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Administer brandy – in my kitchen

December 8, 2013

In my kitchen in December 2013 My Custard PieChristmas cooking is made special for me by the rituals of marinating, bathing, sousing and macerating various foodstuffs in alcohol. So no surprise that my kitchen is full of the aromas of brandy, whisky, bourbon, rum and orange-scented liqueurs this December.

My kitchen space, however, is a strange place to be right now. My oven finally packed up and a second-hand replacement gifted from a friend stands in splendid isolation waiting….waiting….waiting for an electrician to keep his promise to connect it. Frank – where are you? This is ominous as Christmas looms.

If my maths are correct I have 0.1% of the Christmas stollen baked in aid of charity by the Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates. I bought a whole stollen (60cm) out of an enormous 600 metres of stollen (made with 2,210 eggs, 600 kilograms of flour, 278 kilograms of raisins and 55 kilograms of marzipan, 120 kilograms of lemons and 131 kilograms of oranges). Staff from the hotel give up their time voluntarily to sell the stollen and give tastes to passers by. They ring a bell and give a massive cheer every time someone buys a piece (a slice is only 5 AED). It’s one of my favourite festive events in Dubai. As my family are dried fruit haters this marzipan-laden loaf needs to be shared; thank goodness half is pledged to I Live in a Frying Pan or I would end up eating the whole thing myself (not a bad thing in theory).

Thankfully my oven-deficiency hasn’t affected all my cooking as only the hob is needed for Christmas puddings and mincemeat. Adding Grand Marnier, orange juice and zest to mincemeat imbibes future mince pies with a warm spiciness and I’m confident that sploshing in an amount of rather nice Caribbean rum (Pyrat) into the pudding mix will impart smooth vanilla tones (hope KP isn’t reading this).

At last the growing season is bearing fruit here in Dubai – actually not fruit but veg – and early on a Friday morning I’m down at the Farmers’ Market at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. Planning my menu around the local, organic veg I buy from the farmers saves me money (it’s incredibly cheap and fresh), keeps my family healthy and it challenges me to think differently about what we eat. It’s the shortest supply chain too; knowing where my food comes from is so important. Getting up early on a weekend has more than one reward; the market now offers a mean organic breakfast courtesy of Baker and Spice.

Vegetables from the farmers market

My weekly haul from the market – taken on my iphone

The dried fruits inside my Christmas cake are plump from steeping in brandy since September. Since baking, I administer extra spirit every ten days. This is not as lavish as it sounds as I’ve discovered that this brandy is perfect for cooking (from MMI at only 25 AED per bottle –

The moment I saw the blue jug in Ren’s picture I was on a mission to find one (PIP studio from Holland, bought in Galeries Lafayette); you could say I have a thing about blue jugs. Younger teen and KP definitely have a thing about Lindt chocolate as this is all that’s left from my Food Photography and Styling workshop goodie bag. These Christmas bears are good for tucking into stockings and scattering on tables as decoration.

Being a golf widow sometimes has its advantages and the Jack Daniels annual golf day is one of them. The dinner in the evening is set on the beach at The Westin, looking out over the lights of The Palm. KP makes a mean Lynchburg lemonade but the new JD Tennessee Honey is really smooth and a lovely long drink mixed with ginger ale and very sippable neat over ice (perhaps I did have a little glass in my hand as I was writing this).

Chocolate keeps creeping into my kitchen in different guises. The strange truffle in a jar is a crunchy praline chocolate given to me at a wine tasting event at Rare, Desert Palm, Dubai (the food was superb).

Celebs at the Dubai International Film Festival (who one presumes can afford to buy anything they like) are led through a series of rooms where they are given a range of luxury goods.  While having a sneak peak in the VIP lounge, I forgot to ask whether they all receive one of the 16 kilogram camels displayed by Al Nassma but was very happy with my mini-version. As a historic trading hub, Dubai offers very few souvenirs which are actually made here so this range has become incredibly popular with visitors – and rightly so. What a handsome beast.

Are you inspired to get sorted with your seasonal cooking? Christmas Sorted – 23 recipes to take you from freaked out to festive is just what you need. This online magazine is the brain-child of The Hedonista with a few additions from me. Simple recipes that work ranging from homemdade truffles, cranberry sauce to gingerbread plus Winter and Summer Christmas menus (for those like us in warmer climes). Sarah is a great cook with an exceptional palate (here’s what she did for Come Dine with Me) and I love her recipes.

