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Christmas Foods and Traditions: Cooking With Nigella

Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson

Last year for Christmas I gave myself one of the best gifts ever! Yes, I do give myself Christmas gifts, why not? When you get up in years you can do whatever you want. It was a subscription to Acorn TV, the All British TV Series. I love it and have watched nearly every show presented on there, every month. I get my moneys worth! The very first show I watched was Nigella Lawson’s Cooking Christmas Special, and I was glad to see it was still available to watch this year and I did watch it again this week!

You can’t help, but come away inspired to cook something! Or to look around your kitchen and say, “I need to drape several strings of fairy lights across my cabinets and place Christmas baubles all over my kitchen counters to be able to cook like Nigella.” Or, “I need a black, sexy, low cut gown or sweater to wear when cooking,” to be like Nigella. Need I say, Nigella is a full bodied, well endowed young woman that every cook would like to look like.

During the show she cooks awhile and then scampers out of the house to the local London street markets to buy the most wonderful ingredients to bring back and add to the pot so to speak. So you get to see the cooking aspect as well as the shopping in the food stalls among all the hustle and bustle of Christmas. We go to the cheese market, the fruit and vegetable stand, and the nut stalls. Never once to the grocery. She does all this while re-iterating that cooking for Christmas need not be stressful, just go with the flow.

To prepare for one of her parties, she places some short ribs in a cranberry sauce mixture and then puts them in the oven for her party later that evening. The ribs need to cook for one and a half hours. So as not to stand around and waste time Nigella flies out of her kitchen to go have pre-party drinks with her friends at a favorite pub. Now, I definitely think that is the thing to do to de-stress the cooking for a party. Later in the evening she is shown passing out the ribs wrapped in a paper napkin to each guest, no plates mind you. She lets us know to supply plenty of baby wipes too, for wiping up our sticky fingers. Baby wipes? Well what do I know! Her guests always are shown drinking a lot. I would too, that way I would not care that I dropped cranberry sauce all down the front of my cleavage, in my low cleavage red gown, and went the entire night that way.

She likes to cook with lots of spices and shops in various spice specialty shops. We follow her along as she shops. The spices come in little plastic bags and she keeps them in her pantry. Yes, you’ll see her pantry, her library, her upstairs, her downstairs and her kitchen in her cooking series. I feel like I live with Nigella I know her house so well. In one episode as she gets out the bags of spices and remarks about how long they keep, she looks at the expiration date on one of the packs. Oh, the spice expired about ten years ago!  Now weren’t we just at the spice shop? So, she just pitches it in the trash and moves on. Now haven’t we all been there? I guess that means another trip to the spice man. I think he may be selling more than spices!

Then there is the turkey episode which I liked a lot. She brings out this really, large red plastic bin, the size of a laundry basket to brine the turkey in. She adds several, and I mean several, spices, herbs, and clementines, to the brining salt concoction. She sets the turkey in the brining mixture outside for a day or two to meld. Meanwhile, she is making gingerbread stuffing from a store bought gingerbread cake. What?  When did she get this? I’ve been with her for all her shopping haven’t I? She says she likes to buy store bought foods and then build on them to save time and this is one of those times, I guess. Adding to the meal she makes her mother’s bread pudding, roasted Brussels sprouts, a crispy, roasted, red potato dish, (one of her favorites), and a mountain of merengue for dessert. And in-between all that she shows us how to decorate and set the festive Christmas table in the library, where she will be entertaining her guests on Christmas Eve no less. All under no stress and in the fine gown.

But, the best part of the show is the following morning, Christmas Day, when Nigella comes down to the kitchen, disheveled, hair tossed about, and wearing her bright red satin, Christmas dressing gown. She pulls out two chunks of thick white bread, slathers a great swag of gingerbread dressing on, followed by a layer of cranberry sauce, (she made that in another episode), then adds a layer of bread pudding and a layer of turkey and a few gherkins thrown in for good measure. She can not celebrate Christmas without gherkins! The sandwich is now about 4 inches thick and she chows down while leaning heavily on the counter. No, no Christmas cooking stress here! I love this show! 

Nigella Lawson

Nigella Lawson

PS I went and ordered the companion cook book containing her Christmas Cooking episodes to make sure I’d have all the stress free recipes! See you tomorrow for more Christmas Foods and Traditions!

October: A Month of Pumpkins; Day 19, The Kakai Pumpkin

 

The Kakai Pumpkin

The Kakai Pumpkin

The kakai pumpkin is round in shape with a relatively soft rind in shades of dark green to broken, mottled blackish-green stripes on a orangish-yellow background.

This pumpkin is grown for the large dark green, hull-less seeds which are good tasting, both raw and roasted, and make a healthy snack!

 

There is More to a Garden Than Flowers

Bodle Street Green, Hailsham, UK

Bodle Street Green, Hailsham, UK

When I first suggested touring gardens as our plan for a vacation, many of my husband’s friends raised an eyebrow and gave my husband that “poor sod look.” I think he was skeptical that this could be the kind of vacation that he would enjoy too. But, to his surprise, last year he liked it!  So we planned another tour of homes and gardens for this year. I think the big factor for him was; there is more to a garden than flowers………..

