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Wednesday 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Seeing as it's very nearly Christmas and we've shown you all the presents you might want to buy (and what you might wrap them with), all of the food you might want to eat and what you'll want to wash it down with, we're ready to pack up for the year. But not without a little bit of a festive treat to say thank you for reading throughout 2011.


We're walking in the air!

It's not Christmas without Jimmy Stewart.

Santa Claus: The Movie - vastly underrated as a work of cinematic genius.

The best scene in Love, Actually?

We're back on January 5th (yep, we're having an extra couple of days off on the other side), see you in the New Year!

The Boy and his Poison: The Sluttery Mincepie Martini

With only a few days left I wanted to pull out the festive stops for the last drink. Egg nog has been covered very well, there were a few punch recipes I toyed with and a few cocktails from the Colebrooke Row festive roundup but they just didn't quite meet the Griswold level of extreme-xmas-fetishism I was aiming for.

You were ten minutes away from hearing about a very nice Port Cobbler when I suddenly noticed an unopened jar of mincemeat and tempting bottle of Chase vodka*. One sterilized jam jar later I was patiently waiting for my mincemeat to infuse its yuletide magic on the vodka (great minds think alike). I gave it about two days then all that was left was to add a few different bitters to enhance the flavour and a touch of vermouth to round things off.

For the Mincepie vodka:
The rough rule I developed was a level dessert spoon of mincemeat for every 100ml of vodka in a jar. For a whole jam-jar of the stuff i'd recommend about three decent desert spoons of mincemeat.  Give it a hefty shake and leave it somewhere cool for 48 hours. When you're ready to use it strain it through muslin, unfortunately a simple bar strainer won't keep all those distilled bits of suet out and your drink will look wonderful as a result of this small step. You can then happily dump your soused remnants on some ice cream and marvel at your clear golden liquid which smells like the sort of rocket fuel that Santa would use.

You'll need:
  • 50ml Mincemeat infused vodka
  • 10ml Vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
  • Maraschino cherry to garnish. This will probably be the only time I ever recommend bringing those maraschino infused relics out of the cocktail cabinet but 'tis the season for it.
Then shake
  • Add the ingredients to an ice filled shaker
  • Shake vigourously for a minute
  • Strain into an ice cold coupe glass
  • Spray the zest of some orange peel over the top
  • Garnish with the cherry
* It was found buried at the back of a cupboard and may potentially have been a designated Christmas present, I've yet to admit opening it.

Christmas Recipe round up

Want to desk the halls and have yourself a very Slutty Christmas? Here are our best festive recipes in one handy post. Whether you're cooking for two or twenty, we've got it covered.

Dinner things

Christmas dinner is the best dinner of all possible dinners that you can stuff into your face. If you fancy making yours a little more Sluttery-ish, then you'll need Kat's family stuffing recipe (or Elizabeth's cheaty version) and Michelle's nut roast. And for your veggies, you'll have a hard time choosing between honey-roasted parsnips and braised red cabbage. We've got the gravy and roast meat sorted, but we're still arguing about how to do the roast potatoes.

Sweet things.

Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without stuffing your face full of sugar. So how about some Joe Frogger Christmas cookies or snowstorm cupcakes? Want an alternative to Christmas pud? Then try Elizabeth's pecan pie recipe or a chocolate roulade instead. And don't forget about Gail's splody minces pies. Too full for pie? The mince pie ice cream I wrote about is perfect, and you'll be snacking on chocolate lebkuchen for days.

Booze things

If you start making it now, your Christmas pudding vodka will be ready in a few days. Nick has already shown you what booze gifts you need to be buying (don't forget the King's Ginger). Laura has given you the lowdown on some truly excellent festive wine choices and matched some up with some cheeses. Fancy a cocktail? We're all about infusing things with mincemeat this year. How about mince pie martini or a glass of festive fizz? The bloody mary martini will help your hangover on Boxing day. It was probably caused by all that mulled gin you drank.

Or if you need something warming, try our hot buttered rum or mulled wine recipes. And if you're a bit under the weather with festive flu (this means you get control of the remote), try a hot toddy or black stripe and you'll be sorted by new year. Not drinking? Get our mulled wine mocktail down you.

And the rest...

Need some extra treats? We've got loads of those. Sara suggests all you vegetarians start with this for Christmas breakfast (a baked egg roll would also go down well) If you've got people coming over, you'll need some easy canapes. Salami Slut Cups are perfect for meat and cheese lovers and roasted red pepper rolls are tasty too. And don't forget the sausage rolls. No one would forgive you if you forget the sausage rolls.

The best thing about Christmas really is the food, isn't it?

Baking for Beginners: Scrummy Chocolate Roulade

I haven't been that festive this year so far. I'm unexpectedly on my own for Christmas, so have been treating it like another regular day (apart from the fact that you can legitimately drink gin from 11am without fear of repercussions or prejudice). However, everything changed when I received possibly the kindest of gifts from a new pal in my life.

One of my Twitter followers and new Editor of Kitchen Bitching @jimsyjampots delivered unto me a gift of great kindness. No, not the immaculate conception of the Lord's son ... but a ruddy gorgeous chocolate roulade. Well, I simply had to get the recipe, as there was NO way this festive treat was going to last till Sunday!

