The Co-operative Christmas Event

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So last Friday (27th November) I was late for a blog event like I have never been late before. Driving from Leeds to Manchester was a nightmare, with whole stretches of the M62 gridlocked. I spent most of my journey bashing my head against my steering wheel cursing myself for not taking an afternoon off to drive over. But you know, I actually had a pretty great evening. The Co-op PR team, SEO and other head office staff adapted the even really well (apparently the traffic affected a lot of attendees) so that everything as timed for later in the evening.

I was greeted in the Foyer of the Head Office (which FYI looks like a giant beehive), by friendly Co-op employees bearing Prosecco, which was delicious. Sadly I was drving so I had a thimble full of the (award winning) stuff. I was delighted to find a bottle of it in my goody bag.

Anyway, I was absolutely starving when I arrived so I set about stuffing myself with pate and then my first Christmas dinner of the season. I could happily have eaten more of the turkey in particular. I adored the stuffing. I also really liked the salmon (which for a seasoned salmon hater says a lot, possibly I am growing as a person?)

 

Anyway, this was followed by some pretty nice festive party food. (I wish I had a second stomach sometimes). Anyway there was dim sum, sausages with popping crackling – apparently somebody’s Grandmother had a recipe for this and it was developed for this Christmas and some sausage roll swirl type things. I think sadly the food had been cooked much earlier in the evening but I think it tasted decent considering and it certainly looked pretty.

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What I thought was to finish was dessert (and dessert wine) and a panel with more seasoned bloggers answering questions based on their experience. I actually find the panel really interesting and informative, as was talking to other bloggers. I think its always worthwhile discussing experiences within the blogging community, there’s always something you haven’t considered and I always find you meet such lovely and interesting characters. It also made me feel better knowing that within this network of interesting and articulate people (mostly writing parenting bloggers) that people do get tired and sometimes a hiatus is needed so you feel refreshed and ready to write new content.

If you are a regular reader you know I have a sweet tooth and it was certainly true last Friday. What I really liked most though was the dessert wine. It wasn’t as cloying or syrupy as I expect dessert wine to be. It was light and citrussy and I would imagine it would work wonderfully with mince pies or Christmas pudding.

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To finish there was wonderful cheeseboards and some demonstrations. I entirely regret not being able to eat very much cheese at all, but in my defence I was full for most of the following day.

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Sadly all good things must come to an end and I was soon back home with D and we opened the loveliest goody bag. We have way less to stock up for at Christmas now. Thank you!

I would like to give a massive thank you once again for the generosity of everyone at the Co-operative. Most especially I think I will be stocking up on Christmas wine with you! It really was a shame I couldn’t try much at all. In addition I would like to say thank you to my fellow bloggers.Its been a while since I attended anything on my own and you all made me feel so welcome, gave me tips and made me appreciate the community spirit there is online.

Slow cooked lamb braised in white wine

This recipe is based on Jarret d’agneau a French braised lamb recipe. I couldn’t actually claim absolute authenticity as I don’t know the exact recipe.

I absolutely adore slow cooked lamb shanks. The lamb comes out so tender it’s almost butter soft. The meat just falls off the bone. This recipe using white wine tastes wonderful and is the perfect comfort food as the weather gets colder and more miserable. The garlic tomato topping is pretty damn good too. I made this recipe for my family and we were all practically licking our plates.

To make this recipe you will need:

3 large lamb shanks

Plain flour

2 onions

3 cloves of garlic

30g butter

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large carrot

250ml white wine (approx 1 glass)

200ml chicken stock (approx)

The zest and juice of 1 orange

A good splash of olive oil

3 large vine tomatoes

Salt and pepper

1 sprig of rosemary

Serves 4 hungry people

 

Preheat your slow cooker. Peel and chop your onion and carrot. Dust your lamb shanks in the flour.

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Heat the butter and oil in a pan and brown the lamb on each side. If your lamb won’t all fit in the pan cook in batches. Remove the lamb from the pan and put in the slow cooker.

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Remove all but approx 1 tbsp of the oil from the pan. Add the onion and carrot and 2 cloves of the garlic (crushed) and fry on a gentle heat until soft.

