It’s never too early to start christmas cake

soaking fruits for christmas cake
If I had my way I’d probably start soaking my fruit in January so that everything is extra fermented and tasty. I did once leave fruits soaking for about 10 months but that was more through neglect than anything else. I’ve already talked about my dislike of things such as mixed peel in anything festive and I’ll also add that a christmas cake full of nothing but currants, raisins and sultanas is disappointment pure and simple. A mix of raisins, apricots and prunes is what I use even though the chopping (or scissoring) of the apricots and prunes is more time consuming. I like to stand meditatively and cut them one by one in a Zen-like trance. Afterwards they get soaked in a random selection of alcoholic dregs and, if I remember some orange and lemon zest. Mmmmmm, it’s beginning to smell a lot like christmas.

(Talking of christmas I am half thinking about bringing back Vegan HoHo again. We’ll see.)

Two more sleeps

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[that's me running away with a smug/delighted look on my face not  the child begging at his feet]

Two more sleeps to go  until a strange man breaks into your house and this year will be the most relaxed christmas day yet. I say that not in hope but because it is reality! For the first time ever there is no last minute panic buying of gifts (usually on christmas eve). The food has all been bought and Tomorrow we will prep most of it so that on Sunday minimum effort will be required to put dinner on. There will be no mad rushing about or hours spent slaving over a hot stove. Root vegetables will be chopped and tossed in oil (maybe some fresh herbs and garlic cloves in there too) and left in the fridge overnight, Sauces and gravy will be made in advance and then gently reheated and the something en croute will be sitting in the fridge ready to be launched into the oven. The pudding is already sitting happily waiting to be steamed again and I won't even think about putting it on until the main course is served.

Other than eating slightly more christmas pudding that perhaps necessary there won't be over consumption in this house. We don't go in for the whole over eating from christmas to new year followed by self loathing and denial (dieting, urgh!). Instead of gorging on selection boxes until being sick we're looking forward to a leisurely morning (cups of tea in bed of course), a brisk walk, some unrushed present unwrapping, christmas tunes (mowtown and Sufjan Stevens)  and good food. We'll be taking time to enjoy baby's first christmas.

I hope everyone is ready for christmas and that some/one/any of our festive posts have been useful. All of us at Modern Housewife wish you all a relaxing, fun, peaceful and delicious christmas and we hope to see you all in the new year. 

Julafton

I'm back in bonnie Scotland again to celebrate Christmas with my family. I've never stayed in Sweden over Christmas so I have never experienced an authentic julbord (Christmas smörgåsbord/buffet). I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much though. Much of the meal is made up of dead animals – pickled herring, little sausages, meatballs and ham. This year I tried to make a vegan, Swedish, Christmas meal for Jonathan before I left for Scotland and he headed south to Malmö. 

Julafton

Going clockwise from the pinkish blob, we had beetroot salad (pickled beetroots mixed with a boiled potato, apple and mayonnaise), meatballs, vörtbröd, the confusingly named brunkål (brown cabbage which is just white cabbage cooked with a little syrup), baked tofu coated in mustard and breadcrumbs and Janssons frestelse (Jansson's temptation). Jansson's temptation is a potato gratin which traditionally is full of sprats and cream but we had capers and oat cream instead. Dessert was a creamy rice pudding (risgrynsgröt). 

