Posts Tagged Christmas

Brandied Mincemeat Loaf for #TwelveLoaves

Brandied mincemeat loaf

The theme for this months #TwelveLoaves is booze! Well that had me stumped! Not only do I have a little issue using yeast but apart from the odd glass of wine or Margarita I’m not much of an alcohol user, in fact Id go so far to say that alcohol in cooking many times spoils things for me. I almost wimped out. I hate doing that though and with it been the season to be jolly I thought I should enter into the spirit of things (excuse the pun, lol!). One alcohol infused thing I do have a fondness for is mincemeat, in days gone by I used to enjoy a mince pie a day leading up to Christmas! That was of course before I realised the calories in one mince pie, gosh ignorance is bliss! I made my own mincemeat last year which was wonderful. This year I’m less organised and pushed for time so I began with a jar of ready-made mincemeat and added my own additions to liven it up a little. I had visions of using a yeast bread along with my mincemeat but that time thing cropped up again so I opted to make a loaf cake which is also known as a quick bread and suitable for the #TwelveLoaves challenge.

I added dried cranberries, dried cherries and of course brandy to my mincemeat, letting them soak overnight before making this festive loaf the next day. I don’t know why I’ve never thought of this before! It’s really easy and perfect for this time of the year. It’s a great way to use up mincemeat if you can’t be bothered to make or don’t like pastry.  I used Mary Berry’s recipe as my base.

Time is running away and its Christmas Eve as I’m posting this. Growing up Christmas eve was always so exciting for us but very busy for my Mother. It seemed to be the day for a big clean followed by preparing for the next days big meal. I know a lot of people enjoy Christmas eve even more than Christmas day, personally I always find it to be a slightly chaotic day with lots of list checking, last-minute wrapping and shopping and me alternately cleaning and cooking. I look forward to the end of the day when all is done and I can enjoy a glass of mulled wine while watching a Christmas movie. However you are spending your Christmas eve I hope its a good one.

Merry Christmas to all.

Brandied Mincemeat Loaf (adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe)

  • 1 jar of mincemeat
  • 75 grams dried cranberries
  • 75 grams dried cherries
  • 1.5 tbsp brandy
  • 75 grams light muscodavo sugar
  • 75 grams butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 115 grams self-raising flour
  1. The day before you want to make your loaf empty the mincemeat into a bowl, add the dried cranberries, dried cherries and brandy. Mix together well. Cover and leave overnight to steep.
  2. Preheat oven to 160 C, 325 F, Gas 3. Grease and line a loaf tin.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Beat in the egg.
  5. Add all the other ingredients, combine well then pour into the prepared loaf tin.
  6. Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to completely cool.


This is my entry into this months #TwelveLoaves challenge, hosted by Barb at Creative Culinary, Jamie at Lifes a Feast or Lora at  Cake Duchess


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Pistachio and Sugared Cranberry Chocolate Bark

Sugared cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark

Vanessa Kimbell recently organised another of her spectacular Christmas gift swaps where everyone takes along a homemade food gift and swaps it for a goodie someone else had made. Although I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought Id share here what Id intended to take along. The theme was chocolate so I’m sure you can appreciate how long it took me to decide what to make. I finally decided Id make chocolate bark, which isn’t commonly seen here. I’m sure people will soon catch on, it’s incredibly easy to make and there are so many options, it is simply melted chocolate topped with your choice of fruit, nuts, biscuits or sweets and makes a lovely treat or gift.

Choosing the topping for my chocolate bark was easy. Id recently seen the most beautiful sugared cranberries in this post by my twitter friend, Barb of Creative Culinary. They are so incredibly festive. Id known as soon as I saw then that I would soon be making them! I thought they would make a lovely sparkly topping to some chocolate bark. I chose pistachios as another topping as I wanted a nut and thought the green of the pistachio would add a further festive touch to my bark!

As the chocolate is the main ingredient use the best quality chocolate you can, it really is worth the extra money, no point if it looks nice but doesn’t taste it! Barb’s recipe calls for sanding sugar, I’ve not come across that here but demerara sugar worked fine for me. This recipe isn’t for a huge amount but if you wanted more it could be doubled.

Vanessa is also accepting virtual entries to her gift swap so I am linking this up with her Lets make Christmas 2012

Sugared Cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark

  • 100 grams best quality milk chocolate
  • 100 grams best quality dark chocolate
  • 75 grams shelled pistachios

For the Sugared Cranberries (I made half of this recipe from Creative Culinary)

  • 125 ml water
  • 150 grams fresh cranberries
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 75 grams demerara sugar
  • 75 grams granulated sugar

To make the sugared cranberries see here.  You could use dried cranberries instead but the sweet/tart burst from the sugared cranberries is so good.

  1. If you are making the sugared cranberries do this first so they have time to harden.
  2. Roast the pistachios on a baking sheet for around 10 minutes on 200 c, 400 f, gas 6. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. Once the toppings are ready begin by cutting a piece of baking paper to the size of a baking sheet. Set the paper aside and put the baking sheet in the freezer, it doesn’t have to be for long if you pop it in before you start it will be cool enough by the time the chocolate is melted.
  4. Melt both chocolates together. I used a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until completely melted
  5. Get the baking sheet from the freezer, put the ready cut baking paper onto the sheet and pour the melted chocolate straight onto the paper, spread the chocolate out into an even layer.
  6. Scatter the cranberries and pistachio nuts evenly over the chocolate layer.Put in the fridge to cool and harden which will take around 30 minutes.
  7. When the chocolate is hard break into pieces. I like uneven shards of bark so just snapped it randomly. If you prefer a more orderly appearance to your bark slice with a knife.
  8. Generally chocolate bark is stored in the fridge but the sugar on the sugared cranberries will melt if kept in the fridge so this bark really needs to be enjoyed fairly quickly after making, which is no problem as its so good!