You'll need:
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 6 large eggs
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 300ml double cream
  • Icing sugar
  • 50g milk chocolate
Make it!
  • Grease and line a 23 x 33cm swiss roll tin.
  • Break 175g of the dark chocolate into chunks and put it in a heatproof bowl. Rest this bowl on the top of a saucepan of simmering water, but don’t let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir the chocolate until it has melted. As soon as it’s smooth, remove the bowl from the pan of water and leave it to cool.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk (or a normal whisk and a very strong arm) until they are stiff. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without the egg white falling out.
  • Tip the sugar in the egg yolks and whisk together until the mix is thick and pale. Pour the melted chocolate into the yolks and fold together until combined.
  • Add two or three spoonfuls of the egg whites into the chocolate and stir gently. Then add two tablespoons of cocoa powder, the rest of the egg whites and fold in. Be as gentle as possible in order to keep all the air in.
  • Pour this mix into the swiss roll tin and smooth the top to make it even. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, until the top feels firm. Remove from the oven but keep it in the tin, letting it cool completely.
  • Lay a sheet of baking paper as long as the sponge on a work surface, and sprinkle it well with icing sugar. Turn the sponge out onto the baking parchment on the counter and peel off the paper you used to line the tin.
  • Whip the double cream until it holds its shape, before spreading it over the top of the sponge. Make sure you leave a border of about 1cm on all sides.
  • Gently roll one short end of the roulade towards the other side. You can use the parchment to help you here; pull it away from you in order to get a tighter roll. Don’t worry about the outside of the roll cracking; this makes it look pretty.
  • Melt the remaining 25g of the dark chocolate until runny, and drizzle it over the top of the roll. Then do the same with the 50g of milk chocolate. You can either serve it as it is or cut off the ends to neaten it.

Carrie's Guide to the Ultimate Turkey Gravy

I am the queen of sauce in my house. Granted, the only other females in the house that could potentially vie for the crown are two 7-year-olds and a goldfish that has assumed a female identity (how do you know the sex of a fish? Do they even have genders? So many questions) ... but still. I like to make sauce. But I LOVE to make gravy. And, it isn't quite as simple as you might think, either. There's a little more to it than slamming some Bisto into a jug of hot water and stirring. In fact, proper good gravy doesn't involve Bisto at all. But there is Marmite ...

So, here are my top tips for the best turkey gravy EVER:
  • Start early, and start with giblets. The best turkey gravy uses both the potato water and a stock made from the turkey giblets. You want a little salted water to boil the giblets in. Don't include the liver as this can make your stock taste bitter. In a litre of water pop your giblets, a chopped onion, chopped celery, chopped carrot and one tangerine rind. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. When it's ready, strain all the ingredients and add some potato water.
  • When your turkey is cooked let it stand (I cover it in foil at this point) and use the roasting pan for your gravy-making. Skim most of the excess brown fat from the tin but leave a little as it adds to the flavour.
  • CAREFULLY brown some flour on a baking tray in the oven - watch that it doesn't burn!
  • Heat the roasting tin on the hob and get the fat bubbling.
  • Add the flour to the fat and combine with a metal whisk. Make sure all the flour is combined with the fat and that it's nicely bubbling to avoid a starchy flavour.
  • Add the stock one cup at a time and whisk continually. You want a high heat and lots of bubbling to really blend the flavours.
  • Keep stirring and let the mixture reduce over a reasonably high heat.
  • Give it a taste and add approximately one teaspoon of Marmite instead of salt. You can add more to taste, depending on your personal preference.
  • If you like to sieve your gravy you can do this after about 10 minutes of the bubbling process.
  • Pour all over everything and consume!
Flickr image from Dinner Series' photostream. Carrie hasn't made her turkey gravy yet, she's saving that for the weekend.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Sluttishly Sweet: Mince Pie Ice Cream

I have issues with puddings at Christmas. (Christmas pudding included.) I really like them, but they're always too heavy. The last thing I want after Christmas dinner is a massive bowl of Christmas pud and brandy cream. I want all of the festive flavours, but in something a little lighter.

It might seem strange to make ice cream in December, but this mince pie flavour is perfect. It's refreshing after all of that hot food, and you still feel like it's Christmas. That's probably aided by the rather generous slug of Cointreau. It's the perfect alternative to stodgy puds and pastry.

You'll need:
  • 200ml milk
  • 200ml double cream
  • 130g sugar
  • Slug of Cointreau (about 25ml)
  • 2 tablespoons mincemeat
Make it!
  • Heat your milk in a saucepan, stirring to make sure it doesn't burn or stick to the pan. Once it's bubbling slightly, remove from the heat. 
  • Add the cream, Cointreau and sugar. Still until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to go cold and go about the rest of the day. In my case this was watching Jamie Oliver on the telly.
  • When it's cool, add the mince meat and stir. 
  • Transfer to an ice cream maker and make as usual if you have one. Otherwise chill in the freezer and give it a stir every half an hour for two hours (this stops those pesky ice crystals from forming). When it gets too difficult to beat, pop back in the freezer for another half an hour and you're ready to serve.
  • Serve instead of mince pies or Christmas pudding.
Flickr image from psd's photostream.

Mocktail Hour: Mulled "Wine"

While lots of us on Christmas Day will be moving from breakfast prosecco to Shiraz with dinner to whatever's at the back of the cupboard in the evening, for plenty of others this is the season to be sober. Orange juice, soda and lime, J20 and fruity mocktails all have their place, but this non-alcoholic mulled "wine" really hits the spot at a Christmas party. It's not too sugary so you can have more than one glass without your teeth furring up, and those lovely warming flavours - ginger, cloves and cardamom - will deliver Christmas cheer without the booze.

