A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

Boxing Day Brunch: Toad in the Hole

Merry Christmas everybody!
I hope you've had a fun day along with family and friends and ate all of the lovely stuff that surface this festive period.
We had a golden turkey and a Roast Salmon fillet with Herb stuffing, oozing with buttery tarragon and basil, prepared by yours truly. It is a great alternative if you have vegetarians around the table.

Boxing Day always makes me feel a bit deflated (no, not for lack of food) but because the big build up for Christmas is over, the big day has passed and everything is somehow quitter. Unless you hit the Sale off course, but we'll leave that for later.
A nice brunch always seems to do the trick though, especially if it comes along with some Bucks Fizz and hearty food. This time I decided to make Toad in the Hole for the first time ever, using the little sausages wrapped in bacon that we normally have on Christmas Day. They tend to get lost amongst the rest of the trimmings but I think they deserve their own little dish to shine through. Then you have the fresh Yorkshire Pudding batter to hug them and lift them up in fluffiness heaven!

Toad in the Hole with mini sausages, for 4 people:  
- 24 mini pork sausages wrapped in bacon
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half or in quarters if too big
- 300ml milk
- 3 heaped tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- salt & pepper
- Vegetable oil or Shortening (I used Trex)
For a simple Gravy:
- 1 cup of red whine
- 1 cup of water
- 3 tablespoons of Onion Gravy powder
- pinch of dried rosemary
- salt & pepper
Use a deep baking dish for this one. Put the sausages in the baking dish with enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the dish and about half an inch high; bake for 15 minutes in a 200C oven. The trick is that the oil is bubbling hot when the batter goes in, the heat will help the Yorkshire pudding batter rise to perfection.
In the meanwhile, in a deep bowl beat the eggs and milk with the pinch of salt and pepper and add the flour spoon by spoon, whisking constantly.
Once the sausages have had their 15 minutes in the oven, pull the tray out carefully, and pour the batter all around the sausages evenly. Pop it straight back in the hot oven for 20 minutes and watch as it all rises up! The corners and sides will rise first. After 20 minutes watch it closely to make sure that the top is deep golden and crispy and that there is no uncooked batter in the centre of the baking tray. It might need another 10 - 15 minutes, it depends on your oven really.
Prepare the gravy:
Pop all of the ingredients in a small cooking pot over a low heat and cook until it thickens a bit and the sides start bubbling.

Serve the Toad in the hole with a good helping of gravy and a scoop of mustard and a dose of Christmas cheer. Oh! And a glass of Bucks Fizz!
Have a great day! x

Christmas Baubles: Su Chases, Old Amersham

Old Amersham is an unlikely Christmas shopping destination - I thought so too!
Ever since we moved into the area though, Su Chases shop in Old Amersham has become a favourite destination when Christmas comes around. It is an interior design shop with lots of home accessories, small furnishings and fabrics.

But around the end of November this pinky townhouse in the middle of the old town transforms into a warm, fairytale Christmas hub. It is my absolute favourite destination for baubles! Prices start from £3.5 and range up to £20 for the biggest bauble you'll ever see...the size of a small watermelon! 
 The Crown Inn courtyard (left), One of our new vintage decorations from Su Chases (right) 

This place makes me happy. 
You don't have to decide on a colour scheme before you get there. 
Every room is filled with different colours and all kinds of baubles; decorations are found on trees, in baskets, on garlands, hanging from the banisters & off chandeliers: glass, brass and copper even! 

And then there are the vintage baubles in smoky grey and silver, love them! There are fury ones and cotton-fabric wrapped ones and my absolute favourite this year: a clear glass bubble filled with fake snow and a white dove sitting on top! 

I've been twice this year already: once to buy some gifts for friends and then once more to buy some new decorations for our tree since...we cannot find our old ones. 
It's a bittersweet feeling. It's such a treat to buy new decorations but our old ones have been collected over the years and come with great memories; 

A couple of them came from Su Chases bought the first year we moved here, others came from an impromptu trip to Bruges over Guy Fawkes weekend, seven years ago, from De Witte Pelican, an all-year Christmas shop! 
I'll tell you about this another time, but if you find yourself in Bruges at any point during the year, look for it!  

