Christmas Pudding Fudge (recipe)

I have been making this fudge for years, but realised that the recipe on my blog needed a little update as I now use a stand mixer for the mixing at the end (instead of a hand whisk in the pan).

It does sound a bit difficult, but I think the key is preparation (having everything ready before you start).

The recipe is a combination of one from The Pink Whisk website and one from a Rachel Allen cookbook.

Ingredients:

100g butter (unsalted)

450g brown sugar

1 tin condensed milk

1 mini Christmas pudding (the ones that are already cooked and you would just re-heat in a microwave)

 

Equipment:

Brownie tin lined with baking paper

Heavy saucepan

Mixer

Thermometer

Spatula

Preparation! I use my stand mixer so I put the attachment in and turn the plug on. Line a baking tray with baking paper, weigh out the ingredients and cut up the pudding and leave it on a plate (the pieces don’t need to be small because the mixer will mash them up).

Put the butter, sugar and condensed milk in a pan and heat gently, stirring regularly.

It will eventually bubble away and appear more smooth. The sugar thermometer needs to reach 235F. Once it reaches that, leave it for a few seconds before pouring it (carefully- it’s very hot) into the stand mixer.

Turn on the mixer and whisk away. It takes a while, but eventually the mixture will thicken- if you stop the mixer and lift up the attachment it will leave ribbons in the mixture and drip slowly off. Add in the Christmas pudding and mix a little more until it is evenly dispersed.

Pour into the lined pan and smooth the top- it won’t set too quickly so you have time to even it out. Leave it to cool for a few hours/ overnight, and then cut into lots of little squares ready to put into little bags.

Do you like to make gifts? What is your favourite fudge flavour? I do like peanut butter and chocolate fudge, and I am tempted to do a different festive one with maybe cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Festive Five Fun!

The local running club organised a 5 mile race each December with profits going to a local hospice. I’ve run it for the last few years, although last year it was cancelled as we had a rather large dumping of snow on the Saturday before.

As the start is less than 2 miles from home, I ran there, and then had booked Bill’s in town for brunch (Andy would walk in from home and meet me there). A pretty perfect plan for a Sunday morning in my book.

The race is just the type I like- small, friendly, low key. You pick up your number on the day but there were no queues as it’s a small event, so for the 9.30 start I think I was there just after 9. There was a little tent for a bag drop- I was going to just hang my jumper on a tree, but because of the rain I put it in the tent instead, so I had something dry to put on at the end.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

From their facebook page

As I ran there it rained briefly, but once I got to the start it had stopped. Pretty much everyone wears festive running kit in some form or other (from full on Santa suits to headgear). A couple of my club mates were there and just before the start we saw a big rainbow- one of the photographers snapped this picture of us although the rainbow didn’t come out too well.

The course is two laps, all on pavements, and it fairly flat (not as flat as the Hatfield 5 though). I wasn’t feeling great, having woken up with a bit of a grimy throat which usually means a cold is on the way. My focus was on enjoying the run, which I did. It always has such a lovely atmosphere with all the marshals wearing Santa hats and being all cheerful.  Festive leggings are becoming more commonplace too, so I love looking at the designs and wondering where people get them from (and also wondering how people manage to run so fast in the Santa suits).

When I finished I picked up my chocolate Santa, put my jumper on and then chatted to a few running friends, before heading into town.

We had booked the table for 11am, but I was there at around quarter to, so in the end I went inside to wait for Andy as it was so cold. He brought a bag with a jacket in it for me, as I knew I’d be cold on the walk home.

We had a lovely breakfast together and a quick wander around a few shops, before picking up a hot chocolate for the walk home.

That weekend I started to feel a little more on top of Christmas prep- I managed to marzipan and ice the cakes, (just the decorating to go), I’ve made some sugar scrub as presents for people (I used this recipe), and I decided to go for brown paper and ribbon (more environmentally friendly than wrapping paper that can’t be recycled) and so I’ve wrapped a few presents and even written some Christmas cards.

On Sunday afternoon we got the Christmas decorations down from the attic and put up the tree.

Are you feeling festive yet? I do quite like asking Alexa each day “how many sleeps ’til Christmas”- it’s meant to be for kids but it’s quite fun (and makes me think of Dora the Explorer where she asks what bit you most enjoyed).

Jersey Farm parkrun and a festive kitchen mishap

After a quiet Friday night at home (apart from the kitchen mishap which I will get to later) I was off to St Albans on Saturday morning to visit a relatively new parkrun, Jersey Farm. It started just over a month ago, but we held off visiting the first event as they had requested a quiet start, and then my parents were away so this was the first opportunity we had to run together.