Add your favourite mulling spices to this. You may also want to stir some honey to sweeten it, although cranberry juice is usually plenty sweet enough.

Mulled "wine"

You will need:
  • 1 small orange
  • Handful of cloves
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1l carton of cranberry juice
  • 1l carton of apple juice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cardamom pods, gently crushed
Make it!
  1. Stud the orange with roughly 20 cloves. Peel the rind off the lemon in long strips.
  2. Pour the cranberry and apple juice into a large saucepan and throw everything else in, including the orange and lemon. Heat very gently until it's hot, but not boiling.
  3. Take it off the heat and serve in small glasses. The orange and lemon peel will be good for several rounds, so simply add more of the other ingredients when you inevitably need to top everyone up.

Sluttery Christmas: Easy Sausage Stuffing

I will probably be told off for not making this stuffing from scratch, but you know, sometimes you just need to throw something together that tastes delicious (there's a real stuffing recipe here if you don't fancy being a massive cheat). This sausage stuffing is  totally a cheats recipe and it tastes delicious. The stuffing adds a fantastic meaty saltiness to your roast dinner, and does the job of trimmings rather well. My family often squabble over this stuffing so I tend to hide any leftovers at the back of the fridge - leftover stuffing and meat sandwich with lashings of mayo is my guilty pleasure.

You will need:
  • 1 packet of Sage and Onion Stuffing
  • 2 Sausages
  • 450ml Chicken Stock (stock cubes are fine)
  • Large knob of Butter
Make it!
  • Gently slice down the length of the sausages and remove the skin. Set aside.
  • Tip the stuffing mix into a bowl, add the sausage meat and give it a good mix trying to break up the meat as much as possible.
  • Pour in the hot chicken stock and stir well until meat has dispersed nicely amongst the stuffing mix.
  • Stir in a large knob of butter and then set aside for at least 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, grease up a baking tin.
  • Dollop the stuffing into the tin and cook in the oven at 200C for about 30-40 minutes, or until the stuffing looks nice and crispy on the top.
  • Serve with your roast dinner including mountains of roast potatoes.

Alex's Christmas Meat Tips

Meat is a tricky thing. If you don't cook it enough it can be mighty dodgy, but if you cook it too much it can end up tough as last season's Jimmy Choos. Here are my tips for meat mastery this Christmas.
Buy the best you can afford
Yes, I know, it's a cliche. But organic meat from your butcher will be tastier and moister than bargain basement pre-packed factory-farmed pap from the supermarket. And it is Christmas.

Bring it to room temperature
It'll help the meat to cook more evenly. A steak should stay out on the worktop for around an hour before cooking, a ginormous turkey will need a couple of hours before roasting.

Crisp & dry
To get a good crispy skin on poultry, make sure the bird is nice and dry then oil it up or rub it with butter. A few minutes at a high heat at the start of cooking will help the skin to get nice and crisp. If you remove the skin as soon as it's finished cooking, it'll stop it getting all steamy from the meat underneath.

Time it right 
Turkey takes 20 minutes per 500 grams, but add 10 minutes per kilo for a stuffed bird. For other meats, check out the handing meat roasting guide in the Domestic Sluttery book.

Baste your bird
If you don't fancy brining, you can still keep your turkey moist by regularly basting it with the juices and fat in the roasting tin. Just scoop them over the breast with a spoon, or invest in a rather scary looking syringe.

Check it's done
Recipes and time guides give an idea for timing, but always check the meat yourself. Poultry should always be thoroughly cooked. Cut into the thickest part (between the thigh and breast) to check the juices run clear. Do this over a white plate if possible. If you're feeling nervous, use a meat thermometer in the same spot and check that the meat has reached 70c.

Let it rest 
Never serve meat straight from the oven. Cover it with foil and leave it somewhere warm for the fibres to relax. It'll need to rest for at least 30 minutes, which gives you plenty of time to make the gravy and sort out the vegetables.

Don't lose the juice 
Keep all those lovely pan juices to make gravy (look out for Carrie's post tomorrow).

Pic courtesy of Carly & Art's Flickr photostream

Monday 19 December 2011

Cocktail Hour: Festive Fizz

I cooked a pre-Christmas dinner for some friends at the weekend. There was Christmas crackers, crap Christmas presents that came from Poundland over the road and many, many roast potatoes. Since I'd been filling my ears with Christmas music since around 9am, I decided that bubbly just wasn't festive enough on its own. I needed it to be more Christmassy. If I could infuse cocktails with tinsel, I would do.

The basis for this festive cocktail is a mincemeat-infused syrup, perfect for mixing with other drinks. I topped mine up with champagne. There probably isn't a more Christmassy drink to start the night with.

You'll need:
  • 1 tablespoon mincemeat
  • 50ml Cointreau
  • 50ml King's Ginger
  • Bubbly
Make it!
  • Mix the booze and mincemeat together, leave in the fridge to infuse until you need it. I left mine for about three hours.
  • Strain into champagne glasses and top up with bubbly.
  • Drink, dance about listening to Mariah Carey on repeat.
Flickr image from kyz's photostream.

Ginterview: Pip McCormac

The Ginterview is exactly what it sounds like. We interview people we think are awesome while drinking gin. First up is Pip McCormac, lifestyle editor for Sunday Times Style (that photo is of him standing outside a bakery for dogs). We went to The Hide Bar on London's Bermondsey Street (looks rather dull, but it's hiding fabulous cocktail secrets). Angel face martini for Siany, kiwi caipiriniha for Pip.

