Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Easy Fruit & Cheese Danish

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I think my youngest son had to be the pickiest eater ever born.   The youngest of five he took on, not only all of his own food dislikes, but also the food dislikes of his older brothers and sisters.  Getting him to eat was somewhat of a nightmare. He went through periods of time where he would only eat hot dogs . . .  and then mashed potatoes . . .  peanut butter sandwiches . . .  corn and rice.  I used to really despair of him ever growing up to be healthy . . . thankfully my fears were for naught and he is now a pretty healthy eater and normal in every way!

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He used to love pizza pockets and those Pillsbury Toaster Strudels.  I think he practically lived off them for a time.  I do confess that I kinda liked them too . . .  but only in a lazy, "I can't be asked to cook  and yet I am starving" kind of a way.   I only mention this because these delicious Easy Cheese Danishes I am showing you here today almost remind me of those toaster strudels, except  . . .  of course they are better.  Because you make them yourself.

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And oh how very easy they are to make.  With just a bit of ready roll puff pastry, some cream cheese, a few store cupboard essentials and some jam . . .  and less than half an hour later you can be munching on one of these very delicious pastries.

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You can use whatever kind of jam you want . . .  I have a penchant for  strawberry and cherry . . .  today I used blueberry because I didn't have any cherry . . .  apricot would be very tasty as well.   Just pick your favourite flavour!  mmmmm ..... plum preserves would be gorgeous.

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It's as simple as cutting your puff pastry into rectangles, dolloping on a simple to make cream cheese filling . . .  swirling it with a bit of jam and baking.  Oh . . .  there are a few other little steps in there as well, but nothing too complicated.  I hope you'll give them a go and that you enjoy them as much as we do!  I do like to pull out the stops at the weekend and make us a breakfast treat now and again!  I haven't had any complaints yet!

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*Easy Fruit and Cheese Danish*
Makes eight

These are so lovely and so easy and simple to make.  Delicious.  

1 sheet of ready roll puff pastry, all butter
115g of cream cheese (4 ounces)
50g of sugar (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS heavy cream
2 TBS jam (I used strawberry on half and blueberry on the other half)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water
demerara sugar to sprinkle (turbinado)  

To ice:
130g of icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
1 to 2 TBS of lemon juice  

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Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Line several baking sheets with baking paper. 
Whisk the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and cream together.   Set aside.  Unroll your puff pastry.  Cut it into 8 rectangles.  Place four on each baking sheet, leaving lots of space in between.  Using a sharp knife, and taking care not to cut all the way through, score a border all the way around each, about 1/2 inch deep.  This will help the edges to rise and create an edge to help keep the filling in.  Place 1/8 of the cream cheese mixture in the centre of each.   Spread it out almost to the border on each.  Top each with a few dots of jam and swirl it a bit with the end of a toothpick.  Brush the border of each with the beaten egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with some sugar.

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Bake for 13 to 14 minutes, until golden brown on the edges and nicely risen.   Remove from the oven and lift off carefully onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the pastries are cold, whisk together the icing sugar and enough lemon juice to make a thickish drizzle.  Using a spoon, drizzle some of this decoratively over each pastry.  Allow to set and then serve.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Almond Glazed Poppy Seed Bread

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I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have baked this delicious tea bread!  It was a popular request when I worked at the Manor for the tea parties and Ladie's Luncheons, and was often requested as something to send when there was something needing sending such as in a new baby, or death in a family etc.  It's a North American thing.  We send food to show our support at times of need.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Spooky Ghost Cake Pops and a Better Baking Boutique!

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Britains biggest and best loved home baking brand - Dr Oetker, will open it's doors to the EVEN BETTER BAKING BOUTIQUE on Friday 7th November until Sunday 16th November, 2014.

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Each day the interactive baking space will play host to a range of inspiration experiences to encourage the nation to become even better bakers.   These include demos, product show cases, taste testing, master classes, and for the first time ever, consumers will also get the chance to purchase all of the amazing products on the spot.

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Even Better Baking Ambassador Juliet Sear will host a very special master class on Friday 7th November, sharing all of her insider hints and tips on perfecting a range of tricky techniques.  These include the art of perfect piping, simplifying sugar roses, truly irresistible toppings and Christmas themed modelling.

