5 simple Christmas recipes to try for the festive season

From Christmas Day breakfast to effortless canapes and edible gifts

Poached plums with whipped cinnamon labneh. Photo: Scott Price
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Suggestions for turkey and all the trimmings are easy to come by, but what about accompaniments or recipes that will get you out of a tight spot over the festive period? Read on for stylish yet simple ideas and edible gifts.

Easy, yet elegant, canapes

To all the novice cooks out there, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: canapes are one of the most effortless ways to impress. Now, we’re certainly not talking about those fussy recipes that require pernickety presentation and lots of ingredients. The dainty little morsels detailed here are of the low-effort, high-impact ilk – think juicy prawns arranged on a platter of crushed ice or a beautiful crudite plate showcasing tender asparagus spears, pretty pink radishes, crisp radicchio leaves, whole baby cucumbers and rainbow carrots surrounding a feta and sumac dip.

The canape that keeps on giving, though, has to be the crostini. It’s simple to make, good to look at and the perfect vehicle for all manner of toppings. Shop-bought hummus pepped up with smoked paprika, crispy chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and mint leaves is a favourite, as is the “easy Caprese” (crostini layered with pesto, cherry tomatoes, tendrils of mozzarella and a scattering of basil). For a truly elegant option, the pear, blue cheese and walnut number is the way to go.

Pear, blue cheese and walnut crostini

Blue cheese, pear and walnut crostini. Photo by Scott Price
Blue cheese, pear and walnut crostini. Photo by Scott Price

Makes: 18-20 canapes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes


1 slim baguette

2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked, plus extra to serve

60g blue cheese

30g cream cheese

2 tsp runny honey, plus extra to serve

1 crisp pear

1 tsp lemon juice

10g walnuts, toasted and chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Slice the baguette into 18-20 rounds and arrange on the prepared tray. Drizzle with the olive oil, add the thyme leaves and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway, until crisp and golden. Leave to cool completely.
  3. Beat three-quarters of the blue cheese, the cream cheese and honey together until smooth.
  4. When you're ready to serve, thinly slice the pear and drizzle with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
  5. Spread the crostini with the blue cheese mixture, then add a pear slice to each one. Top with the remaining crumbled blue cheese, walnuts and thyme leaves. Drizzle with honey and serve.

Christmas breakfast

It can be a bit of a tricky one, this particular meal. A bowl of cereal or slice of toast simply isn’t going to cut it on Christmas Day, but given that a feast of a lunch is the focal point of the day, one wouldn’t want to overindulge and risk not leaving room for all those roast potatoes.

With that in mind, something light and bright – that’s indulgent without feeling overwhelming – is the order of the day and the perfect way to start it. For a breakfast that feels rather special, look no further than poached plums – with some trimmings, of course. Poach the fruit on Christmas Eve to minimise fuss in the morning (you don’t want any distractions from opening those presents) and your kitchen will quickly fill with the most wonderful festive scent.

Poached plums with whipped cinnamon labneh and toasted panettone

Poached plums with whipped cinnamon labneh. Photo by Scott Price
Poached plums with whipped cinnamon labneh. Photo by Scott Price

Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Ingredients for the poached plums

4-6 plums

1 orange, zest and juice, plus extra zest to serve

3 tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

2 cloves

Ingredients for the whipped cinnamon labneh

150g thick labneh

3 tbsp Greek yoghurt

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tbsp icing sugar, plus extra to serve

50g panettone, sliced


  1. Slice the plums in half, removing the stone. Cut into quarters.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a small saucepan and add 150 millilitres water, followed by the honey, orange zest and whole spices.
  3. Set the pan over a medium heat and stir until the honey dissolves. Add the plums, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes, until tender. Remove the plums with a slotted spoon.
  4. Increase the heat slightly and cook until you have a syrupy liquid. Set aside.
  5. Beat the labneh, yoghurt, cinnamon and icing sugar together in a bowl.
  6. Toast the panettone slices. Leave to cool, then chop.
  7. Divide the whipped cinnamon labneh between serving plates and top with the plums. Drizzle over the reduced poaching syrup and scatter with the panettone pieces and extra orange zest.

Baking for children

Yes, this is a joyful, happy time of year, but as anyone with young children will attest to, there’s likely to be a point in the school holidays when you feel that you’ve exhausted your repertoire of ideas and need entertainment inspiration pronto. When that happens, pull out the pack of ready-rolled puff pastry and the jar of mincemeat you stocked up on after reading this, and get the children busy making mince pie decorations.

