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It’s time to haul out the Christmas shopping list and start planning for the main event of the year. Truth be told, you should have this started months ago! For those of you super prepared Christmas ninjas, the Christmas cake is probably already in the pantry being fed healthy sluks of brandy or whisky every four to six weeks. With approximately eight weeks to Christmas, that leaves one maybe two boozy feeding sessions before the big day. Hurry up, for those of you playing catch-up with the Christmas cake!  

Traditional festive treats

Christmas cake aside, the festive season is also a time spent with lots of friends and family. While this mostly means lekker braai time filled with South African food, it’s also time to whip out the festive snacks. Who can pass up the delicious flavour of sliced biltong or the herby tang of a good stukkie droewors while standing around the fire? Then there are the koeksisters (syrup doughnuts) for those looking to satisfy their sugar cravings and crispy vetkoek stuffed to bursting with succulent mince or apricot jam fillings. Of course, we all love our Traditional South African snacks and how the table groans under the weight of our festive food. Never mind how our waistlines groan by the time January’ rolls’ around! 

Festive treats 2021 vs. 100 years ago

As South Africans, our love of excellent food unites us, especially during the festive season. In the old days, when family and friends got together for Christmas, everyone would bring a dish specially prepared for the occasion. It was a time for sharing as well as socializing. This meant Ouma’s gebakte boontjies and Tannie Dolly’s Malva pudding were all made to recipes handed down through the generations and carefully guarded with their rolling pins! But perhaps it’s time for some fresh, South African-inspired festive snacks? Mind the rolling pin, guys!

Ham and cheese christmas trees

What could be better than ham and cheese surrounded by crispy puff pastry? We bet the Santa in your life would love a few of them with his usual glass of milk!

What you will need

  • 25g smoked ham
  • 250g mature cheddar (grated)
  • 200g pitted green olives
  • 250g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • Vegetable skewers
  • 400g ready rolled puff pastry
  • Baking paper
  • Baking tray

What to do

  • Lightly flour a clean kitchen surface and roll out the puff pastry using a wooden rolling pin.
  • Then take a butter knife and spread a thick layer of cream cheese onto the puff pastry.
  • Next, sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the cream cheese layer.
  • Take the smoked ham and layer it on top of the grated cheese.
  • Next, take a sharp knife and divide the puff pastry and layers in half lengthwise. Then divide each half into three sections lengthwise. You should end up with six thin strips of pastry and topping.
  • Lift one strip at a time, placing the floured end onto the surface and folding it backward and forwards in a concertina-type pattern. The first fold should be the largest and the last the smallest. This should give you a Christmas tree shape.
  • Repeat the above steps until all the pastry, cheese, and ham are finished. Note you should get six Christmas trees per puff pastry sheet.
  • Push a vegetable skewer through the base of the Christmas tree, through all the layers, and out the top. This will hold the shape together when baking.
  • Place the Christmas trees onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate for twenty minutes.
  • Then bake for fifteen minutes at 180C or until golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Pop a pitted olive onto the point of the skewer and serve as finger snacks.

Next, let’s try our hand at making some delicious cheesy star pastry puffs.

What you need

  • 120g Cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 125g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh chives chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 400g Ready rolled puff pastry

What to do

  • Mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chives.
  • Roll out the puff pastry onto a floured surface.
  • Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut shapes out of the puff pastry.
  • Place half the stars onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. These will be the base of the star puffs, while the other half of the stars will be used as the lids.
  • Spoon a small dollop of cheese and chive mix into the center of each star.
  • Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture onto each star point. Then place the star lids on top of each base, pressing the points down firmly.
  • Brush each star top with more egg mixture and bake for twelve minutes at 200C.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
  • Once cooked, the stars should be golden brown with a gooey cheese center.

These festive treats are so tasty and super easy to make that Ouma can safely hang up her rolling pin this year. So, let’s leave her to relax and the kitchen to fend for itself!  Now that’s a South African-inspired festive treat!

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