Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Have yourself a Homemade Christmas

This time last year I was heavily into preparing home made gifts to give for Christmas. I thought I would share some of the recipes I used as well as submit this to the Make It From Scratch Carnival (currently hosted here).

I made a number of eco-bags for people using this pattern:
Eco-bag Tutorial
but there are many more tutorials on how to make eco bags, gift bags and totes out there on the "Internets". Try searching the Sew Mama Sew blog for example. Or, download the free patterns from Ottobre.

I made Mint Sauce from the Edmonds Cookbook, and some herbed vinegars as well (recipes from some place on the web).

I created my own labels for many of these things. I've uploaded them to Flickr and they are free for you to use if you decide to make some of this stuff.

My bottles of lemon cordial were popular.
Lemon Cordial Label

Lemon Cordial (recipe from Melissa)
2 kg sugar
1 litre water
25gm citric acid
25gm tartaric acid (you can get these at the supermarket)
Juice of 6 lemons
Zest of 2-3 lemons
Dissolve sugar in water over heat in a stockpot.
Heat just to the boil but don't boil.
Add citric and tartaric acids.
Stir to ensure everything is dissolved.
Cool a bit. Stir in juice and zest.
Bottle in clean bottles (I got mine from Arthur Holmes).

The Chocolate Panforte was delicious and also very popular. I think I will be making these again this year as they don't take long.

Joyce Black’s Panforte (from Cuisine magazine, )
125g almonds, blanched and skinned
125g hazelnuts
25g Brazil nuts (opt)
50g drained preserved ginger, finely sliced
50g glace cherries, halved
75g preserved orange peel, chopped small
2/3 cup flour
2 T cocoa
1 t cinnamon
75g dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup honey
3 T water
Chop almonds and spread in a shallow baking pan. Roast in a low oven to dry and just faintly colour. Roast hazelnuts in oven at 160°C until just starting to darken then tip into a cloth and rub vigorously to remove skins.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a round, 20cm diameter sponge tin x 4 cm deep. (I used mini spring form tins to make 3 small panforte). Line base and sides with baking paper. Do not grease paper.
Chop all the nuts coarsely. Mix cooled nuts, ginger, cherries and peel. Sift together flour, cocoa and cinnamon. Mix with nuts and fruit. Break chocolate into squares and melt over hot water or in the microwave.
In a saucepan stir sugar, honey and water over low heat to completely dissolve sugar. Bring to boil and boil to soft ball stage i.e. a little syrup dropped in a cup of cold water can be gathered with fingers into a ball). Remove pan from heat immediately.
Working quickly with a very firm stirring utensil, mix syrup, chocolate, nuts and fruit together. Spread into lined tins. Smooth tops with back of a wet spoon. Bake for 35-40 mins. Cool in tin. When cold, remove the paper. Wrap in waxed paper then foil, sealing well. Store in cool place until Christmas. The panforte will soften slightly with storage. Lovely served with coffee or something stronger like sherry or a liqueur.

The rhubarb vanilla mince for Christmas Mince Pies was very yummy and actually never made it into pies in my house - it got eaten on toast like jam and mixed into porridge.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Mince Label

Rhubarb Vanilla Mince (from Nigella Lawson's Feast book)

1 kg rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5mm slices
300g soft dark brown sugar
2 vanilla pods
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
225g raisins
225g sultanas
225g currants
2 tablespoons brandy

Put the sliced rhubarb with the sugar into a large pan. Cut the vanilla pod into halves lengthways and scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into pieces, adding seeds and pod slices to the pan. Add the mixed spice and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the dried fruits and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in the brandy, and take off the heat. When it is cool enough to handle, bottle in jars.

Spice blends are easy to make and are very handy for both meat and vegetables on the grill or BBQ or roasted in the oven. My favourite is this Ras el Hanout (from Cuisine magazine, 01 / 09 / 04 by Julie Le Clerc) which can be used in tagines as well. I put mine in some cleaned baby food jars that I decorated appropriately.

Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend)
1 t each coriander, fennel and cumin seeds, dry roasted and ground*
1 t gr. Turmeric
1 t gr. Paprika
1 t gr. Cinnamon
½ t cayenne
½ t gr. Ginger
½ t gr. Nutmeg
½ t gr. Allspice
½ t gr. Cardamom
½ t sea salt
½ t freshly gr. Black pepper
*To dry roast spices: Get out a heavy frying pan (I use a cast iron one), and heat on the stove top. Don't use oil/butter etc, you just want to toast them. Add the spices to the pan and stir/shake them until you can smell them beginning to toast. Remove from the pan and allow to cool before grinding and mixing with the other ingredients.
Combine all the spices and store in a sealed jar. Makes 3 Tablespoons. Use in tagines, couscous or as a rub for meats/roast veges.

I also made some rubs from one of my cookbooks, Joy of cooking by Irma S Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker, (1997), Simon and shuster: NY, pg 86-7

West Indies Dry Rub
Goes well with pork, poultry, lamb or beef.
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds
Combine in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant, shaking pan often to prevent burning, 2-3 minutes.
Grind to a fine powder in a grinder, blender or mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and add:
1/4 cup curry powder
1/4 cup ground white pepper
1/4 cup ground ginger
1/4 cup salt
2 T ground allspice
2 T ground red pepper
Sir well together. Rub will stay potent for up to 6 weeks if covered and kept in a cool, dark, dry place.

Cajun dry rub
Use with chicken, fatty fish, steaks or vegetables - coat before grilling, frying of sauteing. It caramelises into a tangy crust. Expect the spice to smoke during cooking.
Stir together in small bowl:
1 T cracked black peppercorns
1 T salt
2 T crushed fennel seeds
1 t dried thyme
1 t sweet or hot paprika
1 t dry mustard
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t gr red pepper
1 t gr sage
Rub will stay potent if covered and kept in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 6 weeks.

