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sloe gin

Lifestyle, London

Feeling Festive In London

December 15, 2014

It’s that time of year again when your favourite holiday tunes play non-stop, you eat far too many canapés at Christmas parties and suddenly find yourself panic buying, waiting in long lines at the post office and wrapping endless gifts late into the night before Santa arrives – sound familiar? The run up to Christmas can be hectic and sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming, even for Santa’s most efficient elf! Before you grumble bah humbug, just remember all the fun and festive things that only happen at this time of year, especially in London. It really is the most magical time of year, and here is why:

Sloegasms

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I always get overly excited about my first Sloegasm of the season – a fierce and festive combination of sloe gin and champagne. This tipple is sure to warm the cockles on cold and dark winter days. Catch up with your friends and family as you toast to the New Year ahead in style. You can find a step by step Sloegasm recipe here – chin chin!

Holiday Nibbles 

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There’s something about December that just makes you want to eat copious amounts! Decorating (and devouring) Christmas cookies, chocolate yule logs and gingerbread houses can bring out the festive spirit in anyone. All diets are on hold until the New Year and calories don’t count at this time of year. It’s Christmas time, so grab some chestnuts and a mince pie with brandy butter and eat up – the saying ‘eat, drink and be merry’ has never been more true!

*my top recipe for mince pies and sloe gin here *

Winter Wonderland 

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If you haven’t braved the rides at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland before, then the time to go is now! I’m still recovering from a trip on the The Power Tower and The Blizzard after my visit two years ago, but I loyally return every year for a warm overpriced cider, the Christmas markets and the hilarious party-filled chalets in the Bavarian Village. I honestly have to pinch myself to remember I am in the middle of London when I’m at this winter playground in the centre of Hyde Park. Act fast, as Winter Wonderland is only here until early January.

Get Your Skates On! 

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When I was a little girl living in New York, I went ice-skating at Rockefeller Centre religiously every Christmas. Skating in the centre of a bustling city with twinkling lights, the smells of hot chocolate and Christmas music will get anyone into the festive spirit – even Ebenezer Scrooge! The most jolly ice skating rinks in London have to be either Somerset House or the Natural History Museum. I recently went skating with a few girlfriends and miraculously none of us returned home with any injuries. Book a skating slot early to avoid disappointment and wear thick socks to protect your dainty toes!

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 An on rink mid-action ice skating selfie with lovely Megan – be impressed, very very impressed!

 Festive DIY

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I’m always so impressed and somewhat amazed when I receive home-made Christmas cards. One of my friends even makes her own customised seasonal wrapping paper using stamps- I take my hat off to her! Yes, some people actually make the time to do these types of DIY projects in the run up to the holidays, to make the rest of us feel less productive of course. Last year I made my first ever Christmas floral centrepiece at the lovely Covent Garden Academy of Flowers, which offers classes for those of us (like me) who are less talented in the flower arranging department. Earlier this month I went to Petersham Nurseries with all my work colleagues to make wreaths, which is highly recommended if you haven’t been before.

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I never thought I would say this (especially as I have a mild allergy to pine!), but there is something really fun and special about making a seasonal creation from scratch at this time of year, especially with friends. I look at my wreath each day with pride and fond memories, and I genuinely feel that much more in the holiday spirit when my apartment smells of fresh eucalyptus and cinnamon. Who knows, maybe next year I will bite the bullet and make Mrs Claus proud by creating my own Christmas stationary and decorating my house in picture-perfect fashion like this (a girl can dream right?!):

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So even if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends and feel like you’re hanging on by a thread right now, remember to take a break from the chaos and treat yourself to some festive fun. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a sloegasm filled Happy New Year – cheers to 2015!

Food, Lifestyle, London

What Santa Really Wanted

December 20, 2011
You went to Whole Foods and left Santa organic orange juice and gluten-free crackers? No wonder he put you on the naughty list. The British Santa expects a good swig of home-made sloe gin and a plate of mince pies – why else squeeze down the chimney? So here are the recipes to ensure your swag bag is filled with top-notch prezzies.

Sloe gin for the Brits is hotter than an Acai berry vodkatini on the beach in Malibu, and you can even make it at home! Here is my flatmate Henny’s fool proof recipe – guaranteed to make you see a few stars. Our flat is awash with bottles of this fine concoction. My New Year’s resolution is to have several bottles ready for next Christmas – sorry Santa.
Ingredients: A 750ml bottle of gin, 350g caster sugar, 450g sloe berries. Tricky to find sloes in the States as they inhabit cold and prickly bramble bushes, which cover the English countryside. Save your manicure and wait for Trader Joes to import them! 
Prick the sloes with a needle, pop them in a bottle (this is how I like to recycle), add the sugar and gin and voila, your sloe gin is ready to start the marination process. The hardest part is waiting… Give the bottle a gentle shake once a week for at least three months, until the gin is Stanford Cardinal crimson. Another reason to look forward to Spring! 

For more immediate gratification, you could rustle up mince pies in time for tea – and still keep on Santa’s good list this year. Here is the recipe that my cousin Izzy whips up – move over Nigella Lawson!
Ingredients: 240g plain flour, 120g unsalted butter, juice of 1 orange, pinch of salt, 1 large egg, 200g mincemeat, icing sugar for dusting (optional). Star shaped pastry cutter is essential unless you really are a domestic goddess.

Serves: 24 – 36 pies depending on the size

Prep time: 40 minutes including pastry

Cooking time: 10 -15 minutes
Mix the flour with the softened butter until you can form a ball. Put the dough in plastic wrap or a ziplock bag, and store in the fridge for at least twenty minutes. Meanwhile, beat an egg and add the juice of one orange and a pinch of salt to the egg mixture. 

Put the flour/butter mix into a food processor and pour the egg and orange down the funnel until the dough forms. Or if you are a gourmet guru like us you can also do this by hand.

Roll out the pastry so it is thinner than Kate Middleton, and using a small mug or glass cut the pastry into circular discs. 
Place the discs into a non stick baking tray (ideally inside a cupcake mold to make your life much easier) then fill with mincemeat. I know it is delicious and tempting, but a little goes a long way so don’t over-stuff them.
Using a star shaped pastry cutter, cut out small stars to use as the lid for each pie. 

With the grace of Tinkerbell, place the star shaped lid gently on top of the mince meat as if it was pixie dust.

Put in the oven (220C or 425F) for 10-15 minutes. Check on the pies after 10 minutes to avoid burning your masterpiece.
Sprinkling icing sugar is optional after the pies have cooled. Fixing yourself a cocktail to go with your mince pies is mandatory. It isn’t just the mince pies that feel like stars…
Merry Christmas from rural England and all the best wishes for 2012. Diets and detox start in January. 
xoxo,
BLONDON