#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.

#88 Christmas Pudding: Part 2, #102 Brandy Butter

The next most most exciting thing about Christmas dinner after the turkey, is probably the flaming Christmas Pudding. I had already made the puddings back in November, so now it was time to steam them for the big day. The pudding needs steaming for three hours, so you need to put it on in good time. However, that is the only thing you need to do, other than checking to see if the pan has boiled dry, so all is good. Turn the pudding out onto a serving dish and warm up some brandy either in a metal ladle or a small saucepan and light it (it won’t light unless you warm it first). Turn off the lights and pour it over the pudding. If this fails to impress the family, throw them out into the cold, cold winter street and tell them to come back when they’ve got some Christmas cheer. Serve with brandy butter, cream or custard.


To make brandy butter (or hard sauce, as it used to be called), cream 4 ounces of butter, when you’ve done that, beat in 4 ounces of icing sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of brandy, some freshly grated nutmeg and a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like. Allow to set in the fridge. Make this in advance – I made it a few days before the big day.

#88 Richard Boston’s Guinness Christmas Pudding – 3.5/10. Pretty disappointing this pudding was. It tasted really good, but was extremely stodgy and soft. I think I’ll use half breadcrumbs, half flour next time.

#102 Brandy Butter – 6.5/10. Nice, but very rich indeed. Think I prefer good old custard.

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing

A turkey wouldn’t be a turkey without stuffing. This is the one Griggers suggests to have with turkey. It contains no sausagemeat, so it’s quite light and the lemon and parsley flavour cuts through the richness of all the other roast items on your Christmas dinner. It’s also choc-full of butter, so it helps keep the turkey nice and succulent.


Begin by cutting the crusts off a large white loaf of bread and blitz it in a food processor until it becomes crumbs. Lay the crumbs on a large baking tray and allow them to dry out in a cool oven – you don’t want them to brown so 80ºC will be enough. Weight out 8 ounces of the crumbs (freeze the rest) and put in a large bowl and mix in the zest of two lemons and the juice of one, a bunch of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a teaspoon of dried marjoram, 8 ounces of creamed butter, 3 eggs and a good seasoning. Mix the ingredients with your hands and stuff the main cavity of the turkey with it. You probably won’t use it all, so freeze the rest in balls so you can put them in the cavity of chickens for your Sunday Roast.

#101 Parsley and Lemon Stuffing – 7/10. A nice fresh and light tasting stuffing. I reckon it’ll go better with chicken than with turkey.

#100 Roast Turkey

The one-hundredth recipe had to be the Roast Turkey really didn’t it? It is the centrepiece of the whole dinner, perhaps the day. I bought us a nice free-range one from Frosts in Chorlton. I’m glad I was allowed to do it, as my Mum always panics about the turkey and over-cooks it by about two hours; in fact, over the last few years, she’s taken to over-cooking it the day before! It took some persuasion for us to cook the bird on the day: “Well I’m not getting up at 6 to put it in!”. Obviously, I didn’t get up at 6. I stuffed the turkey as recommended by Griggers with lemon and parsley stuffing. If your Christmas turkey tuned out to be, well, a bit of a turkey, try it this way next year. One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet, but it was the best Christmas turkey we ever had at home; though it wasn’t really down to me, but to Jane Grigson.


The first thing to do is to remove the giblets and stuff the bird. You can stuff the cavity or the neck end, it doesn’t really matter. Next, calculate the cooking time of the turkey: 30 minutes per kilo if it’s below 7 kilos (15 lbs). If you are cooking a monster, add an extra 20 minutes per kilo after that. You must include the weight of any stuffing you’ve used too. Put the turkey on its side on a rack in a roasting pan and smear it all over with 6 ounces of slightly salted butter. Cover with a double layer of foil and cook at 190ºC for the appropriate time. Just under halfway through the cooking time, turn the bird onto its other side, and then in the final half an hour, put it on its back and remove the foil so it can brown nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Baste it a few times, if you like. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before you carve it. In fact, we left it for about an hour and it was still juicy and hot, so don’t feel you have to rush or anything. Skim off the fat from the juices in the pan, then make your gravy by boiling up the juices with a quarter of a pint of dry white wine and thicken with flour or gravy browning. Add enough hot vegetable stock to achieve the right thickness.

#100 Roast Turkey – 9.5/10. I love Christmas dinner, so I’m really glad that I did the turkey for the 100th recipe. This is a foolproof methods for doing your Christmas/Thanksgiving bird; succulent, tasty, not in the slightest dry. Bloody marvellous.

