At this stage in proceedings – with less than 36 hours to go until C-Day – there’s not much point in sharing complicated Christmas recipes that involve harried phone calls to the butcher, baker or chocolate candlestick maker. If you’re the sort of person who likes adding culinary stress to your festive preparations, I figure you will have planned it out already.

Instead, here are five fast and easy fixes for the person who has everything except ideas for last-minute things to eat and to give over Christmas, using some of the excellent products available via Alison’s Pantry.

1. The emergency present

I’ve already tried this one out and it went down an absolute treat. Scoop a handful of Alison’s Pantry Mega Mix – macadamias, hazelnuts, dried cherries, jumbo raisins, fudge pieces, cranberries and almonds covered in yoghurt, milk or dark chocolate – into a cellophane bag. Add a sprinkle of edible glitter, tie on a ribbon and label ‘Reindeer Poo’. Kids love it, adults look mildly appalled (until they hit a choc-covered macadamia).

2.The spruced-up salad

This is for everyone who has to turn up with a salad on Christmas Day – or at any festive gathering – especially those who are low on energy, inspiration, aptitude or all three.

For six servings: Take one and a half bags of baby salad greens – baby spinach, rocket, mesclun – and sprinkle over two-thirds of a cup of Alison’s Pantry Savoury Sprinkle (a blend of roasted chickpeas, karengo, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds and goji berries. Drizzle with three tablespoons of vinaigrette and serve. Everyone will think you’re a genius.

3. The tropical breakfast

In lieu of any other suggestions (or requests dressed as suggestions), this is what we are having as part of our breakfast spread on Christmas Day, along with some fizz (elderflower kombucha and some champagne) and some kind of yet-to-be-determined baked good. Someone will have brought me a cup of tea in bed first, of course. Or, they will have if they know what’s good for them. Anyway – this easy fruit salad is a good fallback if you miss out on berries and cherries.

For four-six servings: Take one cup of Alison’s Pantry Tropical Fruits mix (dried star fruit, coconut chunks, papaya, mango, peach and cantaloupe) and put in a large bowl. Add 1/3 cup boiling water and squeeze over an orange. Leave to stand for four hours (or overnight), then add a tin of drained lychees, half a fresh pineapple (diced) and a few finely shredded mint leaves. Stir gently and serve with some good Greek yoghurt or whipped coconut cream

4. The Santa snack

I have heard that Santa wants a Garage Project beer and some crisps on Wednesday night but I’m planning to leave him a pile of Alison’s Pantry Raspberry and Cacao Nougat and a glass of icy cold dessert wine. This nougat is soft, chewy and not too sweet – just the right pick-me-up after a night wrapping presents.

5. The cook’s perk

The thing about cooking at Christmas is that the house is often full of food, but there’s nothing to eat Right Now. Let me introduce you to my new addiction – Alison’s Pantry Horopito Cashews. I’m not a savoury snack person as a rule; crisps don’t thrill me and I’m not a fan of those orange-dusted polystyrene things either, but these nuts are something else. Horopito, also called bush pepper, is a native New Zealand herb with a fiery kick. It has all sorts of health-giving properties, which must explain why I can’t get enough of these nuts. Buy yourself a secret stash of these to help keep you going in the days ahead.

* Disclosure: Alison’s Pantry sent me a selection of products to use in this blog post – I am happy to recommend the ones mentioned here.

Do you know what I remember most about university? The jobs I did in between lectures. I cleaned houses, made coffee, waited tables, worked at functions, handed out flyers, recorded weather forecasts, washed dishes and occasionally looked after children. I’d like to think all of these things stood me in good stead for life after university, even if they aren’t quite as useful when it comes to playing Trivial Pursuit.

The best gig of all was working at functions. All you had to do was turn up looking presentable, carry food and drink around for a few hours, then with any luck you’d get to eat and drink the leftovers with your fellow waitstaff – and still go home with a wad of cash in your pocket. Sure, there were pitfalls but for the most part it was a great insight into corporate life. It also taught me that if you’re at any kind of function where canapes are on offer, you need to a) be especially charming to the waitstaff and b) to stand by the kitchen door if you’re really hungry, because then you’ve got first pickings.

