Christmas 2010

27 12 2010

The Christmas holidays is a time of year that is inextricably linked with the cooking (yay!) and then eating (hurrah!) of food.  This year I was fortunate enough to be able to travel back to the land of All Blacks and Hobbits where I celebrated the festive season with my kiwi family and friends.  Unlike Christmas 2009 I wasn’t responsible for a full multi-course meal, however I did spend some time in the kitchen cooking.

The cooking started at my friend Cat‘s house with a group of us and an all day Bake-a-Rama. The goal was to create a treasure chest of treats that could be brought out when required for visitors during the Christmas holidays.  After the measuring, sifting, mixing and baking Cat’s kitchen table was flooded with dozens (and dozens and dozens) of cookies. Clockwise from the top we created the following:

Gingerbread Cookies
White Chocolate and Strawberry Cookies
Dark Chocolate and Apricot Cookies
Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
Passionfruit Melting Moments (still to be iced)
Cathedral Cookies
Iced Spice Cookies
Iced Sugar Cookies


A Caramel Fruit Cake was then also added to the booty of culinary treasures:

Needless to say, visitors to Cat’s house have had a selection of baked goodness to choose from while having their cuppa tea.

More time was spent in the kitchen on Christmas Day where I cooked breakfast and then dinner for my brother and his young family.  Since I was spending Christmas with small children I knew that the big day would start early…which meant that I had to start even earlier.  I set my alarm on Christmas Eve and by 0630 on Christmas Day I was up and about cooking the pancakes, moving around the kitchen extremely quietly so as to not wake the smaller members of the household.  I finished the double batch of batter just before the small ones invaded the lounge and the carnage that is a children’s Christmas started.

Once the carnage had ended and the little ones were out visiting the Grandparents I started on a batch of Delia Smith’s Vegetarian ‘Sausage’ Rolls (the same recipe that I used last year) and the Christmas dinner.  As I mentioned in the Christmas 2009 post, a roast Christmas dinner is a tradition in our family.  This year I opted to not do a full roast and instead settled on a smaller cut of cow for the family which I served with roasties, fresh peas, maple-glazed baby carrots and onion and mushroom gravy.  I reckon the peas and carrots were the best bit, especially the peas.  I love fresh peas, I even love shelling them, bizarre but true.

Being able to spend this festive season with family and friends that I haven’t seen for over two years has made Christmas 2010 just that little bit more special.  I hope that this festive season was just as enjoyable for you as well.

See you in the new year,




shininglikeadiamond turns one

3 07 2010

About thirteen months ago I created shininglikeadiamond: a result of a curiosity about the blogosphere combined with the desire to write more.  I played around with the settings and set up of the blog for a while, read up about the ins and outs of the blogosphere and sat and chewed the end of my metaphorical pencil while I contemplated the topic of my first post.  Nothing came, and then the unexpected passing of Michael Jackson provided the spark my Muse needed to create my first post.  Twelve months later we arrive here, post number 20 and one year older.  I’ll admit that I haven’t written as much as I would have liked, and that’s something that I will rectify, but overall I’m pleased with shininglikeadiamond

Ideally I would have penned a post centered around this little milestone, but to be honest it kinda snuck up on me and I haven’t had the time to fully create the celebratory post that I would’ve liked to have written.  Instead, and in order to not miss the anniversary completely,  I offer a Lizzie update and birthday cupcake.

Last post centered around Bon Jovi concert number 4 of 12 at the O2.  I ended the post with

In the end, the concert was so enjoyable that I’m going back for the final of the twelve shows.*  Proof that you can’t have too much of a good thing – and that you should take all the opportunities there are to let out your inner Rock Chick.

Not a truer word has been written, heed the lesson my friends: always take the opportunity to let the Rock Chick out (or whatever musical form it may take).  Despite the fact that this concert clashed with the second of the two-part finale of Dr Who (thank you VCR) it was the right decision to go.  We were treated to not only a spine tingling Bed of Roses, but also a wicked set list (see the end of the post) which included a six song encore.  Jon and the boys were on fire when it came to energy and musicianship.  It was easily the best sixty quid I’ve spent this year, and totally worth a wait before seeing the Doctor in action. 

