I survived the confectionery! And the last minute mad baking frenzy for the end of work! And all the work Christmas parties! And (so far) all the carolling, though since I still have the three big services left to sing, I probably shouldn’t gloat quite yet...
I’m involved in some pretty serious Christmas Hamper Making, which means my house is full of food, and also, most of my scientists gave me chocolates for Christmas, so I really shouldn’t need to make mince pies, especially in this weather. Except… we have this tradition in my family that you need to eat 12 mince pies between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve for good luck in the coming year. And so, for me it isn’t Christmas without mince pies.
We have another, unspoken, traditionin our family, which is that while we always make mince pies, we never make both the pastry and the fruit mince from scratch. My mother makes her own pastry cases but (I believe) uses shop-bought mince. I make my own mince, but use shop-bought short-crust. This is because I am more picky about the filling than the pastry…
(actually, that’s not true – I am picky in one sense about the pastry, and that is in the sense that there must not be too much of it! Mince pies should consist of a thin, crispy casing for glorious fruit mince, not a thick, stodgy biscuit that once sniffed a sultana from a distance.)
I have many elaborate recipes for fruit mince, but this is my favourite and most-used one. It requires almost no measuring, takes about five minutes to put together, and doesn’t need to sit for days to develop flavour (though I try to let it sit for a few hours or ideally overnight). And it tastes absolutely brilliant.
Best of all, you can make it on the 23rd without making your day crazy. Which is perhaps the best thing a fruit mince recipe can do for you at this time of year…
Your Shopping List50 g butter 1 200g jar of marmalade (you will be using this jar to measure other things later, so don’t throw it out) 1 375g packet of sultanas 1 375g packet of raisins 1 300g packet of currants 1 200g packet of mixed peel about 200 ml brandy (or port, or sherry, or marsala in a pinch) about half a cup of sugar (brown, raw caster, or caster are all fine) cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger to taste
Now What Will You Do With It?
Put the butter and marmalade and a large saucepan and stir to melt. When they are reasonably melted, toss in all the dried fruit and peel, along with one marmalade jar full of brandy and then most of a marmalade jar full of sugar. Let things bubble a little over a low heat.
Now go and look in your pantry. This part of the recipe is optional, but I feel it adds a certain zing and zest to the situation. You know those half packets and half jars of dried or glacé fruit that you have lurking around the place? Throw them in! (Take them out of the jars and packets, first) This year, my fruit mince has dried cranberries and chopped dried apricots in it; last year, it got glacé ginger, dried figs and dried apples. Any good dried fruit will work here, except perhaps banana chips, which don’t work in much of anything.
Stir your optional extras into your saucepan, and taste to see what it needs – more sugar? More brandy? More brandy! And one for the cook! Ahem. Now is also when you add your spices – I probably use a tablespoon of cinnamon, a good shake of nutmeg and a teaspoon or two each of ginger and allspice, but this really is a matter of what tastes good to you. If you start with those quantities, the spices won’t be overwhelming, so you can go from there.
Let everything simmer for another five minutes or so, then switch off the heat and let it all sit in the saucepan for a few hours or overnight, so that the flavours can mix.
Use to fill pastry shells for mince pies, or even as a filling for a fruit mince slice – make a shortbread base, par-cook it, then spread with fruit mince, and bake a little longer so that the fruit mince sort of sets a bit. Let cool, and drizzle with lemon water icing.
I think I pretty much covered this already. But if you want to make a vegan version, I suspect margarine would work just fine. I wouldn’t go with coconut oil, though – too strong a flavour.
This time last year…Recipe: Easiest Apricot Dessert Ever Victory is mine! Vanilla and Carob Castle Cake