Gifts made in heaven
SO HOW about making some gifts in the kitchen this year and give a gift that really means something.
There are many easy recipes available to whip up something simple for family and friends.
One of my favourites is brandied apricots. Just pack sterilised jars with dried apricots - not too tightly as the apricots will swell a little. Half fill the jars with water, and add brandy until the jars are three-quarters full with liquid.
Then pour in sugar until the liquid reaches the top of the jar.
Make them now; seal well and store in a dark cupboard until Christmas, turning the jars upside down every couple of days.
By the time they're ready to hand over, the sugar should be dissolved.
Persuade the recipient to leave them for another few weeks before opening - the longer the better.
Nut brittle is another winner. Be very careful when cooking with sugar - a boiling sugar burn is so much worse than a water scald.
Preheat oven to 180°C and lightly grease a slice pan with vegetable oil.
Roast one cup almonds and one cup pecans or hazelnuts on a baking tray for five minutes, until golden.
Heat 161/27cups caster sugar in a non-stick pan over medium heat, stirring gently.
When it melts and turns golden brown, add nuts, 50g unsalted butter and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence (be careful - the mixture may spit a little).
Stir to combine.
Pour into prepared pan and leave to set.
When cool, break into shards and package in cellophane bags, tied with a pretty bow.
Store in a cool dry place (not the refrigerator) as humidity will make brittle sweat.
And one for the kids to try: a traditional Scottish-style shortbread.
If you have a wooden shortbread mould, so much the better.
If not, just cut into fingers and prick with a fork.
To contact Maggie Cooper, email her at