Tag Archives: christmas

Christmas Tree Chelsea Buns

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a good one and Santa brought you all the presents you wanted. Now commences the traditional week of turkey sandwiches in my household so I thought this would be a good time to catch up on posting the recipes I’ve been using over the past few days.

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When I returned home for Christmas one of the first things my mum did was thrust a page torn out from a magazine at me and say “You could do this, couldn’t you?”. It was a picture of Chelsea buns done in the shape of a Christmas tree and would be prefect for breakfast on Christmas morning. (Which made a nice change from our usual breakfast of as much chocolate as you can eat.)

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I made the dough and assembled the buns in a Christmas tree shaped paper case on Christmas Eve. Then popped them in the fridge overnight and then bunged them in the oven on Christmas morning to bake while we opened presents. For once I trusted a recipe totally. It is Paul Hollywood’s recipe from the BBC site so I was convinced that he would not lead me astray. It’s not often I put that much faith in a recipe’s author!(Although I have, of course, made a few changes to the recipe. I’m never satisfied!) However, I’m very glad that my faith was rewarded. There was a time when I was kneading the dough and it was sticking to everything that I thought I was going to have to give up and just add more flour but I persevered and it came together in the end!

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It’s a lovely recipe full of Christmassy flavours. Orange, cranberry, cinnamon and mixed fruits all gloriously sweet and sticky but still not too heavy for all that. The zingyness of the orange lifts it all and it’s just really tasty! I think I’ll be making this recipe a lot more in the future, it does make me wonder hat other seasonal shapes I could make it into!

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Makes 10 buns

500g strong bread flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
300ml milk
40g butter
1 medium egg

25g melted butter
Zest of one orange
2 tsp cinnamon
75g light brown muscovado sugar
100g mixed dried fruit
100g dried cranberries
100g dried apricots, chopped

2 tbsp marmalade, warmed
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp orange juice

– Take a large mixing bowl and add your flour.
– Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Mix well and make a well in the centre of the flour.
– Put the milk and the butter in a jug and microwave for 1 minute until the butter is melted and the milk warm. Don’t heat it too much! The milk wants to be warm not hot.
– Add the milk and the egg to the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a soft dough. It will be very soft.
– When everything is combined tip the dough out onto a floured work surface and start kneading. It will be sticky so having a dough scraper in one had to lift it and kneading with the other had is probably the best bet.
– Knead it until it is smooth and elastic and looks more like a ball of dough. It will still be sticky but it will lift more easily and look smoother.
– Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave somewhere warm and draft free for 1 hour until doubled in size.
– Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to make a rectangle about 30cm by 40cm and about 1cm thick.
– Squidge the dough with your fingers along the long side nearest to you to tack it down onto the work surface.
– Brush the dough all over with melted butter.
– Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over it then scatter the dried fruits evenly over the dough.
– Starting from the far side roll the dough towards you, keeping the roll quite tight.
– Press down on the join to seal it together.
– Slice the roll into 10 slices, approximately 4cm thick.
– Place the slices cut side up in a well buttered tin. You can leave about 1cm between the slices as they will spread out. (I didn’t have space in my ‘tin’ to leave any room but it worked just fine!)
– At this point you can cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight or leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for the second rise.
– When ready to bake heat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and bake for 20-25 mins until just browning and cooked through.
– Take out of the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin (I couldn’t remove mine as they had stuck to the paper and the shape would be destroyed).
– While the buns are still warm brush with the warm marmalade.
– Mix the icing sugar and orange juice together in a bowl the drizzle all over the buns.
– Serve warm and don’t forget the napkins for sticky fingers!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfasts, Christmas, Moderately easy, Teatime Treats

Spice Biscuits

I love all the spice biscuits that come out of the woodwork around Christmas time. Be they Anna’s Pepperkakor (naturally) or Speculoos/Spekulatius/etc or just plain old Gingerbread they all make me feel warm and full of festive cheer. These biscuits aren’t any particular spice biscuit but rather they pull together the best features of many recipes I’ve tried over time.

