Lea Hogg cooking with her children in the kitchen.Lea Hogg cooking with her children in the kitchen.

Quick and easy recipes are a necessity to enjoy Christmas without food preparation becoming a chore. I love fresh food that is home-made as you always know exactly what you are eating and these recipes are simple to prepare with a bit of a twist to offer something that is slightly more interesting than what is seen year after year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Stefan StafracePhoto: Stefan Stafrace

Festive Dried Fruit Log

Make your dried fruit mini-log long and slim, as it will look great on a Christmas cheese board served with dried fruits and cranberries. I served ours with a selection of cheddar cheese, galletti and oat cakes.

1 cup dates
1 cup figs
1 cup nuts of your choice (optional)
grated zest of 1 lemon
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 tangerine
1 tbspn brandy
1 tbspn liquor of your choice
1/4 tspn nutmeg
a pinch of chili powder (optional, leave out if you do not like it)
a pinch of salt
1 cup finely chopped pistachios

Simply place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and use a hand blender to make into a fairly smooth puree. Leave the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour. Shape into a long cylinder and roll in the chopped up pistachios. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Gingerbread Christmas tree biscuits

350g flour
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1 tspn ground ginger
1 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn mixed spice
125g butter
175g brown sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat oven to 160ºC. Sift the flour and add the butter, cut up into small pieces. Rub the butter into the flour. Add the bicarbonate of soda, ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon. Mix. Stir in the beaten egg and the golden syrup and bind together to form a dough. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a 0.5cm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Use gingerbread men cutters to cut out the cookies and place on the baking tray covered with baking paper. Leave a gap between them. Bake for 15 minutes until they turn light golden brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes before removing them. Allow them to harden for two days before decorating them and hanging them to the tree.

Photo: Ian Noel PacePhoto: Ian Noel Pace

Peppernoten

Peppernuts look beautiful in glass jars, especially mixed with a colourful sweet assortment. They are nut-sized and economical to serve with drinks instead of nuts. For my recipe you will need:

1/4 cup icing sugar
3 cups flour
1/4 tspn black pepper
3/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn allspice
1/4 tspn nutmeg
1/4 tspn cloves
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
A bit of vanilla
Grated zest of 1/4 lemon
Grated zest of 1/4 orange
A pinch of ground ginger

Heat the honey in a saucepan on low heat and add the sugar. Stir until it dissolves. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool, then add the eggs.

In a bowl sift the flour. Add the salt, spices, grated citrus zest and bicarbonate of soda. Stir, then add the egg and honey mixture. If the dough is dry, add two tablespoons of water at a time until you form a dough. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Prepare a dish with baking spray. Uncover the dough and cut a small portion and roll into a long and thin shape using your hands and the clean surface of your worktop.

Use a sharp knife to cut into small pieces. Separate the pieces and place on a baking tray.

I used a spring form cake tin. Bake for around eight minutes until they are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before storing them in glass container.

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