immediately evokes memories of Christmas trees, log fires and all the lovely seasonal things that December brings. This is the smell that enveloped us as we walked into the Winchester Christmas Market.
The source of this spicy scent were the huts selling Christmas wreaths, decorations and mulled wine at the entrance to the market. All these huts were abundantly adorned with all sorts of twinkly lights and pretty decorations which immediately puts you into the right mood for a spot of Christmas shopping.
The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is set very dramatically right in the middle of Winchester Cathedral’s Inner Close. There are a few stalls at the front of the Cathedral but the rest of the market is further around the side. To get to it, you have to follow the crowds and walk through a crowded narrow corridor under historic arches. This is supposed to be one of the biggest Christmas Markets in Europe now.
The market is really impressive as it is set up under the dramatic architectural eaves of the Cathedral. Lots of German style market huts adorned with twinkly lights stretched around the courtyard. In the middle of this was the Ice Rink. We could see large groups of families waiting their turn for a spin on the open air the ice rink.
The stalls seemed to be doing a roaring trade as there was quite a large crowd. The stalls were selling Christmas wreaths, candles, hand crafted Christmas ornaments and all sorts of other festive things.
There is a section of the market for the Artisanal Craft stalls. This section of the market was the most interesting as there were lots of unique gifts made by artists here. A lot of artisanal craft people selling pottery, art, jewellery, bags and scarves. Lots of beautiful things for Christmas pressies. Some of the presents we bought here were a silver charm from Sally Wilcox, a print and some cards of doggies, hand made bird house and some twinkly ornaments.
Of course every market has to have a refreshment area. At the back of the market, a group of food trucks were circled around a seating area. The stalls were selling the usual array of fast food from hot drinks and hot dogs to candy floss. As we just came from lunch, we didn’t sample a lot from here but we did share a hot dog with our canine travel buddies.
We had a very fun and productive visit to the Winchester Christmas market and I would highly recommend a visit for a lovely day out and to do some Christmas shopping.
The Winchester Christmas market is on until 22 December 2013. More details here: http://winchester-cathedral.org.uk/christmas/christmas-market/
Eat Cook Explore was a guest of Winchester Tourism and a visit to the Christmas Market was part of our day trip to historic Winchester.
Picture this, sipping a glass of bubby in lovely restaurant with a view of the river by night, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. Where in London might this be?
A dining room with a view on the River Thames.
In London, there are many choices of restaurants with great views. Here is an option that is probably not on many people’s radar, The Hispaniola restaurant ship, which is permanently moored on the Victoria Embankment and has been recently had new management. James Bueno, the new GM, has been busy transforming this space into a charming fine dining restaurant. Together with their head chef Paolo, they are offering a special Roast Goose menu for the Christmas season at the Upper Deck Bar and Restaurant.
We were recently invited to sample this Christmas menu and who can say no to Roast Goose. For Christmas, I always prefer goose to turkey as the meat is so much jucier and tastier, you get lovely crispy skin and the vat of goose fat you get from the roast can be used for the roasties.
The Golden Goose Christmas menu at the Hispaniola looks like this:
Laurent-Perrier Brut NV (125ml)
Crayfish and Langoustine Cocktail, marie rose sauce
Roast Butternut Squash Soup, gruyere cheese, truffle oil
Beef Filet Carpaccio, Gorgonzola, wild rocket
Wild Whole Roast Goose
Roast Chateau potatoes, brussels sprouts with pancetta,
Calvados-glazed apples, date & red wine sauce
Tunworth Cheese, truffle & port stuffing
Christmas Pudding, brandy & orange butter
Treacle Tart, Cornish clotted cream
A glass of Laurent Perrier welcomed us and this was followed by a retro CrayFish and Langoustine Cocktail with generous pieces of shellfish drenched in tangy Marie Rose sauce.
The presentation of the enormous roast goose was quite an event. Our wild goose which had been roasted for 3 hours was brought out with all the trimmings. It looked and smelt wonderful.
Chef Paolo then proceeded to carve it for us. On the side we had brusell sprouts with pancetta, carrots, Calvados glazed apples and crispy roast potatoes of course. This was truly an abundant feast.
The locally sourced wild goose was moist, the meat was rich and not too gamey and the crispy skin was sensational. This is the perfect Christmas dinner.
To complete the Christmas meal you have to have some Christmas pudding. Here it was served with brandy and orange butter. There are a couple of other choices for pudding besides this too.
The Upper Deck is a bar and restaurant. You can drop by for a cocktail or two and emjoy the same view as the diners. In the summer, there are tables on the deck where you can enjoy the view of the river and see London from a different vantage point. The dining room is cosy but untimidating and instead of canned muzak, they have a singer on the piano who will sometimes take requests.
The Hispaniola is serving their Golden Goose Christmas Dinner for groups of 4 people or more but you do need to preorder at least 48 hours in advance, priced at £75 per person.
More details on their website: http://hispaniola.co.uk/christmas-nye/
The Upper Deck at The Hispaniola
London WC2N 5DJ
Tel: 020 7839 3011
Eat Cook Explore was a guest of the The Hispaniola
The Mince Pie Project is a unique charity initiative where top chefs create some unique mince pies and sell and auction them for good causes. The 2 causes chosen this year are The Kids Company and FoodCycle. (More about them below)
The Mince Pie Projects kicks off at noon on Friday 6th December. 100 top chefs will each create two boxes of signature mince pies of their own design. One box will be auctioned to the highest bidder; the second box will be put up for raffle, in which anyone can get involved with a £2 donation per ticket. You can bid or buy a raffle ticket here: www.themincepieproject.com
Each box of signature mince pies will be submitted for the online auction, beginning at noon tomorrow and ending at noon on 13thDecember.
