Easter meringue nests

Easter meringue nests with mini eggs 1
Meringues and Easter were made to go together. It just seems so appropriate to make an egg-based dessert at Easter time, and meringues are the ultimate in egg magic. Made into individual nests, they are the perfect vessel for lashings of cool cream and piles of cute chocolate eggs. And even better, they can be made ahead of time if you’re planning a big Easter Sunday feast and don’t want to be rushing around the kitchen or juggling oven timings any more than you have to. These meringues will store perfectly in an air-tight container until the next day, but will even keep for three or four days after baking.

I mentioned many of the following tips in one of my very first recipes for chocolate-dipped meringues, but a few key pointers to keep in mind:
– Make sure you don’t get even a drop of yolk or a miniscule shard of egg shell in the whites, as this will prevent the whites from whisking properly.
– For the same reason, make sure your bowl and whisk are spotlessly clean.
– Stick down your baking parchment (not greaseproof paper since meringues can stick to this) with a few dabs of the meringue mixture under each corner.
– After baking, turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool completely in the oven. Cooling in the oven helps the meringue form a crisp exterior. I have literally no idea why you turn them upside down but my mum does it so there.
– Meringue making is essentially science in the kitchen, so weigh out your sugar exactly and stick rigidly to the cooking time and temperature. Some meringue recipes will call for a certain weight of sugar, but this is the most basic meringue recipe: equal weights of egg whites and caster sugar.
Ingredients for Easter meringue nests
Ingredients (makes 3 dessert-sized meringue nests)
2 medium eggs
Same weight as egg whites in caster sugar
Optional: food colouring gel, cream or yogurt to fill, mini eggs

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Separate out the egg whites from the yolks and weigh the whites.
Splitting the egg whites and yolks for Easter meringues
2. Whisk the eggs to soft, fluffy peaks in a large, clean bowl – try not to over whisk at this stage.
Whisking the egg whites to soft peaks
3. Weigh out the same quantity of caster sugar as you had of egg whites. Add to the whisked egg whites one dessert spoon at a time, whisking in between each spoonful. You should end up with a thick, glossy meringue mixture.
Adding sugar to the whisked egg whites
Meringue mix ready to be piped and shaped
4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. If you don’t want to pipe the meringues freehand then draw around a bowl or plate which is roughly the size that you want your nests to be.
Baking parchment for meringue nests
5. Place your piping bag nozzle-down into a large glass – this makes adding the colouring and the meringue mixture much easier.
Holding the piping bag upright
6. Using a paint brush or a long skewer, paint two stripes of food colouring gel on opposite sides of the bag. The amount I used produced pale, pastel-coloured meringues, but if you want a more striking effect then you will need to be extremely generous with the amount of colouring you use.
Adding pink and orange food colouring gels to the piping bag
7. Fill the bag with your meringue mixture and pipe into nests on the baking tray.
Piping the meringue nests onto the baking sheet
8. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until crisp and dry on the outside. Turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool (or do this on a board if oven space is tight).
Turning the meringue nests upside down after baking
These meringues are crisp and crumbly on the outside, but very soft and chewy on the inside. Since they’re so sweet, I always think that meringues are best paired with a sharp Greek yogurt or crème fraiche rather than whipped cream, but choose whatever you fancy.
Easter meringue nests
Top with a pile of mini eggs for the ultimate Easter treat.
Easter meringue nest filled with greek yogurt and mini eggs

The Easiest-Ever Loaf: Crusty no-knead white bread

Crusty white Le Creuset loaf served with butter and camembert 1
I have something special for you today. It is the easiest loaf of (yeasted) bread that you will ever make. I add the caveat in case anyone wants to argue about soda bread, but this is a pure loaf of yeasted, white bread: crusty on the outside, soft and springy on the inside, a satisfying open crumb and an incredible flavour. And all of this with no weighing (necessarily), no kneading (hallelujah) and just one prove. You might be in a state of disbelief right now, but I tell no lies. All you need is time, a cast iron pot and these most simple of ingredients…
Ingredients for simple no-knead Le Creuset white bread
I’ve seen this recipe in various places around the internet, but it’s originally a Le Creuset recipe. However, you don’t need a fancy Le Creuset pot in order to make this loaf, any cast iron pot with a lid will do. I first attempted this recipe in a wood-burning stove while we were on a “yurting” holiday. I’ll save you the trouble and recommend that you use a regular oven with a steady temperature.