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We like a strongly spiced biscuit in my family where the warmth stays with you. And we all know I love any biscuit that can be cut into cute shapes. I’m quite the sucker for them in fact. These are great because they hold their shape brilliantly and retain a clear, crisp edge. They are incredibly versatile. I’ve made tiny gingerbread shapes for snacking on on Christmas morning, large ones for the tree, and even a few Gingerbread people for my family. They are so easy to throw together and exactly the pick me up needed sometimes at this time of year.

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300g plain flour
4 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp whole cloves, ground
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g light brown muscovado sugar
225g unsalted butter
3 tbsp milk

– Blitz the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and sugar in a food processor.
– Add the butter, chopped into chunks, and process until it forms breadcrumbs.
– Add the milk with the motor running.
– Turn out onto a work surface and bring together with your hands to form a smooth dough. If it’s sticking then another 25g or so of flour can be kneaded into the dough.
– Divide the dough into 3, form into discs and wrap.
– Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, overnight if possible.
– When ready heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 C and line a few baking trays.
– Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll out on a floured work surface to a thickness of just a few mm. I like mine to be at least as thin as a £1 coin.
– Use cutters to cut out your biscuits and place on a baking tray. They don’t need much space between them.
– If making tree decorations don’t forget to cut a hole for the string too! I use the tip of an icing nozzle.
– Bake in batches for 12-15 minutes in the centre of the oven until firm but not too dark.
– Cool completely on a wire rack.
– You can now decorate the biscuits if you wish.

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Pre-Christmas Dinner 2011

Since I have already had my Pre-Christmas Dinner for 2012 I thought I had really better publish the Menu from 2011!  I had got all caught up in the hecticness of Christmas last year and by the time January rolled around I thought I may as well publish this in December as inspiration for anyone needing it for their Christmas cooking.

Christmas has, once again, got the better of me!

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We had a starter of Lobster Thermidor I have to confess, I didn’t like it!  I didn’t care for the herbs and the lobsters I’d bought, were rather disappointing little things.  I didn’t have high hopes for them, they seemed too good to be true, and, while very impressive visually to serve, I thought they were rather lacking in the flavour department.  As you will see above, my sister, being a vegetarian, got a square of puff pastry filled with creamy mushrooms and did not have to eat any defenceless sea creatures.

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For our main course I took my inspiration from The 12 Days of Christmas and served roast partridge with pears and seasonal vegetables.

The partridge were shot specially for my by arrangement with our lovely local butcher.  I have to say, I got rather squeamish about them and their little feet and had to draft in my father to sort that out for me.  You also have to be careful to search out any shot that ti still in them.  They’re tiny little pellets but they’re hell on the teeth if found that way!

I wrapped my partridge with streaky bacon, having rubbed them all over with a herb butter and stuffed them with a handfull of thyme sprigs and a clove of garlic.  They are small and can dry out so the herb butter was generous and the bacon served to both add flavour and retain moistness.

The partridge and the pears were roasted at Gas mark 6 for 45-50 minutes.  I erred on the side of caution with cooking these as I needed them to be cooked through.  I knew from a trial run that a supermarket bought one took 45 mins but that was smaller than these wild ones.

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Finally, for dessert we had a Clementine Syllabub. I had specially bought a sweet dessert wine to go in and with this.  It proved undrinkable!  However, as a dessert it was lovely.

It’s a brilliantly quick dessert to whip up.  You simply whip a small (300ml) tub of cream with 4tbsp icing sugar and 200ml sweet wine until it forms soft peaks.  Then you stir in a tin of drained clementine segments (mandarin segments will do just as well) reserving a few whole ones for decoration.

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So, there you are.  Hopefully it may provide a little inspiration if you are in need of any for your upcoming festivities.  I will now try to get this year’s menu published at some point before Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas!