Some of this years most original and most anticipatedmince pie marvels include; mince pie ‘santamosas’ from Great British Bake Off Winner and design guru, Frances Quinn; bacon, bourbon and butterscotch mince pies from Neil Rankin at Smokehouse, lemon meringue mince pies from Duck & Waffle head chef, Dan Doherty and a volcano inspired, molten mince pie from Nobu head pastry chef, Regis Cursan.
I had the chance to taste a selection of these mince pies at their launch event and I have to say that Neil Rankin’s bacon, bourbon and butterscotch mince pies were really unique and would be worth recreating yourself if you don’t win the auction or the raffle.
The other more notable and adventurous flavours were Alyn Williams’ Mincey Pienuts, a hybrid of a mince pie and a doughnut filled with brandy custard. Then there was Mickael Weiss’ modern twist with a marzipan base and a sweet macaron topping. Everything worked in this one except I don’t like marzipan.
About FoodCycle FoodCycle builds communities by combining volunteers, surplus food and spare kitchen space to create nutritious meals for people at risk of food poverty and social isolation. Over 400,000 tonnes of edible food is wasted each year yet over 4 million people are affected by food poverty across the UK. Since FoodCycle started cooking in May 2009, their network of 1200 volunteers have served over 80,000 meals for people in need.
About Kids Company Kids Company provides practical, emotional and educational support to 36,000 vulnerable inner-city children. This includes 18,000 of the most at-risk children and young people in London, who face enormous challenges in their family homes and neighbourhoods. They provide support through four centres, outreach work and services in 46 schools. More information on the Mince Pie Project website: www.themincepieproject.com
Mandarin Kitchen is one of the handful of places that we used to frequent for a decent Chinese meal in the Bayswater area. When we were students, a lot of friends had flat in the area and we used to congregate at a long closed restaurant called Hung Toa where the Roast Duck was famous. This used to be like a clubhouse, as all the gang would show up there sometime on a Sunday after a late night in the clubs on Saturday. We would almost always have the Roast Duck on rice. You would always see someone you knew in there, regardless of the time of day. Some of the staff from here left to open the now very popular Four Seasons.
For more formal Chinese meals or when the parents were in town, we would go to Mandarin Kitchen or Fortune Cookie (the old incarnation), both along Queensway.
After all these years, we still like to go to Mandarin Kitchen, especially when old friends visit London. Its nostalgic. The rather dated decor hasn’t changed much as they still have the cave like alcoves and walls covered in the strange plaster texture. There are still long queues for tables. There are big round tables to cater for big family meals and some smaller tables along the wall. When it’s busy, it’s frenetic.
The one thing we always order here is the Lobster Noodles. It looked like most of the customers in the restaurant on the night we were there ordered this too. This is the dish that they are the most famous for. On this occassion, we ordered Lobster Noodles with ginger and spring onions with a Yee Mein base. I prefer to order it with the crispy egg noodles base and a double portion of that too.
Mandarin Kitchen serves great seafood as the husband of the boss runs a seafood wholesale company. You can order the regular favourites like Crispy Duck too but that is just a distraction from the other choices. As they mainly do Cantonese Cuisine, there are a lot of familiar dishes on the menu for you to choose from if seafood is not your thing.
On this visit, we ordered an array of dishes to make up a casual Chinese dinner. All dishes were for sharing as the Chinese don’t really do “order your own main course” thing. Of the other seafood dishes we ordered were steamed bamboo clams with a soya sauce based dressing, prawn stuffed tofu soup, fried crab claws, some stuffed Japanese tofu and some fried green beans.
Service was brisk and efficient. No superfluous fawning. The place was busy and buzzing. Not a place to have a romantic date but go with a group of friends for some great seafood.
It is comforting to know that the quality of the cooking has remained consistently above average, even after so many years. If you are around Bayswater, this is definitely a great choice for a very good Chinese meal.
London W2 3RX
020 7727 9012
In conjunction with Chocolate Week (14-20 October) Salon du Chocolat comes to London this October.
This is the glitziest showcase for Chocolate and it is coming to London for the first time. From Oct 18th to the 20th, London will host the first Salon du Chocolat. This will be unmissable if you want to meet lots of famous chocolatiers and see and taste some of their stunning creations.
Here are some of the events and highlights to look out for at Salon Du Chocolat:
- The highlight is Salon du Chocolat’s world famous chocolate fashion show – a collection of couture dresses designed by top fashion designers and chocolatiers
- Demonstrations from Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite, patissier to the stars Eric Lanlard and the Head Pastry Chefs from The Fat Duck, Le Manoir aux quat’Saisons and Hakkasan
- A chocolate spa featuring chocolate beauty products, massages and a bathing beauty relaxing in a gorgeous bath filled with chocolate ganache
- The best chocolate companies from the UK and abroad such as Artisan du Chocolat, Paul a Young, Rococo, Hotel Chocolat, Marc Demarquette, Melt, Divine, Prestat, Lindt, Valrhona, Pralus and Bonnat.
Win 5 pairs of tickets to the Salon du Chocolat Show
Here is your chance to win some tickets for the event. Just complete the steps as per the Rafflecopter widget below.
The first step is to answer this question in the comments below:
What is your best chocolate moment?
You will need to enter your name and a working email so that we can contact you about the tickets when you win. The prize is being offered by the organisers of Salon du Chocolat.
For more chances to win, you can tweet, share, etc on social media. You can come back and do this daily for more entries.
This giveaway closes on Thursday evening, 17 Oct.
a Rafflecopter giveaway