As I said above, one thing you need to bake this bread is time, since the single prove required takes 10-12 hours. I find that it’s most convenient to mix up the dough in the evening or right before bed, and then the next morning it will be ready for baking, the hard work having been done overnight while you slept. One thing you definitely don’t need to bake this bread is a lot of money. No fancy flour is required, since the long prove is what helps give the bread its flavour, and the other ingredients are simply dried yeast, salt and water. Out of interest I calculated the cost of my loaf using the basic ingredients I bought in Sainsburys and it came out to a whopping…23 pence! For the pedantic out there, I even calculate the price including the (estimated) cost of running an oven for an hour and it comes to 58p. If you’re interested in the calculations, I’ve popped them at the bottom of this post.* I challenge you to find as good a loaf available to buy for as little money. So there are no excuses now: plan one night ahead, grab your flour and get baking!
Inside of the crusty white no-knead load
Ingredients
(One of the beautifully easy features of this recipe is that you can use cups but I’ve converted to grams/ml for those who not have cup measurements or just prefer metric weighing)
3 cups (500g) plain white flour
½ tsp fast action dried yeast
1½ tsp salt
1½ cups (300ml) water

Method
1. Measure out the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl. Add the water bit by bit, mixing until you have a fairly wet, sticky mixture. Don’t be put off by its lumpy appearance, the magic will happen next.
Mixing up the dough simply with flour, yeast, salt and water
2. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 10-12 hours. When you come back, the mixture should have at least doubled in size and be very bubbly.
Covering the dough to be left to prove overnight
Dough has doubled in size after 12 hour prove
3. Preheat the oven to 230C/210C fan/Gas Mark 8 and place your cast iron pot, including the lid, inside to heat up.
4. Generously flour your work surface and hands and tip out the dough. Again, don’t be worried if your dough feels very, very soft: it’s supposed to be.
Tipping the soft dough out onto a generously floured surface
5. Gently (so as not to knock out all the lovely bubbles inside the dough) shape the dough into a round loaf. I use a kind of “tucking and turning” motion – I found an example of what I mean in this video (55 seconds in until 1 minute 13 seconds).
Shaping the loaf
6. Remove the pot from the oven. Be super careful here as the pot and lid will be scorching hot! Sprinkle a little flour into the pot and quickly transfer your loaf across – it helps to have shaped your loaf near to where you will place the hot pot since the loaf is so soft.
Dusting the hot cast iron pot with a little flour
7. Put the lid back on the pot and place in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
Loaf after 40 minutes of baking
8. Remove the loaf from the pot and place on a wire rack to cool.
Cooling the crusty loaf 2
Cooling the crusty loaf 3
Again, be careful with your pot for a while after cooking since these kinds of pans retain their heat for a long time. I’ve learned the hard way that the handle on the top becomes screaming hot, so this always makes me nervous. Transfer it to the sink as soon as you’re done, or place a pair of oven gloves on top so that no curious hands go to touch it.

Anyway, enough of the safety lecture! Allow your loaf to cool a little and then tuck in. Serve with something simple but delicious like a creamy, ripe cheese, homemade jam or rich pâté. In fact, this bread is so scrumptious that it’s perfect with just a liberal smear of top quality butter.
Crusty white Le Creuset loaf served with butter and camembert 2

——————————————————————–
*Sainsburys table salt = 35p per 750g
1 tsp salt = 6g
Cost of 1½ tsp table salt = 1p
Sainsburys dried fast action yeast = 85p for 8 sachets (56g in total)
½ tsp yeast = 1.5g
Cost of ½ tsp yeast = 3p
Sainsburys basics plain flour = 55p for 1.5kg
Cost of 500g flour = 19p
Total cost of one loaf of bread = 23p

Running an oven for one hour = 35p
Total cost of one loaf of bread including oven use = 58p