Despite the distinct lack of bright, fresh vegetables, it was all quite good and very filling. Jonathan claims there are never lots of vegetables. My book has about 10 different recipes just for cabbage but not a huge variety of other veggies. We had planned to make pickled aubergine to replace the pickled herring but we didn't find any nice aubergines to pickle. Maybe next year. 

ready for Christmas / embracing madness

Mince pie in the making
Mince pies did get made 🙂

Despite my earlier outreach, ‘do what you want and only what you want‘ festive post there has been some mad running around, buying and spending for certain relatives… Others have popped by unannounced when, unfortunately, I had some avocado smeared on my face (it’s a great moisturising facepack) and had forgotten about it. Passing a mirror after they had gone, I spied a blob of green in an eyebrow. It is my belief that they rather enjoy thinking I’m mad so, you know, just spreading the joy 😀

However, there has also been a lovely visit to the cinema and health food shops, huge delivery of firewood and the following pictorial festive activities:

Cake, pies and chocolate

The Christmas cake was winged recipe-less and is incredibly crumbly but delicious, Charlotte made gorgeous mince pies and that’s Cat’s white hot chocolate which is lush.

Cat

Diving under the Christmas tree has gone on…

Tree dive

There was an early morning walk through the frost to release a mouse from a live capture trap… with an entourage of cats and dogs (see poorly lit photo below)…

*Joyfully embraces perceived insanity*

Frosty

To Do list: dance around to cheesy Christmas tunes; wear my Santa hat; cook Christmas dinner; make a chocolate log cake, maybe a trifle too; watch rubbishy Christmas films; wear tinsel in my hair; hug and kiss the people I love and generally behave with the lack of decorum now expected of me 🙂

 

MistletoeSparkly Yuletide Wishes to You too! Santahat

white hot chocolate

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It's got to that pre-christmas time where it's time for me to sit back,  check over my lists and enjoy the roaring fire. I need to have a day or two of calmness so that a) I can make sure I'm organised and haven't forgotten anything important and b) I want to just enjoy the decorations and the beauty of the season. It's too easy to be so involved in creating the perfect christmas that you don't get to enjoy it yourself. That won't be happening here.

All I have done is make hot chocolate. Heat your milk of choice (mine is soya) and then take off heat and empty in a packet (or 2) of dairy free White chocolate buttons. Whisk until melted then drink. Hardly a recipe. I topped mine with cocoa powder and nutmeg and drank it while writing the other Christmas cards. Everyone has other christmas cards right? After sending out my cards I relax with the sense of a job well done until, over the next few days, I suddenly remember the other 40 people I forgot about as they aren't in my address book. So that's what I've been up to well that and updating my address book!

Off to put my feet up

Dajm

Christmas is a time for toffee in Sweden. Stora Julboken (The Big Christmas book) has quite a few recipes for it, including one for Gudrun's Dajm. I loved Daim bars but haven't had anything like it since I became vegan. All the ingredients for Gudrun's dajm were measured in spoonfuls so it didn't seem too risky. It was easy and made the equivalent of one large Daim bar.

Gudrun's daim

It didn't taste too Daim-y though so I tried another recipe which seemed more authentic (it had almonds in it) and that was delicious. I have been nibbling away at it and I've not even coated it in chocolate yet. Melting the sugar took forever as the heat was too low. I miss being able to see flames, it's much harder to gauge how hot an electric cooker is. Other than that, it was pretty straight forward. Just make sure you grease up the baking parchment! I forgot to so now I have papery daim bars.

Dajm – from Julmaten.se

  • 1.5 dl (135g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 50 g slivered/chopped almonds
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 100g chocolate
  1. Melt the sugar to a light caramel in a heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Stir in the syrup, cocoa and almonds then stir in the margarine.
  3. Spread out on well greased baking parchment and allow to harden for 30 seconds then score into pieces.
  4. Allow to cool then snap along the score lines.
  5. Melt the chocolate then dip in the top of each piece of daim and place back on the parchment and allow to cool completely.

nutty trees and seedy balls

Holly shaped tree deccie
We’re making chocolate tree decorations!

You will need: chocolate; things to mix into chocolate, I used chopped walnuts in the trees and sunflower and linseeds in the baubles and holly, dried fruit would also be nice; chocolate moulds; coloured foil; pan and bowl for bain marie; sticky tape and thread or ribbon for hanging 🙂

Set up your bain marie (bowl over pan of hot water for gentle melting of chocolate) and melt chocolate, then stir in your added ingredients.

