The Gill Books 12 Feasts of Christmas celebrates the festive season with twelve feasts featuring recipes from our wonderful authors. Recipes that will impress the visitors, sustain you, make the children smile, help you survive after overindulgence, celebrate in style and most importantly, taste delicious. Here we share some great DIY Christmas present and treat ideas, there is nothing like that personal touch.
The ICA Book of Christmas lets you in on secrets and tips that have been passed down and perfected through generations of Irish families. These up-cycled Christmas decorations make a really lovely Christmas gift.
JOE (JOSEPHINE) KEANE, WEXFORD TOWN GUILD, WEXFORD
As well as the work I do promoting local ICA activities, I’m also a tutor for sewing and craft classes. I particularly love to up-cycle clothes and other items. For this project I took an old music book and transformed the score into Christmas decorations. Made with love, a set of six of these make lovely Christmas presents for family, neighbours and friends. They can be displayed in an attractively shaped box, which you can cover with Christmas paper. This is a lovely crafts project to complete with children or grandchildren.
What you’ll need
template of your shape(s) of choice, e.g. heart, star, etc.
an old music book
red embroidery thread
filling, to stuff your shapes
Use the template to mark your desired shapes on the music scores. Cut out as many shapes as you need. You will need to cut out both a front and a back for each decoration.
For each decoration, place the front and back together.
With the red thread, begin embroidering a running stitch halfway around the edge, stitching the two together.
Carefully stuff with filling, taking care with the music sheet as it can easily crease or tear.
Once the decoration is stuffed to the desired capacity, continue to sew the rest of the way around the shape, ensuring that the filling is encased. Finish off neatly.
This fudge recipe from Sophie White’s Recipes for A Nervous Breakdown is divine, the perfect gift for the fudge lovers in your life.
Continuing on the nut theme, I made this peanut butter fudge for the first time last Mother’s Day, when I cleverly concocted a plan to call in sick to life and stayed in bed watching back-to-back movie trailers in a state of relaxation bordering on catatonia. That was a good day.
Makes 30 pieces
oil or butter, for greasing
300g white chocolate chips
400ml tinned condensed milk
300g smooth peanut butter
75g chopped salted cashew nuts
Line a 21cm square baking tray with baking paper. Lightly grease the paper with a little oil or butter. Put the chocolate chips, condensed milk and peanut butter into a heavy-based saucepan set over a low heat. Stir until melted and thoroughly combined.
When the mixture is smooth, add the cashew nuts to the pan and stir them through. Pour the fudge mixture evenly into the prepared tray. Smooth the top of the fudge. Place in the fridge for about 1 hour to speed up the setting process. When the fudge is firm, turn it out onto a board and carefully peel off the paper. Cut into 30 bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
These mince pies from The ICA Book of Christmas make a delicious traditional gift for your family and friends.
NIAMH HEADON, BALLYMORE EUSTACE GUILD, KILDARE
From the time I was old enough to mash butter into flour and icing sugar with a fork, I was initiated into the sacred realms of Christmas baking. Dozens of mince pies were made every year and rapidly frozen before the rest of the family realised there were more pies than those set before them. Today I freeze batches of pastry, which takes up less space.
Makes about 8–12 pies, depending on how thin you roll the pastry
225g (8oz) plain flour
50g (2oz) icing sugar
140g (5oz) butter, at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon ice-cold water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the filling
1 jar mincemeat, about 400g (14oz)
You’ll also need
12-cup bun tin pastry cutter
Sieve the flour and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and add the butter, mixing it at a very low speed. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolk, ice-cold water and lemon juice. Once the dry ingredients become like breadcrumbs, add the egg mixture and continue mixing. Once it comes together as a pastry, allow the processor to run for another five or six seconds to save on kneading, but no more.
Turn out onto a large piece of cling film, flatten the pastry and wrap well. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Grease the bun tin or line with paper cases.
Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Knead the pastry a little to loosen it, then separate one-third of the pastry and set it aside.
Roll out the large piece of pastry to the desired thickness – I like a very thin pastry with lots of mincemeat. Cut out the pie bases with a plain pastry cutter that matches the size of a flattened paper case/bun tin hole. (If you don’t have pastry cutters, a pint glass will do.) Place the pastry bases into the lined or greased tin, and fill each with mincemeat.
Roll out the remaining pastry, and cut out the pastry lids using a fluted cutter that matches the size of your paper cases/bun tin holes (or a smaller glass will do). Moisten the underside of each lid before setting in place. Gently push the edges down to seal. Cut two slits in the lid or prick with a fork to allow steam to escape.
Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until golden but not brown.
The mince pies can be frozen once fully cooled. Defrost fully before reheating. Serve on their own or with whipped cream and a hot port or mulled wine.
This sweet pastry can also be made with gluten-free flour using a straight swap, although you may need to adjust the amount of liquid to achieve the desired pastry consistency.
We hope that you found some inspiration to make Christmas 2016 the year of DIY gifts! Happy feasting to you and yours, stay tuned for more fantastically festive recipes. Follow us @GillBooks on Twitter, @gillbooks on Instagram and like us on Facebook for the latest author news.