18 Dec 2007

Christmas Cooking I

If you're stuck on ideas for gourmet gifts this christmas let me share three favourites of mine that I've whipped up in the last two days:

*Apricot Balls*1 cup dried apricots, cut into very small dice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
4 tbsp honey
1 cup skim milk powder

2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup currents
1 tsp grated orange rind
1/4 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup dessicated coconut
(extra 2/3 cup toasted coconut)

Place the apricots into a pan with the orange juice and honey and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes or until the apricots are soft. Remove and add the skim milk, sesame seeds, orange rind, sultanas, currents, almonds and coconut - the mixture should be moist but not runny. Remove the mixture to a bowl and cool.
Using a heaped tsp of mixture roll apricot balls in the palm of your hand and then roll generously through toasted coconut. Keep in an air tight container in the fridge or wrap into cellophane bags as gifts. These sweets will keep for at least a month.

*With only orange juice and a little honey for sweetening these balls of delight are really healthy too!

-*Easy Peasy* Sugared Nuts-
(with a hint of Spice)
125 g pecans
125 g whole blanched almonds

1 egg white

1/2 cup of caster sugar

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of nutmeg

Place nuts on a tray and cook in a moderate oven until a pale golden colour - remove them from the heat and let them cool a little. Beat egg white until stiff. Add sugar and spices. Coat nuts in meringue and spread evenly onto a baking try lined with baking paper. Bake in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes, turning the nuts several times. They will look very sticky and become brown underneath. remove to a plate - separate out the nuts if any have stuck together in clumps. Once they are cool, place into an air-tight container and seal.

The nuts will keep for 6 weeks.

-Emily's *Fragrant* Gingerbread-
-60g butter
-3/4 cup of golden syrup
-1 tbsp of crushed or grated fresh ginger (**optional**)
-1 3/4 cup of plain flour
-1 tsp of bicarb soda
-2 tbsp of ground ginger
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp of ground cloves
-1/2tsp of ground cardamon
-1 tsp of cocoa powder
-1 tablespoon milk

Melt butter over low heat in medium sized saucepan, add golden syrup, bring to boil, remove from heat; stand 10 minutes. Add sifted dry ingridients, milk and finely chopped peel, stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, cover, stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Mixture will become thicker. Turn mixture on to surface which has been dusted with extra flour. Knead lightly, working in only enough flour until mixture loses its stickiness. Roll our dough and cut out as desired (the range of cutters available is quite extraordinary these days - moomin-themed, yogis etc)

Bake in moderate oven 8-10 minutes or until golden:
**The freshly grated ginger is optional. I'm a mad ginger lover so I like the extra zing and it also cuts the sweet a little (which you may be fond of). Adding it to the butter and golden syrup ensures that it really infuses evenly into the mixture and doesn't just clump together.

**Something different: before baking - using the end of a wooden spoon gently push indentation into centre of biscuit (don't push right through) - fill with about 1/2 tsp of jam - see the result here

And gingerbread, when iced and wrapped nicely, makes wee little decorations for the tree!


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