Well if we had been in Scotland, we might have had snow, instead we are incarcerated in a very Wet London. At least we are not flooded as are parts of England, not far from here, but our golf course is closed Waterlogged ( and yes in principle we can still play golf).
So I went overboard with the Sausage rolls and the mince pies, himself with the Oysters Rockefeller, what else can one do, when CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED?
My fall back position is to cook. Once upon a time not so many year ago (11 actually) when I got kicked out of India, I returned to the UK alone and for the next three weeks, I cooked.
And so here we are again, not alone, but almost.
Sausage rolls, those very English delights. I find English Sausage meat really very bland, when we lived in Texas I used Jimmy Deans, Breakfast sausage, it was very tasty, especially the “Hot” version. I have often wondered what went into their Sausage and now I know! Sometimes it is better not to know!
I sent Himself on a mission to buy sausage meat, which he duly did, and I proceeded to make my sausage rolls, the first lot, I mixed, the meat with caramelised onions and Dijon mustard. Umm OK but still on the bland side. The second batch I added some English Mustard powder, getting there, but still not the taste that I want. A project for the future, methinks.
Onto Mince pies. I am not a great fan of mince pies. But what are they?
Mince Pies originate from the Middle Ages, when crusaders came from the Middle East with many different spices, which were then mixed with meat and became a savoury pie, served especially around Christmas time. ( Presumably, the spices helped preserve the meat and as they were also expensive, used for a special occasion, like Christmas). It was made into a long shape to represent a manger, even sometimes with a crib on the top.
Over centuries it turned from being a savoury pie to a sweet one, though not quiet clear as to why and the shape also changed. Still today, it is made with dried fruits and beef suet, although there are vegetarian suet equivalent these days.
My very first cookery lesson, when I was about 11, was to make mincemeat. I dreamt about it all night long and then promptly threw up ( is that why I’m not a fan? Could be! And I do not make my own to this day !)
Anyway today, it is so easy to buy Mince Pies ready made, from the very good, to the really nasty ones, with the fillings made up with god alone what ! But why buy when you can make.
I use shortcrust pastry, and again, this can be bought ready made, but if you have a food processor, it is so easy to make. When I was at school, my mate could not make pastry, she always had hot hands and it just didn’t work, but as I said today, with a food processor, even those with hot hands can make pastry.
For a really decadent pastry, along with a food processor you will need
- 2Cups /260 grams plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup/ 2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
- 1tsp baking powder
- 150 grms cold butter, cut into chunks
- 6 tablespoons cream mixed with an egg yolk.
Simply, put the dry ingredients along with the butter into the food processor, blitz on high for a few moments until you hear the butter stop clonking around. Switch OFF.
Make sure your liquid is ready to go, and keep some extra cream or milk on the side as well.
Switch on you machine and pour in, all at once the cream/ egg mixture, let the machine run, and the mixture, will quickly amalgamate , if it looks dry, stop the machine, press some of the mixture between you fingers to see if it sticks together, if Yes, it is done, if No, switch back on and dribble in some more liquid, BUT not too much, too wet is not good.
Tip your pastry into a polythene bag and knead it just a bit, until it all comes together, then it is ready to use.
Roll out on a floured board and use as required.
Once you have perfected this method of making a rich short pastry, make double the amount as it freezes really well!
For a less rich pastry, use the amounts listed above, minus the sugar and baking powder and substitute the cream for milk.
And in case you were wondering, we shared them with our lovely neighbours on the 6 th floor! The elves delivered them to their front doors!