But starters and desserts can still leave some people stuck for ideas. In this post I am going to cover 5 different but very easy and wonderfully tasty ideas. Desserts that can be made up a day or even 2 days in advance so it takes the pressure of on Christmas day. Ps... you're welcome! ;)
After Eight Cheesecake
This cheesecake is very light and the mint helps a full belly after a hearty main course. It is very quick and easy to make and can be made a day in advance to take a bit of pressure off if you have guests coming. Just cover with clingfilm and it will quite happily sit in your fridge overnight.
15 digestive biscuits
1 box of After Eight dinner mints (2 boxes if decorating like mine)
300g low fat soft cheese
1 pint of double cream
Put the digestive biscuits into a large strong sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin or put through a blender to crush up. Melt down the butter over a medium heat and pour over the crushed biscuits in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
Put the mix into a cake tin and firm down to form a compact even layer. I use a potato masher for this. Place in a fridge for a half hour.
On a chopping board roughly chop up the contents of one box of After Eight dinner mints, set aside.
Place the soft cheese and sugar into a bowl, stir to loosen the cheese and pour in the double cream. Whisk this mix until it starts to firm. Add in the chopped dinner mints and whisk the whole mixture again.
Pour over the top of biscuit base and smooth out with a spatula or to decorate I placed the 2nd box of dinner mints standing around the inside of the cake tin BEFORE POURING THE FILLING IN, so that when you lift off the section of the tin you are left with a 'wall' of dinner mints that are held in place by the cream.
Easy Banoffee Pie
This is so easy and quick to make, it’s definitely one to get the kids involved with especially since the caramel is coming straight from a tin. I add in some food colouring into my whipped double cream just to add a bit of colour and flare to it. Tradition is to have a biscuit base with a Banoffee but I go for a sweet short-crust pastry base… why? Why not!
If you can make up the pastry case in advance then you will have this made in minutes.
1 pre-made sweet pastry case
1 tin of pre-made caramel
4 ripe bananas
1 Crunchie bar
300ml double cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon food colouring (optional)
1 bar of dark chocolate to serve
On the pastry case, spread the caramel into an even layer using a palate knife, peel and slice the bananas at an angle and lay them on the caramel in an even layer, Break up the Crunchie bar and sprinkle over…set aside.
Whip up the double cream with the vanilla essence until fairly thick. If using the food colour just gently fold it into the cream to create a ripple effect. The cream can be pushed out on top of the pie at this stage using a spatula or put into a piping bag and piped on top.
To finish, turn the bar of chocolate upside down so the smooth side is pointing up, let it rest on the worktop and against the front of your hip-and with a knife, carefully shave off thin layers pulling the knife towards you firmly on the chocolate. Sprinkle this over the top of the pie and serve.
Awa’s Key Lime Pie
Key lime pie is a lot like cheesecake to make, no real time or effort goes into it but by god is it worth making. It is very refreshing and has a beautiful sharpness to it. My sister Andrea made this for me on a visit back up home and I fell in love with it straight away… Thanks Awa ;)
It can be made in a spring-form tin or in individual portions using pastry rings.
15 digestive biscuits
Juice and zest of 3-4 limes
A can of condensed milk
1 pint of double cream
Place the biscuits into a sandwich bag, seal it and bash the hell out of it with a rolling pin to break up the biscuits. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and pour in the mashed biscuits, stir well and empty the contents into a 9 inch spring-form tin. Firm down evenly (I find a potato masher works well here) place in the fridge for 20 mins.
Roll out the limes on the countertop firmly with the palm of your hand to loosen them up. Then zest them with a zester or a small grater (only the green skin though) then halve them and juice them.
In a large mixing bowl pour in the lime juice, double cream and condensed milk, whisk together until it starts to thicken then add in the lime zest. Whisk again until quite thick. Scoop this mix out on top of the biscuit base, smooth over and return to the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
These little mousses are simple to make up and can be made well in advance so it takes the pressure off when it comes to cooking dinner. They are really light, sweet and have a nice refreshing sharpness from the lime.
Makes 4 small mousses:
1 sheet leaf gelatine
Juice of 2 limes (about 75ml)
85g caster sugar
1 large egg white
100ml of crème fraiche
1 lime for zesting
Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a few mins to soften. Put the lime juice in a measuring jug and top up to 100ml with cold water, pour into a small saucepan and add half the sugar, stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar the bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Squeeze out the gelatine leaf and add to the lime syrup, stir until it dissolves and allow the mixture to cool completely.
In a small mixing bowl beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks, then, a spoonful at a time beat in the rest of the sugar. In a separate bowl lightly beat the crème fraiche then stir the lime syrup into it, it will be very loose but then fold through the meringue mix, spoon this into small serving glasses.
Chill the mousses in the fridge for a few hours to firm up, serve with some fresh lime zest.
Red Wine Poached Pears
These are a little time consuming but very much worth the effort. Not only do they look elegant but they taste superb served with vanilla ice-cream and chopped hazelnuts sprinkled over.
400ml red wine
150g granulated sugar
2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Combine all the ingredients except for the pears into a suitable sized saucepan that 4 pears will fit into and place on a hot hob. Stir over the heat until the sugar dissolves then bring to the boil and reduce to a steady simmer.
In the meantime core the pears from the bottom and scoop out the core and seeds without disturbing the top and stem, now carefully peel the pears with a speedy peeler.
Add the pears to the simmering wine syrup and allow them to simmer untouched for 12-14 mins, then turn them over and simmer for a further 8-10 mins until tender when pierced with a fork. Carefully remove them from the saucepan and allow to cool.
Turn up the heat and reduce the wine syrup by half and use this to pour over the pears when serving.