I drove to my parents and then I walked to the start with Dad- it was just under a mile away, so a nice warm up.

Pictures from their facebook page- new runners briefing

There isn’t much parking right by the start, but the park is very close to a big residential area (Marshalswick) with plenty of residential streets and no parking restrictions so it would be fine for people travelling so long as you left a few minutes to find a space to park and then walk to the start. The weather was gorgeous- cold but with that lovely low winter sun.  As we walked through the field looking for the start we met another runner and ended up chatting. It was his first ever parkrun- he lived in the local area but wasn’t driving so didn’t ever go to the St Albans one. Just after we arrived they did the new runners briefing which seemed to be the majority of the runners- I suppose that often happens with new events now (this was event number 5). The briefing was quite amusing with the lady getting us all to chant about what we will not do with the finish tokens (we will not take them home).

Their winter route started in the middle of the field, went to the edge and then it was two identical laps taking on various bridle paths (the official course page has a different route with two slightly different laps).

It was a fairly undulating course- you can see below you were either going up or down, there weren’t any flat bits. It was also fairly narrow in places- there were 163 runners and at the beginning we were a little too far back really and got a bit stuck in places as the paths were only wide enough for  two runners at times. By the second lap it did thin out somewhat, and neither of us were aiming for a fast time (Dad had only had one run in the last month as he’d just got back from Namibia) so it was fine for is, but a few times faster people had to crash dramatically through the undergrowth on the side of the paths to get past, and we both got clipped by dogs (on leads but maybe not under control…) as they ran past us too.

The course had varied views- sometimes you were running with woodland on either side, and other times you ran around the edge of the main field and could see down to Sandridge Village (where Heartwood Forest is/was). It was muddy and slippery in places so I was glad of my trail shoes- once winter really kicks in it will be a fun one to do if you like slipping in the mud.

As we finished my watch said 30:18 and I did get excited that maybe I’d ticked off another umber for stopwatch bingo, but alas, when the text came through my time was 30:06.

We saw the guy who we chatted to at the start, and he had really enjoyed it, although he said he only got one Saturday off work in 6 weeks, so it would take him a while to make it to his next one.

We had both taken jumpers with us to put on after, but we started to get quite cold so headed off fairly quickly (via the shop so Dad could pick up the paper). We walked back along Jersey Lane (which is a bridleway/ path that goes from Marshalswick down to Sandridge- it’s how Dad and Tony would cycle to Heartwood Forest)-it was so nice to be away from the roads.

Then of course it was home for pancakes made by Mum. My sister, her husband and their baby came over, and Andy also popped over with our wedding photo album, so we had a nice catch up, looking at my parents holiday pictures too.

So that’s J ticked off (just I, K, Q and Z left), and more importantly I have re-claimed Queen of Herts, having once again run all the parkruns in Hertfordshire. I am sure we will be back fairly soon to Jersey Farm as it is so easy to get to, and as I often end up and Mum and Dad’s anyway, it makes sense to drive there and then head to the parkrun together.

And then the kitchen mishap. I’d seen a recipe for candied clementine slices, and I absolutely love them. I had a few which weren’t the nicest (fresh ones) so I thought I’d give it a go. You had to boil them in sugar for 90 mins, and I kept on checking all through dinner, and they were looking good. After dinner we went into the living room and Andy put the fire on, and I thought it was smokier than usual. He said he’d only had the door open for a bit, but I could still smell smoke. Then it clicked and I ran into the kitchen to see a lot of smoke- as I opened the back door the pinger went off.

There was no saving them! It had basically turned into treacle and hardened as soon as I poured it out. Thankfully the pan managed to be saved (thanks to Andy) but the kitchen smelled like strong marmalade for the whole weekend! Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Have you had any bad kitchen disasters? When I was younger I made popcorn and then put the pan on the work surface while it was still hot, burning a lovely ring into the counter.

Christmas at Kew plus token sorting at a soggy parkrun

On Saturday morning I was off to run at Ellenbrook Fields- after getting the email about them being short of volunteers I’d offered to sort the tokens after as I was going to be on my own (eg not heading back to my parents for breakfast) and we weren’t heading into London until later so I knew I’d have the time.

