Scarily, Christmas is fast approaching. This should be of no real surprise given it is the same date every year, but somehow it does rather creep up on you. Despite 2012 rapidly dwindling away, I am happily smiling to myself, as roughly speaking, I have smugly completed the menu planning for the festive season ahead, give or take a bit. We have Christmas at home and I know from previous experience that being vaguely organised in the dining department aids everyones enjoyment, and dare I say, waistline, over the holiday, it always gets bigger but who cares? This year I really think the blue one will ‘get’ Christmas, tomorrow is his nursery Nativity play and his acting debut in no lesser role than a ‘sheep’. There has been plenty of chat about ‘baby Jesus’ and if the ‘pink one’ could act that particular role she would be thrilled, but guess what, said nursery is inundated with offers of younger siblings acting as the Christ child! And a very definite ‘NO’, resounded in answer.
Christmas at Blackberry Farm is organised chaos, divine, but still chaos. We tend to keep it very low-key and traditional, rarely moving beyond the village boundaries, hunkering down inside with log fires burning or outside clearing the woods having endless bonfires, one of Mr.P’s favorite pastimes, along with setting off toy rockets and riding Toffee. There is a lot of food, a lot of eating and curiously a lot of drinking. I have ordered my ham, my turkey and a bulk load of that delicious smoked trout from the wonderful Moffat Fine Foods. Every year I slyly suggest having goose (which I adore), but speedily get shot down with all guns blazing by the turkey fan club. The freezer is gradually filling up, homemade pates, mince pies, cakes, soups, a veal curry and even a ‘Middle Eastern shepherds pie’. The annual delivery from Liberty Wines has just been dumped courtesy of my extremely clever sister who works in the trade, the Christmas cake is being ‘fed’ with a never ending bottle of Berry Brothers Brandy, so all in all we are in pretty good shape. With the exception of the ham and turkey I doubt we will buy any meat in, we have a freezer full of game birds, the 3 lambs have just been delivered back from the ‘grim reaper’, and earlier in the autumn we bought half a veal calf. WOw, we are seriously spoilt.
The one thing we have little of is the ‘fish wishy’ bits. Yes I have ordered some smoked trout but I had rather been counting on going for an all out Scandinavian Christmas Eve inspired by a recent trip to Sweden. I am however struggling to establish how I am going to obtain lovely fresh fish on the Monday given where we live in the country. No doubt I will resolve this issue shortly, hopefully having established what ‘fishy wishy’ dinner I am actually going to create in the meantime. In the heat of all this creative fervour I know the real focus should be on Christmas shopping, decorating, writing cards, detoxing the house from all the various junk it has collected in the last year, even starting my hideous tax return, unsurprisingly, it is just so much more fun cooking.
In the meantime, if you can be faffed and have the energy and enthusiasm or are just seeking a distraction from the dreaded endless list of ‘other things to do’, here is my sweet pastry recipe for mince pies!! I made my first batch today – the blue one was very excited, he promptly laid out a plate for Father Christmas, and then banned all fires in the house due to concerns over present delivery!! It now feels arctic and is really rather perishing.
Sweet Pastry for Mince Pies
250gms plain flour
2 tablespoons of soft brown demerara sugar
1 tspn of cinnamon
1 egg yolk and 1 whole egg
1. Put the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon in a magimix and whizz until resembling fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add the eggs and whizz till it just comes together and then bring it together by hand.
3. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes and then roll out for mince pie making!!
I don’t blind bake my pastry for these, I simply roll out the pastry on a icing sugar dusted surface, cut and line the tins, chill the pastry in the tins for 10 minutes, pop some mincemeat in, add the hat and bake till just golden. It seems to work well. Might I add the thinner the pastry, the better. So be brave when rolling, it will make a much more interesting pie!
This pastry can be frozen raw or stored in the fridge for a couple of days. Cooked mince pies can also be frozen and pulled out to quickly warm through in an oven.
They are the perfect little treat to stockpile and pull out for tea time or an impromptu pudding with lashings of brandy butter.
And last but not least, returning briefly to that note about my sister, watch closely, her guest post will be here shortly (she has promised)- ‘what to drink this Christmas, apart from the blatantly obvious’, or something on that theme.