Easy party bakes for Christmas

Three easy and delicious nibbles to serve with traditional mulled drinks this Christmas


Advent fairings

Bake pig-shaped biscuits and delight your friends this Christmas with an advert fairing/Credit: Jason Ingram

Traditionally baked for the St Ives fair in Cornwall on the Saturday before Advent Sunday, these little pig-shaped biscuits have an endearing history. With the fishing season ended, and the fisherman all feeling flush from their catch and readying themselves for the festivities ahead, the fair was one of the highlights of the year. Cornish fairings were sold by the pig-pie man (no doubt with spare pastry to roll) to young men who bought biscuits for their sweethearts.


Makes about 12


250g plain flour, plus more to dust surface to roll biscuits

Pinch of salt

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (unwaxed is best)

¼ nutmeg, freshly grated

½ tsp mixed spice

100g currents

50g caster sugar

225g clotted cream, well chilled


  1. Sift the flour and mix in the salt, lemon rind, spices and sugar
  2. Work in the cold clotted cream until you have a firm cohesive dough. Wrap and rest for 1 hour in the fridge.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180° and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  4. Lightly flour the surface and roll the biscuit dough flat to about 1 cm thick.
  5. Use a pig shaped biscuit cutter (or use another shape) and cut to size.
  6. Place the biscuits on the tray and bake for about 12 – 15 or until firm to touch and beginning to turn golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  7. Stored in an airtight tin, the biscuits should keep well enough for up to a week or more.

Brussels sprouts, blue cheese and chestnut tartlets

Brussel sprout, colston bassett and chestnut tartlet – perfect served warm/Credit: Jason Ingram

Classic Christmas combination of savoury flavours here, use any seasonal vegetables and cheese you have to hand if you prefer, but it must be said that this trio takes some beating.

To make about 8 tartlets, or one 22cm tart-tin


120g plain flour

70g cold butter, diced

300ml double cream

3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, beaten

60g chestnuts, shelled and roughly chopped

80g Colston Bassett cheese, or use any blue cheese, crumbled

150g Brussels sprouts, inner cores removed and leaves finely shredded

¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated to taste


Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Sift the flour and pinch of salt into the bowl of a food processor; add 60g of the butter and blitz for about 20 – 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Through the top of the food processor, with the motor still running, add between 1 and 2 tbsp. ice-cold water until a rough dough forms and begins to just ball together.  Remove from the food processor and gently shape to form a round. Cover in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, use shop bought shortcrust pastry.
  2. With the remaining butter, gently fry the sprouts over a moderate heat with a pinch of salt and nutmeg until soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, scatter the worktop with a light dusting of flour and roll the pastry approximately 1cm thick.
  4. Line the tart tins and cut to size.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  6. In a jug beat the eggs into the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set to one side.
  7. Preheat the oven to 190°.
  8. Blind bake the tart cases covered with a square of greaseproof and filled with baking beans to prevent the pastry from rising. This can take anywhere from between 15 minutes for individual cases to 30 minutes for a larger tart case; until the pastry is crisp throughout. Remove from the oven.
  9. Remove the baking beans and greaseproof and fill each of the cases with a portion of brussels sprouts, blue cheese and chestnuts. Place the tart cases on a flat baking sheet and gently fill each of the tart cases with enough of the tart filling to come just shy of the top of the tartlet.
  10. Reduce the oven to 180° and cook the tartlets for 10 – 12 minutes until the filling sets and the brussels sprouts and blue cheese begin to bubble and just caramelise in places. Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a wire rack.

Devilled Cheese Straws

The kitchen will smell delicious as your cheese straws bake/Credit: Jason Ingram

Nothing beats a cheese straw and this recipe is a doddle to prepare. Best eaten on the day they are baked, these cheese straws smell outrageous good they bake so you won’t want to wait to take a bite! 

Makes about 12


110g grated mature cheddar cheese

50g unsalted butter, diced

100g plain flour, plus more for dusting

½ tsp salt

½ tsp sweet paprika

½ tsp hot paprika or use cayenne pepper

1 tsp. English mustard (not powder)

1 tbsp. whole milk or thin cream


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet
  2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, mustard salt, and paprika. Process in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the milk or cream and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
  3. On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 20cm x 25cm rectangle about ½ cm thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, thin strips about 1cm wide and gently transfer the strips to the baking sheet, leaving at least 1cm between each of them.
  4. Bake the straws on the middle rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the ends are just beginning to colour. Serve just warm or allow to just cool.