Update now out of the way, it is time for birthday cupcake.  If I haven’t mentioned yet that I worship at the altar of the culinary genius that is Isa and Terry, then I will now.  Isa and Terry rock, and if I could cook and bake like anyone else on this planet it would be them.  Needless to say the birthday cupcake came via the awesome Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and is the mighty yummy Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting.  Did I mention that there is also cocoa powder involved?  Oh yes, this recipe is a perfect ten. 

Not wanting to waste half a can of coconut milk, I also made some Chocolate Coconut Pudding from the ever faithful VWAV.  Seriously delicious pudding.

Now there is nothing left but to say many and sincere thanks to those who take the time to read my musings.  Here’s to another year.



Set list: blood on blood/we weren’t born to follow/you give love a bad name/born to be my baby/lost highway/in these arms/when we were beautiful/blaze of glory/captain crash/sleep when I’m dead/we got it going on/bad medicine w/ old time rock & roll (performed with Kid Rock)/lay your hands on me (Richie Samora)/bed of roses/diamond ring/I’ll be there for you/Saturday night/bullet/it’s my life/who says you can’t go home/keep the faith.

Encore: have a nice day/wanted/these days/it’s hard letting you go/I love this town/livin’ on a prayer

Lizzie Bakes: Hot Cross Buns

5 04 2010

I did a bit of baking over the weekend – it’s the kinda thing I do during a lazy long weekend where the only firm plans are to dye my hair and watch Dr Who.  The most successful of these baking endeavours were my Hot Cross Buns. Determined to better my 2009 results at making Hot Cross Buns, I spent Friday afternoon ensconced in the kitchen making not only Hot Cross Buns, but three variations which were dreamt up during one afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  Happily I can report that the results were astronomically better than last year.  The final results were a half dozen each of the following:

  • Hot Cross Buns Made with glacé cherries instead of candied peel, because I prefer my fruit that way.
  • Lady Grey Buns Made with currants and sultanas soaked in Lady Grey tea and with the zest of lemon and orange.  My Aunt has a recipe for Tea Bread made with currants macerated in tea which is one of the best things ever.  This was a variation on that idea.
  • Chocolate and Orange Buns I remember having Hot Cross Buns made with chocolate chips instead of the usual fruit when I was a kid.  I decided to revisit this idea in a couple of different forms this year.  The first of these was this jaffa-type bun made with dark chocolate chips and orange zest.
  • Chocolate and Ginger Buns This was the second of the chocolate varieties.  Made with equal parts dark chocolate chips and chopped stem ginger (a new food find of mine), they were mighty yummy.

Of course there is photographic evidence of my endeavours (though admittedly not the best quality photographic evidence).  Here are the buns about ten minutes after they came out of the oven.

And here they are about five minutes after that

And remember how I said I was looking forward to the new Doctor Who? Well, after watching Saturday’s episode I am very much looking forward to the upcoming season.  First impressions of the new Doctor were favourable, and I like the new look of the TARDIS.

Christmas 2009: The Aftermath

29 12 2009

In my previous post I wrote about how I would be cooking this year’s family Christmas lunch.  This was an ambitious task.  Not only for the reasons I had outlined earlier, but also because this was the first time I had attempted these particular recipes (except for the roasties, these I’ve made often!).  This situation possessed an inherent danger – a slippery banana skin – if there were any nuances to a dish that weren’t obvious until one had actually made it. Unfortunately, this time I did end up head-over-feet and banana-skin-in-the-air over a couple of dishes. 

It was decided that this year we’d have a four-course meal, plus some nibbles that could be consumed over the Christmas period.  Not large quantities of each dish, just enough to ensure a celebration of Christmassy food – and so that no one had to cook for the next few days.  In the end this was the menu that was settled on:

Chestnut Soup with Thyme Croutons

Roast Turkey with Ham & Walnut Stuffing


Wild Mushroom Filo Parcels


Roasted Potatoes

Glazed Carrots & Parsnips

Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Puree of Potato & Celeriac with Garlic

