Carob Cookies, Comfort and Christmas Resolutions.





Advent is nearly at a close, work tucked neatly away until the New Year, the bird tree with a new shiny red and pink coat of baubles and robins - expertly arranged by Fin. The freezer is stocked with local organic lamb and beef and a whole salmon, long and silvery, his clear eye unblinking. The cold store groans with root vegetables, the fridge with leaves and kale waiting to be buttered.

I'm ready.

But unexpectedly, with this readiness came a sense of melancholy. I have been working fairly hard these past couple of months with an unexpected rush of new patients and my new role as a school governor, not to mention trying to keep the ball rolling on a complex planning application that only Nick seems to understand properly. When I was ready at last to kick my heels up and have some fun, I found that many of my friends were away or busy or looking after family. Christmas was all rush and noise, all obligation, crafting and spending for everyone else. Without it, I felt loose-endish, a bit Eyore-ish, a little bit tearful actually.

Fin caught me writing a few last cards with a glum expression, put his arm around my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. I put my head on his chest and sighed a large round 'Oh', full of longing for laughter and games and friends and family. I let a few fat tears fall onto his tee-shirt while he rubbed my hair in a way that was supposed to be comforting, but got a bit tangled. Which made me laugh and pick myself up and remember how much I love to hang out with him.

And anyway, I had some cookies to bake.

Once I had the oven warming, weighing scales out and a small glass of medicinal wine in my hand, I started to feel more Christmassy. The fading light outside, fairy lights twinkling in the tree and the food programme on the radio, conspired to lift me up again.

When Nick arrived home, the kitchen was rich with cooling cookies and lamb roasting. I was sufficiently recovered to throw on my lycra, head out for a circuits class and a much needed burst of endorphins.

My Christmas resolution? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. More playing in 2010, and that starts now.

These Carob cookies are my entry for this month's Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free! Hosted by Stephanie of Gluten Free By Nature, who stepped in at the last minute to host. So please contribute a recipe of your own, remembering that baking cookies is guaranteed to bring the sun out in your heart and fill your house with the most intoxicating holiday feeling.

Carob Cookies (makes about 16)

These cookies are soft and melt in the mouth - if you want something a little crisper bake them for an extra 10-20 minutes at a lower temperature. Be aware that carob has a high proportion of natural sugar in it so it can burn easily - keep an eye on your cookies and you'll be fine. If you grind your own nuts they will be richer.

2/3 cup (4oz) ground almonds (almond flour)

1/3 cup (3oz) butter (organic preferably)

1/3 cup (2oz) raw carob powder (roasted can be bitter)

2 dried figs

2 tsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

16 whole almonds or other nuts to press on top.

If you have a coffee grinder, grind the figs with half the ground almonds until they form damp crumbs. If you don't have one then you'll have to grind them as fine as you can in a food processor.

Put everything except the whole nuts into a food processor and pulse chop until a ball of dough forms. If it won't form a ball, add a little more butter.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 140C (fan assisted) and lay a piece of baking parchment on a cookie tray (or use a silpat).

Scoop teaspoonfuls of mixture and roll very lightly to form a ball - if you have hot hands try plunging them into cold water and drying before you do this. Place the balls on the baking parchment, spaced at least an inch apart and press a whole almond into each, flattening the ball slightly.

bake for about 15 minutes until just firm - they will firm up a little more on cooling.

Store for up to a week in an airtight container.