Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. As a child, the lead-up to Christmas morning brought much anticipation ... okay yeah, it still does.
I couldn't wait to open presents as a kid, and used to sneakily put a pinhole into my presents to see if I could see inside, until I was discovered doing that and from then on my presents weren't brought out until Christmas Day.
One year, I wrote to Santa asking very politely for Barbie's campervan for Christmas, and I received a hand-written letter back telling me that the elves had carefully chosen Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree for me instead. Nice one "elves".
For me, Christmas is about the family getting together, eating far too much, then lazing about for the afternoon until it's time to watch Home Alone or the Peep Show Christmas special where Mark and Jez host the Corrigans at their flat and Mark ends up spitefully shredding the turkey.
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There's something enchanting about the Christmas tree, the lights, the decorations, the tinsel, the smell of pine. This year, however, it's 100cm of plastic Christmas tree goodness going on at my house. I love finding gifts for my family and friends and wrapping up their parcels, as long as I don't leave it to a last-minute late-night rage session at the mall. A few years ago I got to have my very first white Christmas while in Europe and it was magical. The Christmas markets in Germany, complete with outdoor ice-skating, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and bona fide hot chocolate, falling snow, scarves and mittens ... it was bliss.
But there is something special about Christmas in New Zealand, too. It's the introduction to lazy summer days, barbecues, road trips and fish and chips on the beach.
This Christmas I'll be bringing the queen of the cakes to our family get-together, carrot cake. This recipe is from Petite Kitchen's Eleanor Ozich who co-owns Mondays in Kingsland. This recipe can be made into eight mini cakes or one large cake, and is gluten-free for those that way inclined.
Carrot, orange, and ginger cake with mascarpone
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 cups grated carrot
2 cups ground almonds
1 cup crushed walnuts
1 cup melted coconut oil or butter
1 cup coconut sugar
Zest 2 oranges
4 free-range eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp poppy seeds
*Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease eight holes of a muffin pan, or one regular-sized cake tin. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. Divide mixture between the muffin holes or cake tin.
*Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes (40-45 minutes for a regular-sized cake) or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Leave to cool before carefully removing from tins. Top each cake with some mascarpone, a few pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of poppy seeds.