I have not long returned from an amazing holiday to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand. Each place was special and we experienced some incredible sights, people, culture, history and food along the way. Hong Kong was so cool, a big concrete jungle, yet so peaceful at the same time. The view from Victoria Peak of the harbour was quite something. We also got to meet up with my brother who lives out in China now too! We then went on to Vietnam, starting in Hanoi which was so unique. We had a fab tour guide named Ha who took us on a city tour starting on bikes, stopping at the temples and cool cafes (the Vietnamese coffee was the best I’ve ever had). They also had ‘Egg Coffee’ which was this rich coffee topped with a soft egg meringue type topping made by whisking egg yolks, condensed milk and vanilla.
Each street in Hanoi city specialises in a specific trade. This started off by someone coming up with an idea such as selling children’s toys and once locals realised it was popular they too opened up shops on the same street, copying the idea. The street then took on the name ‘Toy Street’/ ‘Antique Street’/ ‘Wedding Street’ etc.
We visited ‘Hot Pot Street’ where all the restaurants were serving traditional Vietnamese hot pots. Essentially a small electric cooker in the middle of each table where they bring you a large pot of boiling broth and then bring all the raw items for you to cook yourself in the hotpot, such as meat or fish, vegetables (morning glory was our favourite), rice noodles, string mushrooms etc. It was the novelty of it that made it so charming. We also visited ‘Beer Street’ at night which was where all the pubs and bars were where everyone sits outside on little plastic stools, the atmosphere was fantastic.
The day after we drove down to Halong Bay for a night on a traditional ‘Junk’ – basically an old sailing boat. We were blown away by the scenery in Halong Bay – the Limestone karsts dotted around were stunning and sailing peacefully through them all was magical. We stopped to kayak and swim and visited an old fishing village and a pearl farm.
We then flew to Thailand after this to Khao Sok National Park which is an absolute hidden gem in the world. It was somewhere that I had initially been anxious about going to due to all the potential creepy crawlies and snakes etc but I could not have been more wrong as it was nothing short of amazing. We stayed at an elephant sanctuary for one night and got to wash and feed the elephants. We then went to the depths of the jungle and stayed on floating cabins in the middle of a stunning lake, surrounded by jungle, and the sounds of monkeys in the trees. We had our own canoes that were tied to our cabin and we could use them to explore the surrounding areas. Being able to swim down the lake to breakfast in the morning was pretty special.
After this it was down to Phuket for some RnR time, and we also visited the breath taking Phi Phi Islands too where the film ‘The Beach’ was filmed.
As you can imagine, on our return to reality I had extreme holiday blues and jet lag for a good week and didn’t feel in the mood for Christmas at all. All I could do was long to be back on our fantastic adventures! Finally now though after submersing myself in all things Christmas, I am feeling festive and really looking forward to all the celebrations.
For the ultimate festive feeling I put my tree up, and fairy lights (everywhere), had the fire going, made the best Christmas playlist, visited the Christmas market in Nottingham, Lincoln and also Birmingham, drank mulled wine, watched Christmas films, started my shopping and la piece de resistance, CHRISTMAS BAKING! This never fails to get me feeling excited for Christmas. I usually like to do a Christmas cake, mince pies and this year I have created a gluten free recipe for gingerbread men too.
This yummy gluten free recipe makes the biscuits really light and melt in the mouthy! I like to use some freshly grated ginger root in my gingerbread men however if you prefer a less strong flavour then you can just use the powder. The fresh ginger has stronger health benefits though such as being a great anti-inflammatory and a great fighter of colds. The honey also possesses anti-bacterial properties which is good for preventing colds.
What are your favourite Christmas traditions? Follow us on Instagram to keep up to date with all of the SKT Christmas festivities!
350g gluten free flour (I use Dove’s Farm)
1 tsp bicarb
125g cold grass-fed butter such as Kerrygold, cubed (Or a dairy free alternative)
1 organic egg
150g coconut sugar or soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons raw honey
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 chunk of freshly grated ginger (optional)
Raisins and icing sugar to decorate (optional)
Mix together the flour, bicarb and gingers. Then add the cubes of butter and start to work them in to the flour with your fingers so that it forms fine breadcrumb consistency. Stir in the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and honey together and then add that in to the flour mixture until a ball of dough is formed. If the mixture seems to wet and sloppy, add a little more flour.
Let this mixture rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. When the dough is set and cold, dust your work surface with flour and roll out your dough with a rolling pin to desired thickness, I usually aim for around 5mm. Use your gingerbread cutters to cut out shapes, use any other shapes you like too. You can use raisin pieces or chia seeds to create eyes and buttons if desired. Place the shapes on a non-stick and greased baking tin.
Place in a pre-heated oven (170 fan assisted) for around 10 minutes or until golden brown. While the gingerbread is still warm try to use a spatula to loosen them from the tin otherwise they can sometimes stick on when they cool. Place on a wire rack to cool. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve. Keep the biscuits in an airtight container.
Hoping that your day is merry & bright & full of festive cheer!