Back in the mists of time, before social media and high-level technology, a Christmas stocking filler consisted of some chocolate and a few Clementine oranges. Even now when I crack open their fragrant skin to expose their lush citrusy juiciness, I’m transported back to magical childhood Christmas mornings brimming with excited anticipation.
Last week I was in London and a friend had an enormous bowl of bright orange clementines on her kitchen table. We relished the sweet taste combined with a sparkly glass of wine and then she showed me the middle drawer of her freezer. It was stuffed tight with rows of neatly packed miniature citrus orbs.
She had sourced them from an initiative called Crowd Farming. It’s a way for farmers across the globe to pool resources and get a fair price for their produce and more importantly, it enables small holdings to be financially viable.
You can buy a box of produce or actually invest in a small holding. So you could own a beehive in Portugal, a pistachio tree in Sicily or even your own field of Spanish Clementine trees. You reap the benefits and so does the farmer.
Rather than buy your loved ones something that lines the pockets of a huge conglomerate, it might be an idea to consider gifting them an olive tree instead. Imagine the joy they’ll get from cracking open the olive oil from their very own tree.
Now the gifts are sorted, it’s back to the kitchen. The Christmas pudding should be on hand this year but it’s always good to have a couple of alternatives.
Panna cotta, literally meaning cooked cream, is a light creamy dessert. In the recipe here I’ve added white chocolate to the mix and paired it with clementines that have been peeled, sliced, dusted with sugar and grilled. The festive season wouldn’t be complete without a box of matchmakers but I’ve taken them to another level with a homemade variety.
Milk and dark chocolate are melted with a vinegar, orange and cream reduction added. This makes the chocolate pliable and easier to pipe. Chill them to set, they make a crunchy addition to the silky panna cotta and zingy fruit.
Panettone, the fluffy Italian festive fruity bread, has become a mainstay of our Christmas food. Often the decorative boxes they come in are more exciting than the contents. Making the cake into a bread and butter pudding really brings it to life. Some spiced cherries give the whole pudding a very festive feel.
Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas.
What you’ll need
For the white chocolate panna cotta
350ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml whipping cream
50g castor sugar
3 gelatine leaves soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
100g chopped white chocolate
Simmer the double cream and sugar with the vanilla. Add the chocolate and stir over gentle heat until melted. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and add to the hot cream mixture. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. Whip the whipping cream and fold into cream mixture. Pour into 4 moulds and set in the fridge.
For the chocolate orange sticks
50g milk chocolate
50g dark chocolate
12ml balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp double cream
Zest 1 orange
Melt the chocolates in a heatproof bowl. Boil the vinegar until reduced by half. Add the cream and orange zest and heat until hot. Stir into the chocolate. Place in a piping bag and cut a small hole. Pipe lengths onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Chill until set.
For the grilled clementines
2 tablespoons castor sugar
Peel the skin and pith from the clementines and slice each into five. Place on a metal tray and sprinkle over the sugar. Blowtorch or grill to scorch.
Dip moulds in hot water to remove panna cotta. Arrange clementine slices around and a few chocolate sticks on top.
What you’ll need
25g melted butter
300ml double cream
3 egg yolks
100g castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp mixed spice
100g frozen cherries, halved
Grease a baking dish and set oven to 160oC. Slice the panettone into 2cm slices and overlap in a baking dish. Drizzle over the butter.
Take a tablespoon of the sugar and mix with the spice. Toss into the cherries.
Bring the cream to a simmer with the vanilla. Whisk the egg yolks with remaining sugar and pour over hot cream and whisk. Dot the cherries over the bread and pour over the custard. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before baking. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over the top and bake for 40 minutes or until custard is set. Serve warm with whipped cream.