Chocolate and red wine birthday cake

Decorating the chocolate and red wine celebration cake with rainbow sprinkles 1
The credit for this cake goes 100% to Deb from the Smitten Kitchen blog. This is one of my favourite food blogs out there, and when I saw her picture of this cake on Instagram a few weeks ago I knew straight away that I had to make it. Happily, it coincided with my other half’s birthday and with his only request for his cake being “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate” this seemed like it was the only and ideal solution.
Chocolate and red wine birthday cake with rainbow sprinkles
This cake was a complete success. Although it’s really all about the piles of sweet chocolatey buttercream on top, the sponge itself was delicious. It’s dense, almost like a brownie, but the overall effect is not too overwhelming as it’s a fairly thin sponge cut into small pieces. Instead of using buttermilk as in the original recipe, I went for Deb’s suggestion of substituting for red wine. On the day I baked it, we didn’t think the red wine flavour came through strongly, although it did add some much needed acidity to cut through the rich chocolate flavour, but on the second and third days after mellowing in the fridge you could definitely taste the red wine. If you’re baking this cake for little ones (it would be the perfect birthday cake for a kids party, and the quantities can easily be increased to make a larger cake) then just switch back to the buttermilk.
Ingredients for chocolate and red wine celebration cake
Ingredients (cuts into 12-16 small pieces)
85g softened butter
145g soft dark brown sugar
25g caster sugar
1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
175ml red wine
40g cocoa powder
125g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

55g dark chocolate
180g icing sugar
115g softened butter
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp whole milk or cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
Topping of your choice – I used rainbow chocolate beans from Sainsburys

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 175C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin and line it with a square of baking parchment.
Greasing and lining a 20x20cm cake tin
2. Tip the soft butter and both dark and caster sugars into a large bowl.
Butter and two sugars to be creamed
Use a hand whisk to mix until the mixture is fluffy and turns lighter in colour.
Creamed butter and two sugars
3. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla extract and beat again until fully combined.
Adding one egg and one yolk to the creamed butter and sugars
Eggs, sugars and butter
4. Pour in the red wine and mix again. At this point I had a minor panic as the mixture looked split. However, Deb says in her original recipe “don’t worry if the batter looks uneven”, so I decided to put my full trust in her and continue. Sift the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt) into the bowl and give one final mix to combine.
Sifting the dry ingredients into the wet cake mix
And lo and behold I had a smooth, unctuous cake batter. Never doubt the Smitten Kitchen.
Final chocolate and red wine cake mix
5. Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth the top out with a palette knife or the back of a spoon.
Cake batter ready to be poured into the cake tin
Chocolate and red wine cake ready to be baked
6. Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the sponge out to cool completely.
Cooling the chocolate and red wine celebration cake in the tin
Turning the chocolate and red wine cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely
7. While the cake cools make the icing. Melt the dark chocolate in a bain-marie and then set aside to cool to room temperature. This is important, because if the chocolate is still hot when you add it to the buttercream then it will melt the butter and ruin your icing.
Melting dark chocolat in a bain marie
Melted dark chocolate for the icing
8. Whisk the butter and icing sugar together until very light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on the time you give to this step as this is what gives the frosting a gorgeous texture.
Butter and icing sugar to make the frosting
Whipped butter and icing sugar for the chocolate frosting
9. Add the melted chocolate, salt, milk or cream and vanilla extract and whip again for 5 minutes until well combined.
Adding dark chocolate to the buttercream icing
10. Carefully move the sponge onto your serving plate or board and pile the frosting in the middle of the cake.
Chocolate buttercream icing piled on to the chocolate sponge
Using a palette knife or the back of a butter knife spread the chocolate buttercream over the cake. Start in the middle and push the icing towards the edge of the cake, swirling as you go.
Spreading the chocolate buttercream onto the chocolate sponge
Spreading the chocolate frosting onto the chocolate sponge
11. Finally, liberally sprinkle your cake with the topping of your choice. Don’t hold back: chocolate sprinkles, flakes, buttons, popping candy are all more than acceptable here.
Decorating the chocolate and red wine celebration cake with rainbow sprinkles 2
Decorating the chocolate and red wine celebration cake with rainbow sprinkles
The cake will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, and longer in the fridge – after the first day the texture of the sponge became even fudgier. This recipe really is chocolate heaven.
Chocolate and red wine birthday cake with rainbow sprinkles 2

Orange and milk-chocolate celebration cakes (and a 1st birthday)

