Christmas Tree Brownies

Ingredients

  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 185g dark chocolate (75% minimum)
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 75g royal icing sugar
  • green natural gel food colouring
  • sprinkles

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas 4. Line a square 8x8 inch tin with greaseproof paper.

Sit your chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl above a saucepan of water on a low heat (a bain marie), until melted. Set aside to cool.

Crack your eggs into a bowl with the caster sugar and vanilla, and whip with an electric mixer until thick, pale and creamy. Pour in your cooled chocolate and gently fold together with a metal spoon or spatula - marrying your ingredients without beating the air out of them.

Sieve in your flour, cinnamon and cocoa powder and gently fold in until you have a fudgy-looking mixture. Finally, stir in your chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool before decorating.

Cut the cooled brownie cake into 12 triangular tree-shaped wedges.

Mix the icing sugar with 1-2 teaspoons of water, and a squirt of colouring gel, to make a thick but runny icing. Drizzle or pipe over the brownie triangles in a zigzag pattern. Scatter with the sprinkles and tah dah!

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Ultimate Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp malted milk drink
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 4 tbsp quality cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Allspice
  • 150g quality dark chocolate (75% minimum), finely grated

Method

Mix all of your ingredients together and store in an air-tight jar. This will create a delicious ready-made chocolate drinking mix that you can delve into throughout December.

You need around 2 heaped tablespoons of chocolate mix for every 350ml mug of milk. Simply spoon the chocolate mix into hot milk, give it a good whisk and leave to bubble away for a few minutes before serving – you’re looking for that gorgeous, thick, almost claggy, knockout texture.

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Pear Tatin

Ingredients

  • 8 pears
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 x ready-roll sheet all-butter puff pastry

Method

Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

Core and peel the pears, and slice in half.

Tip the sugar, butter, star anise, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon into an ovenproof frying pan, about 20cm wide, and place over a high heat until bubbling. Stir the buttery sauce until it separates and the sugar caramelises to a toffee colour.

Carefully add the pears to the pan and cook for 10-12 mins, until completely caramelised. Watch as the mix magically transforms into a smooth, silky sauce.

Using a plate slightly larger than the top of the pan, cut out a circle of pastry. Pinch the edge of the pasty to thin the rim.

When the pears have cooled slightly, arrange them in the pan, cut side up.

Drape the pastry over the pears. Using a spoon (not your fingers), tuck the edges of your pastry into the pan and slightly under the pears. Pierce the pastry a few times, then bake for 15 mins.Reduce oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas 4 and bake for 15 mins more until the pastry is golden. Leave the tart to stand for 10 mins, then invert it carefully onto a serving dish.

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Festive Fig Chutney

Ingredients

  • 250g muscovado sugar
  • 1kg fresh figs
  • 500ml cider vinegar
  • 2 large red onions
  • 200g seedless raisins
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 50g salt
  • 2 tbsp Allspice
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander

Method

Chop up your figs and onions into small pieces (or whack them in a food blender if you're feeling lazy). Put the vinegar in a large saucepan with the salt, ginger, allspice, pepper and coriander. Bring everything up to the boil, then stir in the figs, raisins, onion and sugar.

Leave it all to simmer very gently without a lid for about 1½ hours, or until the chutney has thickened and your figs and onion have softened. Give it an occasional stir to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the mixture is thick and jam-like. Bottle in sterilised jars while hot and seal.

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Fondant Candy Canes

Ingredients

  • 300g fondant icing sugar
  • natural gel food colourings
  • cornflour, for dusting

Method

These make great little Christmas cake toppers! Add 2 tablespoons of water to the fondant icing sugar and stir until combined (follow the packet instructions). If you want to flavour your fondant, you could mix in some peppermint essence!

Put two-thirds of your fondant aside as your white base. Divide the final third into 3 colours of your choice. Dust the fondant with cornflour, covering any which is not being used with clingfilm to stop it drying out.

Roll a third of your white into a chunky sausage. Split your coloured balls in half and roll into sausages, equal length as your white. Sandwich the white between two coloured sausages of your choosing. Roll the fondant over a work surface with your palms until long and thin.

Take both ends between your fingertips and twist them in opposite directions to create a swirl effect.

Cut the twisted fondant into five lengths and curl one end of each around your finger to form a cane shape.

Transfer to a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Leave the candy canes to harden for 24 hours, and use them to decorate your Christmas Pudding!

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Braised Red Cabbage

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 eating apples
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • a generous knob of unsalted butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325ºF/gas 3.

Peel and slice the onion. Click off and discard any tatty outer leaves from the cabbage, then remove the core and finely shred. Peel and grate your apple.