Easy Smoked Salmon Canapes Photo And Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

I don’t go in for canapes much when we’re entertaining at home, but when Regal Salmon asked me to create a recipe using their new Artisan Smoked Salmon, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A really good canape needs to have bold flavours, eye appeal and interesting textures (the culinary equivalents of wit, good looks and charm) if you’re going to remember it the next day. These little morsels fit the bill nicely – and they won’t crumble down your front.

Salmon Rosti Canapes Gluten Free

Smoked salmon rosti canapes
Essentially, this is posh fish and chips in canape form. The crispy, crunchy potato strands are the chips, the silky salmon is the fish, and the lemon-spiked creme fraiche dressing is like a fancy tartare sauce. The great thing about these canapes is that you can do all the prep in advance, leaving you plenty of time to apply your face and have a pre-cocktail party cocktail before your guests arrive. Cheers!

600g (4-5 medium) floury potatoes, peeled
4 Tbsp olive oil
flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
180g (3/4 cup) creme fraiche
finely grated zest of two lemons and the juice of one of them
3 Tbsp capers, finely chopped
a handful of fresh fennel fronds or dill
250g best quality smoked salmon

Heat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Grate the potatoes – use the fine grating disc in a food processor, if you have one – then tip them into a sieve set over the sink to drain. Press as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible, then wrap them in a clean teatowel and wring to extract as much moisture as you can. Tip the potatoes into a bowl and stir through the olive oil and salt and pepper until well mixed.
Using your fingers, take small amounts of the shredded potato mixture and place on the prepared trays, as if you were forming little nests. Season again with salt and pepper, then put in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove to a rack to cool.
In the meantime, mix the creme fraiche with the lemon zest, capers and a few finely chopped fennel fronds or dill leaves. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice to taste.
To assemble the canapes, top each potato rosti with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of fennel. This makes about 40 canapes, which are great washed down with a glass of well-chilled bubbles. With any luck, you’ll even have some left for your guests…

If you love smoked salmon but canapes sound a bit formal, this smoked salmon and wasabi pate is a more interactive (but no less delicious) way to eat it.

* This post was created with the assistance of Regal Artisan Salmon, but all opinions (and the recipes) are my own.*

Do you remember mousetraps from when you were a kid? I couldn’t wait to make them when the Small Girl was smaller, mainly so I could eat them myself. There’s something about salty, savoury Marmite that goes so well with slightly scorched bread and cheese. But I’ve found something that goes even better – a mega-umami hit of miso. I know it sounds unlikely, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. The only thing that makes it better is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Trust me, it’s a winner.

Miso And Lemon Mousetraps Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Miso and lemon mousetraps
The beauty of these mouth-watering morsels is that you can make a whole trayful to serve with drinks when  you are unexpectedly pressed into hostess service, or you can make a whole trayful and call it dinner on those nights when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa. You can use any kind of bread you like – baguette, a coarse-textured country loaf or even a cheeky gluten-free number, but nothing too wholegrain-y. Keep the slices about 1/2 a cm thick for best results and only toast one side so you get the soft/crunchy texture thing happening. I’ve kept quantities vague, but keep to the suggested ratio of miso to butter. Don’t forget the lemon, either. Any leftover miso-butter mixture can be kept in a covered container in the fridge.

sliced bread, as above
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
50-100g tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 juicy lemon

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Lie the slices of bread on top, then put under the grill until golden. Don’t do what I do and wander off, unless you have an unlimited supply of bread to replace the charcoal that those forgotten slices will become. Take the tray out of the oven and turn the slices over, so the toasted side is facing down.
Put the miso and butter in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Generously spread the non-toasted side of the bread with this mixture, then scatter some grated cheese on top. Return the tray to the grill and toast until the cheese is crispy and the edges of the bread are darkening.
Let cool briefly before serving with a squeeze of lemon on top.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

A mystery visitor changed my life last Friday. I went out for a few hours and returned home to find crumbs all over the kitchen floor and a tea towel draped artistically over the stovetop. Now, neither of these things are that unusual – our floors are usually so covered in crumbs it looks like Hansel and Gretel have been passing through and tea towels are often appropriated by a pair of small hands to make doll beds or princess dresses. But the strange formation of these crumbs, and the teatowel’s odd positioning, spoke of something else. All at once it dawned on me – the oven man had come! I jumped up and down on the spot beside the oven, both in utter joy and to test whether or not the door was going to fall open. It didn’t budge. I pulled on the door handle and it reluctantly opened, eager to spring back into position. I was so excited I took a video of myself opening the oven door and sent it to my beloved. “This is one of the nicest things you’ve ever done for me,” I wrote.

