Merry Christmas



D and I are off France to spend the next week snowboarding the Alps.  Well, he will be.  This being my first snowsports holiday, I’ll probably be spending the week on my backside.  Or in the bar.  😉

 Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

See you next year. 






My brother was outraged the other day when one of Rosie’s random admirers asked him:

“Do you dye her hair?”

I’m not sure who was more insulted: my brother (“Of course, I don’t colour my dog’s hair!”) or Rosie (“Of course, I’m a real blonde!  Pah!”).  

One can hardly blame the admirer for asking – check out that mop!


Whilst we’re on a doggy note, check out this post on Use Real Butter

And you thought I was dog mad? 

Pre-Christmas Christmas Dinner

D and I are heading off to France next Sunday to spend a week ski-ing the Alps and eating pain au chocolat.  As we won’t be spending the holidays with our families I decided to hold a pre-Christmas Christmas dinner to satisfy all of our festive food cravings.

This is the third Christmas dinner that I have cooked and I had the meal planned with miltary precision (see below word-processed schedule for proof!).  It was still a hectic afternoon though.  Not much time for taking photos, as you can imagine, but I would like to share a few of those that were snapped. 

I followed Nigella’s Super Spiced Turkey recipe which involves soaking the bird overnight in a brine flavoured with orange, star anise, maple syrup, ginger and much more.  Last year it worked beautifully, this year I over-cooked the meat and it was disappointingly dry. 

The turkey disappointment was softened by how well everything else worked out.  The veg I blogged about last week went down a treat.  Just as well – the amount of chopping and peeling involved was phenomenal!

D took care of dessert.  Everyone loves his banoffee pie.  🙂

Hours to prepare, minutes to devour.

Not everyone was happy.  Rosie was seriously miffed when she realised there was no space set for her at the table.

The surprise hit of the day was the vegetarian chestnut stuffing as it was unanimously preferred to the meaty sage and onion type.  I should add, I don’t actually stuff anything with the stuffing.  Prefer to cook it seperately in little bitesized balls.   🙂

Vegetarian Chestnut Stuffing (Adapted from Tasmin Day Lewis’s Simply The Best)

Olive oil

1 large onion

4 sticks of celery

125g walnuts

2 cooking apples

400g tin of chestnut puree

500g wholewheat breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten (you may need one more if mixture is not sticking together)

Handful of thyme leaves


450g chestnuts (fresh or vacum packed)

  • Finely chop the onion, celery, walnuts and apple.  Fry gently in the olive oil until softened.
  • Tip into a bowl and and add all other ingredients except the chestnuts.  Combine well.
  • Add the chopped chestnuts and combine gently.
  • Roll the mixture into golf-ball sized balls and place on a baking tray. 
  • Bake at 180oC for 30 minutes.

Cranberry Royale

Remind me sometime to tell you about the hogmany (New Year’s Eve) that I spent in Paris.  It was an amazing night spent partly on a roof top balcony in Montemarte and partly on the steps of the Paris Opera House.  I’d tell you about it tonight but I’m busy preparing food for a family get-together this weekend.  What I can tell you is that we started the night drinking kir royal (a mix of Crème de Cassis and sparkling white wine) in a tiny family run restaurant and ever since I’ve had a real soft spot for the cocktail. 

Tragedy struck the other evening when I finished my bottle of Crème de Cassis whilst marking Higher papers (thanks for the tip, Christina – it really did make the marking less painful!).  With Christmas presents and a ski trip to pay for, I was in no financial position to go buy more.  It was time for some experimentation.  The following cranberry syrup was the result. 

Mix a dribble of this syrup with some normal or sparkling wine to create a rather Christmassy cocktail!  🙂

Cranberry Syrup

500g cranberries

300g caster sugar

150ml water

Zest of one lemon

  • Add all the ingredients to a pan and bring to the boil.
  • Mash the berries down so that all of their juice is released.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Pour through a fine sieve.
  • Bottle and cool.
  • Mix 1 part syrup with 5 parts sparkling wine for a Cranberry Royale.  😉

Christmas Veg

There’s an advert on tele at the moment which toys with idea that everyone has a favourite part of Christmas dinner.  Some people love the turkey the most; other lust after the roast potatoes; lots – I know – go wild over the bacon-wrapped sausages.   Personally, I swoon over the indulgent nature of the vegetables. 

At Christmas honey is paired with long roots; cream with tubby roots; brown sugar with brassicas and butter with everything.  Vegetables have never been so impure!  But because it’s only one day in the year and because I’m fairly sure I don’t consume anywhere near the 7,000 calories which is supposedly the nation’s average, I’m not going to bother looking for lower fat/calorie alternatives this year or any other.  Bring on the sticky parsnips!  🙂

The following three dishes are the vegetables which will be adorning our table this year.  Yum yum.