How do you get this? Simply subscribe to my posts (this is easy – it’s over there, in the column to the right) or Sarah’s at The Hedonista. You’ll receive an email with the secret link. If you already a subscribe or follow, email me at sally(at) and I’ll send it to you.

Christmas sorted

Kudos to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who tapped into an innate desire to have a nosey round other people’s kitchens. Nearly fifty bloggers joined in for November’s ‘In My Kitchen’ and there are sure to be plenty in December – imagine the collective scent of Christmas spices. Do tell me what’s in your kitchen this December?

  1. December 8, 2013 9:51 am

    Great post Sally, thanks, and the e-book is fab!

    • December 9, 2013 8:17 am

      That clever Hedonista worked her magic 🙂

  2. December 8, 2013 10:31 am

    What a wonderful bounty in your kitchen Sally 🙂

  3. December 8, 2013 10:50 am

    What a wonderfully festive post! I think feeling Christmassy in a warm climate when you originate from a cold one can be tricky, so it’s great to read up on what others are up to this season!

    • December 9, 2013 8:18 am

      I’ve been here long enough that I start to reach for my winter boots about now!

  4. December 8, 2013 1:39 pm

    Great post! We are also gearing up for a summer Christmas, but the kitchen is still full of brandy and rum! 😀

    • December 9, 2013 8:19 am

      We always go to the beach on Christmas day before the festivities – how about you?

      • December 9, 2013 6:51 pm

        We are also beach people, either really early in the morning or a long, slow stroll after Christmas lunch. Or both!

      • December 10, 2013 9:59 am

        It’s great for getting up an appetite for later isn’t it.

  5. December 8, 2013 2:12 pm

    We’re don’t really ‘do’ Christmas in our household – but, rest assured, there is plenty of action in the kitchen. Strangely enough, involving alcohol!
    Great post!

    • December 9, 2013 8:22 am

      Interested why you don’t – I know not everyone does (especially living here in a Muslim country where there are many other faiths too).

  6. December 8, 2013 2:34 pm

    I think of brandy and spice when I think of Christmas too! Great post Sally x

    • December 9, 2013 8:22 am

      It’s the perfect Christmas combination for me 🙂

  7. Keith Prosser permalink
    December 8, 2013 5:38 pm

    Having our annual pirates party tomorrow night and I can’t find the Pyrat rum – not happy!

  8. December 8, 2013 6:20 pm

    Lovely food! Mmmhhh, I love stollen.



    • December 9, 2013 8:23 am

      This one is particularly good too – some feat when you think how much they make.

  9. December 8, 2013 7:38 pm

    Wow Sally you ARE organised. Much more so than me. Congratulations. I can see why you loved that blue jug, it is magnificent.

    • December 9, 2013 8:24 am

      If I tell you that I weighed out half the ingredients for the puddings and covered them then left them for a week until I got round to making them, you won’t think I’m that organised!!

  10. glamorous glutton permalink
    December 9, 2013 12:18 am

    Fabulous Christmas treats in your kitchen, I would have expected nothing else. My latest discovery, sitting on the side in my kitchen is a small jar of truffle honey. Wonderful with cheese, light and indulgent. I’m now thinking of buying some for all of my friends. GG

    • December 9, 2013 8:25 am

      Oh yes – my friend brought a jar to my house (with gold leaf in it – this IS Dubai) and poured it over some Brillat Savarin. OMG

  11. December 9, 2013 12:29 am

    What a wonderful place your Christmas is Sally. Love the idea of the dried fruit soaking in brandy since September and even though I have a kitchen bursting at the seams with home-made booze, you’re making me hanker after orange-based liquers! They sound so perfect for festive cooking.

    • December 9, 2013 8:26 am

      I love that your booze is homemade. I have quite a few infusions myself (KP doesn’t know half of what’s tucked away!!)

