Advent Calendar 3: Quincemeat

I have wanted to make this recipe for literally years, but it has been too difficult to find the ingredients. However, with quince making a resurgence, and whole bushel of them showing up in my local wholefood shop, I decided it was about time to scratch this recipe off my to do list.

I love mince pies, and mincemeat in general. They celebrate the best
of the season; sweet fruits, heady spices and plenty of warming booze. This ‘Quincemeat’ has all of that in spades.

Quincemeat

  • Approx. 1kg quince (3-4 fruits is a good guide for this. I used just over 3 for this recipe.)
    2 tbsp butter
    250g sultanas
    250g raisins
    250g dried apricots
    250g soft light brown sugar (muscovado is a good call but any soft brown sugar will do)
    100g candied peel
    1tsp ground cloves
    1tsp ground ginger or cardamom
    1tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    100ml calvados or brandy

Preheat the oven to 150c.

Peel, core and chop your quince into chunks. Quince have a much firmer flesh and woodier core than their cousins apples and pears, so take your time and use a sharp knife. Place the fruit on an oven tray or dish

IMG_6781.JPGMelt the butter and drizzle it over the quince. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the quince is soft.

Pour the hot quince and any juices into a mixing bowl. Rouglychop the sultanas and raisins and cut down the apricots into sultana-sized pieces. Add the fruit to the quince and mix together. Allow the mixture to cool completely.

Measure out your spices, sugar peel and booze. Add in the dry ingredients and peel and mix through, before adding the brandy and doing the same.

Pot up into jars or store covered in the fridge.

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This recipe isn’t particularly difficult. Like most mincemeats it just takes time and has a lot of ingredients. The most difficult parts are the chopping of the quince, and then the chopping of the sticky dried fruit. Beyond that it is just a case of weighing, mixing and and waiting.

This sweet and aromatic mincemeat makes a nice change from the dark and sticky traditional mincemeat. Pair it with lightly spic pastry or vanilla infused creams and ice creams for out of this world desserts this Christmas. Also, this method, with perhaps a reduced cook time, would work exceedingly well with similar fruits like apples and pears if quince are not availiable.

Enjoy!

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Red Berry Pavlova

I love meringue. As a child, when my brother and I went with a parent to the baker to buy bread for the weekend, we would often be allowed a treat. Hot sausage rolls were one of our favourites (and I’ve never had one better, even if I can’t really process pork and they made me ill in the long run), but if we went for sweet things, I would nearly always pick a meringue pig, or dog, or sheep, or whatever animal they were doing that day. There’s something so perfect about the crisp outer shell yielding to gummy, soft, insides. Fluffy and crunchy and so, so sweet and light. Mmmm.

For a big family party, I volunteered to make a few desserts. One was the lovely fruit salad I shared a week or so ago. Another was a fabulous three tiered red velvet cake. The third was a sumptuous double layered Red Berry Pavlova.

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This is originally a Jaime Oliver recipe, and boy did good. I’ve never had much luck making my own meringue in the past, but this time it came out perfectly. The only thing you really need for a pavlova is time. This meringue recipe would work perfectly for individual nests or biscuits too, but here’s how I made my pavlova.

Red Berry Pavlova

  • 6 Egg whites
  • 300g plus 2 tbsp Caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 400g Strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 400g Raspberries
  • 400ml Double cream
  • Plenty of sprigs of fresh mint

Preheat the oven to 150c. Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper, and outline a 20cm/8inch diameter ring on each with pencil.

Either in a stand mixer or in a bowl with an electric whisk, beat up the 6 egg whites at a medium pace, until you reach firm peaks.

Next, add your salt, then gradually add your sugar about 1/6-1/4 at a time, all while the beaters are going.

Once the sugar is incorporated, whack the speed up really high- damn near as high as it’ll go, and beat the meringue for 7 minutes. The transformation will be incredible- the mix will become voluminous, thick, stiff and bright white. After seven minutes test the meringue for graininess. No grains means you’re good to go. If not, beat it for a minute or two more.

