I think we have all had a little more time at home than we expected to this year, but there is something about Christmas that inspires a little more home making in many people than at other times of the year. Whether that’s decorating a tree, making a Christmas card or baking a cake, there are lots of options to tempt us to roll up our sleeves and get a little creative.
If you like to explore the kitchen a little more at Christmas, then I have put together some festive recipes to get your home smelling lovely and Christmassy as well as filling some hungry tummies.
The difference between homemade mincemeat and supermarket mincemeat is so significant that I would encourage everyone to have a go this Christmas (or to buy mincemeat from a small producer who will have handmade it in small batches at home for you). This recipe is not complicated, but it does take a little time. Fortunately most of that time is spent waiting for things to soak or cook slowly so you can get on with other things.
200g Bramley apples (peeled and grated)
1 heaped tsp of mixed ground spice
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
225g shredded suet (I use the vegetarian kind) 500g dried fruit (like raisins, sultanas and currants) 175g soft brown sugar
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
(you can also add some brandy, sherry or spiced rum if you want to)
In a large ovenproof bowl or saucepan, mix together all of the ingredients really well. Then cover with some cling film or a beeswax wrap and leave for 12 hours (see, I told you there was lots of waiting). You can give this a stir every so often through the 12 hours if you wish.
After about 12 hours, preheat the oven to gas 1/4 (110 fan).
Remove the cling film, give the mixture a good stir and cover the bowl or pan loosely with a piece of tin foil.
Cook in the oven for 3 hours.
After that time, it will look runny, fatty and weird but give the mixture a good stir and leave it to cool down. Once cold, give the mixture another good stir and then you can pop it either into clean and sterilised jars or if you know you will use it this Christmas, then you can store it in a tupperware tub that seals well and place it in a cool, dark place until you are ready to use it.
Sausage rolls are essentially just sausage meat encased in pastry. Simple. To make really delicious sausage rolls I would recommend using homemade pastry and then visiting your local butcher and buying their ready made and herbed sausage meat. It doesn’t seem like much of a change, but the flavour of local sausages is so much better.
1 packet of ready rolled puff pastry (or to make your own, then Delia Smith has a great recipe for quick flaky pastry which works brilliantly here). https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/collections/ quick-and-easy-recipes/quick-flaky-pastry
A little beaten egg
Preheat the oven to 180 fan (gas 6) and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
Simply roll out the pastry to a rectangle about half a cm thick.
Remove the skins from the sausages and squidge the meat into long sausages and lay on the pastry leaving space between each sausage so you can fold the pastry over the sausage meat.
Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the pasty into strips between each line of sausage meat.
Using a little beaten egg, dab some down one side of each of the strips of pastry and fold the pastry over the sausage meat. Secure the two edges together by pressing along the edge. Cut the sausage rolls into the size you desire and place them onto a tray.
Brush each sausage roll with more beaten egg. Cut two slits into the top of the pastry to give the steam somewhere to go when baking.
Bake for 20mins (if small) and 30+mins if large. The sausage rolls will be cooked when they are a deep, golden brown and the sausage meat in the centre reaches 73degrees and is no longer pink in the centre.
Like the sausage roll recipe above, these are also super simple and require just three ingredients, mincemeat, puff pastry and icing sugar – they are my cheat Mince Pies.
1 packet of ready rolled pastry
1 jar of mincemeat (preferably homemade) 5 (ish) tbsp of icing sugar.
Preheat the oven to 170fan (gas 5) and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Roll out the puff pasty to a rectangle about half a cm thick. (This recipe works really well with shop bought, ready rolled puff pastry and if using, just unravel from the packet until it is flat on your work surface).
Spread the top of the pastry with a good, even layer of mincemeat.
From the shortest edge, roll up the pastry so you have one large mincemeat swirl sausage.
Cut the swirls into approx 1 cm slices and lay them flat onto a lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the pastry has gone slightly brown. Leave to cool.
Once cool, mix the icing sugar with a little water to make an icing and drizzle the icing across the swirls.
These are simple to make and the combination of two different sugars leaves the cookies soft and chewy in the centre. They take just 20 minutes from ingredients to tummy to make the cookies and should you have a little extra time, I have also included a simple way to make them look a little festive too.
125g caster sugar 100g soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate (broken into chunks)
To decorate – 100g white chocolate and some red and green fondant.
Preheat the oven to 170 fan (gas 5) and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
Beat together the butter, both sugars and the vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg.
Then add the flour and cocoa powder and stir through until well combined and the mixture is beginning to get firm. Add in the chocolate chunks and stir through.
Using your hands, separate the mixture into 12 evenly sized lumps of dough and place them on the two trays. Space them evenly across the trays, leaving room for them to spread out when cooking (you don’t need to flatten them).
Bake for 12-15 minutes. Its tricky to tell if they are cooked as the cocoa colour won’t change colour much, but they want to be quite cracked across the top and not be very runny/wobbly in the centre.
Leave them to cool. They will be quite soft when hot, but will firm up when cool.
When cold, melt the white chocolate in a bowl and dip one side of the cookie into the white chocolate so that it looks like a Christmas pudding. You can finish with a fondant holly sprig and berries if you wish.
Star topped jam filled biscuits
Who doesn’t love a buttercream and jam filled vanilla biscuit?! If you want to make something without chocolate or the usual Christmas spice, then baking vanilla biscuits and sandwiching them together with a little buttercream and raspberry jam can be just as festive if adorned with stars and a sprinkle of caster sugar ‘snow’.
200g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract 400g plain flour 1tsp baking powder 75g butter
150g icing sugar raspberry jam
Mix together the butter, caster sugar and vanilla until fluffy and pale. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then carefully mix in the flour and baking powder. The mixture should form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170 fan (gas 5) and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough so it is half a cm thick (the dough is delicate so be careful). Using a 5cm (approx) cutter, cut out 12-15 round discs and transfer them to a baking tray. Then cut out 12-15 more round discs and from the centre of each circle, cut a star shape. Transfer these to the other baking tray.
You may need to re-roll the pastry to cut out all your circles and the above numbers are estimates based on the cutter size (if you use a smaller cutter you may get more circles for example). Just keep re-rolling until all the dough has been used up.
Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes until the biscuits are lightly golden in colour. When the biscuits have been removed from the oven, take a little more caster sugar and generously sprinkle the biscuits with the sugar. The heat from the biscuits will melt the sugar enough to stick it to the biscuit. Leave the biscuits to cool.
Whilst the biscuits are cooling, make some buttercream icing by beating together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. You can add a little vanilla extract if you wish.
To finish the biscuits, smear some of the buttercream on the base of the circle without the hole, then spread some raspberry jam on the top. Top with a star biscuit so that the jam peaks through the hole.
By: Heather Brown