Archive for November, 2010

November ’Meanderings’ …

At the start of the November I was putting the final jars of pickles and chutneys from this year on the shelf: we have quite a collection which should see us well through the next few months.  I decided to make some special pickles to serve at Christmas, particularly to accompany cold meats and cheese at the seasonal buffet table.  I also made several jars of a delicious and extremely boozy but Suet Free Mincemeat, wanting to give it a little time to mature before use.  For most of the month, however, I kept the posts simple, adding some of our favourite vegetable side dishes.

Recipes this month

Pickled Pears

Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Mash                 Rosy Roast Root Vegetables
Fried Cabbage with Bacon & Onion

Smashed Potatoes                               Spiced Vegetables with Chick Peas
 100_7626 Spiced vegetables with chick peas
Suet Free Mincemeat

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

Meanderings Revisited (links back to original post)
Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup
Smoky Fish Chowder

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months

Bookshelf Meanderings:  My copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course (the original version with a very youthful looking Delia on the cover) was received as an engagement present and is so well thumbed that it is loose leaf.  As well as containing classic recipes, each chapter has a introductory section with basic information to help cooks understand how to prepare and store ingredients and how they should be used to get the best results.  This is one of my most used books and recipes already on this site include: Spiced Braised Red Cabbage Casserole, St Stephen’s Pudding, Fried Cabbage with Bacon & Onion, Yorkshire Oatmeal Parkin and Old-fashioned Bread Pudding.  There are many good recipes yet to post here, some new and some already tried.  Watch out for: Lemon Surprise Pudding, Fisherman’s Pie, Ham Egg & Cheese Risotto, Spiced Lamb with Chick Peas and Chocolate and Walnut Pudding.

Blogosphere Meanderings: I am grateful to UK based writer Angela at A Spoonful of Sugar who pointed me in the direction of the excellent Hetty Potter’s recipe which I used for my own Suet Free Mincemeat this year.  There are several potfuls stacked on my shelf waiting for Christmas.  I am also very taken with her 2009 Festive Stollen Wreath on the site, a variation on the usual version of Stollen, which is supposed to look like the swaddled baby Jesus.  This is the second time I have seen Stollen in a wreath shape in the last few days (the other was made by Nic at Cherrapeno) and it is something that would be fun to have a go at making for a change one Christmas.  (This is a site with many creative and unusual cake designs.)  I particularly like the unusual Christmas Pudding Cake!  Other recipes that I have my eye on: Pear & Cranberry Loaf, Blood Orange Sorbet, Coconut & Ginger Macaroons and Somerset Apple Cake.

Entertaining Meanderings:  Another family birthday, one where we managed to fit in two special meals to celebrate.  On the day, when we were in a bit of a rush, I found a great but simple recipe for Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce, which I will definitely be making again.  We followed this with a Banana Butterscotch Tarte Tatin which was delicious but very rich and buttery.  At the weekend, for the second celebration I cooked Roast Pork on a bed of Fennel and Preserved Lemon with roast potatoes and some simple steamed vegetables.   For dessert I made Portugese Style Custard Tarts using the recipe from Jamie Oliver’s TV series and new book, 30 Minute Meals and served them with Mulled Stewed Plums.

Our church midweek bible study group (we call them LIFEgroups) organised an inter-group quiz with coffee and cake. There were a large number of cakes and I made Ginger Fruit Cake using my Knock Up Cake recipe and Fragrant Marmalade Cake.  I also trialled White Christmas Slices, a new recipe for chocolatey-coconutty bites made from instructions on a Sainsbury’s card, which were a great success.  They will reappear again at Christmas, including some as gifts.

Television Meanderings: I have enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s new TV series called 30 Minute Meals, which has an accompanying book.  The recipes are certainly very straightforward: which is what you would expect from the concept of putting a meal on the table in such a short space of time.  I am not sure I will necessarily have a go at preparing a complete meal, I suppose I might, but all the recipes can be made separately.  So far I have tried Quick Portugese Style Custard Tarts, Cauliflower Macaroni and Crispy Potatoes (my versions of these recipes to follow eventually).

