Predictably, one of my favourite parts of the festive season is all the tasty food on offer and I particularly enjoy inviting some pals over for drinks and homemade treats. The lovely folks at Britannia Living sent me a parcel of festive ingredients last week and so I have whipped up two recipes to spread a little festive cheer from your kitchen!

These Pistachio Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies with Rosemary Infused Caramel have to be one of my favourite biscuit recipes that I've ever come up with as they're so rich and indulgent. Adding ground pistachios to the shortbread adds a lovely aromatic nutty note while the infusion of fresh rosemary into the cream used for the salted caramel filling elevates these from a simply biccy to a really indulgent treat.

I've teamed these lovely cookies with a tasty festive cocktail that I have named the Christmas Cafe Noisettini, basically my take on an espresso martini with the added luxury of cream liqueur and a heavenly spiced syrup.

Pistachio Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies with Rosemary Infused Caramel
Makes about 26 cookies

Shortbread Ingredients
150g unsalted butter, softened
130g caster sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
30g cornflour
55g ground pistachio nuts
165g plain flour

Caramel Ingredients
125ml double cream
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
300g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp sea salt

Shortbread Method
Preheat your oven to 190 C / gas mark 5 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and light (about 3-5 mins) and then whip in the vanilla extract. Turn off your mixer and add in the cornflour, ground pistachios and plain flour then beat together slowly until a dough forms. It shouldn't be really sticky or so dry that it won't form a ball so if you need to you can add a little milk or a little more flour until you have the right consistency.

Roll the dough into ping pong size balls and pop onto your baking tray with about 3cm room between them. Make a dip in the centre either with your thumb or the back of a spoon - I used the round end of a cocktail muddler.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes - you don't want them to be too golden, just set and crisping on top. When you take them out you may wish to indent them again to make the dip bigger so it will hold more caramel, obviously I did. Set to one side while you make your caramel.

Caramel Method
Put the double cream and rosemary sprigs into a small saucepan and heat gently until simmering, then take off the heat and put to one side to infuse - don't let it boil! After about ten minutes remove the rosemary sprigs.

In another saucepan heat the caster sugar over a medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden or heatproof plastic spoon, it will form clumps and then melt down into caramel. Don't turn the heat up too high or it will burn - be patient!

As soon as all the sugar is dissolved add your butter and keep stirring - the mixture will bubble quite violently but don't worry. When the butter is incorporated slowly pour in the infused cream while stirring constantly. Allow to boil for one minute then remove from the heat and stir through the sea salt.

Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pour into the dips in the cookies - don't leave this too long or the caramel will set too much to spoon on! Finish with a dust of edible glitter if you wish and try not to eat them all before your guests arrive.

Christmas Cafe Noisettini
Makes 1

Cocktail Ingredients
1 part cream liqueur such as Cool Swan
2 parts cold brew coffee liqueur such as Conker's
1 part spiced simple syrup (recipe below)
Rosemary Sprig and 4-5 Dried Cranberries to garnish

Spiced Simple Syrup Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 cloves
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
thumb size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thick discs
handful dried cranberries
1 tsp rosemary leaves

Spiced Simple Syrup Method
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer. Allow to bubble away for about a minute and then remove from the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 45 minutes before straining into a jug to cool completely. Store in an airtight, sterilised bottle in the fridge - this can be kept for up to six weeks.

Cocktail Method
Pour your chilled cream liqueur into a martini or coupe glass.

Put the coffee liqueur and spiced syrup into a shaker with one large ice cube and shake well, then pour into the glass over the back of a spoon to allow it to float and create a beautiful marbled effect.

Spear a few cranberries onto a rosemary sprig and use to garnish the drink.


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