With Christmas fast approaching, we need to think about what to buy for our friends and families. This year, why not treat them to something you’ve made yourself? Here are some ideas for easy homemade Christmas gifts. And they’re edible too!
We all know someone – or several someones – who are difficult to choose a gift for at Christmas. We end up buying them the same things every year because we can’t come up with any new ideas.
If you have an elderly family member, they probably have everything they need by now. So how can you avoid giving them the same old thing?
Have you ever thought of giving them something homemade? An attractive basket or decorated box filled with delicious things to eat? There are so many things to choose from, pickles and chutneys, biscuits, cakes, chocolate truffles, and even homemade chocolate bars.
Who wouldn’t love to open a gift like this on Christmas day?
My mum used to make up a gift box for my grandparents. She would add jars of jam and chutney, shortbread fingers, mince pies, jars of sweets, a bottle of sherry and different chocolates. It was always appreciated – especially by my nan, who had a sweet tooth.
If you want to make your own gift sets, you can choose one with a selection of pickles, chutneys and preserves, with some biscuits or crackers to go with it. Or a sweet version with biscuits, chocolate, cakes and truffles. Or you can choose a mixture of their favourite things to eat and combine them in one package.
If your budget won’t stretch to a fancy basket, all you need is a cardboard box big enough to hold everything comfortably and then wrap it in gold or silver paper, with some strings of beads, bows, or tinsel to decorate it. This looks classy and costs next to nothing.
So now we come to ideas for what to make and put into these hampers. Take your pick from any of these recipes, based on the preferences of the recipient and your budget. You can make a very nice package from inexpensive items that look and taste great.
Or if you have money to spare, you can add more luxury items like foie gras pate, macarons decorated with edible gold leaf and even a bottle of champagne. There are endless combinations.
Here are some suggestions as to what you can include. Some can be made ahead and will keep indefinitely, others need to be made no more than a day or two before you present the gift. Things like pate won’t keep for long so they need to be as fresh as possible.
Asian Sweet Chilli Sauce
This goes with everything – meats, cheeses, crackers, pies, vegetables. Yes, you can buy very good sweet chilli sauce but it can’t compare to one you make yourself. Makes 1 jar.
450g fresh, ripe tomatoes, stalks removed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 hot red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
Half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
1.5 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
250g granulated sugar
60 ml red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend to a paste. Pour into a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from sticking to the base of the pan. The sauce will reduce and thicken, becoming almost syrupy.
Test if it’s ready by taking a teaspoonful of the sauce and dropping it into a saucer of cold water. If it looks thick and jammy, it’s ready. If not, boil it for a further 5 minutes.
Take the sauce off the heat and allow it to cool for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sterilise a jar by filling it with hot water, swirling it around and emptying it, then putting it into a low oven to dry out. This sterilisation is important, as you want the sauce to keep. If the jar isn’t sterilised, bacteria can grow, resulting in mould on the surface. That’s the last thing you want.
Pour the cooled chilli sauce into the sterilised jar and put a lid on it. The lid should be tight-fitting so that no air can get in. This will keep for a week or so in the fridge, so don’t make it too far in advance.
Spiced Lemon Curd
This has a beautiful, fresh, zingy flavour. It’s lovely on hot buttered toast, or as a filling for cakes and pastries. The spices are subtle but can still be tasted and enjoyed. Makes about 700g.
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
4 medium eggs, beaten and strained
350g caster sugar
100g butter, preferably unsalted
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
To strain the eggs, place a sieve over a heatproof bowl and pour in the beaten eggs. Allow them to drip through and discard what’s left in the sieve. Add all of the other ingredients to the eggs, stir, and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. You can test this by lifting the wooden spoon. If you can still see sugar crystals give it a few more minutes.
continue cooking the mixture for 20 – 30 minutes, until it’s thickened up. Don’t allow it to boil – you don’t want scrambled eggs! Strain into sterilised jars (see above for instructions) and leave to cool.
Once completely cold, place a circle of greaseproof or waxed paper over the curd, screw the lid on tightly, and if you like, cover the lids with some jampot covers tied with string. This will keep for 2 – 3 weeks in Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry and Orange Chutney
This cranberry chutney is perfect with turkey, chicken, and cold meats and can be stirred into gravy. I like it as a dip for breadcrumbed mozzarella sticks. Makes 2 half-litre jars.
450g fresh or frozen cranberries
400g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
4 whole cloves
Zest and juice of a medium orange
275 ml red wine vinegar
200 ml apple cider vinegar
Heat a large, heavy-based pan and add the vinegar and sugar and cook until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Stir occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the crushed coriander seeds, whole cloves and cranberries. Grate the zest from the orange, being careful not to get any of the white pith as this is very bitter. Cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice.