On Thursday 13th November, cake pop expert and baking extraordinaire April Carter will host an exclusive Cake Pop Night, designed to give consumers the confidence to turn their own favourite pop stars into quirky cakes on sticks!  Consumers will get the chance to learn from teh best and have a go themselves on the night, to the backdrop of a DJ spinning everyone's favourite 80's pop tunes.

Other master classes taking place at the Dr. Oetker Even Better Baking Boutique include Beautiful Baking Trends, Chocolate Emporium and Winter Wonder Bakes.
For more information on the full schedule of experiences and to register for a place at any of the exclusive master class's just visit HERE.

What:  Join the cake experts Dr Oetker at the Even Better Baking Boutique for a range of master classes in how to creat the ultimate cake creations.

When:  Friday November 7th to Sunday November 16th, 2014

Where:  12 Dray Walk, Brick Lane, London E1 6QL

Details:   Register for the Classes online.  See link above.

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*Spooky Ghost Cake Pops*
From Dr. Oetker. 


For the cake balls:
120g Dr Oetker 72% Cocoa Extra Dark Fine Cooks Chocolate (4 1/2 ounces)
150g soft unsalted butter at room temperature (10 1/2 TBS)
200f Light muscovado sugar (1 cup soft light brown)
3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla extract
125g plain flour (1 cup less 1 TBS) 


For the Cake Pops:
2 X 100g bags of Dr Oetker White Chocolate chips melted for sticking the balls onto the sticks and coating the balls (a generous cup)
1 tsp of vegetable oil
To decorate the Ghosts:
1 X pack of Dr Oetker White Regal Ice
(This is a fondant type of icing which you roll out)
icing sugar for rolling out
Dr Oetker White desgner icing for sticking the regal ice to the cake pops
Dr Oetker Jet Black Gel Food colour

Preheat the oven to 140*C.275*F/gas mark 1.  Butter and line a 7 inch square cake tin.

To make the fudge brownie mix melt the extra dark chocolate in a microwave on medium power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until melted, or in a heat proof bowl on a gentle heat over a bain marie.  Leave to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or electraic hand beater for approximately 2 minutes until pale and fluffy.   You can also do this with a wooden spoon in a bowl. 

Tip:  If you are in a rush or the butter is quite cold, the addition of a couple of tablespoons of boiling water at this stage, beaten on slow until mixed will speed up this process.

Add your eggs on a slow speed, about a third at a time, mixing until combined.   Add your cooled chocolate, stirring continuously.  Add the vanilla extract and stir.  On slow speed mix in the flour u ntil just combined.  Do not overbeat.  Alternately fold in by hand.  Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes.  check it with a sharp knife or metal skewer.  You want this to be slightly underbaked so the knife should comeout pasty with a nice paste on the knife.

Leave to cool, then turn out into a bowl and crumble with your hands to fine fudgy crumb. 

To make the cake balls, take a handful of fudge cake mix and squeest together tightly.  You are aiming for little balls about the size of a large whole walnut, approximately 30g each.   If the mixture is dry, the addition of a little chocolate or vanilla butter cream will help the mixture stick.

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 Once you have all of your balls ready, dip the end of your stick into th emelted chocoalte chips and push the stick into each ball, about half way in. Hold the ball to stop it splitting open when the stick goes in.

Once all the cake pops are ready, refrigerate them for 1 to 2 hours before dipping them, or pop them into the freezer for 20 minutes, so the balls are firm enough to hold  when dipping in the coating.

To coate the cake pops, melt Dr Oetker Fine Cooks White chocolate on lower power in a microwave bowl until just melted, stirring occasionally, or over a bain marie on a gentle heat.  Plunge each cake pop into the chocolate coating until completely covered.  Tap the cake pop gently on the side of the bowl to shake off the excess.  Once all are covered, dip each cake pop again.

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 To decorate the ghosts, roll out half the white regal icing into a large rectangle, using plenty of icing sugar and a large plastic rolling pin.  Roll fairly thinly - 2mm to 3mm thick.  Squeeze a little Dr Oetker white designer icing onto the tops of the cake pops or brush with some melted white chocolate to aid in sticking of the sugar paste.

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 Using a cake cutter or small bowl, cut out circles of regal icing and place on each of the pops, smoothing down over with your fingers to creat the white sheet effect.   Allow a little wavy movement by using your fingers to create smooth waves.

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Draw on the ghost eyes and mouth using the Dr Oetker Jet Black Gel Food colour.

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Aren't they just A D O R A B L E !!!


And just so that those of you with a Gluten problem don't feel left out, here is a delicious recipe for some Gluten Free Banana Muffins!

