It gave me a glow of satisfaction to order my free-range, home-cured ham extra early this year. Sometime back in, oh, the winter, I think it was. Last year I’d missed out on ordering the Christmas necessity by one day and there were tears all around.
So, everything considered, we’re looking good for another Christmas. The ham will arrive any day now and we have two Christmas cakes sitting fully iced in the larder. One, I hasten to point out, is for a friend.
I do like Christmas. The long, summer evenings, the cool martinis, the strawberries, and all that good food. Then there’s the sparkly, glittery stuff draped around the house and oneself. We only have to get ourselves a Christmas tree, and we’re all set.
Almost. There’s the small matter of a few gifts, however. Over the years I have trained my friends not to expect presents of a store-bought kind. Home-made, edible pressies are the best. Unless, of course, I happen to see a shower cap in the shape of a duck, which is perfect for that certain someone. A bit of flexibility is allowed.
This year I’m making Christmas brittle – it’s a real cracker (See Second Christmas in this series for recipe.) Then there are my other two favourites, Yuletide Olives and Raspberries in Brandy. All of these make excellent gifts – in the case of the Christmas Brittle I’m giving a batch to my dentist, who I visited in some pain a few weeks ago. What a nice way to thank him for his expert work than an offering of seriously tooth-breaking chewy toffee. I hope he will appreciate the gesture.
The other two items are also long-standing goodies in our household. The raspberries are especially delectable, especially when eaten with mountains of cream, and of course, look stunning when popped in fancy glass jars. As for the olives, a tastier treat is hard to find. Better yet, it takes no time to whip all of these up – and the time one doesn’t spend searching through crowded shops one can spend sipping a martini. Stirred, not shaken. What was Bond thinking?
- Black olives
- sprigs of rosemary
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- fresh ground black pepper
- red pepper, cut into strips
- 3 whole chillies
- olive oil to cover
Remove all brine from olives using paper towels. Place everything in a bowl, except oil, and mix well.
Pack into clean and heated jars. Gently warm oil and pour over olives. Feta cheese can be added, and once everything is nibbled, the oil is great to use in cooking afterward.
RASPBERRIES IN BRANDY
- As many fresh raspberries as you can get your hands on
Pack raspberries into clean jars. Top with brandy, add about a teaspoon of sugar per jar. Cap and decorate the jar with appropriate yuletide decorations.