Monday, 14 December 2009

Home for Christmas

Im back! I've returned home, back to my lovely family and welcomed to an amazingly decked out Christmassy house (oh how much I love Christmas). I can't begin to explain how great it is being home, it seems all my worries and fears have just gone out the window. Or probably are all locked up somewhere waiting to be released again once I return back to England. But for now everything is great, although I have had to bring along with me, my lecture notes and books.

Christmas is a time where we Georgoulopoulos' truly go all out! The whole house is decorated from top to bottom with ginger bread men, candy canes, baubles, santa hats, fairy lights, holly berries, rudolf cuddly toys and of course the all important Christmas tree. I've probably painted a crazy, tacky, over the top picture in your heads of what our house looks like. But our house looks amazing at Christmas and isn't tacky at all. Instead, it is warm, inviting and puts a lovely smile on your face.

I arrived on Saturday night and immediately on Sunday (after an amazing lunch of roast chicken pieces with carrots and onions, accompanied by a bowl of steamed brocolli, cauliflower and dry fried mushrooms with a squeeze of lemon, delicious!) found myself helping my mum make her mince pies for my old schools' Christmas carol concert. I always love helping her make them every year but was quite upset when I realised how much better hers had turned out in comparison to the ones I had made at university. I hadn't tried any of the mince pies I had made last week nor had I tried my mums. But hers looked amazing, smelled even better and just had the crumbliest of pastries (a good thing in my mind). But maybe this is a good thing, that my mums mince pies are better. It makes them more special. It seems they're only perfect when she makes them!

Continuing with the fact that we go all out during this festive time, this is the list of things we have come up with which we have to, or rather want to make/do before next week:
-Gingerbread House
-Gingerbread Tree
-Ouzo Biscuits (Κουλουράκια Ουζου)- A recipe recently found by my dad who used to have these as a child and who is desperate to try them out.
-Melomakarona (Μελομακάρονα) - Traditionally Christmas, greek, syrupy biscuit. Α favourite in our family.
-Fig Chutney (we have a fig tree at our summer house which every year produces hundreds of figs, which we then dry with the intention of eating them all year round. As of now we still have 2 large boxes of them waiting to be used. So we have decided to make a chutney from of them)
-Decorate the Christmas Cake

So from tomorrow our cooking/baking marathon begins. The gingerbread house, gingerbread tree and melomakarona are trusted recipes we use every year, so hopefully there will be no suprises there. However the Ouzo biscuits and fig chutney are recipes we will be trying out for the first time, so fingers crossed. The decorating of the Christmas cake, I've been doing every year. But I still find it quite tricky and there's always a debate on what decoration or design I should put on the top. But I'm so happy to be doing all of this in my home with the people I love around me.

I will be updating you on how all our Christmassy cooking comes along. I think the first thing up will be the fing chutney. Wish me luck.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Christmas Isn't Christmas Without Mince Pies

I say that Christmas isn't Christmas without mince pies, but to be honest I am not one of their biggest fans. However it is true that you can't be without them during the festive season. It is simply one of those traditions like making mounds of brussel sprouts eventhough 2 out of 15 people like them or like playing 'All I Want For Christmas' by Mariah Carey while wrapping up the Christmas presents. It would just be wrong to not have a plate over flowing with the little fruit filled crisp parcels dusted with icing sugar, waiting to be eaten hot out of the oven and served with cold cream. Funilly enough, all this talk about mince pies is making me crave one right now!
Although I would prefer eating the traditional Greek Christmas sweets (did I tell you I was greek?) melomakarona. Simply put, they are a flavourful spicy biscuit which are soaked in a honey and sugar syrup till soft and moist, to the point where they are on the brink of crumbling but stay strong and keep their shape until you pop them into your mouth, where they will melt happily. Most of the people in my family (from the English side) love, love, love mince pies. So this blog is dedicated to them.
For years my mum has been using this recipe and has never failed to recieve a massive compliment by anyone who tries them. Growing up, every year we would all help my mum make her famous mince pies. I was usually incharge of dolloping the mince meat into the pastry cases, an easy job I'm sure you would think but I always remember being told to 'add more' or 'that's too much'! Another thing I remember, is my mum always telling me that the pastry was really tricky and would fall apart very easily. A problem which she now realises was due to 25grams too much of butter. I think I can safely say, that her mince pies are legendary! She is pretty much known for them, when it comes to Christmas time, with people calling up to order boxes and boxes of them.
Seeing as I love baking and all things traditional, last year 2 weeks before the Christmas holidays I planned to make mince pies at uni (I was adamant to use my mum's recipe over my other friends') with two of my flatmates. To my suprise the mince pies turned out great AND my friend begged and pleaded for the recipe saying they were the best she'd ever had. This was another reason why I was happy. I again decided I would make mince pies this year for my new flatmates, however this time I was left to make them all by myself. So I put the radio on and began the process. The pastry worked amazingly, I got the cooking time down to a t and the whole kithen smelt all christmassy. I couldn't believe how well they turned out when I made them on Thursday and was pleased to hear the congratulatory feedback when I took my uncle, aunt and cousin some to try yesterday.
Maybe there is some truth in the saying 'too many cooks spoil the broth'.