31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

As I write this, 2012 is over in New Zealand, and people all over the world are coming to this realisation, with probably a good percentage of them are in the process of getting drunk to mourn it, and are beginning to drink in celebration the new possibilities that 2013 can bring.

Sidenote: Thank you to the Mayans for getting it wrong.


I can't quite believe that the blog has grown so much, it's been a blast writing it, but the feedback is the best part & the people I've met through it.

The top 12 posts of 2012;

The first six are chosen by you, my lovely readers, and include a few great surpises;



and the posts I most enjoyed writing;

#6 - Camping


I've been asked several times in the last few days what New Years Resolutions I'm going to make. To be honest with you, I've never been one to make them. I have always thought that you should have goals, but they should be a little more focussed than the usual "In 2013 I will get thinner, stop smoking & quit drinking" which only last a few weeks before they get back on the usual cycle of mischief, guilt then more mischief.

I am looking forward to the possibilities of 2013. Who knows where we will end up & what we will have done? I'm hoping to have completed a few more goals of my 101 in 1001 page. After a bit of number crunching we have calculated that we have completed 16% of the goals in 17% of the overall time which is pretty good going.

With excitings plans in the pipeline, I can't wait for 2013.

I hope you have a wonderful 2013.

30 December 2012

Foodie-in-training: Fruit Liqueurs

In keeping with the general festive season's indulgences and general misbehaviour, my partner-in-crime and I - whilst at the Tower of London, of all places - discovered these little beauties whilst being funnelled through the giftshop.


During these Foodie adventures, it's been great trying all sorts of new things, and this wee taster set is a perfect example.

We have to eat to exist, it's a fact, so I think that if you're eating, you may as well make it a pleasurable experience. That doesn't mean you have to go off the deep end and become a glutton, it's all about moderation.


 
We bought the small tasting set & a large bottle of Cherry Brandy Liqueur.

I even managed to take tasting notes;

Cherry Brandy Liqueur - Rich, with top Cherry notes and a lovely almost almond undertone. Very lush & perfect for Christmas.
Apricot Brandy Liqueur - Soft on the Palate with the Apricot shining softly. Very moreish.
Sloe Liqueur - Sharper, but nicely fruity.
Ginger Liqueur - Sharp, the Ginger fire shining through. I think this would be perfect with a creamy dessert; a nice Ice Cream or Pannacotta perhaps, dusted with Ginger Biscuit Crumbs.
Damson Port Liqueur - I'm not a fan of Port, this was fruity but rather dry.
Honey Liqueur - a very nice aperatif, finishing the box.


Winner: for me the Apricot Brandy Liqueur, for my partner-in-crime: The Cherry Brandy Liqueur.

 

This is in no way on behalf of the makers, in fact I have another box of Liqueurs in the cupboard from Ikea (!?) awaiting christening. Can't wait for another excuse to crack them out! 

29 December 2012

The Tower of London

Priceless Diamonds & Sapphires, Murder, Kings, Queens, 1000 years of history, Ravens, Torture & Beefeaters.

I'm not sure how to do the Tower of London the justice it quite deserves in my woeful prose, or indeed within the length of a blog post. If you are an anglofile, a history buff, love london, a fan of knights, like your history with a side of gore, want to be a princess, love jewellery... go. Schedule a half day, and go.

Did I mention that the British Crown Jewels reside here? They are stunning.


Did also I mention you can buy a suit of armour here? The perfect gift for the man who has everything.







One of the reasons why I love London - the old nestled with the new.





The obligatory Raven pose shot;

 









It is around £20 for an adult to go (at the time of writing) but if you use the trains, Days out Guide often runs 2 for 1 specials, subject to you having used the train services (not OysterCard), providing proof of ticket and you have to print out a wee sheet.

Much, much more historical and opening information can be found here. They also do 'the Ceremony of the Keys' which has been performed nightly for 700 years (you book this in advance by writing).

I'd strongly advise you go early in the day to try beat the crowds, or go like we did on a miserably grey day.

How are you spending your Christmas/New Year break, or are you having to work? I can't believe how quickly it's going past.

28 December 2012

Kiwi Cooking: Lolly Cake

Before January Resolutions Kick-in, and everyone detoxes from the Christmas/New Years festivities, I'm going to sneak one last treat recipe in.

Lolly Cake.

 
This is a New Zealand institution, and I can almost guarantee that to bring a homesick Kiwi to their knees, or if you want bribe them into doing something horrendous, make Lolly Cake. For it to be truly authentic, you need to use Griffins Malt Biscuits and Pascal Eskimo Lollies - but in the UK Malted Milk biscuits and firm Marshmallows/Shrimps can be substituted in times of dire need. But only in life or death situations, you understand.

As a reference tool, the packets look like the below.

