Homemade gifts can produce visions of slightly wonky knitwear from a well-meaning auntie. But homemade gifts from your kitchen can provoke a very different, positive reaction. Here’s four of our favourite DIY gifts from the kitchen, from the team here at Seasoned and some of our guest chefs, that will make any recipient very happy.
If you actually end up letting these delicious gifts out of your kitchen!
Squash Ketchup (aka Squetchup) by Tim Maddams
- ½ squash
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 115 ml cider vinegar
- 75 g caster sugar
First, de-seed and slice the squash. Add all of the ingredients except the squash into a saucepan and simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the squash and cook until tender.
Spoon into a blender and blend until it is smooth (you can also use a stick blender for this step). Return to the pan and simmer again until it reaches a ketchup-like consistency. Check the seasoning and adjust to your taste.
Pour into a sterilised jar.
An ideal alternative to shop bought ketchup - you could tie ribbons around the jars or even make your own personalised 'jam jar' type labels
Chocolate Figs with Almonds by Jenny Chandler
- 12 soft dried figs
- 100 ml brandy
- 12 whole blanched almonds
- 100 g dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa solids
- The zest of 1 orange
Slice off the tough small stalk of each dried fig and then soak in brandy, preferably overnight. If you’ve forgotten this step, then a quick zap in the microwave or warming through in a pan will help things along.
Roast the almonds in a roasting tin in a hot oven until they smell nutty, for anything between 5 and 10 minutes. Watch them very closely, giving them a shake in the tray from time to time.
Melt all the chocolate, either in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave on the very lowest setting.
Now get a production line going.
Take a fig and push an almond into the middle. Dab the fig in the orange zest. Dip the fig in the warm chocolate and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper to firm up. If there's any brandy leftover, either use it in cooking or enjoy it neat.
Blackberry Macarons by Beca Lyne-Pirkis
For the macarons
- 175 g Icing Sugar
- 125 g Ground Almonds
- 75 g Caster Sugar
- 3 Large Egg Whites
- Pinch of Salt
- Pink Food Paste
For the blackberry gel
- 250 g Blackberries
- 1 teaspoon of Agar flakes
- Lemon Juice
- 2 ½ teaspoons of Caster Sugar
Heat the oven to Gas Mark 2/130 Celsius. Mark out the rounds for the macarons on the reverse side of the silicone paper with a pencil, making each one about 3cm in diameter. Line the baking tray with the silicone paper.
In a food processor, blitz the almonds and the icing sugar together. Remove any larger bits of almond by sieving. Now put the egg white in a food mixer (ensuring the bowl is clean and dry) with a small pinch of salt then whisk until frothy. Slowly add in the caster sugar a little a time until the whites are glossy and form firm peaks.
Just before that stage, add in a few drops of food colour. Add the whisked egg whites to the almond and icing sugar mixture. Mix until combined. The right point is when the mixture falls off of a spatula in a ribbon-like consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the piping bag with a small round nozzle, ideally a 1cm diameter one. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared tray and leave to set for around 15 minutes until a “skin” has formed. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Leave to cool and then the shells should peel off the paper easily. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To make the blackberry gel, put the blackberries into the food processor and whizz into a puree. To remove all the pips from the puree, sieve into a saucepan. Add sugar to taste, to just take the edge off the sharpness. Sprinkle agar flakes over the puree and place on the heat without stirring. Once the puree has heated through, stir it and keep it on the heat for 3-5 minutes.
Now pour the blackberry puree into a clingfilm lined cake tin. Put it into the fridge to set, around 30 minutes. When you’re happy it’s set, break the jelly into small pieces and put into the food processor. Add a few drops of lemon juice then blend until smooth. It should have a gel-like consistency. Now scrape into a piping bag and keep cool until needed.
To assemble the Macarons, match up the shells and pipe a small quantity of the gel onto one-half of the shells. Sandwich together, then keep chilled in the fridge until ready to serve.
Macarons will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge, so best to make these close to when you want to give them. Alternatively, the shells can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Make sure you read Beca's notes carefully before getting started!
- Ensure your eggs are at room temperature
- Always weigh out the ingredients carefully (this applies to all baking!)
- Don’t be scared when you mix the egg whites into the ground almonds and icing sugar
- Before you start, ensure everything is ready, including your baking sheets with your Macaron circles already marked out
- Make sure the macaron shells have time to rest and that they have formed a ‘skin’ before you bake them
- Only bake one sheet at a time
- Humidity is not your friend when making macarons
- Leave the macaron shells to cool before you try to peel them off the baking parchment.
Damson Gin from Seasoned
- 500 g damson
- 250 g caster sugar
- 1- litre gin
Start the day before, and rinse the damsons, and pick over to remove any leaves or stems. Pat dry and put into a freezer bag, and freeze overnight.
The next day, remove the bag from the freezer and bash the damsons a couple of times with a rolling pan (skip this step if using sloes). Tip into a 2-litre jar.
Add the sugar and gin, and put the lid on. Shake well. Every day for one week, shake the jar well until all the sugar has dissolved. Then leave the jar in a cool, dark place for a couple of months.
When you're ready to bottle this off, you'll need a coffee filter paper and a funnel. Make the paper into a cone and insert into the funnel. Strain the gin into clean, dry bottles, then seal and label.
Your gin will be ready to drink now but will continue to improve and mature over time, so you could start this year for Christmas next year.
Rum and Raisin Chocolate Fudge by Will Torrent
- 100 g raisins
- 50 ml dark or spiced rum
- 1 ⁄2 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 500 g caster sugar
- 170 g evaporated milk
- 170 ml whole milk
- 50 g unsalted butter
- A pinch of salt
- 125 g bittersweet chocolate 70% cocoa
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
- An 18–20-cm/7–8-inch square pan lined with baking parchment
First, line an 18–20-cm/7–8-inch square pan with baking parchment.
Tip the raisins, rum and the split vanilla pod/bean paste into a small saucepan or pot and set over a low heat. Gently warm the rum but do not allow it to boil. Stir well, remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is cold and the raisins are plump, juicy and have absorbed all of the vanilla-scented rum.
Put the sugar into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot with a capacity of at least 20 litres/11 cups. Add the whole and evaporated milk, butter and salt to the pan. Simmer over a medium heat while stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. Put a sugar thermometer into the saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil. Now reduce the heat and continue to cook, without stirring, at a low but steady boil until the mixture reaches 114°C (230°F).
Immediately remove the pan from the heat, leaving it for a couple of minutes until the bubbling subsides.
Tip the sifted cocoa powder and chopped chocolate into a large mixing bowl and pour over the hot fudge mixture. Stir gently to combine and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, beat the fudge until it thickens, cools and becomes slightly grainy. Add the rum soaked raisins and mix to combine thoroughly. Pour the fudge into the prepared baking tin and spread level using the back of a spoon.
Store in a cool, dark place for at least 3–4 hours, or preferably overnight, until firm. Once it has set, cut the fudge into small squares before serving or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week – if it lasts that long!
Be careful with gifting any of these delicious homemade treats though. They are so delicious you're likely to get some repeat requests. This recipe makes about 40 squares.