Miscellaneous Meanderings:  It has been a busy month with some new and interesting tastes to enjoy.  As well as birthday meals and church catering we have enjoyed the generosity of our Muslim neighbours.  We were invited to a family wedding and in the preceding days were included in the colourful and musical womens’ celebration (women only of course).  They kept us well supplied with food: mutton curries, lamb kebabs, spicy chicken and extremely spicy chick peas (which made a great base for a vegetable curry).  To go with these were chapattis, naans and savoury rice.  There was also one of my favourite dishes from across the fence, fragrant and delicious sweet rice with nuts, juicy sultanas and large pieces of shaved coconut and bowls of carrot halva, which was served warm and eaten with a spoon.  The gifts of food continued as our neighbours celebrated Eid al-Adha (16-19 November 2010, but the dates differ from year to year according to the lunar calendar) when we were also given a box of special Asian style sweetmeats (to see these click here).  We still have some items in the freezer.  I have hinted that I would like a cookery lesson, especially for the sweet rice!


‘For what we are about to receive…’ December 2010

Coming in December … As we head towards Christmas I will be adding to the list of Christmas recipes already on this site.  In particular, I will be adding the recipe for Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake, used for our very special family Christmas cake plus, eventually, a picture of our finished 2010 Christmas Cake.

If you are interested in French Christmas recipes then Christmas in France on the French Tourism Development Agency (Club France) site may be of interest.

Christmas Unwrapped  – the Christmas Story, beautifully illustrated

It just remains for me to wish all my readers a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.  I have appreciated your company and your comments.  May we continue to meander through the world of food together!

Happy Cooking & Eating!

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My family love mince pies and I start making batches from early December.  I like the fruity, spiced flavour of mincemeat, but am not too keen of the slightly greasy aftertaste that comes from the melted suet which is part of the traditional recipe, even if vegetarian rather than beef suet is used.  A friend from years ago gave us her method of ‘improving’ a standard jar of shop bought mincemeat where extra amounts of favourite ingredients were added, including plenty of alcohol – I simply didn’t add any extra suet.  (See my post Last Minute Mincemeat for the ‘cheat’ recipe, plus my favourite recipe for Mince Pies and more information on their history –  and more of the pies we ate last year!)

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Then someone told me about Suet Free Mincement and ever since I have looked for a good recipe.  I’m glad to report that I have struck gold at last thanks to A Spoonful of Sugar, who found it in Nigella Lawson’s book How To Be A Domestic Goddess in a recipe created by Hettie Potter (who I gather is Nigella Lawson’s right hand woman).  If you like lots of apple flavour (very alcoholic apple flavour actually as it contains both cider and brandy) then this could be for you. It was easy to make and I will certainly be doing so again – why buy from the shop!   The mixture made four 1lb jars, which I hope is enough for the time being, though I think it may not last too long.  Perhaps next time I should make a double quantity or two panfuls at the same time. If you want to make the original version it can be found in Nigella’s book or at A Spoonful of Sugar – Hettie Potter’s Suet Free Mincemeat.   I took a few shortcuts, which I don’t think changed the flavour a great deal, substituting dried mixed fruit which of course, includes candied peel and zesting my lemon rather than cutting up the peel.  I am sure there could be other variations: my other recipe includes orange which may be a good alternative to the lemon. Cranberries would also be a good addition as would ginger (this would be especially popular with my ginger-loving husband).  I wonder too whether the apples and apple cider could be replaced with pears and pear cider, which is now becoming more widely available.  It would be interesting to hear comments added to this page by anyone who has adapted this or a similar recipe.  If I make any variations I will, of course, add them here.  I understand that this mincemeat keeps well and has been known to be good after a year – probably due to the high alcohol content.  Sadly if your cooking is an alcohol free zone then this recipe is not for you.

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Hettie Potter’s suet-free mincemeat
(Makes about 4lb/2kg)

250g soft dark brown sugar
250ml medium dry cider
1kg cooking apples, peeled, halved and quartered
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
500g dried mixed fruit
75g glace cherries, roughly chopped
75g blanched almonds,
zest & juice of ½ lemon
6 tablespoons brandy (alternatively rum)

1.  Place the cider and the sugar in a large saucepan and heat gently.

2.  Add the roughly chopped apples to the saucepan and stir well.

3.  Add the remaining ingredients, apart from brandy (or rum).  Simmer for around 30 minutes until the mixture is soft and pulpy.

4.  Meanwhile wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

5.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5-10minutes.  Stir in the brandy (or rum) and transfer to sterilised jars.  Once the jars are filled and the lids well screwed on, invert them to improve the heat seal.  Turn the jars the right way up once they are cool.

