Christmas · Food & Drink

Make, Eat, Drink and be Merry

Handmade gifts are not for everybody. I reserve mine for the people I know will genuinely appreciate the time and love put into their personalised pressie. My foodie friend has a Christmas Day birthday, her husband’s is a couple of days later and it has been a tradition to give them a basket of goodies in December. I know they fall into the approving category by the not so-subtle hints they start dropping when they start to run low on my chutney!

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Chutneys do take some forward planning as they are generally superior after taking a couple of months to mature. How best to remember to look up the recipe for Nigella’s Christmas Chutney when you’re sunning yourself in August though?

Each year I try a few new recipes. Rhubarb and Date Chutney is from BBC Good Food. This is a website I use a lot for the comments and suggestions from readers who’ve tried and tested the recipes already – so I can be pretty confident they’ll be delicious. I’ve had a few books of preserves over the years but the favourite I always go back to is a (now rather sticky) copy of Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince that tells you everything you’ll ever need to know.

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There’s still just enough time to make limoncello should you need an easy gift to take to a festive party. All you need is lemons, sugar and vodka. Any supermarket vodka is fine and I use either white caster or granulated sugar, whatever I have, adjusting these proportions depending on how much vodka I have:

  • Zest and juice of 8 lemons
  • 750ml vodka
  • 500ml water
  • 450g sugar

Dissolve the sugar in the water in a small pan over a low heat and pour into a bowl containing the vodka and lemon (ok to pour it in while hot). Cover and leave for 5 days stirring once a day. Strain it back into the original bottle, or into a sterilised preserving bottle if it’s for a gift. Serve ice-cold. It’s that simple!

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Wilkos, B&M, Ikea and the like are a good source of baskets and boxes if you don’t have a receptacle to recycle for a foodie gift. This one is is £2 from Wilkos and nice and deep. The foil bow came as a pack of four for £1. I put envelopes from my Christmas cards through my shredder to make packing for the bottom, added a layer of tissue paper and arranged a combination of made and bought gifts that I know the recipient will enjoy.

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This choccy bouquet is for a sweet-loving family and works out a lot cheaper to make than buy. The most economical way is to buy chocolate multi-packs and make several at once. I’d kept the bouquet box from some flowers I was given, but you can buy the boxes (sometimes called living vases) from internet florists suppliers for less than £2. They come in all sorts of colours so you can easily theme. I lined the box with tissue paper and bought an oasis for £1 from Wilkos that I shaped to put in the bottom and simply sellotaped the sweets to skewers or dowels and arranged them on the oasis. The troublesome Twix kept wanting to slide down its stick so I learned to tape in both directions. Temptation was the only other issue I had. The Flake never quite made it in there!

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