Add the orange zest and juice to the pan and cook over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Be gentle when stirring the mixture as you want the cranberries to remain whole as much as possible. Some will burst during cooking but this is okay, as long as most of them are still whole.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for 30 minutes. Ladle into sterilised jars, seal with a tight-fitting lid and when it’s completely cold, you can label the jars.
Leave for at least a month before eating to allow the flavours to develop.
Spiced Plum Chutney
This has a wonderful flavour, and once you taste it, you won’t want to be without it. It’s great with cold cuts, cheeses, sausages and in sandwiches. Makes 6 x 350 ml jars.
2 heaped teaspoons of ground ginger
1 large cinnamon stick
25g allspice berries
6 whole star anise
4 whole cloves
1.2 litres of malt vinegar
450g Bramley apples
3 large onions, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
450g dark brown sugar
450g demerara sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
Halve the plums and twist them to remove the stones. This is a bit time-consuming but it’s worth the effort; you don’t want stones in your chutney. Place them in a large, heavy-based pan. You don’t need to peel the apples, just cut out the cores. Finely chop the apples and put them in the pan with the plums.
Finely chop the onions and garlic and add them to the pan with the ginger, vinegar, sugars and raisins. You can put the spices in a piece of muslin and tie a knot in the top, but it’s okay to put them into the pan with the rest of the ingredients.
Bring everything up to a boil and cook the chutney very gently for 2 – 3 hours, stirring it occasionally. You will need to stir it more often towards the end of the cooking time so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. To test if the chutney is ready, drag your wooden spoon through the middle. If it doesn’t immediately fill up with liquid, then it’s done. Use a fork and spoon to fish out the whole spices and discard them.
Pour the chutney into 6 sterilised jars while still warm, filling the jars almost to the top. Cover the surface of the chutney with a waxed disc and seal with a tight-fitting lid.
When cold, label the jars and store them for at least 3 months in a cool place before eating – or adding it to a Christmas hamper.
Chicken Liver and Tarragon Pate
This is a very quick pate to make and it tastes absolutely delicious. The tarragon gives a subtle aniseed flavour and the cream adds richness. Makes 6 portions.
150g softened butter
225g chicken livers (frozen are fine)
2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
142 ml double cream
Salt and pepper
50g butter, melted
12 tarragon leaves
Melt 15g of the butter in a non-stick pan and when sizzling, add the chicken livers and fry for 3 – 4 minutes. You want them to be browned on the outside and still pink in the middle. Tip the liver into a food processor or blender.
Pour the brandy into the same pan and turn up the heat, swirling it around the pan and scraping up any bits of liver that might have stuck to the pan. Add the brandy to the liver, along with the garlic, tarragon, and remaining butter. Whizz to a paste.
Season with salt and pepper and add the cream. Process again until completely smooth. Pour into 6 small Kilner jars and allow to cool.
To finish the pate, pour over the warm melted butter and drop in 2 tarragon leaves. Put the lids on and lock them into place. Chill for up to 2 days. Nice served with crusty bread or hot buttered toast and some pickles on the side.
Peppermint Fondant Creams
I used to eat peppermint fondants as a child and loved them. This is pretty close to how I remember them. Makes about 35.
300g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
125g condensed milk
A quarter teaspoon of peppermint extract
100g dark or milk chocolate, broken up
put the icing sugar, condensed milk and peppermint extract into a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Dust a work surface with icing sugar and dust the rolling pin too. Roll out the dough to about 3 mm thick and cut out different shapes with cutters, or just plain discs. Cover the unused dough with clingfilm while you’re rolling each piece so that it doesn’t dry out while waiting to be used. Reroll the dough as needed until it’s all used up.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and remove from the heat as soon as it’s melted. Dip the creams in the melted chocolate so they’re half coated and half plain. Set each one on a baking tray covered with non-stick paper as you dip them.
Chill in the fridge in an airtight container with non-stick paper between each layer to prevent them from sticking together. Store for a maximum of 3 days.
Peanut Butter Truffles
Peanut butter and chocolate are a marriage made in heaven. These delectable chocolates make a great gift at any time of the year and are great as an after-dinner treat too. Makes 15 – 20 truffles.
120 ml double cream
400g of good-quality milk chocolate
6 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
50g of grated dark chocolate to finish (optional)
Put the cream into a heavy-based pan and heat until almost boiling. Add 200g of the milk chocolate, broken into small pieces and the butter and take the pan off the heat. Leave it to stand for 6 – 8 minutes then give it a good stir. Mix in the peanut butter and leave to chill in the fridge overnight,
Line a large baking tray with non-stick paper and remove the bowl from the fridge. Using a melon baller or a teaspoon, scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture and quickly roll it into a ball. Place each truffle onto the baking sheet as you go, leaving space between each one. Put the tray in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Melt the remaining 200g of milk chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and once melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Using a fork, dip each truffle into the melted chocolate and allow the excess to drip off. Place the coated truffles back onto the tray and repeat until they’re all coated. Sprinkle a little grated dark chocolate over each one if you like, then chill.
