There is something extremely wholesome and almost primitive in the task of creating an edible gift.

You start by gathering the needed ingredients, carefully baking, melting, simmering, or stirring the goods to perfection. Preparing the bottles or boxes used as the vessel of delivery for this gift, and finally, the handwritten tag, with perhaps cooking or storage instructions, or simply a note on how best to enjoy.

There are lots of little steps taken, to create something simple yet wonderful.

Most edible gifts are not extremely expensive to make, but they are often costly on time, which in many ways is a much more precious currency. This can also be a rather immersive family occasion, especially if there are young children in the house who are enthusiastic to help out in the kitchen.

In the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation, it can be rather rewarding to set an entire day aside solely for making your desired gifts. This can be one day free from shopping centres and car park queues.

In the warmth of your own kitchen, with festive music and hot chocolates, the most magical memories can be created, while gifts are being ticked off the list.

I hear the echoes of my own parents now when my children ask what I’d like for Christmas. I really want for nothing. The older we become the more we realise it’s our loved one’s presence, as opposed to their presents, we really yearn for, never more so than over the holiday season.

My first recipe is the spicy pepper jelly which is a beautiful accompaniment to any cold meat or cheese feast. The quantity makes about four small jars, just ensure the jars are fully sterilized before using, to allow the jelly to keep in perfect condition for up to six months.

The next recipe is the most delicious after-dinner snack – peppermint bark. It can be made as thin or as thick as you like. For the quantity below, a 10inch tin works well but an ordinary swiss roll tin is perfect either.

The strength of the peppermint extract varies according to brand, so gradually add it to the chocolate, and taste as you go.

As the chocolate isn’t tempered it’s important to store the bark in the fridge, as it may melt if left out for too long at room temperature.

Peppermink Bar


1kg sure-set jam sugar

400ml cider vinegar

2 red peppers

2 red chillies


1 Sterilize the jars and keep hot in a warm oven. Place a small freezer-proof plate in the freezer to cool.

2 Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, in a large saucepan over a low heat.

3 In a food processor, blitz the peppers and chillies until finely chopped.

4 Add the pepper and chilli mixture to the saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer, stirring regularly, for about 15 minutes.

5 Test if the jelly has set by placing a spoonful of it onto the cold plate. Leave for a minute, then push the jelly with your finger. If it wrinkles, setting point has been reached. If not simmer for another couple of minutes and test again.

6 Once the jelly is at setting point, turn off the heat and leave the jelly to stand for about 10 minutes before transferring into the warm, sterilized pots. Seal and label straightaway. Once opened, refrigerate, and use within a month.

Spicy Pepper Jelly. \ Nessa Robins

Spicy Pepper Jelly


250g milk chocolate, finely chopped

½ tsp peppermint extract

350g white chocolate, finely chopped

75g peppermint candy canes


1 Line the baking tray with parchment paper.

2 In a large heat-proof bowl, set over simmering water (which doesn’t touch the bowl) and gently melt the milk chocolate. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in about ¼ tsp of the peppermint extract. Evenly pour into the prepared tray.

3 Over the same pot of water, place another heatproof bowl and melt the white chocolate. Remove from the heat and stir in about ¼ tsp of the peppermint extract.

4 Add the candy canes to a strong, sealed bag and crush using a rolling pin. Add half of the crushed candy canes to the melted white chocolate, and immediately pour over the milk chocolate.

5 Top with the remaining candy canes. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, until set.

6 Once set, cut into chunks and cover, or pop into a plastic giftbag, and keep refrigerated, for up to 3 days, until ready to serve.

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