Once school breaks for the Christmas holidays the children have a long ‘to do list’ that must be completed before the big day. Near the top of this list, and one tradition that we always maintain is the baking of festive treats each year. Even when they were toddlers they would love to help with any baking related activity. When better to spend some time together in the kitchen than over the Christmas season. Something simple to make, such as a batch of these shortbread ginger biscuits, are perfect for little hands to make and decorate. The biscuits can either be threaded with a thin ribbon and hung on the Christmas tree, or pop them into a pretty box as a festive edible present for a loved one. However, I’ve had it on good authority that Santa is rather fond of a good shortbread biscuit, especially when served with a glass of cold milk.

Shortbread Ginger Biscuits

225g plain flour
75g soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
150g butter

To decorate
Writing icing
Icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
2.  Sieve the flour, sugar, and ginger into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3.  Gather the mixture together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead the dough lightly. Roll out the dough to the thickness of a euro coin. Cut into shapes using festive cutters. Keep re-rolling the cut-offs into shapes until all the dough is used up.
4.  Place on a lightly floured baking tray. Using a skewer make a hole at the top of each biscuit. Bake until golden or pale brown for 8–12 minutes, depending on their thickness.
5.  Remove from the oven. Check with a skewer that the hole at the top of each biscuit hasn’t covered over. Cool on a wire rack.
6.  When completely cooled decorate using some writing icing. Thread with a thin ribbon and dust with some icing sugar.

As it's Christmas Eve you probably have your Christmas menu sorted, however, if you're looking for a little festive recipe inspiration have a read through my Christmas Ebook.
The past year has been a busy one for me, especially since the release of Apron Strings. I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to you, the readers of Nessa's Family Kitchen, for your continued support. I would also like to wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas, and the best of wishes for 2014. See you in the new year. Kind Wishes. Nessa xx

I have a great affection for edible gifts, and home-made ones are simply a bonus. In the days preceding Christmas I barely have enough time for wrapping presents, never mind making them, so I’m always delighted when I've had the foresight to make a supply of preserves or puddings a few weeks previous. With this in mind when I was planning my columns, a few weeks back, I made sure to include some edible goodies that can be used as Christmas presents. As the saying goes.."two birds, one stone".
Chutneys are so easy to make, and as preserve-making has become more popular there are many jars and pretty labels available to buy in shops. However, I generally wash and sterilize any jars, attractive or plain, once they are empty. This is a favourite chutney of mine and it is particularly suited for festive dining. When the chutney is simmering away the smell of cloves and ginger fill the air. While in the pan the dried cranberries plump up to form red jewel-like speckles. This truly is a chutney that perfectly echoes Christmas. It is ideally served with some nice cheese and crackers, as an after dinner treat, but is also well placed as part of a tasty turkey sandwich.

Christmas Chutney
makes about 3kg/6lbs

1.5 kg Bramley apples, peel, cored and roughly diced
2 onions, finely diced
150g dried cranberries
125g dried apricots
900mls white wine vinegar
750g caster sugar
10 whole cloves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne chilli powder

1. Place all of the ingredients into a large, wide saucepan. Simmer gently over a low heat, stirring regularly. Cook uncovered for 1 ½ hours until the apples have completely broken down and the chutney has thickened and turned a dark brown colour.
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely before transferring into sterilised jars. Store in a cool, dry cupboard. This chutney can be used immediately but it is nicer when it has had a few weeks to mature. Refrigerate once opened.

Other News

Hairy Baby Hamper Giveaway Winner
Using http://www.random.org/ the winner of the Hairy Baby hamper is Adrienne from Cross my Apple Tart. Adrienne would you mind dropping me a line with your address to NessasFamilyKitchen(at)gmail.com. Congratulations! 
Christmas eBook 
My Christmas eBook is available to view and download here for free.
If you are in Athlone this Saturday, 7th December, pop into Easons. I’ll be there signing copies of my book, ‘Apron Strings -Recipes from a Family Kitchen’. Even if you already have a copy of the book call in and say hello, as I’ll be available to answer any of your culinary questions from 11.30am - 1.30 pm. I may also have a few sweet treats to offer.

Just to remind you, there is still time to enter the give-away for the Keogh's Farm. I will be announcing the winner on Friday. 
Any regular readers of the blog will know all about my love of crisps, so when the lovely people behind Keogh's Farm offered me a Christmas hamper of their delicious crisps, along with a stylish apron, for one of my readers, I very promptly accepted. Just in time for Christmas, Keogh's have relaunched their seasonal Roast Turkey & Secret Stuffing hand-cooked crisps. According to Tom Keogh, of Keogh's Farm, there was a huge demand for these crisps last year and as they received such positive feedback from customers they decided to relaunch the variety for Christmas 2013.

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this hamper from Keogh's Farm is to leave a comment belowtelling me what your favourite flavour of crisps are. You must also be a subscriber to my blog. If you don't already subscribe you can do so by submitting your email address into the tab on the top right of this blogpost. All names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked on Thursday, 5th  December. 
Just to let you know, to avoid a lot of spam messages, I must first approve your comment before it is published. So don't worry if your comment doesn't appear immediately. 

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: you must be a resident of Ireland (north or south); you must be over 18; no cash alternative is possible, the competition will close at 6pm on Thursday, 5th  DecemberAll entered names will be put in the hat and the winner will be picked at random from the comments below. I will post the winner in the next blog after the closing date. The winner must email/contact me within 7 days of the competition closing or another name will have to be drawn from the hat. 

Best of luck!