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)
- 275g sultanas
- 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
- 140g butter
- Pinch salt
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2tbsp milk
For the crumble topping
- 50g tahini
- 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.
I’ve tweaked and tested this recipe at least four times over the past month *woe is me*, and am at last at the point where I’m completely happy with the outcome. Technique-wise I’ve actually harked back to one of my original cookie recipes which I posted about four years ago- it’s so simple and calls for a good old mixing bowl and wooden spoon, but delivers that chewy, crinkly texture which just can’t be rivalled. In terms of ingredients I’ve used a combination of rye and plain flour, three types of chocolate (duh), walnuts and a good dose of espresso; the resulting flavour is well balanced and borderline addictive, so proceed with caution (not actually, definitely give them a go).
- 150g plain flour
- 125g rye flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Pinch salt
- 1tbsp instant coffee (ground to a very fine powder)
- 150g unsalted butter
- 150g dark brown soft sugar
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 75g walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two large trays with baking paper.
- Place the plain flour, rye flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and roughly mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the instant coffee, butter and sugars to a saucepan and gently melt over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the ingredients have melted together, set aside to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk and whisk briefly to combine.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together with a wooden spoon to form a soft cookie dough. Tip in the chocolate and walnuts into the bowl and mix to evenly distribute them through the dough. Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
- Using an ice cream scoop, form balls of cookie dough and line onto the baking trays (leaving lots of space for spreading). You will need to do this in batches (unless you have a huge oven and lots of trays!).
- Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes then set aside. They will be very soft when you get them out of the oven, but don’t worry, they’ll set up a little. Leave to cool and serve.
With Pancake Day looming I thought I’d share my recipe for the best fluffy banana pancakes (even if I say so myself). The combination of spelt flour and banana makes for a nutty but naturally sweet flavour and they work really well with nut butters, maple syrup and winter produce such as forced rhubarb and pear.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
For the pancakes
- 175g spelt flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 ripe bananas
- 175ml milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- knob of butter for frying
- 100g pecans
- 3-4tbsp honey
- 1tsp sea salt
- maple syrup or honey
- either fresh banana, winter berries, finely sliced apple or pear, orange segments or poached rhubarb
- either almond, peanut or cashew butter
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss the pecans in the honey and salt and evenly distribute on the prepared tray then bake for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Stir together and make a well in the centre.
- In a jug whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla extract then mash the bananas and add them in. Tip the contents of the jug into the dry ingredients and whisk together until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
- Once the pecans are sticky and toasted set aside.
- Now you’re ready to cook the pancakes. Heat a large frying pan and add a knob of butter. Once the butter is gently foaming add 3 or 4 mounds of the pancake batter and cook on the first side until bubbles start to appear on the top, then turn over and cook for a couple more minutes. Continue cooking the pancakes in batches until you’ve used all the batter up.
- Serve with fresh banana, maple syrup and the honeyed pecans.
Peach puree and ground hazelnuts run through this cake batter, giving it a distinctly fruity flavour and very moist crumb. I love the added nuttiness wholemeal flour brings to the end result too and think it works really well served with a tangy creme fraiche and drizzle of local honey.
Ingredients (serves 10-12):
For the crumble topping:
- 100g plain flour
- 50g caster sugar
- 85g hazelnuts, chopped
- 75g butter, melted
For the cake:
- zest 1 lemon
- 225g soft butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 400g ripe peaches, blitzed into a chunky puree
- 200g wholemeal self raising flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 100g finely chopped hazelnuts
- 1 peach, finely sliced
- large handful blueberries
- dollop creme fraiche or greek yoghurt
- drizzle of honey
- Preheat the oven to 160c (325f/gas mark 3). Grease and line a 9inch spring form cake tin.
- Before you worry about the cake batter, make the crumble topping. To do this simply stir together the flour, sugar, hazelnuts and butter until you have a rough crumbly consistency. Set aside for later.
- Now it’s time for the cake. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Whisk the pureed peaches and eggs in a jug and add to the creamed mixture in three additions, beating well between each. The mixture may curdle so add a small amount of flour occasionally to bring it back (don’t worry too much about this, the batter comes together nicely in the end and the cake is always moist and delicious!).
- Once the eggs and peaches have been incorporated into the butter and sugar, fold in the remaining flour, blitzed hazelnuts, baking powder and salt. Scrape the mix into the prepared cake tin and level out. Arrange the peach slices on top in a pattern then sprinkle over the blueberries and hazelnut crumble.
- Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached. Serve with creme fraiche.