#321 Sweetmeat Cake

This recipe is apparently Jane Grigson’s favourite of the eighteenth century sweet tarts apprently. A sweetmeat is really any delicious sweet morsel – in this case candied orange peel, but I expect you can use any candied fruit or spice. The sweetmeats are scattered in a pastry case and covered in a sweet filling before being baked. I couldn’t really find any British recipes, though I found a couple of mentions in nineteenth century stories; I have no idea where Jane got hold of this one. I expect she pored over many a book in the National Library.

I did actually find a mention in a Canadian journal from the 1910s that sweetmeat cakes were made using honey thickened with breadcrumbs as a filling – this wasn’t a surprise as this sweetmeat cake (a tart, really) was the predecessor to one of my favourite puds, the treacle tart (as an aside she gives a brief description of a treacle tart, but not a proper recipe, not sure why she didn’t include this obvious one in the book).

Well, wherever she got it from, here is the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 180C (350C).

Start off by lining a nine inch tart tin with either shortcrust or puff pastry (I went with the former). Next, chop 2 ounces of roasted hazelnuts and 4 ounces of candied peel and scatter them over the pastry.

Mix together 2 large eggs, 2 large egg yolks, 6 ounces of caster sugar and 6 ounces of melted salted butter. Once thoroughly beaten, fill the tart with the mixture.

Bake for around 35 to 40 minutes until the top has turned a delicious golden brown. The tart will rise in the oven, but then sink when you take it out. Griggers says to eat it warm with cream, but it was pretty good with some nice vanilla ice cream too.

#321 Sweetmeat Cake. A fantastic and easy-to-do pud! The mixture turned into a slightly chewy toffee and its sweetness was perfectly counteracted by the still slightly bitter candied peel. Plus the hazelnuts lent a neutral earthiness and some texture. One major reason for this, I believe, is that I used home-made candied orange peel (see here for the post); it really made a difference. The bought stuff is too sweet, with too little bitter flavour and in pieces that are too small. This is well worth a try and even better than treacle tart! 10/10

#294 Preserved Spiced Oranges (Part II)

Do you remember that time I lived in Texas? It seems like an age away, but it was only three months ago that I packed up my stuff and headed for Missouri. I remember gingerly packing my tins and bottles of various foods, hoping they wouldn’t get broken in the move. Amongst them were the jars of the Preserved Spiced Oranges I made in Maytime. I decided it was about time to try them. I admit I was putting them off rather – the last orange-based recipe was Soyer’s Orange Salad, which basically slices of raw orange sat in brandy, and it shall not be made again.
Anyways, these orange slices are to be served with hot or cold pork, duck, ham – I expect goose too. I decided roast a duck to mark the occasion of opening up a jar of these oranges. Oddly, there is no recipe for roast duck in English Food. Therefore, as it is an omission, I shall be adding my own recipe to the other blog (and here is the link). Though it is worth mentioning that I used a bit of the syrup from the jar to flavour my gravy. Grigson also mentions that the leftover syrup makes a great sauce for duck.
#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well I do wish I hadn’t left trying these for so long, for they were delicious! The oranges had become very tender, without any bitterness at all. They were wonderfully warmingly sweet with the now well-infused cinnamon, cloves and mace. All that sugar and spice was cut beautifully by the white wine vinegar. Good work, Griggers! 8.5/10.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices (part 1)

These oranges are flavoured with a heady mix of cinnamon, mace and cloves; quite a wintery combination, I suppose. In Victorian times, the orange was the most prized Christmas gift and British children would have waited with baited breath to get their hands on them. This did not apply to Irish children though – a little earlier in history, William of Orange’s extreme anti-Catholic laws were so unpopular that the Irish people made a declaration that no orange tree would ever be planted in Irish soil.

William III of Orange (aka ‘King Billy’ by Irish Protestants)
In Europe, the best oranges have always come from Spain, and so it is no surprise that the first orange plantation in America was also Spanish. It was, of course, in Florida and it was built in 1579. After a few years of settlement, orange trees were discovered all over the forests, causing the surprised Spanish settlers to conclude that the orange must have been native to America! It turned out to not be the case – Native Americans had been stealing oranges and spitting the pips as they ate them.

I had been planning on doing these preserved oranges for a while as they are an accompaniment to pork and duck, my two new favourite meats, thanks to recent recipes here in the blog. I’ve only just gotten round to making them because a spice required for the recipe is mace – in the form of blades. Tricky, as supermarkets don’t stock them. However, now I have a car I could pop to The Heights area of Houston and visit Penzey’s spices. What a great shop! Every spice and spice blend you could ever need. Luckily, there is a store in St Louis, so I can keep myself stocked up when I move there. My favourite bit was Granny’s Kitchen which had all the baking spices.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the recipe…

Begin by slicing 10 large oranges – keep them thick, about a centimetre is good – place them in a large pan and cover them with water.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the peel has softened. Don’t stir the oranges around as they will break up. Meanwhile, in another pan, dissolve 2 ½ pounds of granulated sugar in a pint of white wine vinegar. Add 1 ½ sticks cinnamon, a heaped teaspoon of cloves and 6 blades of mace to the vinegar syrup and boil for a total of 3 or 4 minutes.

