Happy New Year, here’s how Christmas went (Holiday Special 1)…

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2014’s going to be so great, isn’t it? We’re all going to exercise more, and drink less, and be happier, and gain the ability to close drawers that won’t close without losing our temper, and stop slouching, and do more things that don’t really scare us if we think about it but we’ll say they do, and say nice things to strangers and nicer things to the people we love. Brilliant.

So the last couple of times you heard from me I’d made a couple of things that I wasn’t going to get to taste for at least a month, so before we all skip merrily into the new year, let’s have a quick look back at the end of 2013. The first of two Holiday Special posts follows, with reviews of the Christmas stuff:

Mincemeat

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Back in mid-November, I made some mincemeat to my own misinterpretation of Mary Bradley’s recipe. The mincemeat was too lemony, and slightly too nutmeggy, as I worried at the time, but to my surprise it was still good. Next year I think I will do the same recipe but correct the amount of lemon zest down to 6 or fewer lemons for this quantity, or perhaps 50g of candied lemon peel and the zest of 3 lemons. I was interested at the time to see what difference adding beer would make, but to be honest I don’t think you can taste it at all in the end result.

You will see that the pies above look really quite home-made. Even taking into account that all of my baking looks like it’s been dropped from the second floor, these are craggy. This time, though, I think this works to your advantage – who makes their own mince pies? So I enthusiastically recommend this pastry recipe from Good Food, which will get you really hand-made looking pastry. Can I suggest that – if you don’t already make it a habit – you ignore all the comments on this recipe? It’s not better if you add liquid, it’s not better if you roll it out, it’s great as it is. I made four batches using this recipe and found two things: 1) sadly, using my normal short cut for rubbing butter into flour of doing this in the food processor seemed to make the pastry less likely to come together 2) the recipe suggests that you “Combine the pastry into a ball – don’t add liquid – and knead it briefly.” I found this impossible, unless I made 3 or 4 smaller balls. Even then, the kneading was best done when you have hold of the smaller amounts of dough you’re using for each pie.

One last reminder: sieved icing sugar makes the dodgiest baking look better. The mincemeat makes another appearance in the mince pie ice cream in our next post…

Christmas pudding

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Yeah, that’s not the greatest photograph you’ll ever see, but I was working with some urgency. The Christmas pudding you see here was the result of my Stir-Up Sunday post. Quite a lot of drudgery goes into this pudding, but even so, I’d recommend it. I’m not sure if I’d have been so enthusiastic if it hadn’t included the candied peel I made or if I hadn’t soaked the fruit in rum, but as it was it was great. Same again next year – though next year I won’t be stupid enough to include coins in the puddings I’m giving away, which caused a bit of a panic when I remembered this meant you couldn’t microwave them. We steamed ours, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because I forgot to put the coin in that one. Doh.

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