December 8, 2012

Gingerbread Nativity Scene Recipe & Template

Every Christmas I make some form of Gingerbread scene. I use a traditional molasses based gingerbread dough which tastes amazing, you can use half honey or agave syrup if you feel it’s too dark or rich in taste. This dough can be sticky but if chilled properly and rolled between greaseproof paper the results are perfect and it holds it’s shape beautifully when baked doing the most complicated cookie cutters justice. A few years ago I began to make Nativity Scenes which are perfect to display at home instead of the usual wooden or  porcelain decorative crib. Although it may look complicated the stable is easier to make than a full gingerbread house. This recipe makes a large amount of dough and usually is enough for the entire Nativity scene and up to twenty gingerbread tree decorations. Simple but delicious decorations can be made using a gingerbread man or star shaped cookie cutter. I make a hole in the top using a knitting needle and string a ribbon through once baked. Children’s names can be piped onto the decorations to personalise them as well as being the perfect vehicle for glistening gum drops and multicoloured jelly beans. I bake these cookies the day before I decorate them, leaving enough time for them to cool completely. The assembly and decoration can be a time consuming process although it is very enjoyable. If you do decide to just make cookies as tree decorations or simply for eating then I suggest having a cookie decorating party. Have a group of friends over, make a pot of tea and lay all the sweets and cake decorations on the table for everyone to decorate their own. Some of the biscuits may not make it to the decorating stage having been dunked in the tea and eaten but it’s a lovely way to kickstart the festive season. 

Here are the links to the downloadable templates for the Characters and Stable. So just print, bake and assemble! 

Happy Festive Baking!
Lilly x

December 7, 2012

Christmas Present ideas for food lovers!

I cannot believe Christmas is nearly here already! I always associate this time of year with gorgeous food and drink, but it's also a time for giving! I've been spying lots of amazing Irish present ideas this year so have compiled a list. I know I've probably left loads out but these are the ones that have caught my eye and are a little different and special for the food lover in your life that already has everything.

The best chopping boards have to be wooden and I really love working on a natural surface. Wood is also healthier as wood has natural antiseptic properties that a plastic board just doesn't have. I've really fallen for these Kerry made boards and you can even get them engraved with a message for your loved ones! *romantic potential!!!!*

The west Cork native famous for his incredible charcuterie making skills is also a knife maker and has an impressive selection of hand crafted knives on his website. 

A few years ago I bought my partner the gift of membership to The Cheese Club. Not only did a parcel of perfectly packaged cheese arrive each month but we got tasting notes too! We didn't have to buy cheese all year and it was fantastic exploring all the different varieties. Definitely one to recommend.
Alternatively you could just pick up a hamper of cheeses complete with wine, chutney, crackers etc. to suit your budget. And they can even post it out. Blessed are the cheese makers!

Print Block are a textile print collective based in Dublin and have just opened their first pop up shop.  Unique handprinted items such as tea towels, table runners, napkins and trays are all on offer at The Culture Box in Temple Bar. The shop is open Mon-Sunday 10-6 and Thursdays till 8 until December 22nd.  Their website has all the info and it makes me wish I was living in Dublin! Pictured below are chopping boards, napkin and mini table runner by Print Block member Jennifer Phelan, five other stylish designs are available. 

A Cookery Course
Theres a huge variety of brilliant courses on offer, to suit all budgets and times. The Firehouse Bakery and Bread School has been on my 'must visit' list for a while and has a brilliant day course that will guide you from soda breads to sourdough for an affordable 110 euro.
Good Things Cafe based in Durrus have ran their friendly cookery school for the past seven years with great success. Small class sizes and quality produce make it the perfect place to learn.
Ballymaloe Cookery School have a long list of different day courses too ranging from sushi making to food writing.

The Cork based Horgans produce award winning Christmas Hams and Spiced Beefs, cooked and ready to carve. They do hampers too but the Irish Angus Spiced Beef is a real Cork tradition and Christmas wouldn't be the same without it. They also deliver straight to your door. What a dream present! 

This is such a genius idea! You can buy a share in one of Whelan's renowned Angus, Hereford or Wagyu/Kobe cattle and the bond certificate comes beautifully packaged. Once the bond matures the share holder gets delivery of their bounty of various cuts of prime Tipperary beef. You're guaranteed a return of investment (i.e no risk and a gorgeous dinner). All the details of how to become a steak holder (!) are on their website. 

Smoked Salmon is another traditional and truly delicious food that has to feature on the menu over Christmas. I always give my inlaws a side of smoked salmon as it's guaranteed to be eaten and always welcomed! This year I discovered Duncannon and their beautiful range of smoked fish, the cold smoked trout is incredible too and you can order online and it comes beautifully packaged. 

What better than a nice bottle or a selection of wines? I go to my local Bubble Brothers or The Wine Buff here in Cork and ask them for a good recommendation. It really is a lovely present and guaranteed to be drank over the holiday season!

So no need to panic, just get online and start ordering! Let me know if you have spotted any other brilliant Irish gift ideas.
Lilly x