How to make your own Christmas hamper

Dan Lepard's DIY Christmas hamper

Good Food's Dan Lepard has created a DIY Christmas hamper with something to suit every taste.

Easy tempting gifts to make at home for a bumper Christmas hamper. Australia's best cooking has always championed our diverse migrant heritage, and arguably our culinary traditions are the bedrock of modern Australia.

Today we also have different tastes and needs – many people are looking for treats that are vegan and gluten-free, so this year we've added those tweaks to traditional recipes so everyone can enjoy them.

From honey-rich Turkish delight rounds, and vegan and gluten-free fruit cake wedges through to jars of tart crunchy piccalilli, crisp turmeric crackers and mega-hot cranberry chilli sauce, we have all the kitchen sparkle you need to say Merry Christmas to your friends and family this year.

This Turkish delight is quick to make, bold and delicious
This Turkish delight is quick to make, bold and delicious Photo: William Meppem

Very berry Christmas Turkish delight

Forget the icing sugar. The modern and colourful finish for your Turkish delight is a crimson crust of ground barberry seeds, or the vermillion of dried sweetened cranberries. This Turkish delight is quick to make, bold and delicious, and especially good served with crudites or cheese in place of chutney or quince membrillo. Tapioca starch is used in some old recipes to help give the requisite stringiness, but if you can't find it, replace both that and the cornflour with a white gluten-free flour mix, which will usually contain tapioca. Unrefined sugar turns the mix very dark. If you want light delight, use white sugar and acacia honey.

Ingredients

100g roasted almonds or chopped dried fruit (optional)

extra nuts and dried fruits to finish

oil for the tins (coconut oil is excellent)

For the cornflour mixture

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220g cold water

30g cornflour

30g tapioca starch, or more cornflour

50g brown sugar

50g boldly flavoured honey, like red gum

For the honey-flavoured syrup

130g brown sugar

30g honey, as before

juice of 1/2 lemon, about 15g

½ tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp rosewater

Method

Step 1

Have the nuts and fruits ready, and oil three 10cm-diameter mini flan or quiche tins.

Step 2

Put the ingredients for the cornflour mixture in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time, until very thick, translucent and smooth. Be warned, beating it takes some muscle. Leave on a warm part of the stove.

Step 3

Put the syrup ingredients in another pan, bring to the boil and check the temperature with a thermometer: it should be about 120C. Pour half the syrup into the cornflour mixture and beat in well. You may get a few lumps, but the nuts and fruit added later will mask them. Then re-boil the remaining syrup until it reaches about 125C and pour this into the cornflour mixture, beating again until smooth. Keep hot while you stir in the nuts or chopped dried fruit. Spoon the warm mixture into the oiled tins, press dried fruit or nuts into the top, then cover and leave to set.

Step 4

To wrap, transfer each round carefully to a 10cm diameter cardboard or foil cake base and wrap in cellophane.

Makes 3 x 10cm rounds

Recipe for Good Food : Dan Lepard DIY Christmas Hamper Photograph by William Meppem

Keep everyone happy with a wedge of cake. Photo: William Meppem

Amazing avocado Christmas cake wedges

You feel guilty if you don't have any Christmas cake, but a whole cake can be too much. So, give your friends a wedge of this amazing avocado Christmas cake, together with a bottle of Australian bubbly, and everyone's happy. The avocado helps smooth the texture and flavour of this gluten-free vegan cake, but is hidden behind the rich spices and fruit, so all you're left with is a winning wedge of Chrissie tradition.

Ingredients

1 avocado, 180g flesh

150g brown sugar

50g black treacle (molasses)

100g orange juice

10g (4 tsp) ground chia seeds

3 tsp ground mixed spice

400g mixed dried fruit, your choice

150g shelled, halved pecans (optional)

100g gluten-free white flour mix

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

jam to brush on the cake

150g egg-free marzipan for the top, rolled 7mm thick

Extra white piping icing

80g icing sugar

15g coconut milk

Method

Step 1

Mash the avocado flesh until smooth in a saucepan with the brown sugar, molasses and orange juice, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and beat in the ground chia and spice, followed by the dried fruit, nuts, flour and baking soda.

