Traditional Aussie Christmas baking

As Christmas nears, it's time to rummage through the pantry to see if there's a packet of custard powder that's not out of date.

I'm not a big user of custard powder, preferring to make the home-made variety with milk, cream, eggs and vanilla bean.

But packet custard power has a very special role in our family's Yuletide dining, as without this vital ingredient you can't make my Nana's (my mother's mum's) yo-yo biscuits - creamy, crumbly little shortbread-like biscuits joined together with icing.

Such a part of Christmas are yo-yos that the kids are mortified if there's not a big jar of them to dip into as part of our family's Christmas feasting.

Recipe: Yo Yo Biscuits

We called my paternal grandmother Marnie. She was a formidable woman, a nursing sister who ran her wards like a military academy. Marnie's name was Theresa Dyer and she said she was born in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland. For years I searched for her family history in Ireland, to no avail.

Last year I uncovered a shocking family secret – Marnie, who died in 1980, wasn't born in Ireland at all, but in Littlehampton, Sussex, England. Her name wasn't Theresa, it was Dorothy. On her 1928 marriage certificate she lied about her name, place of birth, and dropped her age by four years.

Why did Marnie live a lie? It appears she manufactured an Irish Catholic past to snare my grandfather, from a clan of Catholics since at least the Middle Ages.

Liar and all, Marnie was a top cook. From a young age she, along with Nana, taught me just about everything I have learnt in a lifetime of cooking. Here's Marnie's recipe for Scot's Shortbread. I'm wondering if more skeletons in the closet in relation to a manufactured family in Scotland!

Recipe: Scot's Shortbread

Unexpected Visitors
The festive season is a time when you never know who may call in for a visit. The Christmas fare might be almost devoured when visitors call in unexpectedly. But never fear, you can knock up a batch herb scones in no time.

This recipe dates from my university days, when I was forever scratching for cheap, filling yet delicious solutions for hungry children and friends.

Recipe: Herb and Cheese Scones

Fruit Cake
Haven't had time to make a Christmas cake? Never fear, with a good old can of crushed pineapple you can at least whip up a cake than can be enjoyed straight away. This ripper recipe has been in my family for more years than I can remember.

Recipe: Boiled Fruit Cake