Valentines orange and milk chocolate celebration cakes
Today is my little blog’s first birthday and I want to take the opportunity to say a huge, heartfelt thank-you thank-you thank-you to each and every one of you. Whether you’ve been with me from the start of my blogging journey or you’ve just stumbled upon this site today, I massively appreciate you taking the time to visit. Blogging has been a lot more work than I first expected, as each post takes a surprisingly long time to create, from finding old recipes or developing a new one to photographing every step of the cooking to editing the photos and writing up the recipe. But I love it, and it’s even more rewarding when I get messages out of the blue from old friends who have tried a recipe and enjoyed it, or even from people I have never met who have travelled to my site across the ether of the internet. Since starting this blog I’ve had nearly 14,000 hits, with by far the most popular recipes being my slow-cooked BBQ pulled pork tagine, rosemary and garlic slow-cooked lamb shanks and slow-cooked pork belly with crackling (anyone spot a theme there…?). My mum’s magical banana bread recipe is also a favourite, and definitely the recipe that friends have told me they have baked the most (so feel free to take all the credit here mum!). However there are a grand total of 58 separate recipe posts on the blog so far to choose from so dive on in to discover more.

On to today’s business, it seemed only fitting to celebrate a birthday with a cake. Orange season is in full swing and in fact one of my very first recipes a year ago was my Bells of St Clement’s Cake. This time we’re being a bit more dainty and a lot more cutesy with our cake-making – it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow after all. When baking this recipe I would advise you to use the best quality marmalade that you can find. I used this jar:
Homemade Seville orange marmalade
of my parents’ new batch of homemade marmalade. It has a punchy bitter orange flavour which is balanced well with the sweet milk chocolate. Of course you don’t need to use heart-shaped cutters, but sometimes kitsch baking is the order of the day, especially when there’s an excuse to be celebrating…
Ingredients for orange and milk chocolate celebration cakes
Ingredients (makes 5 individual cakes)
200g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
200g very soft butter
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
Zest of 1 orange

100ml double or whipping cream
1 tbsp icing sugar
5 tsp marmalade
100g milk chocolate

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin with a little butter and line it with baking parchment. A handy tip is to leave a little excess paper hanging over two opposite sides, so that lifting the cake out of the tin once it’s baked is easy breezy.
Greasing and lining a 20x20cm cake tin
2. Sift (or stir with a whisk if you’re lazy like me!) the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
Whisking the flour and baking powder
3. Add all the other cake ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs and orange zest) and whisk using an electric hand whisk or mixer until smooth.
Cake mixture ingredients for the all-in-one method
Orange flavoured cake batter
4. Spoon the cake batter into the tin and level with a knife or the back of a spoon. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack for a couple of hours to cool completely.
Cake mixture ready to be baked
5. Trim the top off the sponge so that it’s level and use a heart-shaped biscuit cutter to cut out five small cakes.
Cooled and trimmed sponge ready to be cut
Cutting out heart-shaped cakes
6. Whip the cream and icing sugar together until it forms loose peaks.
Preparing to create the orange and milk chocolate celebration cakes
7. Halve each cake.
Halving the heart-shaped sponges
Pop a teaspoon of marmalade onto the bottom piece and spread out to the edges.
Adding a teaspoon of homemade marmalade
Spreading the homemade marmalade
Add a generous dollop of cream in the middle and place the tops back on, pressing down gently.
Adding a large spoon of whipped cream
Sandwiching the cakes
8. Melt the milk chocolate in a bain marie and drizzle over the cakes.
Melting milk chocolate for cake decorations
You can use a piping bag with a small, round nozzle, but if you don’t have one then you can spoon the melted chocolate into a freezer bag, push it all down to one corner and snip a little hole in the corner with a pair of scissors: voila! Homemade piping bag.
Orange and milk chocolate celebration cakes
Allow the chocolate to cool and then serve to your loved ones, or scoff by yourself while watching repeats of Friends and wearing the comfiest pyjamas you own. It’s Valentine’s Day, and if you can’t treat yourself on Valentine’s Day then when can you!
Blog birthday orange and milk chocolate celebration cakes