Step 2

Stir until evenly combined, spoon into a deep 18cm-diameter round cake tin lined with non-stick paper on the base and side, then bake at 140C (120C fan-forced) for 2 hours. A skewer poked in should come out very dry. (Cook it further than you would a regular fruit cake).

Leave to cool in the tin, then brush the top of the cake with a little warmed jam, and cover just the top with a disc of marzipan. Cover, and leave for a few days to set.

Step 4

For gifts, cut cake into wedges. To make the piping icing, mix the icing sugar and coconut milk until smooth and spoon into a piping bag. Pipe a simple lace pattern on top of each wedge. When set, place each wedge on a card or foil base and wrap with cellophane.

Makes One 18cm diameter cake or six generous wedges

Banana ginger lebkuchen Recipe for Good Food : Dan Lepard DIY Christmas Hamper Photograph by William Meppem

It's pronounced leyb-koo-ken. Photo: William Meppem

Banana ginger lebkuchen

Mum has been buying bags of gorgeous ginger-spiced lebkuchen – pronounced leyb-koo-ken, I'm told – from a German delicatessen in Melbourne's Bayswater since the 1970s. Now, the inclusion of banana will freak out the purists, even though you can't taste it, but there's method here. Traditionally, ammonia carbonate – once made from the horns of deer, and called hartshorn – was used to create lebkuchen's particular soft, cakey texture, but I've found that banana together with baking soda produces a very similar result. I've used spelt flour here, known as dinkelmehl in German, with a slightly shorter bake, so the bran in the flour doesn't dry them out.

Ingredients

100g banana flesh

120g dark brown sugar

120g golden syrup (if it needn't be vegan use a good honey)

50g sunflower oil

2 tsp each ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice

1/2 tsp each ground coriander, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper

120g chopped roasted almonds, hazelnuts, or a mixture (optional)

120g chopped crystallised ginger

250g spelt, wholemeal or plain white flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the rum glaze

80g pure icing sugar

25g spiced rum, like Bundaberg Mutiny

melted 70 per cent chocolate to decorate

extra white piping icing to finish (see Amazing avocado Christmas cake recipe)

Method

Step 1

Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced) and line two trays with non-stick baking paper. Mash the banana and brown sugar in a bowl until smooth, then stir in the golden syrup, oil and spices. Stir in the chopped nuts and ginger, followed by the flour and baking soda.

Step 1

Roll into balls (about 30g each); wetting your hands makes this less of a sticky job. Place, spaced out, on the baking trays. Bake for 15 minutes until puffed and just set, then remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.

Step 3

When cold, mix the icing sugar and rum together. Dip the top of each biscuit in the glaze then leave to dry, icing-side up, on a wire rack. Pipe decorations on top with the extra white piping icing then, when set, dip the bases in melted dark chocolate and leave on a tray until set.

Makes About 30

Sun-blushed Christmas crackers Recipe for Good Food : Dan Lepard DIY Christmas Hamper Photograph by William Meppem

Seeded and gently salty crackers. Photo: William Meppem

Sun-blushed Christmas crackers

Authentic turmeric powder turns a golden red when baked, a beautiful colour for these simple wheat crackers. Seeded and gently salty, they're a perfect gift to give with a jar of tapenade, muhammara, or ajvar, and a bottle of red wine. If they lose their crispness in the bag, they can be reheated gently until crisp again, though the best way to avoid this is by wrapping them as soon as they're cold and sealing the bag with as little air as possible.

Ingredients

200g white bread flour, plus extra for rolling

40g fine cornmeal

2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

40g sunflower or olive oil

100g cold water

seeds for the top, like wattle-seed, white or black sesame, or poppy

Method

Step 1

Put the flour, cornmeal, turmeric, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and rub mixture with your fingers until evenly mixed. Add the water and knead to a dough, then wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Step 2

The easiest way to roll the dough out is with a pasta machine, using a third of the dough each time and gradually reducing the thickness down to its lowest setting, as you would do with pasta. If you're rolling them by hand, use a little flour and roll the dough (a third at a time) as far as it will stretch, then cover and leave for 5 minutes before rolling it out further. Ideally you want the dough no more than 2mm thick.