6.  This mincemeat can be used immediately after cooking if you wish, but improves with age and keeps well.

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I wonder what you consider to be storecupboard essentials?  Which items do you always have available and make sure you re-stock almost before you run out?  Although my storecupboard is stuffed full of interesting ingredients there are those I make sure I never run out of and several of the ingredients below, including tins of tomatoes and beans which are a wonderful standby, appear in my Top Ten ‘must haves’!  I try never, ever to be without coriander leaves: fresh if possible, but when I have a part bunch left I transfer it to a box and store it in the freezer so I never run out.  It is better this way than not at all: the taste is the same it’s just  no good to use as a garnish! 

This recipe is my own and uses some of our favourite flavours.  It, or its variations, make regular appearances as a quick and versatile vegetable recipe and can easily be made in one pot to serve as a single side dish with a main course. We enjoyed it served with Roast Lamb with Chilli Sauce and North African dishes such as spicy Moroccan Style Fried Fish (a variation of a Nigel Slater recipe). Alternatively, for an ‘all  in one pot’ meal, stir in some more vegetables, topped if you want, with grated or crumbled cheese instead add or add chunks of meat (ham or bacon are delicious).  We love coriander leaves and it is particularly good if you have added some spices to the mixture, but it could be omitted or another herb substituted.  That’s the beauty of versatile recipes: they can evolve into something completely different!  It can be transformed into a soup too by adding some more liquid (you may have drained juices from the tin of tomatoes): for a chunky version liquidise about a third and return the mixture to the pan and liquidise more, say two thirds, for a less chunky version. See also Spiced Chick Pea & Tomato Soup.  This dish is delicious served hot or cold: filling and warming in the winter, but lovely as a chilled dish with a salad or on a buffet, in fact the flavours seem to develop in the fridge overnight.  Remember to save some coriander back as a garnish if using fresh.

Rather than spoil a whole meal as I once did, be warned that occasionally courgettes are bitter and it is best to try a small piece of each one before adding to a recipe. 

100_7626 Spiced vegetables with chick peas

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Spiced Vegetables with Chick Peas
(Serves 4)

1 large onion: chopped fairly small
2 large cloves garlic: crushed or diced
½tsp/2.5ml ground cumin
¼tsp/1.25ml chilli flakes (I use Piment d’Espelette): adjust to taste
½inch/1cm piece of fresh ginger: finely chopped/grated (optional)
1tbsp olive oil
1 tin plum tomatoes: drained
6-8ozs/150-225g chopped fresh tomato
1 large courgette: washed, split lengthways & cut in short pieces (or other vegetables)
14oz/400g tin chick peas
Salt & black pepper
1 bunch fresh coriander (or frozen if fresh unavailable)

1.  Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic along with the ground spices.  If using ginger put this in as well.  Cover and cook gently over a low heat until the onion is transparent but not browned.

2.  If using fresh tomatoes peel them if you wish beforehand by making a cross shape and plunging into boiling water for about 30 seconds, which makes the skins easier to remove.  Chop them well before adding to the onion mixture and if the mixture is a little dry add some of the reserved tomato juice or a little water.  Add the courgette pieces (or substitute a similar amount of an alternative vegetable: pumpkin, squash or sweet potato are good, though you may like to reconsider your choice of spices)  Cook for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the drained chick peas and a generous handful of chopped fresh or frozen coriander (if you only have frozen then add a little more if you wish as you cannot use it as a garnish).  Sseason with salt and pepper and continue to cook.  For crisp vegetables do not need very long but this can take a longer cooking time as well so the texture is similar to Ratatouille.

4.  Serve sprinkled with more freshly chopped coriander if available.  If serving is delayed, it will be served cold, or turning it into soup, then reserve the coriander to add just before serving so it does not wilt.

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I have had this simple but tasty potato recipe in mind for a church lunch we are having in a few weeks time.  However, I felt I needed to try them out in advance so I included them at Sunday lunch this week when they were much appreciated by my visiting parents – a bit of a change from the usual roast potatoes, though equally lovely and crispy.  (I usually sprinkle my peeled par-boiled, potatoes with olive oil and sea salt anyway.)  This would certainly an easy solution for mass catering as there is no peeling involved, in fact I found that the potatoes can can be boiled in advance and kept in cold water.  They are finished off by adding the herbs and oil just before putting them in the oven to roast.  I attacked my partly cooked potatoes with the potato masher to (not too violently) crush or ‘smash’ them, thus gaining our name for them: Smashed Potatoes.  

