5 delicious Christmas recipes
PUBLISHED: 14:58 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:59 14 November 2016
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis creates five edible gifts, perfect for your foodie friends this Christmas. Images: Sarah Lucy Brown
Around September, when plums drip from the trees in my parents’ garden, and the light begins to fade in the afternoons, my thoughts turn to Christmas. A little premature perhaps, but one of the things that makes the darker, colder days more bearable is spending a few hours in the kitchen, slowly stirring a pot of jam, chutney or cordial, to stash away for the festivities. And many of these treats make ideal gifts . . .
1. Lebkuchen biscotti
(Makes up to 24)
This recipe combines two of my favourite things – the warming, Christmassy scent of those popular German cookies, and the crunch of an Italian biscotti. They will last in an airtight container for weeks. Best served with a nice hot toddy.
250g plain white flour
1/2tsp baking powder
250g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4tsp ground allspice
1/4tsp ground cardamom
3 pieces stem ginger, chopped finely
Pre-heat your oven to 150°C and line a couple of baking trays. Combine all the dry ingredients and stem ginger. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs, slowly combining them into the dry mix. Cover and chill for 20 minutes. Flour a surface and cut the mix into two. Take one piece and roll out into a sausage shape 4cm in diameter. Place it on a tray. Repeat with the remaining dough. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool for a few minutes, then cut diagonally into slices 2cm thick. Return to your trays and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes until firm. Cool and store.
2. Suffolk Labneh with Baharat spiced oil
(makes one 0.5lt jar)
This is a gift for someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Make a few days in advance and it can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. The creamy soft cheese balls can be served as mezze, or spread over bread and crackers, and the oil they’re stored in can then be used for sauteeing vegetables, chicken and lamb. You’ll need cheesecloth to make this recipe and a good bit of space in the fridge.
2 x 280g pots of Marybelle plain yoghurt
1tsp sea salt
1 bottle olive oil
2tsp black pepper
3tsp cracked coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3tsp cumin seeds
10 cracked cardamom pods
3tsp ground paprika
4 dried chillies
Zest of two unwaxed lemons
Line a mesh sieve with a cheesecloth or muslin. Set this over a medium sized bowl. Mix the yoghurt with the salt and pour into the cheesecloth. Gather the sides of the cloth and tie. Place in the fridge for two days. Gentle squeeze the cloth and discard the liquid from the bowl. Your yoghurt will now be very thick like goat’s cheese. Form into balls, place on a lined tray and store in the fridge while you make the oil. For the oil, fill your jar three quarters with oil and add all the spices and lemon zest. Add the labneh and store in the fridge.
3. Brandy truffle prunes
(makes enough for two decent sized boxes)
Prunes might not sound promising. But think of the Agen prune from France, sweet, plump and tart. This delicacy is revered on the continent and at Christmas will be soaked in Armagnac or filled and coated before being decanted into beautiful boxes. It’s not hard to make your own prunes, although you do need a little time. These are a really wonderful way to use up a glut in your garden. If you don’t want to cover them in chocolate then simply dry them as instructed and pop into jars with brandy, rum, vodka, Armagnac or Amaretto and stash away to serve with puddings or on top of yoghurt for a very indulgent breakfast.
30 small plums (I used Opal plums)
350g dark chocolate (60 to 70 %)
150ml double cream
Line a large baking sheet and set your oven to 95C. Make a slit in your plums and take out the stone, keeping the plums in one piece. Place them on the tray and leave in the oven for five hours. They should be slightly shrivelled, not be leaking juice, but nice and moist inside. Give them a little longer if they need it.
Allow to cool. For your filling bring the cream to the boil. Take of the heat and add 150g of chocolate, allowing it to melt. Add the brandy. Leave the truffle to set at room temperature for a few hours then spoon or pipe it into your prunes, pushing the cut edges of the prunes together to seal the filling (this will stop the cream coming out and ruining the shine on your chocolate coating. Melt the remaining chocolate and dip your prunes, then place on a lined tray to set. These should be eaten within a week.
4. Plum, orange and star anise lush
(makes about 1ltr)
A glass of this pretty pinkish liqueur signals the countdown to Christmas. I make it in the autumn with Mum and Dad’s plums, and it makes an appearance in late November when I offer it to visitors as a little ‘nip’ when they come over. You might not want to give it away! Make this now so it’s ready for Christmas.
350g plums, halved and stoned
2 oranges quartered
3 star anise
225g caster sugar
Layer the plums, oranges and sugar in a 1ltr sterilised jar. Top with the vodka and brandy and add the star anise at the end. Seal the jar. After two weeks remove the star anise. Leave for six weeks to two months then strain through muslin and pour into sterilised bottles.
5. Salted caramel liqueur fudge
The inspiration for this fudge comes from a certain supermarket, which sold a salted caramel type of Irish Cream liqueur last Christmas – you might know the one I’m talking about. The drink went on to win awards and flew off the shelves and I for one am looking forward to its return this winter! In the meantime there’s this creamy, super smooth fudge, spiked with creamy liqueur and liberally speckled with Maldon salt, which cuts through its smoothness. Don’t use the premium brand for these. I used the Co-op’s own brand version (at least half the price) and Aldi’s one (about £4) is excellent. You’ll need a sugar thermometer.
125ml evaporated milk
220g light brown sugar
220g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
120ml Irish Cream liqueur
280g icing sugar, sifted very well
1tsp Maldon salt
Grease and line a 20sqcm tin. Stir the milk, sugars and butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Cook on a low to medium heat until the sugar’s dissolved then bring to the boil until it reaches the soft ball stage on your sugar thermometer. Take off the heat and very carefully pour in the liqueur (watch out as it will bubble up). Sift in the icing sugar and add the salt. Now use an electric hand whisk or countertop mixer and beat until thick and lukewarm. Keep at it as the longer you beat, the smoother the result. Spoon into your tin and leave overnight to set before cutting into pieces. This is quite a soft fudge so leave the cut squares out on the side to set further before placing in patisserie cases and boxing.
All ingredients for this feature were provided by the East of England Co-op where you can buy a large variety of East Anglian ingredients as part of their Sourced Locally initiative. Charlotte used Marybelle yoghurt and cream, Marriage’s flour, Maldon salt, Hadleigh Maid chocolate, British sugar and Havensfield eggs. Find out more at www.eastofengland.coop
The brown paper parcel bags are sourced from www.confetti.co.uk where you’ll find loads of packaging ideas in the favours section of the online shop.