This idea ticks a lot of the right boxes when it comes to cooking with children. It’s messy and fun (but not too messy), takes long enough to complete to feel like a good project, but doesn’t drag on, and the end results are sweet and delicious, but won’t send mini chefs spiralling out of control on a major sugar rush.

Puff pastry mince pie decorations

Puff pastry mince pie decorations. Photo by Scott Price 
Puff pastry mince pie decorations. Photo by Scott Price 

Makes: 10-15 decorations (depending on size)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes


Plain flour, for dusting

1 ready-rolled puff pastry sheet

10-15 tsp mincemeat

Icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

  2. Dust a surface lightly with flour and unroll the pastry sheet.
  3. Use festive cookie cutters to stamp out 10 to 15 shapes. If you plan to hang the decorations, use a chopstick or skewer to pierce a hole at the top of each one.
  4. Transfer the decorations to the prepared baking tray and put one teaspoon of filling in the middle of each.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the puff pastry is crisp and light golden brown.
  6. Leave to cool completely, then serve dusted with icing sugar or thread with ribbon and hang from the Christmas tree.

Edible gifts

No matter how organised you are and no matter how many lists you make, the rules of festive present-buying seem to dictate that there’s always someone who gets forgotten or surprises you with a gift you weren’t expecting. Rather than defaulting to a panic buy, make a delicious edible gift in the form of Christmas granola.

In this recipe, the combination of spices, chestnuts and cranberries give this granola real festive flavour and once decanted into a jar, adorned with ribbon and finished with a pretty gift tag, it looks rather lovely, too. Our top tip is to double the recipe to make two batches and save one for yourself.

Christmas granola

Christmas granola. Photo by Scott Price
Christmas granola. Photo by Scott Price

Makes: about 500g

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes


60g honey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

250g oats

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground ginger

60g almonds or walnuts, chopped

50g cooked chestnuts, chopped

50g dried cranberries

50g dried apricots, chopped

50g currents or sultanas


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Set a small saucepan with the honey, olive oil and cinnamon over a medium-low heat. Stir for one to two minutes, until the syrup dissolves.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the oats, mixed spice, ginger, almonds or walnuts, chestnuts and a pinch of salt. Pour over the syrup and mix well to coat.
  4. Divide the mix between the prepared baking trays, transfer to the oven and cook for 35 minutes, stirring well every 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly then mix in the dried fruit.
  6. Transfer the granola to a jar and decorate with ribbon, if giving as a gift.

Vegan main course

Whether you’re cooking for vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians or meat-lovers, this people-pleasing recipe is a secret weapon that will win you an abundance of compliments and might just end up being the star of the festive-eating show. Now that’s a bold claim for a salad recipe, we agree, but it’s a valid one, too.

This wholesome dish provides sweetness from the cranberries and butternut squash, a hint of earthy spice from the chickpeas and a pleasant chewy note by way of the giant couscous, all of which is brought together by the tangy, rich pomegranate molasses dressing.

Roasted butternut squash and chickpea salad with maple-toasted almonds

Roasted butternut squash and chickpea salad. Photo by Scott Price
Roasted butternut squash and chickpea salad. Photo by Scott Price

Serves: 4-6

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Ingredients for the butternut squash

600g butternut squash, peeled and diced

2 tbsp olive oil

4 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly picked

Ingredients for the spiced chickpeas

1 tbsp olive oil

1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained

2 tsp smoked paprika or ground cumin

Ingredients for the maple toasted almonds

60g almonds

½ tbsp maple syrup

Ingredients for the dressing

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp white vinegar

100g giant couscous, cooked according to pack instructions

60g cranberries

4-6 kale leaves


  1. For the butternut squash, preheat the oven to 200°C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Tip the squash on to the prepared tray, drizzle with the olive oil and scatter over the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Roast for 20 minutes, until tender, then set aside.
  3. For the chickpeas, set a large frying pan with the oil over a high heat. When you can feel a strong heat rising from the pan, add the chickpeas – be careful as the oil may spit. Add the smoked paprika or cumin and cook for three to four minutes, until the chickpeas start to crisp around the edges. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. For the almonds, clean and dry the frying pan and return to a medium heat. Once hot, add the almonds and drizzle over the maple syrup, stirring to coat. Season with salt and black pepper and toast for two to three minutes, shaking the pan frequently. Set aside to cool.
  5. For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. Tear the kale leaves into small pieces, discarding the stems.
  6. Tip the cooked couscous into a large bowl, then add the butternut squash, chickpeas, almonds, cranberries and kale. Pour over the dressing and stir gently to coat.
  7. Transfer to a dish or bowl and serve.