How did you get your job? We're a bit jelz.

I did some work experience at Grazia, and that kicked it all off really (funnily enough the history degree didn't help much). I was writing all sorts about interiors and food and travel. I've always been obsessed with interiors. I've been a Heal's fan since forever.

What's your interior style?

Probably mid-century, but mixed with a whole load of other bits. I bloody love stuff. Random lamps shaped like dogs, all of it.

What's your favourite thing in your home?

My Sky + box. Seriously. I LOVE shouty telly. Especially ANTM. Modelland is my next book group book.

Which piece of design will you never own because it's so damn ugly?

I can't be having any shabby chic. I don't like chintz. All of those mismatched colours...

What's you signature dish? Which ingredients need to be banished?

I make an excellent white bean stew. I really love comfort food. But I can't stand chorizo. Or baked beans. Spaghetti hoops are nice, though.

Things you love about Christmas?

I fucking love everything about Christmas. Especially Starbucks Red Cups. The Eggnog ones. I'd listen to All I want for Christmas every day of the year. Such a good song. Not Slade though. Slade can fuck off.

Best Christmas film?


Give us a holiday tip, it's cold and we fancy going somewhere nice.

I adore Costa Rica. It's got rainforests, volcanoes, mountains and beaches - what's not to love? I also love Soho House Berlin. Such an amazing hotel. (Not like the one in this photo - this is me being annoyed that even nice American hotels tack themselves up for Halloween).

Excellent. Let's get more drinks! How much of a Domestic Slut are you?

Yes, more drinks. I'm a massive Domestic Slut. I'm happiest in my cashmere slippers, snuggling under my living room duvet (yes, a duvet just for the living room). And I fucking love a good cupcake. Sorry, I get sweary when I'm pissed.

Quite tipsy now. Let's do some quickfire questions!

Oooh, fun. *drinks*

Cat or dog?

Dogs. I'm scared of cats. I especially like the three-legged dogs that no one else wants.

Favourite ice cream flavour?

Pistachio. From that place in Soho. What's that fucking shop called? The one that isn't Gelupo? That one. (We think he means Scoop, we're still not totally certain.)

Worst style mistake?

Double belting. One through the belt, one over the belt. I thought I was well ahead of the curve. I was wrong.

Dinner party guests?

Tyra, obviously. Elisha Dushku. Erm.... oooh Jilly Cooper. And Davinia Taylor. She's trashy but I fucking love her. And Josie Long. That's all women isn't it? Oh, I don't give a shit, it's my party.

Erm... what about us?

Oh, you guys can come! You can be in the kitchen doing all the cooking.

Want more of Pip's fabulousness? You can buy his e-book Mistakes and Ladders and read about his experiences as a gay dating columnist. There's probably a few more swears in it. It's £3.99, which is frankly a bargain. Consider the cost per swear.

Sluttishly Savoury: Sausage Rolls

Ah, the humble sausage roll. Perfect bite-sized morsels, plus my favourite hang-over cure. Make bucketloads of these, as they're great hot or cold and apparently at some point soon you might just overdose on the Quality Street (never!) and need a savoury rescue.

You will need:

  • 500g all butter puff pastry, ideally the long roll rather than the squat square packet
  • 1 onion, very finely diced
  • Oil for frying
  • 200g best quality pork sausage meat
  • 100g soft dried apricots, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Egg yolks for sealing and glazing

Make it!

  1. Fry off the onions in the oil and set aside to cool.
  2. Put the pork, apricots, thyme in a bowl and season the mixture well. Scatter the cooled onions on top and mix all well together.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170C. 
  4. Roll out the puff pastry slightly and then divide the rectangle into three long strips. You'll be making three long sausages, then cutting them up. 
  5. Lay a line of sausage mixture down the length of each pastry strip.
  6. Fold the edges over the meat and use the beaten egg yolks to help to seal it. (as you can see from my picture, I overstuffed some of my rolls and ended up with sausage horseshoes but they were yum)
  7. Cut the rolls into 3cm lengths, arrange on a baking sheet so they aren't touching and use the rest of the egg to glaze.
  8. Bake until the pastry is golden - about 20 minutes depending on your oven.

Get Creative: 3D Toy Calendars

It's nearly Christmas, you've spent all your money on presents (especially if you're going by my 'one for you, two for me' rule), you still need things to make your home more festive. Well, if you're even a tiny bit crafty, take a look at Scout Creative's Calendar of the Month Club.

It's not a very elite club - anyone can join for zero pence. They provide an ace paper craft pattern every month for you to print out and make.

This month's PDF is a 3D nutcracker.

January's Curiosity Yeti would make a frosty addition to your table decorations, or even your tree.

September's pattern isn't Christmassy in the least, but is a rather atmospheric shadow box.

Each one comes with a calendar and a separate cut-out to cover it with when the month's over. Rope in some bored younger relatives and have some fun on Boxing Day making a few. You've got another couple of days in the office to surreptitiously print some off on the work printer (and if my manager's reading, I would like to stress that I absolutely never EVER do that. Ahem).

Friday 16 December 2011

The boy and his poison: Ezra's Mulled Gin

Its quite possible that new London restaurant Mishkin's saved my entire Christmas with a drink. In a desperate attempt to divine what on earth to get my family last Saturday I decided to drag myself into town. For the record, shuffling around central London with man-flu is an ill-advised move at the best of times, doing it at Christmas time is insane, which was why after three hours I threw in my festive towel and headed for Mishkin's (a lovely deli/cocktail place with its own dedicated gin list) where I was introduced to this amazing drink that de-Grinched me in one sip.

