With only one month to go until Christmas, the subject of festive food is a hot one. Regardless of your feelings on how soon we should start preparing, it is definitely time to start planning the Christmas lunch, making the edible gifts and booking the Ocado order (I never before realised how quickly the pre-Christmas slots get booked up!) I have a timeline for the next month which includes everything from making the chilli-chocolate truffles that Ollie loves so much to ordering the beef that we will be devouring on Christmas day. For the past few years, I have been on a mission to find the perfect Christmas recipes – the ones that never fail, are easy to prepare and taste delicious. Here are a few that I would like to share with you:
The Christmas Pudding
In my family it is only the women (my mum, my aunt, my grandma and myself) that like a Christmas pudding, so I always make a chocolate dessert for the men. For me, there is only one Christmas pudding recipe that I intend to make for the rest of my life and that is Dan Lepard’s Simple Christmas Pudding from Short and Sweet – it contains the perfect mixture of fruit, spices, treacle and nuts, along with a generous slosh of ale (never a bad thing!) It tastes just like the old fashioned Christmas puddings my Nan used to bring to the table when we were children. It can be made up to a month before Christmas day, but I always make it roughly two weeks before. The recipe claims to serve six to eight but, with my greedy lot, it just about goes around four. Serve with clotted cream or extra-thick double cream.
A Simple Christmas Pudding can be found on page 434 of Short and Sweet, available to order from Amazon here.
When we spend time with Ollie’s family over Christmas, there is always the Annual Thomas Family Monopoly Championships that takes place after the meal we have together on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Forget any images of brothers playing happily together by the light of the Christmas tree, this is a fiercely fought battle in which no dirty tactics are off limits. It is also traditional that cocktails and Ollie’s Dad’s famous cheeseboard accompany this game, which is often played long into the night. Last year, I added a jar of candied nuts into the mix to provide that much-needed sugar boost for those of us still in the game. These are a mixture of nuts – I used walnuts, pecans, almonds and cashews – coated in a crunch of sugar, smoked paprika and cinnamon. They take no time at all to make and are perfect with a gin and tonic.
The Recipe for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts can be found on the Smitten Kitchen blog here.
The Mince Pies
Another shout for Short and Sweet. I usually try out different mince pies each year to keep things interesting – this year is going to be something a little more experimental, and I’m not sure yet whether it will work. If it does not, Dan Lepard’s Extra Rich Mince Pies are the ultimate go-to recipe. These are possibly the most luxurious mince pies I have ever made – the pastry contains cream cheese and butter and egg and ground almonds. Drooling yet? They are also deep, deep fill, so one of them is like a small meal. You can fill them with any mincemeat you like, but of course I like to use the Dark Rich Mincemeat recipe from the same book (page 345) – two batches of this will usually last me the entire festive season. Last year, I added some marshmallow fluff for the ultimate in filth food – not recommended unless you have a very, very sweet tooth!
Extra Rich Mince Pies can be found on page 385, and Dark Rich Mincemeat on page 345, of Short and Sweet (ordering details above).
This is another one I like to mix up each year. This year I am working on a recipe for a spiced red onion marmalade, which I am hoping will be delicious with the enormous amount of cheese I am planning to buy and consume. Last year, I went to Brockley Market and bought as many plums as I could fit in my bike basket – with them I made a deliciously spiced plum chutney, which was a welcome accompaniment to the table of cold cuts and cheeses.
The recipe for Spiced Plum Chutney can be found on the BBC Good Food website here.
The Edible Gifts
Ricciarelli are traditionally given as Christmas gifts in Italy – they are beautiful, delicate little almond biscuits and very easy to make. The best version I have ever seen were made by my friend and fellow Band of Bakers member Juliet for our feature in delicious. magazine last year. I am planning to whip up a few batches of these to add to some Christmas hampers. The best way to present them is stacked delicately in tall glass jars tied with a festive ribbon.
The recipe for Juliet’s Ricciarelli can be found on the delicious. website here.