In the old school spirit of stir up Sunday I thought now might be a good time to share my favourite mincemeat recipe (it’s not compulsory to make this on 25th November though, it will work just as well after a few days of maturing!). This is pretty classic in it’s foundations and I’ve been making it for a few years, but this year I’ve jazzed it up with some of my favourite Middle Eastern flavours (think pomegranate molasses, orange blossom, cardamom and pistachios). You could make traditional pastry-topped mince pies with this mincemeat, but I think it works really well with a tahini crumble topping- try it out!
For the mincemeat (makes about 1kg)
100g dried apricots, diced
100g dates, diced
75g dried figs, diced
50g mixed peel
2 oranges, juice and zest
1tbsp orange blossom extract
2tbsp pomegranate molasses
1tsp ground cinnamon
1-2tsp ground cardamom
2 Bramley apples, peeled and diced
200g vegetarian suet
50g roughly chopped almonds
50g roughly chopped walnuts
75g roughly chopped pistachios
150g Demerara sugar
50g muscovado sugar
200ml spiced rum
For the pastry (enough for 8 large, deep fill mince pies or 12 smaller mince pies)
250g plain flour
2tbsp caster sugar
2 egg yolks
For the crumble topping
30g demerara sugar
50g butter, cubed
150g plain flour
1tbsp icing sugar, for dusting
Ideally a week ahead of making the mince pies, make the mincemeat. To do this stir together all the ingredients except for the rum in a large bowl. Cover and leave the flavours to develop overnight.
Preheat the oven to 120c. Tip the contents of the bowl into a deep roasting tray or oven-proof baking dish and cover with foil. Cook for 2 hours, turning gently every 45 minutes or so with a wooden spoon. Add in the rum and stir, then return to the oven, covered, for a further half an hour.
Set the mincemeat aside and allow it to cool to room temperature, stirring a couple of times to keep everything well coated.
Once the mincemeat has cooled down, store in well-sealed, sterilised jars. You can use the mincemeat at this stage, but if you can, leave it for a week or so for the flavours to intensify even more.
When your mincemeat is ready to be used, make the pastry. Place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. At this stage add the egg yolks and milk and pulse again until the mix comes together in large lumps (alternatively, rub the butter into the flour, salt and sugar using your fingertips then stir in the yolks and milk using a cutlery knife). Tip the dough out and shape into a disc using your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
For the tahini crumble rub the butter and flour together until they resemble rough breadcrumbs, then stir through the sugar, tahini and sesame seeds.
Grease your cupcake tray generously with butter. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and cut out circles to fit the cupcake holes (make sure your circles are big enough to create a deep mince pie- you want a generous amount of filling!). Push the pastry into the holes then fill with the mincemeat (in my large deep fill tray I put about 2 heaped tbsp of filling in each, but judge according to your tin).
Top with a heaped tbsp of the crumble and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the crumble crisp. Enjoy hot from the oven with a dusting of icing sugar and dollop of cream or brandy butter.
This Autumnal bundt cake, inspired by the humble toffee apple, is perfect for feeding a bonfire night crowd; it’s easy to make, packed with flavour and can be enjoyed hot with ice cream or cold alongside your post-fireworks drink.
For the gingerbread:
125g dark brown soft sugar
175g golden syrup
200g black treacle
4 balls stem ginger, chopped
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped (about 1-2cm cubes)
For the rum caramel:
200g caster sugar
100ml double cream
2tbsp rum (or brandy)
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 22cm bundt tin (or 20cm square tin) with butter then dust with plain flour and tap off the excess. Set aside.
For the gingerbread place the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, stem ginger and spices in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth liquid. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the milk and eggs.
In a large bowl briefly stir the bicarbonate of soda and flour to combine. Add in the warm liquid and beat until you have a smooth batter (this should only take a minute or so- I do it by hand).
Finally, add the chopped apples and briefly stir, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached.
Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes to cool a little while you make the caramel. For the caramel just pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves (do not let it boil and do not stir it at this stage). Once the sugar has dissolved up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep golden colour, then add in the cream, salt and rum and stir (it will spit a little but don’t worry, just watch your hands!). Set aside once your caramel is smooth and lump free.
