Jacqui Robertson spent 30 years working in education as a teacher and lecturer in the Falkland Islands, Orkney and Glasgow – teaching all ages between 5 and 65! She then decided to retire and buy the Reading Lasses Bookshop Café in Wigtown, as well as running The Quirky Tiffin Company. She has never worked so hard. Ellie the dog makes her go out for walks to take ‘breaks’.
Many people tell Jacqui that having a café is their dream . . .
Jacqui says, ‘be careful what you wish for!’
Reading Lasses is known throughout Dumfries and Galloway for its delicious soups, hearty nourish bowls and spectacular cakes – all of which take their inspiration from both traditional Scottish recipes and international flavours. This is the first of three warming winter recipes Jacqui has kindly loaned Autumn Voices from the Reading Lasses kitchen, and we think these are the perfect tasty treats to help us coorie in for the winter and share a bit of hygge over a bowl or a plate with the good people in our lives.
Jacqui is extending her hospitality this winter to host a Christmas Market in the event space at the back of the café. Running in tandem with the Wigtown Book Festival’s Winter Kist, the Reading Lasses Christmas Market will have its second outing on Saturday 4th December, showcasing fantastic artists, makers and craftspeople from the region selling all sorts of wonderful hand-made and sustainable gifts, foods and decorations.
Christmas Tiffin (vegan)
- 500g of crushed biscuits (300g of oatie type biscuits, 200g of digestive biscuits)
- 30g of cocoa powder
- 150g of dairy-free spread
- 75g of syrup
- 225g of dried fruit mix infused with brandy (I buy mine from Aldi or Lidl but you could equally soak the dried fruit in some brandy yourself)
- 1tbsp of apricot jam
- 1 packet of golden marzipan or brandy-infused marzipan (I get mine from Tesco)
- 250g of dark 85% chocolate (vegan)
Use a 23cm (9inch) square baking tin and line the baking tin with cling film.
Either crush the biscuits into coarse crumbs by placing them in a bag and bashing them with a rolling pin or place them in an electric mixer and whizz them into fine crumbs. It’s just a matter of personal preference. Coarser crumbs will give the tiffin a crunchier texture. Put the crumbs into a large mixing bowl.
Melt the dairy-free spread and syrup in a saucepan, then add the cocoa powder and stir. Add the dried fruit to the saucepan and mix well. Heat for a further 2 minutes then pour the mixture into the bowl containing the crushed biscuits and mix it thoroughly before tipping it all into the lined baking tin and compressing it well. Chill it in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
When the base has set, warm the apricot jam so that it has a runny consistency and spread it all over the biscuit base. Roll out the packet of marzipan and place it on top of the jam and press well.
Melt the chocolate. This could be done either by putting the chocolate in a bowl placed over simmering water or by melting it in the microwave. I’ve tried both methods with the same results but, of course, the microwave is quicker! Pour the melted chocolate over the marzipan to form a thick, even layer and place it in the fridge for the chocolate to set.
Once the chocolate has set, remove the tiffin from the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature. This makes cutting through the chocolate much easier. Sprinkle it with some icing sugar and then it’s up to you how you want to cut it. I cut it into 12 bars, but these bars could be cut into 3 or 4 bitesize pieces. The tiffin will stay fresh for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.
This recipe can be adapted for a less Christmassy tiffin by using plain dried fruit mix and not topping it with marzipan.
Always use the same quantity of biscuits, but change them – for example, I use ginger nuts for ginger tiffin and add stem ginger to the fruit mix. You could replace the dairy-free spread with butter or leave out the cocoa for a less chocolatey tiffin. Maybe use white chocolate in place of the dark and top with chopped cranberries and pistachio.
Go on be adventurous!! Happy Christmas!
Send us your flash submissions on our December theme:
a bit of coorie and hygge!
Are you an avid Christmas crafter? Do you run any creative festive workshops for people in your area? Do you have any special winter routines or hobbies that help you to stay cosy and navigate the chilliest months in a state of contentment? Were there any festive or winter traditions you had growing up with your family or friends? If so, we’d love you to tell us about it in a flash submission. It could be a memoir, a short story, an anecdote or a poem.
Ends on December 31st and the author of our favourite entry will win a book prize and have their submission published on the website. Entries are free.