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*Gluten Free Blueberry and Banana Muffins in Edible Wafer Cases*
Makes 12

From the Dr Oetker people. 

For the muffins:
75g coconut oil (sunflower or vegetable oil can be used) (5 1/2 TBS)
1 medium over ripe banana, thorougly mashed with a fork
200g fresh blueberries (2 cups)
zest of one lemon
220ml of butter milk (scant cup)
75g of light muscovado sugar (1/2 cup soft light brown)
2 medium free range eggs, beaten lightly
250g Gluten free self raising flour seived with 1 sachet (1 tsp) Dr Oetker gluten free baking powder (about 1 2/3 cup)
2 packs of Dr Oetker Edible Wafer Cupcake cases (can use paper liners) 


For the topping:
150g Quark (1 1/4 cups, can use yoghurt or sour cream)
150g of Cream Cheese (2/3 cup)
5 TBS icing sugar
1 tsp Dr Oetker Sicilian Lemon extract
Dr Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Grinder for the topping
optional extra blueberries and dried banana slices to finish  


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To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4 and place the edible wafer cup cake cases on a baking tray.  

In a stand mixre or wit han electric hand beater, mix the sugar and coconut oil together until well mixed and in a liquid consistency.  Add the mashed banana, lemon zest, buttermilk and egg to the sugar mix and beat well to combine everythin gtogether.  


Tip in the flour and baking powder.  Mix very lightly to just combine.  Add the blueberries and gently fold in.  Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases.  Place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. You may need an additional 5 minutes until they are springy to the touch.  Allow to cool and turn out onto cooling racks after 10 minutes.  

To top the muffins, take the quark and cream cheese straight from the fridge and gently mix together with the sugar and lemon extract.  Don't over beat.  Gently spread the desired amount of topping over each muffin.   Garnish as desired.  

Tip - For the cake batter use a plastic piping bag to pipe the mixture into your cake cases more neatly and evenly.

To join Dr Oetker on Facebook check out:  www.facebook.com/DrOetkerBaking
To visit their webpage:  http://www.oetker.co.uk
All Dr Oetker decorations are available from the Dr. Oetker online Store:  www.oetkeronline.co.uk

Jamie's Toad in the Hole

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My husband, the Toddster is a real meat and potatoes man.  He would happily eat nothing but meat and potatoes every night of the week and never tire of it.  Give that man a sausage and a pile of mash and he is in "man heaven."  I saw a recipe on Jamie Oliver's page the other day and it sounded really good.  I am not sure if it is in his new cookbook "Comfort Food" or not, but I am betting it might be.  In any case I found it online.   It had some different elements I liked.


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Cooking for Comfort, a new Cookbooklet

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I'm really excited to bring you the latest in my line of cookbooklets, fresh off the press this morning!  Entitled Cooking for Comfort, this is my largest one yet, containing 50 pages of scrumptious recipes, tips and quotes designed to help bring a spark of comfort to you over these next few months.  I am really proud of this one.

With Seven Chapters, including Breakfast Fare, Comforting Lunch-ables, Jaffles, Dips and Spreads, In the Slow Cooker, Savoury Bakes and Casseroles and Sweets, there are over 45 recipes designed to make you feel all cosy and comforted.   Recipes such as Cream Biscuits, Savoury Bread Pudding, Chicken and Barley Soup,  Slow Cooker Nachos, Slow Cooker Ham and Scalloped Potatoes, Fish and Potato Pies, Barbequed Glazed Drumsticks, Saturday night special, Traditional Hot Pot, Creamed Chicken Hash, Blackberry Cobbler, Baked Apples, Chocolate Chip Brioche Bread Pudding and many, many more!

Designed to please,  this new cookbooklet is available to you at the same low price as all of the others, at only £5.   As with the others this will be delivered to  your e-mail as a downloadable PDF file, ready to print or store on your computer as you desire within 24 hours of your payment clearing. If ordering please make sure you have the latest version of Adobe Reader enabled, and that my e-mail address is in your safe folder!  Also as the file is rather large make sure you have enough room to receive it!   

To purchase just click the handy button below.    


