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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Fruity Mincemeat Recipe

I struggle with mincemeat & mince pies (the fruit kind). I hate mixed peel & currants, ugh makes me cringe just thinking of it. So Christmas has always seen me eat 1 mince pie just to get into the spirit & eat only my mums Christmas pudding (fantastic) any other is anathema to me! I have never in all my years thought about making my own, let alone cutting out the horrors!!!!
Well suddenly here we are in a country where we cannot get mincemeat in a jar & a FB friend asked why I didn't make my own? I seemed to think it would be one of those practically impossible things to do, but she inspired me to try & for this I am very grateful, its been a blast :-)))) Thank you Frances Connelley x
I had a word with my mum after trawling Google LOL & now use an old family recipe adapted to my taste & what I can find here, without too much running around!.
If you, are a mincemeat virgin, I recommend you have a go, its fun & exciting :-) substitute what you don't like for what you do. For ex pats in Bulgaria or soon to be ex pats I will put photos of the dried fruit I used as I have no idea what it is????

So here is my recipe & observations.........

8 oz Apples cored & chopped small (not peeled)
4 oz Suet (if you can't get suet, like here in Bulgaria, substitute with butter) Fortunately I had some :-)
4 oz Dark Sultanas
4 oz Light Sultanas
2 oz Dried Cranberries, chopped
4 oz Cherries, I used my home grown brandy infused cherries, but glacé is OK or preserved if you cant get hold of glacé. I also use cocktail & add some of the juice..
4 oz Candied mixed fruit chopped finely
6 oz soft Muscavado dark brown sugar
1 Orange, Grated zest & juice
1 Lemon, grated zest & juice
Some Cherry juice (if using Cocktail cherries)
1 oz of slivered Almonds
2 tsp Mixed spice
1 scant tsp Cinnamon
2 pinch of Fresh grated Nutmeg
4 tbs good Brandy (no homemade Rakia in this LOL)
Combine everything in a large bowl, but NOT the brandy, one ingredient at a time stirring after each item added. Make sure its all combined well. Cover with a clean cloth & stand overnight so that all the flavours meld together.
Next day, pre heat oven low as possible, cover bowl loosely with foil & bake in oven for 2 - 3 hours, stirring a few times.
Remove from oven & cool.
It will be swimming in fat, stir regularly while it is cooling down.  When it is cold, stir again & add the brandy. Mix this in well, pack into sterilised jars & seal.
Personally I can't wait to try it. It smells gorgeous & tastes divine so I can only hope it tastes even better in two weeks time, when I make the pies!

This will keep for years so it is possible to make large batches & leave to mature :-)

Play around with your ingredients, use figs or dates etc suit it to your own taste & enjoy.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sausage Rolls For Christmas Various

Puff Pastry, Nigels favourite!
Mmmm the sausage roll. Wonderful when hot, moorish when cold. A Christmas time must & no party is complete with out a plate full on the food table! Over the years we have become lazy & been seduced by the quick bake frozen packs of pork mush surrounded by uncooked pastry we can just shove in the oven gas mark blah & out comes a plate full of sort of home baked rolls! Or we are even more seduced by the easy party food, packs of soggy puff pastry rolls full of preservatives & other unsavory ingredients.
I used to do the same. But every Christmas or party mum would make proper sausage rolls, which have always been unsurpassed.
I have finally found packs of sausage meat here & have decided to go the route of making my own. My efforts are trial & error & not particularly good looking but i am sure they will get better as I practice more.
Here are my three trials, all tasty in their different ways
Any suggestions or recipe's will be thankfully recieved & tried :-)
Love this pastry light short crust, but over all they were a bit dry so the plan is to change the filling recipe & see what happens then. These were my very first homemade sausage rolls ever :-) Not very pretty but authentic looking ;-D Made with just sausage meat, garlic & thyme.
These are made with bought filo pastry sheets but the filling is different. These were very scrummy, light crispy pastry & very moorish. Made with sausage meat, onion & thyme, but I still prefer a homemade pastry.
These are by far the best, very tasty & will be on my Christmas table along with the same mix in puff pastry (for differing tastes) Here is my recipe.......

1 pack Sausage meat
1/2 an Onion  chopped small
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Sage
3 Rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces
So pretty simple mix all the above ingredients together by hand or in a food processor, if you are doing it by hand you need to chop the bacon into tiny pieces if you are using a FP then put in the onion & bacon process till chopped small add sausage meat & herbs (at this point you could also add some nutmeg).
I then wrap it in foil & put in the fridge to chill, till the pastry is ready.
Short Crust Pastry
220g flour
55g Butter cold
55g Lard cold
Pinch Salt
3 tbsp Cold water
1 Egg
Sift flour & salt into bowl, add butter & lard chopped up small & with your fingertips rub in to the flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water to form into a soft dough & comes away from the bowl clean. A light touch gives the best pastry!
If you are heavy handed then a food processor is ok.....
Place flour & salt into bowl whizz to get air in. add butter & lard whizz till fine breadcrumbs are formed the through the hopper add the water while machine is running, one tbsp at a time. If the dough doesn't come away from sides add a tiny bit more till it forms the dough.......
Now place the dough in a flattened ball into some cling film & put in fridge for half an hour.
Remove the dough & let it soften for a couple of mins, meanwhile oil a baking sheet & beat an egg.
Lightly flour your surface & roll out the pastry, quite thinly but not so it rips! Cut off the jagged edges, to give a straight edge. Roll your sausage meat into 3 sausage shapes, you may need to sprinkle them with flour as they will be very sticky. Put one of the sausage's on the pastry.  With a pastry brush, brush the pastry with the egg, roll the pastry over the sausage meat cut & press to seal. Do the same with the rest of the meat & pastry (you may need to roll the cut offs). Place on the baking sheet, cut to size & wash with the egg to give a glaze.
Bake in the pre heated oven 220c (200c fan) for 20-25 mins
If you like crisp pastry eat same day,  but I prefer it softer so when they are cold put into an air tight container & leave at least over night. 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Preserved Pears in Syrup

