Photographer: Emma

Writing my Christmas posts has prompted me to think about what it is that makes Christmas so special for me.  I am not at all religious, nor am I much of a traditionalist, however every Christmas Eve I slip into the back of the local church just as midnight mass begins.  There is something about the calm which falls upon entering the church, something about the moonlight shining through the stained glass windows, and the sweet songs of the choir, their voices like angels filling the church with the spirit of Christmas.

For me the most important part of Christmas is people.  We gather together friends and family, and we celebrate.  We celebrate another year gone by, we celebrate the festive season, we reflect and celebrate achievements and challenges.  Most importantly however we celebrate each other.  And whilst celebrating we indulge in great food and wine and get a little bit merry as we should at this time of year!

This panforte is the perfect thing to serve post Christmas dinner when everyone is slumped mute in their dining chairs, bellies full and slowly expanding.  It is true after all that against all odds, it is always possible to fit in a little sweet after overindulging in all that savoury.  No matter how full one feels!

This is my last post of the year so I shall sign off here and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – may 2010 be filled with laughter.


85g flour
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
200g figs
100g hazelnuts
150g roasted almonds
100g chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 orange, zested
150g castor sugar
150g honey
icing sugar to dust


1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC bake. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
2. Sift the flour and spices and add the figs, nuts, chocolate and orange and mix to combine.
3. Place the sugar, honey and 2tbsp of water in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil until the mixture reaches soft ball stage.*
4. Using a wooden spoon and working quickly, pour the sugar mixture over the nut mixture and mix well.
5. Spoon out into the greased tin and bake for 15 minutes. Cool and sprinkle generously with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.
*To see whether or not the sugar mixture has reached soft ball stage, fill a glass with water and drip a small amount of the mixture into the water. A soft little ball should form. This takes around 10-15 minutes.