Courgette Ribbons

Chestnut Truffle Terrine

Old English Port Wine Jelly


“Sausage” Rolls

Sweet & Salty Nuts

Cranberry Studded Mince Pies

But was it a success?  After close to eight hours of cooking I have concluded that yes, it was.  Except for maybe the desert, which didn’t look as sexy as it could have (although it was mighty mighty yummy).  Oh, and the jelly, which was drinkable (d’oh).  But by that time of the evening I didn’t care – and neither did anyone else, possibly an effect of the amount of booze in it.  Both these dishes had fallen victim to the aforementioned banana-skin-of-doom, which had been compounded by cooking at the same time as Santa was doing his annual rounds (both dishes had to be made the night before).  While I had hoped to get home about 2130, in the end I arrived home at 2230.  By 2330 the jelly had been started and I was peeling a kilo of roasted chestnuts in front of the telly.  By 0100 the terrine had been started and by 0200 I had crashed, leaving the rest of it for the next day later that morning. 

However, I am pleased to say that the rest of the menu went extremely well.  The final result was a happy table of Christmas delights and everyone with a satisfyingly full puku.  Despite the experience with the terrine and jelly, I’m rather glad that I took the plunge and tried these new dishes.  I can see a couple of them being made again in the future.  Some photographic evidence of our meal (well, mostly the preparation of it) can be found here on my flickr account.

Christmas 2009

23 12 2009

I grew up in New Zealand – generalised by many I meet overseas as being the land of All Blacks and Hobbits. A rather misguided judgement I feel (although my penchant for going barefoot doesn’t help dispel the latter assumption). As a Kiwi, the Christmas season for me conjures up thoughts of summer holidays: beaches, cricket and long, warm nights. Since arriving in the UK, one of the biggest changes I’ve had to adjust to is that the seasons are back-to-front, at least from what I’m used to. However, in one regard at least, the reality of a wintery Christmas isn’t too foreign: the food. Despite the occasionally sweltering summer temperatures, my Mum would still cook a traditional British Christmas roast every Christmas Eve when I was a youngster – adjusting it where necessary to fit in with Southern Hemisphere seasonality. Now that I’m living in the Northern Hemisphere this tradition is even more welcomed and fits hand-in-glove with the weather & dark, cold nights.

This year, I’ve decided to take over the reins at cooking our family dinner. This will be on Christmas Day (not Christmas Eve, apparently this is how they do it here) and before Dr Who (naturally). Actually, I’m not taking over all of it as Mum will still be cooking the turkey and the pig. But the rest of it (all four courses) is my domain. This isn’t the first Christmas meal I’ve cooked, but it will be the first that I will have cooked for my Mum. As far as I’m concerned she is the mistress of such ceremonies, so I have much to live up to.

As Christmas looms, I’ve realised that this is might be an ambitious task. Not at least because I won’t be arriving at my parents’ (where I’ll be spending Christmas) till 2130 hours on Christmas Eve. I envisage a late night cooking and a very early start on Christmas Day, also cooking. Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to wrap my presents in between all my culinary efforts. But I do feel that it will be worth the effort. I also feel rather lucky that I get to spend Christmas this way: with family, food and a warm house. The only thing that could make it better was if my Kiwi whānau were able to be a part of it. Maybe I’ll send them some mince pies.

Anyway, over the last few days, I’ve been planning how to best attack this task. I reckon I’ve got it sussed. Tune in after Christmas to see if I got it right. Right now I’m also rather glad that in a moment of wondrous foresight I made the mince pies two weeks ago. Six dozen of them. They’re now safely frozen till their appointed hour of stardom (well, except for the ones that were eaten before the rest were frozen…eaten mostly by me). I also made a dozen “sausage” rolls (sans pig) while I was at it, these too are also sitting in the freezer. Two items crossed off the list. Another dozen to go…

However, I can’t write this post without the really important part which is wishing you all a very merry and safe Christmas – however, wherever and with whomever you may be spending it.

Lincolnshire Lancaster Association Day 2009

29 09 2009

Sunday was Lincolnshire Lancaster Association (LLA) day, an annual event for members (and non-members who park up along the fence of the air base) that culminates in a display by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).  As I’ve detailed in a previous post aircraft are cool so it should be of no surprise that 1) I am a member of the LLA and 2) that come Sunday I wandered down to RAF Coningsby with my camera, lunch and fold away chair (indispensable at air shows). 

