When the children were very young I made gingham advent bags, each one appliquéd with a number 1 to 24. These have been used for years in our house in place of advent calenders. Each bag would contain a tiny present, or a forfeit, or possibly a task that we would do together that day, like making mince pies or decorating the Christmas tree. Now the children are older, and two no longer living at home, sadly the advent bags have temporarily become redundant – they might not hold quite the same appeal for Rupert! Instead, this year, I have given the children a traditional advent calendar (one without chocolate!) for their countdown to the 25th but it doesn’t feel quite the same.
Today is December 1st and Christmas is getting nearer – some of you may be totally organised and have all your presents sorted – if not, some delicious Fino Spanish Olive Oil or Fino Balsamic Vinegar could fit the bill for any number of people – order online and we deliver for you – www.finooliveoil.co.uk – I am very happy to send direct and add your message of Christmas cheer – the 250ml bottle gift pack is particularly popular (your choice of any two 250ml bottles) and comes ready packaged in a gift box so you can even get away without wrapping - for any gift boxes ordered online between now and 18th December (final posting date) we will add a cheery red ribbon to make it more Christmassy! Just visit the Shop page at www.finooliveoil.co.uk and click on 250ml bottle gift pack - please do remember to fill in your bottle choices
As a Christmas treat here is a recipe which a great friend of mine cooked for us the other day, particularly appropriate because of the Spanish ingredients
Smoky Beef and Rioja Stew with Paprika and Manchego Scones – for 8
For the stew - Fino olive oil, 150g chorizo skinned and chopped, 2kg cubed beef shin, 2 tbsp plain flour, bottle of rioja, 2 large onions diced, 3 garlic cloves crushed, 4 diced celery sticks, tsp hot paprika (available from Fino) , 1 tbsp tomato puree, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (could use Fino dark balsamic) , a few sprigs of thyme
For the scones – 400g SR flour, 800g butter chilled and diced, 150g coarsely grated manchego, 1 tsp paprika, 200mls milk, salt
To make the scones heat oven to 200C put flour, butter, and ½ tsp salt in food processor and pulse to breadcrumbs – tip into bowl and add 2/3 of the manchego and the paprika – slowly add the milk and stir into a soft dough. Roll on a floured worksurface and cut into scones. Put on a baking sheet, brush with more milk and sprinkle with remaining cheese and a pinch of paprika. Bake for 12-14 mins.
For the stew – turn the oven down to 160C – heat the olive oil over a gentle heat and fry the chorizo until golden – remove. Coat the beef chunks in seasoned flour and brown in the same pan. Transfer beef and chorizo into large casserole with a lid. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine and then tip that too into the casserole. Now gently fry all the veg with olive oil in the same pan until it starts to turn golden. Stir in paprika, tomato puree, vinegar and thyme. Add into the casserole with remaining wine and stir. Bring to a simmer, put the lid on and put in the oven for 3 hours until meat is tender.
Serve with scones and steamed greens (drizzled with Fino lemon oil) – delicious!
Do remember to make sure your own stock of Fino Olive Oil is replenished too! Last posting date before Christmas is Wednesday 18th December.
Happy Christmas to all of you.