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Darina Allen's Edible Christmas Gifts

18-11-2014 11:45

Edible presents are always welcome, and delicious, nicely packaged jellies, jams, chutneys, cookies and mincemeats will delight everyone this Christmas. Here Darina Allen shares two of her favourite recipes for lovely edible gifts.

"The big secret of a happy Christmas, it seems to me, is to get the whole family involved in the preparations. Rope everyone in: children, grannies, granddads and any spare aunt or uncle you can find. If everyone talks about it, then the build-up of excitement is tremendous – this is what memories are made of. Plans could get underway good and early so that there’s a minimum of last-minute frazzle. Children adore being part of the action and with a little encouragement and perhaps a very little adult supervision (sometimes it’s better not to look!), they can produce really charming Christmas cards. It may be messy, but on the other hand, they will be happy for hours and the end result will delight everyone who gets one and an extra bonus will be quite a saving on ‘bought’ cards. Children learn the very important lesson that cards or presents that one puts time into and makes one’s self are in many ways of greater value than expensive knick-knacks bought at the last minute in the shops.

Edible presents are always welcome, and delicious, nicely packaged jellies, jams, chutneys, cookies and mincemeats are snapped up at Christmas. All these biscuits keep for ages in an airtight tin, so you could start at the beginning of December and make one kind at a time for several weeks. Children or teenagers can make them almost unaided, and for a few euros worth of ingredients enough biscuits can be produced to give presents to half the neighbourhood. The look of pride on your children’s faces as they wrap their plates of homemade biscuits will be enough to remind you of the real spirit of Christmas! Gather up some nice ribbons and labels to add extra pizzazz to your homemade goodies. Pretty ribbons, string and wrapping paper can make even a mundane jam jar look exciting. Cover the jars prettily and ask the children to do special labels, such as ‘for my granny, with love’. I could write a big fat book just on edible presents. Maybe I will one day."


Pat Browne’s Almond Macaroons

We’ve got lots of macaroon recipes, but this one, given to us by one of our tutors, Pat Browne, is the most foolproof of all. They can be flavoured or coloured as you wish: try a few drops of rosewater or orange blossom water or a little crème de menthe.

Makes 74 approx. of petit four size

4 egg whites, preferably free-range and organic

25g (1oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) icing sugar
125g (41/4oz) ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/gas mark 1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until stiff.

Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar. Mix half of the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the rest. Fill into a piping bag fitted with a no. 9 plain piping nozzle, then pipe into approx. 2.5cm (1in) rounds onto the lined baking tray. Rest for 30 minutes at room temperature, then bake in the preheated oven for 12–14 minutes, until pale golden and the lift easily off the paper. Continue to cook the rest in batches.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin. Sandwich together with chocolate, lemon or coffee buttercream.

Chocolate Buttercream

110g (4oz) butter, softened

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved
1 level tablespoon cocoa powder, sieved
1 dessertspoon hot water

Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar. Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water and beat into the mixture until light and fluffy.

Lemon Buttercream

110g (4oz) butter, softened

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved
finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest. Beat until light and fluffy.

Coffee Buttercream

110g (4oz) butter, softened

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved
2–4 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence

Whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

* * *

Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Another favourite that ticks all the boxes. Try it with duck, goose or pork.

Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

175g (6oz) caster sugar

110ml (4fl oz) cider or wine vinegar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped
900g (2lb) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped

Put the sugar and vinegar in a stainless steel saucepan with the star anise, cinnamon and ginger. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the chopped plums and apples and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick. Pour into sterilised jars. Cover and keep in the fridge. It will keep for 1–2 months.

A Simply Delicious Christmas, first published in 1989, is a much-loved cookbook, with tattered, well-worn copies to be found in most households in the country. 25 years on Darina Allen is back with a stunning new, revised and updated edition.


A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen is now available nationwide and in our Online Shop with 20% off RRP. Order today!

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