Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese

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‘Pigs in blankets macaroni cheese?’ I hear you cry! Why yes, you have indeed read the title correctly and I applaud you for making the most wonderful decision to click on it and read on to sate your curiosity. Now I love a Christmas dinner as much as the next, however, the trimmings are the best bit; think unctuous bread sauce, fragrant stuffing, bitter, yet most welcomed, sprouts and, wait for it, pigs in blankets. For this macaroni recipe I have taken elements of my favourite festive foods and melded them to make the ultimate festive indulgence so draw up your shopping list, fire up the oven and get cooking!

Ingredients- serves 6
For the sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
2 tsp mustard powder
400ml double cream
400ml milk
60g parmesan
500g macaroni- cooked and drained well

For the rest
20g unsalted butter
2 large banana shallots- sliced
300g sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
12 cocktail sausages
6 rashers of streaky bacon
50g panko breadcrumbs

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Wrap the pigs in blankets by winding half a rasher of streaky bacon around each cocktail sausage and placing on a baking tray. Allow a slight overlap as the bacon will shrink back a little when cooking.

2. Clean and chop the sprouts and place on a separate baking tray. I cut larger sprouts into quarters and left smaller ones in half but you can do whatever takes your fancy; slices also work well but remember these will need less cooking time. Toss the cut sprouts in the olive oil, season with a little salt and pepper and roast at the same time as the pigs in blankets for around 20 minutes or until tender and until the sausages are cooked through.

3. Take a small frying pan or saucepan and melt the 20g of unsalted butter ready for the shallots. Cook on a low heat on the hob until the shallots are turning a light golden colour; remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Next up goes the sauce! In a large pan melt the 50g of butter and add in the flour; cook together to form a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so no lumps form; if they do, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk the sauce until the lumps disappear. Simmer until the sauce thickens and then remove from the heat before adding the majority of the parmesan. Season to taste.

5. When the sauce, sprouts, sausages and shallots are cooked and ready then combine them all and stir well to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated. Add to the cooked pasta and divide between 6 individual ovenproof dishes or 1 large one. Grate the remaining parmesan into the panko crumbs and top the pasta; for a twist, you could crisp up some extra bacon and also add this to the crumb mix which is delicious too. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad if you like.

Pigs in blankets and roasted sprout macaroni cheese- the ultimate festive treat!

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Christmas cranberry and clementine marmalade

No festive season would be complete without liberal lashings of this marmalade! This could not be easier so give it a try even if you’re not the usual preserve making sort of person. This recipe makes plenty for you to keep at home but also to give as presents. I mean who could resist the look of these little beauties bobbing around?…

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Ingredients

600g clementines

4 lemons

220g cranberries

1.5kg preserving or granulated sugar

2 litres of water

1. To start with, halve the clementines and lemons and squeeze the juice from them all. Remove any pips as you go but hold onto them! Tie the lemon into a muslin bag or square along with the reserved pips.

2. Slice the clementines to your preferred thickness. I recommend keeping it in the style of thin shred so it is easy to eat. Place the slices into a pan before adding the fruit juices, muslin bag and 2 litres of water. Bring it up the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer for one hour.

3. Remove the muslin bag from the pan and add the fresh cranberries and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until it is all dissolved. You can use either granulated or preserving sugar here; if you want a clearer marmalade then preserving sugar is the one for you.

4. Bring the mixture up to the boil once more and boil for 20-35 minutes until it reaches the setting point. To test it, simply coat the back of a spoon and set it on a saucer. If it ready then it will appear wrinkled if pushed and the marmalade should not run back. If you need to give it a couple more minutes then put the pan back onto the heat and then test again.  When it is ready, allow it to cool before spooning to sterilised jars. The marmalade will keep for around 2 months in the fridge.

A festive marmalade to keep everyone happy this Christmas!

Christmas spiced clementine loaf cake

This time of year there is an abundance of clementines and the loaf is perfect for tose moments when you have too many clementines to eat before they turn. It combines the delicate citrus sweetness with the heady spices that evoke Christmas. It is also gluten free as it uses ground almonds rather than flour but do check your baking powder is suitable. You could also make a glaze however I felt it didn’t need it.

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Ingredients- makes 1 loaf cake
600g clementines
6 large eggs
250g ground almonds
225g granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp mixed spice

1. Take a large pan of cold water and place all the clementines in it. Bring it to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook the fruit for an hour and a half. When cooked, remove the clementines to cool and then quarter them. Remove any rogue pips and discard. Take a blender and puree the clementines. You can also do this by hand if you prefer to use a bit of good ol’ elbow grease!

2. Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan and lightly grease a 20cm loaf tin with butter. My tin is non- stick but by greasing or lining it you just make sure you won’t have any sticking disasters! Combine the almond, sugar, spice and baking powder in a bowl before mixing in the eggs well. Fold in the clementine puree and it’s good to go into the tin!

3. Cook for an hour until the loaf is cooked through and a skewer comes out clean. Leave the loaf in the tin to cool. If you like you can make a glaze for the top which can be made and then added whilst it is cooling. It really couldn’t be more simple- combine some icing sugar, clementine juice and a little water before brushing or drizzling over.

Serve a slice with a cup of tea or treat is more as a dessert and eat with creme fraiche or double cream on the side.

Festive spiced clementine cake- you’ll never throw out old fruit again!