Monday, 12 December 2011

Jamie Oliver's mince pie cookies - GUEST POST

A real treat today, Recipe Riflers. A guest post from one of my favourite readers, Emelie. We met online, like all the coolest people NOT; I had a small, sick, teething baby - she a feral toddler and a dog that looks like a polar bear. She is also Scandinavian and what with Scandis being so fashionable at the moment, (they are the new gays), I'm mostly friends with her because of that.

Anyway here you go and if you're on Twitter she is @emfrid and terrific value.

I will cheerfully defend Jamie Oliver to all and sundry. Granted, on occasion he can come across as the culinary world’s more earnest answer to Bono. And those Sainsbury ads makes my teeth hurt. But, as far as I’m concerned that is all easy to forgive. Because, his recipes? They. Always. Fucking. Work.

Like, for example, these mince pie cookies. I got the recipe from Jamie’s Christmas Special magazine, and they are rad. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of pastry, which is probably why I prefer them to actual mince pies, but I’d wager that even pastry fiends will like these. They taste like Christmas! They are also very easy to make - it took me less than half an hour to get them in the oven, and that was while I was simultaneously trying to shake off the semi-feral toddler clinging to my leg and prevent the dog from digging a hole through to the neighbours. So give them a go.

For about 30 or so cookies you will need:

250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g sugar
1 egg yolk
Grated zest of one clementine/satsuma/mandarin/whatever you prefer
300g flour
One 411g jar of fruit mincemeat (WHY do they come in 411g jars? Why not 420g? Why so specific?!)

1 Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4 and put greaseproof baking parchment on a couple of baking trays.

2 Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg yolk and your citrus zest and beat to combine.

3 Sift in the flour and then fold through MOST of the mince meat (you want to hold some of it back to put on top of your cookies before they go in the oven). Stir until it all starts to come together. I used my hands here – easier.

4 Pull biscuit-sized lumps from the dough, put them evenly across the trays and then press down on each one to shape into cookies. Don’t put them too close to each other – they will run out a little while in the oven.

4 Dot some of your saved mincemeat on top of each cookie, and then put them in the oven for about ten minutes. You want them to be golden, but still a bit doughy and chewy in the middle. I found that my oven needed about 15 minutes for this, but hey, ovens are famously different.

The mince pie cookies are lovely warm – with mulled wine – but the ones you don’t eat straight away can be stored in an airtight container, or frozen.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


One very good reason for not doing a practice-run Christmas is that it leaves you in absolutely no mood for actual Christmas. I've had enough of Christmas, now. And certainly had enough of leftovers. God turkey is such nasty stuff.

It doesn't help that it was buggered and all my fault. We brined it, you see, and I bumptiously insisted that the quantity of salt doesn't matter and just poured a lot into the brine willy-nilly. Some ghastly chemical reaction must have taken place because it was dry as a bone.

brine ingredients

Although what we did learn from it, is that it doesn't matter if your turkey is dry, because once you slap it on a hot plate and cover it with a lot of gravy (which you will have) and a lot of bread sauce (ditto) it doesn't matter.

But, as my husband said, there's no point in it actually being dry, so if you are going to do a brine this year, make sure you do the exact measurements the recipe recommends. For example Nigella says 6 litres of water and 250g sea salt, like Maldon or 125g table salt, like Saxo. Then other flavours you want to add to the brine are up to you - parsley, bay leaves, allspice berries, mace blades, garlic, whatever. Nigella, again, recommends a star anise but just personally I think it makes everything taste like a Chinese takeaway.

And then beyond that, with turkey, it all just gets too mind-bending what with the Shall We Cook The Legs Separately Or Not? question. And the How Much Longer Should I Cook It If It's Got Stuffing In It? conundrum and THEN there's the thing about temperatures and whether or not you've got a fan oven. And by then, I have to confess, I feel like I am back in double History before lunch and can barely keep my eyes open.

So really the purpose of this post is to say: it's anyone's bloody guess. Have a fair crack. Try not to get bogged down in detail. Don't be scared because even if it's burnt to a crisp the gravy and bread sauce will save the day.

I told you I was bored.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Cranberry sauce, bread sauce

So, let's dispense with the cranberry sauce first, because it's a piece of cake. There are more complicated recipes you can use, but this one is just fine and takes about ten seconds.

250g cranberries
100ml fresh orange juice
100g light brown sugar

1 Put the sugar and the orange juice in a pan and bring to a bubble. Tip in the cranberries and simmer for about 8 minutes - until some of the cranberries are still round and the rest have burst open and are all gooey.