 

Brits, I know you're confused by the name, and the below images. A Lolly (or Lollies plural) when you are in New Zealand are what POMs call Sweets. Why the British decided to call Ice-Blocks (frozen summer ice treats eg. popsicles) Lollies, I don't know, and I think causes undue confusion. (The argument just there ^ that I've had with my hubby hundreds of times is why I know I will forever be a Kiwi in my heart). So for the purpose of this blog & this recipe please humour me.

It's not really a cake to be fair, more of a refrigerator slice, but it is delicious I can promise you that.

Please don't make the mistake I made over Christmas, thinking you can use soft Marshmallows. It doesn't quite work, and the bevy of Kiwi ladies I had over for tea were very disappointed.

Lolly Cake (Original Recipe here)



Sacred, I love you & you are keeping many of my Kiwi friends in London supplied. Rock on.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Packet (250g) of Malt Biscuits (Graham crackers if you are in the US
  • 1 Packet (190g) of Eskimo lollies or Fruit Puffs (firm marshmallows)
  • 120g Butter
  • 1/2 a tin (200g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Dessicated Coconut 

    1. Crush the malted biscuits until you have 1/3 pulverised, 1/3 medium chunks (about the size of a 5p/5c coin), 1/3 large chunks (about the size of a 10p/10c coin). This is great if you've had a rough day.
    2. Cut up Eskimo lollies into bite sized chunks and add to the biscuits.
    3. Warm butter and condensed milk in microwave (or with a hairdryer until the bowl if your microwave packs a sad).
    4. Mix butter, condensed milk, crushed Malt biscuits and lollies together.
    5. Tip out onto a cutting board once combined, then use your hands to form into a firm log shape. It may look like a mess that won't come together to begin with, but the heat of your hands is key to getting a good texture as it will help to really combine everything.
    6. Roll/pat in coconut.
    7. Chill in fridge for 4 hours.
    8. When set, cut into slices and serve.
    Despite the difference in opinion over the Lolly/Sweets name, all of the visitors I have ever had have enjoyed this recipe. In fact I was in a rather posh restaurant a few weeks ago, and when a nearby American diner realised I was a Kiwi, asked me to email them this recipe 'that they had tried in New Zealand a long time ago and loved'.

    One last treat before January?

    27 December 2012

    "You owe me five farthings" say the bells of St Martin's

    It's funny, I've lived in London now for more than half a Decade, and I still delight in touristy wandering, discovering new corners and the historical backstory. I know 


    "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." - Samuel Johnson

    but I do sometimes wonder if the delight will ever really wear off as it's such a thriving city, and there is always a new corner to turn and a new secret to discover.




    Sadly, when we arrived to see this Church, it was originally shrouded in scaffolding, keeping it's quietly to itself, getting a facelift.

    26 December 2012

    Boxing Day

    Presents are unwrapped, a scrumptious dinner eaten and the pine needles are starting to hit the carpet already.


    With a self imposed offline day yesterday, it was quite refreshing to mostly be away from all electrical equipment (bar the TV when the kids started to dance Gangnam Style!).

    Favourite part of the Day? Gathering with almost all of my London family for Roast Turkey & Beef, Christmas Pud & a lot of laughter.

    Favourite memory of the Day? Grandad getting up & trying it Gangnam Style.

    Favourite (only) Photo of the day?


    Hubby gets a bit blue as the excitement of the impending Christmas season is over, and once the New Year has passed, we have to trudge through the grimness of January. I can honestly say I've never thought of it that way, but I suppose as a Kiwi with summer holidays in January, it was never a cause for sadness.

     

    We have been very retrospective today, musing the highlights of this year, and by anyones standard 2012 has been an amazing year. London especially has been a very exciting place to be.


    • The Diamond Jubilee - I got to see the Queen!! 
    •  Made some great new friends over the year - caused mischief camping & brunching to name but two instances 
    • Climbed the iconic Big Ben 
    • I completed a 5k - something I would never think I could do
    I also started this here little blog, which you are all so kind to read day in day out, and I'd like to thank you for this. Thank you for giving me a chance to share our adventures.

    We have a lot of exciting new plans for next year, and I hope you will stick around to join in them with us.

    25 December 2012

    Christmas

    This Kiwi is signing offline for the day, to spend it getting merry with friends and family I hopw you are enjoying the day wherever you are, whatever you have planned.

    I hope you enjoy the below Carols, and I'll see you tomorrow!





    Thinking of all our friends and family across the globe, especially in Japan.

    24 December 2012

    Christmas Eve Carols at St Pauls Cathedral

    We spent today getting ready for tomorrow, catching up with Kiwi family as they start Christmas celebrations and then nipped out to St Pauls Cathedral, for their Christmas Eve Carol service.



