Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The ultimate guide to making your own edible Christmas Gifts

Part of the inspiration to Lets Make Christmas which led to the Fortnum and Mason food Bloggers Gift Swap was Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet.  It was his baking bible that got me thinking that there must be another way.  I have a copy to give away to my favourite recipe and I'd like to say it has to be the
is delicious  Christmas Pudding Macarons with Italian Meringue Brandy Buttercream so I'll get your copy of Dan's book over ASAP!

Gail from One Million Gold Stars who captured exactly what I was trying to get across when I asked for other foodies to take part in Lets Make Christmas so I am going to share what she wrote at the bottom of her post she wrote:

Suffice to say that if you see me proferring a jar or bottle of something your way this December, it’s because I think you’re someone with a discerning palate, and someone about whom I cared enough to make something for, from scratch.”

I couldn't have said it better myself and looking at over 100 entries so far it seems that making our own edible food gifts has really captured the festive mood.  I feel my Kenwood is invaluable at this time of year more then ever so I'm absolutley tickled pink to be able to offer the winner of the best recipes this beautiful K- Mixer courtesy of Kenwood.  They will be having a really good look the recipes next week and I'll be able to announce their favourite recipe here on the 18th December! - So if you haven't posted yet there is still time to get you recipe over to me! ( by the 11th  December please email me and make sure you have the Logo added for #LetsMakeChristmas)

I just have one other thing to add as I was given some invaluable advice when I spoke to Max Clark who is the buyer at Leiths School of Food and Wine about making your own gifts.   I asked what she would tell people she said to stick to things you know you are good at, look for ingredients you already have in your cupboard and try to make it simple and classic. So here is a bit of her great advise for you to listen to  and I really hope you'll have a go at making your own gifts this year!  Oh ...  and one last lovely addition is that Kavey Eats has written a really great round up of all her gift idea's click here for even more great  gifts !

Leiths School of food and Wine Advise on Making Christmas Gifts (mp3)

So here are the recipes   ..

Jams Pickles and Preserves 
Apple Preserves 
Mulled Wine Sachets – Utterly genius!
Mustard .. Delicious home made creations

Drinkable gifts

Sweet gifts
Christmas Pudding Cake Pops  (One I’ll definitely be making!)

Baked gifts
Christmas cakes (mini snowflake ones!)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Totally Traditional Turkeys

If there is one time of year you need to consider the provenance of your food it’s got to be on Christmas Day. I mean really do you want an insipid, water filled tasteless turkey that has had a miserable life just to save a few quid this Christmas?    or ever for that matter?) No? I didn’t think that would appeal to you much .. so how do you ensure you are getting a great bird?  Well look for t a bronzed free range British turkey that has eaten good food and had time to mature -  it’s often your local farm shop that will sell this kind of a bird.

If I am being honest about turkey it is not usually my choice of meat for Christmas day, but this year I was sent a turkey from Totally Traditional Turkeys to try out I was delighted with the results and I will definitely be having one of these simply because they taste amazing.  The meat is tender and sweet and succulent, which I have to admit hasn’t always been the case when I’ve had turkey in the past.  

Its not an accident that these birds are so delicious  - it's down to a 12 point plan that Totally Traditional Turkeys  have  Quality Assurance Code guarantees that their turkeys are:
  • Reared and produced with the greatest care by independent farmers, dedicated to producing the finest turkeys
  • Grown slowly to full maturity
  • Fed rations containing at least 70 per cent grain with no animal protein and never given additives for growth promotion
  • Never given antibiotics except as prescribed by a vet
  • Housed in buildings giving both natural light and ventilation while providing essential weather protection with space at or better than Animal Welfare Code recommendations. Free range stock have open daily access to grazing for at least 11 weeks
  • Always handled with extreme care by experienced staff under the personal supervision of the farmer
  • Regularly bedded with comfortable straw or soft wood shavings
  • Grown on farms independently inspected to ensure that the code is met in full
  • Slaughtered on the farm to avoid the stress of long distance transportation
  • Always dry plucked and hung for at least seven days to mature and develop the natural flavours unique to this traditional type of production
  • Processed in facilities inspected by the local Environmental Health officer or Meat Hygiene Service
  • Individually inspected to qualify for the Totally Traditional Turkey guarantee
  • They are supplied with a money-back guarantee in the unlikely event of consumer dissatisfactin
So I decided to check out their 12 point promise and I popped over to my local supplier Fosse Meadows Farm and spend an afternoon with farmers Nick and Jacob to see for myself. You can listen to the interview here.. and I have to tell you that they are happy turkeys and it was hilarious .. the  children had a whale of a time running about with these gorgeous creatures!

Of course I couldn’t just cook the recipe and not share it.. so here I am cooking my Turkey which was stuffed with a Mango, sourdough and Bacon Stuffing  .. and you can see for yourself how easy it is to cook!