 Honey Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

(serves 6 as a side)

3 big parsnips, peeled, halved length ways and quartered

3 big carrots, peeled, halved length ways and quartered

1 heaped tablespoon butter

1 heaped tablespoon honey


  • Pre-heat the oven to 200oC.
  • Melt the butter and honey in a pan and season well.
  • Lay out the carrots and parsnips on a baking tray and drizzle with the butter/honey mixture.  Mix well with hands to ensure the veg are thoroughly coated.
  • Roast for 30 mins, turning occasionally.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts

Recipe at:  I use organic streaky bacon rather than panchetta and, being a masochist, fresh chestnuts rather than vacum-packed.

Spiced Red Cabbage

4 tblspn brown sugar

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Zest of one lemon

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tspn nutmeg

3 cloves

1kg red cabbage, heart removed, sliced thinly

2 red onions, sliced thinly

2 large cooking apples, cored and chopped finely

50g butter

200ml red wine

150ml water

  • Mix the sugar, spices, zest, garlic and seasoning. 
  • Layer the butter, veg and spiced sugar in a heavy based pot.
  • Pour over the wine and water.  Top with blobs of butter.
  • Place over a low heat and cook slowly for 3 hours, stirring very occasionally.
  • Season to taste.

Menu For Hope – Attention All Whisky Lovers!

Several weeks ago I received the following (abridged) email:  


Menuforhope07_2I’m sure you have all heard of the wonderful Menu for Hope event that is the brainchild of Pim and takes place once a year around Christmas. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the campaign involves food bloggers (and others) from around the world each donating something to be raffled off on-line for charity. This can be as simple as a cookbook or as elaborate as a foodie tour of a world-class city. It can be something you will lovingly make yourself (e.g. jams or framed photographs) or it can be something you have persuaded somebody else to donate (e.g. dinner at a smart restaurant) – see last year’s campaign to get an idea of what I’m talking about. Once the raffle starts, members of the public can visit your site to read about your raffle items and then place a bid by going to Pim’s site. And at the end of the campaign, winners are chosen using a software application, after which the regional hosts will tell people the good news of what they have won.

Surely this raises a lot of money, I hear you say? Oh yes – just over $60,000 last year! And what happens to the money? Well, like last year, the money will be going to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and this year’s campaign is going to be particularly exciting. This is because the WFP has allowed us to earmark the funds to a specific program. We am thrilled to announce that we have chosen a school feeding program in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho – which is situated bang in the middle of South Africa!

Currently, the WFP’s school feeding programme provides a daily nutritious meal to nearly 150,000 school kids in Lesotho , many of them orphans. After five years of drought, it is estimated that disease and malnutrition in Lesotho claim the lives of one in 12 children before they reach the age of five. Chronic and persistent vulnerability prevails in Lesotho . The kingdom is confronting the triple threat of increasing chronic poverty, rising HIV/AIDS rates and weakened government capacity. This threat takes a heavy toll on the households of the rural poor in Lesotho , who are faced with a limited number of coping strategies to respond to the intensifying hazard. 56% of the population live on less then $2 per day.  Think  about that. That’s less than a pound.

During the campaign, we are going to have the kids photo-blogging from the school grounds to bring their stories closer to us and our donors. Also, the WFP have been pushing what they call the Local Procurement program: instead of buying surplus food in the US and shipping it to Africa to feed the kids they are now buying maize and other produce from the local farmers, thereby putting funds back into the local economy.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, because I (together with Johanna) have been asked to host the UK region’s Menu for Hope campaign 2007.  I am hoping that as many of you as possible will be able to take part and provide something to raffle off.


The event starts tomorrow and my donation to this very worthwhile cause is the following bottle of 15 year old, single malt, Scottish whisky.

Located in the windswept central Highlands, the Dalwhinnie distillery has been producing spirits since the late 1800s.  This traditional Scottish whisky has been matured for 15 years and is renowned for its mellow smokiness and heather honeyed sweetness.

Lot Number – UK07

And here’s how to donate:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at

2. Go to the donation site at and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday Jaunary 9 for the results of the raffle.

Learning to Love… Beetroot

A while back I completed a meme and in one of my answers I mentioned an aversion to beetroot. John from Sandaig Primary School responded:

Beetroot: boil in skin, split into 8ths, roast with red onion, dress with oil, lemon and walnuts.  What’s not to like?

