Last Day of Christmas

Happy New Year!

I took some time off writing to focus on our family. Hope you all enjoyed the holidays.

Growing up, on the last day of Christmas, we’d always go to the “Julgransplundring” – or Christmastree plunder – generally organised by our local church.

We’d dance around the tree, sing songs and eventually take the tree and all the decorations down, eat Christmas food, drink and be merry.

Any edible decoration found on the Christmas tree was game, and often there was loads hidden in the Christmas crackers.

(In Sweden we place our homemade crackers in between the tree branches. We normally fill them with sweets and small gifts.)

At home we’d also have a final Christmas feast; using up any frozen leftovers and some extra bits.

We’d smash the Gingerbread house and have that for dessert along with whatever mum had baked such as cinnamon buns and saffron buns.

What I love the most about the tradition is that it makes something that it’s rather tedious, like taking the tree and all the Christmas decorations down, fun and exciting for all the family. In fact, I’m pretty sure why we do this.

We somehow keep some of the Christmas magic going AND get help from the kids. Win win.

We had a lovely day yesterday. Maggie and I baked cinnamon buns and saffron buns and I prepared a Christmas feast comprising a chicken roast with all the trimmings as well as Jansson’s frestelse, beetroot salad, prinskorv and herring.

We have one more day off before school so we’re off down to the lakes for a quick stroll with our friends.

2019 is going to be a great year.

Edible Christmas Tree

Everyone loves a Christmas film don’t they?

But what I really look forward to is the Christmas cooking programmes. I’ve watched them all; Delia, Nigella, Jamie and Gordon – and I love them all. This year I’ve been watching Mary Berry’s Christmas Party; it’s brilliant.

And who knew there was so many ways to prepare roast potatoes?!

Anyway. Something that Nigella said in one of her Christmas specials (whilst preparing six individual poussins. As you do.), was about having people over at Christmas. She was reminiscing about her mother getting hysterical about mass catering.

“I don’t want to make myself miserable trying to keep everyone else happy. Food has to be really great to eat. But above easy on me.”

I’m with you there Nigella. We’re having people over at Christmas and I want to make tasty, yet easy to make food.

I saw an edible Christmas Tree recipe online recently and had to try it. (Honestly, any recipe with the words puff pastry, chocolate and cinnamon in it and I’m all over it).

This. Is. A. Winner.

I don’t know if I can call it a recipe, I mean it’s so easy to make! Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Here’s the recipe:

You’ll need:

2 x sheets of puff pastry

Chocolate spread

Cinnamon

Caster Sugar

100g good quality dark chocolate

1 beaten egg (for the eggwash)

Sharp knife of pizza slicer

1. Put your puff pastry on an oven tray and using your sharp knife of pizza slice cut out a Christmas Tree.

2. Lift off one of the sheets of puff pastry and put it to one side.

3. Take your chocolate spread and dollop the spread over the sheet on the oven tray. Spread it out evenly.

4. Lay the other sheet over the other and brush with egg-wash.

5. Sprinkle a good amount (about a tablespoon) of the cinnamon sugar on top.

6. Pop it into your oven for about 18 minutes.

7. Once your Christmas tree is in the oven take out your chopped chocolate. You can either heat in the microwave or over a pot of boiling water on the stove. Just make sure you don’t burn the chocolate.

8. Once out and cooled a little bit sprinkle some icing sugar on top.

9. Serve straight away

Enjoy.❤️

Love, Jess

Jessica’s Black Forest Gateaux Trifle

“Så mörk är natten i midvintertid.

Men se, då nalkas Lucia.

Hon kommer, den goda, med ljuset hit.

Hon kommer med hälsning om julefrid.

Hon kommer med ljus i sin krona.”

Yesterday was Santa Lucia day – the celebration of light. It’s one of my favourite Swedish traditions. The origins is the story of Saint Lucy and marks the beginning of Christmastide. It always falls on the 13th December.

The legend of the martyr Saint Lucy is rather grim. During the Roman Empire, the Christians were being persecuted. Many hid in the catacombs, and Saint Lucy would venture down there with trays of food. As it was so dark, but in need of full use of her hands, she wore a candle lit wreath on her head to light up her way with her tray of food. She was later killed for refusing to marry a pagan.

Nowadays, we all get up super early and head to our church. Normally fighting through snow and frost and huddle up inside. We all pile in to the church and sit down in the pews. The church will be decorated beautifully and everyone seems happy, in spite the early rise. And in spite of having to sit so close to one and other. (Swedes don’t like to have sit close next to strangers.)