  12. December 9, 2013 2:54 am

    Sally, your post was festive, fun, and fresh! I also thank you for the reminder to slosh a lil’ more alcohol on my Plum Puddings just now… didn’t quite get the head start you did on marinating… they need all the help they can get, lol! Everything “In Your Kitchen” seemed so exotic (which is why I enjoy IMK so much), with the exception of Jack Daniels — I used to drive by their distillery on my trucking runs — okay, I’ve enjoyed a shot or two since then. 😉 Merry Christmas!

    • December 9, 2013 8:28 am

      Golly – I bet the air around the distillery is vanilla tinged?

  13. December 9, 2013 3:24 am

    oh I love your little blue jug! And Lynchberg Lemonade is bringing back many, many happy memories 🙂 Your veggie haul is fabulous – I too love shopping at farmer’s markets. Mostly I love chatting to the farmers. Merry Christmas Sally

    • December 9, 2013 8:29 am

      I love chatting to the farmers too Mel although here there is a bit of a language barrier. We manage to communicate though as they are passionate about their veg.

  14. December 9, 2013 6:26 am

    What a feast for the eyes- the stollen, the vegetables, your Christmas cake and the chocolates!
    Christmas around the world – IMK is capturing so many different venues!

    • December 9, 2013 8:30 am

      That’s what I love about IMK too Heidiannie

  15. lizzygoodthings permalink
    December 9, 2013 9:11 am

    So many good things in your kitchen Sally! Happy cooking for the festive season.

  16. December 9, 2013 10:46 am

    If there was a competition for who has the best IMK post, I reckon you would wind this month Sally.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  17. December 9, 2013 4:09 pm

    Your iPhone takes better pictures than mine! Must be newer! I do covet that blue jug too, adorable!

    • December 10, 2013 9:59 am

      iphone 4S so not that new. I love it though. Ren has now started a very bad PIP studio habit.

  18. December 10, 2013 12:23 am

    I want to be in your kitchen breathing in these wonderful smells

  19. December 10, 2013 1:52 am

    Wow that’s a whole lot of things to manage and organise in your kitchen this December. Loved the ebook with Sarah… the rose creams coming my way?

    • December 10, 2013 9:58 am

      It’s a labour of love. And you’ll be the first to get a rose cream 🙂

      • December 10, 2013 10:00 am

        OMG, I bet your teenage daughters don’t demand so fierce fully as I have done. Thank you!

  20. December 10, 2013 10:52 am

    That jug is rather gorgeous!

  21. December 10, 2013 11:56 pm

    Sally, we made 50 posts before the deadline! And I was so glad to hear your oven had been installed – just in time for Chrissie. LOVE the look of your fruitcake – we didn’t make any this year – and how wonderful is the stollen charity bake! I would have had to buy one too, and no-one here eats marzipan! 🙂

  22. December 11, 2013 3:56 am

    G’day Sally! Your photos are stunning and glad I did not miss your post today, true!
    Thank you for welcoming to your kitchen and have lots of fond childhood and tradition memories of stollen too!
    Viewed as part of Celia’s In My Kitchen
    Cheers! Joanne

  23. December 11, 2013 4:11 pm

    You brought Christmas in my office (that is where I am reading your post sneakily)
    Everything sounds so much fun.
    I would love to have the email link to the Christmas recipes. Will email you soon. Happy prepping!

  24. December 12, 2013 1:52 am

    Ha! I wish chocolate crept into my kitchen! That camel looks awesome.

  25. Felicia Mavro permalink
    December 12, 2013 9:36 am

    Wonderful Christmas post Sally. Im inspired to start baking for Christmas. Better late than never. My choc macadamia liqueur truffles are a great hit as are my Greek shortbread. Love the E-book as well. We are back home in Sydney for Christmas. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  26. December 12, 2013 9:14 pm

    There is a lot happening in your kitchen this december, Sally. Yummy food products & tasty drinks too. ☺️

  27. December 20, 2013 3:10 am

    I’m certain I left a comment here about the blue jug but can’t seem to see it now. Anyway – love the blue jug! Thanks for the mention, Funny to see one on some else’s blog! I’m with you on the oven failure – mine is giving up the ghost too which makes life difficult, to say the least, over Christmas! Wishing you all the very best in 2014 xxx

  28. December 20, 2013 9:01 pm

    Wow, sounds like an amazing stollen! Hope your oven gets sorted out and if all else fails, have a drop of brandy!


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