Sunday, 15 November 2009

A couple of Christmas condiments

Well, I've lost no time in getting back in the kitchen since returning from holiday. Having been away for the past couple of weeks, we've missed a fair bit of the pre-Christmas buzz that begins around this time of year, and it was a little surreal to come home to Christmas decorations everywhere (and the sudden realisation that we need to get on with our Christmas shopping!).

I'd already planned before going away that this year I would make Mince Pies for the first time. My repertoire is sadly lacking in dessert foods at the moment, and mince pies are one of my favourite things ever, so it seemed a good idea. Many people seem to buy mince meat rather than make it, but why buy it when you can make a fun and sticky mess yourself at home?! So, this weekend I got cracking and this was the result:

The recipe I used was from Christmas Made Easy, a BBC Good Food book. I made about half the amount suggested in the recipe as I thought 3.5kg was a little excessive for someone who had never made mince pies before and I'm not planning on giving it to anyone as presents (certainly not now I've tasted it!). The recipe has a good mix of fruit (I really like the inclusion of bramley apple and almonds) and a fair soaking of alcohol - fortunately we already had some dark rum in the house, and managed to "borrow" some brandy from my fiancé's mum, but I had to buy the amaretto, which was fairly expensive at £12 a bottle for something I don't think I'd ever drink. But I suppose I can always make more mince meat with it! I do hope it tastes good when it's cooked in the mince pies - it smells fantastic and it tastes pretty darn good at the moment, so I am hopeful. Of course, I have yet to make the pastry and I have never made pastry before, so that should be an interesting experience. I do suffer from poor circulation, and I'm told that cold hands are a bonus in pastry-creation, so we shall see!

When I was reading through the recipe for the mince meat, I decided, on a complete whim, to also make the Christmas chutney on the opposite page (hurrah for the BBC Good Food website having the recipe for this!). I did this today, despite still suffering from jet-lag, and so far am pretty pleased with the result:

On tasting this once it had reduced I exclaimed, "It tastes like chutney!" I really don't know why I continue to be surprised by the fact that my food tastes of what it is. To be honest, I'm still surprised that I can even cook.

Anyway, as you've probably already guessed, this is my first ever chutney and I'm still a little worried that I didn't reduce it quite enough or that I didn't chop the vegetables small enough. I also, as you can no doubt tell, do not really have the right sort of pans for chutney-making, but I had to work with what I've got (I'm seriously hoping for a nice set of pans for Christmas - what an exciting life I lead, eh?). I'm looking forward to the results after it's matured (preliminary taste test suggests good things to come - I love the spicy kick!) and think it's going to make a perfect condiment for boxing day with all the cold meats and cheeses my parents are guaranteed to provide.

Are you planning to cook anything special for Christmas? If so, I'd love to hear about it! Christmas to me is all about food and family - a perfect combination!


  1. Looks great. Amaretto is lovely soaked into sponge in the bottom of a trifle.