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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Mince pies and traditions.

Last time I looked, it was the first day of Christmas and now it’s very nearly Christmas Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our household, like many,  has been struck by a couple of bouts of sickness and more than a couple of sniffles and sneezes, all rounded off with a healthy measure of weariness that comes with the time of year, racing to get everything done, a joyful and busy toddler and being really rather pregnant simultaneously. However, given the recent horrendous shooting in the USA and other tragedies closer to home, we do well to hug our loved ones extra tight, to take time to cherish traditions and, if the mood takes you to bake a few mince pies. The most onerous step is chilling the pastry for a couple of hours, really.

Last night, we welcomed our neighbours for mince pies and a glass of festive cheer. It feels terribly grown up and as I didn’t have a family or other trusted mince pie recipe, I knew as soon as I tasted this one that I’d struck gold. And, doubly so as we were also given homemade mincemeat (thank you so much N).

One of these mince pie delights, was my first of the season a couple of weeks back and it’s not only significant for that reason but also because it’s the time of year for traditions and mince pies are certainly one of them. It is lovely to be able to share this story, a friend's Christmas tradition and recipe and to weave it into what I hope will become an annual baking for our family too. 

The clementine pastry is delicious and there’s something about weighing out a recipe in pounds and ounces and using lard (actual lard), that allows us to recreate a moment from years ago. As I rubbed the pastry together, I sent my most Christmassy thoughts to my dear Granny, Eva’s namesake and a lady whose elegant hands, baking skill and warm hospitality is always remembered.

I’ll hand you over to the Mince Pie Maharani now.

I have not always been a Mince Pie Queen. I can remember finding all things non-chocolate based quite repulsive in my school years. In fact my love developed at University in Edinburgh, when every year through my six year course, as of mid-October the mince pies would be introduced into the supermarkets and my flat mates and I would immediately snatch as many boxes as possible. I can’t imagine there is a mince pie that I haven’t tried- puff pastry, iced, budget, deep filled you name it I have tried it from most high street stores.

Every week-night, as the end of the Winter Term approached and exams loomed, after an evening of studying we would congregate at 10pm for a cup of tea and heated mince pie, chats and gossip and the latest reality TV catch up. The weekend of course was not quite so civilized! As poor students we couldn’t afford to eat our mince pies in true style with brandy butter, but would sometimes heat some custard from the cupboard and have mince pies and custard. Or virgin mince pies. Either way it was bliss. Happy Memories.

However, although this was our yearly ritual the mince pies were not up to the standard of those I would get on my return home to Yorkshire for the Christmas holidays, post exams. My Mum has always made a few dozen mince pies, and these are usually devoured before Christmas Eve. The recipe has been passed across several generations in the village where I live, and was passed to my Mum from a very special lady Mrs T or AP as she is affectionately known to me. The origins of it are uncertain, however I am informed it is one of the first handwritten recipes in a recipe book which must be at least 40 years old and I am certain as the Queen of Mince Pies that this recipe, for all its simplicity (and quite possibly the shortest pastry ever!), makes the tastiest mince pies in the World. Ever. Fact. Enjoy.

Makes approx 20-24 mince pies.

You will need:

1Ib plain flour
8oz butter
4oz lard
Rind and juice of 1 or 2 oranges or 4 clementines
Mincemeat [ 1 jar was just enough using a small teaspoon]
Full fat milk for glazing

What to do:

Rub ingredients together to make pastry dough. [Tip - Soften your butter and lard out of the fridge first].
Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours or longer if you have time.
Roll out to 0.5cm thick or more.

Cut bases [using a round cutter] and place in [tart or Yorkshire pudding] tray.
Spoon in 2 teaspoons of mincemeat [lucky us, we were given a jar of homemade mincemeat by one lovely supper clubber].

Brush the edges of each pie with milk. Place the tops [or stars] on. 

Brush with milk again and snip/pierce two holes in the top to allow the mince pie to cook.

Cook until browned. Approximately 15-25 mins at 180 degrees.

Enjoy with mulled wine or tea or custard [and neighbours].

Friday, 7 December 2012

For the first day of Christmas and friends, in pictures.

True to form, I had massively underestimated how exhausted we might be after an incredibly busy and wonderful Winter supper club season. How in need of sleep we were and quite what a relief it would be to allow the house to get steadily messier as the week passed by, and not to have to worry about how it would ever be ready for guests arriving at the weekend. But, already, just one week has passed and I am sitting here, feeling rather glum that tonight E and I will be home alone while C is at his work Christmas party. I think this is a sign that we really love our little club and that I'm incredibly pleased that we can make it happen, here in our home, working with my husband with E in training in the kitchen and another tiny apprentice, growing steadily under my apron!