In a fairly large casserole dish, arrange a layer of shredded cabbage seasoned with salt and pepper, then a layer of chopped onions and apples with a sprinkling of garlic, spices and sugar. Continue with these alternate layers until everything is in. Now pour in the vinegar, lastly add dots of butter on the top.

Pop in the oven and cook slowly for 1 hour 45 minutes. Give it a stir half way through until you have a perfectly soft, sticky, delicious braised cabbage dish for your Christmas table!

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Microwave Fudge

Ingredients

  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tin condensed milk
  • 120g salted butter, chopped into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 3 tbsp amaretto (optional)

Method

Put the sugar, condensed milk and butter in a LARGE heatproof bowl (the mixture is going to bubble to double its size), add a generous pinch of salt and stir together.

Microwave on high for 10 mins, stirring every 2-3 mins.

Add the vanilla and optional amaretto to the mixture, whisk together and heat on high for another 2 mins. The mixture should be caramel in colour and much thicker than when you started. Scrape into a greased and lined baking tin and set aside cool and firm before cutting (give it at least an hour). Pack into a gift bag and eat within 3 weeks.

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Triple Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 50g white chocolate
  • pistachios, cranberries and apricots

Method

Firstly melt each chocolate gently over a bain-marie. Place a heatproof bowl snugly over a saucepan with a little water in the bottom (but not enough so that it touches the bottom of the bowl). Place on the hob on a very gentle simmer and start breaking your chocolate into the bowl. Stir until smooth and completely melted.

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Pour the melted milk and dark chocolate onto your lined tray and spread evenly - you can make it as thin as you like. Drizzle your white chocolate over your milk and dark chocolate, before gently swirling the two together using a cocktail stick.

While the chocolate is still soft, add your toppings. I've used a handful each of pistachios, cranberries and apricots, but get creative! Adding different toppings to different portions of your tray means when it’s broken up you’ll have a nice mix of pieces.

Transfer to the fridge for a couple of hours to cool. When completely set, break up in to rough shards. Wrap in cellophane bags tied with ribbon and handwritten labels for perfect homemade gifts, or store in an airtight container for a quick sweet treat.

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Bread Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 8 cloves
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 700ml whole milk
  • 125g (5 thick slices) freshly made white breadcrumbs
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp double cream

Method

Peel the onion, half it and then spike it with the cloves.

Put the spiked onion into a medium saucepan with the bay leaves, milk, peppercorns, a few scrapings of finely grated nutmeg and 3 generous pinches of sea salt.

Place the pan on a high heat and bring to the boil – keep a close eye on it as milk comes to the boil very suddenly. Reduce to a low heat and simmer very gently for 5 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Take off the heat, cover the pan and leave in a warm place for the milk to infuse for two hours or more.

When you're ready to make the sauce, strain the milk through a sieve into a jug, discarding everything left behind in the sieve. Make your breadcrumbs by pulsing them in a food processor until you have coarse breadcrumbs.

Return the milk to the pan on a medium heat and simmer, gradually stirring in the breadcrumbs until you’ve used them all up. Add the butter and cream to the pan, stir well, then have a taste and season with a little more salt and pepper, if needed.

After about 15 minutes the crumbs will have swollen and thickened the sauce. Now, the final consistency is up to you! Add more bread if it's too runny, or loosen with more milk if it's too thick!

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Winter Daiquiri

Ingredients

  • 50ml rum
  • 25ml clementine juice
  • 25ml lime juice
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • ground cinnamon, to garnish
  • fresh ginger, to garnish

Method

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes, then strain into a cocktail glass. Dust with cinnamon and a grating of fresh ginger, to garnish.

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Ultimate Mince Pies with Homemade Mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 200g currants
  • 200g raisins
  • 200g sultanas
  • 200g dried cranberries
  • 2 lemons, zest & juice
  • 2 clementines, zest & juice
  • 6 tbsp port or brandy
  • 100g mixed peel
  • 2 large Bramley apples, cored and grated (no need to peel them)
  • 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 300g shredded suet
  • 300g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 375g shortcrust pastry
  • plain flour, for dusting
  • unsalted butter, for greasing

Method

To make the mincemeat, soak the raisins, sultanas, currants and cranberries in the brandy/port, clementine and lemon (juice and zest) for 1 hour until plumped up, then drain and KEEPING THE BRANDY JUICE ASIDE.

Mix all the ingredients together in the order given, then pour back in the brandy juice when everything else is well mixed.

Spoon and press into sterilised jars and cover and leave for as long as you can to let the flavours mature. These are going to taste GREAT on Christmas Day (and the mix will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months).