The recipe comes from Celia who writes at one of my favourite sites: Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, where the potatoes were named ‘Splats’ by one of her friends.  She credits the recipe to Jill Dupleix who calls them Crash-Hot Potatoes.  (Jill, like Celia, comes from Australia and not unsurprisingly I have not heard of her before.  I took a look at her site and found a whole list of other good recipes: all of the ones I saw having weights, very usefully, in metric.)  They have been much written about by other food bloggers too, so I now add myself to the list of ‘converts’ and this site, ‘Meanderings through my Cookbook’, to the list of sites that sings their praises!  This time I added mixed dried Herbes de Provence with the freshly ground salt and black pepper as I wanted to keep the flavours simple to complement the marinade flavouring our Roast Pork.  Jill suggests adding either fennel or caraway seeds plus sprigs of thyme or rosemary: a great idea idea which would vary the flavour from meal to meal.  I expect there could be some other variations too, matching flavours of added herbs and spices to the meat or main course eaten: if you have tried these another way I would love to hear from you.  Just one comment: I had made these just once before and although we enjoyed them I did not leave enough time for them to fully crisp so we felt they could have been better – a mistake I made sure I did not make on this second occasion!  

I had to use halves and quarters of larger potatoes but I intend to make these again using smaller evenly sized potatoes and will post another (better) picture in due course.   

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Smashed Potatoes
Serves 4)

16 small, round potatoes, or pieces of larger potatoes (about 2-2
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tsp ground Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper (could try Paprika or Chilli for alternative heat)
2tbsp dried mixed Herbes de Provence (Mediterranean herbs)
1 tbsp fennel or caraway seeds (original flavouring)
1 tbsp thyme or rosemary sprigs (original flavouring)

1.  If planning to cook these potatoes straight away, heat oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 or even (and preferably)  230oC/450oF/Gas 8.  A good hot temperature will crisp and cook the potatoes quickly.   

2.  Scrub the potatoes and remove any blemishes but do not peel them.  Ideally choose evenly sized smallish potatoes you can leave whole, but if absolutely necessary, larger ones can be halved or even quartered.  The finished look will, of course be different though. 

3.  Bring the potatoes to the boil in a panful of salted water, turn down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until just about cooked but not too soft.  They should be able to be prodded with a skewer or fork without much resistance. 

4.  Drain the potatoes and if necessary, plunge into cold water to keep for a while until it is time to finish them.

5.  Turn on the oven as at No 1, if not already preheating.  Arrange the potatoes on a lightly oiled baking tray or sheet, leaving a little room between each one for them to spread. Using a potato masher flatten each potato a little, so it starts to crack open and it is about twice its original diameter.

6.  Generously drizzle over olive oil and scatter with Herbes de Provence, freshly ground Sea Salt and Black Pepper.  (Alternative herb and spice flavourings can be used, but I think that it would be a shame to omit the Sea Salt and, unless adding another hot spice, the Black Pepper.)

7.  Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until crispy and golden, gently moving them around half way through the cooking time to stop them from sticking to the baking sheet. Serve hot.  If you need to cook these at a lower temperature than indicated above then make sure you allow a longer cooking time.

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Cabbage, along with Spring Greens and Brussels Sprouts, gets a really bad press.  Its not surprising really – I am sure we have all eaten really awfully cooked cabbage, greens or sprouts at one time or another … overcooked, watery, tasteless, colourless…  It’s no wonder that generations of children rebel!  However, cooked properly, these green vegetables can be really tasty.  The secret is a short cooking time to retain crispness and colour: about 7 minutes for sprouts should be ample.  If  you wish, extra flavours can be added as in this recipe. I used a round winter Savoy Cabbage, which has a wonderfully ‘ruched’ texture.  Substitute a different type of cabbage, shredded or quartered Brussels Sprouts or even Broccoli for variety.

This recipe comes from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course, originally simple called Fried Cabbage with Bacon.  It is quick and simple and can be ready in about 20 minutes, an ideal accompaniment for sausages or simply grilled meat.  Be careful not to cook the cabbage over too high a heat or it could could burn: add a little water (two or three teaspoons at most) and lower the heat if this does start to happen.

