Monday, December 12, 2011

Cooking with Herbs to Make Gifts this Christmas

A mild winter has afforded us some great herbs this Christmas. Whilst normally the parsley would have died back by now, it’s still going strong and creating a lovely deep green frill around the borders of the veggie patch.

Using herbs in cooking for Christmas is a great way to bring the garden into the home and create that paddock to plate feeling even when most vegetables have been harvested and everyone is waiting for spring to sow their seeds for the summer.

Cranberry sauce with Thyme
A couple of weeks before Christmas is a great time to make a cranberry sauce or jelly. Taking fresh cranberries, mix with sugar, orange or lemon thyme, port and red wine, leave to stew for half an hour as the house fills with Christmas aromas, and add a touch of nutmeg or cinnamon to up the festive taste.

It’s easy to double quantities and make double, and this is a trick that will also save on presents. Creating hampers for loved ones will ensure gifts are well received and they have all the condiments they need for the cold meat buffet on Boxing Day.

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Apple Jelly with Mint
Some gardens are still producing apples, picking the best of the fall it’s still easier to find enough Bramleys to make an apple jelly. Stewing with lemon juice, sugar and mint, once soft allow to drip for a few hours through fine muslin over a bowl.

Decant into jars, and as the muslin rids the jelly of cloudiness, poke some fresh mint into the centre just before it sets. This creates a special jar of a perfect pairing for pork and turkey, and will not be able to be found on any supermarket shelf.

Parsnip Pickles
Pickles are an easy way to make gifts for hampers, and anything can be used. With frosts the parsnips will be sweet now, and blanching with rosemary, they make a unique gift for a root vegetable lover.

Chomptastic Chutneys
Chutneys with sage, oregano and basil are popular too. Tomatoes and raisins give a British twist to a Mexican salsa whilst the fresh herbs lift the flavour making them fresh even if they have been prepared weeks before.

Flowery Fudge
For an extra treat try making fudge and adding lavender to the mix. A white chocolate fudge with purple lavender seeds dotted throughout will not only look impressive as it’s cut into bite sized pieces it will also taste wonderful. Pop to the local florist and choose your favourite cellophane and ribbon, then tie up 8 pieces roughly securing with a ribbon curl, giving a luxurious feel to your own handiwork.

Some like it hot
With the mild weather there should still be some chillies hanging from the odd branch of the chilli plant, if not done already bring them into the conservatory then add a spicy kick to chutneys and jellies, using curry plant leaves will give an Asian feel and afford guests with a warm sensation that will be welcomed when they visit.

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Beautiful Biscuits
There are also a myriad of biscuits that can be made from the produce in the garden, try poppy seed biscuits instead of caraway, or lavender twills to finish off a stupendous trifle. The list is quite possibly endless. Don a hat and gloves and see the garden with whole new eyes, they’ll be surprises you never thought possible this Christmas.

This post was by Martina Mercer on behalf of Martina loves the recipes that you can use herb plants in whatever the time of year.