Christmas mincemeat

November 16, 2008

This is so easy and gives such delicious results, yes you can buy economically priced, prepared mincemeat in the supermarket but trust me the results are NOT the same.

You will need several large sterilized jars.


500grams ( 3cups, 1lb)

Currants, seedless raisins, sultanas and  soft light brown sugar and grated carrots

1kg (6cups,2lbs) of peeled and grated cooking apples

250 grams  (1½ cups, 8oz) ground almonds (optional)

grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

1tsp ground cinnamon, mixedspice

½ tsp ground allspice, nutmeg

2 cups of good brandy or apple juice


Mix all ingredients in large bowl, fill hot sterilized jars with mixture, seal

Christmas mincemeat

Christmas mincemeat

and label

store in a cool dry place. If you are using apple juice rather than brandy, keep refrigerated and use within 3 months. Turn jars every couple of weeks.

I usually make two batches one with almonds and one without

You will see I do not add any suet or fat to this recipe, this is very old fashioned and unecessary.


Christmas pudding….love it or hate it

November 16, 2008

I usually have a full house at Christmas and when it comes to pudding time there are usually a few “not for me thank yous”, this has nothing to do with  overdoing the main course, there are a lot of people who don’t like rich fruit puddings and cakes.  This usually goes back to some point in their childhood where they were obligated to eat some heavy, dark,unappetising pudding and they have never got over it.

I like to encourage my guests to at least try a little taste of something fruity and there is no better way than with a homemade mince pie…….. I usually get a couple of converts

so my next recipe is for homemade  mincemeat

Christmas Pudding

November 14, 2008

You will need 2x I½ pint , or  1x 3 pint pudding basins, a saucer and a large pan to boil the puddings in.  A pressure cooker can be used if you have one, this gives good results and reduces the cooking time considerably.

prepare the ingredients the day before you want to cook.


200 grams of the following

fresh breadcrumbs

large stoned Malaga raisins

ordinary raisins


light and dark brown sugar mixed

plain flour

100 grams mixed peel

50 grams ground almonds

350 grams vegetable suet

4 large eggs

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

½ tsp mixed spice

½  tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon

wine glass full of brandy

milk to mix

butter for greasing basins


mix all dry ingredients, beat the eggs and add brandy, mix until you have a  cake mix consistency, add milk if needed,  cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight

You will notice the mix has become stiffer, as the breadcrumbs and dry ingredients absorb the liquid.

stir to the right 3 times with a wooden spoon and make a wish.

put the mix into well greased basins, allowing room for the pudding to rise.

cover with greasproofpaper and foil, which have been creased in the middle to allow for expansion. tie securely with a piece of ribbon or string and make a handle across the top, this enables you to lift the pudding out of the water when it is cooked.

Put into a large pan of boiling water, with the upturned saucer in the bottom, the water should come up ¾ of the side of the basin. Cook for 6hrs on a medium heat topping up the water level as needed.

Or pressure cook for 1hour.

When the pudding is done, take out of the water and leave to cool, when completely cold (overnight) remove the paper and foil and replace them with new. Store in a cool dark place until needed

christmas pudding

christmas pudding

And now to mix & bake ……..

November 5, 2008

Having assembled the ingredients* (you need to leave the butter and eggs at room temperature for a couple of hours before you begin) we are now ready to prepare the mix.

Turn the oven to 300F 150C

sift the flour with the mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and salt if you use it, do this at least twice.

grate the orange and lemon rind and juice the fruit.

add the rind and ground almonds to dry fruit mixture, set aside

beat the eggs and add the lemon and orange juice, set aside

beat the butter until soft and creamy and slowly add the sugar.

add the egg mixture  a little at a time, together with a spoonful of flour to stop curdling.

add the rest of the flour and mix well

add the fruit mixture,  stir thoroughly carefully turn into the prepared tin and with the back of a wooden spoonmake a “bowl” in the middle. This stops the cake from rising to much in the middle and creates a flatter surface.

Wrap the whole thing in several sheets of folded brown or newspaper, tie with string or ribbon and place on a pad of dampened paper laid on a baking tray.

Before you put it into the oven sprinkle the surface with water, this helps to prevent the cake from drying up and any exposed fruit from blowing up and burning.

Place it  on a low shelf in the hot oven for 4 hours.

The cake is done when you can no longer hear bubbling  or a clean skewer comes out clean.

depending on your oven it may take 30 minutes more.

Once your cake is out of the oven remove the paper from the outside and leave it to cool in the tin.

When it is cold this will take about 8 hours, take it out of the tin, turn it upside down on to a wire tray,

with a skewer maker several holes in the surface pour over 1 cup of alcohol of your choice.

Leave it to be absorbed for a further hour.

Wrap in clean greaseproof (wax, parchment) and silver foil and place in a cool, dry  dark. place.

christmas cake

christmas cake

the night before baking…..

