i like to bake. cakes and pies and biscuits and bread. sometimes i make lemon curd and sticky jam and put it in pretty little jars. i sell it all at markets. and then i write about it here.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

a hamper full of christmas

If the build-up to Christmas were a race I'd be crawling over the finishing line, half-asleep, covered in glitter and tangled up in tinsel. There are two days to go and I have managed to exhaust myself before the big day has even arrived. That's what we do though isn't it - we almost burn out and then we spend Christmas day 'recovering' (aka, falling asleep at 2pm in front of a rerun of Only Fools and Horses). Unless, I suppose, you are the designated Christmas chef. Then what happens? Do you just never stop? As it is, I have been assigned no 'official' Christmas day duties, so it seems I can afford to be lazy. Apologies if I sound like Scrooge. Christmas is, without a doubt, my favourite time of year. I actually love the festive madness that December brings. Even the inevitable crowds that flock to the high street and long lengths of time wasted in traffic jams are not enough to deter me from embracing all that is merry and bright. I'm in my element spending hours sourcing the perfect presents, ribbons and wrapping paper. I treat decorating the tree like a work of art and count mulled wine and Baileys amongst my favourite beverages. All in all, I love Christmas and all things Christmassy.

So when a friend of mine recently gave me some wooden boxes, I had Christmas on the mind. Unable to resist the creative opportunities that they presented, I began to plan their transformation into foodie hamper gifts. So I found myself, amongst the festive madness, squeezing lemons, slicing onions, whisking cream and melting chocolate. The result? Several jars of lemon curd, pots of caramelised onion chutney and bags of nutty chocolate truffles. A length of lace trim, some gold tissue paper and a few decorated luggage tags later and they were complete.

caramelised red onion chutney
8 red onions 
1 red chilli 
2 bay leaves  
25ml olive oil  
200g brown sugar  
150ml balsamic vinegar  
150ml red wine vinegar
1. Cut your onions and chilli into short, thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
2. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark.
3. Pour the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and let it cool. Ideally, you should leave it for a month or more before you eat it, to mature in flavour.