Merry Christmas everyone, wherever you are! I hope your Christmas is wonderful and you are spending a nice time with your family and friends!
Here is one my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits for many years now. What makes it Christmasy is the rather prominent, but not overpowering flavour of clove. You have to love clove to love these cookies. These are wonderful with an after-dinner coffee, or wrapped up and given as a gift.
CLOVE AND HAZELNUT COOKIES
(Originally from BBC Good Food Magazine)
250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
350g plain flour
- Put the butter, hazelnuts, vanilla extract and 100g of the icing sugar in a food processor, and whizz to a paste. Add 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and the flour, then pulse together until a dough forms.
- Heat oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and arrange on the baking sheets. Use the folk lightly squeeze each ball. Bake for 15 minutes or until they turn a pale biscuit colour (if they get too brown, they will become dry).
- Mix the remaining icing sugar and ground cloves, then sieve a thick layer over the hot biscuits. Leave to cool slightly before eating just warm, or cool.
It’s not the most sophisticated dish, to be honest, but it works on so many levels. It helps to tidy up the loose ends from your fridge and takes minutes to assemble the dish, and goes so well on a midweek cold evening.
LEFTOVERS CHEESY GRATIN
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
200g mature cheddar, grated
3 cooked potatoes, sliced
200g frozen peas
200g any cooked meat/ham (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 200C.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, cook until it’s soft and translucent. Then stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth with no lumps, (I prefer to use a whisk for that) keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to a creamy sauce. At this stage add the mustard and cheese, leaving a handful of grated cheese aside for the topping. Check for seasoning and remove from the heat.
- Place potatoes, peas and cooked meat or any other cooked vegetables you’d like to use up, in a deep oven proof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce, then sprinkle with remaining cheddar.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden and crisp.
It’s very straight forward here. I was desperate for something sweet with my tea, but didn’t want to spend too much time making it. I had a banana to use up, with cravings for chocolate and some crunch. These muffins ticked all the boxes.
CHOCOLATE MUFFINS WITH PEANUT BUTTER CENTER
(Original recipe is from My Happy Food)
1 large banana
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
approx 70 g peanut butter (I used crunchy one)
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Beat the butter with sugar, add the eggs one by one. Then add mashed banana.
- In a separate bowl/jug mix together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and pinch of salt. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients and mix it until smooth.
- Line the muffin tray with the muffin cases. Spread 1 tablespoon of chocolate mix in each muffin case, then put a teaspoon of peanut butter, finishing with another tablespoon of chocolate mix.
- Bake it for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.