These make a lovely gift placed into little paper cases and arranged in a box. Best eaten as soon as possible after making.
Cocoa Dusted Truffles
These simple, 3-ingredient truffles are a pure indulgence. The secret to their perfection is to use the finest quality dark chocolate, 80% cocoa solids preferably. Makes 500g.
450g dark chocolate
275 ml double cream
Cocoa powder for dusting
Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put it into a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to the boil in a small pan and just as it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it slowly over the chocolate, beating continuously with a wooden spoon. You should have a thick, dark, glossy mixture.
If there are any lumps in the mixture place the bowl over a pan of simmering water to melt them, then beat well. Be gentle though, too much heat can cause the chocolate to separate and curdle.
Put the bowl of chocolate cream in the fridge to firm up, which will take about an hour. Don’t leave it too long or it’ll set solid and be impossible to work with. But if this happens, don’t worry – just set the bowl over simmering water again until it’s softened up.
Sprinkle a good layer of cocoa powder onto a plate and use 2 teaspoons to scoop out balls of chocolate. Roll into a roughly rounded shape (they look better slightly uneven) then toss in the cocoa powder, making sure each truffle is thoroughly coated. Allow to set in a cool place, but not in the fridge. This will take about an hour.
Place the truffles in little paper cases and arrange them in a box. Best eaten within a few days of being made, as they contain fresh cream.
Stained Glass Cookies
These cute little cookies can be hung on the Christmas tree, so if you’re giving them as a gift, make a hole in the top and when cool, thread a length of ribbon through so that they can be hung up. Makes about 30.
175g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
400g plain flour
250g bag of fruit-flavoured boiled sweets
Icing sugar for dusting
Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using an electric hand whisk, until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and beaten egg and whisk again.
Add the sifted flour and stir it in gently. Don’t over-mix or the dough will be tough. If it looks a bit sticky, add a little more flour. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour.
Roll out the dough on a work surface or board dusted with icing sugar to a thickness of 5 mm. Cut out shapes such as stars, hearts or flowers and place them gently on the lined baking trays. Stamp out a small hole in the middle of each cookie, the same size as the boiled sweets, and place one sweet into each hole.
Make a small hole in the top with a skewer if you want to hang them on the Christmas tree later, then bake in a preheated oven, gas 4/180C/350F for 8 – 10 minutes, until pale golden in colour.
Cool on a wire rack, dust with icing sugar and thread some ribbon through the hole in the top, tying the ends in a knot. Store in an airtight tin and eat within 2 days.
Nothing says Christmas quite like gingerbread. The smell of ginger and spices evokes memories of childhood. You can decorate these however you want and get the kids involved too. Makes 25.
80g softened butter
50g caster sugar
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
60g golden syrup
2 medium egg yolks
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons water
4-pack of coloured icing pens
Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. An electric hand whisk is best for this job. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda, golden syrup and egg yolks. Put the flour, ginger and cinnamon in a sieve and sift it over the wet ingredients. Fold in gently.
Use your hands to bring the mixture together into a ball. Dust a board or work surface with icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of 5 mm. Use people-shaped cookie cutters to stamp out gingerbread men, placing each one onto the lined baking tray as you go.
Bake in a preheated oven, gas 4/180C/350F for 10 – 12 minutes until firm, then cool on a wire rack.
To decorate, make sure the biscuits are completely cold. Mix 200g of icing sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a bowl and spoon into a piping bag with a fine nozzle. Don’t worry if you’ve never done this before; if you keep a steady hand and squeeze the piping bag gently, you will be fine. If it doesn’t look great, carefully wipe away the icing and start again.
Use the icing to ‘draw’ faces, hair and clothes on your gingerbread people, then add colour with the icing pens.
These biscuits will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin.
This is the real thing – light, buttery and melt-in-the-mouth. It’s quick to make and very more-ish. Makes about 20 biscuits.
150g plain flour
100g butter, softened and diced
50g caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling
Rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured board or work surface and roll out to a thickness of about 2 cm. Cut the dough into fingers, prick all over the top with a fork to make patterns and sprinkle with some caster sugar.
Bake in a preheated oven, gas 3/170C/325F for 15 – 20 minutes, until the biscuits are pale golden in colour. Allow to cool so that they firm up and become crisp.
I hope that this has given you some great ideas for homemade Christmas gifts. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
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