#206 Orange Mincemeat Part 2; #211 Cumberland Rum Sauce

I have a few things up my sleeve for Christmas but for now I can only report on two things: the orange mincemeat I made last month and something to go on them (or your Christmas pud): Cumberland rum butter.

First up, the mincemeat. I have given the recipe for them already and also reported upon the Griggers way of making mince pies properly, which is how I make them now. All I have to do is give them a mark.

#206 Orange Mincemeat. Well, the orange mincemeat is ten times better than any bought stuff, the three types of booze must help. The mincemeat is not as orangey as I’d hoped, but still great. The best thing is, and it’s the same with the other recipe, is that it is not too sweet. Have a go, but the better is the Beeton. 6.5/10.


I have already made a brandy butter and it was good, but I thought I’d try this Cumberland rum butter – I had higher hopes for it as my favourite spirit is dark rum. Have a go at this, or the other brandy butter recipe, it’s very easy, just requiring some simple creaming and mixing.

Cream eight ounces of unsalted butter until pale and fluffy. Beat in six ounces of soft brown sugar, three tablespoons of rum and a good grate of nutmeg. That is it! Serve on mince pies or Christmas pudding, or even with warm oatcakes, which is how the folk of Cumberland served it, apparently.

#211 Cumberland Rum Butter. Really delicious. Not too sweet and sickly, the dark rum and dark sugar give it a bitter-sweet note. Great stuff. 7/10.

#208 Cumberland Plate Tart

It seems that the further north you go in England, the more desserts and teatime treats using currants and raisins there are: Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes are the ones that spring to mind. I’ve never heard of one from Cumberland before; funny, since there are actually two recipes from there in English Food.

I think these things were popular because they are very comforting and definitely a wintertime food, and it is grim Up North, as we know. It has been particularly grim at the minute – particularly around the Cumberland area – so I thought I’d give one a go. The best thing about the recipe is that it is a very good store-cupboard pud – I didn’t have to buy anything, I had it all in! Tiny things please tiny minds.

First make some shrtcrust pastry using 2 ounces each of butter and lard, 8 ounces of plain flour and some milk. Roll out half and line a deep oven-proof plate. Now make the filling: weigh out 3 ½ ounces of golden syrup. To do this, put a saucepan on your scales and tare them before adding the syrup. Add an ounce of butter to the pan and warm though gently so that the butter melts and the syrup becomes runny. Now stir in 5 ounces of either raisins or currants (or a mixture, you devil), an ounce of chopped peel, an ounce of ground almonds, ¼ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, allspice and salt and finally 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Use some egg white to brush around the edges of the pastry, roll out the last of the pastry and cover it. Crimp the edges, make a hole in the centre and then brush with more egg white and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220⁰C, then turn the oven down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 30 minutes. She don’t say, but serve it with some cream, innit.


#208 Cumberland Plate Tart. Just what the doctor ordered! I really like this sort of dessert, but many can’t abide currants and raisins and things like that these days, so they are going out of fashion which is a big shame. What can be bad about sweet fruit, moist almonds and good old golden syrup? Bring ‘em back I say. 6.5/10

#206 Orange Mincemeat

Christmas is a-coming! The consumerist nightmare has begun and there’s nothing like it to kill the Christmas spirit. The best way to counteract this is to make some lovely Christmas fayre. The Christmas cake is done and the only other necessity for the encroaching festivities is (in my opinion) mincemeat. I made Mrs Beeton’s recipe last year and gave a potted history of the foodstuff (see this post). This year I’m making orange mincemeat; it better be nice because I really liked Beeton’s. It should be good though; there’s plenty of orange juice and one of my favourite boozy drinks ever – Cointreau. Of course, we shall have to wait a while before I review them (although I’m sure I’ll crack a jar open well before Christmas).

If you want to make your own mincemeat, make sure that you make it at least two weeks before you want to use it as it needs that long to mature. If you’ve never made it, have a go, it really is very easy – there is no cooking involved, just some chopping, measuring and mixing.