Cooking For Comfort  Cookbooklet Download PDF  £5



Caramel Popcorn and Movie Night

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We can't afford to go out much these days  with the cost of everything going up, up and up.  More often than not we opt to stay home and watch a film, either on SKY or on a dvd.   This week I had the opportunity to review a new film, so we made a night of it with movie snacks and everything!  There's nothing like some tasty snacks and a new film to watch to help make staying in feel like a night out!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Maple & Mustard Glazed Chicken Thighs

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One of the things I like most about chicken is that it's a beautiful canvas for just about anything you put with it, lending itself to all sorts of flavor combinations.  One of my favourites is this maple and mustard glaze, which melds with the chicken juices to create a sauce that is finger licking/lip smacking delicious!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Spooky Pumpkin Cottage Pies

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There were so many lovely goodies in the hamper that I couldn't just leave it at one recipe.  I decided that I wanted to make another heartier dish that would make a fabulous supper for the kids on Halloween night!  Although good luck to you if you can get your kids to settle down and eat supper on that day.  I never could, but I think that maybe had I created a dish such as this for them back then, they would have had a hard time resisting it!

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Spooky Spiced Kale Soup

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With Halloween only 11 days away I've been working on creating some lovely Halloween treats and dinners in my kitchen.   I just love the holidays and I especially love Halloween.  I miss having the children around these days of course as there are only the two of us, but that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy ourselves and chow down on some tasty Halloween goodies anyways!

Everything you wanted to know about Turkey but were afraid to ask!

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This past week all of our friends across the pond in Canada celebrated their annual Thanksgiving holiday and in November our friends in America will be doing the same.  We don't do Thanksgiving over here in the UK, but we do love our Turkey's for Christmas and I thought it would be fun to share some of my turkey cooking tips with you all today.

I like to purchase a top quality bird for my holiday feasts, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas.  This is the one time of the year I will splurge and get a higher cost bird, and it goes without saying that I always choose free range and fresh if I can get it.  I may eat turkey minced, or in bits the rest of the year . . . but it is only this once a year that I cook the whole bird, so it is a real treat for us! (Christmas for us.)

I always remove all of the wrapping from my bird and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours unwrapped to help dry the skin out well.  That makes it a lot easier to rub any butter on and helps for nicely browned skin.  I also take it out at least an hour before cooking, which brings it to room temperature.  A cold bird put into a hot oven is a bit of a shocking experience and tightens up the tissue . . . we don't want a tough bird.  Moist and succulent is the order of the day.

To ensure a nicely moist turkey, I  like to rub a lot of butter into the flesh beneath the skin, and on top of the skin.  Now you can add seasonings and herbs to it, like I have done here today, which also adds extra flavour.  Sometimes I just slip a few sprigs of thyme, some salt, pepper and sage in with the butter, which works well also.  A bit of broth in the roasting tin and a few aromatic veggies and Bob's your Uncle.  Put that tasty bird over top of it all on a rack and start roasting!

I like to start mine off at a high temperature to assist in the browning, but after that I reduce the temperature to as low as it is safe to go and slow roast, basting it every 15 to 20 minutes with broth and more butter, or the pan juices.  (I know . . . but it's Thanksgiving/Christmas!)  If it starts to get too dark, I will tent it with some foil. 

It's really important that once your bird is done you set it aside, keep it warm and allow it to rest, so that all of those tasty juices will be absorbed back into the bird.  If you start to carve it right away, you're going to lose all of that moistness.  It will run out all over your cutting board.  Be patient.  Wait.  You'll be rewarded with an incredibly tasty and moist bird.

 

A lot of people swear by Brining . . . and others by dry brining.  I have tried both . . . and to be honest, I want my  turkey to taste like a turkey.    Dry brining with salt preserves the integrity of the bird . . . and in all honesty it doesn't end up being really salty.  Every wet brined bird I have ever cooked ended up tasting like the brine.  Not exactly my cup of tea.



This is an excellent video which gives some great instructions on dry brining.

You would be right in thinking that this bird I am showing you here today is not a turkey.  It's a chicken.  I'll be cooking my turkey at Christmas, but I did want to share a recipe with you that is fabulous when roasting a turkey, but also equally as delish when used on a chicken.


 (This is a large free range roasting chicken.)

It involves creating a delicious butter rub which you rub into the flesh beneath the turkey breast, beneath the skin . . . flavoured with a balsamic and maple syrups, shallots, thyme, seasoning salt and . . . lotsa butter!  As the turkey cooks that butter melts into the breast meat, flavouring it . . . moistening it, making it all scrummy.



Don't be afraid of butter . . . you're going to skim it off all of the juices anyways . . . and it does help to keep that tasty bird moist and delicious!