A Christmas Nosh Up

I’m in that post-Christmas dip before New Year’s Eve, so I thought I’d update the Christmas recipes I did over in Pudsey. I go home to Pudsey, Leeds, every year for Christmas to stay with my Mum and Dad, and probably always will. I like it. My Mum is the person that, unknowingly, got me into cookery, as she was a baker and therefore as a kiddiwink, it was baking we did on rainy days; making cookery a form of relaxation for me. Anyways, this was the first time I’d been let loose on the actual Christmas dinner, but thought it would be the perfect thing to do – take some of the stress off Mum on the day (though she did insist on doing the veg, so it was a team effort) plus doing something impressive for recipe 100! I shall be adding them over the next few days hopefully, though I’m off to the pub now – my mate Charlotte has moved in today and therefore cannot be arsed unpacking…

#99 Baked Carp

Thank goodness for Britain’s lax laws on immigration, if we were a bit more like Australia we’d have no Eastern Europeans. ‘What does this have to do with the price of fish?’ I hear you ask (at least I would if you’re from Yorkshire). Well, your average Pole has a Christmas feast on Christmas Eve or a massive 12-courser on Christmas Day, either of which involves a baked carp. There’s only one carp recipe in English Food and I assumed, like most of the freshwater fish recipes, I would have to order it in especially, or even learn to fish. (FYI: I intend to learn to fish in 2009; a new skill instead of a resolution.)But what did I spot in the fishmongers in Manchester Arndale Market? Yup, a shed-load of giant carp. Thought I’d better snap one up before Johnny Foreigner gets hold of them all. If you see one, or even catch one, try this recipe; it’s an early Nineteenth Century recipe, apparently, so it’s the kind of thing that George III would’ve eaten, and there was nothing wrong with him!

Serves at least 6…

Choose a carp weighing around 3 pounds and ask the fishmonger to scale, gut and clean the fish* (and cut the head off, if you’re squeamish about these things). When you get home wash the carp in 6 tablespoons of vinegar dissolved in 4 pints of water. (Not sure why, may be to get rid of the slime – several freshwater fish produce slime). Whilst it’s draining, select a baking dish that will fit the fish snugly (to achieve this I unfortunately had to cut the head off). Smear the bottom of the dish with 6 ounces of butter and lay the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter teaspoon each of mace, nutmeg and cloves, a bouquet garni (I did parsley stalks, bay and some pared lemon rind), a generous teaspoon of anchovy sauce and a chopped onion. Top up with dry white wine, so that the carp is almost covered. Cover with foil and bake at 200ºC for 40 to 50 minutes.


When done, put it on a serving dish and strain the cooking juices into a heavy based pan. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly. Mash 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of flour and drop knobs of the mixture gradually whilst whisking to thicken. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little cream. Pour some sauce over the carp, and serve the rest in a sauceboat.

FYI: If you’re concerned as the potential damage to stocks of carp by this sudden increase of demand, the common carp is either farmed these days, or lakes are stocked with them. In fact they are considered a bit of an evasive species, so tuck in ladies and gents.

#99 Baked Carp – 7.5/10. I really liked this dish; I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’ve not really eaten freshwater fish much (except for salmon, which I don’t like). I was very surprised at it’s subtly fishy and oddly gamey flavour. The very English mace-laced sauce was lovely. If you get the chance to lay your hands on one over Christmas, get it bought, though I’m not sure I’d replace my turkey with it!

*If you are lucky enough to have a fish with roe inside, ask the fishmonger to keep it aside, as you can make a stuffing with it – I didn’t get any, but it’s the look of the draw. Obviously I can’t comment on it’s loveliness, but have a go and tell me about it: Start by softening a small onion in butter. Meanwhile, mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with some milk to turn them to a paste. Mix the onions in along with the chopped roe, a tablespoon of chopped green herbs, a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and ½ teaspoon of anchovy essence. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stuff the fish with the mixture and sew it up.

#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!

#88 Richard Boston’s Guinness Christmas Pudding

The second part of the traditional festivities: a home-made Christmas Pudding. Don’t know why I’m making it as it seems the whole world despises them, including Jane Grigson, herself. But like she says, English Food wouldn’t be a book on English Food without it included. It’s very easy to make, but requires a huge amount of steaming time; you have to steam them now, and again on the day. The mixture makes five pints’ worth, so I went for two two-pint basins and a one-pint. I’ve had to do mine in lots rather than all at once, so had to guess at the steaming times a bit, but I’ll talk about that when we get to it…

