December, 2012

Dec 12

Christmas food and drink: my top picks

Clementines at Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I would share some of my favourite food and drinks to enjoy at this time of the year.

First, you may be thinking about stocking up on drinks a few days ahead.  If you fancy something warming to keep the cold away, I really like Drambuie, which is made with fifteen year old Speyside malt whisky. It’s a very nice drink to sip by the fire on a cold night.

Drambuie 15 year

For something more refreshing, you can’t beat a good gin and tonic. Using a good gin and a good tonic makes a real difference. It’s also a great to have up your sleeve for unexpected visitors over the festive period. I always buy Bombay Sapphire, which is, amazingly, celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. Fevertree tonic is, in my opinion, the tonic to serve with gin, and, to my delight, is now sold in larger bottles. Just add a slice of lime and some ice for the perfect G&T!

Gin and tonics all round

Last year, I tried Vanessa Kimbell’s recipe for orange and cinnamon brandy. It is just gorgeous. I’ve made it again this year, and have used it in the Christmas cake and homemade mincemeat. It makes a delicious drink on its own or in a cocktail, too.

Making orange and clove brandy

If you are steering clear of anything alcoholic, or perhaps if you have drawn the short straw and are designated driver, I like to serve freshly squeezed clementine juice. It takes around three fresh clementines to make one small glass of juice. I am lazy and use my Magimix to extract the juice, but as clementines are quite small, you can juice them using a citrus juicer very easily.

Freshly squeezed clementine juice

And, if you fancy something hot, Steenberg’s Christmas hot chocolate and tea are just lovely. Gently spiced and very warming. Highly recommended.

Steenberg’s Christmas drinks

And now, to food. Firstly, if you have not made your Christmas cake, do not panic. It’s not too late! I always make Delia Smith’s last minute Christmas cake, which also adapts very well to gluten free/dairy free.

If you like cheese at Christmas, try and buy the very best you can afford – you can tell the difference. We love Colston Bassett stilton and Spenwood with quince cheese most of all.

My final tip is not to buy too much food. We never buy large boxes of chocolates and snacks, as the temptation is just to snack all day. We keep our meals delicious, and that is more than enough. You can also feel comfortable and happy after Christmas, rather than bloated and regretting having eaten so much.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

Charlotte x

Dec 12

Plum and hazelnut zabaglione from the Dessert Deli

Laura’s plum and hazelnut zabaglione

Laura from the Dessert Deli is a former chef, who has worked at some of London’s top restaurants, with many world-famous chefs.  In 2008, Laura decided to leave it all behind and go it alone, setting up her own luxury handmade dessert company, The Dessert Deli.

Starting out with a stall on the popular Northcote Road Market, near Clapham Junction, Laura’s exquisite creations are now sold in many of London’s prestigious Food Halls, and to many VIP customers.

This is all well and good if you live in London, but the good news is that Laura has very recently published the Dessert Deli cookbook, which shares the recipes for her bestselling desserts and cakes for you to try at home.

The Dessert Deli makes a very touching read, sharing the story of how Laura set up her business, and through sheer hard work and determination, has made it into the thriving success it is today. Packed full of tips and recipes for familiar favourites and something different to try, there is something for everyone here, and what I particularly like, is that you know the recipes will be utterly delicious.

Laura has very kindly agreed for me to share a gorgeous seasonal recipe with you…enjoy!

Plum & Hazelnut Zabaglione

Zabaglione is a light custard which can be paired with a variety of fruits and accompaniments. In France it is referred to as a sabayon.

TIP: The zabaglione must be served as soon as it’s made. It can also be glazed under the grill for a more caramelised flavour.

Serves 4


6 firm plums

25g demerara sugar

50ml Marsala wine

25ml water

50g shelled hazelnuts


8 medium free range egg yolks

150g caster sugar

25ml Marsala wine

150ml double cream

The Base

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
  • Slice the plums in half, remove the stone and place face-down on a tray pre-lined with greaseproof paper. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar, water and Marsala, place in oven for 5-8 minutes, before allowing to cool.
  • Pour the syrup from the cooked plums into a cup.
  • Place the hazelnuts in the oven on a tray pre-lined with greaseproof paper for approximately 5 minutes until toasted. Allow to cool then crush slightly.

The Zabaglione

  • In a bowl whip the double cream into firm peaks, then set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar over a pan of simmering water (a bain-marie) making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk until the mixture has tripled in volume and is a thick, frothy consistency.
  • Remove from the heat, whisk in the Marsala, then fold in the whipped double cream to form the zabaglione.

To Serve

  • Place 3 halves of plum into each plate or bowl and spoon the zabaglione over the top of them until they are covered. Sprinkle with some of the crushed hazelnuts and a drizzle of the syrup from the plum juices

The Dessert Deli by Laura Amos, published by Paperbooks, Hardback, £20. Recipe reproduced with kind permission from the publisher

Laura’s new book

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