As soon as the street vendors start setting up their chestnut-roasting stations in Zurich, I know that Christmas is around the corner. I adore these roasted beauties, their sweet and fluffy interior making for the perfect street snack when you need something warm and filling. Sometimes when the air is bitingly cold, a little bag of roasted chestnuts is the perfect excuse to warm your hands while you are waiting for your tram.
It is often observed in the Vietnamese culture, and also amongst other Asian groups, that a typical greeting when you see someone is not “Hi, how are you?” but, rather, “Hi, have you eaten yet?”
Even when my mother calls me, if she’s not asking me first what the time is where I am (either because she’s never sure which country I am in or she’s just too lazy to look up the time difference), she will inevitably ask me if I have eaten yet. It is almost the equivalent of asking someone how they are but without the desire to actually know, although if you do respond with a “No”, you can expect an immediate invitation to actually go and eat, whatever the time of day. For my mum and I, it happens to be our way of keeping in touch. She often loses track of, or interest in, my activities, and rather than boring each other with details of our unremarkable days, she will often call me to see if I have eaten, offering suggestions for the week’s menu and reciting recipes over the telephone while I eagerly scribble everything down on the back of an envelope.
If there is one cake which I always look forward to making and eating at Christmas, it would have to be gingerbread. Whether it is gingerbread in the form of beautifully iced and spicy biscuits, or the more sticky and moist sponge cake, I love them all. Anything which is heady with the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger is something I would be happy to sit down to with a big mug of tea.
If you are a fan of white chocolate, you will love White Christmas. I’m not sure where this recipe originated from and how the name came about, but it is ridiculously easy to make and serves well as a sweet treat throughout the festive season, not to mention that they are great as Christmas gifts too.
In a perfect world, my biscuit tin would be constantly stocked with homemade biscuits and cookies, ready for those moments when I sit down to my afternoon cup of tea or when friends and neighbours drop by unexpectedly. Unfortunately, my full-time job often prevents the opportunity for frequent baking during the week, something which I try to make up for over the weekend.
I know that dried cranberries are available throughout the year, but somehow it seems more fitting to use them when Christmas is around the corner. I started off making a simple shortbread and then added my current seasonal favourites – dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, oats and lemon zest. The following recipe is the result of my experiment.
With Christmas looming around the corner, my thoughts have been turning to holiday baking and the return of seasonal favourites which make their annual (but much anticipated) appearance around this time of year. I always look forward to the first batch of fruit mince pies, which is a rather curious phenomenon for me considering that I am actually not a big fan of fruit mince. In fact, I loathe fruit cakes and traditional Christmas cakes; I can eat a slither of a slice out of politeness, so long as there is a nice cup of tea to help me wash it down.