Who would look dangerously up at planets that might look safely down at plants?
Saturday, 22 December 2012
Tasty mince pies
Not perfect in appearance but very tasty.
Cranberries and dried fruit simmering in port.
With a group of friends and colleagues coming round for 'drinks and nibbles' last night it seemed obligatory to provide the seasonal staple of mince pies. Trouble is, I don't like mince pies with their usual heavy and excessively sweet filling, so I needed to find a recipe that got away from tons of currants and lashings of suet ('or substitute butter'). A little online research suggested that Nigella Lawson's 'Cranberry-studded mincemeat' recipe (available on the BBC food website) would be nice, as it uses fresh cranberries as its main ingredient with no fat at all. It turned out to be easy to make, though how anyone gets the zest off a clementine is beyond me, so I flung in a handful of mixed peel and a drop of orange juice, and as cranberries come in packs of 250 g, not 300 g the weight difference was made up with raisins and sultanas. An extra drop of port and Zwetschgen-wasser instead of brandy were the other changes I made. The finished mincemeat is a lovely dark red and just slightly on the tart side. I used ready-made shortcrust pastry for the crust but although I didn't get it rolled out quite as thin as it should have been, it made a good firm savoury receptacle for the filling. I also made the mistake of filling the pies too generously, so they bulged out in baking, but the taste was excellent. I can happily recommend the recipe as a refreshing change from the average mince pie on the Christmas circuit, but I think such a pie would also be a savoury and stylish accompaniment to winter game: a nice venison steak, perhaps, or, dare I say it, a rich jugged hare.
A personal view of the world of horticulture and plants by a gardening botanist and author, living in Settrington, North Yorkshire, and working as Director of the Yorkshire Arboretum, a partnership between the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Castle Howard.
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