I KNOW it's rolled up to that time when no-one has any (time, that is), but making Christmas gifts can often be easier than shopping - and it can make the recipient feel pretty special.
I still make mango chutney, jams and other little culinary treats for friends who I know will enjoy them.
It works out much cheaper than buying things that may or may not be appreciated - unless one factors in the time spent thinking of the idea and executing it, of course.
In this time-poor society we now live in, making gifts means so much more than before.
Other ideas for kitchen delights to make as gifts include peanut brittle, the old favourite White Christmas, marinated feta in jars or spiced or candied nuts.
I'm making jars of candied pecans and walnuts this year to give to friends.
They're delicious little moreish treats, vaguely good for you (very vaguely - nuts are a healthy food; the additions … not so).
They are also ideal nibbles to put out when guests call or as an after-dinner treat on the table.
Another way to use candied nuts is in a salad; I recently dined at a restaurant in southern California where I tried this yummy dish.
The ingredients there included wafer-thin slices of the intriguing watermelon radish, which I have yet to find here in Australia.
It was sweeter and milder than a regular radish (as well as being a pretty addition to the salad); you could substitute the variety available here or omit it all together.
This method of cooking nuts can be used for other varieties as well; try a batch with macadamias or almonds and either give them as gifts or keep a few jars in the pantry to add to your next healthy salad.
The quantity below is enough for two or three jars or four salads.
Beetroot and feta salad with candied pecans
2 x 180g bags Australian pecans
1 egg white
1 tblspn water
4 tblspn sugar
1/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/3 tspn salt
2-3 fresh baby beetroot
150g washed mixed salad leaves
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 small radish, finely sliced (optional)
130g feta, cubed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 120°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together egg white and water in a bowl until frothy. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt in another bowl.
Add pecans to egg white and toss until coated. Repeat with spice mixture.
Spread pecans in a single layer on the baking sheets and cook at 125°C for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
Try to keep the nuts from touching each other; this allows them to dry out completely and the toffee coating to harden. Allow to cool.
Steam unpeeled beetroot until just tender (about 35-40 minutes, depending on size).
Place in cold water until cool enough to handle, then peel and dice.
Combine beetroot with salad leaves, green onions, radish (if using) and feta.
Shake vinegar and oil in a screw-topped jar until it emulsifies; drizzle over salad.
Scatter a quarter of the pecans over the salad and serve immediately.
Remaining nuts can be stored in clean, dry jars for up to two months.
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