This is the smell of Christmas for me, delicious, fruity mincemeat full of plump fruit, zesty orange, apple, nuts & spices. Homemade really is the best there I’ve said it. I’m having none of the pasty, oversweet, sticky ones and if I am going to all the trouble of making my own mince pies it would be a crying shame not to use a good mincemeat. This ‘recipe’ is hardly a recipe just a list (albeit longish) of ingredients that you put together and give a quick stir. If you can bear to give it away small jars make lovely presents. Give it a go please.
LUSCIOUS FRUITY MINCEMEAT Makes 450g (1lb)
100g dried apricots, snipped in half with scissors
50g walnuts (or almonds)
50g seedless raisins
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and cut up roughly
1 tbsp. mixed candied peel
1 heaped tbsp. grated suet (vegetarian if you prefer)
Zest of 1 small orange and juice
2 tbsp. unrefined caster sugar
1 tbsp. golden syrup
½ teaspoon mixed spice/½ teaspoon cinnamon
A good grating of nutmeg
2 tablespoons brandy/whisky
The ingredients can be chopped by hand but it is much easier to use a food processor.
First of all process the snipped apricots and then tip them into a large mixing bowl. Then process the nuts and add to the bowl. Do not over process these as they give the mincemeat some texture.
Now process the raisins, apple, sultanas and suet together.
Add them to the bowl and then add the currants (which can be left whole), the orange juice, zest, sugar, syrup, spices and brandy.
I am a traditional girl at heart and Hot Cross Buns-made just once every year-are an Easter treat. I love the smell of them baking not to mention eating them straight from the oven smothered with butter or toasted later on. A good Hot Cross Bun should have a good volume and texture somewhere between a bread roll and fruit loaf. It should be nice and fruity, with a hint of spice, a shiny glaze and a cross on top that doesn’t fall off. I piped on the cross with a small icing bag and a thick paste of flour and water. I seem to recall that many years ago, in school domestic science lessons, we cut pastry into strips and put these into a cross shape on the top-they always fell off before home time and this piping worked much better.
I found this a tricky make starting off with a Paul Hollywood recipe and a Delia Smith recipe plus my own ideas and tips and attempted to combine them all……………….a recipe for disaster if ever there was one! Too much fruit/not enough fruit/too much kneading/not enough kneading/2 rises or 3 rises/dried yeast/easy blend yeast/oven too hot or too cool/too much salt/too little salt and countless other variables. I have to admit one batch went in the bin and couldn’t be redeemed even with toasting and liberal amounts of apricot jam. As to kneading the dough by hand or using an electric mixer with a dough hook it’s a personal choice and you get good results with both. Plus it was good to do as I was decidedly ‘cross’ after the episode with the poor ones
Why knead the dough?
· By kneading you develop the gluten in the flour. The mixture is transformed from a ‘shaggy’ looking mix to a smooth and pliable ball. This will give the bread a better, more even texture. By leaving it to ‘prove’ in a warm place the yeast develops and makes the bread rise to give a lighter end result.
· The technique for kneading is important but it is easily learnt. Use both hands-use the heal of one hand to stretch the dough away from you and then fold it back on its self. Use the other hand to keep turning it and continue stretching, folding and turning for about 8 minutes. The mixture will, quite miraculously, become soft, elastic and smooth. You will need to do this for at least 8 minutes. It is difficult to over knead but stop if it starts to feel heavy.
· It is quite tiring to do and you can use a free standing, electric mixer with a dough hook. These work well. Personally I enjoy the hand kneading, it is quite therapeutic and good exercise for your arms!