This recipe makes absolutely loads of mincemeat – around ten jars – so reduce the quantities if you want to make less. To make it, simply mix together the following ingredients together in the following order in a huge bowl:

8 ounces of candied orange and lemon peel
2 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and chopped
One pound of chopped suet (use fresh, if you can)
One pounds each of raisins, currants and sultanas
One pound of dark brown sugar
1 freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces of blanched slivered almonds
The juice and grated rind of two oranges
Four tablespoons of brandy
Eight tablespoons of orange liqueur (e.g. Cointreau)

Pack the mincemeat well into sterilised jars and leave for at least two weeks. (FYI to sterilise the jars, put them along with their lids on trays in an oven set to 110⁰C for 25 minutes, pot whilst they are still warm.)

#160 Rice Cake

Every Wednesday at work, one of us tries to make a cake and bring it in so we can all get together for a chat; something we rarely get to do. We have been a bit slack as a department recently, so I thought I’d make one. This seemed perfect, I had all the ingredients in, it seemed a little unusual, but basically a normal cake mixture, so great stuff… I expected this cake to be a real hidden gem – Jane Grigson write quite a lengthy entry on this cake and she says that she was easily converted from the ‘traditional’ flour-based cake.

Here’s how to make a rice cake:

Cream 4 ounces of butter with 8 ounces of caster sugar and beat in three eggs one at a time. Stir in 8 ounces of rice flour and the grated zest of a lemon. Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 7 inch cake tin and bake at 180⁰C for anywhere between 50 minutes and an hour and a half. Jane doesn’t say to fill it with anything, so I used raspberry jam and Butter Cream I.

The world’s most boring cake:

you saw it here first!

#160 Rice Cake – 2/10. Totally crap! It was so bad I didn’t even bother taking it into work. The cake was so hard and dry, there was no spongy texture as there was no raising agent or gluten there. Also, because of the lack of gluten, the grains of flour remained granular. Bad, bad, bad! Its only saving grace was the jam and butter cream, and I did the butter cream wrong!!

#149 Broad Town Mince Pie

This recipe is not seasonal at all, but I remembered it whilst having a look through my cupboards and came across the last half jar of mincemeat I made at Christmas. After having a peek inside and a quick taste, a realised that everything was still perfectly preserved – in fact it was a lot nicer with much better developed flavours. I consulted the book and lo! and behold! I had all the ingredients to make it. If you have half a jar of mincemeat in your cupboard and don’t know what to do with it, make this easy pud. It is very Christmassy with first its layer of boozy mincemeat and then a layer sweet almonds. I can find no reference to what this pudding has to do with Broad Town.


Make a quantity of shortcrust pastry using 8 ounces of flour and both lard and butter (I am now a total covert to adding lard to pastry…unless I’m cooking for vegetarians that is). Line an 8 inch tart tin with two-thirds of it and spread the half-jar of mincemeat evenly over the pastry base. Now make the almond layer – mix together 4 ounces each of caster sugar and ground almonds, then an ounce of melted butter, 2 egg yolks (one if large) and 2 tablespoons of cream. Dollop and spread the mixture best you can and cover the pie with the remaining pastry, brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220°C, then turn the oven down and bake for a further 30 minutes at 180-190°C. Serve it hot or warm with cream – or, if it is near Christmastime, then add some brandy butter.

#149 Broad Town Mince Pie – 6/10. Good, but rich, pudding that is useful for doing away with the endings of a jar of mincemeat. I actually found I enjoyed it a lot more once cold the next day. Not a bad dessert, but it didn’t get any juices flowing; and it’s certainly not better than a good old mince pie.

#136-137 Sponge Cake II and Butter Cream I

April has not been a bumper Grigson month like March was. This is due to the fact I am uber-busy with my PhD work at the minute, plus I’m doing the tiling in the kitchen too which does not help. No indeedy. Anyways, enough of the excuses… A kick up the arse came from the fact I had to provide a cake for the Dictyostelium group lab meeting, so I thought I’d do something straightforward – a sponge cake with butter cream. Great stuff; they have separate recipes in the book, so it would be two Grigsons with one stone. There are two recipes for sponge cakes and two for butter cream in English Food and I have already attempted one of each (see here and here), although in a funny order as you can see – this is because the Butter Cream I required a sugar thermometer, which I didn’t have at the time.

