Merry Christmas, Baby

Merry Christmas, Baby
I've just come back from one of the largest shopping malls in the United Kingdom, mission; Christmas. I lasted 18 mins exactly before the first signs of a panic attack started. The overwhelming smell of polyester, the crowds and the piled up gift sets of nasty smelling bath stuff, how can anyone hope to buy a suitable token for the people we love the most?

Happily, I've now decided to make presents, not for the kids, they still need "stuff" but that will be books and paint and canvases, something to do and something to get them away from screens. I also love these kid's gardening sets from Hen & Hammock , there are also many great stylish and sustainable gifts for adults.

Children's gardening kit
Today I am mostly making preserved lemons so that they'll be ready to use by Christmasand left longer, develop a more complex flavour.I think they are a wonderful gift even for non-food obsessed people. They're really simple to make and you can use it in so many ways. Not only traditional North African tajines and soups but in salads and cocktails, delicious in a gin and tonic too. Experiment with them but don't make the same mistake as I did when I first made them 10 years ago and used the flesh as well as the rind- bleh! 

This preserved lemon recipe from BBC Good Food is fine. I usually make a few jars without any spices to use in drinks.
See Scheherazade Shake
Preserved Lemon Cocktail
50 mls vodka
50 mls dry vermouth
50 mls limoncello
25 mls lychee liqueur
1 teaspoon preserved lemon brine
Soda water or lemonade
2 slivers preserved lemon rind
Combine all the ingredients except the soda water with lots of ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake like a rattler
Put a sliver of lemon rind in the bottom of four large tumblers. Divide the vodka mixture between them, add more ice and top with lemonade or soda. Serve with turkish delight on a chaise longue while telling never-ending stories. Your life could depend on it.

There are lots of wonderful recipes using preserved lemon in one of my favourite chefs- Yotam Ottolenghi's books  and also in the stunning books of Lebanese-Australian, Greg Malouf. And not to leave the Brits out if you have book giving in mind, I would say that the warm, stylish and simple recipes in Margot Henderson's You're All Invited, is the bees knees.
Music Bread
The week before Christmas I'll make this wonderful music bread and parcel it up with some Stilton . And for my bestest food loving friends I'll get some traditional gravadlax on the go to give with some home-made rye bread and hand-made Scottish butter from the Sandford Dairy.
Music Bread
This crispbread is very moreish so I usually double the quantities, as it is, it will make one present-sized portion. Don't worry if you do not have a pasta machine, a rolling pin and elbow grease will give you nearly the same result.
220 grams of plain flour
1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of castor  (fine) sugar
100mls ish of water
50 mls of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Maldon salt + extra for finishing
1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary + extra for finishing
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, using a fork or your fingers add the water and olive oil to make a crumbly dough. Work dough until it come together, wrap in plastic film and rest at room temp for an hour. Pre-heat  the oven to 160 c. Cut the dough into 8 pieces then roll each piece through the widest setting of a pasta machine and roll until each sheet has passed through the finest setting, flouring to prevent sticking. Cut into rough pieces and arrange gently on a baking tray, sprinkle with some salt and rosemary. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden a cool on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.
If you've never the made gravadlax before this recipe will give you detailed information and a pictorial. I use organic farmed salmon, big waste of money to use wild salmon unless you've caught it yourself of course! Once you've made it successfully the first time, you can go on to experiment with different herbs, add some beetroot, vodka etc. It's fun and delicious and I think it makes a wonderful present.
Love Food and have a Cool Yule X