Ho, Ho, Ho – A Little Girl’s First Christmas Cookies

So, we are now back in the UK and merrily entering into the fray of the festive season.  A christmas cake is baked, menus planned for the various family and friend celebrations and excess is being happily anticipated.

My little girl frequently likes to help me out in the kitchen, what she lacks in technical ability, she makes up for in abundance with enthusiasm.

A lot of friends and neighbours have given her some great gifts, so we thought we would return the favour with something crisp and festive that goes well with the seasonal fare, whether that be a schooner of sherry, cup of coffee or pitcher of egg-nog.

These Christmas Cookies are easy to make and great fun for kids to get involved with – a very useful way to use up half a day or so if you are faced with bored kids and wet weather over the holiday season.

They taste buttery, sweet and crisp and can be decorated in an understated way with a dusting of icing sugar, but I’m sure the kids will be able to create some altogether more dazzling creations with access to food colourings, icing and edible decorations.

Happy Christmas…

Makes: around 80-90 small cookies

Ingredients

300g White Sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract (or 3 tsp ground giner)

500g dairy free margarine (butter is ok for those that are not baking dairy free!)

750g plain flour

2 egg yolks

Icing

1 cup of icing sugar

3 Tbsp water

Food colouring

Edible food decorations – stars, balls, hearts, flowers, whatever you like and can find!s

Method

1. Place sugar, vanilla/ginger, egg yolks and margarine/butter in a large bowl and mix until pale and creamy – you may want to use an electric mixer (or if you need to use up time, get the kids to mix using a whisk or fork!).

2. Sift in flour

3. Using your hands as sparingly as possible, combine into a slightly dry dough and divide into two or three large discs of dough.

4. Wrap discs in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30-40 minutes

5. Take discs out of fridge and roll to the thickness of a pound (or euro) coin.

6. Turn on oven to 170C.

7. Cut out shapes using a small cutter and place on a lightly floured baking tray (or 3!).

8. Bake for around 8 minutes until just golden – all ovens are different so adjust if necessary.

9. Leave cookies to cool on wire rack.

10. Mix together icing sugar and water until you have a thickish paste.

11. Divide icing into several small pots and colour as apopropriate.

12. With a teaspoon, place small amount on each cookie and spread around until thinly dispersed.

13. Place sprinkles and edible decorations on the icing whilst it is still tacky so they will stick.

14. leave cookies to dry for an hour or so.

15.  Divide up into small batches, wrap in cellophane sealed with a bow and make your friends and neighbours smile.

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Hearty Lamb with Butter Beans & Thyme

Even I can’t continue to kid myself the weather is anything other than cold now in the UK. The arrival of bonfire night (November 5th) calls for plenty of comfort food, the type of thing that sticks to your ribs. Big flavours, slowcooked meat that is soft enough to be cut with a spoon, side dishes like mustard mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage rather than salads are now the order of the day.

This dish just makes me smile thinking about it. The flavours with the lamb all just marry together so well as they get to know each other for a few hours in nice warm oven.

This can be made a good few days in advance and reheated in around 30 minutes in a hot oven. It could even be frozen and warmed up without defrosting.

Serve with mustard mash and a steamed vegetable. Light the fire, draw the curtains and put your feet up…

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 neck fillets of lamb or other boneless stewing cut in large pices (3cm chunks)

2 Tbsp oil

25g butter (or dairy free alternative)

1 Tbsp plain flour (or gluten free flour mix)

1 finely diced large shallot

500ml good quality stock

125ml glass of red wine

2 Tbsp redcurrant jelly

4 large sprigs of fresh thyme

1 drained and rinsed can butter beans

Additional wine for deglazing

Method:

1. Preheat oved to around 140C

2. Put oil in pan and fry the lamb in small batches to get a good colour (don’t burn it!) on all sides.

3. Remove the lamb from the pan into a casserole dish.

4. Deglaze the pan with a small amount of wine and pour this into the caserole dish.

5. In a seperate pan, gently fry shallot in butter(or dairy free alternative) until it is transparent (don’t let it go brown!).

6. Add flour and cook stirring all the time for 1 minute.

7. Slowly add the stock in small batches, stirring all the time.

8. Add the wine, jelly and thyme and bring to the boil.

9. Add beans and stok mix to the casserole dish and place into the oven for 2 hours

10. Strain the liquid off into a large pan and bring to a fast boil to reduce the amount of liquid until it becomes thick enough to coat back of a spoon.

11. Taste liquid and season with salt and pepper as required and return meat to the pan.

12. Serve and enjoy on a cold winter’s evening.