Ok, here’s the cake recipe. A word of advice though before I carry on – do not attempt this cake unless you have either an electric mixer or a very strong wanking hand…

Start off by whisking three whole eggs together with 6 ounces of caster sugar until light and frothy – this took 10 minutes using the Kitchen Aid on full whack. Stop when the eggs have reached the ribbon stage. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen, heat the oven to 190°C and grease and lightly flour two 7 inch sandwich tins. Also, gently melt 2 ounces of slightly salted butter with two tablespoons of water. Once melted, leave to cool until at least tepid. When the eggs are whisked, gently stir in the butter. Now fold in 4 ounces of self-raising flour by sieving a small amount in at a time and gently folding it in with a metal spoon to prevent the air bubbles from popping. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked – use a skewer, or whatever, you know the drill. Cool on a wire rack. Griggers says jam and cream is the best, or a nice butter cream, like this one…

The butter cream can be made whilst you are waiting for the cake to cook – especially if it takes two attempts to get the bugger right!


Melt 4 ounces of caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of water in a small saucepan. Once dissolved, raise the heat and boil it until it reached the ‘soft crack’ stack, or 135°C. Be careful here: use a very small pan – too large and the sugar overheats too easily becoming a caramel, which will ruin the whole thing. Whilst it is heating up, put two egg yolks into a bowl and lightly whisk them. When the sugar is ready vigorously beat it into the eggs with a whisk. The mixture thickens up as the yolks are cooked by the hot sugar. When just tepid, beat in 4 ounces of unsalted butter in small amounts until it is all amalgamated. Once cool, you can add all sots of flavourings – I went with some vanilla, but Griggers recommends plain chocolate or a tablespoon of slaked coffee granules. Just go crazy, kids!

#136 Sponge Cake II – 9/10. When Griggers this recipe is foolproof, she did not say it was foolproof and brilliant. The sponge extremely light and not at all rubbery like the usual Genoese sponge on account (I assume) the addition of the melted butter. This is the best sponge cake recipe I have used. Excellent – go make it right now!


#137 Butter Cream I – also 9/10. Griggers totally slagged-off the half-butter (or even margarine, heaven forbid!), half-icing sugar as essentially awful. Having a soft spot for that type of butter cream I was keen to see the difference. The difference is huge – I know it is a bit of a faff using the sugar thermometer etc., but it is well worth it. Once you’ve tried it, ladies and gents, you’ll never go back…

#135 Butterscotch Cake

I was a little bored on Tuesday evening so I thought I’d bake a nice cake for Cake Wednesday at work. I knew there had been no takers this week with it being close to Easter. Plus I’ve not made a normal cake for ages. This one is a variation on the pound cake – I’ve made them before (here is the blog entry) so I won’t go through it. The only difference is that caster sugar is substituted for soft dark brown sugar which gives it a richer, denser molasses flavour. The exciting thing being the butterscotch icing – I’d bought a sugar thermometer recently and not used it yet. I went a bit wrong with icing. Because I was in a rush, I heated it too rapidly before the sugar dissolved properly. Plus I accidentally heated it to the firm ball rather than the soft ball stage, which meant it went a bit too stiff. Hey-ho. If you try it, remember that slow and steady wins the race here. A little practise is required I feel. Any hints and tips are happily accepted!


For the icing (do as I say, not as I do…):

Slowly heat 6 ounces of soft dark brown sugar, an ounce of butter and two tablespoons of double cream until everything had dissolved. Now raise the heat and boil until the sugar reaches the soft ball stage using a sugar thermometer (turn the heat off as it approaches the temperature, as it keeps on a-rising!). Allow to cool until ‘tepid’ and beat. I’m not sure what it’s meant to turn into, but mine was a very stiff blob of sugar. I managed to spread it over the cake top with a wet palette knife and everything looked okay.

FYI: In case you were thinking that butterscotch doesn’t sound very English, but rather Scottish, you would be a fool (as I was). Scotch is a ye olde English word for score as proper butterscotch is hard and needs to be scored before it is broken.

