Thursday, 22 November 2012



Seems to me we are at that time of year where the word 'tradition' comes highly into use, whether that means making a certain recipe, visiting someone special, or even just having a few token symbols in your house.   This is a time of year where people perform an action because they did the same thing the year before, and the year before that.  Something becomes a tradition when not only is the action significant but the decision to repeat it year after year becomes more important than whether or not the actions produce the exact same results.  It's a garbled concept to explain, but here is my concrete example that goes with it.

This was my 6th Thanksgiving here in the UK, my 3rd in which my husband and I went up to my in-laws so I could make them dinner- a tradition we decided to keep even this year when we had to have it several weeks earlier than the real deal, and we had to travel with baby.  After a few years we seemed to have narrowed down the menu to the following items; Turkey (brined, jointed, seasoned and roasted),  Homemade Cranberry, Orange & Port Sauce, Sweet Potato & Herb Gratin, and a Brussel Sprout, Candied Pecan & Bacon Salad.  (Haven't quite nailed dessert yet...).  I had to be super organised this year trying to get it all prepped as our timings had to be very specific to line up with Nell's eating and sleeping.  The dishes themselves turned out the best of all the years I had made them, but sadly I did not get to experience them first hand.  Cue stomach flu.  Not the results I had anticipated.   But it was the act of repetition, the decision to make those dishes as they now signified Thanksgiving and not the results that has started to build the foundations around our family holiday traditions.

We'll be creating a lot of new family traditions in the coming years as we start to define ourselves as a family unit.  Having Nell at the dinner table to experience her first Thanksgiving meal was more important to me than anything else- so we ate at 5pm this year instead of the usual 7 or 8 when she would have already been in bed.  She had turkey and cranberry (minus the port) and some root vegetables and took great pleasure in being surrounded by us all and our giant plates of food.  Her pleasure far surpassed any disappointment that I had that I didn't have the appetite to eat our now traditional meal.  I had the pleasure of preparing it in anticipation of that moment of joy.  That moment, that dinner that I hoped would help her to start to understand what makes up our family, and how hard I was willing to work to lay each brick of our foundation.

We had a lot of leftovers.  It's also part of Thanksgiving tradition.  I decided to treat my husband and I to Individual Turkey Pot Pies - only here it's really just called Pie.  I have to say, it was pretty stinking good.  Here is my attempt to turn our American holiday into a version of a British classic.  Fusion food or not it helped to whittle away at the leftovers in the fridge and filled us up on a cold night

Individual Turkey (Pot) Pie
serves up to 4


2 cups or 2 good handfuls of de-boned and chopped turkey meat
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tin of black beans, rinsed
1 package pre-rolled all butter puff pastry
1L chicken stock
extra water if necessary

1 knob melted butter  to finish


In a large, heavy bottomed pot, add just enough oil to cover the base.  Once the oil is hot add your onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft.  Add your garlic and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

Next add in your turkey, making sure to give the mixture a good stir and start to coat the turkey with the onion and garlic mixture.  Add your stock, beans and honestly any seasoning you like (I went for a weird mix of oregano, parsley and a few shakes of paprika because, well who knows).

Then turn the fire down to a low simmer, cover and cook away, stirring occasionally.  You really want the liquid to reduce at a slow pace so you have a delicious broth and wonderfully stewy meat.  Mine took 2 hours or so. 

Turn your oven onto 180C/ 350F.  Depending on the number of people you're serving use the according number of oven safe ramekins or small bowls, dividing the lovely turkey stew between them.  Cut your puff pastry accordingly so each piece drapes over the entire top and covers the dish.

Brush the top of the puff with a bit of melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Add a green veggie to finish and voila!  Perhaps this will be added to the list of family Thanksgiving traditions as well...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Salty & Sweet Emotion

Today is a weird mix of a day.  I've come down from the sugar and babies-in-costume rush of Halloween (though still nibbling away at the candy stash I've put into our freezer), and have started gearing up for a very early Thanksgiving dinner we're having with the in-laws this weekend.  Never have my two favourite holidays of the year come so close together!  I'm sorry to say although happy to be able to celebrate it with family, I will miss the anticipation that I normally have leading up to Thanksgiving day.

Today November 6th marks two pretty significant events for me as well.  Firstly, my daughter is 8 months today.  For some reason, this seems pretty significant.  8 months feels 'old' as she gets closer and closer to the first year mark and further away from the day she was born.  How did we get so far so fast?  And more importantly, am I destined to be a nostalgic puddle of emotion like this for the rest of my life with her?  Likely.  I wasn't really that far off to begin with.

Today is also the Presidential Election date in the US.  I hate the time difference even more between the UK and the US on election day.  Today means there will be far too much nervous eating, turning the tv on and then having to mute it.  Attempting to stay up far past my bedtime in attempt to reassure myself it won't be another 2000 election situation.

So with all of this post-Halloween-sugar-low-my-baby-is-old-please-oh-please-not-Mitt-ness going on I thought caramel corn was the perfect sort of solution.  Salty and sweet, crunchy and altogether fabulous food to eat by the (multiple) handful.  This recipe belongs to a brilliant chef and blogger named David Lebovitz, who is also probably hating the time difference today between the US and Paris where he currently resides.  David is a genius when it comes to combining salty and sweet.  He's won me over several times now, with recipes like this caramel corn that I will undoubtedly make again around Christmas/Chanukah as it is the perfect edible gift! 

Carmel Corn
Ever so slightly adapted from David Lebovitz

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cut light corn syrup
1/2 tsp maldon sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup salted nuts- I used peanuts
Heat oil along with stirred in popcorn kernels over a heavy and covered saucepan, shaking the pan frequently.  Once kernels start popping keep shaking until popping subsides for longer than 5 seconds.  You can always try to peak in, you don't want to waste your kernels but you don't want to burn your popcorn either!  Remove from heat and uncover.

Line bottom of a large shallow baking pan with foil and lightly oil foil, or use a non-stick baking sheet.

Melt butter in a 6-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven over moderate heat. Add brown sugar and corn syrup, and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring, then boil, without stirring for 8-10 minutes or  until syrup registers 300 degrees F on thermometer.  I don't have a candy thermometer so I used the time as a guide and my eye, making sure the caramel didn't get too dark.   Remove pot from heat.

Using a wooden spoon or a heatproof spatula, stir vanilla and baking soda into the syrup, then quickly stir in peanuts and popcorn to coat. Immediately spread mixture over baking pan as thinly and evenly as possible.  Let cool completely, then break into bits.  Attempt not to eat it all in one sitting.

This corn will probably last 2-3 days in little gift bags, or a few days longer in a sealed container.