Christmas Cheer

15 November 2020
Christmas Cheer

Regular garden to table contributor Kerrie Maloney enters into the Christmas spirit with these delectable gift ideas.

I so love Christmas and despite the challenges of the year am hoping that all the Christmas ‘get togethers’ will happen, that everyone will be able to celebrate and have a festive and fun time. Everyone has their own rituals and ideas for celebrating the festive season and gift giving, however, one of the things that I like to do at Christmas is to have a selection of small gifts on hand, usually something homemade and food or garden inspired. Preserves, a small cake, or a bag of biscuits or a potted plant are good starting points.

Whilst the bulk of preserve making usually takes place in summer and autumn, it is not too late to make a few small batches of preserves. Citrus are usually bountiful and cheap at this time of the year so I like to make marmalade, lemon chutney and lime pickle to add to my supplies. Mustards and spice rubs are also easy to make. My Tomato, Capsicum and Chilli Jam is very much a favourite and being a deep red looks very Christmassy. A jar of something enclosed in a cellophane wrapper, tied with ribbon, perhaps a small decoration attached and you have a great small gift.

Cellophane wrapped gifts.


Lemon Chutney


Step 1 Step 2
750 g lemons, finely chopped Lemons from step 1, rinsed
2 tablespoons salt 1 1/2 cups raw sugar
  1 cup lemon juice
  1 cup apple cider vinegar
  250 g dates, chopped
  1 tablespoon green ginger, finely chopped
  1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  2 teaspoons cardamom powder
  1 teaspoon white pepper
  1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  1 tablespoon of salt


Step 1
Wash and finely chop the lemons. I used a food processor and the pulse function
Place chopped lemons in a non reactive bowl (stainless steel, glass or plastic) Add the salt and mix
well. Allow lemons to stand for 24 – 48 hours.
Drain off liquid, rinse well and drain again.
Step 2
Combine lemons and remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil and then
simmer for 30 minutes or until thick. Stir often as it will tend to stick as it thickens
Spoon into sterilised jars.

Lime Pickle


24 limes( 1 kg approx) 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon salt 2 - 4 teaspoons fenugreek powder
30 red chillies* 1 teaspoon asafoetida powder - optional
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds 2 tablespoons mustard seed oil - optional
1 cup oil  
2 teaspoons salt  
*I have also used dried chilli flakes, approximately 1 tablespoon  


Wash limes, trim the ends and then cut each lime into eight pieces. Place lime pieces and 1 tablespoon of salt in a non reactive bowl, mix well and leave overnight. Next day rinse the limes and pat dry with paper towel.
Place half the oil in a large pan, heat and then add the mustard seeds, turmeric and fenugreek and fry for a minute or do until fragrant. Add chillies and asafoetida, cook until chillies have softened. 
Place chillies and spice mixture in a food processor or blender and pulse to make a coarse paste. This step can be omitted if dried chilli flakes are used.
Return chilli paste mixture to the pan, add the chopped limes, salt and remaining oil. Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until limes are soft, approximately twenty minutes. Stir often as it will tend to stick as it thickens. Add a little more oil if necessary.
Heat mustard oil in a separate pan. Stir into lime pickle.
Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Spoon into dry sterilised jars and allow the pickle to cool.
Seal the pickle and label jars.
The pickle can be used straight away but is best left for a few weeks.

plated preserves

Brinjal (Eggplant) Pickle


2 kg eggplant 3 cups brown vinegar
6 tablespoons salt 10 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chilli powder 2 tablespoons finely grated green ginger
1 tablespoon smoked paprika 10 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon turmeric powder 2 cups oil
½ teaspoon fenugreek powder A few curry leaves, if available
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder 1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin seed powder  
1 tablespoon cumin seeds  
1 teaspoon ground black pepper  


Remove the stems and leaf part of the eggplants, cut eggplant into 1.5 cm dice , sprinkle with salt. Leave overnight or for a few hours. 
When ready to make pickle rinse eggplants to remove the salt. Squeeze eggplants firmly to remove the moisture.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the spice paste mixture, garlic, green ginger, chilli and curry leaves. Stir for a minute or two until fragrant but do not allow to burn.
Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally until the eggplant is starting to soften. Add the vinegar, sugar and salt and continue cooking on a low heat until eggplant is very soft and the mixture is thick. If mixture is evaporating before the eggplant is soft add a little more oil and vinegar.
When the mixture is thick, remove pickle from the heat and allow it to cool.
Spoon/ladle the pickle into sterilised jars. Seal