You may think this indicates that a) I need to get out more and b) that my relationship is in serious trouble, but if you’d spent the last 18 months grappling with an oven that didn’t close properly, you’d be excited too. I’ve spent all weekend marvelling at how easy it is to cook things when the oven door doesn’t fall open at whim and how quickly the oven heats up now that half the heat isn’t escaping. One of the first things I made was a spelt version of my ye olde DIY Vogels bread. Here’s how I did it.

Slices Of No-Knead Spelt Bread

No-knead spelt bread
I’m on a bit of a spelt kick at the moment, not least because I can buy organic spelt flour from a great shop just minutes away – but most supermarkets stock it now too. If you can boil a kettle and stir (not simultaneously), then you can make this bread. I use my own toasted muesli – like this one or this one – when making this but any decent bought one will suffice. If you leave it out, consider throwing in some seeds instead.

300g white spelt flour
300g wholemeal spelt flour
120g toasted muesli
2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp honey
300ml milk
350ml boiling water

Put everything into a large bowl and mix well – it will be like porridge. Scrape into a very-well oiled and lined large loaf tin (internal measurements roughly 20cm x 10cm x 8cm).
Put into a cold oven and turn the dial to 50C. Leave for about 25 minutes, until the dough has risen to the top of the tin. Turn the heat to 200C and bake for another 40 minutes, until crusty on top and hollow when you tap it on the bottom.
Turn out to a rack to cool. This makes excellent toast, or you can cut it into canape-sized bits and have it with cream cheese and pickled ginger or smoked salmon.

What was the best thing that happened to your kitchen last week?

The man of the house is currently brushing up on his French skills and this means getting me to help him with his homework. Once upon a time, this would have been easy, but the passing of time means my brain doesn’t operate in French as well as it used to (or, indeed, as I imagined it once did). I’ve been feeling quite depressed about this, but am consoling myself with the fact that my menu French is still better than his. And when I looked up the Larousse to get a proper dictionary definition of ‘pate’, I didn’t need another dictionary to explain the answer. So I can’t be too badly off, can I?

Smoked Salmon And Wasabi Dip

Smoked salmon and wasabi pate
For the record, Larousse defines ‘pate’ as ‘preparation de charcuterie de texture tres variable et composee de viandes et d’abats en morceaux ou en pate fine et de differents ingredients’ and you don’t need to know much French to figure out that there are (mercifully) no ‘viandes’ (or ‘abats’ – organs) in a smoked salmon version. But I had to call it something other than ‘a sort of spread-y thing you can have on toast or crackers or on little bits of cucumber like an 80s canape’, didn’t I?
This is inspired by something in Jamie Oliver’s book on British food – he makes something similar with smoked trout and horseradish and serves it with baby Yorkshire puddings. And cor blimey, guv’nor, it is bloomin’ lovely. Or c’est absolument delicieux, as our French friends would say.

150g cream cheese, softened
1/4 – 1 tsp wasabi paste
150g hot smoked salmon
finely grated zest of a lemon, plus its juice
a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped dill or mint

Put the cream cheese, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon of wasabi in a small bowl and beat with a fork until smooth. Taste it for hotness – the wasabi should be present, but not overpowering. Keep adding it until you think it’s about right. Flake in the hot smoked salmon and dill or mint. Fold it into the cream cheese, adding a little lemon juice if it seems a bit stiff. Taste again for seasoning – add some salt and freshly cracked black pepper until the balance is right. Scrape into a little bowl and cover, then store in the fridge. Makes enough for six people as a canape, with enough for one lucky person to have on toast the next morning.

Bonne semaine, tout le monde!