Month: December 2017

Make Ahead Gravy: Save Time on Christmas Day

Make ahead gravy recipe | Hello Victoria

If you’re anything like me, then the idea of making every component of Christmas dinner, on the day, is stressful. I’m a huge fan of making as many things as possible the day before. That way, I can actually enjoy the day itself! One of those things that always seems to add to last minute stress is gravy. Because you’re waiting for the pan drippings to start, you’re often trying to finish the gravy just when everything else is needing mashing/plating/mixing/etc.

That’s why Richard and I are such huge fans of this recipe from Jamie Oliver! It might take hours to make, but gives you a gravy that you can make the day before, or even the week before and freeze. (When I say it takes hours, most of that time is spent in the oven, or simmering on the stove.) Then, on the big day, you simply add in your drippings, heat, and serve! I also like that it allows you to perfect the gravy, rather than rushing it, as most people agree gravy is very important!

Make ahead gravy recipe | Hello Victoria

I forgot to take a photo of the actual gravy once it was done, but I think we all know what gravy looks like 😉 Also, I used parchment paper in the tray, but regretted it later, as you kind of want the stuff to burn/brown on the bottom of the tray.

So if you’ve got a bit of time today or tomorrow, why not save yourself the hassle, and make your gravy ahead of time?

Make Ahead Gravy:

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 10 chicken wings
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2+ slices of smoked streaky bacon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 60 ml sherry or port, optional
  • 4 tbsp plain flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roughly chop the bacon and set aside.
  2. Peel the onions, wash the carrots and celery, and roughly chop all vegetables.
  3. Put the vegetables, bacon, bay leaves, sage, and rosemary into a roasting tray,
  4. Break the chicken wings open, and bash with a rolling pin to help release extra flavour. Place in the tray.
  5. Drizzle everything with oil, season with salt + pepper, and toss. Cook for 1 hour, or until vegetables are tender.
  6. Remove the tray from the oven and transfer to a low heat on the stove. Really grind and mash everything with a potato masher, scraping up all the goodness from the base of the tray (the longer you let it fry, the darker your gravy will be).
  7. Add the sherry/port (opt.) now and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Gradually stir in the flour, then pour in 2 litres of boiling water. Simmer for 30+ minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  9. When the gravy is the consistency you like, pour it through a coarse sieve into a large bowl, squeezing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a spoon.
  10. Taste and season, cool to room temperature, then pour into containers or bags and pop into the fridge or freezer, ready to finish off on the day.
  11. When your turkey is ready and resting, skim away most of the fat and pour your gravy into the tray with the rest of the turkey juices.
  12. Bring to the boil on the stove, and scrape up all those sticky bits from the base. Have a taste, and season if necessary.
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Homemade Eggnog

Homemade eggnog | Hello Victoria

One of the things that I miss most about Christmas in Canada is eggnog! Or better yet, eggnog lattes (insert heart eyes here). Starbucks in the UK only uses an ‘eggnog syrup’ not actual eggnog, which is not at all the same taste. Bleh. The first time I ordered one, I thought it tasted funny, but thought eggnog here was just sweeter or something.

So this year, after having a taste of proper eggnog back in Canada, I decided to make my own. The nice thing about homemade eggnog is that you can control the calories and spices. Use full fat milk, cream, or skim… whatever your heart desires! Add rum, or no rum: star anise, cloves, or just nutmeg. I like mine with lots of spice and a hint of rum; which also happens to be spiced!

Homemade eggnog | Hello Victoria

Most recipes I found online, said to use three parts whole milk, to one part cream. I wanted to make mine a bit healthier, and used only whole milk, but it’s not as thick as normal eggnog. Use single, double, half + half… whatever your heart desires! I also found recipes that said to whip the egg whites separately, and then add in just before serving. I imagine this would give it a bit of a frothier/thicker texture, but it felt like wasted effort for me.

The flavour will get stronger if you leave it overnight, so long as you keep the spices in. And if you want a festive punch, rather than just classic egg nog, add some 7-Up (or similar) and scoops of vanilla ice cream before serving. Perfection! (more…)

DIY Branching Monogram Ornaments: Anthropologie Inspiration

DIY Anthropologie ornaments | Hello Victoria

As I have mentioned before, I love Anthropologie! Richard automatically groans when we are near one of their shops, as he knows I want to go in. And their home stuff is my absolute favorite! So when I saw their Christmas ornaments online, I couldn’t help but fall in love! There were a few that I immediately wanted for my tree.