     
    I'm not especially religious, but I have to admit there was something lovely about the Cathedral all gussied up for Christmas, Carolling by the Choir and the bells pealing.





    I hope that whatever your plans are over the Christmas Period, whether you are with Family, Friends, Friends who are Family, or chilling with a box of Chocolates & a bottle of bubbly, I hope you have a wonderful, safe day.

    Arohanui (love) and thanks!

    23 December 2012

    Christmas Eve Eve Afternoon Tea

    We decided with Christmas day being a little hectic (15-16 adults + an assortment of kids) that us ladies would have a wee afternoon tea to chat and catch up.

    We ended up having such a lovely low key day. Bar a few (actual) nightmares the night before (you know, like the ones you have before an important job interview, and you get to the end and realise you forgot to put trousers on?) it was a dream.



    We had looked into the option of being shamelessly spoilt and going out for afternoon tea eg. like this afternoon, but decided it would be easier, better to organise transport-wise and, honestly, cheaper to do it ourselves.

    The Menu?

    Bite-size Sandwiches:
    Egg Mayonnaise & Cress on fresh White Bread
    Chicken & Sweetcorn on fresh White Bread
    Ham, Rocket & Chipotle Sauce on Wholemeal Bread
     
    A variety of Savouries hot from the oven
    (the only real let down was the Ketchup served in Tupperware!)
     
    Cherry Scones with Devonshire Clotted Cream
     
    Cherry Bakewells, Lemon Sponge Slices, Festive Caramel Slice
    White Chocolate Penguins, After Eight Mints, Snowballs (Marshmallow with a Chocolate shell & Coconut)
    ((Lolly Cake should have made an appearance, but I got a bit creative with the recipe & instead of being a slice, it's more of an ice-cream topping))
     
    Champagne
    Eggnog
    Cranberry Juice with Mulled Spices - such a beautiful non-alcohol drink - literally get some of the mulling spice bags from your nearby supermarket, and heat the cranberry juice on the stove with the bags steeping. Absoloutely lush - it tastes like it should be alcoholic!
    Tea
     
    
    Written up, it looks like it would be a lot of work, but to be honest we we allowed the supermarket baking companies to help take most of the strain. The drinks and sandwiches took the most work, but with three of us in the kitchen, drinks in hand, it really was a lot of fun. I wanted it to be low-key, and that's what we got. The developing 'Foodie' in me wanted to handmake everything, but by the time we got to this morning, it wasn't an option.
     
    A lovely, decadent afternoon with some of the loveliest ladies. We opened a couple of pressies with my cousin who is having an Orphans Christmas (with the rest of her Kiwi friends - something that is a London tradition - I can't wait to see how their Turkey comes out!)
     
    It wasn't over the top but just the right level of decadence, the conversation flowed, the food came out steadily and the drinks flowed.
     
    Can you tell we enjoyed it by the below 'after' pic?


    I hope you are spending some time with your loved ones, either over video chat, with an afternoon tea like the above, or at the Cinema, or just somehow.
     
    I think I need to host more of these next year. Maybe that should be one of my New Years resolutions?

    Right now, dishes to wash. Er, maybe I should reconsider the 'at home' business!!

    22 December 2012

    Jaffa Slice Means Christmas - Kiwi cooking

    If you have any space on your no-doubt groaning tables, this has to be found a place. Being from the other side of the world, we love our Roasts at Christmas (in 30°C) but this is one thing (in addition to Christmas Pud, Brandy Cream and Mince Pies) that simply makes me think of Christmas.


    With the counterpoint of the Malt Biscuits, the Coconut and Chocolate Chips make a decadent mouthful, brought together by Condensed Milk & Butter, cut through with the zesty Orange.

    Indulgent, not very healthy, but scrumptious and decadent. Christmas in a mouthful.


    Thank you V.A. Nottle of Tauranga New Zealand. You are a legend.


    Serves up to 24 slices - it is very decadent. Buuuuut, it can sometimes only last 5 mins. You have been warned.

    This pic is sans Icing, as I'm not sure how long the slice will actually last once iced.


    Oh, and did I mention the cooks privileges?

     


     
     (I cooked another slice, recipe soon to follow)

    21 December 2012

    Adventures of the Benign: Christmas Edition.

    I've just had a really depressing thought. This time next year, we will no longer be celebrating Christmas 2012. On the bright side, For a week we get to celebrate family, festivities and probably overindulge.

    Stay tuned for my favourite undulgent Christmas Slice - Chocolate, Orange, Coconut...

    "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

    And, I haven't killed my plant yet - it's merrily flowering!


    It doesn't feel like Christmas to me, until we've put up the Tree & turned the lights on.




    Calm admist the Christmas Crazy...




     

    I need your help. What on earth do you think the above are in relation to 'Christmas Moulds'? Gingerbread men?