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A very merry and blessed Christmas holiday to all my readers and ‘friends’, whether you’re snowed in or enjoying sunshine and warmth.

I look forward to a great 2010…and eagerly await New Year’s eve and constructing my list of New Years resolutions. Of course, all the regulars like lose weight and save money…will be there, but there’ll be others…..too.

I shouldn’t get ahead of my self though. I’m standing still, snowed in and enjoying the winter wonderland that is Europe at the moment. And all the comforting food and sauces and condiments that will grace my table this season. And maybe yours?

My three recipes are inspired by seasonal ingredients which I love – chestnuts, clementines, pears and cranberries….you can’t really go wrong.

Recipe #1 Clementine and Cranberry curd
Recipe # 2 Pear and Cranberry sauce
Recipe # 3 Creme de Marron aka Chestnut Cream

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Recipe #1 Clementine and Cranberry curd

I love the light, sweet citrus flavours of this curd, tempered ever so lightly by the tartness of cranberries. Its ‘orange’ colour and fragrance perfect on toast….and in pies!

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Ingredients

50g fresh/frozen cranberries
Juice of 8 clementines: (separated into juice of 4, 2 and 2)
90g sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
60g ice cold/frozen butter, cut into about 10 pieces
To serve: toasted, chopped pecans (optional)

IMG_5651How to

Part1: Make cranberry and clementine puree

In a pan, combine the cranberries and juice of 4 clementines on low heat.

Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and bring to the boil.

Let it simmer on low heat till the cranberries are soft and ‘popped’.

Tip the softened mixture into a blender, add juice of 2 clementines and puree as fine as possible.

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Empty mixture into a sieve and strain into a bowl. Discard remains and reserve puree for the curd.

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Part 2: Making the curd

Whisk eggs in a bowl.

Sieve into a pan – to remove thick bits of yolk.

Add remaining sugar to egg mix and stir till it forms a soft mixture.

Put pan on very low heat on your stove top - you want the mix to cook, not fry!

Continue mixing and then add the cranberry-clementine puree and stir to mix.

After 2-3 minutes, start adding butter 1 chunk at a time, mixing well till butter is melted before adding another

After 10 – 12 minutes, it should be ready. Don’t worry if the mixture looks thin, it will thicken once it has cooled.

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Put in clean and well washed jars ( I don’t sterilise the jars for my curds because they end up refrigerated. I do make sure they are well washed though!)

Once it has cooled down, refrigerate and use within 2 weeks

IMG_6084Based on the regular curd premise. Tried, tested, true. To serve, why not try crushing some toasted pecans into the curd at the last minute?

Recipe # 2 Pear and Cranberry sauce

I love poached pears and enjoy cranberry sauce so…put the two together and what do you get: a combination of soft, firm pears….stewed in sweetened mulled wine….and mushy cranberries. Perfect for the Turkey…or as I’ve recently seen recently on food52, served on fresh ricotta….Note that I poach a lot of pears, in this case 22 :-). I then use a few for the cranberry sauce and store the rest in a Kilner jar in the fridge – perfect atop Swiss Bircher, with pancakes and waffles.

My plan to make a tarte tatin with the pears as well. Though not yet accomplished, it is not far from being so….imagine the flavours, maybe with some freshly grated and candied ginger! Smoking, somebody stop me!

If you want to use them as no-bake treats, you could leave some whole (not split in half) for ‘filling’ later on. Simple slice the top off about 1/3 down from the stalk, scoop the innards out and fill with cool, flavoured cream. You could also part slice the pears about 2/3rds from the bottom up and create a fan!

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Ingredients

For poaching pears

750g red wine ( I used a young, fruity wine)
120g  sugar (or more)
1 Vanilla pod, seeds scraped out and pod reserved
1 Cinnamon stick
Rind from 1 orange in thick strips
Rind from 1/2 a lemon in thick strips
Kumquats (because I had some leftovers)
22 small cooking pears, about 1.5 kg, peeled, halved and cored (leave the stalks on for presentation!)