When the oranges are done, drain them, reserving the orange liquor. Return the oranges to their pan and pour over the syrup to cover – if there isn’t enough, use some of the orange liquor. Cover, bring to simmering point and cook gently for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

Take off the heat and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pot in sterilised jars. Top up with syrup over the next or two, should they need to be. Here’s the catch though folks: you now have to leave them for at least 6 weeks to mature! When the time is up, they can be served with hot or cold pork, ham or duck. The syrup also makes a good sauce for duck too. Apparently.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well we shall have to have a bit of patience over these. It’s strange to think that when they are ready, I’ll be living in St Louis. I can say that the syrup is delicious though. Look here for the results.

#286 Candied Peel

From the odds and sods part of the last chapter of the book this one. I’ve never been particularly moved to make candied peel because I usually bake cakes on a whim and don’t really consider thinking ahead and making the chopped peel required for fruit cakes et cetera. This has all changed now I am in the United States of America. If you buy candied fruit for your cakes here they will not only contain citrus peel but also invariably a good proportion of glace cherries and pineapple. Now don’t get all tetchy America; I’m not dissing your candied fruits. Sheesh! In fact I prefer your version, but it’s just not English now, is it? And that simply will not do for the purposes of my blog.
This recipe uses the peel of two grapefruit or one ‘large, fine’ pomelo (you can get these at Asian supermarkets pretty easily) or four oranges. Slash the skins and remove the peel, pith and all. I suppose it’s a good way of using up the peel of citrus fruits instead of just throwing them away. I suppose you can follow this recipe and candy pretty much anything you like. Lemons would work. Or citrus slices. I once saw loads of whole candied fruits like plums and peaches and things like that for sale in Harrods at extortionate prices.
Back in Tudor times, people went crazy for candied fruits and it is during these times when recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding were borne. This was due to the sudden supply of sugar from sugar cane from the West Indies. A very popular dish at the time was sweet custard tart with candied fruits and candied fish! The fools. Plus, to have black teeth was very much the rage; this meant you could afford to plenty of sugar!
Once you have removed the peels, boil them, covered, for a good fifteen minutes. Drain them and repeat this process once, twice, or thrice again until the peel is tender and the bitterness is ‘at a palatable level’. Now drain them and let them cool.
 Now either leave them as they are or cut into strips. You can use the strips as an after dinner sweetmeat if you like. If so cut them into nice neat long rectangles if you want to do that. Dissolve ten ounces of white sugar in a quarter of a pint of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the peel. Boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the syrup has been absorbed. This takes around half an hour.
Now drain the peel in a metal sieve and then leave to cool, spread out on kitchen paper.
Keep them in an airtight tub and chop whenever required for cakes. You can roll them in some more sugar or dip them in melted chocolate to serve with coffee if you like.
#286 Candied Peel. I quite enjoyed making these – quite a therapeutic process; just right for a Sunday afternoon activity. Easy too – I was expecting it to be tricky. I was imagining a spluttering tub of boiling sugar and third degree burns, but it was all quite tame. I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I did have a taste and they were very, very good. Very sweet of course, but still had lots of zesty zing left in there and a million miles away from the bought stuff. What shall I candy next? Suggestions below please! 8/10.

#216 Orange Sauce for Duck and Game

This is a sauce for any game and requires two things from The Freezer of Delights that have been sat there for a while: game carcasses for a game stock (see here for recipe) and two Seville oranges. It is very important that you save and bones and carcasses from your meat for stock-making at a later date. It is, of course, even more important that actually used the bloody things once you’ve saved them. I served this with the Mallards of Death.

Melt 1 ½ ounces of butter in a small saucepan and stir in a rounded tablespoon of flour. Stir and cook until the roux becomes golden brown. Now whisk in ¾ of a pint of game stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer for around 20 minutes. Whilst it is cooking away gently, pare thinly the rinds of two Seville oranges and slice them as thinly as possible (you can use an orange and a lemon if you can’t get Seville oranges). Add the rind along with the juice of the oranges to the sauce and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes. Add up to a tablespoon of sugar and four tablespoons of port, plus the skimmed roasting juices from the meat. That’s it! Easy.


#216 Orange Sauce for Duck and Game. A really good sauce this one; tangy, bitter, fruity, rich and a lovely red-brown colour with just the right amount of freshness and tang to cut through the very strong meat. If you don’t like bitter foods, use a normal orange and a lemon and perhaps less pared rind. 7/10.

#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.

#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.)