Category Archives: Christmas

Sage, Parmesan and Onion Rolls


These are a vegetarian alternative to traditional sausage rolls which are a very common feature of British Christmasses and other important social events. They are very easy to make, and take no time at all. They also freeze well, either before or after baking.

I am indebted to Delia Smith for this recipe, although I have adapted it to suit my own purposes. For instance it is almost impossible to buy cheddar cheese where I live in Italy, and I also use ready made puff pastry.

I find that how ever many I make, it is always too few. They get eaten very quickly.


1  rectangle of ready puff pastry

275 gm/9 oz/ 2 cups   breadcrumbs

225 gm/8 oz/1 1/2 cups  grated parmesan cheese

1 large onion grated

3 tablespoons thick cream

3 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder

salt and pepper


Unroll the puff pastry

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Take a large spoonfuls in your hand and roll it into a ‘sausage’ of about 2 cm/ 1 inch diameter and lay it along the short edge of the puff pastry.

Carefully roll up and seal with the beaten egg. Cut to release the long roll from the rest of the pastry.

With a sharp knife cut the long roll into 2 cm/1 inch long rolls. Place on a tray covered in baking paper.

Brush with beaten egg.

Place in a pre heated oven set to 220 C/425 F /Gas 7/Hot for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Put them on a cooling rack.

Serve warm or cold or freeze them.











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Soy Bean Pate


I do like to spread a pate on sandwiches at teatime, but shop bought pates do seem to me to be expensive, and it is so easy to make your own. Of course making your own means that you can adjust ingredients and or quantities to suit your taste.

What follows is a basic recipe that you can tinker with, adding chili, spices, mushrooms, or vegetables such as red and yellow peppers, as it takes your fancy.


1 tin/can 454 gm/1 lb of cooked soy beans or any other beans to hand (in fact I used a tin of kidney beans as I did not have soy beans).

1 small onion sliced finely

25 gm/1 oz/ 1/4 cup butter or oil

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 tablespoons of chopped olives, green or black

1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

2 or 3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs for thickening.

1 dessert spoon of dried parsley

1 dessert spoon dried oregano

salt and pepper


In a small pan soften the onion in the butter or oil for 5 minutes or so.

Drain the beans and put them in a small mixing basin. add the onions, tomato puree, olives, sesame seeds and herbs and using a processor or stick blender reduce to a smooth paste.


Taste and adjust the seasoning to your requirements.

Now add 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, blending them into the mixture, adding more to reach a desired consistency.

Put into small jars pushing well down into the corners.

Keep one jar in the fridge and this should be eaten within a week. The other jars should be put into the freezer where they will keep for 6 months or so.

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Mince Pies


Makes 12 or so and takes about 45 minutes

Christmas in Britain would not be the same without these. Countless millions are sold and consumed every year, but it is so easy to make your own. By using self raising flour the pies are light and soft. Adding the lemon to the flour introduces an extra flavour to the mincemeat. Fresh from the oven and served with cream – pure decadence.


200 gm/7 oz/2 cups self-raising flour (or plain flour with baking powder added)

100 gm/3 1/2 oz/1 cup butter out of the fridge, cut into small cubes

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 lemon finely grated zest and juice

250 gm/8 1/2 oz/2 1/2 cups mincemeat

Icing sugar for dusting


1 Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add the butter and together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2 Stir in the sugar and lemon zest, then using a round bladed knife stir in the lemon juice and a little cold water, until the mixture comes together.

3 Work the dough gently into a ball and then roll out to about 3 mm/ 1/8 inch thick. Stamp out 9 cm/ 3 1/2 inch diameter rounds and line a greased 12 hole baking tin.

4 Spoon a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into each case.


5 Roll out the remaining pastry and stamp out stars and place them centrally on each case


6 Bake in a pre-heated oven set to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6/moderate hot oven, for 12 to 15 minutes until the pastry is golden.

7 Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar

8 At stage 5 you could freeze them for later baking. Just put them in the freezer, in the baking tins and when frozen remove them and put into bags. Bake in a hot oven straight from the freezer for about 18 minutes


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Christmas Pudding


I have been using this recipe for years, and it always produces excellent puddings, and is simplicity itself to make.  They also keep exceptionally well, with one pudding being eaten 12 months after it was made. Anytime from now until the first week of December is ideal to make them and this recipe will make enough to fill 4 x 1 pint/ pudding basins.


250 gm/8 oz/2 1/2 cups dark sugar

250 gm/8 oz/2 cups unsalted butter

1000 gm/40 oz/ 8 cups mixed sultanas,raisins and currants ( I can only get sultanas in Italy and our puddings are none the worse for it).

125 gm/5 oz/1 1/4 cups  plain flour

125 gm/5 oz/ 1/4 cups bread crumbs

1 lemon, zest and juice

5 eggs beaten

1 teaspoon heaped ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon heaped mixed spice

1 teaspoon heaped grated nutmeg

1 pinch salt

150 ml/5 fl oz/ 1/2 cup brandy or rum.


