Unless I am being super duper productive next week, this will be my last post before Christmas. So I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas from the Falkland Islands. We have just begun our Christmas/summer holidays and the whole family, including my teacher husband, is looking forward to not having to get up early and sort stuff for school! Although that said, I hit the gym early this morning trying to compensate for all the treats I have eaten in the run up to Christmas…
I have fond memories of tins of Amaretti biscuits at Christmas time as a kid and being allowed one or maybe two if I was lucky. The excitement of choosing which coloured wrapper I wanted and gently unwrapping it to reveal the delicious almond biscuit which was always savoured. I never wanted to throw the wrappers away either as they were so elegant and reminded me of yummy Christmas treats. I always felt very grown up being allowed to share in what felt like a very indulgent Christmastime ritual under the watchful eyes of my dad, who wanted to ensure I took no more than I had been allowed. I don’t think he was very good at sharing what he considered to be his food. My sweet tooth certainly came from him!
This year, I decided that it would be fun to recreate them with the kids in the kitchen, but without the alcohol. It was a hands on activity which kept all three children amused. With the set up of our kitchen in Stanley, it isn’t always particularly easy to give everyone space to have a go, but this time around the kids managed to share a couple of chairs and leave room for me to instruct from the side lines. We did make ours somewhat larger than shop bought ones, but it did make them less fiddly for small hands to roll into balls and then coat in icing sugar without squishing them into a pulp! These a naturally gluten free as they contain no flour and with the ground almonds they make me feel like they are a bit healthier.
2 egg whites
175g caster sugar
175g ground almonds
1tbsp almond extract
Icing sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 160°c fan and line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment.
Whisk the egg whites with hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
Gently mix in the caster sugar and ground almonds with a metal spoon and then bring together with your hands.
Make tablespoon-sized balls for big biscuits or teaspoon-sized balls for smaller biscuits.
With damp hands, roll each ball in a plate of icing sugar to coat and place on baking sheets ensuring that you space them apart.
Cook for 15-20 minutes until they are a light golden colour and slightly puffy.
Leave to cool on the baking trays for around 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
These are totally yummy biscuits and I will probably be making these outside the festive season too! But that is probably because I love biscuits, but I hate the pressure of trying to decorate them nicely as I am not the most artistic of people!
We may have only moved to Stanley back in August, but the family’s knowledge of penguins and love of them is much more ingrained. It all started when we were still a family of 4 and took a trip to London Zoo when we were visiting my parents. Atticus, at just over a year, was completely mesmerised by the penguins and it seems they stole his heart. When in the gift shop, he made a beeline for the toy penguins and Grandma purchased him one. It went everywhere with him and we ended up buying a second one online in case the first went missing in action. That initial penguin has made the trip out here, but we did have to limit the number of toy penguins the kids brought as I was sure we would be convinced to add to their collection during our time here.
I was compiling my list of potential Christmas bakes when I found a coconut mice recipe. The first thought that struck me was how much I love coconut. Then the idea of Coconut Penguins popped into my head. What could be better?! I mean it is a penguin made of coconut and sugar! Unsurprisingly the kids were fully on board with this idea and we have had requests for more Coconut Penguins ever since we finished the first batch.
250g icing sugar, sifted
200g condensed milk
175g desiccated coconut
Black food dye
Jelly diamonds (orange and yellow)
White chocolate buttons (or yellow smarties!)
Mini smarties (orange and yellow)
Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or silicone baking mats.
Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl (my kids love doing this job and always shriek; “it’s snowing!”)
Add in the condensed milk and desiccated coconut and mix. The mixture will be stiff, so smaller children may require some help.
Add generous squirts of the black food dye (it is difficult to get it truly black and ours looked more grey, but this didn’t detract from the kids’ enthusiasm for them) and mix again.
Take tablespoon-sized amounts and shape them into oval patties and put on the baking sheets. There is a sticky fingers warning here! Slightly damp hands will prevent this to a degree.
Decorate with two silver balls for eyes, half a jelly diamond for the beak, a white chocolate button for the tummy and two mini smarties for the feet.
Put in the fridge to set and then enjoy.
This recipe appeared in Penguin News on Friday 13 December 2019.
Meringues are one of Atticus’s favourite things to make. He loves to handle the electric whisk all by himself and tends to take any attempts at interference with pure contempt. Unfortunately, he had to share the responsibility, but he did get in the Christmas spirit and did so with relative good grace. As meringues are such an easy thing to make, there was no escape giving them a little festive makeover. I had a go at this myself last year one evening when the kids were in bed, but this time I had to get the kids involved. They were just as tasty as I remembered and these will probably feature in our festivities this year as the two littlest and their dad are not fond of mince pies.
As not all children like the festive flavour of mincemeat, these are a perfect way to introduce them subtly to the flavour. My two youngest will devour these! Whisking the egg whites allows the kids to watch their volume increase and find the vocabulary to describe it. The mincemeat makes them beautifully squidgy and gives them a darker colour than plain meringues.
This recipe featured in Soar Valley Life’s November/December 2019 issue. I held off posting it too early as I couldn’t cope with posting Christmas food until advent had well and truly started!
2 medium egg whites
115g caster sugar
2 tbsp mincemeat (we used shop bought)
Preheat the oven to 90° fan and line two
baking sheets with baking parchment or silicone baking mats.
Put the egg whites in a clean bowl (it is
best to avoid plastic).
Whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk
until peaks form when the blades are lifted out of the mixture.
Add the caster sugar a tbsp at a time and
beat after each addition. The mixture should look thick and glossy.
Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the
mincemeat a tbsp at a time and beat after each addition.
Take tbsps. of the mixture and gently dollop
onto the baking trays (you should get around 10) and add sprinkles.
Place in the oven for 1hr 45 minutes and
then switch the oven off. Leave them in the oven until it is completely cooled.
We leave ours in overnight and remove the following morning.