TOP 4 – Festive recipes for gifts and entertaining

make fruit paste

What happened to November? Is it just me or did someone nick a week out of this month? The pace is picking up and I know it won’t ease until Boxing Day.  If you want to come out the other end of December intact and happy, try and make life a bit easier on yourself. Not simple I know, when you’re invited to this that and the other and have to rustle up gifts and fancy food for everyone.

Here are 4 “go-to” Christmas recipes from the Country Trading team and friends that will take the pressure off. Make a big batch and give the same thing to everyone. No-one is going to mind when its this yummy. Having these on hand for taking to do’s and serving up to guests as nibbles and desserts also makes your life a lot easier.

1. Chocolate Strawberry Crunch

easy christmas recipes

This no-bake, old-school recipe is a family favourite in Geraldine’s house. I timed myself and it took literally 10 minutes to make.  Its my new “I need a plate for tomorrow but its 9 o’clock at night and I can’t be bothered baking” recipe.

Makes 1 large flan or 20 cup cake size servings.


  • 100 grams butter
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 100 grams of sugar
  • 150 grams cornflakes
  1. Mix all the ingredients, except the corn flakes, in a pot over a low heat until combined.
  2. Add the corn flakes and press the mixture into a flan tin lined with baking paper or silicon cup-cake or friand pans.
  3. Chill in the fridge and then decorate with whipped cream and strawberries to serve.

You can also store these in the freezer without toppings. Leaving the sugar out and using bran flakes instead of corn flakes makes a slightly healthier version.

Mulled Wine Dark Chocolate Truffles

Here is a new take on the classic Christmas chocolate truffle from Tony Robson-Burrell, chef and founder of All About Chocolate. This Nelson based business supplies artisan chocolate from around the world to NZ chocolate lovers and chefs.

The use of mulled wine adds a richness and festive spice to this recipe and Tony recommends using a NZ made dark chocolate from Captain Pembleton, but check out the range of other wonderful varieties they have too.

mulled wine choc truffles


  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 30 grams of butter
  • 1/2 cup of mulled wine
  • 230 grams (8oz) 70% dark chocolate
  1. Coarsely chop chocolate and place into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Bring cream to a simmer, add butter and stir until melted.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is melted.
  4. Add the red wine and stir until wine is incorporated.
  5. Pour into an 20 cm square baking dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours
  6. Use a metal cookie scoop to scoop out a truffle. Coat your hands in cocoa powder and gently roll the chocolate until it forms a ball. Roll in cocoa to coat.

Knackenbrot Crackers

These grainy crackers are a great festive standby. Easy to make, nothing but good stuff in them, keep really well and more impressive than a bag of chips. The recipe comes from Wendyl Nissen and is now a favourite for serving with soft creamy dips. Spread thin, it makes 4 large oven trays of crackers so you could easily halve it.

I’ve successfully mixed and matched all sorts of ingredients depending on what was to hand. Add a handful of cumin seeds and a few chilli flakes for a bit of a kick. Jess likes adding some grated Parmesan when she makes them.

knackenbrot crackers


  • 220g wholemeal flour (I’ve used white successfully and polenta/flour mix)
  • 220g rolled oats (wholegrain recommended)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 150 grams sunflower seeds
  • 75 grams sesame seeds
  • 75 grams linseeds
  • 40 grams pumpkin seeds
  • 700 mls warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  1. Heat the oven to 130°C. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and add the water and oil. I let it sit for 5 minutes before I spread it for the seeds to absorb the moisture. It should be the consistency of porridge and it doesn’t look very promising at this stage.
  2. Line 4 large oven trays with baking paper and spread the mixture very thinly with a rubber spatula on the 4 trays. Don’t be afraid to spread it to the point where you see the odd bit of baking paper, it does hold together.
  3. Put it in the oven for 15 minutes then take it out and score it into small squares with a sharp knife.
  4. Put it back in the oven and bake it for up to two hours. Depending on your oven and how thickly you’ve spread it you may need the full two hours. Take them out when it starts to turn a nice golden colour and the crackers are crisp.
  5. Cool and pack in jars with an airtight lid. They keep well (if you hide them).

Apple Cider Fruit Paste

These little discs of fruit paste make an impressive addition to a cheese platter or a perfect gift for your host. The pairing of apple, cider and cloves is really festive and you can also make it with frozen plums like Damsons or Omega that you may have lurking in your freezer.

It is based on a recipe from Wellington food writer extraordinaire, Lois Daish, and comes with the fantastic tip of boiling it in a heavy bottomed, wide deep sided frying pan to reduce the stirring time. Try it and you’ll be convinced. Pour it into vintage muffin pans to get lovely little discs of paste. So posh.

make fruit paste


  • 500 grams apples or dark plums like damsons or omega
  • 1 cup of cider
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 250 grams raw sugar
  1. Cook the fruit with the cider in a stainless steel pot until very soft and a little reduced.
  2. Push the pulp through a sieve or mouli to remove the stones.
  3. Weigh the pulp and put it in a heavy bottomed high sided frying pan.
  4. Add half the weight in sugar and bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  5. It will be ready when you can draw a wooden spoon across the pan and the line won’t join up. This can take 30 minutes.
  6. Pour it into moulds that have been lightly greased with a mild flavoured cooking oil like rice bran or grape seed oil. Smooth the surface and let it set.
  7. Turn it out when cold and wrap in greaseproof paper. Store in a container on a cool shelf.

So there are our favourite festive recipes for you. We wish you a calm December and remember that shopping online is a great way of avoiding the rush and bustle of the silly season.  The last place you want to be in December is the mall or the post office!



  1. Thank you for posting such lovely recipes on your blog. It is great to have something different to try for the festive season.

    1. You’re welcome Marilyn, I hope one of them becomes a new favourite for you.

  2. I’m planning on giving as many homemade gifts as possible this year (totally over the commercialism of Christmas) so the Crackers and Fruit Paste will be perfect to make and go into hampers for the parents and grandparents, hopefully there will be some leftovers for the cook!

    1. Good one Jo. I’m sure they’ll be really well received. Check out The Story of Stuff website for a lovely non-commercial Christmas inspiration.

  3. Do you recommend storing the fruit paste on a cool shelf in the pantry or in the fridge? How long will the paste last for?

    1. Hi Dana, I’ve kept the discs wrapped in baking paper and foil in a glass jar in the pantry quite happily for over a year. My pantry is quite cool. If you’re in a hot spot store it in the fridge. Heather

  4. Heather, you were right about the crackers not lasting long after they were baked. I used a half sized portion of the cracker receipe. I included some sharp cheese into the mix.
    Even though it was a half measure, the mixture still made a generous oven tray area. They turned out gorgeous! Crisp and nutty and delicious. So delicious in fact that the whole lot went in the weekend.
    Now I have to bake some more!

    1. Glad to hear it Andrea, I’m going to try some cheese in my next batch. They are a regular feature in our house now – bought crackers seem tasteless compared. Merry Christmas

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