November 1, 2008

the fruit is soaking, tomorrow we bake……

Christmas Cake preparation-the ingredients

October 30, 2008

For ease of use  in this recipe 1kg is equal to 2lbs.

To make a 23cms (9inch) round , or 20cms (8inch) square cake.


1.500gms, 3lbs, or 9 cups  mixed vine fruits, Raisins, Sultanas and Currants

155gms, 5oz, or 1 cup Mixed Candied Peel

310gms, 10oz, or 2 cups   Ground Almonds (without skin)

440gms,14oz, 3½  cups Plain Cake (fine) flour

pinch of salt

1½ tsp (teaspoon) Mixed Spice

1tsp ground Cinnamon

¼ tsp ground Cloves

½ tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

440gms, 14oz, 3½ cups best Butter

440gms, 14oz, 3½ cups Light Brown Soft Sugar

6 large Free Range Eggs

I Orange

I Lemon

A quantity of good Brandy  (2 cups)

Buy the best quality fruit and make sure it is free from pips and stalks, this is important because nothing spoils  a cake more than this. I never include  glacé cherries in my Christmas cake,  as I don’t think they add anything and the quality is usually poor,  but if you want to you can halve the quantity  of ground almonds and substitute it with the cherries.

24 hrs before you intend to bake, mix the  Raisins, Sultanas,  Currants and Candied Peel in a large bowl and  add 2 cups of Brandy,  use a reasonable one, cheap brandy imparts a harsh flavour to the cake. Mix well and cover with a clean cloth,  this may seem a large amount but most of  it is absorbed by the dehydrated fruit, this helps to keep the cake moist during the long cooking process, it also helps to soften the tough grape skins, which gives  the cake a good texture when it is cut.

Christmas Cake preparation- the tin

October 30, 2008

To bake the cake you will need a tin,  I like  a round cake and I use  23cms (9inch) loose bottomed tin.  The recipe I am posting here is for a cake that size, it is easy to adjust the quantities if you need to, if you need help with this just ask.

My cake tin is old and beaten up but it bakes a great cake! When buying cake tins buy the best available, which will probably be the most expensive. Good cake tins last well, I have had mine for more than 30 years, they don’t look too attractive but do the job.

To prepare the tin on baking day you will need  a roll of greaseproof paper, newspaper and string. Lining the tin is essential for good results.

First remove the loose bottom of the tin and on a double sheet of greaseproof paper draw around it with a pencil, cut it out and set aside. Take a further strip of greaseproof paper and wrap it around the tin, fold it in two,  or use two sheets, you are going to use this to line the tin, so it needs to come slightly above the rim (approx.5 cms). Cut it to the appropriate length and then fold it over, along the  bottom edge (approx 2 cms) then cut it  all along the edge with the scissors at an angle. By cutting the paper in this way, when you line the tin you are create a flexible edge between the bottom and the sides, this forms a barrier and helps to stop  burning. Grease this sheet lightly with a little butter, just enough to get it to stick to the sides of the tin.

Place one of the cut circles in the bottom (it is not necessary to grease this) then line it  around the inside with the cut strip, keeping the flexible edge at the bottom of the tin, as you do so allow this edge to form a rim around the bottom of the tin, take the other circle of paper and lightly grease around the edge put this in the tin and run your finger around the edge to form a  “seal ”

Once you have filled the tin with your cake mixture you are going to wrap the tin in brown paper (or newspaper)use several sheets, coming just above the level of the greaseproof paper, tie with string securely. Make sure this clears the roof of the oven. Place the whole thing on an oven tray that has also been lined with a newspaper pad. this allows the cake to cook thoroughly without burning on the bottom.

Early baking preparation

October 25, 2008

For traditonal home baking at Christmas, you need to think ahead. The earliest part of my preparation begins with the baking of a Christmas cake, a pudding and mincemeat for mince pies. I like to do this in the first week of November, so that the fruit and spice flavours have time to fully develop. Once made and stored in a cool place you can forget about them until early December.

I am going to share with you my family recipes, which, over the years  I have adapted and improved to suit my own needs and I think they give excellent results……well, no complaints yet!! We’ll start with  a Christmas cake.

Over the next few days I will be guiding you through the process, step by step, don’t worry if you have never made a fruit cake before, it is not difficult, you just need to be organized, the results will be well worth it.


October 24, 2008

For as many years as I can remember I have prepared and cooked  for Christmas. I start around now, the last week of October  and continue right through the holiday period until January 6th, twelfth night. I have always made everything from “scratch”, that is my preferred way of doing things, Christmas or otherwise, of course this takes a little more thought and preparation which is why I start in October. In this blog I would like to share with you my recipes, preparations, meal plans, thoughts and ideas as we countdown towards Christmas, I hope you will  find it both enjoyable and helpful and I look forward to hearing your views.