Time to finish off the pears
I had lots of pears this year, not just mine which amounted to a few (we have lots of tree's but they need attention) but our neighbours tree just kept dropping them. Nigel also harvested a load, as they were not going to. I wish I had filled a barrel every day with the fallen pears as we would have a lovely load of makings for Rakia! Next year there will be a barrel waiting :-)
My freezer has been full so I couldn't keep cooking cakes, so it has been a gradual process. I have made upside down cakes galore & a huge frangipane. I decided to preserve a couple of jars for later use leaving just enough for some individual pear tarts, to be blogged later.
This makes a nice light but sweet syrupy preserve, also its not too cooked so will hold its shape for tarts & not be too squidgy & wet for cakes. I have only preserved two jars as I will be using them soon. They will be stored in the fridge
So here is the my way of preserving our pears.........
Citric acid or Lemon juice
Clean & sterilised glass jars
Peel, core & slice, or chop, the pears, into whatever size you want. I am going to use them for tarts so sliced mine. In a saucepan fill with water add sugar I used 6 tbsp for 2 jars. Stir till the sugar is dissolved & place pears into this. Bring to a boil then simmer for a while. You want the liquid to get very hot but don't want to cook the pears too much so keep it short. It is all guess work! The more sugar the sweeter & more syrupy your preserve will be, so this is very much up to your taste.
Meanwhile heat the jars in an oven 120c 20 mins to sterilise them, pour boiling water over the lids. When you are ready, carefully remove jars from the oven & put one tsp of citric acid into the jars. Spoon the pears in careful not to break them & then top up with the syrup. Fasten the lids to jars as soon as possible. The very hot mixture & the very hot jars will cause them to seal.  Give the jars a gentle shake to mix in the citric acid.
You will hear the lids popping as they cool down & you will see when you push the top of the lid there is no popping or movement. This is how you know the jar is sealed properly. 
The Village way of preserving for a long period is........
Half fill the jar with pears. Spoon in 6 tbsp sugar in each jar & fill to top with water, place lids on jars & shake to dissolve the sugar.
Place a cloth across the bottom of a very large pan & place the jars in. Top up the pan with water to lid level & bring to the boil. Boil for 20 mins.
Now you can either take out the jars very carefully & place somewhere to cool down or leave them in situation to cool over night.
These will store for a year or two in a cool dark place.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Quiche Lorraine

Everyone loves a quiche, even if its secretly, well unless they don't like cheese or eggs. I love it.
A short crust pastry tart filled with cheese, eggs, bacon, onion (tablet time) & I add peppers for extra flavour. Mmmmm Its difficult to wait for it to cool down enough to eat! In my youth when I first discovered the delight of homemade quiche I had to bake two. One to eat for tea with my husband or guests & one to eat straight out of the oven! LOL honest, how bad is that!!! Now I am more in control & just bake the one. Still one of the best things to add to any party table & will definitely be added to our boxing day table.
220gr Flour
55g Butter
55g Lard
3 tbsp COLD Water
Pinch Salt
In a bowl sift flour with a pinch of salt, Cut up butter & lard into small cubes ( make sure its very cold). Rub in fats till you get soft breadcrumb like mix. Add enough COLD water to form a soft dough. Add water slowly.
Place dough, covered with cling film, in fridge for 30 mins. Meanwhile grease a flan tin & pre heat the oven 230c (210c fan)   Remove from fridge & allow 5 mins them roll out on a floured surface.  Line the flan tin so the pastry is just over the edge. As you lift the pastry carefully fit it into the base & around the edge.  Pinch with your fingers to crimp the sides, as in the photo. It helps if you have a tin with crimped sides but if not you can create this with your forefingers. With a sharp knife held upright trip the edges of the flan case. Chill in fridge again 10 mins. Prick all over the base with a fork & line with baking beans or foil & bake in the oven for 8 mins then remove beans & foil & bake a further 5 mins till pastry is set dry. Reduce oven to 160c (140c fan).

6 slices Bacon cut up
1 onion sliced or 3 heads of Garlic
3 Eggs beaten
12 floz Milk
Pinch salt
5 oz Cheese grated fine
1 tbsp Flour
Fry the onion or garlic in a little oil or fry light. Fry the bacon, but not too much. In a bowl mix milk salt eggs & stir in the bacon & onion mixture. In another bowl mix the cheese with the flour then add it to the milk & bacon. Mix it together very well.
Pour into the pastry case & bake 35 - 40 mins till quiche is set.
Stand for 5 - 10 mins before serving.
Can also be served sliced into individual portions cold
Can also.....
Add tomatoes if you like. Season with black pepper
Sprinkle cheese into the bottom of the case, add sliced tomatoes & sprinkle bacon or ham over the top. Combine egg & milk season & pour over the bacon & cheese. Sprinkle your fav herb over the top (thyme, basil etc) & bake for same amount of time.