AS decorations begin to creep into stores, there's no denying Christmas is around the corner..
And as we start to plan our Christmas gift lists, it can all start to feel a little overwhelming.
But gifting doesn't have to mean spending money on the latest must-haves. All you need is a little time and ingenuity to create the perfect gift.
Michelle Mackintosh's new book Sustainable Gifting shows you how, with delightful and fun projects you can make rather than buy.
There's nourishing gifts from the kitchen, presents drawing on nature's beauty and craft gifts your family will love and cherish.
And don't forget the wrapping! There are plenty of tips on how to decorate, upcycle, reuse and hand-make your parcel into something truly special.
Two gifts Michelle includes in the book is home-made lemon curd and Japanese moss balls (Kokedama).
- 3 eggs
- 100 g (31/2 oz) unsalted butter
- juice and zest of 21/2 lemons
- 150 g (51/2 oz) sugar
My husband Steve and I planted lemon trees in our tiny courtyard. Every year there is an abundance of lemons that we love to give to friends and family to use. Steve is a pretty impressive pastry cook and loves to make jars of curd from the lemons in our garden. In fact, this is our most favourite dessert!
When we got married, we chose the venue for a small party based on the chef's lemon tart (which we had in lieu of a wedding cake). I always think that when something is made especially for you, it tastes ten times better than when you make it yourself. When it's not dolloped into mini pastries, we like to dunk Italian savoiardi into it.
In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and pass through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
Combine the butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until all of the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Reduce the heat to very low.
Whisk the eggs into the butter mixture and return the saucepan to the heat, whisking constantly until the curd thickens. Do not allow it to come to a boil; this will curdle the mixture. Remove the saucepan from the heat once more and pour the curd into sterilised jars.
For a variation on this simple recipe, simply substitute any other citrus fruit for the lemons (taking amounts into account, of course). Blood orange curd and ruby red grapefruit curd are two of my favourites.
Storage: glass jars
Use by: 2 weeks
Japanese moss ball (Kokedama)
- peat moss
- sphagnum moss
- bonsai soil mix
- mini fern or other small houseplant
- 3 bowls (about 2 cm/3/4 in diameter)
- optional: baby's tears or foraged moss
Koke means moss in Japanese, and these artfully made moss balls can be spotted in stylish shops, ryokans and sometimes as part of a plant display out the front of residential houses. I've long admired delicate plants gently emerging from these beautiful mossy spheres. Making a kokedama is very therapeutic. With practice you will master this art, but remember nature is imperfect and any creation you make will be beautiful.
Mix 1/2 cup of both peat moss and bonsai soil in a small bowl, add 1/4 cup water and make a soil ball in your hands; add a bit more water if needed. You should have a perfectly rounded ball.
Half fill a second bowl with water and add a handful of sphagnum moss. Swish it around in the water until it plumps up. Cut two 40 mm (11/2 in) pieces of twine and lay over a third bowl like a cross. Press a 2-3 cm
(3/4-1 in) thickness of sphagnum moss into the bowl, as if you were lining it with pastry, making sure there are no holes.
Place the soil ball in the middle of the bowl lined with sphagnum moss. Take your fern out of its pot and shake off the soil so you can see the roots. Make a hole in the top of your soil ball and plant your fern. Don't worry if your ball falls apart a little; you can press it back into the circular shape once the fern has been added.
This is an edited extract from Sustainable Gifting byMichelle Mackintosh published by Hardie Grant Books $24.99 AU and is available where all good books are sold.
Photographer: (c) Chris Middleton and Michelle Mackintosh, (c) Hiki Komura pg 9, (c) Hisashi Tokuyoshi 28, 31, 147, 158-59.