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Filed under Christmas, Desserts, For the Keen Cook, Mains, Starters

Galette des Rois

Galette des Rois or “King Cake” is a French Christmas tradition, eaten on January 6th, or Epiphany.  It is essentially puff pastry filled with frangipane.  Just in case anyone felt the need to do some (very) last minute seasonal baking I thought I had better get this recipe up fast before tomorrow.  Not that you need to limit yourself to Epiphany, the French actually eat these for the whole of January but I’m a traditionalist at heart.  Well, not too traditional actually, I went with the Hairy Bikers’ recipe, which includes a lovely layer of raspberry jam.  I couldn’t resist!  One traditional aspect I kept was la fève which is usually a figurine that is hidden in the cake, in this case it is an almond, for ease of eating and to minimise choking hazards! Whoever gets la fève in their slice becomes king for the day.  (See this article for some fun history regarding Twelth Night and Misrule.)

Serves 8

500g puff pastry
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g ground almonds
2 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp raspberry jam
1 whole almond (if your almond has skin put it in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes, the skin will then pop right off)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200C
– In a medium sized mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. 
– Add the eggs, keeping back about 2 tbsp for brushing, and the vanilla. Beat until smooth. 
– Add the ground almonds and flour, mix until smooth. 
– Roll out half of the puff pastry until it is the size of a dinner plate. 
– Cut round a plate as a template to make a circle of pastry.   
– Place this pastry on a lined baking tray. 
– Roll out the second half of the pastry to the same size. 
– Score this half of the pastry with whatever pattern you desire. 
– Spoon the raspberry jam into the centre of the pastry ont he tray and spread out leaving a gap of about 4cm round the edge. 
– Spoon the frangipane on top and nestle the whole almond in somewhere. 
– Brush egg around the border you have left. 
– Carefully place the second sheet of pastry on top. 
– Press down firmly around the edge to seal. *
– Roughen the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife. (Hold the knife at a 90 degree angle and sort of tap the pastry, this encourages the layers to separate and rise nicely.)
– Brush the top with egg, avoid brushing the sides as this will interupt the rise of the pastry. 
– Place in the centre of the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. 
– Take out and either serve warm or cool.  Don’t forget to have a crown ready for your “King”. 

* No, really.  I didn’t take the proper care to seal about 2″ of my Galette, as a result frangipane escaped everywhere! Although, I have to say it made a lovely dinner as I just ate that with an extra spoon of jam!  It does mean that one side of my Galette isn’t too pretty and may even be hollow in places so take care. 

(And can I just admit down here at the end just how proud I am of that decoration.  I took a gamble and went well outside my comfort zone and it worked so well!!)

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Easy, Teatime Treats

My pre-Christmas Dinner

Well, I am very, very pleased to say that my very first dinner party in my very first house was a resounding success.  I nearly killed myself trying to bring it all together in time but I did it and we had a truely lovely evening.  We were supposed to be going to a carol service before dinner but unfortunately my sister’s train was delayed getting back from Exeter so we missed that but no matter, I’m just glad she was able to make it at all!  We started the evening with drinks and a few light nibbles (I was going to make these all myself but sanity prevailed and I grabbed a few packs of party food from Tesco!)

I had a roaring fire and the whole house was as warm and welcoming as I could wish.  This was my first opportunity to really show it off so I did the traditional and hid everything I usually have lying about in the spare room!

Then on to the main event, Dinner!  We started with Buttered Mushrooms and crust bread.  Again, I didn’t cook the bread myself because, again,  sanity prevailed!

Then on to our main of Turkey Wellington.  I may Wellington more things in the future because, despite being tricky overall, it wasn’t actually all that hard when you broke it down.  And it certainly had the “wow” factor!  I served this with brussel sprouts, batons of carrot and celeriac dauphinoise.  Oh calamity!  I dropped the dauphinoise on the floor! Upsidedown! In the pile of sweepings I’d just done! I fair turned the air blue! But, no matter, I still had half a celeriac! Thank goodness for huge root vegetables and my buying extra of almost everything “just in case”!

