Savour the Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Mincemeat – it goes back a long way…

About thirty years ago a friend convinced me that homemade mincemeat was the best.  She was not wrong and pointed me in the direction of Delia Smith https://www.deliaonline.com/.  Yes of course I had a Delia Smith cook book (well four actually), seriously who didn’t back in the 80s?  I loved that book, I never had a failure from it!  However, I did adapt and ‘improve’ a little and put my own spin on certain recipes.  But in the main, we have Delia to thank for this delight.

Ingredients for mincemeat
The glorious ingredients for mincemeat

The origins of mincemeat

I love the origins of the mince pie too.  The ingredients for the mince pie we know and love can be traced back to the return of the crusaders from the Holy Land.  Middle Eastern methods of cooking (which sometimes combined meats, fruits and spices – Heaven forbid!) were popular at the time. Pies were created from such mixtures of sweet and savoury foods (I am not sure about that either!)  In Tudor England, shrid pies were formed from shredded meat, suet and dried fruit. The addition of spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was, ‘in token of the offerings of the Eastern Magi.’  During the English Civil War they were banned, on account of its connection with Catholicism. Crikey! The hubster would never have survived. I also believe it is ‘bad luck’ to refuse a mince pie (I avoid being offered one) and… you should always make a wish as you bite into the first one of the season.

Everyone loves a mince pie… well nearly everyone

They are well-loved in our household.  My son loves them with an almond paste/marzipan top.  The hubster just loves them! Fortunately (or unfortunately) I DON’T.  Anyway, here is my recipe for homemade Christmas Mincemeat:

The equipment you will need:

The equipment needed to make Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

Ingredients

  • 450g cooking apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
  • 225g shredded suet http://www.atora.co.uk/
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 225g ready mixed chopped peel
  • 350g dark, soft brown sugar
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
  • Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g ready chopped almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 120 ml brandy
Homemade Christmas Mincemat ingredients
Homemade Christmas Mincemeat ingredients

What to do:

Fresh fruit prepped for mincemeat
Prep the fresh fruit

Mix all the ingredients (except the brandy) in a mixing bowl.  Put the bowl into a preheated oven 120oC for three hours.

Fill your house with the amazing Christmassy aroma.

After three hours remove from the oven and allow to go completely cold – then stir in the brandy.  Fill some clean, sealable jars or plastic containers.  

Christmas Mincemeat
The finished product, Homemade Christmas Mincemeat

It makes this much! Enough for probably 100 mince pies! It will keep for a very long time. Yes, it is a faff but it is definitely worth it.  Savour the Homemade Christmas Mince Pies!

Savour a Walk in the Highlands

Linn of Tummel Circular Walk

Linn of Tummel walk
View from Garry Bridge

Easy to park, easy to walk

It was free to park the car which was a bonus. The day was dry, slightly overcast and not too cold although the sun did peek through at points. Perfect weather for a good, long walk. After a flight of steps down to the river bank it was almost all flat. A well-worn path with a few steps here and there and a few tree roots along the way.

Pitlochry

Pitlochry https://www.pitlochry.org/index.html is world-famous for its ‘Salmon Leap’ which is a spectacle in the springtime when the salmon ‘leap’ to return to their spawning ground.  This was our stop of choice at about the half way point of the walk. It is a pretty, touristy, small town which has its own railway station, quite a few shops selling Tartan and shortbread.

Loch Faskally
Loch Faskally

This one is definitely worth a visit…

A particular shop that caught our eye was the whiskey shop http://robertsonsofpitlochry.co.uk/   This little place is a real gem. It has a phenomenal range of whiskeys… and gins, some with a phenomenal price tag too! Attached to the shop is what looks like a small restaurant but is actually a whiskey-tasting experience room. Each place is set with a wooden, glass-holder which takes about 5 small glasses. There wasn’t a ‘tasting’ when we were there but we did buy a couple of glasses. A lovely reminder of our visit to Pitlochry.

Malt glass
A souvenir of Pitlochry

‘Keep right on to the end of the road’

A quick coffee in the cafe across the road and we were off again to complete the circuit. We did this walk fairly recently and so the trees were decked out in their autumn colours. Just amazing, although my pictures don’t really do them justice.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
Linn of Tummel circular walk

If you ever take the ‘High Road’ to Scotland do yourself a favour, pack your walking boots and head for Garry Bridge.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
View of Garry Bridge

Yes, even more Soup

Celery soup

Celery Soup

Today’s soup recipe is not to everyone’s taste but most people I know like it.  It’s smooth delicious and nutritious!  A quick and easy recipe.  Almost impossible to go wrong and it freezes well.  This soup has a lightness and it’s great for filling a flask to accompany a Winter walk.

