Cooking Christmas Gifts

October 18

I start in Summer, collecting wild damsons for jam and my special Christmas liqueur, apples for spiced chutneys and blackberries for bramble jelly. But it’s not too late to get creative, there are many super quick ideas for you to enjoy, and jars and bottles are easily sought from Freecycle and friends – you just need some ribbons, string, card or labels and get crafty.

 FUDGE is one of the earliest things I made without supervision as a child along with creamy toffee. You can add your choice of extras such as cherries, choc chips, peanut butter, nuts and fruit to make it different, but the basic recipe is 1 can condensed milk, 150ml milk, 100g butter, 450g demerara sugar in a non-stick pan, stir and  simmer until sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 116C. Take off heat and add 1 tsp vanilla and ½ tsp sea salt flakes. Beat mixture with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes until fudge thickens. Pour into a greaseproof paper lined baking tray and leave to set. Cut when cool into chunks and wrap in a cellophane bag.

 CHRISTMAS BARK - another fun sweet treat to make. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Choose some festive sweets – red and green M&M’s, sprinkles, mini snowmen, crushed honeycomb, candy canes, let your imagination go wild!…Melt 600g white, milk or plain chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over a pan of simmering water  – make sure the water is not too high to touch the base of the bowl. When melted, carefully tip chocolate onto the paper and smooth over with a spatula, scatter sweets over and leave to set. When cool snap into shards and bag up. It looks fabulous in a clear gift bag.

 Not everything has to be sweet, so how about jars of GOURMET SALT.. Citrus salt is pretty and made by grating zests of lemon, lime and orange peel, place on baking paper and dry overnight. Then gently mash together with course natural sea-salt (I like to use the Pink Himalayan) using mortar and pestle or a rolling pin. Other mixes are fresh dried herbs, wild mushrooms, mixed peppercorns, or dried chilies with crushed pepper flakes. Pop your salts into decorated jars and label.

 PARMESAN SHORTBREADS are irresistible melt-in-the-mouth morsels and a favorite of mine. Preheat oven to 160C. Mix together 150g plain flour, 100g grated parmesan, 85g soft butter, some crumbled dried rosemary leaves, pinch of sea salt flakes & 1 egg yolk in an electric mixer or bowl. Mix until you achieve a dough. Do not overwork it! Roll into a log, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour minimum. Then slice into little circles 1cm thick, or on a floured surface roll out until 1/2” thick and cut into dinky stars or hearts. Place on a lined baking tray, bake for about 15 minutes until turning golden. Cool and package.

 I hope you enjoy making your Winter Wonder gifts and those you love enjoy receiving. 

 Festive fun to you all from Maxine Quinn of Quinntessential Catering.

Personalised Gift Vouchers are also available for bespoke private cookery lessons for all ages and styles of cooking for the passionate foodie or chef to be in your life. 

See website for details at


7 The Maltings, Station Rd, Newport, Saffron Walden CB11 3RN   Tel: 07803820606



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