At the weekend I was invited onto the Saturday morning show at Radio Leicester. I took in a homemade mini Christmas cake and the truffles I made last week, for him to try. I love going in and chatting as they always makes me feel so comfortable to talk.
You can listen again here (approx. 1 hour and 7 mins into the program).
At the weekend I received two free strawberry plants from Spalding Bulbs.
Last month I agreed to join Spalding Bulbs Blogger Club and every so often I will receive one of their products in return for an honest review.
The strawberry plants are called Fragaria framberry (Fragoria x ananassa) and this is what Spalding bulbs say about them:
An exceptional strawberry that tastes like both strawberry and raspberry! It can be eaten straight after picking or used in a dessert. Grow just like ordinary strawberries and amaze your friends with this new variety! If you’re looking for something special, this is it!
You can find the plants on their website here.
The strawberry plants were delivered in a strong cardboard box and they were surrounded with a sturdy plastic carton.
The plants were moist and in good condition:
I put the plants into my cold greenhouse and I will plant them out in the spring when the weather warms up.
The only thing I would say to Spalding Bulbs is that there were no instructions or details of how or when to plant them outside. This may be intentional as I have grown strawberries before, but it is something that would certainly help inexperienced gardeners.
I can’t wait to try these strawberries when they grow.
I also planted two more trays of broad beans this weekend. You can see from the picture below that the broad beans that I planted a few weeks ago are doing well, but it is far too wet at my allotment to plant them out yet, so I will have to leave them where they are for now.
Nearly everyone loves mince pies at Christmas.
I adore mince pies when they are homemade but I really do not like the ready made shop bought mince pies as much, even the more expensive ones. So I make mine.
Mincemeat is very easy to make and tastes so much nicer than the shop bought alternative. The history of the mince pie we know today is very interesting:
Originally mincemeat contained meat and mince pies evolved from a medieval pastry called “chewette.” which was made with chopped meat or liver, boiled eggs, ginger, dried fruit and other sweet ingredients. It was fried or baked. During the 17th century, the meat products were replaced with suet, a beef or mutton fat.
By the 19th century in Great Britain and North America, mince pies no longer contained any meat. Today mince pies are traditionally filled with fruit mincemeat, containing dried fruit, spices, nuts, suet and alcohol. The pies are cooked and dusted with caster sugar or icing sugar.
I used Delia Smiths’ recipe, with the odd change, as I didn’t have all the ingredients she suggested. The recipe below is exactly as I made it, but you can find Delia’s exact recipe here.
I managed to make just under six jars with the recipe below and according to Delia, it will last for approximately three years, though I have never put this to the test.
Delia has worked out that her ingredients cost just £3.65 to make. That works out at approximately 66p per jar. A standard jar of shop bought mincemeat costs approximately £1.00 to buy and I would like to bet that homemade mincemeat tastes nicer!
When you first buy the ingredients to make Christmas recipes, it does seem to be expensive, when they include fruit, Brandy and spices.
I look out for offers leading up to christmas, for example I bought most of my Christmas ingredients when Tesco had them on a ‘3 for the price of 2’ offer. The Brandy that I buy for my recipes is the cheapest I can find and it lasts ages (provided you don’t drink it) and the spices last for ages too.
The Brandy and spices are also used in other Christmas recipes I make, so nothing gets wasted.
Homemade Christmas Mincemeat
450g Bramley Apples, cored and chopped small (don’t peel)
225g shredded suet
1225g dried mixed fruit (with mixed peel included if possible)
350g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
20g ground almonds
4 level teaspoons mixed ground spice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons brandy.
Put all the ingredients, except the Brandy, into a large mixing bowl and mix together.
Cover the bowl with a plate or a clean cloth and leave the bowl in a cool place for 12 hours or overnight, so the flavours have time to mingle and develop.
Preheat your oven Gas ¼ /225F / 110C
Transfer your mixture to an ovenproof dish and cover loosely with foil and place in your oven for 3 hours.
Take out the oven and leave to cool, stirring every so often.
The mincemeat will look like it is swimming in fat , but this is how it should look. By stirring it, the fat will coagulate instead of it being in tiny shreds and it will encase the other ingredients.
When the mincemeat is cold, stir again whilst adding the brandy.
Put the mincemeat in sterilised jars.
(Sterilise your clean jars and lids by placing them in the oven at gas mark 4 for 5 minutes).
I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.
Tomorrow I will be using the mincemeat to make mince pies.