Tag Archives: festivefood

Mini pork and cranberry pies (Makes: 36 – Preparation time: 1.5-2hrs)

Christmas is well and truly on its way with Christmas parties happening left, right and centre!  Lately I have been making a lot of mince pies and whilst I like them I have to admit I am more of a savoury person, so last weekend I decided to try out a new recipe more in line with an open topped pork pie.

 I have to give credit to Cockburns of Bedale who are the real inspiration for this recipe – for many years when I visited my eldest brother up in Yorkshire we would go to this butchers early on a Saturday morning to buy their open topped pork pies still warm from the oven for lunch (that is if they lasted that long…).  If you are ever on the on the A1 heading through Yorkshire, I highly recommend that you make a little detour via Bedale and visit this butchers to try one of their pies, I promise you will not regret it!

 Whilst the pies have similarities to a pork pie they are not made using hot water crust pastry. Instead this pie recipe uses a shortcrust pastry made with beef suet, the pastry case is then filled with spiced pork meat and topped with homemade cranberry sauce – delicious savoury sweet goodness!  The pies make great canapes at a drinks party as they are surprisingly light but absolutely moreish.

 The recipe below does have a lot of steps, however if time is not on your side and you need a quicker option, then simply follow the cheat options below.

 Cheats option / time saver:

  • Use shop bought pastry.
  • Replace the pork mixture with some festive flavoured sausages instead and simply remove the meat from the skins.
  • Use shop bought cranberry sauce preferably containing whole berries.

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Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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Festive Brussels Sprouts

If there was one vegetable that for me could sum up Christmas it would be the Brussels sprout.  Spouts are a much unloved vegetable; however personally think that they are great.  On Christmas day we eat them plain as there are so many other flavours going on – what with the gammon, goose, roast parsnips, roast potatoes, etc…  However, sometimes it is nice to do them slightly differently.

The recipe below mixes a variety of sweet, nutty and slightly salty flavours which work nicely with the sprouts.  The honey in the recipe acts as a glaze for the vegetables giving everything a pleasant shine.  This recipe could be eaten as a side dish to a grilled chicken breast, lamb chops or a piece of venison as the sweet flavours from the honey and cranberries would complement the gamey taste of the venison very well.

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Festive Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 400-500g Brussels sprouts (outer leaves removed and a cross cut into the bottom)
  • 100g lardons
  • ½ red onion (diced)
  • 100g chestnuts (pre-cooked, see chestnut preparation)
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 heaped tbsp honey
  • 25g butter

Steps:

  1. Cook the Brussels sprouts in some salted boiling water for around 7 minutes, to test if they are cooked see if you can insert a knife easily into one of them, then drain. Be careful not to overcook because soggy sprouts are not pleasant!
  2. Whilst the Brussels sprouts are cooking, place the lardons and red onion in a hot frying pan and cook until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the chestnuts, cranberries, honey and butter, stir together.
  4. Once the butter and honey have melted add the Brussels sprouts and mix together.  Serve.

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Gammon glazed with honey and redcurrant jelly

Gammon is my all-time favourite meat.  We normally only have it at Christmas as an accompaniment to the turkey – I have never really understood this as I would be more than happy to eat just the gammon by itself.  But then I suppose Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a turkey.  We normally buy a huge gammon so that we can enjoy it cold in the days following Christmas in sandwiches, pies etc.

When it was suggested the other day that we get a gammon out of the freezer I was a little bit excited!  I think my favourite bits are the slightly caramelised parts on the outside of the joint and if I am being totally honest the fat (because it becomes so sweet due to the glaze).  Unfortunately these are also the favourite bits for everyone else in the family – so you can imagine the contest to get these morsels at Christmas.

Whilst cooking the joint may take a while it is absolutely worth it because it just melts in your mouth.  The gammon is good either hot or cold, so if you only have time to cook it the day before, do not worry as it will still taste delicious.

Gammon glazed with honey and redcurrant jelly

Ingredients:

  • A boned smoked gammon joint 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pepper (for seasoning)
  • 3tbsp honey
  • 3tbsp redcurrant jelly

Steps:

1. Soak you gammon in a bowl of water for a couple of hours before cooking.

2. Dry the gammon slightly before placing in a roasting pan with one bay leaf on top and one underneath the joint.

3. Season with some pepper then cover the roasting pan with tin foil.

4.  Cook in an oven at 180C fan for 30 minutes per 500g of gammon (e.g.  2.5kg Gammon = 2 ½ hours cooking).

5. Remove from the oven and remove any string that the gammon may have been cooking in.  Carefully slice off the skin leaving as much fat on the joint as you can.

