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A MATTER OF TASTE

Christmas is a time for giving, sharing and caring. It is a time for catch up with friends and neighbours. Whether the fraternising happens before Christmas or during the holidays, a small gift is a great way of showing the friendship is appreciated.

Interesting wrapping papers or containers add individual flair to your gifts. And there’s always a chance you can recycle by keeping any interesting jars left over from pasta sauces or jams to fill with your own tasty creations. Sturdy wine glasses are also suitable for potting preserves or filling with candies. Muffins can be wrapped in cloth or strong festive paper to form a Christmas pudding shape then tied with string. 

Spice rubs for seasoning barbecue meat can be made with the help of a blender or good food processor and stored in jars. Add a label with the recipient’s name and ensure it is addressed to ‘The Barbecue King’.

Cookbooks are always a popular gift but made even more special if accompanied by a dish prepared from it. Failing that, the gift could have a recipe attached to it. For example, see my Dukkah recipe in Miscellaneous on the website. Stash it in a small jar and tie a card featuring the recipe around the neck. 

FESTIVE DIPPED STRAWBERRIES

These dipped strawberries will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. I used long-stemstrawbs from @fencourtgardens

150g dark chocolate eg Dark Ghana, chopped
150g white chocolate, chopped
8-12 large strawberries, preferably with long stems
1/4-1/2 cup desiccated coconut
4 tablespoons dark green sugar

Place 2 sheets of foil on large plates. Chill.

Melt the chocolates in 2 different bowls over simmering water or in the microwave.

Place the coconut on a plate.

Dip half the strawberries into the melted dark chocolate allowing the excess to drip off before sprinkling lightly with the coconut. Place on the chilled foil and refrigerate.

Repeat with the remaining strawberries but sprinkle with the green sugar. Place on foil and chill. Place in gift boxes and keep chilled. Makes 2 gifts.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES WITH MATCHA

Store the matcha in an airtight container in a dark place to maintain the bright green colour.

150g dark chocolate, chopped
100g light cream cheese
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons matcha powder for dusting  

Melt the chocolate over just-simmering water or in the microwave. Mix well and cool slightly. 

In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese, icing sugar and the vanilla essence until the mixture is light. Whisk in the chocolate until well combined. Cover and chill, until firm enough to roll. 

Take heaped teaspoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Dust with the matcha powder. 

Chill for 30 minutes or until they are firm. These truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days. Makes about 12.

BLUSHING XMAS SLICE

Ensure the candy canes are finely chopped.

250g malt biscuits, crushed finely
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
1/2 cup mixed peel or sultanas
1/2 a 375g can sweetened condensed milk
100g butter, chopped
150g dark chocolate, chopped
4-5 drops peppermint essence
Topping:150g dark chocolate, chopped  
1 teaspoon Kremelta or coconut oil
1/2 cup finely chopped candy canes
1-2 tablespoons raspberry powder

Lightly grease a 28cm x 20cm slice pan and line with baking paper.

Combine the crushed biscuits with the cocoa powder and peel in a large bowl.

Place the sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate together in a large microwave bowl. Cook on high power in 30 second bursts, until just melted. Mix well. Stir in the peppermint essence. Pour over the biscuit combo and mix well.

Press evenly into the prepared pan and chill for 15 minutes.

Combine the chocolate and Kremelta for the topping in a bowl. Melt over simmering water or in the microwave. Mix well. Cool a little then pour over the base. Chill for a few minutes then make marks on the top every 4cm where you intend to cut the base into squares. Sprinkle a little candy cane onto each square. Chill for at least 3 hours before cutting. Dust with raspberry powder. Make 32 squares.



Columns by Jan Bilton
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