The Countdown To Christmas

Fill the busy pre-Christmas period with food to fill you with serenity and joy. Creating these delicious winter warmers will make you slow down, spend time with loved ones and make your home and table feel truly festive…

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato

A family classic, updated here with a hearty lentil and vegetable stew and a fluffy sweet potato topping. Served steaming hot right out of the oven, this pie is delicious as a main or as a tasty side dish.

Serves 4 (generously)

3 sweet potatoes, about 1 kg
(2 lb 4 oz)
Sea salt
1 leek
1 onion
2 carrots
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup (200 g) dried red lentils
½ cup (100 g) tinned corn kernels, drained
1 tbsp tomato paste (concentrated purée)
100 ml (3½ fl oz) red wine
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
300 ml (10½ fl oz) vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
20 g (3/4 oz) butter
50 ml (1½ fl oz) milk

Peel and dice the sweet potato. Cook in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, thoroughly wash, trim and thinly slice the leek. Peel and dice the onion and carrots. Peel and crush the garlic. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Briefly sauté the onion and garlic. Stir in the lentils, carrots, leek, corn and tomato paste and gently sweat. Deglaze with the wine, Worcestershire sauce and vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Drain the sweet potatoes, then add the butter and milk to the saucepan. Use a stick blender to mash the mixture well. Season with salt. Transfer the lentil and vegetable mixture to a 26 x 20cm ovenproof dish and spread the sweet potato mixture on top. Bake for 20 minutes, then switch to the grill function and grill until the top turns golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven, divide into portions and serve.


Shepherd’s pie goes particularly well with a fresh lamb’s lettuce salad drizzled with a fruity dressing.

White Cinnamon & Almond Crackles

A perfect combination of fragrant cinnamon and white chocolate. If you want to use these crackles as a gift, we suggest you make enough for yourself as well. Otherwise they might never make it to the intended recipient…

Makes about 20

3/4 cup (100 g) slivered almonds
200 g (7 oz) white cooking chocolate
4 tbsp puffed quinoa
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch sea salt

Toast the slivered almonds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water.

Combine the quinoa puffs and almonds with the cinnamon and salt. Stir the mixture into the melted chocolate. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Use a teaspoon to scoop spoonfuls of the chocolate and almond mixture onto the tray.

Leave to set completely. Transfer the crackles to pretty boxes or a cookie tin. They will keep for 1–2 months if they’re tightly sealed.


Allow your creativity to go wild with this recipe. Use different types of nuts or seeds with the remaining ingredients to make your very own crackles recipe.

Recipes courtesy of Advent by Kerstin Niehoff and Laura Fleiter. Murdoch Books, £12.99. Photography by Laura Fleiter.

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