LetsMakeXmas 2012

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Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

I’ve always had cranberry sauce with turkey, from the little portion in the tv dinners we grew up with to the solid lump that came out of a can, I couldn’t have turkey without it.  As a kid I loved it, I thought it was like having jam with your meal! The first time I made my own was in the early 90’s when Delia Smith had a Christmas series on tv.  I loved that series, it’s the first cookery series I remember watching on tv. Possibly because it was a series devoted to Christmas it really caught my interest and I hung on to Delia’s every word. Delia inspired me to make a Christmas cake, my own stuffing, to get my turkey from a butcher, the name Kelly Bronze and how to make your own cranberry sauce. That was the time in my life when I stopped just cooking dinner but started enjoying the ingredients and making things from scratch.  Delia, I believe, was almost responsible for fresh cranberries becoming available in the UK!

Although I started off all those yeas ago using Delia’s recipe it has now become my own with different additions over the years. This version fills the house with the scent of Christmas. With the addition of red wine, cinnamon and cloves its reminiscent of mulled wine.  The tartness of the cranberries and the hint of citrus balance out the sweetness so it’s still sweet but not overly so. It’s an easy all in one pan, ready in 5-10 minutes recipe and can be made in advance.

Cranberry Sauce


  • 300 gram fresh cranberries, rinsed (supermarket punnets differ, just use 1 punnet).
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange.
  • 100 gram light muscodavo sugar.
  • 100 ml red wine.
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh if you can).
  • 1 cinnamon stick.
  • 3 cloves.


  1. Put all of the ingredients in a pan.
  2. Heat over a medium heat until it all starts to come to the boil and the cranberries start popping.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the cranberries are soft (about 5 minutes).
  4. Turn off the heat and leave to cool with the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf left in to infuse with flavor.
  5. When cool fish out the cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf (good luck finding the cloves!)
  6. Store in the fridge in a clean jar or a Tupperware pot. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
  7. Serve at room temperature.

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Recipe testing Vanessa Kimbell’s Mince Pies


— On Mon, 20/12/10, Jayne Lynch wrote


Recipe test mince pies? Yes please, I absolutely love mince pies!
Although I grew up in America I had an English mother so mince pies were always a part of our Christmas. They along with Christmas cake, to me, are Christmas.
Nowadays mince pies seem to available in stores for most of the year but I am a firm believer in Seasons and seasonal eating. I do not want to have a mince pie until it is Winter and Christmas is truly upon us (then I may have trouble from stopping having them, but that’s another tale!)
I am so happy to be testing mince pies for Vanessa Kimbell, the author of Prepped, her cook book which is due out next Spring –


Vanessa’s mincemeat is delicious and so easy to make. Along with the ingredients you may expect to see, she adds cranberries, dried cherries and vanilla. It is super fast to make, cooked in 2 steps, jarred in step 3. No wonder it’s called Instant Mincemeat!
To make the mince pies Vanessa has a frangipane topping which is something a little different and I think delicious!
The recipe is Vanessa’s and may change slightly when the book is printed


Instant Mincemeat


  • 170 ml Brandy
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 170g dried cherries/ blueberries or mixture
  • 300g Fresh Cranberries
  • 200g of currants and raisins
  • 30g peeled very finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • juice and zest of 2 medium oranges
  • 1 Vanilla pod cut into 4 pieces

1. Add the sugar and brandy into a large pan and warm gently.Add the fresh cranberries and cook gently for about 3 minutes.Stir well.

2. Tip the Dried fruit, ginger, mixed spice, orange juice and zest and vanilla and stir well.Cover and simmer very gently for about 15 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally.

3. Spoon into clean jars and store in the fridge.This keeps happily for up to 2 weeks.

Mince Pies


50g  sugar

125g butter

190g plain flour



 1 pot of Mincemeat


Topping  – frangipane

  • 100g butter, chopped

  • 100g caster sugar

  • 100g ground almonds
  • Drop of almond essence
  • 2 eggs

  • 50g plain flour

  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 30g flaked almonds

 1. To make the base. Rub the butter and flour together to make breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar.  Bring together with a small amount of water, added a little at a time to form dough.  Press the dough into a muffin tin to make about 12 – 15 ( depending on the size of your muffin tray)  

 2. Make the topping.  It’s not strictly the traditional way .. but it works and it’s quick. Place all the ingredients, save the flaked almonds in a mixer and mix on full for 3 minutes. When this is done the pie can be assembled.

 3. To assemble the pies spoon a teaspoon of mincemeat in each pie and  then a tables spoon of the frangipane  topping over the mincemeat –  ensuring that it covers it fully.  Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and place in the middle shelf of the oven.

4. Bake for 115- 18 minutes until the topping has risen, firm to the touch and a beautiful golden brown. At 180C/200C/gas 5

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray for about 10 minutes. Transfer toa wire rack and once cooled store in an airtight tin.  










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