Plus, who can resist a penguin? My cow cowl bobble hat arrived on Friday so I decided to take it with me as it was cold and rainy and I knew I’d cool down as soon as I stopped running. The only other time I have sorted tokens was at Panshanger on a frosty morning- I feel like the people who get to do it in a cafe (or in the summer) have a much nicer job! Anyway, the parkrun was enjoyable (28:24- too slow for a bingo number as I need 17 and 18) and then put on my coat and hat and started to sort the tokens. Luckily now EF have a little tool box so the scanners had been putting them in the correct box (sets of 20) so I just had to sort each section. None were missing (excellent work EF runners at returning them all) but it got a bit windy and at one point the set I was sorting blew all over the table- argh! The RD decided not to put them on the knitting needle things as she said she needed to take them home to dry them out so they wouldn’t be sticking together next week, but I still felt very satisfied when the box was full and all the sections were properly ordered. I was just pretty cold, and I was going to treat myself to a hot drink from the coffee van, but the coffee van didn’t turn up.

Once we had finished I helped pack away (I say helped, one job was to take down the gazebo and I am not very spatially aware so I just could not work out the way it would fold- thankfully there were 4 competent people who could manage that while I carried the bag…) and then headed back to the car. I stopped at Tesco on my way home as I wanted to get some marzipan and icing for the Christmas cakes (they have been maturing away for a few weeks now) but the shop was a total nightmare, rammed full of people and awful stuff like Slade blasting out- urgh. I was glad to finally get home and have a hot shower and breakfast. I pottered around at home a bit, and thankfully the rain eased off before we had to leave for London.

We drove to St Albans and got the train in and had a lovely wander around Covent Garden to see the Christmas lights. We went to get a fancy Christmas hot chocolate in Hotel Chocolat but I was a bit disappointed as we usually get one with the coconut milk, and automatically they never seem to add the cream (not a fan of the weird squirty cream) but this time it came with a huge pile of brown cream (chocolate cream? is that a thing?)- we had to spoon it off and then there wasn’t much actual hot chocolate left. Next time I shall specify no cream! We also went to the amazing Swedish bakery and picked up a couple of cinnamon buns to have for breakfast (seriously, just standing outside of the bakery means you get the most amazing smells wafting out- it reminds me of the book A Year Of Living Danishly because I mainly  wanted to eat cinnamon rolls while I read it!). After a quick dinner in Leon (their vegan falafal Christmas wrap is so tasty) we got the tube to Kew Gardens.

I’ve not been before and I was really impressed. Within the gardens was a mile trail with all sorts of light installations along the way. Some had music, some moved, some made of fire, and some floating on water. It was all varied and felt so festive.

There were lots of food stalls, so Andy got a mulled wine and I got a hot apple juice with cinnamon, and we walked around admiring the lights. At one point we had to cross a bridge and there was a bit of a traffic jam there, but not for long.

We were probably there for around 90 minutes in the end, just wandering and taking our time. I liked that it was one route, so you had no worries about missing any of it.

One of the places was playing Silent Night (sung in German) which my Grandad had tried to teach me when I was little (my Grandma was Austrian) so I had a little time in the dark remembering my Grandad. It made me think of my Nan too, as when she came to stay with us at Christmas we used to make sure we drove past certain houses as they always had crazy Christmas lights and she loved to see them all.

I must have been shattered as on the Sunday I didn’t wake up until nearly 10 o’clock! I cannot remember the last time I slept that long. I had to head out quickly on a run as my cousin was coming over later and we needed to pop to town (I had to return a jumper and get something for dinner), so I only did 5 miles.

After racing into town and ticking things off the list we were home just in time for my cousin, his wife and their baby to come over. We’d not seen them for ages (since before their baby was born- they’d popped over after a hospital appointment as we are close to the hospital) so it was good to catch up.  After they left it was time for a bit of life admin and then catching up on TV.

Photo

On Monday after work I went on a run (my regular 3 mile route)- I saw loads of Christmas lights up, but seeing as it is actually December I think it’s OK. Some are rather interesting (giant inflatable Santa and snowman anyone?).   I wore my new Running Heroes t-shirt. A couple of weeks ago I had an email saying that because I’d filled in a questionnaire (which I don’t remember doing) I had won a t-shirt. It’s lovely and soft, and that bright orange colour is good for winter, although of course I had my light on too. My back had been feeling a little stiff so I ran very gently as I didn’t want to make it worse, and I think it helped. I had chosen to run on Monday rather than Tuesday because I had a training session after work over in Watford which didn’t finish until 6pm and I knew the traffic would be a nightmare getting home, as it’s in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t usually run for 3 days in a row as the third run tends to be a bit of a slog for me by that time, although doing  shorter run on the Sunday meant it was actually fine.

