My kitchen is always a hive of activity because I develop and test all of my Country Living recipes at home. However, at the beginning of December, there’s usually a slight lull before the final big push of preparation on 24 December. During this ‘quiet’ time, I love making edible Christmas gifts for friends and family. There’s a stock of seasonal jams and chutney in my pantry made throughout the year and these will be supplemented by bottles of homemade liqueurs, sweets and biscuits. Part of the fun is finding unusual tins, ribbons and other packaging ephemera to add the finishing flourish, then putting them together in a hamper or gift bag to suit the recipient. This fudge is one of my favourites and keeps well to enjoy over the festive season.
Chocolate and stem ginger fudge
Preparation: 20 minutes plus standing Cooking: 10 minutes Makes about 800g
Studded with chunks of spicy stem ginger, this indulgent chocolate fudge is the perfect gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. Display the sweets in petit four cases or wrap in twists of waxed paper, then pack into vintage tins where they’ll keep for up to a month.
500g granulated sugar
150ml Jersey or whole milk
150g unsalted butter
150g plain chocolate
50g clear honey
4 balls stem ginger (about 110g), chopped
1 Line a 22cm x 18cm baking tin or dish with clingfilm so that it overlaps the edges. Fill a large bowl or the sink with cold water.
2 Put all of the ingredients, except the stem ginger, in a heavy-based pan and heat very gently until the sugar is completely dissolved – take your time and make sure all the grains are melted otherwise the fudge won’t be smooth.
3 Bring to the boil and continue bubbling, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture isn’t catching on the base, until it reaches 116ºC or the soft ball stage (drop a teaspoon of the syrup into a bowl of cold water; it should come together in a soft ball between your fingers). Immediately dip the base of the pan into the cold water to stop the fudge cooking. Put the pan on a cold surface and leave to stand for 5 minutes – it’s important to do this otherwise the fudge will be crumbly rather than smooth.
4 Beat the fudge with electric hand-beaters for 5-10 minutes until it is very thick. Quickly beat in the stem ginger, then turn into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Cut into squares when completely cold.