Southern dry rub

Dry roast:
1/4 cup cumin seeds
Grind into powder and add to:
1/4 cup light/dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sweet or hot paprika
1/4 cup chilli powder
2 T ground red pepper
1 t ground mace
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
Stir together well. Keep in cool, dark, dry place for up to 6 weeks.

Christmas Biscuits (Cookies) (from Melissa)
Makes 4 dozen biscuits.
Melt: 225g butter and 3 T golden syrup
3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
6 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
Mix well and then add:
1 beaten egg
Place small teaspoons on a greased tray. Don't roll into balls as this affects the texture. Bake for 10-12 mins depending on whether you like softer or crispy biscuits at 170°C
These freeze well.

Oatmeal Choc-chip Biscuits (Cookies) (think I got these from Bron Marshall's blog)
250g butter @ room temp
300g muscovado sugar
300 g castor sugar
2 large eggs
2 T milk
2 t vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
300g rolled oats
250g choc chips
Preheat oven to 180°C; line 2 baking trays with baking paper
Cream butter and sugars in large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Add to creamed butter and sugar in 3 batches mixing thoroughly between batches. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, gradually beat into sugar mixture. Stir in oatmeal and choc chips. Bake 1 inch balls of mixture 10-13 mins (allow for spreading). Cook on tray before removing to rack.


125g softened butter
½ cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup toasted pistachio nuts, ground
½ cup plain flour
½ cup corn flour

Beat together butter and icing sugar to just combine.
Stir in cardamom, sifted flour, ground pistachios, and sifted corn flour.
Remove to a lightly floured work surface and knead to bring together.
Roll out dough to 1.5 cm thickness, cut into preferred shapes with a cutter, place on a lightly greased oven tray and prick with a skewer.
Bake in oven heated to 150 ° C for 20 mins or until pale golden.
Remove to a wire rack to cool and then pack into airtight containers.
Dust with icing sugar to serve. Makes 20 small cookies.

Biscotti can be an elegant homemade gift wrapped in a cellophane bag with a pretty tag attached. They keep well and are a nice, sweet treat for having with coffee.
I've made all of these at one time or another. My favouriate are the coffee and hazelnut ones. These recipes are from Great Italian food, Australian Womens Weekly, (2002), Sydney:ACP publishing, pg 238-9


½ cup caster sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
¾ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon espresso-style instant coffee
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
110g dark chocolate, melted
Whisk sugar and egg together in medium bowl; stir in flour, baking powder and coffee. Stir in nuts; mix to a sticky dough. Using floured hands, roll into a 20cm log. Place on greased tray.
Bake uncovered in moderate oven about 25 mins or until browned lightly and firm. Cool on tray.
Using a serrated knife, cut log diagonally into 1cm slices. Place slices on lightly greased oven tray.
Bake uncovered in moderately slow oven about 15 mins or until dry and crisp, turning halfway through.
Spread chocolate over one cut slice of each biscotti. Allow to set at room temperature.


60g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups almond kernels chopped coarsely
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup plain flour extra

Beat butter, sugar, essence in medium bowl until just combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined between additions. Stir in flour, baking powder, soda and nuts. Cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
Halve dough. Knead cocoa into one half of the dough. Shape into a 30cm log. Knead extra flour into remaining dough and shape into 30 log. Gently twist cocoa log and plain log together. Place on greased tray and bake in moderate oven about 45 mins or until firm. Cool on tray.
Using serrated knife cut log diagonally into 1cm slices. Place slices on ungreased oven trays. Bake uncovered in moderately slow oven about 15mins or until dry and crisp, turning halfway though cooking. Cool on wire racks.
Blogged with the Flock Browser


  1. thanks for sharing the links and recfipes and ideas Penny. I wonder how I would go making biscotti for myself lol.

  2. WOW What a post! I will be trying some of those biscotti recipes for sure! Thanks for sharing

  3. This is an epic post Penny!

    Wow, so many yummy things that I want to make for us to try.

    On Sunday I was thinking I wanted to find a nice homemade lemonade drink to make; as the kids love anything lemon; and viola - here one is on your blog.

    Thank you very, very much for all the recipes and useful links and labels etc. :)

  4. Great recipes, Penny and oh I wish I was as organised as you! I always mean to do these things in October when I have time and don't so end up doing nothing. ALthough last year I did make some awesome chocolate trees for the school teachers - I'll see if I can find the recipe somewhere

  5. Wow ... how long did that blog post take you?? :-) LOVE your labels they are very cool. I haven't even thought about Christmas pressies yet. Should get on to it for the ones I have to post back home! Should have been organised and bought them when I was home really! Oh well hindsight is a wonderful thing! Like your scrap LO's and cards etc. in previous posts. You have been busy :-)

  6. Penny we must be on the same page at the moment. I made lemon cordial yesterday. And biscotti. I've also added to my gift recipes dukkah which lasts well and can be made ahead .I made preserved lemons last week, too. On a roll. Yesterday 4 cartons of bottles arrived from Arthur Holmes so I guess I really have no excuse. Looking forward to trying some of your recipes.

  7. PS Re my lemon cordial recipe I now use 1.5 litres of water and I put the lemon zest in with the sugar and water as it comes to the boil. Softens the zest!

  8. I'm coming over for Christmas dinenr right?



  9. Awesome ideas there Penny - made me hungry just looking at them. Sadly I think mine will be evil bought stuff this year. Your garden is looking fabulous and your cards and layouts do too. I wish I was as productive!!