So I am home. Taddddaaahhhh! Leaving one friend at the train station (goodbyes at a train station is very early last century, if only I had been wearing beautiful 1940s clothes and carrying a chequered suitcase) and arriving more than twentyfour hours later to friends (Trotski!) at the airport. Coming home is such a bitter-sweet feeling. It means the holiday is over but everything has that amazing sense of new. Everything is familiar yet so surreal and strange. There is that beautiful oceany-y, gumtree, cut grass smell and the birds chirp so loud. I had forgotten they were cacophonous.
So I am home. And suddenly it is three weeks until Christmas. I know this thought strikes terror in many peoples’ hearts. So much to do and so little time. But seeing as I have walked through the last week as if in a delightful dream I’m only excited, not terrified by the Christmas rituals. It is time to start cooking. Normally I make puddings, but for now Sarah and I have begun the production of mince pies. So this year there will be no dry and crumbly mince pies from the supermarket bought packet, but instead fresh and intensely spiced minced pie pillows.
Now, I have to be honest and say that I didn’t actually contribute much to the production of this fruit mince yesterday. I was very tired. At one point I went into the spare room and had a kip. Sarah came in with a spoonful of dried fruit, “Try this Romy!” My only contribution being, “Mmmm, yum.” Mostly I sat in my friend Nadia’s kitchen as Nadia and Sarah cooked. I drank tea and basked in the summer feeling of late afternoon light. The kitchen smelt like Christmas. Nutmeg and cider-sweet scents. We even got a bit boozy on iced eggnog, which by the way, much to my surprise, was amazing.
We have prepared this mince in advance so closer to Christmas only the pastry needs to be made, and the little pillows popped into the oven to puff. In the mean time the mince should only get better.
This is a recipe that has been heavily adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess‘ ‘Hettie Potter’s Suet-Free Mincemeat’. We chose fruit from one of the best nut shops in our area and it was so colourful and plump and glistening. I highly recommend making the trip to a really good dry goods place to get your fruit, it will make all the difference. We are cooking for a lot of vegetarians this Christmas so made a suet free fruit mince, which may not be as rich, but nothing a little more brandy can’t fix!
250g soft, dark sugar
250ml medium dry cider
1kg cooking apples, peeled, halved and quartered
3 tsp mixed spice
3 tsp ground cinnamon
100g dried cranberries
70g blanched almonds roughly chopped
rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
glug of brandy
In a large saucepan dissolve the sugar in the cider over a gentle heat. Roughly chop the apples, and then add them to the saucepan. Add all the other ingredients except the brandy and simmer for 45mins or until everything looks pulpy. Take off the heat and when cool stir in the brandy. Spoon into sterilised jars.