If you were around and reading cookery books or magazines in the 1980s then you'll already know this first little cheat. It seemed to turn up just about everywhere and with good reason - it’s useful, speedy and very tasty.
- Buy a jar of artichoke hearts in oil.
- Put the contents of the jar in a blender or processor with a squeeze of lemon and a few turns of pepper.
- Wizz until it's as smooth as you fancy. If the dip is too thick then add a little more oil.
- Pour into a bowl, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or dust with paprika. Serve with some fancy breadsticks or flat breads (from the shops, of course). You can add some additional flavours if you wish such as a little sherry vinegar or some Parmesan grated on top. (If you're tempted to use pickled artichokes, please click here first).
In recent years the affogato has become the easy standby dessert and why not? Although I can't resist adding a little twist.
- Buy some decent quality vanilla ice cream and put a scoop or two in a bowl.
- Make a good espresso (ideally with a really easy capsule machine to minimise effort) and pour it over the ice cream.
- At this point I suggest that you add a little Pedro Ximenez too. In case you've been living far from civilisation and haven't heard of PX, then let me explain that it's a gorgeous, sticky toffee sort of sherry. It's not authentic in an affogato but it makes a truly delicious difference.
As I said, it's been a difficult kind of year and I could give you a list of the music I've been listening to by the artists who left us this year but I prefer to offer something soothing. Halfway through the year William Tyler released 'Modern Country', a deceptively simple, understated but hugely satisfying album of guitar led music. Perfectly judged for times such as these, so take a few minutes out to relax, reflect and enjoy if you can.
Just in case this posting hasn't been quite festive enough, I leave you until after the celebrations with a seasonal pic from the local RHS Wisley Garden Christmas Glow Event.
I wish you a happy and soothing Christmas.