Tag Archives: Christmas


16 Dec

Christmas tree

Apart from summer holidays and birthdays, Christmas is most definitely my favourite time of year. So much so that even at 25 years of age, I still purposefully walk home via different routes to look at (and admittedly judge) everyone’s Christmas trees in their windows – and just for the record, number 54 is definitely a current front runner while number 23 needs to sort out their tree light distribution.

It’s cold outside so hearty meals are the order of the day. Tonight was the turn of the fail-safe chilli con carne, given an extra twist with roasted peppers, tomatoes and garlic on the side – and yes, that’s right, you can see a quaint advent candle in the photo (told you I love Christmas, although it’s not easy keeping up with days, never known such a slow burner):

Chilli con carne

We’d had friends round for a Christmas jumper themed dinner the Friday before so had a bottle of Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (Tesco.com) left over from the evening which went very nicely with the chilli. It’s not the most complex of wines but with notes of coffee, chocolate and blackcurrant it’s certainly a winter warmer.

While staying in is one of the best things about this time of year, there’s also nothing nicer than discovering a cosy pub or bar and getting settled by an open fire for a few hours. One of my latest discoveries is The Bingham in Richmond, a Mr and Mrs Smith hotel that’s perfect for adding a touch of luxury to your weekend. The first time I went with the rentals, I had a delicious Champagne cocktail. This weekend I opted for a crisp glass of Vinho Verde from Portugal. Zinging with crisp citrus notes and a fizzy hint of sherbet, I’d thoroughly recommend it for anyone looking for something slightly different to their normal Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

The Bingham

Finally, and this doesn’t have much relevance to anything apart from the fact it’s Christmassy, but see below for the cute mince pies the boyf made the other week – we quickly learned that they don’t go very well with wine but tasted absolutely delish. Merry Christmas and make sure you enjoy a glass or two of good wine over the festive period!

Mince pies


Feliz Navidad!

10 Jan

Let’s play a word association game – what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words ‘Christmas dinner party’? Crackers? Turkey? Mince pies and mulled wine? How about Mexican fiesta? No? Hmmmm – I can’t possibly think why not.

Every year when I go back home for Christmas, I get together with my school friends for a good ol’ catch-up and an obligatory festive feed. Last year was a 80s inspired ‘Jacob’s Joint’ where we enjoyed the delights of sausage rolls, hot dogs, mini burgers and Quality Street so this year, after the excesses of Christmas day, I decided to host a Mexican-themed party to remind us that summer is on its way (well, it’s nearer than it was before Christmas at least).

Not being one for fancy five course meal dinner parties, I decided to keep things simple with a one-pot wonder of chili con carne, with homemade salsa, guacamole and pineapple carpaccio to finish. To ‘Mexicanify’ the table, I dug out a selection of mismatched colourful plates, bowls, napkins and candles as well as a couple of flower garlands from my university dressing-up box (yes, that’s right, I have a university dressing-up box, doesn’t everybody?):

One of my Christmas presents to my boyfriend was ‘Mexican Food Made Easy’ by Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers, however since it was still wrapped under the tree, I didn’t want to undo all my good work and unwrap then re-wrap the book just to find out Thomasina’s recipe for chili con carne. I therefore reverted to my tried and tested recipe of bunging it all in a pot and leaving it for several hours and hoping for the best (which worked).

For the salsa and guacamole, I was left with the same predicament so I turned to Emma Forbes’  (yes she of Live and Kicking fame – god I loved that programme) new  recipe book ‘Life and Soul’.

The general recipes were as follows:

Salsa – mix together 200g of vine tomatoes with lime juice, a little brown sugar, coriander, parsley, one red chili de-seeded and olive oil

Guacamole – scoop out and mash three ripe avocados then mix with one red pepper finely chopped, lemon juice, one red chili de-seeded, coriander salt and pepper

Easy peasy!

In order to complement this cacophony of flavours, I made a non-alcoholic cocktail ‘stolen’ from the Wahaca menu of sparkling water, fresh mint and lime (they call it a Citrus Fizz). However, no dinner party would be complete without a beverage or two so, upon their arrival, my guests were greeted with a celebratory glass of La Marca Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco from Majestic which I can only describe as truly scrumptious. With juicy notes of apples and pineapples, this sparkling wine was the perfect way to get the party started, whilst being light enough to cope with after several days of heavy eating.

The dessert of pineapple carpaccio was inspired by a trip to The Rainforest Cafe at Disneyland Paris many years ago, although unfortunately my version didn’t turn out quite as planned. Of all the courses to bugger up, who’d have thought it would be this one, but with a couple of enthusiastic squeezes of lime too many, the pineapple needed a shed-load of ice cream on it to make it edible – whoops. If all else failed though, it certainly looked pretty on its plate (the brown and green bits are sugar and mint):

Luckily, my friend had baked cupcakes as a present so we ate these instead – much more satisfying:

Finally, the meal was brought to a close with coffee and Roses chocolates – that well known Mexican post-dinner delicacy:

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to 2012 – a year filled with dinner parties a plenty and lots of tasty new wine finds!