Tag Archives: christmas

Drink: Amaretto Hot Chocolate

amaretto hot chocolate

Despite the unseasonably warm weather and a distinct lack of festive knitwear, the last few weeks have been all about getting into the festive spirit. From homemade Christmas decorations to festive baking, with a generous amount of seasonal celebrations and family gatherings thrown in. It’s been an incredibly busy few weeks.

So it was a surprise to find the final weekend before Christmas has bought with it some welcome down time. Rather than the last minute present wrapping, card writing and Secret Santa shopping that usually precedes Christmas day, this weekend’s change in pace has allowed time for wholesome activities such as wreath making and mince pie baking, and of course the opportunity for an extremely overdue blog post!

gingerbread mince pies

wreath making

I’m enjoying the calm. My job is changing/evolving in the new year so this Christmas feels different, full of new opportunities and possibilities, i’m excited to see what the new year will bring.

This recipe has become something of a tradition over the past few years, somehow it’s not really Christmas until the first Amaretto hot Chocolate of the season has been sampled! This one is definitely for the chocolate connoisseur as it’s intensely chocolatey and the amaretto adds just a little sweetness. I recommend using the best chocolate you can find, with at least 70% cocoa solids for a seriously bitter sweet drinking experience.

This is my idea of the perfect hot chocolate, Amaretto being one of my favourite liqueurs, but if it isn’t for you feel free to experiment with the flavours here. For a vegan option why not try Almond milk instead of milk and cream, for a no alcohol version try adding a cardamom pod when heating the milk and whisk in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup for sweetness.

The recipe makes two mugs of hot chocolate.

finely chop chocolate

You will need:

  • 400ml milk
  • 50ml cream
  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons Amaretto

Warm the milk and cream together in a saucepan until almost boiling. Whilst this is heating up, finely chop/grate the chocolate. Once the milk and cream mix starts to simmer remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted and well combined, by whisking you should get a lovely light, frothy mixture. Finally stir through the amaretto. Pour into mugs and serve with toppings of your choice, I opted for cocoa nibs, meringues and just a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Marshmallows and whipped cream are always a winning combination too!

hot chocolate for two

grown up hot chocolate

Wishing all our Make, Do and Spend friends a very merry Christmas, and a happy 2016!

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Make: Elderberry Vodka

foraging for elderberries

Autumn, my favorite time of year. Not least because it brings with it an abundance of fresh produce ripe for picking. On my daily commute to work I’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of elderberries. The way nature transforms through the seasons never ceases to amaze me, the soft lacey white flowers that lined our hedgerows just a few months ago have given way to deep burgundy stalks, their heads hang heavy with berries.

So, I am happy to announce that they are now officially ready.

Last weekend, C and I took a little Sunday afternoon walk. Armed with scissors and a box to collect our loot in, we had our first foraging adventure of the season. Elderberries aren’t commercially grown so the only way to get hold of them is to get out there and explore the English hedgerows

hedgerows lined with Elder

We collected around 15 heads of elder, which is the amount needed to make the below recipe. Usual foraging rules apply, always pick above waist height and leave a few heads for the birds who will also be needing these berries over the coming months.

collecting elderberries

To Make Elderberry Syrup you will need:

  • 1 litre of vodka
  • 500g elderberries, stalks removed
  • 200g sugar
  • The zest of a lemon
  • 2 x clean, sterilised 1 litre capacity bottles to store the booze in

The fastest way to separate the berries from their stems is to gently pull them away from the stalks with the back of a fork. It can get messy and elderberry is a natural dye so can stain. I recommend taking this task outside if possible.

Once ready, discard the stalks and split the berries between the two bottles.

Next divide the lemon zest and sugar between the two bottles, I used elderflower sugar made earlier in the year as I like to layer up the flavours. Vanilla sugar would work well too, if you have it to hand.

Finally, add half a litre of vodka to each bottle and, lid on, give both bottles a good shake to get the flavours going.

removing the berries from the stalks

Store the bottles in a cool dark place so the booze can infuse. shake the bottles regularly, about once a week, to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. I find it’s always worth having a cheeky taste once in a while too, just to check progress.

The booze takes around 3 months to infuse, so if made now it will be ready just in time for Christmas.

elderberry vodka

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Watch: Mr Christmas

IMG_9680

As ever, things are pretty hectic in the lead up to Christmas – but I’m still getting excited and feeling festive!

For the first year ever I have a real tree in my house – I’ve called him Ted the tiny tree (not an odd thing to do at all…)

Ted is decorated with a selection of ribbons, handmade paper stars, old baubles donated by my parents, and a few new decorations (including Father Christmas in a helicopter!)

My paper chains are still waiting patiently to be hung, but the thing I’m really missing is lights – something that has come to my attention after watching the lovely short film ‘Mr Christmas’

The trailer is below, but you can see the full 13 minutes here

I love the preparation that goes into putting up his lights – it takes three months to put them up!

I also love how precise he is with the timings and how complex the whole system is

But I especially love the fact he mainly does it for the enjoyment of everybody else!

How have you decorated your house this year? Do you go for the jazzy lights?

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My 2012 E

Some of my favourite moments from 2012

January Morocco

cactus in morocco

February Hambleton Hall

narcissus

March  grow

kale

April

blossom

Ranunculus

May comfort food

comfort food

June Jubilee Celebrations

CNV00034

Holkham Beach

Holkham beach

July Road trip

Ambleside

August rowing in stratford

Visiting Stratford

Meeting Jen and Kerry

afternoon tea at the White Rabbit

September foraging, jam making and baking

Rhubarb Raspberry and Ginger jam

October infusing and bottling

Chilli, Garlic and Herb olive oil

pumpkin selection

 

November Clandestine baking

Raspberry Sherbet Bundt cake

Christmas puddings

clementines

December 

Christmas Tree

Homemade Christmas hampers

kitchen aid

 

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Visit: Lincoln Christmas Market

lincoln cathedralLincoln Cathedralfestive lightsmistletoemoroccan lanternspenguinsfairground gamesfairgroundroasted chestnuts festive lightsthe long walk home

For the last few years my friend S and I take a trip to Lincoln Christmas Market. A town steeped in history Lincoln is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year, but its particularly magical around Christmas time with the smell of roasted chestnuts and delicately spiced mulled wine drifting through the cobbled streets. The hill is incredibly steep,  but fortunately there are plenty of vintage shops along the way so we could rest our tired feet and break up our climb. At the top of the hill we browsed the many market stalls and both picked up a Christmas present or two. We ate wild boar hotdogs and wandered through the fairground. The Cathedral is an impressive sight to behold at any time but it was truly beautiful lit up in the twilight as we made our way back down the hill. A wonderful day with great company, it really does feel like Christmas after a visit to Lincoln Christmas Market.

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