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Cabbage with Bacon & Onion
(Serves 3-4)

1lb shredded cabbage (or substitute Brussels Sprouts or Broccoli)
4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped – more if you wish
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp olive oil
Salt & black pepper

1.  Using a large frying pan, gently fry the diced onion and chopped bacon in the olive oil for about 5 minutes until soft.

2.  Stir in the crushed garlic.

3.  Add the shredded cabbage to the pan.  It will seem to be rather a lot, but will cook down.  Stir from time to time so it cooks evenly.   Season to taste.  After 10 minutes the cabbage should be cooked, but will still be crisp.  For softer cabbage put a lid on the frying pan so that it will cook in the steam, but beware overcooking.

4.  Serve with sausages or grilled meat and a jacket potato.

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A friend roasts a root vegetable mixture which includes beetroot, which we love, so I thought I would try it myself.  I had intended to adapt my usual recipe,  Roast Mixed Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar, which includes onions (preferably red ones) but then a link to this recipe appeared in my Inbox.

This recipe, Roast Root Vegetables, comes from the online newsletter Good to Know Recipes.  As the original says, the beetroot will ‘bleed’ and colour the other vegetables: it certainly makes this a pretty dish and for this reason I have re-named the recipe.  I tried adding Swede as well but felt it needed longer cooking, in fact I have increased the cooking times a little, however I did not find it necessary to parboil the parsnip providing it was cut to a similar size as the carrot and added at the same time.   All the root vegetables should be cut into similar sized pieces in order to cook evenly.  I particularly like the addition of fresh orange juice which gives a fruity sweetness to the vegetables, without making them too sugary.

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Rosy Roast Root Vegetables
(Serves 8)

500g/1lb 2ozs swede, peeled & cut into chunks
500g/1lb 2ozs raw beetroot, peeled & quartered
500g/1lb 2ozs carrots, peeled & cut into chunks
500g/1lb 2ozs parsnips, peeled & roughly chopped
6tbsp olive oil
500g/1lb 2ozs sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
250g /9oz leeks, roughly chopped & rinsed to remove any sand
1 orange, juiced – more if the orange is small
3tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Salt & black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.

2.  Place the swede into a large roasting tin.  Add the olive oil, season and mix well.  Cover and roast in the oven for 10minutes.

3.  Add the beetroot, carrots and parsnips, stir well, replace cover and continue to roast for about 40 minutes.

4.  Add the sweet potatoes and leeks. Stir well and roast for a further 10 mins.  Remove the cover for a final 10 minutes.

5.  Check with a knife that each of the different vegetables are cooked through, giving them a little longer if required.

6.  Pour over the orange juice, stir in and return to the oven so that the orange is heated through.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

7.  Serve either with a roast meat for Sunday lunch, when pieces of potato could be combined and roasted with the other vegetables.  Alternatively, serve with rice or couscous, with or without meat, as a vegetarian dish.

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How about this lovely creamy mixture of caulflower and sweet potato as an easily made extra for Guy Fawkes Night?  (Not that we actually have a bonfire or fireworks at home any more, preferring to watch from upstairs!)  Perhaps it could also be adapted to make a warming post firework watching soup for what is usually a chilly night.  Actually I think it would be wonderful served as it is, eaten from cups with a sausage in the other hand: a healthy and unusual treat to go with the usual less healthy bonfire fare.  The hint of cumin lifts the two rather ordinary vegetables to the level of something a bit more special.  This dish is not just for Bonfire night, of course, and can be served at any time as a side dish at a main meal: we ate it with pork chops, which the sweetness of both vegetables complemented really well. 

The recipe originated from Morrison’s supermarkets online recipe index and needed no alteration.  It was a good way of using up the (slightly sad) leftover bit of cauliflower in the fridge, I found!  As already mentioned, thinned down a little more with some milk and/or stock – perhaps with some extra spices of your own choosing – it could also make a delicious soup.   It would also be a good topping for a meat or pulse based pie in place of mashed potatoes.   If you run short of sweet potatoes then substitute ordinary potato, parsnip or carrot: it won’t be exactly the same but it will still taste good.