#135 Butterscotch Cake – 6.5/10. I liked the cake as it was piled with dark brown sugar, so it could not be bad, but it was a little dry. I have a feeling that it was overcooked though – I still haven’t got to grips with the old fan oven and sponge cakes. I remember getting a handy hint from Anthea (a sometimes commenter on the blog) that you should put a some boiling water in a roasting tin and place it in the bottom of the oven to stop it drying the cake out. Needless to say, I forgot to. Oh well. The butterscotch topping was very sweet and very tasty, even though it didn’t quite turn out as expected…

#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake

This one is a piece of piss to make and comes from a chap who owns (or, I presume owned now, as this book is quite old) a restaurant in Cirencester. Griggers likes it as it’s a nice classy version of chocolate cornflake or Rice Krispie cakes (though try my Mum’s recipe).

For this you need chocolate (plain or dark or a mixture), butter, nuts (any type – I used almonds and hazelnuts which are essential, you could use walnuts but peanuts are “right out”) and digestive biscuits. Weight out equal amounts of chocolate, butter and digestives and half the total weight of nuts. Roast the nuts for about 25 minutes in a low oven and remove any skins by rubbing them with a cloth, then chop roughly. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat. Keep an eye on them whilst you chop up the biscuits into small squares – don’t worry if there’s loads of crumbs, this is a good thing. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, mix in the nuts and biscuits. Pour into a lined tin so that it’s about a finger thick and cool in the fridge. Cut the cake into squares or fingers and keep cool.


#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake – 6/10. Good old Mr Frost. The Grigson was right in that this is much better than crappy old cornflake cakes. It could’ve been improved with a few sultanas, but the good thing about this is that you can add whatever you fancy – crystallised ginger would be good, or marshmallows maybe.

#118 Banana Tea Loaf

It was my turn to make a cake for the Evolutionary Biology department’s Wednesday Cake Day, and as there are many a non-Briton in the department I thought I’d do something very English – a tea loaf. Tea loaves are great for several reasons; they taste nice and are lovely and moist, you can make them in advance (in fact they taste nicer if you do leave them); you put butter on the sliced loaf, and they are very easy to make. This one is particularly easy as there is no creaming of butter or anything like that to do.

First, sieve 8 ounces of self-raising flour, ¾ level teaspoon of mixed spice, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 4 ounces of caster sugar into a mixing bowl. Chop 4 ounces of butter into small pieces and add it to the flour along with one tablespoon of honey, 4 ounces of sultanas, 3 ounces of glace cherries, 3 ounces of blanched almonds or walnuts (or a mixture). Now the wet ingredients: 1 pound of mashed ripe bananas, 2 eggs and the juice of a lemon. Once mixed together nicely, turn the mixture out into a buttered 9 inch loaf tin and bake of an hour at 180ºC and then half an hour at 160ºC. Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.


#118 Banana Tea Loaf – 8.5/10. Marvellous! This is quite a hefty tea loaf and I didn’t think our wee group would get through it, but we made light work of it. The addition of the cherries and nuts made it a little Seventies-looking and I thought would make it overly rich, but it wasn’t the case. Very, very good – thinking about when I’ll make the next one!

#94 ‘To Make Mince Pies’

Well it’s the run-up to Christmas. I’ve already started on the Christmas cake and I’m feeding it with brandy every few days. As Lee, Charlotte, Kate and Pete were coming over for food, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a trial run of the traditional mincemeat I made a few weeks ago, so I made some mince pies.

Jane Grigson gives instructions on how to make them. She says to use shortcrust pastry rather than puff pastry (unless you are eating them warm). I made pastry with half butter, half lard; I prefer it as it is more crisp and ‘short’. Whichever way you do it remember the flour:fat ratio is 2:1. Roll out pastry thinly and cut circles out with a scone-cutter to line small tart tins. Place a small teaspoon inside – don’t overdo it though, the fresh suet expands. Seal the top with another circle of pastry, gluing it on with some egg white. Make a cross in the middle and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes at 220ºC. Serve warm or cold.


#94 ‘To Make Mince Pies’ – 8/10. I really like the mincemeat. The meat is totally undetectable; but it, the fresh suet and the grated apple make the resulting pie-innards succulent and tasty, it’s not overly sweet either, which is good because you can eat more of them! Good old Mrs Beeton, where would we be without her! It’s been a while since I’ve had homemade mince pie and it brought back a lot of memories for me making them with my Mum. I am definitely getting in the Christmas spirit!