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Add the wine and simmer to reduce the volume of the wine by half.

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Season with the salt and pepper. Add the orange zest and juice. Add this all to the slow cooker.

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Top the lamb/vegetable mixture with the chicken stock. Cover and cook on a low heat for 6-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).

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Just before serving crush your rosemary, your remaining garlic and 1tsp olive oil. Finely chop your tomatoes.

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Add this mixture to your tomatoes and drizzle over a bit more oil.

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Remove your lamb from the slow cooker to a serving dish.

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Top with the tomato mixture and serve with some form of potato and vegetables.

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I adore casseroles and stews in Autumn!

Sweet potato, spinach and goats cheese risotto

It would seem its sometimes worthwhile looking through your blog drafts. I found this recipe I made in January! I was having various phone issues and couldn’t get my pictures shared properly (I am loving Dropbox now). This recipe is pretty hearty and filling and it is a great one if you’ve been exercising all day. Or you just like lying on the sofa having dreams based around excessive carbohydrate consumption. As you can probably guess from what I blog about I am a little bit “meh” about eating lots of carb based meals but it’s nice once in a while.

Sweet potato risotto isĀ  to all intents and purposes a more healthy way of having a carb fest than most foods. Its filling, delicious and comfortingly stodgy on a cold day. As an added bonus (as I found out when totting up the calories on my fitness pal) it’s not spectacularly calorific. I would definitely say this is one for when you have that friend coming over who has an insatiable appetite (we all have at least one!)

This recipe also has the bonus of having all ingredients easy to find in your local supermarket, you don’t need much cheese and you could easily substitute the cheese for different types of cheese; or bacon, ham or lardons.

For this recipe you will need:

200g risotto rice

A large sweet potato (or 2 smaller ones) peeled and chopped into approx 1cm pieces

About 50g soft goats cheese (or light Philadelphia)

2 shallots/1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic

Mixed herbs

A glass of white wine (you can substitute this with tart fruit juice)

A bag of fresh spinach or about 5 briquettes of frozen spinach

A small amount or butter or olive oil

A chicken stock cube and hot water

Salt and pepper

Henderson’s relish or Worcester sauce (optional)

(Makes 4 medium portions or 3 larger portions)

Heat the butter or oil in a large non stick pan. Add the onion and crushed garlic and heat gently until soft.

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Add the sweet potato and fry until the sweet potato is golden brown in parts.

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I tried eating raw sweet potato once to make J laugh…it tasted of starchy carrot

Add the rice and fry for 30 seconds then add the white wine, water, mixed herbs and the stock cube. Turn the heat down and stir gently until the stock cube has dissolved.

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Leave the risotto cook and the rice to absorb the liquid. Stir it occasionally and add more water if the mixture starts looking dry.

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I have noticed that when bored and waiting to cook I get very impatient and tend to nibble on partially cooked rice. Not the world’s best idea.

Once the rice looks cooked stir in the goats cheese and spinach and heat until the spinach is wilted and the goats cheese has melted into the rice.

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Green and groovy

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Now my parents tend to drink risotto with water as it’s a dish that can make you thirsty, I just enjoy it with a cold drink really. When serving less it’s definitely more, as this is very filling!

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As a side note this can stored and reheated the following day. Just make sure the rice is piping hot before eating as lukewarm rice can give you an upset stomach. Don’t keep it any longer than 24 hours (unless you want to keep it in the freezer).

Menorcan Cuisine

So I think I planned this post months ago after J and my holiday to Menorca. As well as being a completely beautiful place to visit I was surprised about the high quality of the food, especially seafood. I really shouldn’t have been; given that Menorca is pretty famous for its lobster stew. While we did consume a LOT of Spanish style dishes we were also lucky enough to sample some genuine Menorcan food purely by chance – typically you have to go off the beaten track to find it.

In addition, we also went on a trip round some of the famous places in Menorca and got to sample local wine, cheese and macaroons. (I’m glad I wore shorts with an elasticated waist that day!)

My advice is, even on a package holiday (we stayed in an apartment) as around for recommendations of places to eat and don’t be afraid to try local food even if its not what you’re used to. You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you’ve tried it.