Nadolig Llawen!

(…that’s Merry Christmas in Welsh!)

First of all, I would very much like to apologise for my lack of posts in recent weeks! For those dedicated few who enjoy reading my blog, i’ve had an unfortunately large amount of work to do.
So Christmas time is almost upon us, I have scoffed most of my advent calendar, i’m living next to my open fire, and I am very looking forward to visiting the Birmingham German markets to top off my Christmas spirit. Some of the best things in life come from this market, bratwurst hot dogs, wheat beer, mulled wine and german cinnamon donuts make me über happy.

 My vat of tea, accompany my home-made gingerbread hearts.

So everyone is ready at my house to get started with my Christmas dinner, and it’s all about the traditional! Every year I always eat with my family, always home made, with me attempting to help make the Christmas dinner while my mum cusses me for getting in the way. But this year, this year is the year I will finally get to help!
For one, this year, it’s all about the home-made presents! So i’ve got some crazy-yummy gingerbread cookies going on! Along with some baba al limoncello, which, in English, are little balls of vanilla sponge soaked in a limoncello (Italian lemon liquor) syrup. And also some Gravadlax, you know, for a savoury option, which is an alternative to smoked salmon, and, in my opinion, actually a little bit nicer! I do have some none home-made stuff mixed in with it, unfortunately I didn’t have the time to soak my fruit for Christmas cake/pudding, but it’s the spirit that counts!
So wishing everyone a Merry little Christmas here is my recipe for the week:
Jess’ Gingerbread Biscuits
Makes about 20 reasonable sized biscuits
225g plain flour, sifted well!
A pinch of salt
2 tsp bicarbinate of soda
1 heaped teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
55g unsalted butter
115g soft brown sugar
115 golden syrup
1 tablespoon evaporated milk
Preheat oven temperature – 190C degrees, Gas Mark 5
– First of all sift your flour very well, there’s nothing worse then getting lumps of flour randomly stuck in your biscuits, you can sometimes get away with it in cakes, but in biscuits, it’s really noticeable, so big no no just chucking it in! Then add the salt, bicarbinate and spices together with the sifted flour. 
– Next, heat your butter, sugar and syrup until everything’s well dissolved then leave to cool a little.
– Once all finished and cooked, mix the dry ingredients with the cooked mixture and evaporated milk and work into a dough. To make your life a little bit easier, rub your hands with a teeny little bit of an unflavoured oil (groundnut if you have it, if not, vegetable is fine) so the it doesn’t stick to your hands too much.
– Cover it in a bowl and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes, this is important to do! It doesn’t keep it’s shape very well if you don’t do this, so have patience!
– Grease 2 good sized baking sheets while you’re waiting for it to chill and set aside.
– To roll out your biscuits you’ll need the following, a rolling pin, a relatively big flat surface, a little extra flour, some cookie cutters, or some imagination and a small knife.
– Sprinkle your surface with flour and the rolling pin and roll out your dough until it’s about 5mm thick, then cut it. I think I may have mentioned this in an earlier point, but, as tempting as it is. Do. Not. Twist. The. Cutters! Even though they don’t rise a massive amount, they do rise, and they’ll rise crooked if you twist. Also, it’ll bugger up the rest of your dough and they won’t be all pretty and flat and stuff!  With regards to shapes, you can do anything, if you’re feeling unimaginative, you can just do round biscuits, if you’re feeling festive you can do Christmas trees, if you’re feeling geeky you can trace the white tree of Gondor…not that i’ve ever done that. Hmm!

 All rolled out ready to go!

– The point is, you can do literally anything you like, which is why I like making them for presents, you can personalise them! 
 – But back to the baking! Stick them on your greased sheets and bakes for 10-15 minutes, remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes, and turn out onto a wire rack. Sprinkle with a little sugar and a ground ginger and you are sorted. Voila!
 – Perfect every time! And damn sexy if I may say so myself.

Spread a little too much, oops!

These really are gorgeous, very moreish as well, I have to keep making them smaller and smaller every time I make them because I eat so many. And at a weird cognitive stance i’ve not quite figured out, if I make them smaller i’ll trick my brain into thinking i’ve had more. If you want to make them a little more special – if you’re making them for presents for instance – melt a little bit of good quality dark chocolate over them, it doesn’t have to be neat, in fact, it looks a little bit more arty and rustic if they aren’t perfect. 
Also, as it’s the time for mince pies (hooray!), i’ll leave you with some interesting facts about mincemeat. As most people have probably realised, modern mincemeat doesn’t actually have any meat in it – I say that, bar properly made mincemeat anyway – shop bought mincemeat doesn’t have any meat in it. The original word mince comes from the Old English word to mynce (originally from Old French mincier, stemmed from the Latin minutia, which means smallness) which obviously means to crush or chop into small pieces. And the word meat comes from the Old English mete, which basically, just means food. It doesn’t just mean what we characterise as ‘meat’ now, it meant everything that we ate. Which is where the word mincemeat actually comes from, it actually meant ‘minced food’. As a bit of a kick-in-the-teeth ironic sort of thing, the original mincemeat actually did also have meat in it, even though it did just mean minced food. And it was often a way of covering up beef or pork or venison that was starting to decompose…yum.
But there ya go! You learn something new everyday. Honestly, don’t know if I would be able to hack having a bit of rotting beef stuck in with my mince pies, as willing and open minded as I am, I don’t know if my sweet tooth would allow it to pollute such a long-standing favourite.
To the humble mince pie!
Nollaig Shona Dhuit
 Joyeux Noel
Froehliche Weihnachten
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Feliz Navidad
Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Have a beautiful Christmas!