Posts Tagged With: presents

Festive shortbread

Jill writes, ‘Free shortbread from the restrictively narrow timeframe of Christmas, and make it throughout the year. Hallelujah.’ I think by turning these into a festive treat (however short-lasting they may be!) they can be a great present for someone too…

Recipe source: adapted from Jill Dupleix’s recipe for Anytime Shortbread in ‘Simple Food’

Makes: about 30


  • Baking trays and paper
  • Scales
  • Bowls – 2 medium
  • Food processor
  • Flour sifter
  • Chopping board and knife
  • Cling film
  • Rolling pins
  • Festive biscuit cutters
  • Ribbon, chopstick, skewer, cellophane

  • 300g unsalted butter, soft
  • 150g icing sugar
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g rice flour or cornflour


What to do:

  • Heat the oven to 150C. Line the baking trays with baking paper.
  • Combine the butter, icing sugar and sea salt in a food processor and whiz until smooth.
  • Sift in the flour and rice flour, then pulse off and on, scraping down the sides from time to time, until the mixture gathers into a ball. Knead for a minute or two with your hands until smooth, then cut into two, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Tidy & wipe down your workspace.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and pat or lightly roll out the dough until 1cm thick. Cut into shapes with the biscuit cutters. Reshape the scraps and cut more shapes. Place on a baking tray and prick with a fork. If you want to, you can carefully pierce a hole in each shape with a skewer or chopstick, & later thread ribbon through to hang as a decoration.
  • Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the tray around and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until touched with colour. Leave to cool on the tray.
  • Pack gently into an airtight container, thread with a length of ribbon and tie into a cellophane bag – or simply gobble them up! 

Notes: This shortbread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Or spread with homemade strawberry jam and whipped cream for a take on the classic Strawberry Shortcake…

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Strawberry Jam for Christmas!


I’ve taken full advantage of all the lovely cheap strawberries available in the shops at the moment and bought some to bottle as jam for us and for Christmas presents… just near our house a grocer was selling 15 punnets for $10! I find it’s so worth the few hours of mess & attention to get beautiful and luscious home-made jam free from all the rubbish that one buys in the supermarket. So in the spirit of thrift & yummy food, here is my suggestion for a pressie for family and friends:

Mel’s Strawberry Jam Recipe
2kg and an extra punnet of strawberries
2kg white sugar
the juice of 2 lemons
a small amount of brandy
jars, kitchen towel, baking tray, large stock pot

I think it’s really important to wash your strawberries, especially if like me you can’t always afford organic ones… normal strawberries are coated in all sorts of pesticides & preservative sprays as they’re so soft and damageable, so it’s best to give them a quick soak in water with a few drops of vinegar added. The strawberries need to be as dry as possible so best to do this with enough time to lay them out to air dry before you need them for the recipe.

I save all my old jars (and now even my Granny saves them for me too!) – metal lidded ones, no plastic lids alas – and wash & drain them throughly. I warm the oven to 150 degrees C and while my jam is resting, I pop the jars onto a baking tray right side up and heat them in  the oven to sterilise. The lids I dry by hand & don’t include in the oven with the jars .

Chop off the stalks of the strawberries and  cut into quarters (I don’t like too many big bits in my jam, leave bigger if you do) and then measure up to give 2kg hulled weight, drop into a clean stock pot and gently heat so that all the berries are hot and starting to liquidise before adding all the sugar.

Gently heat the sugar & strawberry mixture for at least 20 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally – you can check if the granules are visible on the back of a wooden spoon. Once you are happy all is dissolved, add the lemon juice & crank the heat up to boil for around 15 minutes. You will need to stand close by to regulate the temperature as the jam can happy boil over if not watched! Also stir the bottom of the pot regularly so that the sugar doesn’t burn.

All the recipe books tell you to put some saucers into the freezer & then check the ‘set’ of the jam by dragging your finger over the tiop and seeing if it has formed a skin… I’ve never been able to do that and instead go by the general feeling of the jam when stirring it. You may well need to do another 10 minutes to get the best consistency… and then once happy, leave the pot to rest for another 10 minutes while you sort out your jars.

I recently bought a jam funnel which has revolutionised my jam-making escapades… at least for the large jars anyway as the funnel is huge, and doesn’t fit the small mustard-type ones, resulting in sloppy and sticky drips… hmmm, I must find an alternative!

Anyway I carefully bring the jars up out of the oven & use my ladle to drop the jam into them one by one, right to the top & take care to waste as little as possible… once they’re all done I cut up some little squares of kitchen towel, soak a piece at a time in a saucer of brandy & lay them over the top of the jars, & then close as tightly as possible, wiping them down with a damp cloth. Once the jars are cool, I check the lids are tight again and give them a proper wipe down.

When the jars are completely cold I make up labels for them and – hey presto! all done. And whatever I don’t use as pressies, we eat on buttery toast or cream-laden scones. Yum yum.

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