The drink was created by the head bartender Alex and whilst it has all the characteristic rich depth of flavour you get from a mulled wine or cider, it can be put together in less than five minutes. So not only is it gin based, theatrical to make and soothingly sweet from the greengage and orange, its also a really good cheat when you need a Christmas fix but don't want to wait two weeks for your glögg to mature. If you're able to visit the restaurant, its a delicious accompaniment to an enormous salt beef sandwich, but if you can't get to London they were kind enough to share the recipe with me.

You'll need:
  • 50ml of gin
  • 25ml of orange juice
  • 5ml Absinthe
  • 1 bar spoon of greengage conserve (most supermarkets should have this)
Then to make it:
  • Fill a heat proof glass with ice
  • Pour in the absinthe, swirl and leave to rest
  • Pour the orange juice, gin and greengage conserve into an ice filled shaker and shake thoroughly till mixed
  • Strain this into another heat proof glass or jug and heat. The method Mishkin’s use is by using a milk steamer from a coffee machine as by steam heating it you can bring it up to the right temperature without diluting the alcohol. If you’re not lucky enough to have one of those lying around I found microwaving at 80% power for 25 seconds was sufficient, but keep an eye on it when its in there. 
  • Discard your ice from the first glass leaving the absinthe rinse, and pour into it the hot liquid. 
You’ll get a lovely plume of steam as the hot mixture hits the cold glass so it makes for a great drink to assemble in front of people.

All I Want For Christmas: Last Minute Stocking Fillers

Even though we know Christmas happens at the same time every year, there always seems to be something or someone that gets forgotten. I've rounded up some handy little stocking fillers for such just in case cases!

There are few people who don't like cute animals. Especially when they come as a puzzle for you to put together like these ones.
Crocodiles! Owls! Elephants! Reindeer! You can give this to a child or someone who likes to have things on their desk. Like me. A set of 12 costs £7.95 from Hus and Hem.

Maybe you know someone who likes exploring sciencey things. They need a pocket microscope.

Portable science fun will set you back £5.95 from Prezzybox.

Book bags are always useful. Even better if they come with a cute little monster on like this one from Noodoll.
This little bag of cute will set you back £6.

Sometimes at Christmas, you just want time away from everyone to do something different. Making a kaleidoscope is different and pretty.
This kit from NPW is £6.95. You're never too old to want to build things and look through a kaleidoscope.

Now to double check my list just in case I need to get any of these!

Roast potatoes: How do you do yours?

Let's start with the facts: No one will make roast potatoes better than our mums.

But we can try. The problem is that everyone argues about the best way to do them. How to get them crispy on the inside, and all fluffy in the middle. If the Domestic Sluts had to tackle Christmas dinner together, you can bet there would be drunken fisticuffs about the spuds. We'd all have different ways of doing them and we all think we're right. Because that's how our mums did them. We learnt from the best.

My mum is (as all mums are) a roast potato queen. She's magic in the kitchen anyway, but I would walk back to Wales in the snow for her roasties at Christmas. She par-boils and then waits until the oil is very hot before putting them in the oven for an hour. And then magic happens. I've never had roast potatoes better than hers. Not once. It's witchcraft. Crispy, fluffy witchcraft.

So firstly it's skins off. Don't you dare tell me you have roasties with skins on, I just won't ever come 'round for tea. I par-boil for about 8 minutes, shake about in the pan and add to hot oil with sea salt and cracked black pepper. And they're usually pretty good. They're getting better each time I make them, but then sometimes they're pretty average and then I get grumpy.

I've gone all out and bought duck fat for my next batch (so excited - this must be the happiest way to go up a dress size). Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall uses groundnut oil, which sounds strange and I'm not sure I want them to taste of groundnut. He prefers a King Edward, whereas Delia is all about the Desiree. It's a massive potato minefield. Heston is all about the olive oil, and I've tried that - they just don't get crispy enough for me. Nigel favours my way. I love Nigel and his gentle voice.

I'm certain there's no right answer.

So it's over to you guys. Tell us how you make your roast potatoes! We're never, ever going to agree. You'll all have different tips and tricks and I want to know what they are. One day, just one day, we might all able to make roasties that taste as good as the ones our mum makes.

Flickr image from artwork_rebel.

Sluttishly Sweet: Choc-topped Lebkuchen

Is there anything that chocolate can't make better? This morning I found myself adding some very untraditional dark chocolate to my traditional German Lebkuchen. They're a spice-infused speciality that have been knocking around since medieval times. I should be ashamed of myself, but I'm not. Sometimes it is possible to improve on perfection (especially when chocolate comes into it).

If you're feeling crafty, you could shape the dough into hearts (Lebkuchen-Herzen) or pigs (Glucksschweinchen). Or just go for the easy option and roll them into golf ball sized blobs. They'll still taste just as nice.
There are all sorts of spices that work well in Lebkuchen. Try adding some ground black pepper or cardamom. Just don't miss out the ginger, because Lebkuchen wouldn't be Lebkuchen without it. Wunderbar!

