Jenny Garing responds to readers’ kitchen queries. This week: Christmas presents to eat and drink.
2 sheets of confectioners’ rice paper 85g plain flour 30g Dutch cocoa 11⁄ teaspoons cinnamon
4 1⁄ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg,
4 ground coriander and freshly ground white pepper 150g dried figs, finely chopped 100g glace orange peel, finely chopped 225g blanched almonds, roasted 75g pistachios, roasted 100g roasted, peeled hazelnuts 150g caster sugar 150g honey 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped icing sugar or cocoa to decorate Preheat the oven to 170C. Oil a 19cm x 19cm slice tray and line it with the rice paper. Sift 60g of flour, the cocoa and spices into a bowl. Add the fruit and nuts and toss to coat them in the flour mix.
Combine the sugar, honey and 1 tablespoon of hot water in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the chocolate and stir until smooth.
Pour this over the flour mixture and stir until combined. The mixture should be very stiff.
Spoon it into the prepared tray and, using damp hands, press it out until level. Sift the remaining flour over the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Leave it in the tray for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Wrap in foil for three days before eating. Sift icing sugar or cocoa on top and wrap in pretty twine to make a present.
This is not the Vietnamese rice paper you use to make spring rolls, but a special sweet paper used in baking. You can buy it from specialty shops.
For quaffable presents, try making one of the following, but remember the cola de mono needs to be refrigerated. The others can be stored in the pantry.
You could also try infusing a bottle of vodka with interesting herbs or spices, such as kaffir lime leaves, fresh chillies, green cardamom pods or coffee beans. These need about a week to infuse.
Makes 1.3 litres (2-3 bottles) Preparation: 5 minutes Cooking: 5 minutes This is a wonderful summer aperitif from Provence and it’s easy to make. 2 x 750ml bottles dry white wine 1⁄ cup sugar
2 160ml brandy 2 whole cloves 2 oranges Put all the ingredients except the oranges in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
Remove the zest from the oranges in a continuous spiral using a vegetable peeler and cut off any white pith with a paring knife. Divide the zest between 2 pretty bottles. Fill the bottles with the orange wine and cool, uncapped, for 1 hour.
Cap the bottles then chill for at least 4 hours. Or even better, leave it for a week for the orange zest to infuse. Serve cold, over ice, topped with soda or, even better, bubbly.
COLA DE MONO
Makes 16 drinks or 2-3 bottles Preparation: 5 minutes, plus cooling Cooking: 10 minutes This Chilean drink translates as ‘‘tail of the monkey’’. At Christmas every family makes their own cola de mono, varying the quantities of tequila, coffee and spices to suit their taste. 6 cups milk 1 cup sugar 2 cinnamon sticks 1⁄ cup instant coffee powder
4 2 cups tequila 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Bring the milk, sugar and cinnamon sticks to a gentle boil. Dissolve the coffee in the hot milk.
Let it cool in the fridge. When it is well chilled, add the tequila and vanilla. Pour into capped bottles and keep in the fridge. Serve cold. ................................................................... Send your questions to email@example.com. Jenny Garing: linguist, traveller, food-obsessed creator of the Ground Gourmet Essentials range and the Ground Culinary Centre.
Festive cheers: From left, vin d’orange, kaffir-limeleaf-infused vodka and cola de mono.