Saturday, 21 December 2013

Last Minute Christmas Treats

Well, as promised, I have made my Christmas mince tarts to share with you all :)  I also have a quick and easy dessert you can whip up when you are having people over.  I might also give you a few tips for making Christmas day go off without a hitch.

First up, Fruit mince tarts.

I know it's cheating, but I buy my sweet short crust pastry - not because I can't make it myself, but because it is easier and to be honest, it goes further than homemade stuff.  It's so cheap to buy, so why not make life a bit easier with that part :)

1 pack sweet short pastry
30g butter
4 prunes cut into pieces
1/3C raisins
1/3C sultanas
1/3C currants
1Tbsp mixed peel
3Tbsp lemon schnapps (or for non alcoholic, orange juice)
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
2Tbsp caster sugar
icing sugar to dust

Firstly, melt butter over low heat in saucepan.  Add fruit, liquid, sugar, spices and stir.  Continue to heat for a few minutes until it is sticky and sugar has dissolved.
Take off heat and let it cool.  Preheat oven to 200C
Roll pastry out on floured board.  You want it to be about 5mm thick.  Cut out circles big enough for the cases you are using - I like to do a combination of minis and cupcake size. 
Put a dollop of fruit mince into each case, and then with remaining pastry, cut out some shapes to use for lids (or you can just do a plain lid, or stripes etc)  I normally make stars for mine. 
Bake for around 10 minutes or until golden.
Leave in tin for a few minutes before putting on cooling rack.  Once cool, dust with icing sugar :)
These make great gifts!

Meringues with raspberries and chocolate

So simple to make, and so delicious!

6 egg whites
1 1/2C caster sugar
1tsp vanilla paste

Beat egg whites until thick.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Beat again until thick and peaks hold.
Dollop onto tray in single serve size blobs.  Place in a preheated oven at 140C and bake for 35-40 minutes.  You want the outer crust to be a little golden, and crisp, and the centre to be marshmallow like.  Leave to cool.

When you want to serve, place meringue on plate and push the centre in a little to make a cup.  Put raspberries (or any other berry) in the cup and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.  You can also serve with some whipped cream.

To make the chocolate, you just place it in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let water touch bowl) and stir until melted.

As you can see, I also served with brandy snaps.  Unfortunately, I have to admit, these are store bought brandy snaps.  Have you ever tried to make them??!  Not easy!  It's one of those things I would love to master, but have yet to do so!

Now, tips for the big day.

*Plan ahead!  Make sure you allow enough time for things to defrost properly, and to cook through!
I like to make a timeline - when to take the turkey out of the freezer and what time it needs to be in the oven by.  I have made a pretty thorough list of instructions for myself to ensure it all goes smoothly.

*If you are going to cook a turkey, make sure you allow time for it to rest before serving.  A turkey will stay warm for quite a long time if you cover it with foil and tea towels.  This can give you time to get your gravy on!

*Don't stress!  Christmas is about spending time with your loved ones, not being the perfect hostess. Take time to breath and delegate if need be.  It's your day too!

*Parboiling veges before roasting them, can lessen the cooking time as well as increasing the flavour and texture.  You get the crispy outer and the soft fluffy inner.  Well worth it.

*Don't forget the leftovers!  You can use leftover meat to make pies etc, and the bones can be used to make a stock for later.  (Leftover veges are also good in pies.)

*Make sure you allow enough time for your Christmas pudding to reheat too.  It needs to steam for another 3hours on the day.

Well, hopefully that will help you get prepared for the big day :) I will be busy cooking for the next week so it will be after Christmas before you hear from me again!  So Merry Christmas to you all!  Have a great week, and Happy Cooking!