Suddenly, I was interested.  My problem with beetroot is its cloying sweetness.  Just thinking about it makes my nose crinkle up disapprovingly.  Yuck! 

John’s suggestion got me thinking though.  Would I find the veg more appealing if it were paired with something sour or salty?  Or maybe both?  Perhaps that would cut into the syrupy taste that I dislike so much?  I certainly wanted to try it out, not only because during the winter months there is always a big box of homegrown beetroot on offer in our staffroom but also because (Germaine Greer be damned!) pink is my favourite colour.  🙂

Now, let me be straight: I am never going to whole-heartedly love beetroot.  Thanks to a Glasgow primary school teacher, however, I have now discovered a way to enjoy the pink vegetable.  Cheers, John!

Roasted Beetroot and Halloumi Salad

(for 1)

3 small beetroot

Olive oil

Balsalmic vinegar

50g halloumi, sliced 1cm thick

Lemon juice

Handful of green leaves (I used rocket and romaine), roughly shredded

2 Spring onions, chopped

Palmful of walnuts, chopped

  • Boil the beetroot in their skins for 15 mins.  Peel and quarter.  Toss in olive oil and seasoning.  Roast in 200oC oven for 15 mins.  Drizzle with balsalmic vinegar, toss gently and roast for 10 mins more.
  • Tss the other vegetables together in a big bowl.  Add the roasted beetroot.
  • Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat and rub with oil.  Add the halloumi and fry for 1 minute on each side until golden.  Add to the bowl. 
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice.  Toss.  Eat.

Glögi Nights


Patience is not a virtue that I possess in great quantities.  Especially not when it comes to Christmas.  At the first sniff of December I’m writing cards, listening to Slade and draping fairy lights over every plant in the house.  Saturday, being December 1st, was no exception.  After finishing my gift shopping (impressed?) and having a festive lunch with a friend, I headed home to have my own private pikku joulu party. 

Meaning ‘little Christmas’ in Finnish, pikku joulu is a term used for any pre-Christmas Christmas party.  A standard pikku joulu party usually involves copious amounts of alcohol, silly games and dancing till the wee hours.  Though I’m by absolutely no means averse to the standard pikku joulu, Saturday night was a far more mellow affair.  For starters the guest list consisted of me and me alone.  Candles were lit, presents were wrapped, joulutorttu were baked and glögi was consumed.  It was great!

Glögi (or glög, in Swedish) is a kind of mulled wine.  Moreoften that not it is spiked with koskenkorva (a clear Finnish spirit) but I’m a wimp when it comes to hard liquor and prefer to leave it out.  This is how I make it:


2 bottles of red wine

Peelings of one orange

6 whole cardamons, bruised

5 cloves

1 inch piece of ginger, halved

1 stick of cinnamon

1 cup of sugar

Raisins and sliced almonds to serve

  • Add wine to a large pan with the spices and leave to infuse overnight.
  • Add the sugar to the pan and heat gently until almost boiling.
  • Ladle into glasses or mugs and sprinkle in raisins and almonds.

PS The 2007 Food Blog Awards are taking place at Well Fed Network.  Nominations accepted until the 5th December.  I got my votes in just in time!  🙂

Joulutorttu – Finnish Christmas Tarts

 I can sing two songs in Finnish: the theme tune to Bob the Builder (AKA Puuha Pete) and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Both were learnt during a stint as a pre-school teacher in a Turku kindergarten called, believe it or not, Wendy House.  During my time there we sang lots and lots of songs, especially in winter when temperatures were too low to take the kids out to play, but I can only remember the lyrics to these two.  Why?  They were my favourites, of course.  Bob the Builder was a great stress reliever and everyone loves Twinkle Twinkle, don’t they?

Likewise, everyone loves these Finnish Christmas tarts.  They are super easy to make, very pretty and delightfully Christmassy, especially when served straight from the oven accompanied by a steaming glass of glögi.  🙂

This post is for Susan from the fabulous Food Blogga’s festive cookie collection.

Joulutorttu (Finnish Christmas Tarts)

Ready Made All-Butter Puff Pastry

Jam (Plum is traditional, I’m partial to cherry)

Icing Sugar, to dust

  • Roll the pastry out to 0.5cm thick and cut into squares, 10cm x 10cm (ish)
  • From each corner of the pastry square cut in towards the middle stopping about a centimetre before the centre (see this picture for visual instructions).
  • Fold every other corner of the cut pastry in towards the middle and press down lightly (see this picture for visual instructions).
  • Blob some jam into the middle of the stars.
  • Bake in a 200oC pre-heated oven for 10-15 mins or until golden and puffed.
  • Dust with icing sugar.