6. Warm the honey and redcurrant jelly in a saucepan.

7.  Score the fat on the joint in a diamond pattern then spoon over the honey and redcurrant mix.

    

8. Place the gammon back in the oven for a further 30 minutes, basting the joint every 10 minutes with the glaze.  Enjoy!

 

In preparation for Christmas – making and feeding the Christmas cake

This year I have actually got my act together and made my Christmas cake well in advance of Christmas.  I am trying to be very diligent and feed the cake weekly with a local alcohol called Vin de Noix (Walnut Wine) so that the cake is beautifully moist when I eventually cut into it on Christmas Day.

We in fact make the Vin de Noix each year in mid-June using a combination of green walnuts, eau de vie, red wine, sugar, orange and spices.  The resulting drink is quite delicious and smells like Christmas pudding.  I used it last year to soak the fruit in for my Christmas cake and then used it to feed the cake in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The resultant taste was superb.  However, I appreciate that Vin de Noix is not something that everyone can readily lay their hands on, so I would advise you to use whatever you have to hand for example Sherry, Madeira, Brandy or Whisky.

I have in fact made two Christmas cakes this year, one for my grandmother and one for me.  The cakes are not the same as I used what I could find in the store cupboards of each house, so, as an example my grandmother’s cake was made using white sugar which meant her cake was a golden brown colour after cooking.  By contrast I used dark brown sugar in my cake and so I have a cake that is a deep brown colour as you would expect of a rich fruit cake.  The one thing I ensured about both cakes was they were packed full of dried fruit, essential for any Christmas cake.

So for now, both the cakes are wrapped up tightly in tin foil and have been stored away in some old air-tight sweet tins, keeping them fresh between their weekly feeds.  They will remain this way until they are iced in the week before Christmas.  (See icing the Christmas cake).

 

My Christmas Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 wine glass Vin de Noix (or ½ wine glass Brandy, Madeira, Sherry or Whisky)
  • 18oz dried mixed fruit
  • 6oz raisins
  • 6oz currants
  • 6oz sultanas
  • 1½oz mixed peel
  •  4oz glacé cherries
  • 4½oz plain flour
  • 4½oz self-raising flour
  •  1tsp salt
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 6oz butter (or hard margarine)
  • 6oz dark brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp black treacle
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2oz hazelnuts
  • 2oz chopped walnuts

Steps:

1. Place the dried fruit, raisins, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries, mixed peel and Vin de Noix in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for as long as possible (12hrs minimum, the longer you leave it the better the cake will be).

2. When your fruit is ready make your cake batter.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, then slowly add the eggs being careful that they don’t curdle (if in doubt add a little flour at this stage to stabilise your mixture).

4. Add the flour, spices, salt, zest and treacle to the mix and combine using a large metal spoon.

5. Finally add the nuts and the fruit to the batter and stir well making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed through the batter.

6.  Line a 20cm loose bottomed deep cake tin with baking paper.  Do this by:

  • Cutting out 4 circles the size of the tin, 2 of these will be for the bottom and the other two will be for the top of the cake.  Cut a 1” cross in the centre of the two circles to be used for the top of the cake.
  • Cut a long piece of baking paper big enough to go around the outside of the tin, fold it in half lengthways.   On one edge make a crease (roughly an 1”) then make cuts every inch up to the crease (this will allow the paper to fit far better into the tin).

  • Place the long piece of baking paper in the tin first, so that the cuts in the paper lie smoothly on the bottom of the tin.  Fill the cake tin with the batter, push it down gently, then place the two circles of the baking paper with the cross over the batter.
  • Finally, take a large piece of brown parcel paper, fold it in half lengthways and wrap it around the outside of the tin, tying it in place with a piece of string.

7.  Place the cake in the oven and cook at 150C fan for 3 -3 ½ hours (or until a skewer comes out clean).

8.  Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely, before feeding with 1tbsp of Vin de Noix, then wrap tightly in tin foil and place in an airtight container.

9.  Continue to feed the cake once a week with 1 tbsp of Vin de Noix up until it is iced.