You've done all the hard work with the mince meat, so let's make it easy with the shortcrust...

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4, and lightly grease a shallow cupcake tray with butter.

Roll out half the pre-made pastry on a clean flour-dusted surface to 3mm thick, then cut out 12 circles using a pastry cutter or a clean glass tumbler. Lay them in the hollows of the tray and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Roll out the remaining pastry to the same thickness and cut into shapes to decorate the tops of your pies (stars and tree-shapes work well).

Take the pastry bases out of the fridge and fill them just over halfway up with mincemeat, then smooth the filling out to the edges. Top each pie with a cut-out shape, then brush once more with the eggwash.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden. Dust with icing sugar before serving, then dig in.

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Cheese Straws

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 150g mature cheddar cheese
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 2 large free-range eggs, yolks only

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until all the lumps are gone and the texture is like fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the cheese, mustard powder, paprika, and egg yolks. Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water and mix to a firm dough.

Roll it out on a floured surface, forming a rectangle about 1cm thick. Slice it into 1cm sticks and place onto the baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until crisp and golden, then leave to cool on the tray.

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Decorative Dried Oranges

Ingredients

  • You can do this with oranges, lemons, apples...

Method

Preheat your oven to 140°C/275°F/gas 1 and line some baking trays with greaseproof paper/parchment.

Slice your fruit of choice very thinly. For consistency use a mandolin. Arrange the slices on the trays, then bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning halfway through cooking, until completely dried out. Leave to cool.

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Chocolate Yule Log

Ingredients

  • 6 large free range eggs, separated
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 150g soft butter
  • 2 tbsp whiskey liqueur or whole milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/gas 4.

Line a 23 x 32cm Swiss roll tin with parchment.

Separate the eggs into two bowls and beat the whites until stiff, then, still whisking, sprinkle in 75g of the golden caster sugar and continue whisking until the whites are holding their peaks.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining caster sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract, sieve the cocoa powder over, then fold both in.

Lighten the yolk mixture with a couple of dollops of the egg whites, gently folding with a metal spoon or spatula, using a cutting and turning action. Then add the remaining whites in thirds, folding them in carefully to avoid losing the air.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it out to the edges. Bake for 20 minutes.

Slightly dampen a clean tea towel. Slide the hot cake, still on its parchment, onto the tea towel. Dust the top with cocoa powder and loosely roll up the sponge, length-ways, on the parchment, in the tea towel and leave to cool. Don't worry about cracks - we'll be covering it anyway!

To make the icing and filling, melt your chocolate in a bain marie and let it cool. Beat together your butter and icing sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the cooled chocolate and the whisky liqueur and blitz again to finish your icing.

Gently unroll your sponge. Spread some of the icing thinly over it, going right out to the edges, and start re-rolling - taking care to get a tight roll this time.

Cut one or both ends slightly at a gentle angle, reserving the remnants, and place the roll on a serving board. The off cuts are to make a branch by placing a piece at an angle coming off the big 'log'.

Spread the yule log with the remaining icing, covering the cut-off ends as well as any branches. Create a wood-like texture by marking along the length and end of the log with a fork.

A light dusting of icing sugar gives that final winter feel! And you can decorate with the fondant candy canes from Day 5!

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Roasted Ricotta & Honey Figs

Ingredients

  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 ricotta rounds
  • 100g walnuts
  • 8 figs
  • 2 clementines, zest & juice
  • runny honey
  • coarse sea salt and black pepper
  • pinch of allspice

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Place the bay in a roasting tray, pick over half of the thyme leaves and sit the ricotta on top.

Halve and scatter the figs around the cheese, leaving the skins on, and the walnuts. Finely grate over the clementine zest and juice, sprinkle on the rest of the thyme and then drizzle everything with oil and honey.

Rub the flavours into the cheese with your hands, then season generously with coarse sea salt and black pepper and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden and firm.

Serve the roasted ricotta on a board with a stack of toast, the sticky figs and walnuts and some rocket on the side.

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Gingerbread House

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp treacle
  • 625g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 2 free-range egg whites
  • 500g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and mixed spice into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water. If it’s very sticky, dust it with flour, then wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to about 5mm thick.

Using a sharp knife, cut out pieces for your house. You’ll need six pieces, in three different shapes measuring: sides: 20cm x 14cm; roof: 21cm x 7cm; gable ends: 10cm (base) x 14cm (outer sides) x 18cm (apex). Any scraps can be pressed together and rolled out for the next pieces.

