The countdown to Christmas has -almost- officially begun! Only 25 days to go!
Which means it’s about time to get organised so you don’t run around like a headless chicken trying to hit the stores in quest of the perfect present / the necessary bits to cook up a worthy feast, plus getting it all wrapped, cooked and appropriately festive a few hours before the whole family rings the door bell.
I’ve been there and I wouldn’t even wish that on my worst enemy.
Luckily, this year, I’ve had a bit of help from the expert es Super-Duper-Organised-Christmas, Katherine Frelon, whose Hall of festive fame includes a detailed plan on how to cook Christmas dinner in an hour.
And while I’m still working on the one-hour-feast, I’m already well under way when it comes to edible presents, thanks to a little push from Mrs. Frelon herself and the kind folks at the Borough Market who recently invited me over for a little preview of Katherine’s demo sessions.
We drank mulled cider, nibbled on festive treats (read: all the dried/candied fruit that were really meant to go into making said treats) & got a headstart on making all sorts of edible treats to be enjoyed by your nearest and dearest.
First things first: the secret to Katherine’s mulled cider.
Because you’re definitely going to need some hot, liquid form of encouragement to get through the mountains of organisation and prep any Christmas feast requires.
The one and only secret is home-made ‘Christmas spiced fruit bombs’. Aka mixed fruit and spices, wrapped up in tea bags and infused into your choice of hot drink for an instant festive hit!
Christmas spiced fruit bombs (makes 24):
- 1 lemon, thinly pared without pith
- 1 orange, thinly pared without pith
- 4 cinnamon sticks, crushed
- 10g cloves
- 20g crystallised ginger, crushed
- 1 nutmeg, smashed into pieces
- 10 juniper berries, smashed with the back of a heavy knife
- 80g dried blueberries
- 75g dried cranberries
- 80g dehydrated strawberry or raspberry flakes
- 24 x 10cm squares of muslin
- Undyed cotton string
1. Place the citrus peel on a lined baking sheet and leave in the oven set at 60C-80C until the peel has dehydrated, but not coloured, so at least 60 minutes or more depending on the moisture of the peel. Alternatively leave the peel overnight in a warm airing cupboard or by the Aga if you have one.
2. When the peel is cool chop it into small pieces and add to a bowl with all the other ingredients. Stir to combine well.
3. To make the bags place approximately ½tsp of the fruit spice in the centre of each piece of muslin, gather up the corners and then twist and tie up each bundle securely with string. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
4. To make a serving, place one bag in a mug and pour over boiling water (or use boiling apple juice / cranberry juice / red wine / cider…) and leave to steep for 5 mins, then remove the bag.
To make a big batch, place one bag of mulling spice in a heavy bottomed saucepan with 2l of your choice of liquid, place on the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove the bag and serve the cider in heatproof glasses or mugs.
Next up, an absolute festive must-have in the form of a gorgeous Crimson Christmas Chutney.
Sweet and sour, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a beautiful cheese plate. Presented in Kilner jars decorated with pretty ribbons and handmade labels, it also makes for a great gift.
Crimson Christmas chutney (makes 1.5kg)
- 1.2kg cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 700g cranberries
- 400g soft dates, stoned and chopped
- 4 clementines, zest and juice
- 500g soft brown sugar
- 2tsp ginger, peeled and grated
- 30ml ruby red port or cherry brandy
- 3 cloves
- 7cm piece cassia bark
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp chilli powder
- 10g flaked sea salt
1. Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a simmer for approximately 60 minutes, until all the ingredients are soft.
2. Bottle in sterilised jars, seal and ideally leave to mature for a few weeks.
Last but not least: CHOCOLATE! Because what’s even the point of Christmas if not as the number one excuse to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, eh?
Katherine’s jewelled Borough bark is super simple treat to make and the ultimate oh-gosh-I-have-no-present-for-[add the name of any last minute guest here] present.
Just melt, stir and swirl to achieve a dramatic edible gift for friends and family. Plus you get to lick the spoons, so it’s definitely a winner!
Jewelled Borough bark (makes approx. 600g)
- 250g good quality white chocolate, chopped
- 350g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
- 150g Turkish delight, chopped into small dice
- 40g green unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
1. Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stir occasionally until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and repeat the process with the dark chocolate.
2. Spread the dark chocolate onto a lined baking sheet to a thickness of 5mm. Drop spoonfuls of white chocolate on top, and swirl the chocolates together with a skewer to make patterns.
3. While the chocolate is still molten sprinkle over the pistachios and Turkish delight and lightly press into the chocolate so they set firm. Chill until set, approximately 60 minutes.
You can also jazz up the bark with your favourite dried or candied fruits, nuts, coffee beans or even liquorice if you dare. Or try some heat and spice with crystalised ginger, chilli flakes and crushed cardamom.
To package as gifts break the bark into large pieces and wrap in parchment paper with a pretty ribbon, fill a glass jar or a clear bags, or place in a pretty box and wrap with tissue paper.
Want to get a piece of the – Christmas prep – action?
Katherine will be in residence in the Borough Market Demo Kitchen (in the glass market hall) throughout December showing the shortcuts to the most amazing Christmas meal without spending days in the kitchen.
Throughout her demo sessions, Katherine will be focusing on the following topics, so make sure you come down to the Borough Market for tones of festive tips, a little nibble (and maybe a headstart on the grocery shopping too, ’tis the best place for it after all!) on the following dates:
1st December – 12.30-2pm – Edible Gifts.
8th December – 12.30-2pm – It’s all in the planning.
15th December – 12.30-2pm – The final countdown: 60 minutes in the kitchen on Christmas Day.
*All Borough Market demo kitchen sessions are free for all to attend. I was invited by the Borough Market to attend a preview of Katherine’s demo sessions, but all pictures, words, opinions & love for that iconic foodie spot, its legendary traders & tendancies to compulsively eat any fruit/nut/candy I can get my hands on my own.