Food: Christmas Cooking Tips & Ultimate Orange & Whisky Mince Pies

Now, I could apologise for the early mention of Christmas but I won’t. Because actually it’s not *that* early. Stir-up Sunday has been and come and IT’S DECEMBER TOMORROW. In just a few hours it’s acceptable to start decorating my lounge, wearing festive jumpers and humming Christmas carols. And so it’s time to start talking about the best bit of Christmas if you ask me. Whether it’s a roast turkey or goose. Traditional dinner or buffet. Whether you prefer the main event or the Boxing Day leftovers. A good Christmas Dinner is the bit I always look forward to, and the part that always makes me sad when it’s over. And lucky for me, I got to start the Christmassy eating early this year!

On a rather grey and wet Saturday we headed to The Cookery for #AEGTasteofXmas. Welcomed in with Prosecco (the best kind of welcome!), we watched some excellent demonstrations (though I still cant’ handle filo pastry to save my life!) and made mince pies (whilst dancing along to the Buble Christmas album!) before being treated to a rather large Christmas dinner.

Here’s just a few hints and tips I picked up to perfect your Christmassy cooking (although you can read a few more via the link!):

  • Buy cheap mincemeat and jazz it up with extras. Add extra festive spices, some orange zest, a good splash of booze. You can mix it up extra how you like it!
  • Always make pastry by an open window. If your room is too hot, keep popping the bowl in the fridge to stop the fat melting. Oh, and handle your pastry as little as possible. One re-roll is okay, any more and your pastry will suffer. You have been warned…
  • Make a simple and light starter. We whipped up a veggie wellington – roasted veggies wrapped in filo pastry. It took no time and was super-scrummy!
  • Test the temperature of our oven. It’s rare they will be exact to their dial, so an oven thermometer is essential for cooking. You’ll notice the difference once you start cooking meat at the correct temperate!
  • Always, always, always rest your meat before carving. A large turkey will stay warm covered in tin-foil for a good hour or so – meaning you can turn up the oven to crisp up your roasties/pigs in blankets/yorkshires.
  • Make extra brussel sprouts. They’re awesome in bubble’n’squeak the next day!

And now it’s time to share my favourite mince pie recipe. I confess I’m not a huge fan of these (dried fruit is just not my thing!), although these are just about acceptable in my eyes. Zesty with orange and a little boozy, if they’re served warm and with enough cream I can just about look over the dried fruit situation.

Recipe – makes around 12, easily doubled if you’re hosting a party!

  • 250g plain flour
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 190g cold butter
  • zest and juice 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp whisky (or other festive spirit, I imagine brandy would work well!)
  • 250g mincemeat

Mix half of the orange zest and juice in to the mincemeat, along with the whisky, and leave to sit whilst you make the pastry.

Rub the flour, icing sugar and butter together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the remained orange juice and zest, and stir with a knife until the mixture begins to clump (add a spoon of cold water if there’s not quite enough juice). Tip onto a floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth before flattening into a disc, wrapping in cling-film and chilling in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Re-dust the work surface (top tip – use bread flour to dust surfaces as it’s finer), then roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out rounds, then press into a 12-hole non-stick bun tin (don’t grease the tin!). Re-roll the trimmings to the same thickness and stamp out the tops – as these have alcohol in I prefer to leave the tops slightly open so it’s not *too* boozy*. Spoon about 1 tbsp mincemeat into each base and press on the tops, then bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool for a few mins, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Are you a mince pie fan? Will you be baking festive treats this year?