Spicery Kitchen Blog

The Spicery's Countdown to Christmas!

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Written by Amy
Published on 28th August 2018 at 10:30 • No comments yet, be the first!

It's never too early to start preparing for the most wonderful time of the year! Count down the days till Christmas with us, by making (and enjoying!) one spicy Christmas treat each month, beginning in September through to December!

The recipes are designed to fit in with each month's needs - whether it's using up excess apples in your garden in September or giving your pears enough time in advance to pickle in November, or even fitting in some last minute baking in December on Christmas Eve! All you need is a handful of fresh ingredients and our special Countdown to Christmas spice blends, listed as a link in each recipe (some jolly Christmas tunes while cooking might not hurt either!).

So, what are you waiting for? Let the countdown to Christmas begin!

Boxing Day Chutney

There’s nothing like a good chutney to go with a Christmas cheese board. The key to making a quality chutney is a combination of the main ingredient with vinegar, salt, sometimes sugar and very often spices - which not only provide layers of flavour but also have strong antibacterial properties (helping them keep for many weeks and months!). This one is full of warming spices like cassia and mace and the flavour even improves over time.

  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Makes: 2-3 large jars

  • Heat rating: 2/5
  • Dietary: None

Ingredients

  • 400ml vinegar (white wine or cider vinegar is best)
  • 400g light brown sugar 
  • 1kg cooking apples - peeled and cut into chunks 
  • 1 large onion - finely chopped
  • 150g raisins, currants or sultanas
  • 2-3 large jars

Spices

BOXING DAY CHUTNEY SPICES (1 portion / 3 tbsp): Nigella seeds, ginger, cassia, coriander, cinnamon, mace, cloves, allspice, cayenne, bay PLEASE NOTE IF YOU'RE MAKING A BIGGER BATCH, YOU'LL NEED TO SCALE UP THE FRESH INGREDIENTS IN PROPORTION BUT THE SPICES ONLY BY 2/3 OR IT WILL BE TOO SPICY!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 100°C/gas mark ¼ 
  2. Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse, then place in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until dry to sterilise them
  3. Bring to the boil the vinegar, sugar, apples, onion, raisins, 1 tsp salt and BOXING DAY CHUTNEY SPICES then turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes or until the apples have broken down
  4. The chutney is ready when a spoon stirred through the centre leaves a clear trail for a couple of seconds
  5. Spoon into the sterilised jars and store in the fridge
  6. Great served with cheese and biscuits or cold cuts

Christmas Cake!

Christmas cake has its roots in the Middle Ages, from two very different dishes eaten around Christmas time: plum porridge and the Twelfth Night cake (eaten on the 5th of January). It was in the 16th century that the oats in plum porridge were replaced by butter, flour and eggs and that richer families began to bake rather than cook or steam the mix. It evolved further when dried fruit and spices (symbolic of the exotic eastern spices brought by the Wise Men) were added and, with the decline in popularity of celebrations of the Twelfth Night, eventually people started eating Christmas cake on Christmas Eve.

  • Total Time: Prep time 30 mins (plus 12 hrs soaking time for the dried fruit) Cook time 2 1/2 hrs
  • Makes 1 large Christmas cake

  • Heat rating: 0/5
  • Dietary: None

Ingredients

  • 225g butter - softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 900g mix of sultanas, raisins and currants
  • 100g glace cherries 
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 200ml brandy, sherry or marsala plus extra for ‘feeding’ the cake
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 80g whole blanched almonds 
  • Marzipan and fondant icing to cover the cake
  • 18-22cm springform (or loose-bottomed) tin
  • Baking parchment

Spices

Christmas Cake Spices (1 portion / 2 tbsp) : Coriander, cinnamon, cassia, allspice, ginger, cloves, cardamon, bitter orange, nutmeg