Spread your meringue into rings on the baking sheets. I like to make a well in the middle with a higher, crown like rim. Use your stencil as a guide for size, and bear in mind the meringue will expand further in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour- they should be risen and ivory. Turn off the oven. Moisture is the death of meringue, so my advice is to cool the meringues in the oven, but you could cool them on a rack if you are in a rush.

When you are ready to assemble the pavlova, whip the remaining sugar and all the cream to stiff peaks and spread half of it on the bottom meringue ring.

Stud the middle layer of cream with half the strawberries and raspberries- any slightly ugly or softer ones can go here.

Sit your second ring of meringue on top of the first, top with the rest of the cream and the remaining berries. Decorate with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container.

 

This dessert is special, yet not particularly difficult, particularly if you use a stand mixer. You just need to be able to tell what stiff peaks are (if in doubt, youtube is full of tutorials) and the rest of the work the mixer and oven do. When I stayed in New Zealand, they had pavlova after nearly every sunday roast or big family meal- they just stuck the meringue in the oven after the main meal was done to cook in the residual heat. The method above does call for actual cooking, and you get a crisper meringue for it, but it’s certainly something you could do in the same manner.

It’s a no brainer that you can change the fruit for anything you fancy. Since you eat it fairly fresh, wet fruits like soft berries are too much of a problem. Blackberries, currants, kiwi fruit, even sweet citrus would work well here. Can you imagine a creamsicle flavoured pavlova? Oh my goodness. And the mint here isn’t just a garnish- it tastes awesome with the berries and cream.

The soft summer fruit season is coming to a close, so give this delicious dessert a go while you can.

Enjoy!

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Summer means Strawberries…

… and Strawberries means Strawberry Gateau.

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Strawberry Gateau

Ingredients

  • 300g Caster sugar
  • 250g butter or Stork
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 250g self raising flour
  • Vanilla extract
  • 1 pint/600ml double cream
  • A couple of punnets of fresh British strawberries (approx 800g- try to get them from your home county if available)

For the sponge, preheat your oven to 180 degrees c and grease two round tins. I personally line mine with greaseproof… if I can be bothered. Usually I just liberally spritz them with fry light.

In a mixer, or by hand, cream together the butter and 250g of the sugar until it is pale yellow and fluffy. Next, beat in the eggs until the batter is uniform.

Add in your vanilla and give a quick mix through, before folding in your flour.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. My oven takes about 28 minutes, but my old oven took 23, so I’d check at around 20 odd minutes *particularly* if your oven doesn’t have a viewing window or light.

Allow your cakes to cool for at least an hour. I cool mine in their tins because I’m lazy.

Once the cakes are cool, hull your strawberries. Reserve 18-22 smaller strawbs, particularly those with nice shapes. Hull these. The others need to be hulled and then cut in half.

Whip the cream with the remaining 50g of sugar until it holds in stiffish peaks. Spread a thin layer of this on the cake you are using for the bottom of the Gateau.

Line up the cut tops of the half strawberries with the edge of the cake, working your way around before completing rings inside. Fill up the space as best you can- you should be able to fit in 3 or so riings of berries, plus the odd half in any big gaps.

Pour 2/3 of the remaining cream on top of the berries and spread it out into a lavishly thick layer. Be sure to not let it extend beyond the edge. To the edge is perfect.

Pop the other cake on top and press it down a little to make sure it is well set. Spread the remaining cream on the top in an even layer that is a little thicker around the rim,

Press the hulled strawberries into the cream around the edge of the cake. Finish, if you like, with a dusting of icing sugar. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving.

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This cake is simple enough, yet voluptuous, scrumptious and a real showstopper when you bring it to the table. Serving it in early summer, it is the perfect celebration of the season and a crowd pleaser for all ages. The cream is cool, light, fluffy and sweet, but not too cloying. The sponge should be moist, light and buttery, pleasingly sweet with vanilla. The strawberries are the real star ingredient, however. It is important to use in season fruit for this cake, as their summery sweetness, bursting with juice and goodness is what *makes* this dessert.  This cake will easily serve 8-10 as part of a meal, as it did at my Grandparent’s house (as per the pictures.

Enjoy. It’s bloody hot out- you deserve this cake.

All the best,

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