Choc-topped Lebkuchen (makes about 30)

You'll need:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75ml clear honey
  • 75ml treacle
  • 85g butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 50g dark chocolate (or more if you like)
Make it!
  • Put the dry ingredients into a large bowl. 
  • Heat the honey, treacle and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter just melts, then pour into the flour mixture along with the lemon zest and egg. 
  • Mix well until the dough is combined. 
  • Cover and leave to cool, then pop in the fridge overnight (or even for a couple of days if you like).
  • When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C / gas 4. 
  • Roll the dough into balls, then flatten each one slightly.
  • Put the biscuits on two or three baking trays lined with baking parchment (they will expand quite a bit, so leave some room). 
  • Bake for 12-15 mins, then leave to cool on a wire rack. They will still be soft when you take them out of the oven but will harden up on cooling.
  • Once the biscuits are cool, melt the chocolate in a bain marie or (carefully) in the microwave. Drizzle the chocolate over and leave to set.

Win! ALL of the Domestic Sluttery Presents!

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Domestic Sluttery gave to me... every single one of their Christmas presents!

We have a winner! For Christmas she wants a "baby penguin or a baby polar bear, of the Frozen Planet ilk." (Don't we all?) Jane Sommerville! You've won! Just email us to claim your millions and millions of prizes.

Thanks so much for playing everyone, you've made Domestic Sluttery Christmas a whole pile of festive AWESOME.

Yep, you heard us, we're giving away EVERYTHING. What's that? All of the things? In the style of Blind Date (RIP - sort it out ITV), here's a quick recap of everything we've given away...

Christmas decorations from Natural HistoryRob Ryan plated from Hunkydory Home, A free range turkey from Donald Russellearrings from Accessories Online, A sweetie hamper from Hope & Greenwood, A dress from Fever Londonpersonally designed shoes from Upper Street, a chutney hamper from Tracklements, amazing books from the V&A, whisky glasses from Bodie & Fou, a fabulous sausage dog purse from Dutch by Design.

Phew! That is A LOT of fabulous stuff and it's worth more than £800! We're so hugely grateful to everyone who gave us prizes.

So what do you have to do to win? Tell us what present you're wishing for this Christmas. Do you want a Mr. Frosty (we do)? Or a penguin helter skelter (yeah, we want of these too)? Or perhaps you want a massive snog from that boy your fancy. We don't have magic Christmas fairy powers, but we are very nosy. As it's our last competition, you can enter in three ways today.

1. Leave a comment below.
2. Like our competition entry listing on our Facebook page and tell us your answer there.
3. Tweet your answer, using the hashtag #DomesticSlutteryChristmas at the end so everyone can see.

You can do all three if you like - we want to spread as much Christmas joy as possible (but not too much joy, don't go spamming your friends). You've got until 6pm on Sunday to enter, and we're going to announce the winner that evening. This is key - there's a turkey than needs delivering so if you've won you'll need to claim your prize by noon on Monday.

Go on, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and get entering!

Oh yawn, small print (read it). The competition will close at 6pm on December 18th. You must be UK based to enter, sorry you lovely overseas readers. If you're anon your entry won't count and if you enter more than once, we'll discount all of your entries and tell you off. The winning entry will be chosen at random and you must claim your prize by the 19th or we'll draw again. If you've won one competition this Christmas, let someone else have a bash and go and play with your toys! We're not allowed to enter our own competitions but Siany is wishing for lots of books and a snuggly and cosy pair of pyjamas. Failing that, she'd quite like a kitten.

All I Want For Christmas ... Carrie edition

When it comes to style there are few finer than the glamour pusses at Deadly is the Female. This boutique is atop a steep, steep hill in my home town - a once-sleepy Somerset location that's taken on a new lease of life; in recent years the town has transformed into a mecca for all things fabulous.

This leopard-print wiggle dress with a sweetheart neckline and killer silhouette would be just perfect for adding a bit of sexy spice to this Christmas!

This is the Ferrari of the baking world. But more beautiful. Gone are the days when you had to hide your mixer at the back of a cupboard; embarrassed at its clunky, unattractive appearance.

Kenwood has got seriously SEXY. Not only is this little beauty blooming gorgeous, but it's a must-have accessory for any budding baker. *hopes boyfriend has been saving his pennies*

A K Mix Kenwood Mixer, £394.99

I love Anthropologie's bespoke, one-off jewellery. Everything is so fabulous it was hard to pick just one piece. I would love this piece for Christmas because it is so simplistically sophisticated ... it'd go with just about anything and make a statement out of any outfit!

Gorgeous Whittled Round Necklace from, £148


Thursday 15 December 2011

All I Want For Christmas: Food, Glorious Food

What to give the food-lover in your life this Christmas?  Here are some of my favourite discoveries from the past year.

For someone who's a slave to their morning coffee, the Aeropress provides a remarkably consistent espresso experience and is delightfully portable - all you need is a kettle and a mug (and a thermometer if you're really fastidious). You could even stash one in the kitchen at the office - it's quick to clean and faster than nipping out to visit your local barista too. It's currently £24.99 with free shipping.

To accompany it, what about a subscription for a monthly coffee delivery? Many small artisan roasteries offer mail order, such as Union Hand Roasted's 6 month Roastmaster Subscription (currently 25% off, at £54) and you get two different 250g bags of directly-sourced coffee monthly, choose whole bean or ground.  Square Mile's Espresso Subscriptions are available in wholebean only, for a 500g bag per month, and start at £75.

Or perhaps these stacking espresso cups from John Lewis - they're £12 for four.