The recipe is not unlike that for the mincemeat; it’s just a question of mixing everything together in the order given. Use your hands to mix it up – it’s a lot easier than using a wooden spoon. Also, you can’t over-stir it, so get everyone in to give it mix. If I remember rightly, to get good luck, thirteen people have to mix it clockwise with their spoon and make a wish before you steam it (if you believe in that sort of stuff). Dry ingredients first: 10 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 8 of soft brown sugar, 8 of currants, 10 of chopped raisins, 8 of sultanas, 2 of dried mixed peel, 10 of shredded suet (the packet kind!), plus ½ teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of mixed spice. Now mix in the grated zest of a lemon, a dessertspoon of lemon juice, 2 large, beaten eggs, ¼ pint of milk and a 300ml bottle of Guinness. Divide this between your pudding basins, that have been well-buttered (I’ve bought some of those plastic ones with proper lids so you don’t to bother with foil tops covered with tea towels, etc.). Add a sixpence if you want. Now for the first steaming…If you can fit them in one, then steam for 7 ½ hours – yes you heard me – SEVEN-AND-A-HALF!! If not, a bit of guess-work is required – did the 2 pint ones for four hours, and the 1 pint for three. Don’t know if it’s worked, we will just have to find out on Christmas Day! To store them, either keep them covered in a cool place or freeze them.

Before steaming.

Yes I know they look bad in this state,

but they looked like proper puds when I’d done cooking ’em.

FYI: like mincemeat, the Christmas Pud was created as way of preserving meat, and the earliest recipe goes back to 1420, but it wasn’t until the Victorians turned it into a proper dessert, did it become the familiar round shape topped with brandt butter, holly and flaming brandy. The stirring and steaming, traditionally occurred on ‘Stir-Up Sunday’, which was the first Sunday of Advent.

BTW in case you were wondering, Richard Boston was a food writer for The Guardian newspaper.

#87 Mrs Beeton’s Traditional Mincemeat

Christmas is coming, and I am going traditional on your ass. First thing to be made is Mrs Beeton’s Traditional Mincemeat. According to Griggers it is better than any modern mincemeat. The main difference is that there is proper fresh suet and actual meat in it. She reckons that when she makes this recipe, the mince pies get eaten double-quick. Well we’ll see. Getting hold of fresh suet is easy, the butcher in Levenshulme sold me 2 and-a-half pounds of it for only a quid! Bargain! Also, I got the chance to use the mincer attachment for my Kitchen Aid for the first time; it was very good, and now I intend to mince everything. I like a good mince, I do (but you probably knew that already…). I haven’t had the chance to eat any yet, but it’s very easy to make, as long as you have the ability to stir.

The amounts are quite big in the recipe, so I’m giving you what I did which is half of Good Lady Beeton’s instructions:

Mix together 8 ounces of seedless raisins, 12 ounces of currants, 6 ounces of minced, lean rump steak, 12 ounces of fresh, chopped suet, 8 ounces of dark brown sugar, 1 ½ ounces of dried mixed peel, ¼ grated nutmeg, 12 ounces of apples that have been peeled, cored, and grated and the zest and juice of half a lemon. When all has been incorporated, mix in 2 ½ fluid ounces of brandy. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilized jars. (To sterilise jars, place jars and lids in oven set to 110°C for 35 minutes). This recipe made enough for four big jars. Leave for at least two weeks…


FYI: Mincemeat recipes go back as far as the Fifteenth Century, and pretty much any meat was used for mincemeat – Sixteenth Century recipes use heart or mutton and bone marrow instead of suet. It’s probably one of the few surviving Elizabethan dishes still made today.

…to be continued.

Christmas Dinner, numbers 21, 22

I planned to do alot more than I actually did for the Christmas dinner. It did all go down a treat though. However, only two Grigsons were done. Most of the recipes for the meal were taken from the brilliant Leiths Vegetarian Bible that I bought Greg a couple of years back; I would recommend everyone to buy it whether a vegetarian or not. This was the menu:

Starter: Mushroom pate

Main: Nut roast, (#21) Buttered Parsnips, Brussels Sprouts, Roast Potatoes, Minty Peas, Mustard Gravy

Pud: (#22) Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary

Parsnips need butter’ says the Grigson. And so right she is. Buttered parsnips is a way to make roast parsnips without roasting them it seems. Boil your parsnips until nearly cooked, drain, and then saute them slowly in butter. They go all nice and golden and chewy. Yumbo! Add some parsley and salt and pepper and you’re done.

The Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary were a strange affair; dissolve 8 ounces of sugar in 8 fluid ounces of dry white wine and lemon juice, add a pint of cream and simmer until it thickens. Now add either a stem of fresh or a teaspoon of dried rosemary (I used dried as they’d run out of fresh at the shop) and 5 1/2 ounces of grated dark chocolate. Simmer for 20 minutes until nice and thick. Pass through a sieve and pour into ramekins to set. All pretty easy. sprinkle with some slivered almonds. The Grigson did warn that it was a very rich dessert, and she was not wrong! Greg and I managed to eat half of one each!
#21: Buttered Parsnips.7.5/10 – A great way to eat parsnips, but are they better the roast!? I don’t think so!

#22: Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary Cream. 4.5/10. The combination of rosemary-infused chocolate works very well indeed. But the vast amounts of wine and sugar made far too rich even for me!