Win a Totally Traditional Turkey this Christmas


Please see competition Rules before entering. This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 with a UK mainland address.  The winner will be chosen using an online randomiser and announced on this page on 18th December  You need to have a profile the allow me to get back in touch however please do not include your email in the actual comment as well.

This competition on behalf of Totally Traditional Turkeys and they will be responsible for organizing the prize with the winner. Their decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
There is one main way to enter and there are 4 more chances to win .. . and you must leave a separate comment for each bonus entry otherwise they will not be counted. 

For a chance to win one of these fabulous birds please comment and tell me what you are doing this Christmas

For a second chance to win please tweet this post using the button below and you MUST comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.

For a third chance to win please follow @TimeForTurkey on Twitter and comment below to tell me you have done so.

For a fourth chance to win please follow me @VanessaKimbell and comment below to tell me you have done so. 

For a fifth chance to win please tweet and tell me @VanessaKimbell what you are doing this Christmas using the #TotallyTraditionalTurkeys hashtag

Each comment counts and an entrance  you can make one comment per follow and details of what you are doing for Christmas and you may tweet this article daily to win this course. 

 Automated Entries are not allowed.  There is no cash or product alternative. 

Sponsored Posts

As Christmas is fast approaching I've been busy making my presents .. but then the New Year will also be upon us and I have been wondering about the future.  What will I be doing next year?  I suppose my thoughts got concentrated as I had to fill in a box on a form last month.  It asked me what my occupation was.  I hesitated.  What indeed?  I hate labels and I suppose I wanted to write I am Vanessa.  Then I thought I am a professional blogger.   I waited with my pen poised .. is there such a thing ?  You know  you get professionals, doctors, solicitors, accountants, hairdressers, dentists, builders.. why not a blogger? I know I am a food writer and yes I've written a recipe book  but I am so proud to be a blogger.  There are some incredible blogs out there that are equally as good as anything a newspaper can write!

Well I know the answer .. of course it is because most blogs are written for fun, for passion and not for money, and yet for the past 18 months I am approached by PR agencies and companies several times a day  to see if I will write about their products and people in order to promote their commercial offerings on my site. I sometimes feel that I want to write about these products but often a post will take me the best part of day to write and I feel I do a really professional job ..  we bloggers just being naive and doing all this work for free because we don't believe in ourselves?   well I guess PR agencies and companies wouldn't be asked to be featured  on your site if you were't doing something of value.. right?

And so I've been torn for some time on how to go forward.  It's been so hard not to compromise that I feel the need to write a post about the way in which I've decided to go forward.  As many of my fellow bloggers will tell you I've been reluctant to monetize my blog, and I've had long and heated debates about the ethics of it all. Perhaps an honest way to go is putting adverts on  but then  I hate hate hate adverts popping up as I am reading a blog for something utterly irrelevant and totally annoying. 

So it's taken quite a while to work out how to make Goddess on a Budget continue as my full time job beacuase writing it is something I absolutely love . The freedom that comes with writing your own blog is incredible.  With a blog you can just express and create as you like. It’s my voice.

The time and effort to keep this site fresh, informative, beautiful and relevant is high.  I work on this in much the same way as a full time job and like the rest of the world I have to live. So I’ve decided to take things in a slightly different direction and for the first time will be writing sponsored posts.  In case you are wondering what this means a sponsored post is a post on a website or blog which is paid for by an advertiser.  Certainly for some people these posts are viewed as a legitimate advertising method, and yet others believe that they can be misleading, and compromise the integrity of a blog.

So I want to reassure anyone reading this that it won’t really change allot.  If you look back over almost two years of writing you will see that I always avoid writing about things I don’t like.  I’m not one to slate a product, bitch about a restaurant or criticize outrageously for the sake of writing something contentious.  There are plenty of sites that love to stir up a stink elsewhere I was brought up on the basis of if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. I’m sorry if this less than scandalous way of approaching life bores you to death  (Zzzz you can leave now) because I am looking for a gentle way of life that brings love, laughter, fun and happiness to my family and readers, and improves the day to day life with a little of what is good.  I’m approached several times a day to write about products, places and people and I will be very careful to only choose things that are appropriate ..  and I feel that that this site is professional enough to stand up to questions anyone might have about integrity.

If I don’t like something I won’t write about it and because I shall be incredibly selective in my choice of content. I shall stay with food, lifestyle and I promise  not to go overboard with it.   So you can expect a good honest review or feature to be written, in the style that I normally write when I write sponsored posts and integrate them into the normal content. 

I've designed a logo so its clear when something is sponsored and hope you will continue to enjoy. 

There now.  I feel so much better now I've got that off my chest. 


Thursday, 24 November 2011

It was all happening at the Fortnum and Mason Christmas Gift Swap

Last week was the first Fortnum and Mason Christmas gift swap. Fifty Food Bloggers were invited and it really captured everyone's imagination, as the finest range and quality of the gifts were brought  to the waiting tables.  It was just fantastic.  Thank goodness for Dan Lepard.  He was utterly brilliant at judging the winners for each category, I can't imagine how hard to was to choose .. but he did a fabulous job and the winners were as follows:

DrinksDamson Schnapps by Jayne.