I'll be honest, I haven't actually cooked anything from the Essential New York Times Cook Book yet, rrp £30.  Instead I've been too busy reading Amanda Hesser's glorious introductions to each and every recipe in here, all of which were taken from the paper's 150 year history of recipe publishing, including their former cook books. She cooked and updated every one of the 1000+ dishes in here - some of them with her twin toddlers in tow.  It's a great read, a slice of food history, and also would be perfect for flattening a Shooter's Sandwich.

For meat lovers, there's the Ginger Pig coobook, which will satisfy any carnivore's cravings and for both veggie main courses and great side dish ideas, I'd recommend Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. Both are £13.75 on Amazon at the moment.

If you're going to any parties this season and would like to bring something with you, as well as Carrie's quaffing recommendations, you'll go straight to the top of the Nice List if you bring along Heston's Popping Candy Tart, available from Waitrose for £16.99.  They reckon it serves ten but I'd say it will stretch to at least sixteen. Passionfruit puree cuts through the richness of the chocolate and then the base is liberally studded with a Sluttery fave - popping candy!

If chocolate's not your thing (really?!) then I guess you could also just buy them some Home Gourmet popping candy, £2.99, to sprinkle over anything else festive - crackly sparkly mince pies, perhaps? I insist on the popping candy...

If your foodie friend doesn't already own a Microplane grater, then you can rectify that immediately.  They're incredibly sharp and will make short work of all kinds of grating work from parmesan to nutmeg. They come in a variety of grades or coarseness, from £19.95.

Given that they are so effective, it's not unreasonable to wonder how to shave the last of that chocolate while still retaining your fingerprints. 

This nifty little Slider fits over the "Gourmet" range and lets you keep slicing quickly and efficiently until the very end, with no fear of scraped knuckles or any extra little surprises in the salad.  

Over the past few years I've made sure to have a panettone in the house at Christmas as it makes the best toast for Boxing Day breakfast. The Alberti family in Benevento have been making Italian delicacies since 1860.

They've now incorporated the feisty Strega liquer which tastes of wild mint, cinnamon, and juniper and is vividly coloured by saffron, into a panettone filled with a liquer-laced custard, £23.95 or the traditional one as pictured is £19.95.  Their Strega Croccantina are crisply dark chocolate brittle pieces and would be great crushed and scattered over good vanilla ice-cream or melted into hot chocolate.

Sluttishly Snug: Long Tall Sally Fair Isle Slipper Boots

Long Tall Sally have 20% off everything at the moment, and the one thing I'd urge you larger-footed things to invest in are these fantastic slipper boots, normally £22.

I've had them for a month and they're not only incredibly comfortable, but they're fun for winter and - very important for fake fur I think - the lining doesn't make your feet all hot and horrible. Just keep an eye on those pom poms - I managed to accidentally dunk mine in a glass of mulled wine on Sunday, oops...

All I Want for Christmas: Gifts for Kids (by Charlotte, aged 7 1/2)

I like Christmas because I get lots of toys that I want. We put up the decorations in the house to make it look nice and Christmassy. My favourite is the shiny star on the Christmas tree because it is nice and golden shiny.  Last year Father Christmas gave me a hula hoop, a Wii Party game, Buzz Lightyear, rulers and pencils and glow sticks for me to wear. These are some things I would like Father Christmas to bring.
I would like some walkie talkies because I want to play spies with my sister. She is called Annabelle. She is 4.

I think my sister Annabelle would like a kaleidoscope. This is cool because you can make your own one with your own patterns and you can see colours inside. 

I want this spinning top. It spins round and round and round. It has horses and they spin round and I like the colours.

I like all the butterflies and the rainbow and the sun and the star. You can stick them onto the wall. You can put them in your bedroom or the play room. I would like these pink butterflies for my room to make it look pretty.

This is a monkey to help you learn to count and add up. You put different numbers on his arms to make the number 10. You have to make it balance carefully and if you get it wrong it will have cross eyes. I could play this with Annabelle and it will be fun.

Charlotte Keane. Aged 7 1/2

Sluttery Travels: 48 Hours In Liverpool

A bit of lambanana spotting.
It's a little known Sluttery fact that I lived in Liverpool and Wirral for eight years when I was younger and I've not been back properly since I left when I was 16. In the, *ahem*, several years that have passed, it's undergone a bit of a transformation so I went to have a nose around and see what it has to offer.

It turns out that you will never want for food or drink in Liverpool. Bold Street is like one long coffee shop, with seemingly every other place offering some sort of caffeine. I went to Leaf for some tea and brunch. Their tea selection is impressive but not overwhelming and my brunch of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon was just the right size. It felt a bit flat during the day but it's open until midnight during the week and until the early hours at weekends which is where it probably comes into its own for times when you don't want to go to a bar or pub. A bit further up is Tribeca on Berry Street, just at the edge of China Town, where I went for dinner and cocktails. They do enormous pizzas for under £6 and have a great cocktail list, with most of them being under £6 too.

If you want to splash out on a nice dinner, make sure you go to Lunya in Liverpool One, which is a Catalan deli and restaurant. I met up with my friend and her husband and we had an absolute feast with the gourmet tapas banquet which is £35 per person but totally worth it. The slow roasted ox cheeks were so delicious I could've happily eaten more even though I was stuffed!

Drink mulled wine, look at moose.
The biggest change in Liverpool has been the development of Liverpool One. It's like a huge open air mall and has pretty much every single shop you can think of, including a Zara Home which would be incredibly bad for my bank balance but lovely for my home if I had permanent access to it. If you get chance to go before 8th January then you'll also be able to take advantage of all the lovely Christmas stuff including a pop-up Harvey Nichols food shop and the Polar Bar where you can get restorative hot cocktails to help with the shopping fatigue! I can heartily recommend the Winter Crumble - apples and cinnamon and vodka and deliciousness.

