I love Christmas, and just about everything that goes along with it.
This year, rather than spend lots of money buying arbitrary gifts that people don’t want, Asha and I decided to make gourmet Christmas packs for those closest to us.
Its cheap, it lets us share what we love doing – cooking, and its a meaningful and memorable christmas gift. When it comes to gift giving, there is nothing better than something thoughtful and homemade. What’s great about the blog is that people who recevied gifts from us can see how they were made!
Our gift packs contained Moroccan Beetroot Relish, Plum Paste, Egyptian Pistachio Dukkah and Sweet and Salty Peanut Clusters.
We made around 10 gift packs – but with a little more planing we could have made even more. We had leftovers of some things – such as the plum paste – which we gave to people as individual gifts. All up I think we probably spent around $100 on the gifts, and it really didn’t take too long – just two sessions in the kitchen.
For me, a sharp or strong cheese with plum or quince paste is a real indulgence. I just cant get enough of it. However its amazing how expensive plum and quince paste is to purchase (you can easily pay $8 for a small amount that will be quaffed in one sitting), considering how easy it is to make.
1.5 kg Plums (red or yellow)
1 kg sugar
Juice of Half a Lemon
½ – 1 cup water
Chop up plums and into small pieces and keep the stones.
Place chopped pieces and stones in a large, heavy-based saucepan (which we didn’t have – surprisingly a wok worked just fine).
We added enough water to almost cover the plums, but it was probably a bit too much. The more water you add, the longer you will have to cook for to reduce the water content – ½ to 1 cup of water should be enough.
Cook on a medium-high temperature for 10-20 minutes, until the plums break up and become soft. Remove from heat, and push plum mixture through a sieve (this will remove chunky bits, pieces of skin, and stones).
Return the plum mixture to the pan, and stir in the sugar (should be roughly an equal weight to the plum mixture) and the lemon juice. Cook the mixture on high for about 30 minutes (depending on how much water is in the mixture).
The mixture will gradually thicken and darken – it is ready when it is one step short of being toffee. It is important during this stage to almost continually stir the mixture – you dont want it to burn. If it seems like its not getting thicker or darker – just be patient, it will get there.
The best way to test the mixture throughout the cooking is to spoon small amounts onto a plate, and then put it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. This will give you an idea of how much more cooking is needed.
When the mixture is thick, dark and syrupy, pour it into a shallow dish (lined with baking paper), and allow it to cool and set. I recommend leaving the paste for a day or two before cutting it up.
Remove the past from the dish, and cut it into whatever shapes you like. I like long rectangles, which are then wrapped in baking paper and tied up with twine.
Serve on a cheeseboard with sharp (such as a vintage cheddar) or strong (blue) cheese. If sealed, the paste will keep for a fairly long time.
Still to come…….the recipes for Moroccan Beetroot Relish, Egyptian Dukkah, and Sweet and Sour Peanut Clusters…..yummo.