Tomato, Capsicum and Chilli Jam


2 kg tomatoes
1 kg red capsicums
10 hot chillies or more to taste (finely chopped)
1 cup apple cider/brown vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 pkt Jamsetta (from supermarket)


Prepare tomatoes. Cut a small cross in the bottom of the tomatoes, place into a pot of boiling water for a minute or so. Remove from hot water, allow tomatoes to cool and then peel the skin away.
Wash capsicums, remove stalk, cut into large pieces and remove membranes and seeds.
Blitz the tomatoes, capsicums and chillies and place in a large pan. Add vinegar, sugar and salt.
Simmer until mixture reduces down and is thick and pulpy, approximately 40 minutes or longer if tomatoes are very juicy.
Remove from heat, sprinkle the packet of Jamsetta over the tomato mixture. Stir and mix thoroughly.
Return to heat and bring to the boil, simmer for a further ten minutes, stirring from time to time.
Allow to cool slightly. Pack into clean sterilised jars. Cover with cellophane/Klearview covers and seal with a lid.


Baked goods need not be the traditional Christmas offerings, remember it is the thought that counts and bake what you like to bake. Unfortunately, most baked goods cannot be baked too far in advance so a bit of planning is required; in my kitchen Christmas cakes are baked first, then Panforte de Sienna as these keep well followed by my favourite biscotti and then whatever else I decide to bake. For the last few years I have made boiled fruitcakes in small round tin or loaf tins, they last for a few weeks.

Cake and Biscotti


Boiled Fruitcake


500g mixed dried fruit
1 tin crushed pineapple
125 g butter
1/2 cup sugar, I use dark brown
1/2 cup rum or brandy
1 tablespoon treacle or marmalade
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon mixed spice (optional)
2 teaspoons Parisienne essence (optional but adds brown colour to cake mixture)
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup flour
1 cup glace cherries, chopped into quarters


Combine rum/brandy, butter, treacle, sugar, crushed pineapple and mixed fruit in a large saucepan. Cook on low heat until sugar dissolves and butter melts. Bring to the boil. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.
Stir in baking powder, bicarb soda and spice and glace cherries if using.
Add eggs and then stir in flour. Mix well.
Spoon the cake mixture into a prepared cake tin* and bake at 150 deg C until the cake is golden brown and test cleanly with a skewer, approximately an hour and a half.
*I use a 9 inch round cake tin or 8 inch square or sometimes make two small cakes.

Brown Biscotti (adapted from Mrs Bertucci’s Piparelli)


500 g plain flour Zest and juice or 1 orange
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 60 g butter, melted
150 g dark brown sugar 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
150 g honey 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs  
200 g mixed peel or almonds  


Mix all ingredients together.
Roll into logs a bit thicker than a broom handle and place on tray.
Bake 180 deg C until brown, approximately 30 minutes.
Cool and then cut into slices on an angle.
Bake a further 3-4 minutes each side. 
Cool on a rack and pack into airtight containers.


Toasted muesli and granola which can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container also makes a good alternative and can be customised by adjusting the proportion of fruit and nuts. I sometimes vacuum seal the bag but mostly use a cellophane bag and ribbon.

Muesli - vacuum packed and cellophane wrapped

Experience has taught me that that it helps to be organised with a supply of cellophane, I buy it on large rolls, cellophane bags, ribbons and a collection of small decorations to attach to your gift. Paper gift bags are also useful for the hamper style gift.

Looking for something more substantial? Sometimes I go for themed selection; these are some of my favourites.

The BBQ Box: a jar of spice rub, a bottle of sauce or Tomato, Capsicum and Chilli Jam or homemade mustard.

The Breakfast Basket: jam/marmalade, a bag of toasted muesli or granola and maybe some crumpets or loaf of sourdough.

Indian Condiments: a collection of chutneys and pickles and add a packet or two of pappadums
The Biscuit Bag: a selection of cookies tied up in individual small bags.
Traditional Christmas: a small cake, shortbreads, spice cookies, mince pies

Biscotti with a bow

So if you like the idea of making a few gifts for Christmas these recipes are all easy. There are lots more recipes and inspiration on my blog, click on the link

Merry Christmas and Happy Cooking!

Kerry Maloney



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