Prior to the afternoon’s flying, the BBMF were put on display to allow enthusiasts an opportunity to take as many photos as desired.  I’m yet to procure a really decent camera, so my photos aren’t as gorgeous as they could have been, which is a shame as at this stage the sun was actually shinning! 

One by one the flight took off, and after a brief absence for a photo-op over Woodhall Spa, came back for their fly-pasts and displays.  Unfortunately, my good luck with the camera at Waddington earlier in the year deserted me on Sunday.  Nevertheless I did manage one photo that I’m happy to share:

Full Size BBMF Flight

Not much, but something, and better than nothing.  This was the only fly past with the full flight, and despite the missing wing of the Dakota, I’m amazed that my old little camera managed to capture any of it at all!

However, the highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of the Vulcan.  Which I almost missed.  The Vulcan’s appearance had been cancelled out on the programme, and as I had to skedaddle at 1530, I missed any announcement to the contrary.  So it was rather fortuitous that on the way home the Vulcan was spotted out the window and the car stopped in time to see it fly over. 

Finally, this year I decided to make a batch of cupcakes especially for the occasion and in a fit of domestic goddess-ness, settled on an appropriate decoration:

RAF Cupcakes 2

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Pie & Chocolate Cake

2 08 2009

Despite any impressions you may get from the following post, I’m generally not a big chocolate eater, I tend to go for the savoury, salty variety when it comes to foodstuffs that come from a vending machine.  I also generally prefer fruity desserts or just fresh fruit (especially in summer).  However, over the last month I had not one, but two, blocks of dark cooking chocolate at my disposal and a couple of recipes that had interested me enough to warrant making them animal friendly. 

The first was “Mary’s Chocolate, Coffee and Cream Pie” from The Vegetarian Adventure Cook Book.  This cookbook is somewhat of a New Zealand vegetarian bible.  Or maybe it just is for me as it was the first veggie cookbook I remember reading as a youngster – that and it is in every cookery section in every bookshop back home.  The ingredients are something of a fantasy list for a decadent dessert: chocolate, coconut and coffee. 

The base of the pie is chocolate melted with a bit of “butter” and a hugely generous amount of coconut.  This mixture is then smushed together, forming a shell, chilled and then filled with creamy (but not heavy) concoction of chocolate, very strong instant coffee, a little bit of sugar, a mixture of soy milk and cream and agar flakes to get it to set.  The verdict? Very nice!  Not too sweet at all (as I prefer my desserts) and with a real coffee hit.  This one has certainly made the “Definitely Make Again” list.

Mary's Chocolate, Coffee and Cream Pie

Number two was the “Chocolate Cake” from Rachel Allen’s Bake.  I flicked through this book in detail in Waterstones while passing time one day.  My first impressions were that it was a pretty decent collection of recipes, most of which I could modify to my heart’s desire (and probably quite easily) and therefore worthy of purchase – one day.  Well, a well-known Internet retailer recently had it heavily reduced, and somehow it ended up passing from my wish list, to my shopping basket and finally to my front door and into my kitchen! 

I’ll admit that I feel somewhat compelled to like chocolate cake, such is the social perception that women-kind has a kryptonite weakness for chocolate, and especially chocolate in the cake form.  But truth be told I often find chocolate cake to be disappointing and rather anti-climatic.  So if  I am to make it there are certain conditions that must be met: one of those is the use of chocolate and not just cocoa powder in the recipe (why make chocolate cake without chocolate?).  Luckily this recipe does use dark chocolate in the cake batter.  I then subbed the eggs with blended tofu but stuck with the butter ingredient, using an animal friendly option instead.  Often in cakes and similar baked goods I’ll sub in oil for the butter, however this time I didn’t and I’m glad, because the result was extremely pleasing: very much like a Victoria Sponge in texture (though I doubt the WI would have approved of it).  In a fit of domestic goddess-ness I also whipped up the chocolate butter icing and sandwiched the cake together with this and then dusted it with icing sugar.  The final result with very sweet (due to the icing) but still rather nice and not anti-climatic at all. 

Bake's Chocolate Cake