My sister, the obligatory vegetarian, had a main of Butternut Squash and Sage Pithivier, the recipe for which I shall post soon.  She certainly seemed to like it but with ingredients of puff pastry, butternut, marscapone, sage and garlic it seemed a fair bet!

And for dessert the gorgeous, stunning and oh so simple Cranberry Fool!

All followed by a shared sliver of Christmas cake.  We were all stuffed but I knew if we didn’t cut into it then I would just sit looking at it going, “oh, no, it’s too pretty to cut just for me!” So we bravely gobbled down a morsel each!

I had an absolutely lovely evening.  It was worth all of the stress, panic and chaos.  This is my first proper home, something I’ve always wanted and to have all of my family round and to be able to show off this home I have made myself and have somewhere that is so uniquely mine in the first place means an awful lot! Now that I’ve got the hang of this entertaining lark I’ll have to do it more often! So who’s coming to dinner?

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Turkey Wellington

Ok, the pièce de résistance for my pre-Christmas dinner the Turkey Wellington!  I wanted to serve something that was traditional, so Turkey, but I didn’t want to do a whole turkey because that’s for Christmas dinner at my parents’.  I also wanted something really show offy!  Now, this dish is complicated.  But none of the steps are, in and of themselves, complicated.  It’s just a matter of following the process through a step at a time.  Now, to break this down I even stopped to take photos, my camera loves flour, really! 

Serves about 8 I’d say.  Or 4 with plenty of leftovers (makes a cracking sandwich!)

~1.6kg Turkey breast (freezer section in Tescos!) defrosted
~900g streaky bacon, rindless (3 packs of Tesco value rind on streaky bacon for me)
500g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

For the stuffing:
2 onions, finely chopped
knob of butter
350g minced turkey
250g sausages, skinned (just use your favourites, Coop Lincolnshire for me!)
2 eggs, beaten
150g dried cranberries
150g unsweetened chestnut puree
100g fresh white breadcrumbs

– First take your turkey breast and remove the skin and any gross bits. (Yes, I’m 5). 
– Then trim the breast to make it more of a cylinder. 
– Tie the breast with string.  (I sort of followed this video but fudged the first bit coz I didn’t follow.) 

Trim and tie your turkey breast.

– Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a very large frying pan. 
– Season the breast then place in the pan and brown evenly on all sides. 
– Set aside to cool. 

Pan fry the breast until golden brown.

– Now for the stuffing!
– Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan. 
– Add the onions and cook til soft.  Leave to cool. 
– Mix the minced turkey and sausage meat in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Easiest with your hands, use a spoon if you’re squeamish!
– Add the eggs and mix until thick and smooth. 
– Mix in the onion, cranberries, chestnut puree and breadcrumbs and seasoning and mix until everything is evenly distributed. 
– Set aside. 

– Roll out your pastry on a floured surface until it is about 45cmx45cm.  Size it up so it will wrap around your turkey. 
– Place your bacon over the pastry, laying it so there are no gaps, leaving a few centimeters at the edges.  Keep back about 5 rashers. 

Cover the pastry in bacon.- Spread the stuffing over the bacon, reserving a few heaped spoonfulls. Spread the stuffing over the bacon.

– Place the turkey in the centre of the pastry, topside down. 

Place the Turkey in the centre topside down.

– Spread the remaining stuffing on top of the turkey.   
– Gently pick up the bacon and fold it over the turkey.  Do this a bit at a time, pressing it to hold it in place. 
– Use the remaining 5 bacon rashers to cover the gap. 

Wrap it in bacon.

– Fold one long side of the pastry up and over the top. 
– Brush the edge  with egg. 
– Fold the second edge up and press to seal the two edges together. 
– Now brush the sides with egg and fold up, press to seal. 

Fold up the pastry.

– Next, carefully roll/lift it onto a greased baking tray. 
– Use the egg to stick any decorations you want to the top. 

