The silly season is well and truly upon us, and if you've got space in your social calendar, spending a day in the kitchen with Christmas music cranking is a great way to get some gifts made.
Whether you're after the traditional kind of baking for gifts, or whether you'd like to try something a little different, you're covered. If you haven't got into fermenting, try this sauerkraut recipe - I've constantly got a jar on the go and I add it to salads, cheese toasties, or as a small side dish all the time.
Have a bit of fun with labels and serving suggestions and eat, drink, and be merry!
Dark chocolate, cherry & almond cookies
225g good quality dark chocolate (I use Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
3 Tbsp butter
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped white chocolate
1 cup chopped almonds
3/4 cup dried cherries
Preheat oven to 165C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Gently melt together the chocolate and butter, either in a heatproof bowl over a simmering pot of water, or in a microwave. Heat until the butter has melted, then stir until the remaining chocolate melts.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture, then stir in all remaining ingredients. Mix together - the mixture will be thick.
Using two tablespoons, drop spoonfuls of dough on to the baking tray, leaving plenty of room for the cookies to spread.
Bake the cookies for 11 to 12 minutes, until their tops just crack. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5-10mins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Spicy red Christmas 'kraut
Makes one medium jar large red cabbage, sliced
1 large carrot, thickly grated
1 Tbsp good quality sea salt
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending how hot you prefer)
1 tsp fennel seeds (could use caraway seeds if you prefer)
Rinse the cabbage and carrot thoroughly under water in a colander. Dry in a salad spinner or with a tea towel. Place in a large bowl.
Add salt and cayenne to the bowl, and massage it into the cabbage mixture. Continue massaging for 10 minutes, ensuring the salt is well mixed in. Liquid will start to seep out of the cabbage.
Set aside for at least 30 minutes, and up to one hour. Liquid will continue to seep out.
Using tongs, place the cabbage mixture and the liquid into a large, clean, jar. Press down to ensure the cabbage is under the liquid. Using a muddle or potato masher, press down so there are no air bubbles. Liquid will start to come up the jar. Keep filling and pushing until your jar is full, leaving about a 1cm gap at the top. Liquid should have risen most of the way.
Sit the jar inside a container (to catch any liquid). Sit the lid loosely on top (don't seal it, you want air to still get in) and keep it in a cool, dark place.
Every day you should push the sauerkraut down in the jar with the muddle, to keep the cabbage under the liquid level. Taste it after about 4-5 days, and then leave it fermenting until you like the taste (1-2 weeks). Seal the jar or transfer into small jars to give as gifts. Keep refrigerated.