Then we patiently wait for Lucia to enter the church. Wearing a white dress (white representing innocence. Cheerful!) and a red sash (red symbolising the blood of martyrdom. Again, cheerful.), and a gold wreath/crown with candles on her head (the candles symbolises the fire that refused to take Saint Lucy’s life….Yep.), walking at the head of the procession.

And it gets me every time.

The Nordic countries have very little sunlight in winter.

And from the darkness that engulfs the church, suddenly this glorious light appears, gradually filling the space. The heat from the candles warming us.

And the singing. The beautiful hymns. Softly in the beginning and then progressively building in strength.

(Have a look and listen here)

This year I was invited to talk about Lucia at my daughter’s school. I dressed up in my white dress and crown, (yes, I have my own set!), brought extra white dresses and candles for our very own Lucia procession and gingerbread cookies.

My goodness. It was so beautiful. The kids were so curious and asked lots of questions like:

From “which candle is your favourite?” (Pointing to the candles in my crown)

“Is that your nightdress?” to “when are we eating the cookies?”

We all sang Lucia songs and ate the gingerbread cookies.

Because that’s the other thing about Lucia day. It’s a Feast and we eat. A lot.

Speaking of Feasts – I tried a new trifle recipe that went down very well with my friends that I’d like to share with you. It was so easy to make! I’ve tweaked a recipe my friend Erika shared with me.

Jessica’s Lucia Black Forest Trifle

Ingredients

Good quality custard

100g good quality chocolate

400 g brownie bites

50g Black cherry jam

About 100g Cherry brandy

300g cherries (pitted, if you can get them)

100g amaretti biscuits

400ml double cream

Decorations:

100g Toasted flaked almonds

Chocolate curls

Cherries

1. Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave in short bursts or over a bowl of simmering water on the stove. Leave to cool but not to get too stiff.

2. Gently stir in your custard and mix the two together.

3. Now cut the brownies or chocolate cake into fairly thin slices and arrange in the bottom of the bowl. Spread one layer of cherry jam and then continue with the second layer of brownies and spread over more jam

4. Pour over the cherry brandy, then sprinkle over the cherries.

5. Put your amaretti biscuits into a bag and bash gently with a rolling pin until a coarse like sand consistency. Don’t worry if there’s smaller and bigger bits. The difference in texture will taste wonderful.

6. Sprinkle your amaretti sand over the cherries.

7. Now pour over your custard in an even layer.

8. Put some clingfilm over your trifle and leave to chill until just before serving.

10. Whisk the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then smooth this over the custard.

11. Decorate with your toasted almond flakes, chocolate curls and cherries.

Enjoy. ❤️

Love, Jess

Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns

Holidays are hard work.

It’s also wonderful and magical, especially when you have kids, but it can be stressful and, for some, a sad and lonely time. 

If you have family abroad then Christmas time can make you extremely home sick.

I miss my parents, family and friends, the traditions – like Lucia, but also the Christmas food and all familiar smells.

Cinnamon, cloves, church candles, Star anise, Saffron buns, Julmust, Janssson’s Frestelse, Sill in all different varieties (pickled herring), Julmust, Gingerbread, oranges and clementines.

My parents have been staying with us for a week. They are over visiting the U.K. firstly to watch Jackson perform in his very first Shakespeare play, but also to spend some time with us before Christmas.

For our special Sunday mini Christmas, or “Lill Jul”,  I got to trial a recipe I’ve been dying to try. 

The ultimate Swenglish recipe I suppose – my Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns. 

The first batch came out a bit burned (the oven was too hot), and the second batch I added too much Mince mixture to, but they still tasted nice so I was hopeful.

I made my third batch this morning and they came out beautifully golden, and, I’m happy to say, scrummy to eat. 

Here’s the recipe I used: 

Jessica’s Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns

You’ll need:

A bowl for the dough

Little bowl for the filling mixture

Pot to heat the milk and margarine 

Time: About 2 hours 30 minutes 

Dough

  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 8 dl plain flour 
  • 50 g margarine 
  • 3 dl milk
  • 1/2 dl caster sugar 
  • 1 pinch of salt 

Filling 

  • 50 g margarine 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1/2 dl caster sugar 
  •  4 tbsp Mince Mixture 

Garnish 

  • 1 egg or milk
  •  Pearl sugar 

Make the Dough:

Crumble the yeast and put in a bowl.  Melt the margarine in a pot and add the milk. Warm the milk mixture until 37°C. Now pour some of the mixture over the dough and gently stir until the yeast has dissolved. 

Add the remainder of the milk mixture, sugar, salt and about 6 1/2 dl flour. (You’ll add the rest later when working the dough)

Start working the dough, either by hand or by using a machine. (Start with paddle and change for the hook attachment as you gradually add the flour) 

The dough is ready when it’s silky smooth and not sticking to the sides of the bowl. 

