Give the greatest gift of food with these three quick ideas

A nicely wrapped box with all the bits and pieces to create the perfect snack or beverage can be a very thoughtful gift, writes Michelle Darmody.

Items can be mixed and matched but a bag of homemade granola, a loaf of freshly baked bread and jar of marmalade will always come in handy, add a packet of rashers or sausages and you will most definitely get a smile.

For a more post meridian gift try making some flavoured vodkas. These can be created with various flavours, cinnamon and some orange peel, crushed berries or some fronds of saffron will make a beautiful golden, glowing liquid. These vodkas can be drunk over ice or used to enliven festive cocktails. I particularly like adding a small handful of coffee beans to 500 mls of vodka as well as a tablespoon of chopped, toasted hazelnuts and a teaspoon of brown sugar. After setting it aside for a few weeks, it can be used for a deliciously nutty version of an espresso martini.

For two of the recipes below it is best to use un-waxed citrus fruit, if you can access them. If you cannot find unwaxed fruit, rinse the fruit in boiling water and rub dry with a clean tea towel. Wax is applied to citrus fruits in particular to prolong their life while they are being shipped around the globe. The wax prevents water loss and gives the fruit a more appealing glow when on a supermarket shelf, but it is not desirable to eat.

Warm melted cheese makes the perfect end to a Christmas meal. Old bread, a few days past its best, can be toasted and used to dip into the centre and scoop out the molten cheesy liquid. It is a nice simple edible gift but it is generally received very warmly.

Give the greatest gift of food with these three quick ideas

Recipes

Cardamom and clementine vodka

Ingredients:

  • 1 large orange, preferably unwaxed
  • 8 cardamom pods, nice bright green ones if possible
  • 250 mls of vodka
  • 1 tsp of caster sugar

Give the greatest gift of food with these three quick ideas

Method

Choose a nice bottle that can be sealed tightly with a lid and will hold the amount of vodka that you are using. Rinse the bottle and lid with boiling water and set aside.

With a potato peeler peel strips of zest off the clementine, aiming to get just the vibrant orange part of the skin rather than too much of the white pith underneath.

Push the pieces of zest into the bottle. Lightly crush the cardamom seeds and add them to the bottle as well. Pour in the sugar and top with vodka. Seal the bottle and decorate as you wish.

Baked cheese kit with herbs

Ingredients:

  • 1 round Camembert cheese in the wooden box
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • a sprig of thyme
  • a handful of golden raisins
  • a handful of pine nuts
  • a small nice jar
  • ribbon and label to decorate

Give the greatest gift of food with these three quick ideas

Method

Tie the rosemary and thyme into a bundle with the ribbon.

Fill a nice small jar with a mixture of the raisins and pine nuts.

Sit the jar onto the cheese and fasten the whole lots with the herb bundle.

Write the following instructions on to a label and attach it to your gift.

“Gently cut the rind from the top of the cheese. Sprinkle with the the raisins and pine nuts and some cracked black pepper. Press them into the soft cheese. Lay the herbs over the top and press them in slightly as well. Place the cheese, box and all, into the oven heated to 180 degrees, Bake for about twenty minutes until it is bubbling and turning slightly golden. Remove the sprigs of herbs if you wish. Dip some crunchy bread into the cheese as soon as it is cool enough to eat. Enjoy.”

Preserved lemons with chilli and cloves

Ingredients:

  • 5 small lemons, preferably unwaxed
  • 2 ½ tbs of sea salt
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 dried chillies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a 500 mls kilner jar
  • ribbon and label to decorate

Method

Wash a 500ml kilner jar and rinse it in boiling water.

Slit the first lemon down the centre lengthwise but do not cut completely in half. Cut it the other way so that there is a cross-shaped slit in each lemon. Pack this slit with a dessertspoon of sea salt and press the lemon into the jar. Do this with the other four lemons, pressing down so they are tightly packed into the jar.

Push the chillies down the side of the jar and add the cloves and bay leaves.

Fill the jar with water and seal it. Allow to sit at the back of the cupboard until you are ready to impart the gift.

The lemons are best left to soak for at least three months before eating, and they last for a year.

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