For Cranberry-Pear sauce

150ml poaching syrup
150 g fresh/frozen cranberries
5 poached pears, diced and stalks discarded

How to

Part 1: Poach Pears

Make poaching syrup by combining the red wine,sugar, vanilla pods and seeds, cinnamon stick, the orange and lemon strip and the kumquats in a large pot. Put to simmer, covered on low heat.

While the liquid is poaching, peel the pears, slice off a bit off the base and then cut them into 2 halves. Using a melon baller, scoop the cores out and give the pears a rinse.

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Add pears to the poaching liquid and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes, stiring and turning the pears ever so often so they colour and cook evenly.

When they are soft, according to you, take them off the heat to cool! Remove the quantities of pears and syrup for the cranberry sauce and pot the rest in clean Kilner jars – spices and all. It is such a treat to eat the almost candied citrus skins…..yummy. These also make great gifts.

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Part 2: Make Cranberry sauce Poach Pears

When the pears are soft, take off the heat and leave to cool.

In another pan, pour some of the poaching syrup and add cranberries. Add some sugar if not sweet enough. Let cranberries cook till they soften and burst  (7-8 minutes or longer) and then add the chopped pears. Stir well and let heat through.

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Take off heat and store in clean (sterilised) jars. My plan is to add some toasted pecans and a sprinkling of freshly crushed black pepper,  just before serving!

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Recipe # 3 Creme de Marron

I brought a tin of this Chestnut puree back from Paris and have always dreamt of making my own because I think homemade is moreish (though not it all cases, for example puff pastry!). What does it taste like? Think on things like dark, sweet gooey caramel, blitzed up with oven roasted chestnuts and you’re in business. Did I  mention vanilla scented? To be honest, this is a glorified chestnut puree…but oh how glorious…! It is much darker than the store-bought version, tribute to the molasses in the brown sugar but it has the familiar warm and soft chestnut taste.

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Ingredients

100g brown sugar
120ml water
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
100g cooked/roasted chestnuts
1 tablespoon Cointreau or any other liqueur

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How to

In a pan, combine sugar, 100ml of water (reserving the remaining 20ml for later) and vanilla and heat on low heat till the sugar dissolves, then add cooked chestnuts and let simmer for 10 minutes till the syrup has thickened and the chestnuts are soft.

IMG_5884Take off heat and let cool for a few minutes.

IMG_5912You’ll end up with a glossy, shiny syrup coating the chestnuts. Put into a blender or food processor, along with the 20ml of water and blend as smooth as you can get it.

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If you like it smooth, pour blended mixture into a sieve and using a spatula, push through. Mine still ended up coarse but not in a gritty way, so that’s fine. Reserve chunky bits for ‘making truffles’. Pour in the Cointreau and stir well together.

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Pot and refrigerate. I am looking forward to having this on pancakes on Christmas morning.

IMG_5942And maybe some chocolate waffles. I’m also thinking ice-cream, with some chocolate shavings. Talk about fab no-cook!

IMG_5951I have to say a big thank you to my husband who made a snow box for me and if you’re wondering what I mean, look no further! Apart from the first couple of photos, the others with snow were made in this box, filled by my darling man! I love SNOWWWWWWWW and the ‘spot’ meter on my camera which I played with when taking these photos.

This post is heading over to ‘In the bag’, cohosted by Scott of the realepicurean.com and Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie, for this month’s special. So hurry on over with your recipes made from clementines, cranberries and nuts! Closes 4th of January, 2010!

IMG_6130So there it is, my promise fulfilled. I do also want to share some tips for making your own Christmas decorations out of fabric….but, we’ll see ok?

I’ve submitted this post to Foodbuzz, if you like it, can you buzz it please :-). Thanks…and see you soon X X X.

50g fresh/frozen cranberries
Juice of 6 clementines: juice of 4; and juice of 2
90g sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
60g butter
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