The thing about Christmas coming but once (thank goodness) a year is that with each iteration you realise, poignantly, how much has changed since the last one. While you could of course reflect upon this during any Tuesday or September, with its keen sense of tradition and consistency and focus on familial relationships and togetherness, Christmas certainly lends itself to introspection more than, say, Halloween — though don’t let me hold you back. It’s that very sameness that makes the changes sharply delineated, makes you wonder what will have transpired by next Christmas, but it can also be comforting; the same music, the same scent of pine, the same food. And despite the quinquereme of changes that 2022 has powerfully rowed into my life, we can all count on one thing remaining the same: my Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up!
If this is news to you, each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts that I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful — and all I ever really want is to be useful while drawing attention to myself in the process. In the spirit of consistency and tradition, and also in the spirit of retaining my own sanity in these trying times, I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as in previous years — there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and I appreciate your understanding.
Christmas is a pretty fraught time of year as it is, and inescapable even if you’re not particularly invested — a bit like that primary school exercise where we inexplicably had to look after an egg for a week without breaking it, Christmas is a responsibility handed to you by a greater authority, fragile, and kind of wasteful in the grander scheme of things. But it’s happening, and if, like me, you’re someone who finds comfort and calm in cooking, then focussing your energy on making delicious edible gifts for people can reign in some of that generalised seasonal tension. Make a list, check it twice, work out which tier each person is on — are they worth putting in the effort to boil sugar? — pour yourself a small glass of port or a fruity cup of tea, and fill the kitchen with the scent of cinnamon and melting chocolate while the lights twinkle in your peripheral vision.
If you keep a relatively small circle, there are still neighbours, the postal service, and any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a jar or box of something in their letterbox with a friendly note attached. But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.
As for the financial pressures of this time of year — I won’t lie, between the ludicrous supermarket prices, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade — but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. The aforementioned ludicrous supermarket prices (all I want for Christmas is for more than one green vegetable at a time to be affordable) are still there to be reckoned with, but it’s undeniably fast and easy. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta? All delightful gifts. It can be as simple as just buying food you know someone happily eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! They love noodles? Buy them a week’s worth! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism, but giving an edible gift has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate practical application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, and it makes you look like a really great person, but perhaps more importantly, it shows the people you love that they’re worth a little time and consideration.
I realise to heaps of people Christmas is — quite reasonably — just another day of the week! But there will be some point in your life when giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)
Anyway, let’s get to it. I admit, I look forward to compiling this, especially when, throughout the year, I blog a recipe that could potentially augment the list. I’ve grouped the list into three categories, and have also included a few recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.
Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fifteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth noting anything that could melt should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree for as long as possible.
Finally — all these recipes are vegan.
The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up!
Category One: Things In Jars
Things In Jars! That eternal receptacle, a glass jar makes the humblest of ingredients and least of efforts look welcoming and exertional. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, Things in Jars are ideal gifts for your most marginally tolerable of coworkers or the most highly specific loves of your life. For added personal flair — though this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining — I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar. I used to be extremely cavalier about the sterility of said jars, but after living at home I’ve been sufficiently old-wives-taled into respectful fear for botulism. I like to think that a jar fresh from the dishwasher is as close to sterile as you can hope for; otherwise, I’d consult the internet (and with the state of google these days it’s worth either going straight to youtube or adding “reddit” after your search term) for wise counsel on the process.