Decant this into an airtight container, chuck it somewhere cool and forget about it until Christmas. The sauce will thicken on cooling so don't worry if it looks a bit runny.

I was all ready to make a similarly simple bread sauce but my friend Henry forced upon me a complicated one from his mother. As he was coming to dinner and gave me a magazine that the recipe was printed in I felt like I really couldn't not make it.


As it turns out, it is absolutely amazing. You could just eat it, on its own, spooned out of the tin. So I really recommend it, despite it being a bit of a faff. Do it up to three days ahead of time.

Aromatic brown bread sauce

1 large onion
150g wholemeal bread, crusts on
6 cloves
4 cardamom pods
some nutmeg
salt and pepper
75g butter
900ml milk - whole or semi
300ml double cream yikes

Preheat your oven to 130C. Did you notice that said 130C and not 180C?

1 Chop your onion up VERY small. I chopped mine up normally and it was too big, so next time I do this I will chop it up normall and then go at those chunks with a knife to bash the bits up tiny. Do not be tempted to put it in the food processor as you don't want it a sludge.

2 Tear the bread into small pieces - about the size of a 50p coin and put in an ovenproof dish with the onion

3 Put the cloves and the cardamom into a small piece of muslin or cotton, tie with string and chuck into the dish. This is an annoying instruction and I'm not sure you couldn't just throw the pods and cloves in free and then fish them out later.

4 Grate over a generous sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and pepper and dot with butter. Mix the milk and the cream together and pour over the bread and onion. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and then cook for 2 hours(!). Stir once or twice during cooking.

Really worth doing if you can be arsed. Everyone said how nice it was at our practice dinner, even a French girl who is normally rude about everything. Henry said it was a pretty good imitation of his mother's sauce but then ruined it by asking if my stuffing was out of a packet.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy

We had our trial-run Christmas lunch yesterday. Except we did it a dinnertime. And I'll tell you this about Christmas: it is a fucking hassle. I can't quite believe I've got to do all that all over again in 3 weeks' time. And I was only on pudding, sauces, relishes and decorations - my husband had the real sweat on doing the turkey and all the rest.

But what are you going to do? It's just life, innit. Like I was complaning on and on and on to my single Hot Career friends J- and E- the other week about how I thought I'd be a wife and mother as a bit of a retro-laugh and now I'm right in it and marvelling what a hilarious joke I seem to have played on myself. I was expecting a tidalwave of sympathy, because I am a moaney old cow, but they both just looked at me blanky and boredly and said "Yeah, life is vile."

Since then I've tried to complain a bit less about everything.

Anyway look, for god's sake, if this isn't already in your repertoire, do Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy if you're lumbered with Christmas this year. It's a ruddy life-saver. Do it this weekend and freeze it.

This is not Jamie's exact recipe. The real thing is easily sourced on the internet.

Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy
Makes 1 litre, enough for about 8 people

8 chicken wings or wings or stock bones or whatever
2 carrots, quartered
1 small onions, quartered
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and, you guessed it: quartered
fresh sage leaves - about 5?
fresh rosemary - two sticks?
3 bay leaves
1 star anise IF YOU WANT. I, personally, didn't think the Chinesey flavour this imparted was very appropriate, although it's nice
4 rashers streaky bacon, snipped
4 tbs plain flour
1 tbs cranberry sauce
some olive oil

1 Tip everything except the flour and the cranberry sauce into a roasting tin, slosh some olive oil over it, salt and pepper, turn it all around to coat and put in a 180C oven for 1 hour

2 Take it out and bash everything up in the pan. Jamie recommends using a potato masher but I found stabbing everything with an assortment of wooden items, such as a spoon and then a rolling pin, was easier

although I took this photo at the masher stage

3 Put the pan on the hob on a low heat and sprinkle over the flour a spoonful at a time, mixing well in to the mixture after each snowfull

4 Now pour over two litres of water, just cold from the tap, mix together and boil briskly for ten minutes and then simmer for 25. It will reduce by roughly half

5 Strain the gravy. I found this easier to do once through a colander and then once again through a sieve - although this does create more washing up.

6 Now put in tupperware and forget about it until Christmas Eve. Don't bother skimming the fat now because there's something about the freezing/thawing process that draws out the fat from the gravy more effectively.

7 On the day, either just heat this up and finish off with some cranberry sauce and serve OR add the juices from the turkey roasting tin. You are supposed to add the turkey juices, but you will probaby be feeling utterly mental and a bit tearful by this stage and won't be arsed to be adding no damn juices to sauces. So I'm just telling you now that if you want to serve this gravy straight up without turkey juices no-one will notice.