Bake your Christmas away with Natasha Celmi’s recipes

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TARALLI – Traditional Southern Italian Festive cookies

Bringing you some southern Italian festive cheer with homemade Taralli – traditional cookies made in Italian homes during festivals. And of course, I love tradition when it comes to food! Here’s my family recipe-They’re crunchy outside with a soft crumb on the inside – kind of like a cross between scones and shortbread. Best enjoyed dipped in milk or coffee. They’re so delicious, you’ll want to make them all-year-round. They store well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

While the ring is the traditional shape, feel free to experiment. Make them into sticks, pretzels, or any kind of twists. Large or small, make them any size you like. You can also play around with the toppings – sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, oats, chocolate chips, or even rainbow sprinkles!

Ingredients:

  • 500 gms all-purpose flour
  • 200 gms caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 100 gms butter cubes, room temp
  • Zest of 2 limes

Putting it all together:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Make a well in the center and add the butter. Break down the butter lumps with your fingers, combing with some of the flour around.
  3. Add the 4 eggs in the well and the lemon zest and using a fork, start whisking and combing with the flour bit by bit. Once you have some moist dough and some dry flour, with your hands combine it all and knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes till you have a smooth springy ball of dough.
  4. Rest for 10 mins, covered with a moist cloth. Break off golf ball-sized chunks and roll with your hands into long “snakes”. Join the ends to make rings. Place them on a baking tray lined with butter paper and bake 17-20 mins till golden on top. Cool outside for 15-20 mins before serving.

 

CARDAMOM SPICED HOT CHOCOLATE SHOTS

This is a classic hot chocolate that I have been making for years at home. The cardamom is my little Indian touch to take it to another level and believe me, it makes all the difference.  Sometimes, I add a little grating of fresh ginger for an added taste of India, and surprisingly, it works really well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 2 cardamom pods, pounded
  • 1 cup whipped cream

Putting it all together:

  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the sugar, cocoa, and stir till combined. Add in the chopped chocolate and cardamom, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate has melted.
  2. Strain (if you want to eliminate the cardamom bits) into small cups, top with a dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings or chips.

 

WARM MULLED WINE

The cold gloomy weather and festive spirit call for some fuzzy warmth and this mulled wine are sure to be your ‘December drink’. At parties, I like to serve it in shot glasses as a little welcome drink and of course, the guests definitely come back for more!

You can bottle this mulled wine and with some attractive ribbons, they make excellent Christmas gifts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup brandy (optional)

Putting it all together:

  1. In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium heat then cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
  2. Serve warm and garnish with some extra cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, and rosemary sprigs.

 

APPLE WALNUT CAKE (Egg-free)

This Apple cake is just what you want to make these days and when you have little time on your hands.

A really quick egg-free recipe – all you have to do is mix everything into one bowl. No electric beater needed.

Make it vegan by using coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk. Add in some strawberries or blueberries for some tang and color!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 11/2 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 11/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil or any Vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup Apple Juice
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1 large Apple, peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup Walnuts, coarsely chopped

FOR THE TOPPING –

  • 1 apple, thinly sliced

Putting it all together:

  1. Heat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Butter and line your cake tin with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the powdered ingredients – whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon powder, salt and sugar.
  4. Combine the liquid ingredients – oil, milk and apple juice.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.
  6. Fold in the apple pieces (berries, if using) and chopped walnuts.
  7. Pour batter in a cake tin, top with sliced apples and berries if using.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean. Allow cooling in the tin for at least 15 minutes before taking it out.

 

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