Pour yourself a glass of brandy for while you are mixing the ingredients

Put all the dry ingredients, including the butter into a very large mixing bowl.

Add the liquid ingredients and start stirring.

In between taking sips of brandy, continue stirring until the mixture is well and truly mixed, especially the butter.

This stage is optional. Leave overnight covered by a clean tea towel, to mature the flavour.

Turn the mix into greased pudding basins, pressing the mix down well into the basins, and to within 1cm/1/2inch of the top. This is to allow for expansion during the cooking.

Cover with a circle of kitchen paper. Then put foil over the top of each basin, tying it down and forming a handle, to facilitate lifting hot puddings out of the cooking pan.

Most recipes that I have read about Christmas Puddings recommend using string to tie down the foil and make a handle. However I have in the past had puddings slip from the string and fall back in to the pan, so now I always use thin garden wire. This is the sort that is covered with dark green plastic. Turn the edge of the foil up, to support the wire or string, while you fiddle it into position and secure it.

Put a pudding in a large pot, placing the pudding upon an upturned saucer. Pour boiling water in until it comes 1/3 up the side of the pudding basin. Put a lid on the pan and boil gently for about 5 1/2 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. It should look a dark brown colour at this stage.

When cool, change the kitchen paper and foil and tie as before

Store in a cool, dry place until Christmas Day, when the pudding will need another 2 hours of boiling. Serve with the sauce of your choice.

Some thoughts on the boiling. 7 1/2 hours boiling is a lot of gas or electricity, and if we did not have a wood burning stove upon which we do a lot of cooking during the winter months, then I would use our pressure cooker. I do not use our pressure cooker that much and so I am not too familiar with cooking times, but a quick scan on the internet yielded a lot of information (such as- cook as for chicken) which you would need to pick over. But it should be possible to reduce the cooking time to about 2 hours or thereabouts. I do have a confession to make here though. Pressure cookers frighten the life out of me. As an engineer, I am very much aware that that thing hissing away is a high pressure bomb, and yes I know all about safety margins, extensive testing to destruction, etc etc etc, but when I use one I always exit the kitchen, until it is safely hissing away.

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Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake

This recipe makes a fine tasting cake that will do you justice at christmas when your guests taste it, and comes courtesy of my wife Joy, who traditionally makes the christmas cake every year. In Italy there is no cake that comes close to ‘our’ christmas cake, the nearest they have is Panetone, which is a chewy yeast based confection, which in its own way is very pleasant, and is most like the british glazed teacake in texture. Most Italians cannot grasp the concept of a cake that can be kept for months and even years (in the case of christening cakes traditionly being the top tier of a wedding cake). It is seemingly beyond their comprehension that a cake that old can be edible let alone delicious. We have given up trying to convince them. Still it is their loss not ours.

This recipe gives about 24 slices, takes about 30 minutes to prepare and about 3 hours to cook.


800kg/1 1/2lbs/ 3 1/2 cups mixed sultanas, raisins and currants

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup glaciated mixed fruits

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup glaciated cherries chopped

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

100gm/3 1/2oz/ 1/2 cupdried figs, roughly chopped

80gm/3oz/ 1/3 cup flaked almonds

1 orange, zest and juice

150ml/ 5floz/ 1/2 cup/ sherry or masarla

250gm/8oz/ 1cup unsalted butter at room temperature

175gm/5 1/2oz/ 1 cup soft brown sugar

15ml/ 1/2 floz/ 3 teaspoons golden syrup

5ml/ – / 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

5 mediem eggs, lightly beaten

300gm/10 oz/ 1 cup plain flour

75gm/2 1/2 oz/ 1/4 cup self raising flour

5ml/ – 1 teaspoon ground ginger

5ml/ – /1 teaspoon ground mace

5ml/ – /1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

5ml/ – / 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

15ml/ 1/2 floz/ 3 teaspoons orange marmalade


You will need a 20 x 9 cm deep spring form cake tin for this recipe

  1. Mix together the dried fuit,almonds, orange zest and juice and sherry in a large mixing bowl. Cover and allow to soak overnight.
  2. Grease and double line the cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the golden syrup.
  5. Stir the vanilla essence into the eggs and then stir into the butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Sieve the flours and spices into the mixture gently folding in.
  7. Fold in the marmalade and add the nuts and dried fruit, stirring gently to achieve a uniform mixture.
  8. Spoon into your prepared cake tin, smoothing the top and forming a small depression in the centre.
  9. Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven set at 150C/300F/Gas 2/Slow for about 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake.
  10. After about 2 hours you may need to cover the top with foil to stop it burning for the remainder of the cooking time.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for at least an hour before removing it from the tin. Leave it to cool completely on a wire rack.
  12. When completely cool, wrap in baking parchment and foil and then in an airtight tin. Store in a cool place,
  13. Every 4 weeks you can ‘feed’ it by making holes across the top with a skewer and pouring on 20ml/ 3/4floz/1 tablespoon of sherry or port.

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