At this time of year there are often not only more mouths to feed, but there's also heaps more candy and chocolate around. We thought we'd gather up some easy, delicious recipes to see you through the holidays and to provide an alternative to the usual festive fare. Some of these dishes are bound to become family traditions, things that come to symbolise the advent of Christmas and that you make every year. Others are things to reach for when you're time and energy-poor, or want to escape into the kitchen away from the hurly burly of Charades or tussles over the TV remote.
For taking to a friend's house
The social calendar can get pretty hectic over the Christmas holidays, so it's good to have a simple but delicious recipe that you can make and take over to friends for pudding. This clementine cake has become a staple in our house: it's so easy to make, and the smell of the cooking clementines fills the house with the most gorgeous Christmassy scents. Make it the day before your social event - it tastes even better the next day. It's moist, flourless and tastes light and fruity, unlike the traditional heavy Christmas cake. Due to the damp stickiness of this cake it's useful to have some linen napkins on standby.
For serving on a cold day
A pot of delicious wassail or mulled cider warming gently on the stove in the background makes the perfect drink for a gathering. There's nothing quite so welcoming as a fuggy kitchen filled with spice-scents and cupfuls of hot deliciousness. This recipe is straightforward and contains all the festive favourites: cloves, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Yum. For a non-alcoholic version just simmer apple juice with a spoonful of brown sugar, a cinnamon stick, cloves, a clementine and some allspice berries. Kids love it.
For giving as Christmas gifts
If you like to give homemade treats to friends, neighbours, the postman or teachers, whip up a batch of these fig and orange shortbread biscuits. A ball of sweet fig paste is tucked into light, nutty shortbread rounds for a melt-in-the-mouth snack with a little surprise inside. Fill a box and decorate with seasonal stamps or wrap with red and white butcher's twine for a lovely gift.
For a stunning dinner centrepiece
(pic via seedsandstitches.com)
If you're hosting a dinner party or having people over to lunch and you want a vegetarian alternative to counter all the turkey and sausages you've been eating, try this. Made with sweet garlic and celeriac encased in a flaky, cheesy pastry crust, this pie is worthy of Christmas lunch itself. Dress your table in your best linen tablecloth and napkins, decorate with greenery and seasonal, foraged leaves and place the pie proudly in the middle.
For munching in front of a festive film
When the Toblerone has all gone and you can't face another mince pie, reach for a jar of spiced nuts. These are so tasty, and great if you don't want all the hassle of cracking your own nuts and finding pieces of stray walnut shell down the back of the sofa for the next three weeks. They also make ideal gifts - simply pour into a Kilner jar or pop into pretty bags and and tie with a ribbon. For a vegan version make a syrup by heating sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved, instead of using honey.
Do you have any Christmas go-to recipes? We'd love to hear what they are in the comments below.