I hope everyone is ready for Christmas and has had a magical Christmas Eve so far.
I have been following Father Christmas’ journey on NORAD as I do every year and it always amazes me how many presents he delivers.
So what have I been up to this week?
Well, this week I have had no teaching, which has been a nice break to get the final things ready for Christmas. I have also had a little break from studying as well so hopefully I will be refreshed to restart in the New Year.
I have been busy wrapping presents and doing the final preparations for Christmas so hopefully tomorrow will be a nice relaxed day.
Today, I have spent a big portion of the day making my first ever Yule Log with the recipe from Highclere at Christmas and thankfully it does look good so hopefully it will taste good when we try it tomorrow.
So there is my week. I hope everyone has had a good week so far.
Christmas at Highclere by The Countess of Carnavon
Highclere Castle, known as ‘the real Downton Abbey’, bustles with activity at the best of times, but it is never more alive than at Christmas. Christmas at Highclere is a look behind the scenes at the routines and rituals that make the castle the most magical place to be throughout the festive season.
Lady Carnarvon will guide you through Advent, Christmas preparations and Christmas Eve all the way through to the day itself, and beyond. Learn how the castle and grounds are transformed by decorations, including the raising of a twenty-foot tree in the saloon, the gathering of holly and mistletoe from the grounds. All the intricacies of the perfect traditional Christmas are here: from crackers and carol singers. The festive feeling is carried through to Highclere’s Boxing Day traditions, the restorative middle days and the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
This book also tells the story of historic Christmases at Highclere – of distinguished guests warming themselves by the fire after a long journeys home through the snow, unexpected knocks on the door, and, always, the joy of bringing family – and staff – together after a busy year.
As well as telling the stories of Highclere Christmases past and present, Lady Carnarvon provides recipes, tips and inspiration from her kitchen so that readers can bring a quintessentially British festive spirit to their own home. Lady Carnarvon divulges the secret to perfectly flakey mince pies, the proper way to wrap presents so that you and your guests are guaranteed a Christmas to remember.
Lavish, celebratory and utterly enchanting, Christmas at Highclere is celebration of one of the UK’s most beloved historic houses and is the perfect gift for any Downton Abbey fan.
My husband and myself are massive fans of Downton Abbey and so I bought this last year for my husband’s Christmas present and it has been on the recipe book shelf waiting for Christmas to arrive.
I picked this book up to look up some Christmas recipes as I wanted some new challenges for the Christmas season and quickly decided that I would be making the Yule log for Christmas. However, I then decided to start reading the book from the beginning and all of a sudden I was hooked and could not put it down.
I love the Countess’ writing style, she is very skilled and brings everything to life beautifully. The Countess starts with the season of Advent and how the castle prepares for the Christmas period by decorating for opening and also what preparations they make for family and friends who will be visiting over the period. The Countess then continues through the festive season until Epiphany.
This book has family history and traditions, personal anecdotes about the family’s past Christmases and then recipes peppered throughout the book all linked to the different stages of the festive period. The accompanying pictures are absolutely stunning and they really show how stunning the castle is, although my favourite pictures are of the family’s many dogs.
I absolutely loved this book and I have several recipes that I will be trying out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I highly recommend this book and definitely give it 5 out of 5 Dragons. I have also added the other books the Countess of Carnarvon has written to my wish list as I really want to read more of her work.
(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)
About the author
A former auditor for Coopers & Lybrand, Lady Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey, including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the Castle.
Fascinated by Highclere’s history, Lady Carnarvon has written four books. The first two are about the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922. Her latest are New York Times Bestseller Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere, and Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey.
As promised I have had a go at making one of the recipes from The Book Lover’s Guide to Tea, which I reviewed here. I let my husband choose which one to make and he chose the Lemon Slices. The Lemon Slices are paired with the book The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and the tea is Earl Grey.
The plan was to eat a slice with a nice cup of Earl Grey, you will soon see the result.
Firstly, I found the recipe to be a little like The Great British Bake Off technical challenge, as there was no picture to see what they looked liked. It is also the first recipe where I have had to measure everything with cups, thankfully we have some rather cute cat cups.
Here is the recipe:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup all purpose flour
5/8 lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9x13in pan.
(Temperature was a guess for us as we have an AGA so adapting the temperature is rather tricky as we have to use a cold shelf to get the AGA to a better temperature. Also I do not have a big enough square tin so it had to be a circular pan.)
2. Stir the 2 cups of flour and confectioners’ sugar together. Blend in melted butter, and press into the bottom of the pan.
(I was guessing I was aiming for a biscuit texture like a cheesecake, hopefully that is correct.)
3. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. In another bowl, beat eggs until light. Combine the sugar, baking powder, and flour, and stir into the eggs. Add the lemon juice, and pour over the prepared crust before returning to the oven.
(The first problem was baking the base and trying to prevent it from burning in the AGA, the edges started to catch slightly so we decided it was time to add the topping and bake for 30 minutes.)
4. Bake for another 30 minutes or until bars are set. Make sure to let cool completely before cutting.
(We had to use two cold shelves to bring the temperature down so the top did not burn but we think it came out rather well.)
It reminds me of a giant custard tart!
As I said at the beginning we planned to eat a slice with a nice cup of Earl Grey, however we were impatient and attempted to cut the Lemon Slice before it was fully cooled, this ended in disaster. Yes, it fell apart, as shown below.
For the Earl Grey I got out the best china cups and side plates, these were my aunts who sadly passed away last year and I inherited her china. My aunt never drank tea out of a mug, it was a china cup and saucer or nothing. My aunt also drank more tea than anyone I have ever met, she was a true tea drinker, oh and a tea bag would never do, always loose leaf! It was really nice to use the china and enjoy our tea and think of my aunt telling me Earl Grey is not real tea, whilst drinking her tea with her little finger delicately pointing out. Sadly there is no teapot with the set so we used our little one that we use for loose leaf tea.
We ate the Lemon Slice and it was delicious. Later when it had fully cooled I cut it up and it all stayed together beautifully and worked brilliantly. A definite hit that I will happily make again and goes perfectly with Earl Grey Tea, just like the book says.
In conclusion, as well as loving the little book, I also so far love the recipes and how they are linked to books and teas!
This is a tiny review for a tiny book. This book was in the box with the book tea infuser I blogged about here.
Firstly, it is possibly one of the cutest books I have ever read, being only 7.5cm tall and 6.5cm wide, it is tiny but surprisingly it is 47 pages long.
Secondly, it all about tea and I love tea. It has some excellent tea and book related quotes in it and the best part is it has some recipes for the perfect accoutrements to afternoon tea. I plan on trying out the recipe for the cookies and lemon squares as they look easy to make and yummy, and it also tells you which tea will go best with the said recipes.
Thirdly, it also tells you how to make the perfect cup of tea with the book tea infuser and gives you timings for the different types of tea.
A perfect little book that took a matter of minutes to read but was an interesting read to enjoy with a cup of tea. I gave this little book 5 Dragons out of 5 and I hope the recipes turn out to be a success, I will keep you posted.