If you're looking for something a bit different from the usual high street shops, Utility on Bold Street (in two different shops, one for home stuff and one for gifts) has some nice things - I spotted a few bits we've already featured here so they obviously have great taste! I particularly liked their range of Liverpool based gifts which would make a nicer souvenir than a t-shirt. You should also check out The Bluecoat, which is a gallery and independent shop space all in one. I used to hang out here a lot when I was a teenager and it's still one of my favourite places. I could have easily bought all my Christmas presents in Landbaby.

Feeling the need for some culture? Just have a walk around! Liverpool has some amazing architecture from the museums on William Brown Street to the cathedrals to the docks. If you need to do one museum though then I'd recommend the new Museum of Liverpool. It has a bit of everything but really focuses on the social history of Liverpool which I found particularly interesting but then I am a bit of a social history geek!

So after all that shopping and eating and culture, you need somewhere to stay. Try Hope Street Hotel or 62 Castle Street if you're after somewhere cool and boutique. If though you want to indulge in some Beatles heaven (you didn't think I'd get through a whole post without mentioning them did you?!), then you can stay at The Hard Days Night, which is stylishly kitsch and quite frankly, where else can you get away with staying in a Beatles themed hotel?

I had a fab time in Liverpool and can't wait to go back. I shan't leave it so long next time!

All I Want for Christmas: home sweet homewares

I'm in the middle of the process of buying my first flat (an excited but terrified eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee to that). I'm doing a spot of spare room surfing, with the bulk of my stuff in storage, until it all goes through. What I'd like for Christmas are little bits to cheer up my bedroom now and make it feel a bit more like home - things that I'll then be able to eventually carry proudly into my new house. Whether you're renting or a proud homeowner, there's surely space in your stocking, and in your home, for one of these beauties.

Okay, I'm asking for a tea towel for Christmas but I've clearly got my priorities straight. Roll on cavorting in the kitchen opportunities. This is designed by Joy of Ex and costs £10 from To Dry For.

A house always benefits from a bit of artwork, especially one that reminds you how wonderful you are in times of stress like this You are Ace print by Laura Seaby does. While I'm still renting, there's no hammering things into walls so I'd be grateful if someone also bought me one of these tabletop easels so I can prop some of my favourite prints up around my room. The print is £25, while the easels start at £11.

Do you know what else makes me feel at home? Coffee and the papers at the weekend. I've been lusting after the Chemex coffee maker for a while. The design dates back the 1940s and I love its scientific looks: after all coffee is a very serious business. This makes up to six cups (so you can spend your weekend delightfully caffeinated) and costs £29.99 from Muazo.

Urban Outfitters seems to leave the competition floored (sorry!) when it comes to cheap and attractive rugs. I've had my eye on this joyful zig zig number for a while. It's the most expensive item on my Christmas list at £65 but it'll last me long after twelfth night.

How about a vase for adding some instant prettiness? I think these striped numbers from Hus and Hem are beautiful, worthy of their £56.17 price tag and are asking to be filled with beautiful blooms. If someone wants to send me some flowers too, that would be just great, ta.

If someone is feeling very generous and really wants to treat someone with ambitions on sprucing up their home, interior design hero Abigail Ahern runs masterclasses on how to create stylish spaces. A day class costs £150.

Win! A sausage dog purse from Dutch by Design

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Domestic Sluttery gave to me... a sausage dog purse from Dutch by Design.

Update! We have a winner! Rebecca Wilson Scott! You said that you'll be wearing a "joyfully colourful (and stretchy) jersey dress: It's uber comfy, suitably festive and will accommodate my expanding food filled belly!" Sounds brilliant. Just email us to claim your prize.

OH MY GOD I WANT THIS SO MUCH. I'm not even in the Christmas spirit about this competition. I'm being a massive Scrooge. I want this leather sausage dog purse for myself and I'm mad that one of you is going to win it him. Our penultimate present is from our sponsors Dutch by Design and he's the cutest, most adorable purse ever.

But if you at least consider winning him and then wrapping him up and sending him to sit under my Christmas tree, I'll let you play. Leave us a comment below, telling us what you'll be wearing for Christmas day. Are you a pretty sparkly dress kinda person, or are you not planning on getting dressed at all? Slankets don't count as being dressed y'know. And that's more than OK with us.

Leave us a comment before midnight tonight and we'll announce the winner (somewhat begrudgingly) tomorrow.

Wondering who won the Bodie & Fou whisky glasses yesterday? That was Catherine Fathers! Here's what she'll be drinking for Christmas - "Hot chocolate with Baileys, oodles of whipped cream and grated chocolate to top it off, the works. Serve in an oversized mug with a blanket and a Christmas film, done!" Sounds good to us! Catherine, just email us to claim your prize and we'll send it on its way.

Good luck today, everyone!

Oh yawn, small print (read it). The competition will close at Midnight on December 15th. You must be UK based to enter, sorry you lovely overseas readers. If you're anon your entry won't count and if you enter more than once, we'll discount all of your entries and tell you off. The winning entry will be chosen at random and you must claim your prize by the 16th or we'll draw again. If you've won one competition this Christmas, let someone else have a bash and go and play with your toys! We're not allowed to enter our own competitions. Humph. Go away. We're sulking like you wouldn't believe.
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