Stuffing greatly benefits from cooking within a turkey or chicken, but the results can be almost as tasty when the stuffing is cooked in a greased casserole dish. Sage, date and pistachio is one of my favourite stuffing combinations; herby, sweet and crunchy. To make a plain herb stuffing simply omit the date and pistachios from the recipe and add an additional 2 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley, thyme or chives.

Sage, Date & Pistachio Stuffing

75g butter, plus a little for greasing
1 large onion, finely diced
225g white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp freshly chopped sage
8 dates, finely chopped
50g pistachio, shelled & roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /fan 180°C/gas mark 6. 
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook for five minutes, until the onions are softened but not coloured. 
  3. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the cooked onions. Combine well and then add the sage, dates and pistachio. 
  4. Mix well to combine and season to taste. 
  5. Grease an oven- proof dish with a little butter and add the stuffing. 
  6. Place in the pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to get all the stuffing nice and crispy.

As Christmas approaches, many thoughts are fixed on what to cook over the festive season. As much as I love fresh cream desserts, their limited shelf life can sometimes steer me away from them, and in turn encourages me to opt for a few baked goods in their place. Ones that can be served as a dessert, or pair equally well with a cuppa, are most ideal. These carrot cake muffins work as a nice alternative to Christmas pudding. Crystallised cranberries and mint leaves make for a festive topping but, alternatively, the upside-down muffins can be topped with chopped nuts of your choice. These festive muffins can be thrown together with ease, making them a great option when you've a few little helpers in the kitchen.


125g wholemeal flour
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g light muscovado sugar
200g grated carrot
75g dried prunes, finely chopped
4 free range eggs, lightly beaten
200ml sunflower or rapeseed oil

For Icing
150g mascarpone cheese
50g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g icing sugar, sieved

To Decorate
1 egg white
125g cranberries
18-25 mint leaves
50g caster sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
2. Place the wholemeal flour in a large bowl and sieve in the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
3. Add the carrots and prunes. Stir well, with a wooden spoon, until they are thoroughly combined with the dry ingredients. If the chopped prunes are in clumps disperse through the dry ingredients using your hands.
4. Add the lightly beaten eggs to a jug with the oil. Pour the eggs and oil into the bowl and stir well until all the ingredients are combined together.
5. Divide the mixture between 18 muffin cases.
6. Bake the muffins, in the preheated ovens, for 25 minutes and they are risen and golden.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray.
8. While the muffins are cooling make the creamy topping. Put the mascarpone, butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy.
9. To prepare the cranberries and mint leaves for decorating; in a bowl gently whisk the egg white with a fork. Brush the cranberries and mint leaves with a little of the egg white. Roll the cranberries in the sugar. Then place the mint leaves flat on a plate and generously sprinkle over the remaining caster sugar. Leave to dry for at least 15 minutes.
10. When the muffins have completely cooled, take each from their paper wrapper. The muffins will be decorated upside down to give the ‘pudding’ look.
11. Spread a large spoonful of the icing over each muffin and smooth, using a palette knife.
12. Decorate with the crystallised cranberries and the mint leaves, or else a generous sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.