Friday, December 19, 2008


I love mince pies but have never made them myself, until this year, always relying on shop-bought ones instead (some of which are great, and some of which are not). Before you make the pies, of course, you have to make the mincemeat, and the recipe here comes from Delia Smith's Christmas. It is a two-day affair: the first for preparing the mixture and leaving it to develop, and the second for slow cooking and cooling.

500g of cooking apples
250g of shredded suet
250g of sultanas
250g of currants
250g of whole, mixed candied peel, finely chopped
350g of soft, dark brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
100g of blanched almond slivers
4 teaspoons of mixed ground spice
half teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground nutmet
6 tablespoons of brandy

  1. Core the apples and chop them into very small pieces - about the size of the raisins (no need to peel them).
  2. In a large, ovenproof bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the brandy, cover with foil, and leave overnight for the flavours to develop.
  3. Transfer the bowl to an oven preheated to 120 C, and cook for 3 hours.
  4. Remove the bowl from the oven, and stir it occasionally as it cools.
  5. Once the mincemeat is completely cool, add the brandy. The mincemeat will now keep for up to a year.

Mincemeat Mincemeat is so called because, back in the 16th century, it was a mixture of meat and dried fruit. Highly spiced dishes which confound our distinctions between sweet and savoury are now seen as being typically North African, and wherever they appear in western European cooking you can be sure that someone will start whittering on about Arab influences. However, such combinations were typical of English food before the modern period. I plan to do a properly meaty version of the mincemeat in the future, but in the meantime I have kept vegetarians at bay by using beef suet (what look like grains of rice in the picture of the uncooked mixture, above).

In praise of Delia
Over the years I have come to appreciate Delia Smith. Her recipes are generally pretty reliable, and I like the way she manages to be both prim and daring, presenting what in the 1980s were quite exotic recipes with a curiously repressed air. She reminds me of one of those Victorian lady travellers who made their way around the world without ever behaving in a way which was less than proper.

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