With Christmas just over a month away and with hopes of large family gatherings and festive fun, what better way to make your friends and family feel welcome than by baking them some festive treats.

There are many simple and easy recipes that make delicious cakes and pies and won’t take up too much of your time, ensuring you are still able to join in with the Christmas charades!  Baking is also a fun activity to do with your children to keep them entertained during the Christmas holidays.

Perhaps the simplest festive treat to start off with is the humble mince pie.  Unless you are a very keen baker, store-bought mincemeat is the answer, all you have to do is make the pastry casing.  Spelt flour is ideal for this as it makes a delicious crunchy pie, plus it delivers all the health-giving benefits of the grain itself.  You will find many recipes to suit your tastes, some add orange or hazelnuts to the mix, some make them covered, others open topped, whatever rings your Christmas bells!

Another traditional Christmas treat is gingerbread.  With a long history dating back to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used a type of gingerbread for ceremonial purposes, it arrived in Europe in the 11th century when crusaders brought it back from the Middle East.  Initially so expensive it could only be used by royalty and the aristocracy; in time it became more affordable, and gingerbread caught on throughout society.

This easy recipe makes enough for two loaves.  As it keeps so well in an airtight container this is a wonderful thing to have in the cupboard ready for any unexpected visitors.   Easy to make, with minimum equipment, all you need are two 23cm loaf tins, and a good mixing spoon!

Another luxury Christmas foodstuff that originates in the Middle East is almonds.  The almond tree has been cultivated in Iran and other countries in the Middle East and Western Asia for over 6000 years.  Like ginger it made its way to Europe via Greece.   Almonds were particularly popular in the Middle Ages and often presented as a gift.

Craggs & Co Almond Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies will be a firm favourite with children and adults alike.  They only take five minutes to cook in the oven, so not long for impatient young cooks to see the results of their efforts.   The delicious combination of almonds and chocolate is sure to be a Christmas hit.

It’s still not too late for keen cooks to make their own Christmas Pudding.  Perhaps the most iconic item of a Christmas feast, this has been a favourite for centuries.  Originating in the Middle Ages the recipe that we are now familiar with developed in the 17th and 18th centuries and morphed into the form we now know in Victorian times.   Full of nutritious ingredients, it is the centrepiece of any festive meal.   This recipe makes two, so that you can keep one for next year when it will be even more tasty – particularly if you keep feeding it with brandy!

So, put on the apron, get out the mixing bowl, heat up the oven and get baking!