Gone are the days when store-bought short­bread wrapped in red cel­lo­phane was the height of ed­i­ble presents. LINDY ALEXAN­DER ex­plores the DIY op­tions to set you apart this fes­tive sea­son

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

For a truly per­sonal present, give ed­i­ble gifts this Christ­mas.

There’s noth­ing like the feel­ing of an­tic­i­pa­tion when open­ing a beau­ti­fully wrapped box at Christ­mas. Th­ese days, that pack­age is just as likely to con­tain home­made chut­ney as it does a Tif­fany pen­dant. The come­back of home crafts – think bak­ing, pick­ling and pre­serv­ing – pro­vides a way to give a present that is a per­sonal al­ter­na­tive to the hec­tic con­sumerist buzz of the fes­tive sea­son.

“Ed­i­ble gifts are some­thing I do ev­ery Christ­mas be­cause peo­ple have got ev­ery­thing th­ese days,” says de­li­cious. con­trib­u­tor and cook­book au­thor Sil­via Col­loca. “It be­comes harder and harder to buy a thought­ful gift that isn’t just go­ing to add to a col­lec­tion of sim­i­lar items. Ed­i­ble gifts make Christ­mas so per­sonal.”

Col­loca starts cook­ing in Novem­ber for gifts that will last at least un­til De­cem­ber 25. “I like to trans­form jams from ev­ery­day to spe­cial,” she says. “Think straw­berry jam with a twist of gin­ger and white pep­per, mango jam spiked with lime and mint, or orange mar­malade with Christ­mas spices.”

Draw­ing on her Ital­ian her­itage, Col­loca bakes bis­cotti or pan­forte with pis­ta­chio, cran­ber­ries and orange zest.

“It’s an Ital­ian tra­di­tion to give peo­ple home­made ed­i­ble gifts at Christ­mas,” she says. “One of the best is amaretti be­cause they are easy, de­li­cious and you can make them up to two weeks in ad­vance. You can set aside time to have a mas­sive bak­ing day, lis­ten to carols and in­dulge in the Christ­mas spirit,” she says.

Col­loca’s favourite food to re­ceive is a Christ­mas cake. “We have some­thing sim­i­lar in Italy, but the Australian ver­sion is in­cred­i­ble,” she says. “I love it be­cause it’s com­pletely in­fused with the scent of Christ­mas and it’s a gift that peo­ple make months in ad­vance. You can smell it even be­fore you open it. And that’s a beau­ti­ful, sen­sual ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Not ev­ery­one loves to cook, but ev­ery­one loves to eat, and a bought gift can be just as spe­cial as home­made.

Panet­tone is al­ways pop­u­lar at Si­mon John­son, but head of pro­cure­ment Sara De Vec­chi says this Christ­mas, one par­tic­u­lar item is fly­ing off the shelves. “We are work­ing with a pro­ducer from France who cre­ates sali­dou – a salt caramel cream made with lo­cal but­ter, cream and Sel Guerande salt,” she says. “We have been sell­ing their caramels for years, but this year we have a new item in the line-up, which is dark and milk choco­late discs filled with the sali­dou. They are sell­ing like hot cakes.”

Those in chef and de­li­cious. con­trib­u­tor Matt Mo­ran’s in­ner cir­cle may be lucky enough to re­ceive one of his phe­nom­e­nal Christ­mas pud­dings, which he makes him­self ev­ery year, start­ing them months in ad­vance. This year there’s talk of sell­ing them at his Syd­ney restau­rant Chiswick.

Cook­book au­thor and TV host Hay­den Quinn reg­u­larly makes tomato sauces or pick­les to give to friends and fam­ily, but at Christ­mas time, he says there is just one trick to giv­ing a great ed­i­ble present. “You want some­thing you can eat as soon as you open it,” he says, laugh­ing. “Like a great big stack of choco­late fudge brown­ies.”

The beauty of cre­at­ing some mag­i­cal, tasty gifts is that you don’t need to be a pro­fes­sional chef to do it. Things such as spiced nuts, rocky road, nougat, flavoured salts or white choco­late shards with freeze-dried berries are all easy to make and cre­ate an im­pres­sion.

Gin­ger­bread is an­other peren­nial Christ­mas gift favourite and there are end­less op­tions for dec­o­rat­ing it, in­clud­ing riff­ing on tra­di­tional gin­ger­bread men by mak­ing nin­jabread men, adding some sparkle with ed­i­ble glit­ter, or bak­ing gin­ger rein­deers.

“There are amaz­ing gin­ger­bread men cut­ters around now do­ing all kinds of ac­tions,” says de­li­cious. style editor Kirsten Jenk­ins. She says it’s the flavour pro­file of gin­ger­bread that is so rem­i­nis­cent of the fes­tive sea­son.

“Gin­ger­bread is warm and spicy and you can use it as inspiratio­n to make other Christ­mas gifts – choco­late and gin­ger cook­ies for ex­am­ple.”

Last year Jenk­ins made over 30 jars of green tomato chut­ney, thanks to an abun­dant back­yard crop. She added a merry twist with fes­tive spices.

“I played on the pop­u­lar flavours of Christ­mas – think cin­na­mon and nut­meg, but I also added in Mid­dle East­ern spices such as cumin and co­rian­der to tone down the sweet­ness,” she says.

Jenk­ins made sure to give her beau­ti­ful jars of chut­ney to fam­ily and friends be­fore Christ­mas. “We wanted peo­ple to have it at the din­ner ta­ble for their Christ­mas meal,” she says.

While it’s what’s in­side that counts, beau­ti­ful wrap­ping can cre­ate wow fac­tor. Jenk­ins picks a colour scheme each year and sticks to that. “Then ev­ery­one knows which present is from you,” she says. “Last year I did a Scandi Christ­mas and wrapped ev­ery­thing in black and white.”

Jenk­ins nom­i­nates nat­u­ral or or­ganic colours with “stand­out rib­bons” as be­ing great for ed­i­ble gifts. “Shops such as Kmart and even Of­fice­works have awe­some glass bot­tles, jars and boxes that you can use for ed­i­ble gifts like cook­ies,” she says. “It’s im­por­tant to put thought into how you wrap your gift. That’s as much a part of the gift as the present it­self.”

FES­TIVE FLAVOUR ‘Tis the sea­son for Sil­via Col­loca’s mini panet­tone (also on the cover) with Marsala cher­ries, al­mond jam drops, Ital­ian hot choco­late and pome­gran­ate and orange cock­tail mixer. Recipes at de­li­

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