Thursday, 27 September 2012


Well as promised another recipe in the run up to Christmas (sorry I said that word again, before Halloween no less) Today its mincemeat, one of my hubbies favourite foods over Christmas. He particularly loves my Mums mince pies and always gets her to pack him a supply to come home with. She does make very good pastry I must say, which she says is because she always has cold hands, well who am I to argue.

Anyway I made my mincemeat yesterday and of course mum will get some to use in her famous pies. Mincemeat nowadays does not contain meat, it did once but not anymore.  In the 15th,16th and 17th centuries in England mincemeat was describe a mixture of meat and fruit used as a pie filling. These early recipes included vinegar's and wines, but by the 18th century, distilled spirits, frequently brandy, were being used instead. The use of spices like clovenutmegmace and cinnamon was common in late medieval and renaissance meat dishes. The increase of sweetness from added sugars, and those produced from fermentation, made mincemeat less a savoury dinner course and helped to direct its use toward dessert.

The only link now to meat is in the form of beef suet which is still used by some people, but that too is fading out as more people now use vegetable suet so the link with the original product are all but gone. How's that for a bit of history.

Anyway my recipe, the origin of which I cannot recall has been around for a while tried and tested over many years by my family. I have tried others but this one seems to work well. 


55g vegetable or beef suet
25g apple
25g pear
25g mixed peel
55g sultanas
55g raisins
25g dried apricots
25g cherries- glace or dried
40g dark brown sugar 
1/2tsp nutmeg
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 mixed spice.
15ml brandy
1/2 juice and zest of 1 orange.

This will make 1 lb or 450g of mincemeat if you want more just increase the quantities you can add other ingredients such as a few nuts or perhaps you like currants or prefer more cherries etc. Well you can modify this recipe to suit you so long as you keep the basic quantities.i for example made double this quantity and instead of doubling up on the apricots I added chopped almonds. Do, however, what suits you.  


Once you have thoroughly mixed the ingredients together you can then pack the mixture into sterilised jars and seal.
Store in a cool dark place. 
You could mix this up a week or two before Christmas if you wanted to but I find the longer it matures the better the flavour. I have a friend who has kept her mincemeat for a good 12 months and its still been great, but that's your choice I normally stick with 6- 4months.    

All ready for Christmas. Note as it matures the contents appear to darken   

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Christmas Cake part II

Well having soaked the fruit all night the smell which arose from the bowl when the cling film was removed was very yummy. Now its time to mix up the other ingredients before adding the fruit and cooking.

Pre heat oven to 140C, 275F or Gas mark 1

Cream the butter until it is smooth and goes paler in colour.

Add sugar and mix into the butter.

Beat eggs and add gradually to to the butter sugar mix.

Add fruit and zest from orange and lemon.

Add flour and spices stir thoroughly.

Then place mixture in a double lined cake tin.

Cook for about 5 hours approx. Note my cake baked in just over 4hours so keep checking after 4hours to ensure you do not over cook. You can test cooking with a skewer, if it comes away clean the cake is cooked.

Cake ready for the oven 
Once cooked allow cake to cool completely then wrap in baking paper and tin foil and store in metal cake/biscuit tin. Store in a cool place until you are ready to add the marzipan and icing.

You can add brandy periodically in a cake feeding process as the cake matures. This will give a richer flavour but do not over do it as you do not want a too alcoholic cake especially if you have children who will want a piece.   

I made a little tester cake and it was delicious so it bodes well for Christmas.

Next thing to make is the mincemeat then of course the puddings, but his is for another post.    

Monday, 24 September 2012

Christmas starts here

Christmas Cake: Part One
I know, I know, far too early for Christmas, I hate it myself that the supermarkets are all gearing up for Christmas even before Halloween has been and gone. However, somethings are better if you start early, namely the cake puddings and mincemeat. If you get them made now they have a chance to mature giving much better flavours in the finished product. 

Shop bought Christmas cakes, puddings etc are frequently great but not always, so I prefer to make my own. With home made stuff you can tailor make everything to suit your own specific needs. I for example hate currants so I can make sure they do not get into any of the cakes, puddings or mincemeat that I make.