Flip onto tray and decorate!

– Set aside until you want to cook it. 
– Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/200C. 
– Brush with egg and pop it in the oven for 1 hour 25 minutes.  Unfortunately there’s no way to check it for doneness so if you happen to cut into it and it looks a little pink, bung it back in the oven. 
– After the 1 hour 25 minutes take it out of the oven and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. 
– Use two large fish slices to carefully lift it onto a carving board. 
– Slice and serve. 

Serve with as many trimmings as you wish!

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Filed under Christmas, For the Keen Cook, Mains

Cranberry Fool

For the finale I wanted something that screamed Christmas but wasn’t something traditional.  Again, it also had to be something I could prep beforehand and set aside.  This produced all of the “Wows” I could have wished for when I brought it out at the end of the meal.  Even my dad was tempted to eat some and the man hates desserts!  I have to say it was delicious! Despite the fact that it’s made of cream and sugar it’s actually a very light dessert.  The perfect end to a gluttinous meal!

Serves 4

250g fresh cranberries
200g caster sugar + 3 tbsp
400ml double cream
1 egg white, beathn until frothy

– Put most of the cranberries in a small pan with 150g of the sugar.  Keep back 16 or so for the garnish. 
– Cook the cranberries in the pan with a lid on until the sugar melts and bubbles.  Cook for ~10 minutes until the cranberries are soft.  They will pop, do not scream like a girl (ahem) when they do so. 
– Use a spoon to mash them up once they are cooked. 
– Set aside to cool. 
– Whilst they are cooling take a large mixing bowl and pour 200ml of the cream and the remaining 50g sugar into it. 
– Use a hand mixer to beat until the cream forms soft peaks. 
– Stir the remaining 200ml cream into the cranberries until a wonderful pink colour. 
– Tip this pink mixture on top of the whipped cream. 
– Stir through only a few times to acheive a marbled effect. 
– Spoon into four cocktail glasses. 
– To garnish take the remaining cranberries and dip them in the egg white. 
– Put the 3 tbsp sugar on a plate and drop the cranberries onto the sugar.  Roll around until evenly coated in sugar. 
– Set aside to set. 
– Once hard, plce a few cranberries on each dessert. 
– Chill until ready to serve. 

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Filed under Christmas, Desserts, Easy

My Christmas Cake

I will be hosting my first proper Christmas dinner later today (Well, pre-Christmas but still!) and I am franticaly working to get it all ready, I’ve got some , hopefully, yummy recipes to post up afterwards, fingers crossed it all works!  However, I thought I’d take a quick break to post a picture of my Christmas cake.  I’ve made two others for my colleagues but this one is all mine!

Right, now back to it… why did my sister decide to turn veggie this year? She couldn’t have waited til new year?  Ah well, she’s stuck in Exeter at the minute so I may have a delicious vegetarian main to eat tomorrow! Hopefully though everyone will arrive safely and the food will all be ready in time. Wish me luck!

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Christmas Cake

I did a very quick post on this cake last year but at that point I hadn’t actually cooked it yet.  Now, however, I have!  I made this cake for someone at my office.  It was my first fruitcake and the first cake I’ve ever covered in marzipan and icing!  I’m very proud of myself.  It certainly went down a treat as I’m due to be making another one for another colleague this week!

The great thing about this cake is that is it so very, very simple.  I spread it over three days but you could easily do it in one with the right scheduling.  I simmer the fruits day 1, mix and cook the cake day 2 and then ice on day 3.  However, I see no reason you couldn’t simmer the fruits of a morning, cook the cake in the late afternoon and then ice it in the evening… if you have the time that is! For me, grabbing snatches of time over a few days works best, especially at this busy time of year. 

No matter how organised I thought I was, Christmas has once again snuck up on me and hit me full force.  Yesterday we went to pick out and dig up our tree.  Today we’re going to the Panto, (York Theatre Royal, the best Panto in the UK! If you physically can go, you should!) then on Wednesday it’s my sister’s Birthday and on Saturday I am hosting my first dinner at my house for my family, there will be Carol Singing and  a Brass Band in the market place and then dinner at mine.  Like I say, busy, but so much fun!