This year was no exception. Gardens are like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to get, until you get there.” Cowbeech House was on the list for our first garden visit on the National Garden Schemes this year. The gardens on the National Garden Scheme are local village gardens, with gardeners, who put their gardens on view, once or twice a year, usually on a Saturday and Sunday, to raise money for charity. The gardeners are available to answer questions and show any particular garden features. There is usually something unique about their gardens and that is why they are selected in the first place.

Cowbeech House, located in Cowbeech Village, was part of the Herstmonceux Parish Trail. On this day we saw quite a few gardens on this trail of tranquil settings.

I always enjoy the time and effort it takes just to find these small villages. They are definitely off the beaten path and many times all the time, we are the only Americans, and the villagers are quite surprised that we come “over the pond” to look at their gardens. 

A tip here is….. always plan where you want to eat because the pubs are open only at certain times to serve food and……. preferably eat before you get to the first garden, because you will stay longer than you anticipate and may miss out on the scheduled times to eat! Also, this way your husband will not be starving and wanting you to get a move on!

So our pub meal was at the White Horse Inn, a rural free house on Bodie Street Green in Hailsham. We both had the Sunday Roast and I was so busy talking to the couple next to us about Brexit, that I didn’t get a picture of the delicious meal!

The White Horse Pub, Hailsham, UK

The White Horse Pub, Hailsham, UK

Which way to Go?

Which way to Go?

After our meal we moved on to Cowbeech House and paid our 5 pounds which would allow us entry into five gardens on the trail that day. Needless to say, we did not make it to all of them, but we loved the gardens we did see.

The first part of the garden tour at Cowbeech House was the garage, full of antique cars! Not any cars mind you, these Cars! The house sign was a give away to what was in store for us!

Cowbeech House, Herstmonceux Parish Trail

Cowbeech House, Herstmonceux Parish Trail

This is Mr Cowbeech, not his real name of course, but these lovely cars, garden and house belonged to him and he was quite proud of them! As he should be!

Mr Cowbeech at Cowbeech House

Mr Cowbeech at Cowbeech House

Three Rolls Royces!

Three Rolls Royces!

Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce

Aston Martin, James Bond "Goldfinger"

Aston Martin, James Bond “Goldfinger”

1924 Bentley

1924 Bentley

1924 Bentley

1924 Bentley

1931 Austin Martin International

1931 Auston Martin International

As you can see there was much interest in the garage before we ever got to the garden…… and not everything in the garden is flowers! See you tomorrow to show you the grounds of Cowbeech House!

JNW’s Halloween Challenge: Pumpkin

You Can't Carve Kale!

You Can’t Carve Kale!

I Love these little signs from #PumpkinCan! What can cut fat and cholesterol and add fiber? Pumpkin Can!!! Look eggs in the face and say “not in my recipe!” Won’t you check out Verybestbaking.com?

Have a spooktacular time with JNW’s Halloween Challenge! Enjoy!

October: A Month of Pumpkins; Day 7, The Pumpkin Label

Vintage Pumpkin Label

Vintage Pumpkin Label from Olney and Floyd Canning Factory

Delta Canning Factory, Oneida NY

Delta Canning Factory, Oneida NY

Many bloggers have asked me recently what the big deal is with pumpkins in the US. This may explain the beginnings on a large scale!

The history of Olney and Floyd Canning Factory in Delta, NY goes like this……..

In 1884, George B. Olney and C. Frank Floyd purchased three or four acres of land by the Mohawk River. It was the first canning factory to be built in this area. The buildings were two stories high and spread out. North of the buildings were long sheds where horse-drawn lumber wagons loaded with sweet corn were placed. On the west and south side of the large building were the store rooms, where the canned goods were stored. The corn was raised by the local farmers. In the fall the corn was cut by hand, shucked by hand, packed into the cans and labled by hand. It was then packed into wooden boxes, and loaded on large wagons pulled by a stout team of horses.

Canners in those days spent their winters making their own cans. On November 20, 1881, a local newspaper stated “Olney and Floyd canning factory owners have purchased a boat load of Welch tin and are preparing to make cans for the next season.”

The Olney and Floyd Company canned corn as the only product at first. Then four years later the Delta plant was purchased. By 1886, both canning factories together had reached the total of one million cans a year. The work at the plant included snipping of beans, shelling peas, shucking corn, all done by hand. Then there was the slow process of filling and hand soldering the tin containers. Can you imagine processing one million cans a year by hand?

In 1881 about 30 people were employed at the can producing factory. In 1887 they were making 4,000 cans a day. It would need to make 600,000 cans to supply both factories. At that time both factories were canning corn, succotash, green and yellow beans, peas, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, spinach, red kidney beans, lima beans and beets. The Rome Sentinel stated on September 27, 1891, “Olney and Floyd had put up 400,000 cans of corn at the Delta plant. The Westernville factory did the same number that year.”

