Merry Christmas from Fiona McIntosh…

Hello everyone and greetings from South Australia!

We’re entering the silly season even though this may sound clichéd, I am giving everyone either a book, jigsaw or game for this year. Christmas giving in my opinion has got entirely out of control in demanding we all give each other bigger, better, expensive gifts beneath the tree. I’m sure the tradition didn’t begin that way. For me the logic for this year and long may it continue in our household is to encourage all those I love to get lost in a good story, or laugh with each other playing a game, or really get those neural networks toiling hard over small jigsaw pieces, ignoring the temptation to fetch the scissors to make it fit!

I want our Christmas to be about good food and simple pleasures that reading and playing games, and slothing about in pyjamas can achieve.

I know not everyone loves the cooking aspect and I’m one of those fortunate to enjoy rising to the challenge of the feasting menu. None of it gives me more pleasure than the smaller goodies that I can pull out over the Christmas week.

I road-tested old-fashioned cinder toffee, a long time tradition for Christmas down the centuries. It is not honeycomb.

Here’s a recipe if you’d like to try…the only drag is that a sugar thermometer is especially helpful. Please don’t make this around small children as hot sugar is lethal, but if you follow it carefully, you too can have a platter of crunchy cinder toffee to pull out when everyone feels like another sugar hit. Oh, and why not melt some chocolate and let them dip their own!

Cinder Toffee

  • 165g demerara sugar
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 60ml golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 15g butter, diced, plus extra to grease
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Chocolate to melt and dip – milk/ dark or both


1. Put the sugars, syrup, water and butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan with a pinch of salt.
2. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugars and butter have dissolved, then turn up the heat to simmer until it reaches 138C and is bubbling amber ( 10-15 minutes).

3. Meanwhile, generously grease a square cake tin.  I used one that is 23cm. Put the bicarbonate of soda nearby. When the mixture gets to temperature, take it off the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarb, making sure it is well mixed in.  Always use two thick tea towels to move the pan.
4. Pour into the tin and leave to set. After about 15 minutes, you can smash it into shards and pile on a plate.

On Key

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