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Chilli and lime salt 🌶🍋🧂
The best Christmas gifts are always edible.
Chilli and lime salt
We often spend November surrounded by recipe books, crafting elaborate plans for homemade edible Christmas gifts: gingerbread houses! Tiny boxes of caramels! Even mini Christmas puds in 2016 – we were feeling particularly ambitious that year. Alas, our best laid plans are usually replaced with naps in front of Christmas films. This year we share with you the simplest homemade treat: a gorgeous flavoured salt that not only looks great but is super easy to make (especially if you do it in the evening, and leave the salt to dry overnight). It’s crying out to be used on the rim of a margarita, or any crispy chicken situation you are lucky enough to find yourself in.
Makes 500g salt, which is just enough to fill five of these cute little jars.
4 red chillies, roughly chopped
The zest and juice of 2 limes
500g sea salt. Maldon works best for this recipe, treat your pals to the good stuff.
Preheat your oven to 90°C/195°F and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Blitz all of the ingredients together in a food processor several times until everything is combined, a beautiful pink, and the salt is a little finer.
Spread the salt in a thin layer on your baking tray.
Pop in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. Give it a stir with a wooden spoon after about 15 minutes.
After 35-40 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the salt to dry overnight in the residual heat.
The next day, stir your salt and bash any particularly large chunks with a pestle or – as we did – the back of an ice cream scoop. When the salt is at a consistency you’re happy with, spoon into little jars to give to your favourite people.
When it comes to Christmas-themed cookbooks, there’s no point waiting to find them under the tree – you’ll want them in the run-up to the big day, so that you can plan and cook to your heart’s content. We’re especially keen to get stuck into Advent by Anja Dunk, full of fragrant and festive German bakes, and Kate Young’s latest, The Little Library Parties, to help us host delicious get-togethers, large and small (and we suggest keeping a copy of The Little Library Christmas to hand for inspiration from now until New Year, too).
The TV chefs know how to steer us patiently and reliably through Christmas dinner, of course. Nigel’s The Christmas Chronicles is just gorgeous, as is Nigella Christmas, and Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is where Laura goes for her get-ahead gravy recipe every year, as well as the red onion gratin that she makes as her own personal side dish (serves 6, but that never defeats her).
For in-between days when you want wintry but not full-on festive food, try Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen, Comfort: A Winter Cookbook from the editors at Ryland Peters & Small, and Lizzie Kamenetzky’s Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights.
And finally, if it all gets too much, pick up the new edition of Coping With Christmas, Fanny and Johnnie Cradock’s 1968 guide to the season, which includes a chapter delightfully entitled Slap Happy Crisis Substitutes for Serious Cookery, and is sure to make you smile no matter what kitchen catastrophes might befall you.
Do good with dal
Jaya Chandna’s Christmas DIY dal kits don’t just taste good, they do good. The proceeds from her kits raise money for Pakistan Flood Relief. The bundle of ingredients comes wrapped in beautiful Indian fabric and includes lentils, the spice mix you need to make this delicious dish and a recipe from Jaya’s grandmother. You just need to add the fresh ingredients when you’re ready to start cooking, probably four days after Christmas when you can’t remember a time that a meal didn’t come with a pile of toffee pennies and a mince pie as a starter.
The kits are just £15 and there are few dozen still available. You can also include your own gift tag message so they’re ideal for posting to loved ones you won’t be lucky enough to see in person this year. The floods in Pakistan have impacted 33 million people and left at least 6 million in desperate need of aid. This is more than just a beautiful and delicious present, it’s a wonderful cause to support this Christmas.
In a pickle
Way back in the late 19th century, Woolworths got in a pickle trying to sell imported glass tree ornaments to Americans. They were shaped like fruits, vegetables and nuts, and it seems some clever soul in their marketing department saw one that resembled a cucumber and started touting the myth that in Germany, it was customary to hang pickles on the Christmas tree. It soon became a beloved tradition in the United States for families to hide a glass pickle among the branches – the first child to spot it gets an extra present.
Berrien Springs in Michigan has gone several steps further by becoming the Christmas Pickle Capital of the World, holding pickle festivals and parades, where someone called the Grand Dillmeister flings gherkins into the crowd (Laura and Sian are tempted to plan a trip, or at least recreate it at home with a jaunty hat and a jar of Mrs Elswood).
A survey a few years ago found that 91% of Germans had never actually heard of ye olde Christmas pickle, so it was likely nothing more than a very successful sales ploy. Still, it’s rather more jolly than the pickle’s other origin story, which tells of poor little boys who were killed by an innkeeper and then stuffed inside a pickle barrel, until St. Nicholas came along and brought them back to life. Not the most heartwarming festive tale we’ve ever heard.