Place your house pieces onto the baking tray, leaving a 1cm gap between them as they will rise a little in the oven. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until golden and slightly darker around the edges.

Let the gingerbread cool completely before icing.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then, while whisking, gradually mix in the icing sugar till you have a dense stiff meringue. Use this to glue your gingerbread pieces together. You can also use this mixture to attach decorations to your beautiful house. Don't forget to dust with icing sugar for a final flourish!

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Balsamic Potato Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2kg Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 300ml balsamic vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves, remove skins and crush with the base of your knife
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 4 rosemary sprigs, strip the leaves and finely chop

Method

This is inspired by Jamie Oliver and I now couldn't have a Boxing Day without them. Peel the potatoes, cut them into even-sized chunky wedges and parboil in a large pan of boiling salted water for 10 minutes. This is going to give you a superbly fluffy inside versus the gnarly, blackened skins.

Drain and leave to steam dry completely in the colander.

Throw some generous glugs of oil into a large roasting dish and pop into the oven whilst your potatoes are drying out. Be very careful with the next step. Add your potatoes to the hot oil - THEY WILL SPIT. Season generously with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 45 minutes or until lightly golden, tossing gently halfway.

After 45 minutes, add in your garlic cloves and coat the potatoes with the balsamic. Pop back into the oven for a further hour. Keep an eye (you may have cut yours smaller than mine!). 10 minutes from the end toss in the rosemary leaves and butter, giving them a good mix so your potatoes are glossy and flecked with green.

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Sloe Gin

Ingredients

  • 500g ripe sloes
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 700ml good quality gin

Method

This is a recipe to make now for next Christmas. Yes, next Christmas! As your gin will mature and improve over time.

You can find sloes online, if you haven't picked any. They're likely to be frozen which is GREAT as this will simulate the first frost and split the skin on your berries, allowing them to release their natural sweetness.  If you've picked them yourself, rinse and pat dry in a clean tea towel. Using a cocktail stick, prick the sloes and tip into a sterilised 1.5 litre Kilner jar.

Add the sugar and gin, then seal the jar.  Turn it over and marry the ingredients. Store the jar in a cool, dark place and turn it every other day for 2-3 months.

After 3 months, remove the sloes by lining a plastic sieve with a square of muslin set over a bowl and strain the sloe gin through it. Decant into sterilised bottles, then seal. The sloe gin is now ready to drink but the longer you leave it, the better it's going to taste, so hold onto it for next year!

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Leftover Turkey Ragu

Ingredients

  • 600g turkey meat (your leftovers)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 15 sage leaves, chopped
  • 2 tins peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp fresh nutmeg
  • 570ml whole milk
  • 1 large glass (250ml) white wine
  • 350ml water
  • 1 chicken stock cube

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7.

Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat and fry the pancetta for 6-8 minutes, until crispy brown. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and a pinch of salt to help soften and reduce the heat to a medium. After 15 minutes, your onions should be soft and translucent.

Add the turkey meat and sage, nutmeg, cinnamon and bay leaves. Cook until the fragrances of the herbs and spices tingle your nostrils (about 10 minutes).

Turn the heat up to high and add the wine. This should sizzle and reduce quickly. Be sure to scratch all of the caught ingredients from the bottom of the pan at this point - this is flavour.

Add the milk, tomatoes (squeezed between your hands as you drop them in), water and stock cube. Stir to combine and then reduce to a gentle simmer with a lid on for 2 hours. Take the lid off for a final 45 minutes and you'll have a beautiful, rich ragu.

Season and serve with pasta and a generous grating of parmesan.

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Gravy for Every Roast

Ingredients

  • onions
  • carrots
  • celery
  • garlic
  • plain flour
  • stock
  • bay leaves
  • thyme
  • soy sauce
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Method

Ultimately, great gravy comes from utilising the juices of your cooked meat. When cooking your turkey (it's Christmas, after all), sit it on a bed of onions, carrots, celery and garlic.

Once cooked, remove the meat from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Pop your roasting dish (if hob-proof) onto the stove and fry your veggies until caramelised.

Add enough plain flour to spread a light, even blanket across your veg and stir until light brown. It's important you give this a chance to cook so you aren't left with a floury taste to your gravy.

Gradually pour in good quality stock, keeping the heat on medium-high. A little at a time will make sure your flour is properly combined and you can track how thick or thin your gravy is.

Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, and add a splash of soy sauce, a few bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme. These flavours compliment most meats.

Strain the mixture into a clean pan, pressing down on the veg with a spoon to release all the juices. You now have a pot of gravy. At this point you can loosen and reduce to your desired consistency, and keep it warm until service!

