One of the best parts of Christmas for me, is the food. I love being able to try lots of new and exciting things from all the different gatherings that I go to over the month of December. The Australian food scene is incredible in 2019, the globalisation of the digital age and social media has prompted the sharing of different types of cuisines, ingredients, recipes and trends to be accessible from the comfort of your own home via your smartphone device!
By having a dig around in your pantry, you can find some quick gifts that you can mix up in a jiffy to take to your next Christmas event. These quick little recipes don’t need to break the bank or take hours of fussy preparation – some of them I’ve been making for over a decade to share with my loved ones! For Day 10, we are going to cover a range of sweet and savoury food ideas that you can make this Christmas. We will have a follow-up post featuring Brisbane businesses that provide ethical, sustainable foodie gifts if you’re busy this December.
Ready, steady, cook them presents!
I have been into food from an early age, growing up making crostilli, pasta and pastries with my Italian nonnas over the school holidays. I remember that I used to complain about having to lock the house up in the middle of a hot Australian summer to stop the humidity from affecting what we were cooking, but looking back on it, these are some of my fondest memories of my childhood. In my university days when I was strapped for cash, I still wanted to be able to gift my friends and family presents over the holiday season and drew upon these skills to make some simple, cost-effective presents. Here are the top 5 things that I’ve made over the years:
Wanting to make something for friends and families that live far away? Biscotti are awesome Italian biscuits that are durable enough to handle being posted long distances or tucked away snuggly in your suitcase. They’re double-baked hard, crunchy biscuits, which are perfect for dunking with a cup of tea or coffee.
When making a batch of biscotti, you end up with oodles of biscuits, that you can divide up into little bundles for your loved ones. Over the weekend, I made a double batch that got me 9 sets of presents for 1 hour of active time in the kitchen. They can be customised to your taste and budget, being able to mix-in nuts, dried fruits, citrus peel or herbs to give them a beautiful texture and flavour. There are also some great savoury styles out there that you can make for an alternative to crackers in a gift hamper.
Here are my go-to recipes that I’ve made year, after year from Smitten Kitchen and these have never failed to impress!
- Smitten Kitchen – Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti: https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/chocolate-hazelnut-biscotti/
- Smitten Kitchen – Fig and Walnut Biscotti: https://smittenkitchen.com/2009/01/fig-and-walnut-biscotti/
- Smitten Kitchen – Parmesan and Black Pepper: https://smittenkitchen.com/2006/12/the-anticandy/
2. Tomato Chutney for the BBQ
My grandad would always insist on having a BBQ with our Christmas or Boxing Day lunches, even if it was absolutely sweltering and hot on the patio. There would always been an incredible selection of condiments brought by my aunts and uncles. A BBQ isn’t complete without an awesome tomato sauce and this gift idea is a great way to buy up tomatoes in bulk from your local farmer’s markets and preserve the taste of summer for the months to come!
Tomato Chutney doesn’t require a lot of babysitting in the kitchen, after sweating down your onions, garlic, chilli and fresh herbs, the tomato, sugar, vinegar and water are added and simmered down for a few hours. You could even leave it in a slower-cooker to gradually reduce during the day and come back to jar it up at night. Throughout the year I will keep any jars from our recycling bin for preserving and gifting at Christmas, by adding a little bit of fabric or paper on top of the lid, you can really create a gorgeous gift!
Here’s a great recipe by Jamie Oliver that I’ve tinkered with over the years, depending on the variety of the tomatoes that you use, you may need to re-jig how much sugar and vinegar you add to taste!
3. Apple Walnut Chutney and Crackers for Cheese
Another thing that is a staple in Australian households is the pre-main event dips, nibblies and cheese-board. For friends and family members that absolutely adore cheese, I love to make them a little bundle of apple walnut relish and homemade crackers.
Apple walnut chutney is like a richer quince paste, it’s thick, gooey and compliments lots of different cheeses. It can also be smeared on a Boxing Day sanga with your mix of leftovers to take it to the next level! I use a recipe that came out a while ago from Delicious UK magazine, that has 30 minutes of active time. Delicious UK magazine also have a poppy and sesame seed cracker recipe that I keep coming back to, that’s handy to make a huge batch of and freeze for up to 8 weeks.
4. Chocolate Bark
Love chocolate? Chocolate bark is a great back-pocket strategy when I’m pressed for time and need to head out to a Christmas event with a pressie. It comes together by gently melting down chocolate, throwing in some delicious spices, herbs, nuts or dried fruit and letting it briefly set in your refrigerator.
I’ve customised the mixes that I’ve made for friends and families that love different type of chocolate, here’s my three options for each type with detailed instructions:
- Erica Rax’s – White chocolate, pistachio and rosemary:
- Sweet Peas and Safrron’s – Dark chocolate, chilli, pumpkin seed and sea salt:
- One Green Planet’s – Dark chocolate, almond, blueberries and orange (I switched out the dark chocolate for milk and it turned out beautifully!):
5. Spiced Nuts
Want to give a great savoury gift? Look no further, cause spiced nuts are where it is at! I have a random assortment of spices in my pantry and I essentially grab whatever nut is on special around Christmas and mix them all together! One great base recipe to use for this type of present is by Phoebe Wood in Delicious Australia magazine, you can omit or include the maple syrup depending on your tastes.
If you’re feeling a little extra, you can do an additional step of candying the nuts with an egg-white and maple syrup coating to get that salty and sweet kick that is just so satisfying. There’s a great how-to by Katie Quinn Davies in Delicious Australia magazine from 2015 that is something special.
Share with us!
Today’s feature image is a spread of homemade mini Italian panettones that I made on a really tight budget one Christmas. Have you any back-pocket recipe strategies that you use for the holidays? Please let us know! Looking forward to sharing some local businesses with you around food presents in tomorrow’s post that you can check out for Christmas 2019!