Stirring
Stirring in the seeds…

Holly
Spoon into moulds, I added some white chocolate buttons to the seedy ones which worked very deliciously (they didn’t all make it to the tree). Allow to cool and set, fastest in the fridge, and then persuade out of moulds.

Trees
Nutty trees all in a ring…

Tree innards
Inside of nutty tree, these are definitley the winners. The seedy ones are chewier.

Now comes the part where you get to feel like a ham fisted Generation Game contestant! Wrap them in foil as neatly as possible 🙂

Foiled

Tape your threads/ribbons on:

Taped

Hang on tree, give away or scoff instantly 🙂 Enjoy festive comments such as, “can’t we just eat them all right now?” and “please don’t call them seedy balls”…

Seedy ball

More homemade festive sweet ideas here

Please note that Cat has now added some extra tips to her gorgeous Garlic Lemon Seitan Roast below 🙂

Garlic-lemon seitan roast with stuffing

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If you prefer a 'meaty' style roast then this is a good option. If you haven't used wheat gluten before my only recommendation when working with it is to make sure any liquid you add into it is cold. Warm or hot water creates a horrible stringy mess.

It might initially look time consuming but most of the time it's cooking, you're not standing over it.

Stuffing
You don't have to make one from scratch but if you have an old family favourite then use it here. I made a simple oatmeal stuffing by sautéing half a large onion (finely chopped) in a decent amount of oil before adding in oatmeal, salt and pepper. ( there is a better recipe here) set aside.

Dry ingredients
300g wheat gluten (bought online here)
30g nutritional yeast (optional but in the UK it can be bought here)
1 heaped teaspoon paprika

Wet ingredients
2 to 4 finely chopped cloves of garlic
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
Either 375ml cold veg stock or I used a mixture of white wine, veg stock and soya milk. (I use marigold vegan low salt bouillon and suggest 2 tsp of this. Dissolve in tiny amount boiling water and then top up with cold)

Broth mix
Lots mores vegetable stock (and I threw in some lemon slices, a chopped onion and a handful of peeled garlic cloves.

Preheat oven to 160C.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a jug. Add wet to dry until you have a very springy dough. On the work surface spread out the dough until it is a flattish rectangle. This will be quite difficult and may take a few minutes. Place it on Some cheesecloth or muslin.

Put your stuffing into the centre of your dough and roll up the sides so the stuffing is enclosed. Pull the cheesecloth up over it and wrap it into tightish parcel. Place this in a casserole dish, pour in your broth mix until it is at least half way up the sides. Now bake! Mine went in for 2 hours and the cheesecloth parcel all puffed up. (If you don't want to stuff it then forget the cheesecloth and just put the dough straight into the broth in your stockpot. Turn it halfway through cooking.) Once unwrapped it will look like this:

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You could eat it like that but so much better to rub it with oil and roast it in with your vegetables until crispy! When sliced the stuffing is all through the middle. Its a good replacement if you are missing the turkey and stuffing.

[Edit: I should have mentioned a number of extra things but didn't.
1) while you don't add hot or warm water to the dough you can for the stock it sits in. This will speed up cooking time in the oven.

2) you can get it up to a simmer on the job and then put it in the oven (another way to speed it all up) DON'T allow it to boil or the texture becomes spongy. Gentle and slow is the key here as it produces something denser.

3) I wasn't clear above but if you want it slightly crispy don't roast it in the oven for the entire time it takes roast potatoes to cook others it will become tough. Keep it warm in it's liquid and then brush with oil and give it just 15 to 20 minutes.

4) to really keep the dense texture then after the first hour (starting with hot stock) unwrap it and put it back in the stockpot with the stock only half covering it. Leave the lid off this time and bake for another hour basting it with the stock half way through. This way it will be dense but also have crispy bits on top. This is my favourite way.]