Method

  1. Soak the dried fruit, glace cherries and mixed peel in 50ml brandy overnight
  2. The next day preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3
  3. Grease and line the cake tin with baking parchment
  4. Beat the butter with the sugar until paler in colour and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined
  5. Fold in the flour, almonds, a pinch of salt and CHRISTMAS CAKE SPICES very gently to keep it light and airy
  6. Stir in the soaked fruit until evenly distributed
  7. Scoop the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour. Turn the heat down to 150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 1 1⁄2 hours or until the top is firm and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean
  8. Leave to cool then remove from the tin and spoon over 75ml brandy
  9. Once absorbed turn upside down and spoon over the remaining 75ml brandy
  10. ‘Feed’ the cake by spooning over a couple of tbsps of alcohol once a week right up until Christmas (keep it covered with baking parchment and tinfoil so it doesn’t dry out)
  11. Allow the cake a few days without any additional brandy before turning right side up and decorating with marzipan and icing

Spicy Pickled Pears!

These aromatic, spicy pickled pears keep for ages and make wonderful homemade gifts. Allspice, peppercorns and juniper - best known for the primary flavouring in gin - add a wonderfully distinctive flavour and fragrance to the pears, while the kick from the chilli balances out their sweetness. These pickled treats can be eaten cold with a selection of cold cut meats, or warmed and served with rich game or goose. 

  • Total Time: Prep time 15 mins Cook time 25 mins
  • Makes 2-3 large jars

  • Heat rating: 2/5
  • Dietary: Contains yellow mustard

Ingredients

  • 8 small pears (conference are best) - peeled, halved and cored
  • 600ml vinegar (white wine or cider vinegar is best)
  • 300g caster sugar
  • ½ lemon - thinly sliced


Spices

PICKLED PEAR SPICES: (1 portion / 1 tbsp) Ginger, bay, allspice, juniper, pink pepper, black pepper, chilli, yellow mustard* PLEASE NOTE IF YOU'RE MAKING A BIGGER BATCH, YOU'LL NEED TO SCALE UP THE FRESH INGREDIENTS IN PROPORTION BUT THE SPICES ONLY BY 2/3 OR IT WILL BE TOO SPICY!

*Allergens

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 100°C/gas mark ¼ 
  2. Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse, then place in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until dry to sterilise them
  3. Boil the vinegar, sugar, lemon and PICKLED PEAR SPICES for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved
  4. Add the pears to the pan and simmer for 20 minutes or until they’re softened and slightly translucent
  5. Layer the pears in the sterilised jars then pour over the hot vinegar mix, including all the spices
  6. Leave to mature for at least a couple of weeks before eating them
  7. The pickled pears should keep for several months

Spiced Christmas Biscuits

With their warming mix of spices including nutmeg, cloves and - more unusually - long pepper, these lovely biscuits are easy to make and a joy to eat (kids will enjoy cutting and decorating them) and can be hung around the house or on the tree as a charming personal touch. Long pepper has historically been liberally used alongside (and sometimes confused with) common black pepper in kitchens from ancient Rome to 17th century Europe. Although harder to find today, its mellow, complex flavours make it a nice change to black pepper and the perfect addition to the other Christmassy spices in the biscuits.

  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Makes about 15 biscuits

  • Heat rating: 1/5
  • Dietary: none

Ingredients

  • 70g butter - softened
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80g light muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp treacle
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Icing and decorations to decorate the biscuits
  • Christmassy biscuit cutters
  • Baking parchment

Spices

CHRISTMAS BISCUIT SPICES: (1 portion/ 3 tbsp) Long pepper, mace, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, cassia PLEASE NOTE IF YOU'RE MAKING A BIGGER BATCH, YOU'LL NEED TO SCALE UP THE FRESH INGREDIENTS IN PROPORTION BUT THE SPICES ONLY BY 2/3 OR IT WILL BE TOO SPICY!

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar and treacle until smooth and lighter in colour 
  3. Add the milk, egg yolk, flour, bicarbonate of soda and the CHRISTMAS BISCUIT SPICES then mix to a smooth rollable dough
  4. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 8mm and cut into Christmassy shapes. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment then bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. 
  5. Leave the biscuits to cool before icing and decorating then hang on the tree

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