Elf Down the Douro

Next stop on our Northern Portugal adventure.  We pick up a hire car and head off into the countryside in search of quiet, views and more wine!

We head out of Porto and choose to avoid tolls for cost saving and nicer driving.  The countryside is beautiful and lush.  We drive through the morning, it takes about 3 hours but we do not notice the time as we are blessed with the wonderful views.

Slowly we IMAG2868start to climb into the vine country before we dip down again along the riverside.  Then we start to ascend properly passing the vineyards that below to the Port Houses and Cellars that we saw and visited in Porto.  We turn of the main roads and head high into the mountains.  Its not a great drive for those who suffer carsickness or vertigo, but on we go.  We reach a small town close to Armamar.  IMAG2869

 

The view is simply incredible.

 

Stretching out in front of us, a church nestles between the vines and chimes as we clamber out and head into the most wonderful villa.  We have splashed out a little (60 euros a night) so that we can have the privilege of a swimming pool, views and a BBQ.

The next few days pass in relaxation heaven. We spend our days driving the countryside and stopping in little towns.  We visit Armamar and shop in the local bakery, butcher and shops before heading home to cook outside and enjoy the evening slowly passing.

It is perfect.

 

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Street Feast Elf

Fancy doing something a bit different for dinner, keep on reading.

Moon boot and I head off to Hawker House for a feast of street food.

Hawker House is a street foodie’s heaven.  Pop up restaurants and bars all together in one very cool place.  Hawker House is one of the Street Feast locations which started life as Dinnerama.  Hawker House is located in Canada Water a two minute walk from the tube station which makes it ideal for after work or easy catch ups on the weekend.  There are 8 different food vendors and 8 different bars.  Its a big space inside which doesn’t feel like you are inside an old warehouse, but more like a market on holiday.  There are also pool tables and beer pong tables if that’s your thing.

I very much recommend a big group and everyone head off and return with treats!  This way you get to try lots of what is on offer.  My favorite were the pork buns from Yum Bun, Mr Elf aka Moon boot, enjoyed the stake plate from Up In My Grill.  The gin bar was a big hit with our group as well.

If you want to check out street food for your self, you can head to Hawker House or Dinnerama, fingers crossed that there are more locations on the way back as the weather warms up.

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For the Hawker House website click here

Enjoy!  Let us know what your favorite eats were if you’ve been and if there are any other cool food experiences you think we need to visit please do let us know.

As usual I ate and then remembered I was supposed to take photos…oops!

 

Elfy Sushi

For a long time I have been trying to work up the courage to make my own sushi.  So tonight, is the night.

For preparation, I have ordered a bamboo mat for rolling the sushi, sushi rice and the nori sheets.

Ingredientsimag2416

Nori sheets
Sushi rice
Salmon filets x 2
½ bell pepper
Garlic
1 x can of Tuna
2 tsp Tahini
Avocado

Method

Pre-cook your sushi rice in advance so that it has a chance to cool right down.  I cooked about a cup of rice and this made 4 rolls.

Gently fry the garlic and bell pepper in a pan, add some chilli if you like a bit of spice.  Add the salmon in the same pan. once cooked though allow to cool in the meantime, mix the tuna, tahini and a little oil.

Lay the bamboo mat out on a clean surface or chopping board.  Lay a nori sheet on the top of the bamboo mat.  Spread a lay of the sushi rice on the nori but leave a good 3-4cm at the front of the sheet.  Spread a decent amount of tuna on the end furthest from you, lay some sliced avocado along side the tuna and roll towards you tightly.  Slice up.

Repeat with the salmon, slice it and lay across the prepared nori and rice.  Add the bell peppers and garlic across and roll.

Yum.

It tastes amazing, its fresh and healthy.  The first roll is not tight enough and a bit fiddly to eat.  I will definitely make this again.

 

Disaster in the kitchen Elf

Nougat a wonderful soft, chewy, sweet and decadent treat and the perfect homemade Christmas gift for friends and family.

So, I set about researching for a recipe that is easy enough for a first-time nougat creator and a recipe that does not insist on lots of crazy equipment.  I settle on one from Good To Know

So, I set out my ingredients, and at the start everything is going IMAG2241 (1).jpgwell.  I follow the instructions.  Bit by bit it becomes apparent that I need 2 more sets of hands.  Whilst trying to keep an eye on the temperature of the syrup, I realise the almonds are starting to burn.  I quickly whip them out of the oven.  Phew, rescuable I just take out the few almonds that are beyond it.  Then I start to separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites.

Now, I do not have a standalone mixer, just a hand held…this is where it starts to go terribly wrong.  I’m desperately multitasking, trying to watch the syrup and whisk the egg whites.  The egg whites are ending up everywhere as I resort to trying to keep whisking whilst holding the thermometer in the syrup.  The temperature does not seem to be rising at all, then suddenly its burning…I’m not even sure how, it doesn’t look like its burning but the fire alarm is now going off so it must be!  In a last ditched attempt to rescue the situation I try to gently and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites…whilst whisking.  I definitely do not have enough hands I can’t hold the heavy syrup pan and whisk…it’s not physically possible.  I imag2245am spilling boiling sugar everywhere!  EVERYWHERE! I give in and try to do it in batches.  A last minute hopefulness takes over as it seems the mixture is setting.  It’s quite brown though…that’s not right…. Anyway, I pour the mix into the trays line with rice paper (oh, yes, forgot to mention I miss-clicked and ended up with a garish green rice paper rather than the pale green Christmas colour I had hopped for).