Double blueberry muffins

Homemade blueberry muffins 2
I love reading cookbooks. It may seem strange (or, in fact, perfectly normal to any foodies out there), but there is something exciting about starting at the beginning of a new cookbook, reading the introduction, leafing through all the recipes, learning about the author and marking the pages of particularly tasty-sounding recipes with cute little post-it notes. To be honest, lots of these dishes end up never being cooked, but it’s fun to plan and it’s good to get new inspiration for recipes. Christmas is the best time of year to receive gifts of cookbooks, as Christmas Day and Boxing Day were just made for lounging in your pajamas while reading books, right? This year I got Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes (one of my current favourite chefs), Mimi Thorisson’s A Kitchen in France (which is one of the most delightful cookbooks to read, ever) and The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. There may well be some recipes to come on this blog from the first two of these books, but today we’re all about muffins and so obviously we turn to the Magnolia Bakery’s book.

This recipe is almost exactly the same as the recipe in the Magnolia Bakery’s book – we’re using the same ratios of flour to eggs to sugar to butter, and throwing in some deliciously sour buttermilk, as they do, for good measure. I swapped castor sugar for brown sugar, for a hint of caramel , and, inspired by this article by Felicity Cook I went for a double blueberry hit. The trick is to use both fresh and frozen blueberries; the fresh ones mashed and folded through the batter in order to give an even blueberry flavour, and the frozen ones stirred in whole to give those essential blueberry explosions.
Homemade buttermilk made from live natural yogurt and milk
A note on buttermilk: this is actually now readily available from loads of shops and supermarkets, but if you can’t find any then simply mix up natural yogurt with a little bit of milk for the same effect.
Ingredients for homemade blueberry muffins
Ingredients (makes 9 muffins)
250g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
110g brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
240ml buttermilk ( or 60ml milk and 180ml natural yogurt)
60g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
75g fresh blueberries
75g frozen blueberries

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
Sifting flour for homemade blueberry muffins
2. Stir through the sugar and salt until well combined – try to break up any lumps that there might be in the brown sugar.
Mixing the dry ingredients for homemade blueberry muffins
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg, buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Stir to combine, but don’t over-mix.
Wet ingredients for homemade blueberry muffins
Adding the wet ingredients to muffin batter
4. Mash the fresh blueberries with a fork and gently fold through the muffin batter.
Adding mashed blueberries to muffin batter
5. Stir the frozen blueberries into the mixture, reserving a few for the tops of the muffins. Top tip!…you can toss the blueberries in a teaspoon of flour if you like, which stops them all dropping to the bottom of the muffins.
Stirring in whole blueberries to muffin mixture
6. Fill 9 muffin cases nearly to the top and stud with the remaining frozen blueberries.
Homemade blueberry muffin mixture ready to be spooned into cases
Blueberry muffins ready to be baked
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the muffins are golden brown.
Baked homemade blueberry muffins
Leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack, though I imagine they would be divine while still warm, especially if you’re having them for breakfast or brunch.
Homemade blueberry muffins on a cooling rack
The perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, when you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Homemade blueberry muffins 3

Mincemeat puff pastry swirls

Christmas mincemeat puff pastry rolls
I am really pleased with this new recipe. It’s going to be my festive go-to recipe for whipping up a last minute sweet treat from now on. Basically, it’s a mince pie in disguise, and one that is even easier to make and store (which is really saying something, since mince pies aren’t exactly the trickiest kitchen task and don’t take up an awfully lot of room in the freezer). This mincemeat-packed pastry is the most efficient use of freezer space and can be put together in a matter of minutes. I used shop-bought puff pastry for this recipe because it’s all about convenience, but if you have time on your hands you can always make yours from scratch.

