Happy New Year...

...Happy new year everyone!
I hope you have all had a brilliant Christmas and are enjoying 2014 so far...

2013 was a year of change for me. It started off pretty average, but starting this blog was one of the best things I have ever done. When I started out I remember thinking "I'll never keep this going, I can't even keep a diary!". But here I am 10 months later and i'm still posting, even if isn't as often as originally intended.

The blog has opened so many doors for me, i've met some amazing people...From John Whaite to Larkin Cen and not forgetting the fellow bloggers! It's made me push myself in the kitchen, I've tried foods that I wouldn't have dared eat before. I've consumed some damn good burgers and chicken wings.. I've baked my ass off and most of all I have loved every single second of it.

I have a few new years resolutions for 2014, some I am going to stick to, some will last a month or so..some may not even begin. But I will share it all with you.

The first is to eat healthier food that isn't as boring as sin! Every year I promise myself that I will try and lose weight and every year I get to the end of the first week and then stuff my face with every burger in sight. Blogging has shown me that there are some seriously tasty meals out there that are good for you and don't taste like the underside of muddy boot.

The second is to join the gym, as of the 5th of January this is still yet to happen but its having the time at the moment. I will do this though as I need to swim! 

The third is to give less F•cks... I get myself in to quite a state sometimes with the smallest of things. But this year I'm taking the attitude that people do what they want, it's not my problem.

The fourth is to update the blog more regularly and give it a make over.

And finally the fifth is to continue saving and do new things! 

All together I think I can stick to most of these...With a little help from you guys!

You may have noticed I've been a little quiet on here recently, Christmas is the busiest time of year for me at work. That and all the time spent in the kitchen at home creating Christmas bakes has really stopped me from having a moment spare to post. So I thought I would do a little round up of my lead up to Christmas now.

Christmas for me started with a solo visit to London. I decided to go with no plans and just explore, get some shopping done and enjoy myself. It solve involved some eating (standard) but I'll save that for a separate post.

London truly is beautiful at Christmas, the lights really give the festive feeling and a smile as wide possible.

The next part of Christmas is obviously the food...The glorious food!
This is the first year that I have actively wanted to take part in creating the food for the big day. I started with a Mincemeat Streusel, making everything from scratch. I've got incredibly warm hands so can struggle with pastry but this was BEAUTIFUL. Buttery pastry that makes the mouth water. This is probably the best bake I have ever done and it makes me sad that its a Christmas bake...I need it all year round!

The next bake was Raspberri Cupcakes Christmas tree meringues. I've never had much luck with meringue but was determined to push myself and they turned out beautifully. A gloriously goey center meets the tongue as your teeth break through the outer wall.

I even went as far as cooking a turkey! My first ever bird went down a storm, I stuffed it with a whole lemon and basted it with lashings of butter, white wine and water. It was beautifully moist and made some great left over dishes including a turkey and ham pie, Turkey curry and tons of soup!

I also attempted my first flap jack! Nigel Slater supplied the recipe and I have to say, they were bloody lush! Buttery goodness followed by sour cherries dancing on the tongue.
I also made some edible Christmas tree decorations for my colleagues at work.

Anyway enough about food, I'm sure you all have similar resolutions to me so I best stop talking...

My family were incredibly generous this Christmas, they have obviously noticed I like to bake, everything was baking related!

But I'd like to say one special thank you on here, and that thank you goes to Rosie over at The Londoner.

I received this little beauty after entering one of her give aways. Its possibly one of the nicest things I have ever received. If I knew you in person not only would you be receiving a massive bunch of flowers but you would receive the biggest hug ever. Its a lovely watch and I am going to wear it proudly.(but not to work, don't want it getting scratched to buggery!)

I hope you all have a fantastic year! Heres to 2014 and all it brings our ways!

Happy New Year!

Alex aka The Broke Boy

Stir up Sunday...

...for years my family has had a lovingly prepared christmas pudding. it started with my grandma who had one of Delia Smiths first books. the spine hangs from the book and the pages look like a treasure map for a deserted island. notes in pencil cover every bit of free space from where my grandma had tweaked things to suit her style of cooking.

we all used to be invited round to stir the pudding and make a wish on it. i have very fond memories of this and i really do miss the excitement.

when my Grandma passed away my Auntie took over the role as head christmas pudding maker. the book is still in use and creates an amazing pudding that i look forward to each year.

this year i've decided to have a bash at making a pudding myself but i've decided to stay away from the family recipe and make something slightly different.

John Whaite posted a recipe for his exotic christmas pudding and i thought i would give it a bash...

i struggled to find the toffee vodka (there is a brand called "Thunder" but my local shops don't sell it) so i substituted it for amaretto.

you will need: 

Billington's Dark Muscovado Natural Unrefined Cane Sugar 110g
Billington's Light Muscovado Natural Unrefined Cane Sugar 100g
Billington's Natural Glacé Cherries 200g
dried apple 150g, roughly chopped
plump raisins 150g 
dried apricots 150g, roughly chopped
dried mango pieces 100g
cherry cola 300ml
1 orange juice and zest
1 lemon zest
Amaretto 4tbsp 
orange blossom water 1tsp 
rose water 1tsp 
vegetable suet 200g 
breadcrumbs 200g 
plain flour 100g 
toasted pecan nuts 150g 
ground clove 1tsp 
ground ginger 1tsp 
ground cinnamon 1tsp 
ground nutmeg ¼tsp 
4 eggs beaten 
milk 6tbsp 
black treacle 1tbsp

place all of the dried fruits into a saucepan and pour the cherry cola and orange juice over them. 

cook over a medium heat and allow the cola to boil. stir and continue to heat until the liquid has mostly soaked into the fruit.

remove from heat and stir in the zests and amaretto, along with the dark and light muscovado sugar. leave to macerate for 1 hour.

transfer to a large bowl and mix in remaining ingredients. this is the point where "Stir up Sunday" really comes into play. get your family to help you with this part as it does take fair amount of mixing.

scoop the mixture into the prepared pudding mould (you will need a 1.5-litre pudding basin, greased and lined with a circle of baking paper) and cover with a greased double sheet of baking paper. Tie cooking string tightly around the baking paper and under the lip on the pudding basin to seal then cover well with foil.
i found that i had quite a lot of mixture left over so it might be worth arming yourself with a smaller pudding mould to create a second pudding.

place into a steamer filled with a good few inches of simmering water and close the lid to steam. keep it over a low heat and check the water level every 45 minutes to make sure the pan doesn't boil dry.
if you don't have a steamer, put the pudding on a mug in a deep saucepan with a good few inches of simmering water, close the lid, and keep simmering as above, checking the water level. steam for 4½ to 5 hours. at this point remove from the steamer and allow it to cool completely.

remove the pudding from the basin and inspect the creation of all your hard work! i'm very impressed with mine and it was touch and go as to if it would actually last until christmas day, as dad wanted to scoff it.
wrap your pudding in a double layer of cling film and a double layer of tin foil and store in a cupboard until the big day. 

to reheat on Christmas day steam for 2 hours as you did first time round.