The flush of nose-tickling spray that shoots from peeling satsumas, the pretty pink gems of pomegranate pips, to the rich, intense sweetness that comes from nibbling on a Medjool date; these little pleasures are taken from moments of warming up by the fire or dipping into a bowl of fruity goodies watching “Elf” on a drizzly December day.
Fruit often gets side-lined as more indulgent treats claim the festive spotlight. They’re good value at markets though, and always on offer in the supermarket at this time of year, so stock up and put them to good use…
Classic apples & pears
These are the stoic standards that see us straight through from September to January in the UK and Europe. Classic and juicy, with lots of beautiful varieties like Russet and Elstar apples or Williams and Concord pears, to keep things varied. They are at their prime this time of year so you should buy British. Head to a Farmers market if you can to look for the old varieties.
- Make an apple or pear tart tatin to go on the December dinner table. A relatively easy and impressive dessert, go for classic apple and vanilla together, or pear and cinnamon for a twist.
- Apple peelings can be used to flavour syrups for drinks or puddings. Dry them in a low oven for an hour or two and mix into bircher or dried muesli mixes.
- Slice apples into rounds and place them on baking trays in the oven on a low heat with orange slices. Allow to dry, thread them on to twine, stud with cloves to make Christmas decorations with cinnamon sticks, star anise, pine cones and fresh bay leaves.
- Pop a few peeled pears into a roasting tin with squash wedges half way through cooking. They add a caramelised sweetness to a spicy soup.
America and Canada’s favourite festive berry are not just destined for sauce and jam. These little red pops of sourness are turkey’s best friends and can also be turned to the following…
- Mix dried cranberries into stuffing mixture or into butter to spread under turkey skin before cooking.
- Make some festive orange and cranberry biscotti or cookies as an easy gift. Just wrap up a stack in parchment paper and wrap with ribbon.
- Thread fresh cranberries on to a long string to create a natural garland for your tree.
- And they also make an incredible sour Bakewell tart…
Pomegranates, figs & dates
The blousy and vibrant members of the Christmas fruit party, pomegranate, figs and dates lend themselves beautifully to sweet and savoury dishes. Originating from the Middle East, they’re used liberally in North Africa and Southern Europe to pep up salads and party food.
- Pomegranate seeds are great whacked (literally) into green salads, vodka and Champagne cocktails or frozen into ice cubes.
- For a simple party snack, cut a cross into the tops of fresh figs. Open them out a little and stuff with a walnut half and some pecorino cheese. Bake in the oven until cooked through and melted. Drizzle over a little runny honey and serve. You could also try Jamie’s version with Parma ham and mozzarella.
- Stuff dates with almonds or pecans and dip in melted dark chocolate for an indulgent treat.
- Whiz up dates and mix with ganache to add a little fruity sweetness to dark chocolate truffles.
- Figs can make a lovely addition to a cheese board or centre piece.
- You can also use figs to decorate a Christmas cake, along with other Christmas fruits and foliage. Paint the fruit with egg white and roll in sugar for a frosted finish, but don’t eat the fruit after it has been coated.
Clementines, pineapple & passion fruit
I’ve grouped these fruits together because they can all be sweet and sour, and can add an extra tang to super sweet puddings.
- Believe it or not, clementines could make all the difference to your Christmas turkey – half a few and put them in the cavity of your turkey and they will help keep the turkey moist and add fragrance to the meat.
- Stud clementines with cloves and wrap in ribbon to make Tudor-esque pomanders. Give as a gift to hang as decorations or leave them around the house to give off a festive aroma.
- Add rasps of clementine zest to icing, cookie dough, ice cream, and sponge mixtures for a festive twist.
- Make mini clementine and gin jellies with pomegranate seeds as a quick festive pud.
Make a spiced pineapple chutney to serve with roast ham using classic herbs and spices like cinnamon stick, fresh bay leaves and cloves.