Anyway, it was unbelievably good to finish up for Christmas surrounded some of our dear friends and loyal fans and to serve up the last of our Winter menus...until the Christmas party that is...

The 1st of December 2012.

Delicate while petals.

To welcome A taste of grouse, horseradish cream, buttery oat biscuits.

and gruyere gougeres.

The Table.

To start Pan fried scallops, crab, apple and celeriac salad.

Griddled aubergines, ready for Wellingtons.

To follow Venison wellingtons, braised red cabbage, sprouts.

or Monkfish Wellingtons.

To finish Sticky gingerbread, orange and vanilla ice cream.

With coffee Tiny vanilla macarons.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Sainsbury's Magazine.

Proudly presenting our feature, home, menu, recipes and a very rare public picture of our sweet baby girl.

For wise men and women, in pictures.

The last of our Winter suppers made for a very busy, fun weekend and resulted in another rather full recycling bin! On Friday we welcomed a delightful group of friends and friends of friends with a roaring fire and glass of fizz. At the Table there were delicate white flowers, standing tall complemented by warm, white candlelight and then, a supper. We even had an informative tale and toast to St Andrew.

To welcome Gruyere gougeres.

A taste of grouse with horseradish.

Home grown rosemary.

To start Roasted beef, squash and rocket salad.

To follow Pan-fried scallops, Thai prawn risotto.

To finish Marmalade tart with orange and vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Menu for the first day of Christmas and friends.

It's fair to say that this supper club, the last planned in our Winter season, is one of mixed emotion. We are thrilled to be welcoming a small group of dear friends alongside loyal fans and some new ones too. And, we are excited and even a little relieved at the thought of having a weekend to ourselves to prepare for and rediscover the magic of Christmas with the help of a joyful, wide-eyed, sparkle-loving E. We can't wait to deck the halls and celebrate with our families and friends but we are sure to miss creating menus, the mad dash of preparation before guests arrive, the nervous anticipation when the buzzer sounds downstairs, sharing our home and mostly meeting new faces and making new friends. (For the record I will not miss ironing the tablecloth one bit.) So here it is Merry Christmas and our bittersweet advent menu!

To start
Apple and celeriac salad with pan-fried scallops or chicken.

To follow
Venison {or monkfish} Wellington, braised red cabbage, almond toasted brussel sprouts.

To finish
Sticky gingerbread, orange and vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Menu for wise men and women.

Despite rota imposed complications coordinating a group mainly made up of medics and their wise friends, supreme organisation has prevailed. We hope there's a star to guide our guests (though our address will be revealed in advance) and we've even cooked up an edible taste of gold, frankincense and myrhh alongside other delights.

To start
Roasted beef, squash and rocket salad.

To follow
Pan -fried scallops, Thai prawn risotto.

To finish
Marmalade tart with orange and vanilla ice cream.

For a birthday boy, in pictures.

The atmosphere on Saturday was happy and relaxed as a group of friends gathered to celebrate a laid back birthday boy's special day with our special meal and a beer or two. It was our pleasure to play hosts.

To amuse Spicy parsnip, apple and pear soup.

To start Venison carpaccio, mozzarella {and for those who like them} mushrooms and hazelnuts.

To follow Asian braised beef, hot and sour salad.

To finish Rum and raisin chocolate brownies and ice cream or 

 for our wheat intolerant, dairy free guest, rum and raisin Winter fruits with her own brownie.

Time for tea.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

For Thanksgiving, in pictures.

A merry crowd of guests gathered at our Table last night and we were especially thankful for the left over banoffee pie! It was great to welcome friends and their friends, several guests for the second time and others including two future supper club hosts and our first truly international guests from Holland and Germany, starting their stay in Scotland with our dining experience. And if we ever get chance to pay a visit to them in Utrecht, she works in this amazing ice cream shop. I want to go there. Now.

 Sweet potato crisps, a preview.

The Wintery Table.

 All set.

To welcome Avocado mousse, hot smoked salmon.

 Seared beef, horseradish cream.

 To start Scallops celeriac puree and truffle vinaigrette.

or seabass, celeriac puree and truffle vinaigrette.

To follow Venison with mushroom risotto, root vegetable crisps

or chicken with mushroom risotto and root vegetable crisps.

To finish Banoffee pie, cinnamon ice cream.

With coffee Petite chocolate and hazelnut macarons.
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