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Chicken Liver Pâté

Ingredients

  • 450g chicken livers
  • 200g melted butter
  • ½ small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 8 sage leaves
  • ¼ fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 50ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • sea salt and black pepper

Method

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, about a tablespoons worth. Slowly fry the onion, garlic, sage and nutmeg for 10 minutes, until soft and tender, then remove to a plate.

Heat a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Pour a little of the melted butter into the hot pan. Cook the livers for two or three minutes on each side, until lightly coloured but still a little pink in the middle. Keep tuning them over – if you overcook them they will lose their smooth texture and become grainy. You may need to do this in batches (dependant on your pan size) as you do not want to overcrowd the pan.

Transfer the chicken livers, onion, garlic and sage to a food processor and blend them for a minute or so until smooth. Then pour in the remaining melted butter and double cream and blend once more. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then stir in the brandy.

Transfer the pâté to eight small ramekins, cover with cling film and chill. This can be made up to 2 days in advance and then should be disposed of.

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Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter, melted and cooled slightly

Method

For the real deal, grab yourself a madeleine tray! Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Brush your tray with butter and shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess and pop it in the fridge to chill.

Whisk the eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt together until lightened in colour and voluminous. Lightly whisk in your other ingredients and leave to stand for 20 minutes before pouring a spoonful into each mould (do not fill the whole way).

Pop the filled moulds in the fridge to chill for an hour before baking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until risen and a skewer comes out of the centre clean. Leave to cool for a bit and then EAT! They are at their best when fresh.

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Gingerbread Wreath

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp treacle
  • 625g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 2 free-range egg whites
  • 500g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and mixed spice into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water. If it’s very sticky, dust it with flour, then wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to about 5mm thick.

Place a dinner plate onto your gingerbread and use a sharp knife to cut around it. Using a small side plate, remove the centre of your gingerbread circle and you should be left with a complete ring. Cut out stars (or whatever shapes and sizes you fancy) from your remaining gingerbread. Any scraps can be pressed together and rolled out for the next pieces.

Place your pieces onto the baking trays, leaving a 1cm gap between them as they will rise a little in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and slightly darker around the edges.

Let the gingerbread cool completely before icing.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then, while whisking, gradually mix in the icing sugar till you have a dense stiff meringue. Use this to glue your gingerbread pieces together. You can also use this mixture to attach decorations to your beautiful wreath. Don't forget to dust with icing sugar for a final flourish!

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Smoked Salmon Blini Canapes

Ingredients

  • 120g self-raising flour
  • a pinch fine salt
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 120g semi-skimmed milk
  • unsalted butter

Method

For the blinis, place the flour and a pinch of sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and add the oil, then beat into the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until you’ve got a smooth batter.

Get ahead – make the batter the night before, then simply leave covered in the fridge until needed, whisking up well before use.

Simply cook these as you would pancakes! A knob of butter and a splash of oil in a pan on a medium heat. Once hot and the butter’s melted, add tablespoons of batter to the pan to make your blinis. Remember, these are canapés so try to make them single mouth-size portions.  Cook for 1 minute on each side, flipping over when they turn golden on the bottom and get little bubbles on top.

Top with ribbons of smoked salmon, lashing of cream cheese and chives, and fresh grating of lemon zest.

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Christmas Pudding with a Clementine Centre

Ingredients

  • 400g dried fruit of your choice (currants, sultanas, raisins)
  • 50g candied peel
  • 175ml rum
  • 200g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1½ tsp mixed spice
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g white breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon, zest of
  • 1 orange, zest of
  • 150g shredded suet
  • 50g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 150ml stout

Method

Soak the dried fruit and peel in rum overnight.

Whisk together the sugar, spice, flour, salt and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl then stir in the zest, suet and almonds. Beat the egg and stout and mix into the dry ingredients.

IMPORTANT: stirring should traditionally be shared by everyone in the household, stirring from east to west, while making a wish. It's a tradition we do every year and it's magical.

Stir in the fruit and any sherry in the bottom of the bowl, and then taste the mixture and add a little more mixed spice or rum if you like.

Scrape and press the mixture into a prepared pudding basin and put on the lid. Then wrap with a layer of foil so that the basin is watertight, then put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

Remove from steaming and unwrap the foil. Put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Flambé if you're feeling fancy, but otherwise serve and at least half of your guests will be willing to try it and the other half will be foolish and claim they don't like Christmas Pudding!

Tis’ the season for something sweet, use code PIX10 for a Christmas treat at biscuiteers.com! Subscribe to the Katie Pix Newsletter for your chance to WIN a letterbox biscuit (new winner drawn daily)!
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