If you’re organised and already have homemade mincemeat ready to use then it will be perfect in this recipe. If not, then you can buy lovely mincemeat in the supermarkets, and we’ll perk it up with some orange zest, fresh pear and obligatory Christmas spirit anyway.
Ingredients for mincemeat puff pastry rolls
Ingredients (makes 24 pastries)
300g mincemeat
1 orange
Splash of brandy
2 ripe pears
1 lemon
500g all-butter puff pastry

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6. Measure out the mincemeat into a bowl and add the zest of the orange and a splash of brandy. Mix together.
Adding orange zest and brandy to the homemade mincemeat
Homemade traditional Christmas mincemeat
2. Peel, core and finely dice the pears. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the pear to stop the pieces from browning.
Finely diced ripe pears
3. Generously flour the work surface and roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle, with the long edge facing you. The pastry should be about 0.5cm thick.
Rolling out the puff pastry
4. Gently spread the mincemeat onto the pastry, right up to the edges of the sides, but leaving an inch gap at the front and back. Sprinkle the pear chunks on top.
Spreading the mincemeat and pear on the puff pastry
5. Roll the pastry into one long sausage-shape. Start by folding over the long edge closest to you (as shown below) and then roll up gently, using both hands. It will get easier as the roll gets thicker.
Beginning to roll the puff pastry
Rolled puff pastry filled with mincemeat
6. Trim the edges from the pastry roll to neaten it up. Cut it in half to make two manageable rolls. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up the pastry and make it easier to slice. Alternatively you can wrap the rolls in cling film and leave in the freezer, ready to slice and bake whenever you like.
Tidying the ends of the puff pastry roll
7. Remove the firmed pastry rolls and slice into 24 circles (or 12 if you’re just using one of the rolls). Space out on a large baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Sliced puff pastry roll ready to bake
8. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Leave to cool on a wire rack (or eat them while they’re warm!).
Baked puff pastry rolls stuffed with mincemeat
Cooling the mincemeat puff pastry rolls
Dust these flaky, spiced pastries with icing sugar for the perfect snowy effect if you like. Serve with steaming mugs of tea, coffee or (preferably) mulled wine.
Christmas mincemeat puff pastry swirls
Note: if cooking from the freezer, remove the roll about 30 minutes before you slice it. Cut off as many pieces as you need. Use a sturdy and very sharp knife, as the frozen pear makes the roll particularly hard. Bake as instructed above. Feel smug about how organised you are.

Homemade mincemeat

Close-up of traditional British mincemeat
Traditional mincemeat is a great little recipe to make around this time of year. It’s incredibly simple, keeps well and your homemade jar can be whipped out the cupboard at a moment’s notice if you’re in need of emergency mince pies. If you’ve already made your Christmas pudding (like this one here…) then it’s highly likely that you have leftover dried fruits or chopped peel or even some suet lurking in the cupboards. This is a great way to use them up, and with 18 days left til Christmas (yes, that’s right, EIGHTEEN DAYS) now is the perfect time to do so. If you can resist, it’s best to leave this recipe to infuse for 2 weeks; and if you manage there will be a jar of perfect mincemeat sitting in your cupboard to use in the days leading up to Christmas – and of course, most importantly, on Christmas Day itself.

Before you begin making this recipe make sure you sterilise the jar, or jars, you are using to store the mincemeat in. You can do this in a few different ways. If you have a dishwasher then the easiest method is to put your already clean jars through a hot rinse. If not then you can wash them out with boiling water (or heat with water in them in a microwave until the water boils – I couldn’t do this since my jar has metal on it!) and leave to dry upside down either naturally or in a very low oven.
Ingredients for traditional Christmas mincemeat
Ingredients (makes enough mincemeat to fill a 2 litre jar)
600g mixed dried fruit e.g. raisins, currants, sultanas, cranberries, cherries
300g suet
90g chopped peel
250g soft brown sugar
¼ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ fresh nutmeg, grated
1 lemon
1 Bramley apple, peeled and grated
100ml brandy
2 bay leaves

Method
1. Put all the dry ingredients except the bay leaves (so the dried fruit, suet, chopped peel, sugar and spices) in a large bowl. Mix well.
Dry ingredients for Christmas mincemeat
Mixing the dry ingredients for Christmas mincemeat
2. Add both the zest and juice of the lemon, along with the apple and brandy, and give everything a really thorough mix.
Adding the wet ingredients to traditional mincemeat
3. Carefully spoon the mincemeat into your sterilised jar(s) and push one or two bay leaves into the top. Seal and store for a couple of weeks.
Traditional British mincemeat
Mincemeat will store for a long time provided you have properly sterilised the jars – lots of recipes say up to 6 months, but I’m pretty sure I have used mincemeat from the year before and it tasted delicious.
Traditional Christmas mincemeat to be stored