Saturday, 18 December 2010

the gift of food.......mmmmmh..

Its not too late to whip up something lovely and edible to treat those near and dear ( or those you suddenly realise you have fogotten , and actually don't know that well, but really should give a gift to...), after all everyones gotta eat, and you can make a little go a long way and seem much more heartfelt, with the true meaning of giving, than if you rushed out to buy a last minute something or other...
There are such a variety of foods that can be made into gifts, most of which require little or no culinary know how, here are some ideas to get the imagination going:
**Chocolate Truffles **- alcoholic, non-alcoholic, coated in nuts or chocolate, flavoured with vanilla or coffee ans so on... the basic recipe is a Ganache, the same thing that masquerades as very thick chocolatey frosting, this is made by using the same amount (or there abouts ) of double cream and chocolate, heating the cream to boiling point, removing from the heat and stirring in the chocolate until melted, this mixture is then left to cool for an hour-ish until thickened to a pliable consistency and simply scooped and rolled into above you can add flavours and coatings as you wish, wrap in cellophane and tie with ribbon to make a lovely gift.( store in the fridge to avoid softening)
You can also use the Ganache poured into a baked pastry case to make a rich chocolate tart.
**Chutneys,** jams and pickles are always a favourite, but if your short on time you can make a salted vegetable preserve instead the boiled vinegar variety..... shred cabbage, carrot, couliflower  and any other firm raw vwg you fancy (green toatoes, cucumber etc..)layer in a bucket with a good fistful of salt between layers and wieght down with a pate with a heavy object(s) on top, leave for 24 hours and remove weight, leave another 24 with a lid on .......and you will find that you have a buket full of pickled but still crunchy veg in its own pickling juice, simply fill sterilised jars.
** Baklava** a traditional christmas pastry in Greece and the Balkans can also be made speedily if using shop bought filo pastry. In a suitable baking tin layer filo pastry brushig each piece with melted butter,add a layer of brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled all over the pastryand repeat until you have approx half the thickness you require, at this point you spread your filling mix( traditionally this is crushed almonds and walnuts with vanilla and cinnamon, though you can add any dried fruit and nut you might like) between 2 or 3 layers of pastry and tnenm finish off with the pastry butter and spice as before, bake at 200 for 1/2 an hour-ish until the pastry is crisp and golden. At this point it is customary to pour over "sherbet" which is a mix of equal parts water and sugar bolied to a thin syrup, however for those less fond of sugary sweetness a dusting of icing sugar may suffice.
There are so many alternatives the list is endless, from making your own olive antipasti mix by adding fresh herbs and chilli to shop bought olives, to making flavoured oils, decorated with herb sprigs in the bottle, right up to making and decorating a range of xmas baked goodies.......The main thing is that you thought of it (and got off your bum after a long day to make it ) much more the point of giving than actually how good the end results are, to be certain.

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