Old Amersham is worth your time on a lazy weekend afternoon. 
The Crown Inn, an old wobbly-turned-shabby-chic coaching inn, offers the perfect fireside spot for afternoon tea. It was also the location where Hugh Grant's character stayed, in Four Weddings and a Funeral! You didn't know that, did you? 

The old Market Walk houses merchants selling anything from baked goods, to vintage books and toys and fresh Christmas wreaths, this time of the year. 

On sunny winter afternoons I like walking all along the main street in the old town. It's like an open air museum filled with history... you'll spot the cutest cottages, alongside grander townhouses, named after their previous tenants. 
I can't help but peek inside the cottages, every time I walk by; the wooden beams and old fireplaces fill little rooms and I'd love to pop in to have a cup of tea and hear old stories! 
Then don't forget to look over the rooftops, far in the background you'll spot the rolling Chiltern Hills...I remember them covered in snow a few years ago, such a treat! x

How to be a Parisian

One: Kate Spade New York 'evening belles - feather mimi' clutch (get it!)
 Funny enough a similar, much cheaper clutch is available from Aldo! (get it)
Two: Kate Spade New York 52mm retro sunglasses Blush (get it!)
Three: Ella Mos Dot Lace Top - Cream (get it!)
Four: AG Adriano Goldschmied 'The Stilt Jean' - 4 years Seattle destroyed (get it!)
Five: 'How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits' (get it!)
Six: Kate Spade New York Licorice - Black Glitter (get it!)
Seven: Dior 'Vernis' Gel Shine Nail Lacquer 155 Tra La La (get it!)
Eight: Saint Laurent Monogram leather shoulder bag (get it!)


It all starts with cognac and buttery fragrance when you whip the butter and sugar together...

Then comes the rosewater sizzling over hot, crumbly, fresh-baked cookies, filling the whole house with sweet aroma...

This is a traditional, old-fashioned, rich recipe.
Firstly, you will probably panick at the amount of butter needed; well, this recipe makes 100 pieces and it's put together for big, loud, Greek families;
Back in the day you'd take Kourabiedes to friend's homes as a seasonal gift. Not to forget that people used to pop in to see you and wish you Merry Christmas unannounced, so you needed something luxurious and yummy handy.
Then there is the old fashioned measuring system: saucers! They usually mean the saucer that came with their coffee cup. If you feel you can't swing 100 cookies then just half the amounts and the recipe works perfectly!
Ingredients (make 100 pieces):
- 1kg butter (I use half salted & half unsalted)
- 250gr roasted and chopped almonds
- 1.2kg all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 saucer of caster sugar
- 1 saucer of fine semolina
- Splash of Cognac or Brandy
- 1kg icing sugar
- Rosewater 
Leave the butter out for a couple of hours beforehand, to soften. If you are using unsalted butter only, then add a pinch of salt. It helps bring out the flavour of the butter and the rosewater. 
Whisk together the butter, baking powder, sugar, semolina and Cognac. 
In a separate bowl mix the flour and chopped almonds and combine with the butter mixture until you have a glossy, soft cookie dough texture. If the mixture is getting too warm making the individual cookies will prove tricky, so pop the mixture in the fridge between batches for 10 minutes. 
Line a baking tray with baking paper, no need to butter it. 
Using your hands, make small round balls and press them down slightly to make round cookies about 2inches in diameter and 1.5 inch high.
They will expand quite a bit, but make sure you give them enough thickness. You need to be able to take a good bite into the crumbly-buttery texture. 
Bake in a 200C oven for 20-25 minutes. Watch them closely, they cannot go darker than golden. 
Have another baking tray ready, dusted with icing sugar.
As soon as Kourabiedes are out of the oven sprinkle with rosewater - they sizzle and release the most intoxicating fragrance!
Carefully using a spatula move them on to the icing sugar. Put some more icing sugar in a small hand-held sieve and dust generously over the Kourabiedes. 
Let them cool down for a while and try restraining yourself from finishing them all off, before Christmas! My mother always reminds me that I have to guard them overnight when I first make them, so that my husband won't finish them off! x    

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