Baked GoodsAmaretti Biscuits by Claire.

Pickles & PreservesBlackberry Curd by Urvashi.

The winners had exceptional gifts that really captured Christmas.  the great thing was that we were all winners.  I popped a number on each gift and they were put in to the mixing bowl of the Kenwood and drawn. It was really good fun and  I was delighted with how it all turned out.   Fortnum and Mason was the perfect venue and epitomised the Christmas spirit we all love and I think everyone just soaked up the atmosphere.  I really felt part of a community, with like minded people who are as passionate about food and blogging as I am.   I  feel it is important to recognise the effort and hard work of food bloggers and we get each other.. so it was lovely to gather a group together, have a cup of tea and a mince pie.  ( a delicious Fortnum & Mason Mince pie) !  We all write for the love of it, and  just to be able to organise a free event just for us to celebrate and meet each other was a real privilege.

So thank you again to our hosts Fortnum & Mason and the Hamper and fabulous prizes from Kenwood, Aga, Leiths Cookery School and Rococo Chocolates, and thank you to Dan Lepard.

It was fabulous!

Of course it hand't really occurred to me as I set up a gift swap that by offering a prize for the best of each category that it was a competition.  In fact it only really dawned on me as there was some friendly rivalry being tweeted!

There were over 100 gifts entered and it's been quite a difficult post to round up.  I initially wrote out everyone on a spread sheet and then on a word document.  In all honesty I couldn't fit all the information together without redesigning the width of my site. So I have decided to split the links and information over two posts.  This post is about who was there, and the Let's make Christmas round up post will be posted next week with all the recipes in there.  I'll also add in the links on this page as people write their posts up. .. so bear with me this page will have several more updates over the next few weeks.

In the mean time you can read what everyone else said right here!

The delicious Working London Mummy 
 Lovely Ben Vear
The Beautiful Bountiful Plate
My friend Sarah from Maison Cupcake
Sophisticated Solange
Slow Food Kitchen wrote a gorgeous post
Chocolate Blog made me smile with her brilliant write up 

 Here is a list of all the gifts entered
(blog links with recipes will be added as they are sent to me and will be added to the next round up post of Let's make Christmas)

Polish Spiced Christmas Biscuits & And extra one ready for DIY decorating
Christmas Vodka, Cranberry and Orange Spices
Clove Shortbread Snowflakes & Salted Caramel Brownies
Festive Macarons, Christmas Cookies, Frangipane Mince Pies
Fruit and Nut bars, Turkish delight, Ginger Cordial
Chocoalte truffles with Pistachio's
Mulled Wine Syrup, Mini Crunchy Fruit and Nut Christmas Cakes, Christmas table Truffles
Mulled Wine & Chocolates
Seville Orange and Whisky Marmalade, Crab Apple Jelly, Stawberry Jam and Spiced elderflower Cordial
Florentines, Florentine Spread, Quince and Roasmary Jelly
Chocolate Christmas Trees with Chocolate Truffle Presents Spiced Christmas Pudding Macrons
Damson Snapps, Candies Pecans WINNER OF THE BEST DRINK
(no info on sheet)
Triplle Ginger cake in Jars, Chilli Vodka, meringue Nibbles
Macademia nut & Cherry Chocolate Fudge, Lemon and Ginger shortbread, Apple and Cranberry chutney
Fig and Nut Cake, Almond and Turkish delight Clusters
Orange and Clove Sugar, Fresh cranberery mincemeat, Sloe Gin
Brownies and a set of three preserves
Stilton and Walnut Cheese Sables
Hot Chilli & Ginger Pickle, Sweet Hot Sour Tangy Pickle, Pear and Ginger Chutney
Chocoalte Tort Truffles, Cornish Farings, Mulling Syrup
Vanilla Extract, Pumkin Chitnry, Honeycomb
Mulled wine Jelly , Ginger Surprize house, Assorted Truffles
Christmas Pudding Cake Pops
Min Christmas Anowflake cakes, Boozey Fat Free Mincemeat, Orange Liqueur
2 pumpkin and Apple Chutneys & 2 peppermint crunch
Chocolate and Chestnut Cake
Orange Mince Pies, White Chocolate and Cranberry cookies, Cranberry Chutney
Home made Marshmallows, Christmas Feel Good Cookies
Red onion Chutney and Blueberry Gin
A Trio of seasonal Jar Pies
Chili Jam
Picalilli, Christmas Puddings, Chocolate Wafers

Here is a list of the bloggers that took part ( I've lost a sheet so if you are not here PLEASE let me know!) 

*** to add in
*** to add in
*** to add in
@Vanessa Kimbell
@Extra Relish
@turquoise Lemons