Traditional Homemade Mince Pies (and mincemeat)

December is here, so time to legitimately eat our own bodyweight in mince pies! I’ve been thinking about making mince pies for a long time – my gran used to do so, as did my mother but over time that changed. Home made mincemeat was replaced with shop bought, and ultimately my mum started buying her mince pies rather than buying them.

I wanted to have a go at making my own, but my mum was unable to track down my gran’s recipe for mincemeat. I was then going to have a go at making Nigella’s cranberry and port mincemeat but couldn’t find any fresh cranberries, so I decided to have a go at making up my own recipe! Fortunately, it was a success.

There are a lot of recipes out there for mincemeat, but they vary widely. Many use suet, although Mary Berry prefers the taste of butter. There’s usually cinnamon, but after that the spices vary from recipe to recipe. There’s usually some nutmeg and either some allspice or some mixed spice. After a bit of thought and indecision I came up with the following recipe, which makes enough to fill two jam jars with mincemeat, or 24 mince pies:

  • 75g of unsalted butter
  • 125g of soft brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of a clementine
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 400g seedless raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • About 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons of port
  • 1 tablespoon of brandy

The method is really simple. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan over a low heat. When they’re well mixed, add the spices and the dried fruit and stir well – I cooked this for about 10 or 15 minutes. Finally, add the alcohol and mix in. If it seems a little too wet, you can always leave the heat on for a little longer – but as the butter cools the mixture will thicken up.

I then made a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry (125g unsalted butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 large egg, 200g plain flour, 2g salt) which was enough for 18 small mince pies using half the mincemeat, and 12 slightly larger pies using the other half.

Delicious! I definitely recommend making your own mincemeat – it’s surprisingly easy and the above recipe seems to work really well!

Stem Ginger Cake

It’s Mark’s birthday this week so I asked him what sort of cake he’d like me to make. He immediately said this one which comes from Delia Smith’s book, Delia’s Cakes.

Quite a lot of ingredients go into this one, but it’s an all in one method so it’s really easy to make. Actually, the only bit which caused me problems was the icing – I made mine a bit too runny so it didn’t look to good on top and had a bit of a tendency to run down and the under the cake.

I had a bit of an incident getting it into the tin once finished. The icing had run underneath and glued the cake to the plate, so it broke up quite a bit when I was moving it. But I cunningly hid the damage and nobody was any the wiser. The birthday boy enjoyed his slice so all is good!

Slow Cooked Moroccan Chicken Stew

Another Simply Nigella meal today – and because it’s Sunday we can invest the time necessary for one of the slow cooked recipes from the “Breathe” chapter. Slow cooked is a relative term though… this recipe would take 4 hours in a slow cooker, but Nigella provides an alternative method using an oven for each of the recipes in this chapter and this one only takes an hour that way.

The method couldn’t be easier. First cook the onions a little in the casserole dish. Then put everything else in with them, bring to the boil and transfer to the oven. Bake for an hour and you’re done! We also did some rice on the side for an extra fix of carbs.

Technically this recipe is for six; we halved the quantities but ended up using the full amount of chicken stock to ensure there was enough liquid for everything to steep in. This resulted in more liquid than was ideal but it wasn’t enough to ruin things – it just made dishing up a bit tricky. The flavours work really well though – highly recommended.

Spiced and Fried Haddock with Broccoli Purée

Continuing this week’s Simply Nigella theme, tonight it’s another recipe. Given all the bad press which processed red meat has been getting, it’s probably a good thing that we’re having fish for dinner too.

I had to double check the ingredients for this a few times – although the recipe is for two people, it calls for 500g of frozen broccoli (that’s nearly 18oz) which seemed a huge amount. However, when you cook it and blitz it into puree, the volume reduces dramatically. The end result is that you eat a hell of a lot of vegetables without really realising it.

We made a couple of substitutions – no coconut oil for the puree, so we used butter instead. And in the absence of gluten free flour we just used the plain stuff. I must admit, I didn’t think that the ginger and paprika in the seasoning were all that noticeable, but the end result was a nice bit of fish and an interesting variation on mushy peas / cooked broccoli.