Food Styling: Own your okay & Merry, Merry Christmas !

Merry Christmas !

January, February, March, blink. C H R I S T M A S

Christmas.

Chhhhhhrrrrrriiiisssssstttttmmmmmaaaaassss.

Already. And I’m not ready.

I used to plan my Christmas entertaining, pressies etc weeks, months in advance.

I’m probably one of the few people who get excited when the shops start stocking Christmas stuff in October and play Christmas carols ( I LOVE CHRISTMAS CAROLS) on rotation for weeks on end.

When I worked in editorial we photographed Christmas in August to fit in with the publishing timeline for magazines. I would start planning my Christmas decor in January as there would not be Christmas decor available in the middle of the year. So as one Christmas finished I would be planning the next. Quite literally. I would test recipes, buy props ( usually on sale) and jot down ideas for Christmas. And it worked really, really well. In August I would do my magazine shoots and it was the prefect trial run for my own entertaining later in the year.

The last couple of years have not been like this for me. Especially this year! Come November and I’m feeling stress and panic. 
I feel overwhelmed by expectation and obligation.I even feel a resentful & robbed of the joy I usually feel at this time of year. I need to re-look this.
So here’s my 3 tips for surviving the “ silly season”
Use it dont use it ,
Make the recipes, Dont make the recipes.
Its your Christmas, do what works for you

  1. Perfection is the enemy of good.Plan. Write your to do lists, if that’s what you need to do. If you don’t do all of it, if you don’t do any of it, thats ok!Tear up the list, throw it in the bin, and do what you can, enjoy what you do, and don’t let perfection be the reason you don’t appreciate the good, or good enough.Own your OK, okay?
  2. Keep it simple.Seriously, NO Turducken ( a bird, inside a bird, inside a bird, its just waaaay too much meat, and  it’s just wrong in my opinion)
Seriously, even if you like that much poultry, leave the bird deboning and the pressure and angst for another time. A simple roast chicken might just be perfect.Instead of 17 different recipes, …. and a million gifts …. maybe focus on only one thing. Make your own mince pies, make the pastry, make fruit mince. and give your self a big pat on the back.
  3. Reframe your thinking ( maybe this point is only for me)It’s not the silly season, its not the year end whirl wind, its not a overloaded freight train of To Dos. Its a joyful, blessed and incredibly special time of year. 
Its a celebration, its connection, its Christ-mas. 
The reason I celebrate, the reason I rejoice, and the reason for the season. The birth of our Savour. That’s all the perfection and simplicity I need right there.It is the most wonderful time of the year !

If making your own mince pies is on your Christmas to do list, here are a few absolutely delicious recipes.No pressure, and no judgement if you simply buy shop bought .  ( You buy shop bought, gasp!, * just kidding* )If you feel like only making them in January, that’s okay, and if you don’t make them until next year, thats okay too! And if you don’t even like mince pies, that cool too, thanks for stopping by ( what do you mean you don’t like mince pies, ?)

If you only can do half of it, I recommend making your own pastry and using bought filling . There is no comparison of made pastry to commercially produced short crust pastry.You can pimp your shop bought fruit mince, stir a little orange & lemon zest into the jar and add a splash of booze, sherry , port or brandy if that’s your thing, and it will be pretty good 🙂

Blessed Christmas everyone.xxx

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Gluten Free Mince Pies with Almond & Sweet Dukka Crumble:
1 quantity Gluten Short Crust Pastry1/2 quantity Homemade Fruit Mince2 tablespoons honey or smooth apricot jam, warmed  ( optional)For The Almond & Sweet Dukka Crumble2 tablespoons brown sugar1/2 cup flaked almonds1/4 cup sesame seeds1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spiceMake the gluten free pastry according to instructions on the packet, roll out and cut pastry with a cutter, line baking tins with pastry and refridgerate while you make the dukkaTo make the dukka, combine all the ingredients in a screw top jar and shake to combine. ( Extra dukka can be stored in the sealed jar for 3 months )Preheat the oven to 200oCFill the pastry cases with the fruit mince and sprinkle over the dukka.Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.Remove the mince pies from the oven and brush with warmed honey ot apricot jamServe with thick cream. yummy!DSC_6369

Homemade Mincemeat with Apple & Cranberry2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled and grated1 1/2 cups Cranberry Juice1 cup (85 grams) dried apples, chopped1 ½ cups ( 330g) mixed rains, sultanas and currants3/4 cup (105 grams) dried cranberries1 cup (200g) mixed candied peel1/2 cup (105 grams) dark brown ( treacle) sugar1 cup (250 ml) ruby port4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butterZest and juice of 1 large orange1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg1/2 teaspoon ground cloves1/4 teaspoon saltPlace all the ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the mincemeat, stirring often, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the liquid is almost evaporated.Transfer the mincemeat to a large bowl and let it cool completely before using, or spoon hot mixture into clean strilised galss jars, seal and store to give as gifts

The cooled mixture keeps well in the fridge in a sealed container, if storing for longer than a week, stir in a little rum or brandy (about 1/4 cup (60 ml)) every week.Makes about 4 cups of Mincemeat.

 

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Mince Pies with Coconut Macaroon Topping 1 quantity Gluten free or Short Crust Pastry1/2 quantity Homemade Fruit Mince

For The Coconut Macaroon Topping2 egg whitespinch of salt1/4 cup castor sugar1/4 cup desiccated coconut1/2 cup ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 200oC

Roll out and cut pastry with a cutter, line baking tins with pastry and refridgerate while you make the topping.To make the topping, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry, whisk in the castor sugar, and fold in the almonds and coconutFill the pastry cases with the fruit mince and spoon over the topping.Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream,  or !  just eat them straight out the tin 🙂

DSC_6366Very Short Sweet Short Crust Pastry ( Pate Brisee is the fancy name )

The shortness of the pastry refers to the amount of fat in the mixture, which gives a lovely crumbly texture. I like my pastry very short. It is a little more difficult to work with but its worth the trouble to have a delicious pastry.

Make on a cool day if possible and roll out on a marble or granite surface

130g butter, lard or suet ( I use 1/2 butter 1/2 veggie suet), cold and cut into cubes250g plain flour1 tablespoon icing sugar1 tablespoon castor sugar1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt1 – 2 tablespoons ice cold water , if necessary

In a bowl or food processor, place the flour and sugars, and the butter, suet or lard.Pulse the butter into the flour until it is crumbly and looks like breadcrumbs. You can do this by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour.Slowly add the beaten egg, and a few drops of water until the pastry is only just beginning to come together and binds when pressed between your fingersTip the pastry out onto a lightly floured worktop and gently knead it together.Do not over work the pastry, as it will become tough.Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Use as per recipe. Do not bake blind on small tarts such as mince pies

Makes enough for 1 large pastry case, or approx 24 mince pies ( i think!)

 

 

Thank you Vanessa Lewis for the beautiful pics.