Step 3

Cut the dough into strips or circles, brush with hot water, sprinkle with seeds and bake at 200C (180C fan-forced) for 5-10 minutes until crisp and golden. If you roll them thicker, bake at 150C fan for about 20 minutes or until crisp. Pack in cellophane bags as soon as they're cold, tying each bag with a ribbon.

Makes 30 rolled by hand, about 60 if rolled ultra-thin with a pasta machine

Dan?Lepard?DIY?Christmas?Hamper Recipe for Good Food :?Dan?Lepard?DIY?Christmas?Hamper Photograph by William Meppem

A cheeky gift for the hot one in your life. Photo: William Meppem

Santa's XXX-hot sauce

Sleigh that barbecue with Santa's fiery chilli cranberry sauce, a cheeky gift for the hot one in your life. But taste your chillies first and choose ones that are only mildly hot, because the roasting, pureeing and addition of salt intensifies the fieriness: you want to set Santa's heart racing, rather than give him a heart attack. Perfect for Boxing Day barbies and zhushing-up leftovers.

Ingredients

350g red chillies

100g dried cranberries, sweetened is fine

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp salt

100g boiling water

20g cider vinegar

Method

Step 1

Wash the chillies, slit lengthways to release steam during cooking, then roast them on a tray in the oven at 160C for 30 minutes. Meanwhile put the cranberries, spices and salt in the bowl of a blender, pour on the boiling water and vinegar, then set aside until the chillies are soft and blackened. Remove the stalks then place the baked chillies (including skin and seeds) in the blender, and puree until very smooth.

Step 2

To bottle sauce, take five clean 100ml jars with clean, tight-fitting lids: they can be recycled ones. Place the jars on a tray in a 100C oven for 15 minutes, and have the lids ready on the worktop. Pour the chilli sauce into a saucepan and heat, stirring all the time, until piping hot (over 80C on a thermometer). Remove the jars from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then spoon the hot sauce into the warm jars right to the top. Immediately screw the lids on and leave until cold. Label with your best Christmas wishes!

Makes 500ml

Easy piccalilli Recipe for Good Food : Dan Lepard DIY Christmas Hamper Photograph by William Meppem

A great little pickle to give as a gift. Photo: William Meppem

Easy piccalilli

A great little pickle to give as a gift, perfect for Boxing Day sandwiches and salads. I don't salt the vegetables overnight, a step that would give more crispness, but you might do this. And I do the lazy-man thing of using ready-pickled cornichons and silverskin onions (the tiny sort you would serve in a Gibson cocktail), as they're hard to buy fresh and fiddly to prepare. If you're making this for an elderly friend, you may want to sieve the seeds and peppercorns out after making the brine; replacing them with ground spices dulls the beautiful yellow colour.

Ingredients

For the vinegar brine

400g clear vinegar, such as cider or white wine

3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

2 cm chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine slivers

1 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp ground turmeric, or a thick 5cm fresh piece, peeled and grated

1/2 tsp each ground cardamom and cayenne

1 tsp salt, plus extra to taste when you thicken it

For the vegetables

180g cauliflower, cut into tiny florets

1/2 red capsicum, chopped into 1cm squares

100g green beans, chopped into 2cm pieces

100g drained silverskin cocktail onions

75g drained cornichons, cut into 1cm pieces

To thicken

25g chickpea flour, or cornflour

15g split mustard seeds (rai kuriya), or mustard powder for a smoother finish

40g sugar, or to taste

Method

Step 1

Put the brine ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes to bring out the flavours. If you don't want seeds in the finished relish, strain them out now.

Step 2

Add the cauliflower, capsicum and beans to the brine and simmer for 5 minutes: you want them still very crunchy at the end. Drain the vegetables into a colander over a bowl, returning the brine to the pan and letting it cool slightly. Add the onions and cornichons to the vegie mix in the colander and leave both until the sauce is ready.

Step 3

Whisk the chickpea flour and mustard seeds with a ladleful of the warm brine until smooth, then stir it back into the remaining brine with the sugar and bring to the boil. Check the flavour for sweet-sour balance and seasoning and adjust to taste. Add the drained vegetables, onions and cornichons, bring to the boil then bottle and seal while hot.

Makes about 750ml