In 1894 there were 100 people employed in the Delta factory.  With George Jr., John and W. Floyd Olney at the Lee Centre factory, they employed over 200 people at the peak of their business. The Lee Centre plant sold canned goods to many of the local grocery stores such as Loblaws and A. & P.

Around the turn of the century, more produce was canned in Oneida County than any other county in New York. Produce was grown by area farmers. Lee Center Canning Factory was built to replace the Delta factory that had closed it’s doors in 1907, to make way for the Delta Dam project. The Lee Center Canning Factory closed in 1971.

The final verdict: Pumpkin fed people and provided jobs! We still love our pumpkin today!

October: A Month of Pumpkins; Day 6, Pumpkin Beer

 

Pumpkin Beer

Pumpkin Beer

The Pilgrims were also known to make pumpkin beer. They fermented a combination of persimmons, hops, maple sugar and pumpkin to make this early colonial brew.

Pumpkin Ale is one of the oldest styles to originate in America.  When New England colonists lacked some beer ingredients they turned to what they could find or grow themselves.  In place of malt they used other fermentable sugars like molasses, sweet potato, or pumpkin.  Alas, pumpkin beers weren’t too popular since the pumpkin was used for its sugar alone rather than its flavor.  Today, pumpkins, along with other pumpkin pie spices, are used in addition to malt to create these fall favorites.

For the Best US Pumpkin Beers Look Here

And I Love the Labels on these beers: Good Gourd, Pumpkick, Fat Jack, Jacques All Lantern and Roadsmary’s Baby !

October: A Month of Pumpkins; Day 5, Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

My Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

1/2 cup cream

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (See recipe HERE)

Combine ingredients in jar and shake well.

Pour into coffee as desired.

Store in fridge for up to 4 days.

Love it!

October: A Month of Pumpkins, Day 4, Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Sprinkle Pumpkin Pie Spice over whipped cream in a coffee drink!

Make the Pumpkin Pie Spice early in the month! We are going to use it in many recipes to come!

4 tbsp cinnamon

8 tsp ginger

2 tsp allspice

2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Use within 6 months!

I absolutely LOVE it!

Reason to Love St Ives #5: The Cornish Pasty

Skys Diner, St Ives, Cornwall

Skys Diner, St Ives, Cornwall

A pasty is a baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall and the men who worked in the tin mines.  It is made by placing an uncooked filling, typically meat and vegetables, on one half of a flat shortcrust pastry circle, folding the pastry in half to wrap the filling in a semicircle and crimping the curved edge to form a seal before baking. In Cornwall the pasty must be formed in the shape of a “D” with the crimping to the side. The miners had a complete meal that could be easily carried and eaten without utensils and could stay warm for several hours, and if it did get cold, it could easily be warmed up on a shovel over a candle. The pasty was side crimped so the miner might hold the edge of the pastry so his dirty fingers (possibly including traces of arsenic) did not touch his food or his mouth. The edges of the pasty were thrown away. Often pasties were marked at one end with an initial, so the miner could recognize his pasty if it was not eaten all at once. There is a belief that the pastry on a good pasty should be strong enough to withstand a drop down a mine shaftand the barley flour that was usually used did make hard dense pastry.

The Skys Diner was packed everyday and was also busy with tourists taking out shopping bags full of pasties!

The Pasties

The Pasties

Warrens Bakery, St Ives, Cornwall

Warrens Bakery, St Ives, Cornwall

The traditional Cornish pasty,  is filled with beef, sliced or diced potato, swede (also known as yellow turnip or rutabaga ) and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, and is baked. Today, the pasty is the food most associated with Cornwall. It is regarded as the National Dish and accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy.  And Warrens is the Oldest Cornish Pasty Maker in the World!

Philps Pasties, St Ives

Philps Pasties, St Ives

At Philps Pasty you can eat in, take out, or you can get your pasties by Post! Everyone’s needs met! See you again tomorrow in St Ives!

October: A Month of Pumpkins, Day 3, Pumpkins by the Railing

 

 

Pumpkins by the Railing

Pumpkins by the Railing

Pumpkins are very good for you. They fit well into a health-conscious diet. And aside from that, they taste good!

Pumpkins are low in calories but high in fiber. They are also low in sodium. The seeds are high in protein, iron, and the B vitamins.

Pumpkins are very high in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxident. It converts into Vitamin A, which is important to maintain a healthy body.

Researchers believe that eating a diet rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. They also believe it helps to delay aging. Anything that delays aging is worth the effort, don’t you think?

1 cup of cooked pumpkin flesh contains:

Calories 49
Protein 2 grams
Carbohydrate 12 grams
Dietary Fiber 3 grams
Calcium 37 mg
Iron 1.4 mg
Magnesium 22 mg
Potassium 564 mgZinc 1 mg
Selenium .50 mg
Vitamin C 12 mg
Niacin 1 mg
Folate 21 mcg
Vitamin A 2650 IU
Vitamin E 3 mg
Pumpkins by the Railing in Waterlogue

Pumpkins by the Railing in Waterlogue

 

 

 

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