Makes 1×8″ (20cm) cake

125g butter
500g mixed dried fruits
125g dates, stoned and chopped (or apricots or prunes, big fruits are what you’re after.)
175g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200ml water
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon

90g glace cherries, chopped
60g chopped mixed nuts
45ml brandy
250g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder

– In a large pan melt the butter and then add the dried mixed fruits, dates (or other fruits), sugar, bicarbonate of soda, water, mixed spice and cinnamon. 
– Bring this to the boil and cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes. 
– Leave the pan, covered, overnight. 
– The next day put it in a mixing bowl, or use a machine like a kitchen aid or kenwood chef to do the hard work!
– Add the cherries, nuts and brandy.  Mix a little. 
– Add the flour and salt and mix in. 
– Add the eggs and the baking powder and then mix thoroughly making sure everything is well combined. 
– Line an 8″ cake tin with foil, shiny side down, and 2 layers of greaseproof paper. 
– Brush lightly with oil. 
– Tip in the cake mix and level out the top.  Create a small dip in the middle with the back of a spoon to prevent doming. 
– Place a small ovenproof dish or tin of water in the bottom of an oven heated to gas mark 2. 
– Place the cake in the oven on the middle shelf and cook for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering the top with foil after 1 hour. 
– Test with a skewer to see if it’s done.
– Cool in the tin then turn out and pour on a little more brandy before either wrapping and storing or covering with marzipan and icing.

To ice your cake:

– 3 tbsp apricot jam, melted
– 1 pack readyroll marzipan
– 1 pack readyroll icing

– Place your cake upside down on a cakeboard. 
– Brush the top with apricot glaze. 
– Unroll your marzipan and smooth hour any wrinkles. 
– Fold it back over a rolling pin and use the rolling pin to lift it over to your cake and carefully place centrally on the top. 
– Smooth down the sides using your hands.  Gently does it.  You don’t want any pleats in there.  The heat of your hand should ease the marzipan into place.  If it goes wrong and pleats then make sure you trim and smooth it. 
– Trim off the marzipan at the base of the cake.  If you have any gaps at the bottom of your cake you could use the marzipan to fill them. 
– Next unroll the icing.  Again, smooth out any wrinkles and lift across with the rolling pin. 
– Again, ease the icing smoothly over the cake using your hands to smooth it all out.  This is easier than with the marzipan. 
– Trim round the bottom of the cake with a very sharp knife. 
– Decorate as you wish!

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Moderately easy

Mincemeat 2010

Last year was my first attempt at making mincemeat for Christmas.  It was good, but it wasn’t quite right.  Unfortunately, with things like mincemeat you have to wait a year for your next attempt!  I thought that last year’s had too much suet so I cut that down, I also prefer orange to lemon so switched orange juice in for the lemon juice.  All in all I think it’s better, but perhaps to be improved on again next year!

(Yup, same photo! Imagine less suet in there!)

Makes 3 lbs (Sorry to mix up the metric and imperial but the jam jars say 1lb and I filled 3 of them!)

750g mixed dried fruits
80ml brandy
a scant 50ml lemon juice
100g shredded suet (I use veggie just in case)
1 large bramley apple, peeled and grated
250g dark brown sugar
1/2 a small nutmeg, grated

– Mix together the dried fruits, brandy and orange juice in a large bowl. 
– Leave to sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. 
– Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.  
– Spoon into sterilised jars. (Putting them through the dishwasher is easiest or wash them in hot soapy water then dry them in the oven for 10 minutes.)
– Press down with the back of the spoon to get all the air out of the jar. 
– Put on the lids and leave in a cool dark place (read cupboard!) for 2 weeks then make mince pies!  Yum!

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Filed under Basic, Christmas, Easy