Category Archives: Dessert

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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