Put a cloth over the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 min.

For the Filling: 

Cream your sugar and cinnamon with the margarine until you get a fine paste.

Once proved, start working your dough again. Add the remaining flour, little by little. Feel your way here; if you add too much flour your cinnamon buns will end up too dry. 

Cut the dough into two. Now roll each piece into a rectangular shape.

Add your cinnamon paste and your mince mixture. 

I added about two tablespoons for each dough.

From the longer side, roll each dough into a cylinder shape. Use a sharp knife to cut 2 cm thick pieces.

Put your cut pieces, either in paper bun cups or straight onto a tray with baking paper. 

Cover your Cinnamon Mince Pie Buns and let them prove for about 20 min. (They should double in size) 

Brush your buns with the whisked egg or milk and sprinkle the pearl sugar on top. 

Bake your buns in a very hot oven (250°C, 200°C for about 8 mins or until golden brown. 

Place on a rack to cool. ENJOY. 

God Jul ❤️ Merry Merry 

Love, Jess

How to make Jansson’s Frestelse

Christmas is less than 10 weeks away.

We’re in Christmas prep mode in our house. (Yeah, no. Mainly me. I am in prep mode. Kids and husband are blissfully unaware)

I’ve bought most of the presents, planned the advent calendar, what decorations to make and use, drinks and food menus and the colour scheme on the tree. 

With age I’ve come to realise that I may just be a teeny tiny bit OCD when it comes to Christmas and especially when it comes to decorating the tree… 

But I digress. 

So you may have noticed that I like food. 

I like discussing food, watching programmes of people like Nigella and Gordon making it, looking at pictures of food, food competition programmes, cooking myself but also eating it. 

For me, food plays a major role in making Christmas magical. 

And for a Swede living in the UK, Swedish Christmas food become extra important. It’s nostalgia, cosy, familiar… it’s Yule. 

I order my Swedish Christmas food from Totally Swedish and the Swedish Shop on Ocado online every year. 

There has to be a Christmas Ham, Julmust (a special soft drink), meatballs, prinskorv (mini sausages), my Swedish Sticky Ribs and Jansson.

Heck. I’d even go so far as to say I’d try making ”Dopp i grytan”, just to feel extra Christmassy. 

(Even though, like Lena in Svensson, Svensson I know that no one would eat from the pot anyway) 

For those of you who haven’t tried it Janssson’s Frestelse is a traditional Swedish Potato Gratin dish. But tastier.

Since I want to avoid any disasters on the actual day, I trial the food in the weeks leading up to on Christmas Eve and Day. (The Swedes celebrate on the 24th – more on that in another post!).

This week I’ve made Janssson’s Frestelse and I’d like to share my recipe with you. 

Janssson’s frestelse is traditionally made of potatoes, onions, *pickled sprats, bread crumbs and cream. 

For my version, I’ve added some shallots as I think it really complements the dish.

You will need: 

  • 1 1/2 kg potatoes – the waxy kind (Maris Piper or King Edward)
  • 2 big yellow onions and 1 shallot onion
  • Proper butter (for frying and to dollop on top of gratin before cooking)”
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tin sprats (à 100 g)
  • 4 dl double cream
  • 2 dl milk
  • Plenty of breadcrumbs to cover the dish (about 2 tbls)
  • Sugar (for caramelising the onions) 
  • Deep oven dish, smothered in butter
  • Pot to boil your double cream and milk 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 160˚C. (fan assisted) 

Peel the onions, shallots and potatoes. Slice the onion thinly, chop the shallots very fine and fry them in the butter. Add the sugar to caramelise. Add a pinch of cinnamon.

Cut the potatoes into thin strips

Potato on a board
Sliced potato

Take out your sprats and lay them to one side. Take the juices and put into a bowl. You will mix in the sprat juices with the milk and cream later on. 

Now layer your onions, potatoes and sprat fillets in a deep dish – sort of like you would a lasagne. 

Start and end with a layer of potato. 

Milk and cream summering

Heat your milk and double creme on a gentle heat on your stove. Let it simmer for a minute then take away from the heat. Mix in the sprat juices. 

Pour the liquid over your potato and onion dish. Add the breadcrumbs over the top and add small knobs of butter on top. The butter will bring some extra crunch and tastiness to the dish. 

Bake in the lower part of your oven for about an 1 hour, 1 1/2. 

Janssons Frestelse

The potatoes should be soft, the milky cream should be reduced and the top a lovely light brow colour.

(If you find that your dish is getting too dark then put some foil on top to stop it from burning.)

Sprats

*if you’re not a fish fan, then you can leave this item out, but as the sprats and its juices gives the dish its saltiness you’d have to balance the dish well when seasoning 

Enjoy!