Coconut Oat Chilli Crisp
Vegan Gochujang Bokkeum (if you know someone who likes chilli I cannot recommend this highly enough)
Roasted Plum Harissa
Cranberry Sauce (this recipe is super easy, and I make it almost every year to have with Christmas dinner)
Corn and Chilli Relish
Sake Pickled Radishes
Dukkah (perhaps accompanied by a nice bottle of olive oil)
Spiced Peaches (very, very easy and good)
Caramelised Onion Butter
Ras el hanout
Khmeli Suneli (overachievers might consider making a tasting flight of these three spice mixes)
Cumin and Paprika Spiced Pumpkin Seed Butter
Peach Balsamic Barbecue Sauce
Roasted Chickpea Butter
Quick-Pickled Apples and Pears
Quick Pickled Scallions/Spring Onions
Pecan Cookie Granola Butter
Rhubarb, Raspberry and Cardamom Jam
Rhubarb Fig Jam
Berry Chia Seed Jam
Black Salted Caramel Sauce
Salted Pineapple Caramel Sauce
Apple Cinnamon Granola
Strawberry Jam Granola
Buckwheat, Cranberry and Cinnamon Granola
Caramel Walnut Granola
Lux Maple Granola
The Best Granola (the others are still good, but it’s named for a reason)
Salted Vanilla Brazil Nut Butter
Coffee Cinnamon Hazelnut Butter
Rhubarb Fruit Mince (very easy and delicious and surprisingly easy to find ways to use)
Category Two: Baked Goods
They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper — the ginger molasses loaf below keeps forever and would make a charmingly convivial offering. And at this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the Christmas Star Cookies a LOT and recommend them enthusiastically, but for some reason they work better if you make individual batches repeatedly rather than trying to double or triple the ingredients. As for how to present them, you don’t need to convert your house into an arts-and-crafts station; a handful of cookies in a cellophane or sandwich bag tied with a bow is fine, or pile them into takeout containers which is easy, practical, and less of a single-use-plastic vibe. I’m still partial to the magic of curling ribbon, but a wider ribbon will create a distracting flourish for simple packaging. Don’t stress about it too much though, the food itself is the star here.
Christmas Star Cookies
Pistachio Toffee Cookies (gorgeous, but the toffee softens after a couple of days, so make them closer to the date of giving)
Chocolate Rosemary Cookies (very elegant, and you could tie a sprig of rosemary in with the packaging for rustic Christmassy effect)
Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits
Rum + Pecan Cookies
Chewy Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies
Brown Butter Chocolate Brownies
Viv’s Crackers (good to make anyway for general nibbling)
Vanilla Chocolate Macarons (high effort, high reward, but like, really high effort, this isn’t for people you feel indifference towards)
Dark Rum Tahini Chocolate Walnut Cookies
Roasted Carrot Cake with Apple Cider Vinegar Buttercream (if this or the poppyseed loaf below has to travel a long distance I’d leave them uniced)
Lemon Poppyseed Loaf Cake
Ginger-Molasses Loaf Cake (I have made dozens and dozens of these, and it’s excellent with treacle instead of molasses)
The Very Best Vegan Christmas Cake (I do not exaggerate)
Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos
The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: even with overproof vodka the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs probably won’t be ready in time for Christmas; unless you can find out-of-season feijoas there’s no point trying that recipe either, but either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday — or next Christmas.
Homemade Feijoa Vodka
Homemade Passionfruit Liqueur
Homemade Mandarin Liqueur
Candy Cane Vodka (or Peppermint Schnapps if you will — it’s almost literally potable!)
Coffee-Orange Liqueur aka Forty Four
Old Fashioned Lemonade Cordial
Chocolate Pistachio Fudge (incredibly easy, and it’s a Nigella recipe so you can really trust it)
Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies
Three-ingredient Chocolate Caramel Hearts
Candy Cane Bark
Homemade Bounty Bars
Salted Chocolate Cashew Butter Slice
Almond Butter Toffee
Old Fashioned Fudge
Chocolate Caramel Rice Bubble Slice
No-bake Cookie Dough Truffles
Vegan White Chocolate
Vegan Cookies and Cream White Chocolate
Raspberry Rainbow Slab
(Pictured, in order from the top: Chocolate Pistachio Fudge; Candy Cane Bark; Rhubarb Fruit Mince; Sake-Pickled Radishes; Chocolate-Nut Fudge Candies; Candy Canes (just as they are, not a recipe); Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Cardamom Jam; Roasted Plum Harissa; Berry Chia Seed Jam; Christmas Star Cookies; The Best Christmas Cake; Homemade Mandarin Liqueur; Raspberry Rainbow Slab.)
Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. I have a small personal tradition where I watch this clip every December 1st and invariably start crying, which is where I should point out that it is absolutely not a number intended to stir that kind of emotion. I can’t explain it, it’s something about Donna McKechnie’s elasticated spine, it’s the diagonal convergence at the end, it’s the way I wait for it each year, it’s the culmination of all the previous years up until this point, it’s Christmas!
Amen, by Jolie Holland, a song of almost otherworldly soothing beauty from her glorious album Escondida.
Supervixens, by A.R Kane, I mean, this is a time for tradition after all, and this will always remain one of my top-listened songs of any year, and every time I listen it’s more messy, more yearning, more weird, more amazing.
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