James Martin was back again on This Morning to get us not only excited about food glorious food, but also about Christmas.
There's no denying that Christmas, or at least the feeling of Christmas, is coming early this year. Stir-up Sunday just passed, so many of us made our Christmas puddings, we’re already putting Christmas trees up, Holly Willoughby admitted to putting up the decs in her house too – fabulous – and Phillip Schofield confirmed that This Morning had started their countdown early this year – significant in our eyes – so yes, it is full steam ahead with festivities.
And, when it comes to Christmas, food and gifting does go hand in hand. Whether it’s a full on Christmas hamper or a small but mighty jar of something delicious you'd like to give to another, it means a lot. Now depending on how on top of Christmas you are in general, you may already have bought your gifts, but if you are slowly starting to plan presents now, then you are going to love the recipes that James Martin shared. He made chilli jam, cranberry sauce and to top it off, biscotti. Mentioning that not only will these foods bring joy to your Christmas table setting, but they will also make fantastic gifts, either as they are or stuffed beautifully into a hamper.
Of course, if you are mainly sending gifts this year, some will travel better than others, but they will also last for a good few weeks, so they are ideal make-ahead Christmas foods as back up presents, or as back up Christmastime nosh for your own household.
1. Chilli jam
Chilli jam is one of those things that once you try it, you can't really live without it. It's the perfect accompaniment to cheese, and will make any leftover turkey sandwiches or other boxing day foods that bit more luxe. James Martin's recipe serves it with cod, which proves that it can also make your dinner a little more gourmet.
This is another recipe that James Martin recommended as a fab gift, and we couldn't agree more. Find Jame Martin's chilli jam recipe online, do note that 'this makes a lot of chilli jam but it can be stored in a sterilised jar in the fridge for a month'. Perfect for gifting to another, or to self.
2. Cranberry sauce
It's a must on Christmas Day, turkey is almost unthinkable without it and it makes a great gift when put into cute Kilner jars. Great minds think alike as the Real Homes' team also made a start prepping cranberry sauce this weekend. It can keep for about 6 months when put into sterilised jars and kept in a cool dark place. While when fresh and kept covered in the fridge, it should last 10-12 days.
What we really appreciated about James Martin's cooking advice however, was when he pointed out how all the ingredients used and the method – before adding the cranberries – is actually the same as for making mulled wine... That's two recipes in one.
With how delicious biscotti is, we never would have thought them SO easy to make.
But, thanks to James Martin's easy biscotti recipe, complete with pistachios for a pop of gorgeous colour and even more crunch, the classic Italian biscuit treat is definitely on our list to again, make for self, or for others (on the nice list).
He used equal amounts of flour and sugar (250g), 50g of both dried fruit and dried (whole) nuts, an additional sprinkling of pistachios and mixed peel.
He started with soaking the fruit in a drop of brandy. Then mixed all the ingredients together, starting with the above, baking soda plus the juice of a lemon – you can use an orange also – then he added three medium eggs and mixed by hand.
Why? The world is having a giggle but yes, so as 'not to crush your nuts'. No one wants that.
The finished dough seemed fairly sticky and needs to be rolled out, just half the mixture at a time, with a little sprinkling of flour also.
Now, biscotti can be a tough one to crunch. Which is why it's traditionally served brandy or a coffee, James served it with Cinzano and Armagnac – tasty. And, this takes us to the double baking aspect – very important.
The clue is in the name, as 'biscotti' is from the Latin 'Bis' which means twice, then 'coctum' which means baked and which then became 'cotto' the Italian for cooked. Behold: Biscotti.
So you bake your dough once for about 20 minutes at about 200 degrees. At which point you use a sharp, serrated knife to slice the biscotti into the classic shape. If you prefer a softer texture and want to keep these for your household, then you can stick with one bake and they will dry out in the air naturally anyway.
While it you want the traditional version, and most especially if you want to send these as a gift to someone in a jar, James Martin recommends that you double bake them, so they do become more firm so as not to lose their form in a jar or tin.
For the second bake, you need to turn the temperature down to 100 degrees, and this is vital so that they don't colour too much. Another 10-15 minutes in the oven and you've brilliant biscotti.
Top tip for enjoyment: try dunking the biscotti in your brandy or other tipple for around a minute so that it absorbs the booze and all the flavour, all whilst leaving a lovely bit of crunch.