Some other things:

We have now eaten 2 whole Christmas cakes. They were just too good.

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My brother was roped into festivities and mincemeat pies were made. We tried the two styles of mincemeat ( traditional suet and the fat free one) and for the first time in my life the fat free won the taste test! Much fresher, fruitier and flavourful. We have gone through 24 pies now and I'm afraid to make another batch. I even had one for breakfast this morning. (The winning mincemeat recipe is online here)

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Lussekatter

Next Tuesday, December 13th, is Lucia. It's a pretty popular celebration here in Sweden. They celebrate with ceremonies featuring a young girl wearing a wreath of candles around her head. Nowadays they are electric candles as real candles caused too many Lucias to faint. The celebratory food is the lussekatt, a sweet, saffron bun. Despite being called cats, they look nothing like them. These scrolled buns are often called Lussekatter but according to my Swedish Christmas book (Stora Julboken) they should really be called julgaltar which seems to mean Christmas boar. The buns don't look any more like boars to my eyes though.

Lussekatter

I used this recipe from Vegan Deli which Google Translate does a pretty good job of translating but don't use cups! That should be deciliters as in 100ml so they won't work if you use 5 cups of soya milk. Use 500 ml soya milk and about 180g sugar. I think I used about 4 or 5 cups of plain flour and 1 cup of wholewheat spelt flour, plus a few extra sprinkles to make the dough nice and smooth. 50g fresh yeast can be replaced with one packet of dry yeast. 1.5 g of saffron is about a tablespoon. At least, that's what I used as I had a jar of saffron, not a 0.5g sachet of ground saffron like they sell here. It's really hard to weigh out 1.5 g with inaccurate scales. 1 tablespoon made the dough bright yellow and the saffron flavour was quite pronounced, as it should be.

The buns turned out wonderfully soft and fluffy. Must be all the practise I'm getting from baking bread as I tried to make lussekatter a couple of years ago and they were rather hard and dry.  I grated marzipan into half of the dough so those ones are extra sweet and delicious but I still appreciate the subtler sweetness of the plain lussekatter. 

it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Snowy grass
Yes, there's been snow, only a small amount, but you're coming on a snowy walk with me 🙂

Pine branch
aww, that's a little bit festive isn't it? Admittedly it's about all that is round here so far. We have watched two versions of A Christmas Carol though, festive film season is upon us! The animated Jim Carrey one we saw in 3D at the cinema and it tranfers very well to the small screen at home… the artwork of snowy Dickensian London is wonderful.

I adore the ultra expressiveness of Alastair Sim's 1951 Scrooge. He is so infectiously happy at the end. And the way his nephew is hugely delighted when his curmudgeonly old relative turns up unexpectedly for Christmas dinner? Hmm… I'd be more likely to lie down on the floor and pretend to be out… the spirits may be visiting me soon…

Ebenezer was invited though… my Scroogley tendendies spring from years of working and educating at home. Sometimes people who would probably never dream of walking unannounced into someones school or office assume we are just sitting here with nothing better to do than make cups of tea for them. Bah! Humbug! Bring it on spirits! *shakes fist ill naturedly*

Back to the walk… *tranquility reigns again*

Tree
Me and this tree have a thing going on. It's a bit special in a hippy tree hugging sort of way.

Steep hill
That hill is a lot steeper than it looks, but the dog and I climbed it to bring you two things:

Mormond hill
The tip of slightly snowy Mormond hill on the horizon…

Spot the sea
And the sea. Yes, it is there, in the very middle of the picture. That white line is actually stormy waves crashing onto golden sands. The other white expanse is a ploughed field, the only field capable of properly displaying this amount of snow.

Then we are homeward bound:

Snowy track
Note moon above clouds there…

We return to warm fire, hot chocolate and festive mood… who knows, by next week I may have put up the tree, roasted chestnuts, played carols on the piano and baked mince pies! *pigs fly across the moon*