On Wednesday I had a late meeting, so didn’t have time for my usual walk before yoga. It was our last yoga session because our teacher is off to India for a month (normally they run during term time so we’d have a couple more weeks).  It was a really small class, and had that end of term feel. We ended up going off piste, as a few people mentioned tight shoulders. A few weeks ago we did a little partner yoga to stretch out the shoulders, and so we ended up doing loads of it- things like child’s pose with someone laying on top (maybe called turtle?), lots of paired downward dogs (where the other person puts their feet on your hips to push down further)- I was really pleased because I’ve never managed to be the person balancing on top before, but with a little help (someone else helped to place one of my feet) I managed to hold the pose. I just need more confidence because I tend to think my arms aren’t strong enough and then panic (to be fair last time I tried I fell over and bruised myself quite badly). We then did some laughter yoga, which felt strange at first but it did leave you with a sort of feeling of release. The final relaxation was very much needed.

On Thursday I had to get to another meeting after work, and although it didn’t finish as late as I thought, the traffic was really bad. I did the regular 3 mile route and it started to rain just as I got into my road so I decided that was enough! With lots on at work it’s good to just get a little bit of fresh air.

Have you been to London to see the lights? Do you have nice Christmas lights near you? Have you ever been to a light show? I quite liked the Lumiere festival in London last year.

And now it’s December!

WHAT??? Time just seems to suddenly have gone so fast- where did November go???

After getting off to a good start at the Bath Christmas markets the other weekend I did start getting a bit organised with presents and things (I am going to make some presents this year, and also have decided to use brown paper and pretty ribbon instead of wrapping paper as apparently most of it can’t be recycled).

Last Monday I had to leave work asap to pick up my brother from the airport- getting to Heathrow wasn’t too bad but I was conscious that every minute going by would mean worse traffic for our return (and he had been travelling for something like 30 hours by the time he landed so I didn’t want to make him hang about too long). He’d been in Namibia so the journey back was great to hear him talk about all the animals that they’d seen (my parents stayed on for another week).

Photo

Tuesday was a run on my own and it was tipping it down with rain. I just wanted to do a few miles as I’d got home late. At the moment I’ve got a nice 3 mile loop which is away from main roads for most if it, so it’s quite nice at rush hour time because it’s not too busy. The rain eased off after a bit, but I was pretty soaked through from the start. At one point a van drove past, and even though the road was wide and empty of cars (and I had my torch on) it drove though a massive puddle and totally soaked me (well, added to the water with horrible muddy puddle water). I saw lots of Christmas decorations up too (last week it was still November)- it’s too early!!!

On Wednesday I had to get into town (WGC) before the shops shut to pick up a few deliver to store items (actual Christmas shopping, plus a penguin jumper for me…)- I made it just in time, and then it was lovely yoga- always so much needed by the middle of the week. I’d had a stiff back as I had stupidly lifted down a very heavy box of costumes at work, so we did lots of gentle twists and postures to help with that. We had a bit of time to do headstands- I can’t get anywhere near the so called easier one, but I am getting closer with the tripod, so I practised that a few times and managed to get one leg up at a time- slowly slowly.

The St Albans clock tower has a pretty animation being projected onto it.

On Thursday I was going out for dinner with some friends, but I headed into town (St Albans) straight from work (no time to go home and come back again as we were meeting at 6.30). Again I’d ordered something to pick up from a shop so I picked that up and then wandered around for a bit, trying to get my steps up- I’m still on a goal streak of 10,000 or more steps per day, since the end of June. It was pouring with rain so once I’d got my steps up I went and had a cup of tea and some dark chocolate almonds in Pret. Our meal out was really good- originally we had also booked the cinema (Andy and I) at 9.30pm, because I thought our meal wouldn’t be too late as we were meeting early, but of course our catch up went on, so we had to cancel the cinema but as the tickets were free it’s not a big deal.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, glasses

On Friday I had a lot of fun with my new penguin jumper- the description online said reversible, so I thought the snowman would be on the inside, but it’s sequins so you just stroke them to flip them all over.

An evening in front of the TV was just what the doctor ordered- we watched Pom Poko which was super weird and I shall never look at raccoons in the same way again!  I may have fallen asleep in front of the TV at around 9pm…

(I’ll save the weekend and actual December for next time)

Are your decorations up?