For my Christmas Cake I use a variation of a Delia Smith recipe, which I have always found makes a fabulous flavoursome cake. You can hundreds of recipes on line but here's the one I use.


455g Dried Fruit. - 225g Raisins 
                           75g Sultanas
                           55g Apricots
                           25g Cranberries
                           40g Cherries
                           40g Mixed Peel 

Of course you can use other fruit, just ensure whatever, you use you keep the fruit total to 455g.

3tbsp Brandy
110g Plain Flour
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4tsp Mixed spice
110g Unsalted Butter
110g Dark Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
40g Chopped Almonds
1 tsp Black Treacle
1/2 Lemon rind
1/2 Orange rind


Measure out all the  dried fruit ingredients plus the chopped almonds  and place in a bowl.

Add brandy stir thoroughly then cover.

Allow to soak over night.

Rest of the method to follow tomorrow 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Butterflies in the frame

Whilst my daughter was at home from Uni for the summer holiday we were constantly trying to come up with ideas to decorate her new bedroom. Student rented accommodation is never great landlords I'm afraid to say are rather exploitative of students, and they make promises which they sadly never fulfill. I apologise in advance if you are landlord and a good one, because I know there are some out there.

Anyway back to the point. We made various bits a piece up one of which is below a lovely picture of butterflies. We got the idea from something we saw in our local Hobbycraft.

T make this item I bought a 12 x 12 deep picture frame, a sheet of Docrafts butterflies and a 12x12 scrapbook sheet.

To give an authentic effect I used a shabby sheet of scrapbooking paper which  I secured to the backing of the picture frame. I then  divided the backing sheet carefully into quarters. I carefully marked (with a pencil) the second and fourth quarter lines. This has to be marked lightly as you do not want to have a line showing after the butterflies are placed. 

I selected a sheet of butterflies which looked the most realistic. Note the shiny brighter colour sheets are lovely but do not look as effective as they do not look like genuine butterflies. I removed the butterflies from the sheets this is an easy matter as they are well die cut. I then trimmed  each butterfly to ensure no borders remained. 

I divided the butterfly wings and folded them along the length of the bodies and then curled the wings slightly. I also created antenna for some of the butterflies again to give a more authentic look.  

Finally I positioned the butterflies evenly down the page, using my fine pencil line as a guide. With a final bit of tweaking to ensure the butterflies appeared as if they were about to take flight from the page, the only thing left to do was put the frame back together I think the end result is rather nice.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The last hurrah

Well what a wonderful day we had yesterday at the victory parade for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes. We got down to Charing Cross Station at about 10.30am and already the crowds had begun to build. However, by the time the parade actually passed us the crowds had grown amazingly. I have been to various similar events but I have got to say I haven't seen this many people before. 

Everyone was really good natured laughing smiling and talking to each other about the athletes they were waiting to see, the events they had been able to get to and what they thought would happen in the future....... you know the legacy we have heard so much about. If nothing else I am hoping we will have a much more positive outlook in the future. We are, after all, Great Britain and we can be great as the last few weeks have shown. 

Here are a few shots we took enjoy.

Bry and the crowds

The crowds

Jessica Ennis and ?David Weir

Greg Rutherford

Sir Chris Hoy
The cycling boys 

Mad cap rowing team
Message board to the ready 
Ben Ainslie and the wheel chair athlete Anthony
Jessica Jane Applegate and her medal
I took so many shots these are just a few. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Seeking all Wenlock's and Mandeville's

Just I thought I'd share these photos of our visits into London over the last few days. Hubby's on holiday so we have been doing some visits we have been meaning to for ages ........You know trips to the Museums etc. Well the weather has been great and some how with the Olympics London has taken on the guise of a happy city. We thought why not take advantage and enjoy ourselves even if we couldn't get tickets for the Olympic events themselves.

On our trips we have encountered Wenlock and Mandeville, the Olympic Mascots. Weird creatures they maybe but we have all enjoyed finding the many trails of highly decorated figures during our travels. Here are just a few images for you to have a giggle over.


I know we will never find all 83 of these little creatures but its been so much fun finding at least some .