Thursday, December 14, 2017

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Brit style

I'm not going to talk about books, or characters, or editing this month. Well not much anyway. I'm just going to wish you a very Merry Christmas and have a bit of fun with baking. So please keep reading.

In the run up to Christmas there’s always so much to do and so little time. In our household, we don’t put up any Christmas decorations until after the tenth of December, our son’s birthday. Then boxes are dragged from the garage, shelves are laden with festive nick-nacks, and we buy the largest tree possible on which to hang all the baubles and seasonal decorations we have collected over the years. Our doors are dotted in Blu Tac and plastered with Christmas cards, and cupboards gradually get full-to-overloaded with treats.

Having researched a few of the differences between American and British Christmas traditions, I thought I’d share a few things with you here.

Whilst I wouldn’t advocate consuming alcohol too early in the day, at Christmas we English like to have a glass of champagne, or something sparkling, on Christmas morning. Sometimes we add orange juice to make a Buck’s Fizz—I think you call it a Mimosa, although our Buck’s Fizz has more champagne than juice. Personally I like to drink my orange juice neat. Just like my champagne J.

Of course, we don’t just drink in the morning. We maintain a steady intake during the day. In my case, it improves my cooking. At least I think there is a correlation between everyone enjoying my food, and consuming more alcohol.

Among treats such as chocolate Santas—whom we call Father Christmas by the way—marzipan fruits, chocolate liquers and stollen cake, there is a very British tradition of eating mince pies at Christmas time. The majority are consumed during the run up to Christmas. By the twenty-fifth, we’ve usually had our fill, and they are pushed aside by the great Christmas pudding, flooded with rum, wine and stout, and served with brandy cream.

But getting back to the mince pies. It’s come to my attention that you don’t have them on your side of the pond. So I thought I’d share an old family recipe. Actually, it’s not my family, but it does date back to 1989. At least that’s the date of my copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Illustrated Cookery Course.

So if you love your baking and want to rebel against American tradition and provide your loved ones with a treat, here’s what you do:

Buy the Ingredients:
For the filling
For the Pastry
For the top
1lb of cooking apples, chopped
12 oz plain flour
8 oz shredded suet
3 oz lard
Icing sugar
12 oz raisins
3 oz butter

8 oz sultanas
A pinch of salt

8 oz currants
Cold water, to mix

8 oz mixed peel, chopped

12 oz soft dark brown sugar

Grated rind & juice of 2 oranges

Grated rind & juice of 2 lemons

2 oz almonds cut into slivers

4 teaspoons mixed spice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ a nutmeg, grated

6 tablespoons brandy

Make the filling – probably best to do this first.
As an aside, and just in case you didn’t know, the filling is called mincemeat but there is no meat involved. It’s all sweet and great for vegetarians.
Step 1 - Just mix them all together, holding back the brandy—but don’t drink it. Or if you are tempted by the bottle, make sure you leave at least 6 tablespoons. Otherwise all your mince pies will be ruined.
Step 2 - Cover with a cloth and leave for 12 hours. During this time you might be able to complete the next chapter of your book. It might even read better if you have started on the brandy.
Step 3 - After twelve hours loosely cover it with foil and place in cool oven gas ¼ , 225F, 120C for 3 hours. This can give you time to edit that chapter. Unless you’ve had too much from the bottle during step 1, in which case best to sleep it off during this waiting period.
Step - 4 Let it go cold. You may need someone else to help check it has gone cold if you didn’t stop drinking the brandy at step 3.
Step 5 – Stir in the brandy
Now it’s ready. I hope.
Please note. This makes 6 lb of mincemeat. You will need 1 ½ lb to make 3 dozen mince pies. You can freeze the rest, something to look forward to next year, without all the hassle!

Making the mince pies
First - pre heat oven to gas 6, 400F or 200C
Now make the pastry and allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Roll half out, about 1/8 inch thick, & cut into 3 dozen rounds of 3 inches each. Do the same with the other half, only this time make the rounds 2 ½ inches. This provides a top and a bottom.

Now grease the patty tins and line them with the large rounds. Fill with the mincemeat—not too much, just to the level of the edges of the pastry.
Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds with the water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges. Brush with milk and make ~ 3 snips in the top.

Bake near top of oven for 25 – 30 minutes until they are a light golden brown. Leave to cool and sprinkle with icing sugar. Enjoy.

At this point I should say "Here's one I prepared earlier." But I have to confess, I have never made a mince pie in my life. I guess there's time yet...

I wish you all and your families A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Neil Waring said...

Grew up in the middle of the United States and had mince pies at Christmas time every year when I was a kid. They seem to have lost favor over the last 30, or so, years. When we find mice pies here they no longer contain the meat, but otherwise are about the same. I am starting to get hungry!

Liane Spicer said...

Looks delicious!

I quite like the idea of starting the big day with a glass of something bubbly. Hmmmm.... I see a new tradition on my horizon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Don't believe I've ever had a mince pie

Linda Thorne said...

I've had mince pie, but the mention of it makes me realize that I had it a ton of years ago and I'd totally forgotten it existed. When you get my age, things like that keep happening. I have a very long past, and reminders like this make me realize I'd totally forgotten about something.
Good post. Wishing you a great holiday season.

Mollie Blake said...

Thanks for your comments guys. Have a fabulous Christmas and look forward to a happy & prosperous, & creative New Year xx