Food and cheer

It’s just three days to Christ­mas, but there’s still time to make some quick and sim­ple edi­ble gifts and dishes.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By NOELLE CARTER

GIFTS are a lot like greet­ing cards. Store­bought is nice, but noth­ing com­pares with home­made and the sen­ti­ment it con­veys. Not only can you tai­lor a hand­made gift to each re­cip­i­ent, but you can also choose ideas that will fit your bud­get, whether large or small. And when it comes to food, there is noth­ing like the taste of some­thing lov­ingly made from scratch.

Here are some great gourmet home­made ideas per­fect for giv­ing. From in­tri­cate projects to sim­ple nib­bles you can fix in an af­ter­noon, there is some­thing for ev­ery level of crafti­ness. A num­ber of the ideas even make great projects for kids.

Whether you’re think­ing of fam­ily or friends, neigh­bours or co-work­ers, ev­ery hand­made gift can be per­son­alised and pack­aged in many ways. And the sen­ti­ment will last long af­ter the present it­self has been de­voured.

Can­died nuts: Sim­mer one or a va­ri­ety of shelled raw nuts in sim­ple syrup (equal parts su­gar and wa­ter) un­til the syrup has in­fused the nuts, 20 min­utes or so. Drain the nuts and spread them out on a bak­ing sheet, then bake at 120°C un­til toasted and dried. For spicy nuts, toss the drained nuts in su­gar mixed with a lit­tle chilli pow­der or flakes be­fore toast­ing.

Roasted al­monds: Beat an egg white un­til stiff, then stir in a half cup of su­gar along with a pinch of cin­na­mon or chilli pow­der. Toss with 500g of al­monds and spread out on a foil-lined bak­ing sheet and bake at 120°C un­til the coat­ing is crisp and browned, an hour or so, stir­ring ev­ery once in a while.

Flavoured pop­corn: Look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle more calo­rie-con­scious? Toss freshly popped corn with smoky chilli salt or an herbal rose­mary-gar­lic sea­son­ing for a quick, health­ful gift.

Caramel corn: 14 cups popped pop­corn is tossed with rich caramel — 2 cups brown su­gar, 1 cup but­ter, ½ cup corn syrup and a lit­tle salt boiled to 120°C and then tossed with a tea­spoon of bak­ing soda — and spread out on a sheet pan to bake un­til set. Cool the pop­corn and break into clus­ters be­fore pack­ing. For a lit­tle some­thing ex­tra, add nuts to the pop­corn be­fore tossing with caramel.

Choco­late-cov­ered pret­zels: Coat pret­zels or dip pret­zel sticks in melted choco­late, then driz­zle over coloured sprinkles or other candy dec­o­ra­tions.

Coloured sug­ars: A per­fect gift for the avid baker. Place gran­u­lated or coarse sand­ing su­gar in a bag along with a few drops of food colour­ing. Seal and shake the bag to dis­trib­ute the colour, adding ad­di­tional colour­ing for richer shades. Mix and match to cre­ate a set of vivid colours or sub­tle pas­tels.

In­fused sug­ars: Place su­gar in a Ma­son jar with one or two vanilla beans or a sprig or two of fresh laven­der and seal it tight. The su­gar will pick up the flavour as it sits, and gets only bet­ter with age.

Flavoured syrups: A per­fect gift for the home baker or mixol­o­gist. A ba­sic so­lu­tion of su­gar and wa­ter (typ­i­cally equal parts) heated un­til the su­gar is dis­solved. Flavour the syrup with cit­rus peel, or steep with fresh herbs or spices as it cools. You can even re­place the wa­ter with fruit juice, tea or cof­fee be­fore mak­ing the syrup.

Beer brit­tle: Com­bine ½ cup beer, and 1 cup each su­gar and corn syrup and boil un­til a candy ther­mome­ter reaches 160°C, be­ing care­ful it does not boil over. Care­fully add a lit­tle salt and vanilla, along with a cup of toasted nuts. Spread out on a foiled and greased rimmed bak­ing sheet, then break the brit­tle into pieces when cooled and hard­ened.

Gra­nola: Toss 4 cups oats with 3 cups mixed nuts with ½ cup each oil, brown su­gar and maple syrup along with a touch of salt and vanilla (or tweak the spices to suit your taste), spread out on a bak­ing sheet and bake at 160°C un­til golden brown. Cool, then stir in 4 cups dried fruit.

Sea­soned bread­sticks: Roll pre­pared pizza dough through a fet­tuc­cine cut­ter on a pasta ma­chine or cut it by hand as thinly as pos­si­ble. Brush lightly with beaten egg white and sea­son with salt, pep­per and a sprin­kling of chilli pow­der or chopped fresh herbs. Ar­range on a bak­ing sheet and bake at 175°C un­til golden brown.

Herbed puff pas­try sticks: Thaw frozen puff pas­try, but­ter one side and top with chopped fresh herbs. Use a pizza cut­ter to slice into thin strips, twist them and bake at 190°C un­til puffed and golden.

Quick-pick­led car­rots: Sim­mer equal parts vine­gar and wa­ter with crushed gar­lic, toasted fen­nel seeds, sliced le­mon and a lit­tle salt. Pour the liq­uid over peeled, sliced and

blanched car­rots. Set aside to cool com­pletely, then cover and re­frig­er­ate overnight be­fore serv­ing.

Can­died fruit and cit­rus peel: Blanch cit­rus peel strips in wa­ter two or three times to re­move bit­ter­ness, then sim­mer the peel and fruit (sep­a­rately, if work­ing with mul­ti­ple types of fruit) in sim­ple syrup un­til ten­der and translu­cent. Re­move from syrup and cool on a rack. Brightly coloured, it makes a won­der­ful gift for the se­ri­ous baker (you can also toss the can­died fruit in sand­ing su­gar for a treat).

In­fused liquor: Start with gin, vodka or tequila. Zest a few or­anges us­ing a veg­etable peeler (rind only, no pith) and add to the liquor along with a cup of su­gar and a lit­tle spice (choose ei­ther a cou­ple of cin­na­mon sticks, a few whole cloves, a bird-eye chilli or two, or a few car­damom pods). Shake ev­ery day for a cou­ple of weeks, then leave in a cool place. The flavour only im­proves with age.

Whiskey caramel sauce: Cook 2 cups su­gar, ½ cup wa­ter and a tea­spoon of corn syrup un­til the su­gar dark­ens to a rich caramel color, then care­fully stir in a cou­ple of cups of cream sim­mered with a stick of but­ter and a touch of salt. Add a half cup of whisky that has been flam­beed (the al­co­hol has been cooked off) and re­frig­er­ate be­fore giv­ing.

Sea­son­ing blend/dry rub: For the bar­be­cue en­thu­si­ast, give a home­made rib rub. Com­bine 1 ta­ble­spoon each sea salt, cel­ery salt, black pep­per, onion pow­der, dried oregano, chilli pow­der and cumin with 2 ta­ble­spoons each gar­lic pow­der and sweet pa­prika. Whisk in ¼ cup brown su­gar.

The rub will keep for months tightly wrapped in a cool, dark place. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Easy peasy: Aunty G’s Eg­g­less Fruit Cake made by Ann Marie Chandy is not only easy to make, it tastes good, too. — RAY­MOND OOI/The Star

Thought­ful gift: Home­made break­fast gra­nola says you have their best in­ter­est in mind. (Inset) a uniquely-flavoured pop­corn bucket works as a good times re­minder too.

Per­son­alised pret­zels make a sim­ple, unique hol­i­day gift that will be ap­pre­ci­ated. — Pic­tures by mcT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.