Cakes & Bakes

Rachel Taylor

Festive preparations

Try making an aromatic Chutney.

Try making an aromatic Chutney.

It was lovely waking up at the weekend and looking out over the hills in the distance and seeing them covered in snow – it really puts you in the festive mood.

Thankfully there was nothing to worry about on the roads locally.

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I remember one evening trying to get home from work last winter – I left school at 3.10pm and didn’t manage to get home until over six hours later. It was madness.

To go with the drop in temperature, we had the wee fire on in the living room for the first time and it really cosied the whole room up!

Not too much longer and I will be justified in getting the Christmas tree and the rest of the decorations put up – going out and choosing the tree and decorations for our first Christmas is very important and is taking a lot of decision making time. A lot of the fun is having family and friends over to share in the festive fun so that means food!

This can be quite a lot of pressure on the cook, especially if you are having a lot of people over so the key is doing as much as you can beforehand to take the stress off you.

Today’s column is not so much one recipe but a little list of things you could be getting ready and leaving in the cupboard or the freezer until they are needed.

CHUTNEYS AND PICKLES

These can be made any time now and kept in their airtight jars until you are ready for your crackers and cheese party. Try Mary Berry’s Christmas chutney for an aromatic version that it perfect with cheese or even spread into the inevitable turkey sandwiches. See the end of the article for email details if you need some tips.

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CRANBERRY SAUCE

Like the chutney this can be made ahead and kept until the big day. Here is a simple recipe – bring 100ml orange juice and 100g soft brown sugar to the boil.

Add in 250g fresh or frozen cranberries and simmer for ten minutes. Let it cool and put into an airtight jar. Job done.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is really simple to make.

MINCE PIES

Pastry freezes really well. Before all the Christmas parties and visitors start, make a big batch of these popular festive treats and pop them in the freezer.

They will only take a short time to defrost and then give them a wee heat in the oven before serving. Send me a message if you want last year’s recipe or search for it online at www.ulsterherald.com.

Likewise you could make some shortcrust pastry bases, ready for some pies or tarts.

These can be baked in advance and so long as they are well wrapped, you can keep them in the freezer until you are ready for them.

Mince pies

Mince pies are a great treat to make and freeze for Christmas time.

Don’t be afraid to make a full dessert and freeze it in advance. Sponge and cream desserts do very well for a few weeks in the freezer, so you could make a chocolate roulade and a tiramisu now, wrap them up well and all they need is an hour out of the freezer before you want to serve them.

I hope some of these ideas will help in your festive preparations and take some of the pressure off, and please get in touch if you would like any recipes for the suggested ideas.

Happy prepping!

• Email me on rachel.crumbs@gmail.com