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.
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.
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
220g cold water
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
Have the nuts and fruits ready, and oil three 10cm-diameter mini flan or quiche tins.
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.
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.
To wrap, transfer each round carefully to a 10cm diameter cardboard or foil cake base and wrap in cellophane.
Makes 3 x 10cm rounds
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
A great little pickle to give as a gift. Photo: William Meppem
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.
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
25g chickpea flour, or cornflour
15g split mustard seeds (rai kuriya), or mustard powder for a smoother finish
40g sugar, or to taste
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.
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.
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