The mix sort of sets, we try it.  It is horrible, genuinely I have never baked anything that tastes more like the scrapings of a fire place.  It goes in the bin.

I try again… because I am mad.  I haven’t yet gotten the sugar syrup off the benches!

The second attempt is mildly less manic and terrifying, helped by enlisting Mr Elf.  This time however, the mix just stays like a rather melty ice cream looking smuch between garish green paper.  It tastes good this time, which is something…. I think.  In any case, it too goes in the bin and I make shortbread instead.

I recommend buying your nougat at the supermarket and enjoying as a treat that does not leave you wondering how you got egg whites in the toaster!

 

Elf about the Christmas Markets!

We’ve been spending our time at Christmas markets working out which ones we think are the best.

Our three favourites in no particular order are:

Southbank Christmas Market

Little wooden German market huts stack up down the Southbank, there are all the usual stalls, jewellery, candles, sweets, bratwurst and mulled wine.  Its glory is in the wonderful setting.  The lights glint of the river and the whole area smells like cinnamon and sausage, which is a surprisingly wonderful mix of smells.  It is busy but it feels more spread out than a lot of the Christmas markets.  Lovely and quaint and also close to the Southbank food market round the back of the Royal Festival Hall, in case you fancy something other than bratwurst.

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/winter-festival

Winter Wonderland

The Christmas market that has popped straight out of an over excited child’s imagination.  This place is crazy, its busy, full, there are rides that you can buy tickets in advance for.  The beer hall is a must, but do expect to stand.  The food here is good, and has a much wider variety than you can expect at most Christmas markets…. but don’t expect to sit down…and do expect tantrums and ques.  Is it worth it…yes! Don’t be a Grinch give it a go.

http://hydeparkwinterwonderland.com/#TfrvaiYcRfyyb0kR.97

Camden Christmas Market

We all love Camden Markets for the unusual and fun atmosphere, the Christmas markets here are just as quirky.  The mulled cider here is wonderful, this market has some of the normal Christmas stalls interspersed with the more unusual things, its only on a Thursday evening, so make sure you plan for this.  There is usually live music and its more of adult option for the Christmas market scene.

https://www.camdenmarket.com/journal/oi-to-the-world

Pudding!

Christmas pudding, my favourite.  I have been cooking this recipe for the last few years and it is now a staple of Christmas day.  This is a Good House Keeping recipe which I have altered a little bit to suit us.  This recipe uses Guinness to give a deep and fuller flavour, the dark rum compliments this and I love the stickiness that the dates give the pudding.

 

Ingredients

  • 250 g dried fruit mix (I like to choose one that has orange peel in it)
  • 75 g each of four other types of dried fruit (this year I am using, big yellow sultanas, cranberries and two lots of dates)imag2225
  • 3 tbsp dark rum
  • 250 ml Guinness
  • Butter, to grease
  • 75 g vegetarian suet
  • 100 g light muscovado sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 60 g plain flour
  • 5 tsp each ground cinnamon and mixed spice
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 50 g fresh white breadcrumbs

 

Method

  1. Put the dried fruit, rum, Guinness, into a large non-metallic mixing bowl. Cover and leave to soak for at least 48 hours, I find that the extra time for soaking means the fruit takes up more of the alcohol.
  2. Lightly butter a 1 litre (1¾ pint) pudding basin and line the base
    with a disc of baking parchment. Put a 35.5cm (14in) square of foil on top of a square of baking parchment of the same size. Fold a 4cm (1⅛in) pleat across the centre of both together and set aside.imag2230
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the soaked fruit, stirring well. Really make sure that you get everything mixed together well and dispersed nicely. Spoon the mixture into the prepared basin, pushing down well. Level the surface. Put the pleated foil and parchment square (foil-side up) on top of the basin and smooth down to cover. Tie a long piece of string securely under the lip of the basin.
    imag2227
  4. To cook, put a heatproof saucer in the base of a large, deep pan. Lower in the prepared pudding and pour in enough water to come half-way up sides of basin, trying not to get any on top of pudding. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then bring water to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 4½hr, topping up the water as necessary. Remove pudding from the pan and cool completely.imag2229
  5. When cool, wrap the entire basin, still with its foil lid, tightly in cling film and then another layer of foil. Store in a cool, dark place for up to two months

 

The Elf tip for this recipe is that you can use home brand dried fruit is just fine.  I also use a cheap dark rum because after all it is being cooked.  But, I always use branded Guinness and good quality golden syrup. 

 

Please do send me your recipes, I would love to try them!