Easy does it: Sweet dreams, from Hix

Mark Hix knocks up his favourite sweet and savoury snacks for the festive period. Photographs by Jason Lowe
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Knocking up dishes without actually going shopping between Christmas and New Year is what it's all about. I'm not suggesting just throwing the contents of the fridge into a pot and hoping for the best, but there are some clever dishes, snacks and puds to be had without going through the tired old turkey curry routine. And there's always loads of food around because we all cook far too much on Christmas Day in nervous anticipation that we won't have enough food to feast upon.

If I'm at home, or if I'm at other people's houses over the Christmas period, I normally end up creating dishes from the fridge or things that don't even fit in the fridge. On that subject, don't be tempted to leave the carcass of the bird hanging around at an ambient temperature for days on end, as those food-poisoning bacteria will thrive on it it's best to get the meat off the bone as quickly as possible and wrap it up in the fridge.

Little savoury and sweet bits to snack on over the festive period are great standbys who feels like cooking another huge meal? and also great to get the kids involved in too.

Cranberry steamed pudding

Serves 4-6

Most of us will have the odd bit of cranberry sauce lying around after Christmas Day even if it's because you forgot about the jar in the larder left over from the year before.



100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten, at room temperature
100g self-raising flour, sieved
Butter for greasing
8-10tbsp cranberry sauce, plus some extra if you prefer to serve on top



Cream the butter and sugar, by hand or in a mixing machine, until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the eggs until well mixed. Gently fold in the flour until well mixed.

Grease one large basin, or 4 small individual ones, spoon 4 tablespoons of the cranberry sauce into the bottoms, levelling it out with the back of a spoon, then add the pudding mixture. Cover with a circle of buttered greaseproof paper, then kitchen foil and secure tightly with a piece of string around the edge of the bowl. Put the bowl/bowls into a saucepan with boiling water half way up the bowl, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1-1.5 hours for a large one or 40 minutes for small individual ones, topping up with water if necessary. Remove from the pan and turn out on to a serving dish. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the pudding basin to loosen it. Serve with thick custard and more warmed cranberry sauce if you wish, heated up with a little water and spooned on top.



Candied pink grapefruit peel

Candied peel is the perfect natural sweetie to have lying around in bowls over the festive period.



The peel from 4 or 5 pink grapefruits
500g Billington's golden granulated sugar
2-3tbsp Billington's golden caster sugar



Remove any excess pith from the grapefruit with a sharp knife and cut into rough 2cm squares or strips. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat, simmering gently for 20 minutes this time or until the peel is tender, then drain.

Meanwhile put the granulated sugar into a saucepan with 250ml water. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Carefully add the peel to the syrup and simmer very gently for about 11 hours, or until most of the syrup has evaporated. If it evaporates sooner top it up with a little water. Drain the peel and lay the pieces (making sure they are not touching) on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Leave the tray in a cool place for a couple of days to dry.

To finish, put the caster sugar in a container with a lid, or plastic bag with the peel and shake well so the peel is coated evenly. Spread out on the paper again and leave for a couple of hours to set.



Turkey and ham croquettes

Makes 12

These are common tapas in Spain, but at Christmas time they are perfect for using up turkey and ham trimmings. Traditionally these would be made in croquette shapes but I like moulding them into random shapes.



120g butter
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and very finely chopped
120g flour
500ml chicken stock
125ml double cream
120g ham trimmings, finely chopped
120g turkey trimmings, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Flour for dusting
2 small eggs, beaten
60g fresh white breadcrumbs
60-80g finely grated hard cheese like Parmesan
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

Melt the butter in a thick bottomed pan and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the flour and stir over a low heat, preferably on a diffuser plate, for a minute or so. Heat, then gradually whisk in the chicken stock, stirring with the whisk to avoid lumps forming, then season and cook on a very low heat for 6-8 minutes. This mixture is very thick and needs close supervision and stirring. Whisk in the cream; continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes then remove from the heat, whisk in half of the cheese and leave to cool, stirring as it's cooling to avoid a skin forming. Stir in the turkey and ham and transfer to a plastic storage container, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Have 4 containers ready, one with the flour, one with the eggs, one with the breadcrumbs mixed with the remaining cheese and the fourth one empty for the crumbed croquettes.

Using a tablespoon, scoop the set mixture into spoon-sized pieces into the flour. Coat in the flour using your hands and shaking off any excess then put them through the egg (using just one hand or it gets messy), and again shaking off any excess then finally through the crumbs. Leave in the fridge until required. Pre-heat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick bottomed saucepan or electric deep fat fryer. Fry the croquettes a few at a time for 2-3 minutes until golden, turning them in the oil with a slotted spoon as they are cooking. Drain on kitchen paper; serve immediately.

Stichelton and celery salt biscuits

Makes 40-50

These make perfect pre-lunch nibbles. Stichelton is the fairly new unpasteurised blue cheese made by the cheesemaker Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson of Neal's Yard Dairy, who have joined forces to make this classic blue cheese on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire.



335g plain flour
300g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1tsp fine crystal sea salt
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
1-2tbsp wat
1tbsp celery salt (preferably home-made) or celery seeds



Put the flour, butter, salt and black pepper into a bowl and rub between your fingers to a crumb-like consistency. You can do this in a food processor if you wish. Slowly add the water to form a smooth dough. Meanwhile grate the cheese coarsely and fold into the mix with the nigella seeds.

Transfer to a lightly floured table and roll the mixture into a cylinder about 4cm wide. You can roll it smaller if you wish for mini biscuits. Clingfilm the roll tightly and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Cut the cylinder into about 5mm slices and lay on a non stick or lightly greased baking tray a couple centimetres apart. Sprinkle generously with celery salt and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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