Now turn out your bundt cake (it will still be warm) and prick it all over with a skewer. Pour over most of the caramel, allowing it to sink into the holes. Serve with ice cream and any leftover caramel.
This pavlova screams Autumn; each element contains a seasonal hero and I definitely (big statement) prefer the combination of hazelnut meringue, blackberry cream and bay poached pears over the classic summer berry meringue we all know and love here in England. Make it for an Autumn gathering (or dare I say it- Christmas) and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
For the pavlova:
5 egg whites
300g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
1tsp white wine vinegar
200g chopped hazelnuts
For the poached pears:
4 pears, peeled
200ml blackberry rum (or sloe gin)
1 vanilla pod, split
1 cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
75g caster sugar
For the blackberry cream:
400ml double cream
2-3tbsp icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
250g lightly crushed defrosted frozen blackberries (these work really well for rippling as they are usually soft and juicy)
Preheat the oven to 130c and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. To start, make the pavlova. To do this place the egg whites in a large clean bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff (but not dry) peaks. Once you reach this stage add the caster sugar 1tbsp at a time and keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy, grain free meringue. Now tip in the cornflour and white wine vinegar and briefly whisk once more to thoroughly combine. Finally, pour 150g of the chopped hazelnuts into the bowl and fold gently with a large metal spoon.
Spoon the meringue onto your prepared tray and shape into a rough circle with a dip in the middle. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours until the pavlova is crisp to the touch and peels away from the paper with ease, then switch off the oven and allow it to cool with the door ajar to avoid any major cracks.
While the meringue is cooking and cooling, poach the pears. Pop the peeled pears in a saucepan along with the blackberry rum, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and caster sugar then top up with water so that the pears are just covered. Simmer for around 25-30 minutes until the pears are tender but not mushy. Once ready, pick out the pears and leave to cool, then return the liquid to the hob, turn up the heat and boil until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Set aside to use later.
For the blackberry cream, whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla to soft peaks then fold through the defrosted blackberries with a little juice (reserve a few whole ones for decoration).
Now you are ready to assemble your pavlova. Put the meringue on a plate or serving platter and fill the dip with the blackberry cream. Pile up the pears on top, sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over your syrup. Decorate with bay leaves or gold leaf, if you like.
I know, I said I would post something healthy and nutritious, but I’m not (yet). I made these sticky gingerbread bars with maple buttercream and pecan praline over Christmas and completely forgot to share the recipe (despite taking photos etc). I know they’re a little unseasonal now but it’s still winter so why not hang on to all that is spicy and indulgent?!
For the gingerbread:
250g soft dark brown sugar
80g black treacle
180g golden syrup
375g plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cinnamon
pinch mixed spice
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the maple buttercream:
100g soft butter
600g icing sugar
100g cold maple toffee sauce (shop bought OR made by melting together 75g butter, 50g golden syrup, 3tbsp maple syrup and 75g dark brown soft sugar, bringing to the boil then adding 50ml double cream and a pinch salt)
For the pecan praline:
100g granulated sugar
100g roughly chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 170c (fan). Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 20x20cm).
Melt together the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir occasionally then take off the heat and mix in the milk. Leave for 10 minutes to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Stir the eggs to break them up and incorporate some flour, then start gradually adding your buttery syrup liquid. Continue mixing (I do this with a wooden spoon) until all the liquid has been incorporated and you have a lump free batter.
Pour into the prepared tray and bake for 45-55 minutes. When it is ready a skewer should come out with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
While the gingerbread is cooking, make the maple toffee sauce (if you’re not using shop bought); the method for this is in the ingredients list above.
Once cooked turn the gingerbread onto a wire rack to cool.
Now make your pecan praline. Simply place the pecans and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and heat gently until the sugar begins to melt. Tilt the pan occasionally to coat the nuts but don’t feel tempted to stir or the sugar will crystallise. Once the sugar reaches a deep golden colour remove from the heat and pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper to set. Once hard and cool break up the praline into small pieces (or a course dust if you prefer).
Your final step is to make the buttercream. Put the soft butter in a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until light. Gradually add the icing sugar and keep whisking until you have a pale and fluffy buttercream base (this will take 5-10 minutes).
Once you’ve reached this stage add the milk and toffee sauce and whisk again until it is fully incorporated. The finished buttercream should be light brown in colour.
