Monday, 15 December 2008

Mince Pies . . . and other English things which have grown on me


I would have never dreamed of making chutney
when I lived in Texas.
There is just something so British Empire
and WI about it.
I made these for teacher and friend gifts
this year - along with tins of M & S biscuits.
It seemed like an appropriate gift
for an economic crisis.
It feels thrifty.
It lasts a long time,
as does the vinegary smell
which hangs about the kitchen
after you simmer all of the ingredients
together for hours.


Mix one part Advocaat with one part lemonade/Sprite
and lots of ice. Stir.
A cross between eggnog
and an ice cream soda.
Perfect for teenagers, mother-in-laws,
and people who order Pina Coladas.
I first learned of this quintessential
70s drink while watching
many years ago.
That reference alone revealed what
a cheesy, retro drink it is.
I love it, though.

Bovril beef broth

In a recent interview,
Julie Walters
that a cup of hot Bovril after swimming
was a favourite childhood memory.
It is very cosy and warming,
and my children are hooked on it, too.

Brussels Sprouts

The essential vegetable
for a Christmas roast dinner.
I didn’t always like
its slightly sour taste,
but with lashings of pancetta,
parsley and Marsala wine
(thanks to Nigella Lawson’s advice)
I can happily eat it.

Mulled wine

Sweet and warming,
so delicious!
This year’s recipe
included the savoury touches
of a clove of garlic
and a bay leaf.
You steep the spices in apple juice
and then add an equal part
of red wine.
To be taken, as holiday tonic,
with mince pies of course!

Mince pies

I can remember very clearly
the first time I loved a mince pie.
It was the week before Christmas
In 1999.
We had walked down a dark, snowy lane
to a friend’s cottage,
where we ate mince pies and drank mulled wine
in front of a roaring fire.

They really are better home-made.
Last year I canned many jars
of mincemeat, and then gave them away
so cavalierly.
I used my last jar this weekend,
only to discover that the
recipe (from a newspaper, I think)
has been lost!

Nigella’s recipe for pastry
is perfect.


Brave Sir Robin said...

Chutney was one of those exotic things on the grocery shelf when I was a child. I bought some as a teen after reading Kipling, and I didn't know what to do with it. I settled on creamcheese and Ritz crackers, and I still eat it that way.

Snowballs is a new one on me. I used to be a bartender, and I have never even heard of them.

I had to look that up when I was reading Atonement

I have always adored Brussels Sprouts, and I think they are often unfairly maligned. I believe that people who don't like them have never had them cooked properly.

You know, my Dad always insisted on a mince pie at Christmas. He was from North Texas so I can't imagine where he got the taste for that?? Then my brother married an Englishwoman and I started making them for her.

I always liked it, but I've never had homemade mince. Yours are beautiful!

May I have your recipe?

Beautiful feast!

DCup said...

Everything but the sprouts. Though one of my favorite lines from the British movie Hope & Glory is "mind the sprouts!"

I really miss my grandmother's mince pies. I wonder if someone snapped up her recipe book when they cleaned out her house when she died.....

bonbon said...

Bee, I am so impressed with your victuals. Quite the right thing for a thrifty Xmas. I did not make my own mincemeat this year and yet I have waded through 4 jars already handing out pies to all in sundry. Nothing else says Happy Crimbo like a warm mince pie. We also consummed 2 jars of chutney this month. Have you ever attempted to make picalilly?
The snowball cracked me up that is so cheesy and 70's and the ref to the Royle family. Trust you.
My mince pie tin(a gift from you) has been put to good use this year.
Happy to see you are using Delia's Xmas recipe book.Or is it a mere photo prop/op. Must say I still prefer her to Nigella..

Lucy said...

A fine selection, you are a credit to your adopted country!

Flapjacks over at mine...

marja-leena said...

Years and years ago, I had the best mincemeat pie ever, made by a male friend. It was something I usually did not care for back then so was doubly surprised to learn that it had moose meat in it! The 'meat' is usually suet, as you know, but I have a favourite recipe for green tomato mincemeat that has none, making it vegetarian I suppose.

Bee said...

BSR - Chutney with ham. Chutney with brie. Chutney with blue cheese and celery. Any other suggestions, English friends?

Avocaat is Dutch, I believe. They sell loads of it here at Xmas . . . so I'm not the only one drinking it!

Did you want a recipe for mincemeat, the pastry, or both? (Do you have any of Nigella's cookbooks, because she recycles it in her Domestic Goddess book, Feast, and the new Christmas book.)

D-Cup - I must see Hope & Glory! If only for that immortal line . . .

I wonder who snatched grandmother's recipe book! (What a treasure.) Mince pies are easy to make, actually.

Bon Bon - Coming soon will be my homage to Delia - never better than at Xmas. And yes, the chutney was her "Christmas Chutney" - as written on my labels.

I am not surprised, somehow, that you have been doing epic baking of the mince pie!

Lucy - I like to give credit where credit is due! (I felt that I maligned dear old Blighty a bit over at my candy post.)

Marja-leena - MOOSE MEAT! Oh my goodness. Was he Finnish or Canadian (or maybe related to Sarah Palin?)???

Anonymous said...

Chutney is always a favourite here.Also, home made marmalade ( especially when your grapefruit tree is so laden with fruit it is bowing down t meet te earth).

