Elderflower jelly, minced meat baklava, cassata ice – Nigel Slater's Christmas dessert recipe

A plate of chocolate-covered halva and a bowl of gooey poached quince, this sweet treat will delight friends and family throughout the festive season.

There's a coarsely sculpted sesame-scented halva with dark chocolate, walnuts and sugared rose petals; golden baklava slices with layers of sweet minced meat and filo butter; sparkling ice cream with candied fruit and amaretti, and glass plates of jelly that smell of sweet orange, elderflower, pomegranate and fresh mint. A bowl of quince has been cooked until the fruit is garnet red and gooey like honey. The candle is burning. The Christmas dessert table is ready.

As much as I love the traditional plum pudding with its sprigs of holly and fiery crowns, the luxurious thinnest as fluffy and white as goose feathers and the button-sized mince pies glistening with sifted sugar, I want to offer more – little handfuls of surprises, little unexpected temptations. anybody. It's a true delight for the cook, a day spent putting a bowl of cassata in the freezer or halva in a tin; jelly shaking in the fridge, for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

None of my Christmas additions need to be eaten when they are made. All will keep for a day or two and the ice cream can be kept in the freezer all Christmas, ready to be sliced or scooped on New Year's Day. Scented with orange zest and almonds, with grapes and candied oranges; sprinkled with chopped pistachios and rose petals or sprayed with gold, it's the essence of the season, sweet flesh to cheer and delight. Nothing takes a long time to make, or requires special equipment. Just an hour or two to do something special, magical, something extra for everyone who comes calling.

The sparkling jelly, properly made with fruit juices and topped with a bit of leaf gelatin, is a refreshing delight among the sweet riches of Christmas. It also comes, at least in this house, with tons of nostalgia for my childhood Christmas. Then, we ate it with canned mandarin oranges and maraschino cherries. These days, I prefer something more tart and crunchy, like a pomegranate and mint salad.

Powdered gelatin and I have never been friends, but gelatin leaves provide a smoother, more predictable set. If you soak it in water no hotter than room temperature, the next lump of gelatin is easily removed with your hands and dripped into the slightly warmed juice, which will dissolve with a stir or two. Get hotter and your gelatin will lose its effectiveness and be difficult to work with. Among the cream and sugar, chocolate and icing, finding the simple fruit jelly is a quiet joy. This recipe is made in minutes.

  • Make 6
  • 10g leaf gelatin (5 sheets)
  • orange juice 500ml
  • elderberry flower 60ml
  • for salads
  • pomegranate ½
  • mint leaves 20
  • caster sugar 4 tbsp
  • Complete
  • elderflower liqueur 6 tbsp

Soak the agar-agar leaves in a bowl of cold (but not ice cold) water, dropping the leaves into the water one at a time so they don't stick.

Warm the orange juice in a saucepan, but don't bring it to a boil. Remove the gelatin from the water – it should be a squishy lump – and stir it into the warm orange juice. When the gelatin is completely dissolved, add 60ml of the warm drink and place it in a jug. Pour into a small glass or plate – the glass will help the jelly catch the light. Transfer to the refrigerator and leave for 4 hours to harden.

Remove the skin from the pomegranate and separate the seeds. Be sure to remove the thin skin. Place the mint leaves and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the sugar turns green. Remove the jelly from the fridge, and fill the surface of each with a tablespoon of elderberry blossom. Place a spoonful of pomegranate seeds on each jelly along with some mint sugar. Save the extra mint sugar in a jar for another day.

Chocolate covered halva

Halva, a fudge-like sesame and sugar paste, is gorgeous when layered with crunchy dark chocolate (think marzipan chocolate, only less sweet). There are many halva, ingredients, textures and spellings, changing according to local custom. I used plain tahini halva which was firm enough to cut into squares, for coating the chocolate, although the pistachio version is also good.

Let the chocolate pieces soften in the bowl, balancing over a pot of simmering water. As the chocolate melts, resist the temptation to stir. Instead, just dip the bits that don't melt into the melted chocolate with the back of a spoon. Stirring can make the chocolate "seize," as it can overheat, so don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the boiling water.

I used edible gold food spray -- available from cake decorating stores and websites -- to decorate the finished chocolate; frivolous festive attitude if ever there was one.

  • Makes 14-15
  • dark chocolate 200g
  • halva 350g
  • walnut parts 14-15
  • For decoration
  • crystallized rose petals 14-15 pieces
  • gold food spray (optional)

Cut the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Put a pot of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Place a bowl of chocolate over the water (the bottom of the bowl shouldn't touch the water) and allow it to melt. Let the chocolate pieces turn liquid, gently pushing them down the surface as they melt.

Turn the halva onto a board and cut or break into 14-15 pieces, weighing about 25g each. (It's nice not to make it too uniform, the different sized pieces are adorable.) Place a sheet of waxed paper on a cooling rack and place the halva pieces on the paper with plenty of room around them. Place half a walnut in each. Drizzle melted chocolate on top and sides of each piece, place crystallized rose petals on each and leave in a cool place to harden.

If you want, spray each with a little gold food spray. Peel each chocolate from the foil and place on a pretty plate.

Candied fruit without churn and clementine cassata ice

Festive ice cream for the sweet tooth. I use ready-made small meringues from Italian grocers and major supermarkets for this. The amaretti that work best are soft, cake-like ones that are heavy with almonds rather than the crunchy biscuit style. I make my own custard just for the fun of making it, but there's no reason why you shouldn't use a box of ready-made chilled custard if that's easier – just make sure it's good, with cream and vanilla.

Like the traditional Italian cassata that the recipe is based on, it is quite sweet, so I brought it to the table with a plate of very light whipped cream which has a calming effect on the sugar, and a plate of refreshing peeled and sliced clementines. to serve together.

No special equipment is needed here. Ice freezes firmly but is soft enough that you can scoop out a scoop or slice over Christmas and New Years, straight from the freezer.

  • Enough for 8-10
  • double cream 750ml
  • egg yolk5
  • caster sugar 5 tbsp
  • soft amaretti 200g
  • meringue 70g, ready to use is enough
  • flaked almonds 50g
  • peeled pistachios 50g
  • 2 clementines, peeled
  • candied orange and lemon zest 100g
  • maple syrup 125ml
  • Serve
  • whipped cream
  • whole orange slices or clementines
  • You will need a deep plastic freezer tub or similar.
  • Bring the cream to a boil, in a medium saucepan and remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick, then pour the warm cream over them and stir until well blended. Wash and dry the cream pan, then pour the mixture back into it and place over low to medium heat, stirring almost continuously. When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon, pour it into a chilled bowl and stir for a few minutes until most of the steam has dissipated. Leave it to cool.

Over a mixing bowl, crumble the soft amaretti and meringue into large crumbs of different sizes (anything from brazil to hazelnut sizes is fine). Toast the blanched almonds in a dry, shallow skillet until pale golden brown, then add them to the crumbs. Coarsely chop and add pistachios. Finely grate the clementines into the crumbs. Chop the candied fruit, then mix everything together.

Stir the maple syrup into the custard, then pour into a plastic freezer tub, cover tightly and fold in clingfilm, and freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight. Serve in scoops or thick slices, with lightly whipped cream or orange wedges.

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