To assemble the gingerbread bars simply slice the cake into 12 fingers and drizzle with any remaining toffee sauce you might have (optional) then pipe on the buttercream. Top with the pecan praline and serve.
This indulgent ginger and date pudding is made for those miserable winter evenings where you just want to curl up and watch a film with a bowl of something warm, comforting and nostalgic…
225g soft dark brown sugar
70g black treacle
165g golden syrup
200g pitted dates
200ml boiling water
350g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
For the sauce: 100g dark brown sugar, 75g butter, 50ml maple syrup, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a pudding dish (or chosen vessel) with butter.
Roughly chop the dates and place in a small bowl, then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the soaked dates and water. Stir together.
Now gradually pour in the milk. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.
Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break up then gradually add the melted ingredients from the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
While the pudding is cooking, make the butterscotch sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and syrups in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt.
Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.
These Bakewell inspired bars are made up of a crisp pastry base, zesty mince meat centre, cinnamon frangipane top, toasted almond sprinkling and a dollop of obligatory brandy cream; delicious and oh-so festive!
250g plain flour
1tbsp caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1 jar good quality mince meat (optional: add the zest of 1 orange and a handful chopped walnuts to it)
150g golden caster sugar
75g ground almonds
75g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
handful flaked almonds
150ml double cream
2tbsp icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
First, make the pastry (or skip steps 1 and 2 if you’re using shop bought shortcrust!). Place the butter, sugar and flour in a food processor and blitz until they form breadcrumbs. Pour into a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the water and egg. Add 4tbsp of this mix to the crumbs and stir with a cutlery knife. If there are still dry patches add a little more liquid until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Press into a thin disc shape and wrap in cling film. Chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Lightly grease a rectangular tart tin. Take your chilled pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick. Line into the tart tin, pushing it into the corners as you go. Chill again for 10 minutes.
Now it’s time to blind bake. Screw up a piece of greaseproof paper and unfold, then press down into the case. Fill with baking beans and spread out to completely cover the base. Bake for 15 minutes until the sides are set then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is dry and sandy. Don’t let it colour as it will be returning to the oven when filled.
Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
Now make the frangipane. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour to prevent curdling if you like). Once well combined, beat in the ground almonds and fold in the remaining flour and cinnamon.
Now it’s time to assemble. Take your tart case and spread a generous layer of mince meat across the base. Top this with the frangipane and level out as best you can. Sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the frangipane is cooked through. If the pastry or almonds are browning too much just cover loosely with foil.
Once baked, cool on a wire rack while you make the brandy cream. To do this simply whisk together the brandy, cream and icing sugar until thick. Spoon onto each bar, dust with icing sugar and serve.
I was recently sent some delicious Mandarin Edition chocolate from Amelia Rope. I am a big advocate of her single origin chocolate bars and am really pleased with this festive recipe I’ve developed using her product. The dark zesty chocolate goes really well with the crisp meringue, ginger cream and torched mandarin slices- it’s the perfect winter pavlova, ideal for Christmas day!
Preheat the oven to 180c. Spread the caster sugar across 2 baking trays and place in the oven to heat up (don’t let it melt or crystallise).
While the sugar is heating up, put your egg whites into a large clean bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Whisk on low to build up air bubbles then increase the speed and whisk until you have medium peaks. Take your hot sugar and gradually add to the egg whites whilst whisking constantly. Once all the sugar has been added you will have a thick glossy meringue. Now add the cocoa powder and lightly swirl through the mixture to create a ripple effect.
Reduce the oven temperature to 110c.
Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roughly pile the meringue on in a wreath shape. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meringue peels off the paper easily. The middle should be mallowy and the outside crisp. Once the meringue is cooked, switch the oven off and allow it to cool with the door ajar (this prevents cracks).
While the meringue is cooling, make the toppings. For the ginger cream, just place the ginger syrup, icing sugar and double cream in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
For the torched mandarins, slice into pieces and line onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and place under a hot grill until caramelised (or use a blow torch).
Melt the chocolate and cool a little.
To assemble the meringue, layer on the ginger cream, followed by a sprinkling of chopped ginger, the mandarin slices and finally a generous drizzling of mandarin chocolate. Slice up and serve with any leftover ginger cream.