Buuuut… I’m cheap, and thought I could make my own! First up on my list were Anthropologie’s Budding Monogram ornaments. I loved how they looked like branches, and figured I could make them out of clay!

Anthropologie Budding Monogram ornament | Hello Victoria

My first thought was that I didn’t want to make the flowers and leaves out of clay, as they would probably break off too easily. As I knew that I was going to spray paint it gold in the end, I figured I could use flowers from another material and no one would know. I wanted to buy some tiny fabric ones, but Hobbycraft came up empty. If you’re in North America, check Michaels as they have much larger stocks and probably have something perfect. In the end, I cut the leaves and flowers out of a thin sheet of foam.

My second thought was to make a wire shape, and then build the clay around it. Great in theory, but the air dry clay is too dry for that – it doesn’t stick to the wire. Instead, I just used the wire to make hooks, and the shapes are 100% clay.

DIY Anthropologie ornaments | Hello Victoria

So if you’re thinking of making some branching letter ornaments of your own, why not try this tutorial? (more…)

DIY Orange Slice Christmas Ornaments

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

Okay, super quick ‘DIY’ for you here today. These guys are so easy, it’s barely a tutorial.

So last year, when Richard and I were figuring out how to do our first Christmas tree, we had only a handful of ornaments. I had bought him a couple funny ones that year, and we were given a few from family. But 10ish ornaments, does not exactly a tree make. So we had two options: 1. Buy a bunch of ornaments we would then have to store (and spend ££ on) or 2. Make ornaments we could get rid of at the end of the season! And by get rid of, I mean recycle, of course.

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

So last year, I made three things for the tree – little paper balls made of vintage sheet music, popcorn strands, and orange slices. You can keep orange slices (if they dry out fully), year after year, but we simply composted ours along with the popcorn. Which meant I had to make more this year!

All it took was two large navel oranges, and I had enough for our little tree. It made 18 slices, but if I had done them a bit thinner, I could have made a couple more. A large tree could use 3-4 oranges, which makes this project very economical.

DIY orange slice ornaments | Hello Victoria

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Exploring the Coast of Northern Ireland

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

Waaaaaaay back in August, my parents came for a visit. As I mentioned before, we spent a few days in London, but most of our time together was spent in Northern Ireland.

My parents had never been to the Northern part of Ireland before, and Richard still has some family living outside Belfast. It was a great excuse for us to visit family, while also showing my folks a part of Great Britain they had yet to see. We debated driving up through Scotland and crossing the sea on the ferry, but just didn’t have the time. The next time my parents visit, I want to do Scotland properly – I long to explore Edinborough and the Isle of Sky, but haven’t had the opportunity yet.

So, as we weren’t going to drive there, we took the quicker option and flew to Belfast. From there, we rented a vehicle and drove straight up the coast to see the many sights of County Antrim. A few years back, for our first Christmas together, Richard and I toured the coast of Antrim. Of course, it was rainy, windy, and horribly cold that trip, so I was excited to see the same places in a slightly warmer climate. It is Northern Ireland after all 🙂

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

When Richard and I had visited before, we spent a couple nights in the Causeway Hotel, and rather enjoyed it. It’s right near all the main sights, and quite reasonable in low season (however, this time was a bit pricier). The breakfast had been excellent last time, and was the place I got my recipe for wheaten bread! The food wasn’t quite as good this time, but the location just can’t be beat. It’s right beside the visitor centre for the Causeway, and grants you free access.

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

I love the mosaic tile in their entry!

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

We decided to just relax that first night and grab dinner in the hotel, then wake up early the next morning to visit a couple of the sights. First up, was the Carrik-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a beautiful little spot just a ways down the coast from our hotel, and plenty busy with all the tourists. The last time that Richard and I were there, it was closed and I never got a chance to go across to the little island. It used to have a proper rickety rope bridge, but now it’s pretty sturdy. But it’s still a scary crossing for some of the tourists there!

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Once you get across (which can take time with the lines of tourists in the summer), you can just wander around the little island and enjoy the views of the cliffside. Be careful, as there are no ropes or anything keeping you from falling off the sides of the cliffs! (more…)