Recipe for Celery Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup

Ingredients

Celery soup ingredients
The ingredients for celery soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 whole head of celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up into 1 litre of stock
  • 150 ml milk

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Chopped veg
Chop all the veg

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the chopped celery, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender add the milk. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Celery soup
A bowl of flavoursome celery soup

Variation

Sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread. Or crumble some Blue Stilton cheese on top.

 

Thank Goodness for Soup!

Tomato and Basil Soup

Yes, I have been soup making – again.  You can expect more of this.

Second soup-making session of the season

I had the sudden desire to make soup again yesterday.  Tomato and Basil this time.  Even though I say so myself, it was pretty good!

Recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup
  • a sharp veg prep knife
  • a veg peeler
  • a chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender

Ingredients

Tomato and Basil Soup ingredients
Everything you need to make Tomato and Basil Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/
  • 2 1litre cartons of tomato juice
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Large handful fresh basil

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup
Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and white wine vinegar. Crumble in the stock cubes, stir well, cover and cook for 2 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well.  Add the tinned tomatoes. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the 2 x 1 litre cartons of tomato juice. Stir. Cover and cook for a further 15/20 minutes or until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat.  Add all the basil (I don’t think it is possible to have too much basil, although it is possible to have too little!)  Blitz with a hand-blender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Tomato and Basil Soup
Freshly made Tomato and Basil Soup

To make it even more heart-warming, sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread.

 

Still on the run!

Still on the run…

I actually made it.  I did run the whole programme of Couch to 5K https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/43501261.   Graduated and everything.  Running was going to be my new thing to stop me from becoming a blob.  But then a holiday got in the way.  Yes, that meant not even one run for over two weeks.  There was a lot of walking and healthy eating too but no runs.  So I should have been right back into it but I hadn’t reckoned on the battering that jet-lag would give me.  Many times I was wide awake at 3am and then solid-gone at 8am, couldn’t seem to get back into the circadian rhythm.

Trainers
Put those trainers on

Up and running

The jet-lag faded eventually and I made it, up and out at 8am but it was so hard!  My legs felt heavy, it was like running through treacle.  I managed two runs before I was knocked back again.  This time it was the ‘mother and father’ of all head-colds. It robbed me of a week of my life – and running!

Take a step back

Back with the programme again. The run this morning provided me with a moment of clarity.  It came to me in a flash.  Just start again.  Well, not quite at the beginning but right back to week 5 of ‘Couch to 5K’.  A major step backwards but it makes perfect sense! Take the pressure off, build it back up again.

Run selfie
I’m out there on the run

Draw up a plan

However, it’s important that I stay focused as it is the local ‘Pilgrim Fun Run’ in six weeks. I rashly suggested to my daughter and daughter-in-law that we all do it together, we might even enlist the grandchildren.  There are approximately 50 days to the ‘run’ – it is possible that there could be at least 20 training runs between now and then.  This is a positive event to work towards.  Although I do have more holidays that ‘might’ get in the way.  I must try to incorporate some training into those periods too.

Trainers on
Memories of the first run – three months ago

The Pilgrim Fun Run

The Pilgrim Fun Run takes place in Retford, North Notts https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/events-this-week/icalrepeat.detail/2018/11/25/79061/-/the-pilgrim-fun-run-2018-in-retford

The Pilgrim Fathers originated from this area and left for America almost 400 years ago.  There will be an almighty celebration of that event around these parts in 2020 https://pilgrimroots.org/

It’s Soup Season!

Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup

Hurrah! It’s the season for SOUP!

I love to make soup. I find it very therapeutic and relaxing.  It’s a good feeling to make it in batches and then freeze for cold, winter days.  The only drawback is I probably make too much, the hubster tells me off for filling up the freezer.

First soup of the season

I got the urge to make soup yesterday.  Carrot and lentil.  I thought I would share the process with you.

Carrot and Lentil Soup enough to serve 12.  (Good for a bonfire party or to freeze). Scale down for smaller quantities.

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup
Carrot and lentil soup ingredients
  • 500g red lentils
  • 1kg fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground back pepper
  • half a teaspoon of turmeric (or more to taste)
  • half a teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up to a litre with boiling water.

Step 1

Peel the veg, soak the lentils

Peel the veg and immerse the lentils in cold water

Step 2

 

Chopped veg
Chop the veg

Step 3

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the carrots, stir well, cover and cook for 3 further minutes. Add seasoning and spices.  Stir well.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add soaked lentils. Stir. Add stock. Stir.  Cover and cook for a further 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Step 4

Blitz with a handblender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Carrot and lentil soup
A comforting bowl of carrot and lentil soup

Variation

Add chilli flakes and extra cumin to spice up to taste.  Serve with crusty bread and perhaps sprinkle some mature, grated cheddar on top – watch it melt! Delicious.