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Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Mash
(Serves 4)

1 medium sized cauliflower (or part of  a large one, as available)
1lb/450g sweet potatoes
1oz/25g butter
1tsp cumin seeds
3tbsp crème fraîche
2tbsp fresh or frozen chives (not dried)
Salt & pepper

1. Put a pan of water on to boil. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. As they blacken quickly when exposed to air, immediately plunge them into the water and boil for 15 minutes, or until they are tender.

2. While the sweet potato cooks, remove the outer leaves and any tough stalk from a medium sized cauliflower and cook in another pan for 12 to 15 minutes.
(I cooked the sweet potato and cauliflower separately in the same stove top steamer.)

3. Drain both the sweet potato and cauliflower.

4. Melt the butter in a pan and fry the cumin seeds briefly, but do not let them burn.

5. Put the cauliflower and sweet potato into the pan with the melted butter and cumin, add the crème fraîche and mash very well until you have a creamy and lump free mixture.

6. Stir in 2 tbsp fresh chopped chives, season and serve.

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I have been thinking ahead to Christmas cooking as some of the recipes need to be made in advance to allow the flavours to mature. I will make our Christmas cake, Christmas Pudding, Christmas Chutney and Mincemeat very soon but first here is the recipe for some delicious spiced pears.  These are good served with cold meats or cheese at a festive seasonal buffet.

The recipe comes from the Hairy Bikers BBC Christmas television series The Hairy Bikers Twelve Days of Christmas.  They credit Italian chef Antonio Carluccio as their inspiration.  I followed the original recipe for Pickled Pears almost exactly using 2lb jars (which had originally been full of Mincemeat).  Kilner type preserving jars would be ideal if available.  These pears should be eaten within two months and stored in the fridge once the jar is opened, so if you are unlikely to eat a large quantity in one go it could be a good idea to make smaller jars containing just one or two pears.  Juniper Berries are becoming easier to find, though still not widely available in the UK.  I have a small jar, bought from the herb and spice section of a French supermarket which is labelled Baies de Genièvre.  The original recipe did not specify the size of pear, but I chose small evenly sized ones, digging into the bottom and removing the end opposite to the stalk.  These are designed to be served whole on a buffet with slices cut from them by diners, but I wonder if  pear quarters might be a good alternative to whole pears.  I think too that peach or plum halves would be delicious prepared to the same recipe and even perhaps mixed in the same jar – something to try another year! 

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Pickled Pears
(Makes 2 or 3 large jars)

1 litre/1¾ pints white wine vinegar
0.5 litres/17½fl oz water
500g/1lb 2oz caster sugar
3 small star anise
1 large cinnamon stick, broken into pieces (one for each jar)
1 tbsp allspice berries
1 lemon, zest peeled off in a large strip with a potato peeler
½ tsp cloves
2 tsp juniper berries
20 evenly sized small Conference pears, peeled with stalks intact
Small sprigs fresh rosemary (one for each jar)

1.  Place the water, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, lemon zest, cloves and juniper berries in a large, lidded, non-reactive pan and bring to the boil.

2.  Peel the pears carefully leaving the stalks intact.  I like to gently dig out the end opposite the stalk.  Add the pears to the saucepan and cover the pan with a lid.  Reduce the heat and let the pears simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, or until they are tender.

3.  Carefully remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4.  Bring the liquid back to the boil for 4-5 minutes so it is slightly reduced and thickened.  (In practice I found it best not to overdo this step as it is important to have enough liquid to top up the jars after they have been filled with pears.)

5.  Wash the jars well and sterilise.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.  Shake as much water from them as possible before filling.
Alternatively put the jars in an oven set to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 for 10 minutes.  Be careful to put them on a dry surface when removing or they could crack.  Lids can be placed in a small pan of boiling water.  Shake as much water from the lids as possible before filling.

6.  Remove the spices from the liquid and return it to the pan on a low simmer to keep it hot.  Divide the pears between the sterilised jars, handling them gently as they will be soft but packing them in as tightly as possible. As you fill the jars equally distribute the spices and lemon rind between them, at the same time adding one small sprig of rosemary to each jar.  Finally divide the reduced cooking liquid equally between the jars.   (I found that the jars were not filled right to the top so I topped them up with some freshly boiled water from the kettle, hence my comment above about not boiling the mixture away too much.) 

7.  Seal the jars tightly.  I find that inverting the hot jars, until they are cool, helps with the seal.

8.  These pickled pears can be stored for up two months.  They can be eaten after one week but once the jar is opened it should be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

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