So we are into December and no-one can say it’s too soon to talk about Christmas! It’s my favourite time of year when everyone makes the effort to see family and friends and it involves food and drink!

I have shared many Christmas recipes over the years in the Costa Cálida Chronicle, but this year we are focusing on nuts. It’s been said before, but nuts are very good for a gluten-free, low-sodium or low-carbohydrate diets and also if you are vegetarian. With Christmas in mind I have included a recipe for creating your own mixed nuts. They are great for making packets up for a little homemade gift or impressing your guests with something different. I have also included my recipe for Christmas Cake (which includes nuts) which several people have asked me to repeat.
Buen Apetito

Spicy Mixed Nuts

2 large egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
2½ tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp chilli powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
6 cups mixed unsalted raw nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, cashews, and pistachios)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 1 oz)

Heat oven to 300° F. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until a loose meringue forms. Beat in the mixed spice, chilli powder, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and salt. Mix in the nuts and butter, then mix in the Parmesan. Divide the nuts between 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets, spreading them in a single layer. Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Luxury Christmas Cake

80g/2¾oz golden syrup
80g/2¾oz black treacle
50g/1¾oz honey
250g/9oz dark brown sugar
200ml/7fl oz double cream
15g/½oz (about 2 tbsp) mixed spice
250g/9oz unsalted butter
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp lemon extract
6 medium eggs
350g/12oz currants
350g/12oz raisins
350g/12oz chopped pitted prunes
350g/12oz glacé cherries or more dried fruit
350g mixed chopped nuts
Halved walnuts optional
500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Brandy/dark rum/whisky/orange juice, for feeding the cake
2 tbsp apricot jam, boiled and sieved

Place all the dried fruits into a large mixing bowl or pot and pour in brandy/dark rum/whiskey/orange juice. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to stand for at least 24 hours, stirring every few hours so the fruit plumps up. Mix together the zest, flour and spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, honey, golden syrup and treacle until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour with each, then add all nuts. Finally, gently fold in the dry ingredients. Tip the creamed mixture into the fruit and mix making sure the fruit is evenly distributed. Prepare a 23-25cm (9-10″) cake tin: double-line the inside of the tin with baking parchment, greasing it first. Pour the mixture into the lined tin. Even the top and make a slight indentation in the centre with the back of a spoon. Put into the middle of a preheated oven (150ºC/Gas mark 2) Bake for 3 hours and 45 minutes. Place on a rack and allow to cool in the tin (overnight). The longer the cake is left, the better it tastes. Regularly spoon over the brandy etc. Two weeks before required, spread with apricot jam and cover with marzipan. Allow to dry for 5 days. Ice with fondant, royal icing or frosting and decorate as desired.

Pecan Marzipan

200g/7oz finely ground pecans/half walnuts and half pecans
100g/3½oz icing sugar
125g4½oz soft brown sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tsp liquid glucose
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp glycerine
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix nuts and sugar. Add egg yolks and rest of ingredients and mix well. Knead until firm. When ready, roll the mixture out and cover the cake.

Brandy Butter Frosting

300g/10½oz icing sugar
50g/1¾oz butter
25ml/1fl oz double cream
25ml/1fl oz brandy

Mix all ingredients together to make an alternative frosting to the more usual fondant icing for the top of the cake.

Spicy Peanut Chicken Wings

60ml sesame oil
60ml white wine vinegar
45ml crunchy peanut butter
45ml clear honey
30ml chilli sauce
900g chicken wings/drum sticks if preferred

Whisk ingredients together to make marinade. Place chicken wings in a large container and pour over marinade. Cover and refrigerate for as long as possible (preferably overnight). Bake chicken wings in an oven 220º C for 35-45 minutes turning and basting frequently.

Date and Walnut Cake

300g Wholemeal SR flour
1tsp mixed spices
150g chopped dates (fresh is best)
50g chopped walnuts
60ml olive oil
115g Fructose sugar
300ml skimmed milk
Walnut halves to decorate

Mix the dates and walnuts with the flour and spices. In a separate bowl mix the oil, sugar and milk then mix into the dry ingredients. Spoon into a prepared tin and arrange the halves of walnuts on the top. Bake in 180º oven for 45/50 minutes or cooked.

Chestnut Fool

225g unsweetened chestnut purée
150g low-fat plain yoghurt
25g fructose
25g sugar free chocolate chopped

In a bowl, beat together the chestnut purée, fructose and yoghurt until smooth. Transfer to four small serving dishes and sprinkle with chocolate. Serve straight away or chill.