Glad I found your blog again.

hhb of acceptallofferings.blogspot ( blogger playing up again)

Robot Nine said...

Marry me?

willow said...

Fun English Christmas goodies post! Really different from anything we serve.

Bee said...

Anon of "Offerings" - Grapefruit marmalade sounds so fresh and delicious right now! (I like to keep my overall sugar intake balanced out with healthy portions of citrus.) No matter how much stuff I make, someone else is always making something that I aspire to!

Robot Nine - I'm flattered. Would you accept a mince pie instead?

Willow - I hope you are going to let me know about the Willow Manor kitchen one of these days!

Laurie said...

When I come here, I feel inspired to try to make everything and overwhelmed because I know I never will. :)

The Grandpa said...

I love mince pie. S made these individual tarts this past week for a party using dried appricots, dried cherries, and currants, cooked in dark rum and raw sugar. They tasted just like the minced meat pie my grandmother used to make.

Bee said...

Laurie - Might a recommend a hot mug of Bovril, then? (It's not like Marmite, I promise!)

Grandpa - I've always thought of mince pies as an English thing, but mince pie reminiscences seem to be trickling in from America. S's mincemeat sounds delicious. Do you think that you could persuade her to share the recipe?

LadyFi said...

Oh - how I feel homesick!! Apart from the Brussel sprouts, we don't get any of the other stuff here in Sweden! Bovril - I no like as I*m veggie, but could drink Marmite... Mince pies - yuk! Brussel Sprouts - yum! Mulled wine - called glögg in Sweden.

I used to drink snowballs as an 18-year-old.. .wouldn't touch them now though.

And oh - how I love love love home-made chutney. Goes well with cheese.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Chutney and English cheddar sandwiches! My first consumed at Dover Castle last year. :-) And I adore Brussels sprouts.

I am blown away by your holiday cooking, Bee! You have so much energy this time of year. I bought some mince pies from Waitrose the other day. They were pretty good, but next year I want to make my own because now I'm spoiled for all things homemade!!

And lovely photos. I know it took some effort to do these, so thank you very much!!

Bee said...

LadyFi/Chutney lover: Yes, I need to be careful about holding on to at least one of the jars of my chutney! (I tend to give them all away . . .)

JAPRA - Mince pies are really not difficult to make. I whipped up some mincemeat last night (pear, candied ginger, lemon zest, brandy, raisins/sultanas and spices) and it took about 10 minutes max.

Thanks for mentioning the pictures! (I still haven't tried my hand at editing - that's a skill for 2009 - but I'm "having a go".)

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Bee--Do you have a source on this side of the pond for your canning jars? I used to just get my mason jars at the grocery store back home, but I haven't seen any here...

Blue Blaze Irregular #1 said...

A big thumbs up for mince pies and chutney. I had mango chutney when I was at a friend's house in England years ago, and it was so good. The snowballs look appealing as well for those (rare) times during the holidays when I don't want something that has a kick like a mule.

Beeswax said...

My grandma always canned her own mincemeat, but now she is 98.5 years old, so now my mom buys it at the store. She makes mince/apple pies with it, which are fairly tasty, but not nearly as beautiful as yours!

Maybe I should can some mince for my Mom for Christmas!

Audrey said...

First of all let me commend you on your blogging frenzy of late! Very admirable! I like some chutney's but not all by any stretch. Mince pies I like and I don't know if you caught the Nigella show on last night but I thought that looked like a pretty good recipe. Bovril, yuck. Snowballs, never heard of 'em. You know I love brussel spouts.

Still haven't got around to bloody gingerbread men yet!

Elizabeth said...

Hooray for Chutney!
Bring out the Branston etc etc.
with crusty bread and good crumbly cheddar.
You know my thoughts on dried fruit.......
Most suitable teacher gifts

Anne said...

Lovely, all of it! I have never actually tasted a mince pie, but for years I've wanted to try making them. They seem simultaneously festive and cozy, and I love nearly all things pastry. Maybe this weekend.

Bee said...

JAPRA - I get my canning jars from a kitchen store called "Kitchenmonger" in Newbury. They do all sorts of sizes. I also put at least one batch of chutney in a recycled Bonne Maman jam jar!

Blue Blaze - You are the first person who has wanted to drink a snowball with me!
We broke into the chutney tonight, as we had some friends over after a carol concert, and I was relieved to discover that vinegar and time had done their good work. It was delicious, if I do say so myself. (Audrey, have you tried it yet?)

Beeswax - I'm going to give you a good recipe - for your Mama - and it's super-easy.

Audrey - Of course I saw Nigella last night! (Sadly, I had to miss it tonight because I was eating mince pies with friends. I do use her recipe for pastry, though, and it is excellent.)

Elizabeth - So are completely inflexible on all dried fruit? (Hey! Chutney has dried fruit in it!)

Anne - OK, that seals it. I'm posting a recipe.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I'm loving the addition of photos to your blog. It makes your recipes even more mouthwatering.

marja-leena said...

My friend is an American but has lived in Canada for several decades. I believe he hunted the moose himself (in northeast BC). No, probably not related to Palin :-)

Bee said...

Alyson - Thanks for the photography feedback! I never realized how important "lighting" is!

Marja-leena - I think of moose as almost mythical. It's difficult to imagine that they freely roam around in places like Canada and Alaska.

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