 

I don't stuff my birds with stuffing . . . not a chicken nor a turkey.  I like to cook the stuffing separately in a covered dish.  It's too iffy . . . you can never really  tell if it's cooked properly, and it can keep your turkey from cooking properly as well.  Best to be on the safe side and cook it separate.  You can flavour your bird from the inside out with other things . . . in this case some orange and onion.  I have even shoved bunches of herbs inside the bird with great success . . . but not stuffing.  Trust me on this.



However you choose to season your bird . . .  if you follow these few  tips, you are in for a real treat. (Start with a  QUALITY room temperature bird and hot oven,  lotsa butter beneath the skin, sear in the oven on high and then roast on low, baste, baste, baste . . . and let it rest before you cut into it!)


 

 *Roasted Turkey with a Balsamic & Maple Rub*
Serves 10 to 14
Printable Recipe
A moist and deliciously different turkey.  This rub works wonderfully  with a roast chicken as well.

one 5-7kg Turkey, rinsed and
patted dry with paper toweling

For the rub:
2 shallots, peeled and minced
3 TBS pure Maple Syrup
1 TBS Balsamic Glaze (a thick mixture created by boilig
Balsamic vinegar until it becomes thick and syrupy.  Use a good
quality.)
1 TBS dark soy sauce
2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBS seasoning salt
4 ounces of butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)

You will also need:
1 large orange, washed, unpeeled and cut into eighths
3 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups of chicken or turkey stock (may need more)

Take the turkey from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour before cooking.  (To insure a really dry skin surface, I remove it from the wrapping the night before cooking and pat it dry inside and out with paper towels.)

Make the rub by stirring together all of the ingredients until well blended.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Preheat the oven to 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Have ready a large roasting tin.

Put the carrots and 3/4 of the chopped onions in the bottom of the roasting tin.  Pour the stock over all.

Take your turkey and carefully loosen the skin around the main body cavity, sliding your fingers carefully inside to loosen it all over the breast.  Take care not to tear the skin.  Take the rub and push 3/4 of it under the skin, massaging it into the meat as best as you can.  I sometimes find this is easier to do by putting the butter under the skin and then massaging it down the breast from the outside of the skin.  Rub the remainder of the mixture on the outside of the turkey.  Place the remainder of the onion and the orange wedges inside the cavity of the turkey along with some salt and pepper.  Tuck the wings underneath as best as you can and tie the drumsticks together over the opening with some kitchen twine.  Place the bird on  a rack over top of the vegetables in the roasting pan, breast side up.

Roast in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes.   Reduce the oven temperature to 160*C/325*F/gas  mark 4 and roast for a further 4 hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan juices..  When it is done the juices should run clear when the bird is pricked between the thigh and breast.  You may need to tent the turkey with foil if it begins to get too dark.  You may also need to add more stock if the pan becomes too dry.  When it is done, transfer the turkey to a large carving board and tent with foil.  Allow to rest for at least 20 to 25 minutes before carving.

Strain the pan juices, discarding any vegetables.  Use these juices to make your gravy.

Note - to cook a chicken in this manner, rub with the balsamic and maple mixture in the same manner on a 2kg chicken and roast at 225*c/425*f/ gas mark 7 for 20 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3 for a further 45 to 60 minutes until done and the juices run clear, basting every 15 minutes or so.  I don't bother with a rack in this case. I just roast the chicken right on top of the vegetables.

Here are some of the tools I like to use when cooking my holiday bird.

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Eddingtons Meat Thermometer for Poultry and Beef.    £8.95 from Kitchen Monger.  

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For another way of roasting your holiday bird, why not try an Oven Roasting Bag.   These handy bags from Heuck fit up to 22lb Turkey, and make for a quick and easy clean up.  Good for roasting turkey, beef, lamb, pork, chicken or duck, and also available from Kitchen Monger at the price of £3.95 for a package containing two roasting bags. 

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One of the most difficult things to do is to lift the turkey out of the roasting tin onto a platter.  They are heavy and awkward and somewhat cumbersome.  I have some really handy Turkey Lifters which make the job a whole lot easier.  You just slide them into to the bottom of the turkey at both ends, where the holes won't show and life the turkey out with ease.  This particular set from Eddingtons is durable  and easy to use and comes in a set of two.   Available at Amazon.uk for the price of  £2.95

Many thanks to Eddingtons for sending me these products to try out!