Monday, 27 December 2010

Festive fare ~ fruit mince pies, raspberries, pancakes and decorations

In the southern hemisphere the season for raspberries and other delicious berry fruit coincides with Christmas.  Rachel gave us a very welcome gift of a kilo of these just before Christmas and we ate them all in a few short days - which is just as well as once picked their storage life is brief.  But... no chance of making raspberry jam this year!  Thank you Rachel, for this wonderful treat!
A favourite accompaniment to this delectable fresh fruit is a fruit mince pie:

This recipe is a winner. 
  • Dried figs, diced - 3 cups finely diced. (I did weigh what this amounted to and have now lost the piece of paper.  I'll add it in if I find it!)
  • Sultanas, roughly chopped - 1 cup
  • Crystallised ginger, finely chopped - ¼ cup
  • Dark chocolate, roughly chopped - 150 grams.  I used Whittakers Dark Ghana (72 % cocoa!)
  • Apple - 1 - peeled and grated
  • Brown sugar - 3/4 cup
  • Brandy - 1 cup
  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Cover and leave in a cool place for two days, stirring occasionally.
  • The recipe goes on to suggest that the mixture is then sealed into a jar for at least a month before using - completely unrealistic in this house, where it sat in the fridge for a week at the most before being made into pies. 
My apologies to its creator, that the source of this splendid recipe is now lost.
     I can tell you that the pastry recipe below is from Alison Holst's excellent book "Recipes to remember".  Memorable indeed!

Icing sugar pastry:
Full quantity - this makes enough for twelve smallish pies with lids.
  • Butter - 125 grams butter
  • Icing sugar - ¾ cup
  • Flour, plain - 1 cup
  • Cornflour - ½ cup
  • Water to mix.  Start with a quarter of a cup.  If more is needed add in small, careful amounts.
Method - notes:
When making the pastry a very little warmth makes it very melty.  Start with all ingredients as cool as possible and handle sparingly when rolling out and cutting shapes.
Bake the mince pies at 170 to 180 degrees Celsius for 20 to 30 minutes until the edges start to colour.

Half quantity for pastry to make six mince pies with lids:
Correction note: 17th September 2012.  I've just noticed that I had written the measurements below incorrectly, for which I offer apologies.  I've fixed them up now.  If you notice mistakes I'd be pleased to hear of them.
  • Butter - 60 grams
  • Icing sugar - 1/3 cup
  • Flour - ½ cup flour
  • Cornflour - 1/4 cup cornflour
  • water to mix

Rewi has a special fondness for pancakes and insisted on having these for supper on Christmas Eve - with raspberries of course!  I followed his recipe to make them:

1 cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 and 1/4 cups of milk
1 tsp oil
1 egg - separated
    Sift flour and baking powder into a largish bowl.  Separate the egg white from the yolk.  Beat these separately, first the white and then the yolk.  To the beaten egg yolk add the oil and milk, and then combine with the flour.  Lastly add the stiffly beaten egg white.  To make medium sized pancakes I use a soup ladle to dip the mixture into the heated and oiled pan.  A thoroughly heated heavy cast-iron pan works well on a medium heat.  I turn my pancakes by using a spatula.  Cook till golden brown on each side.

    Festive food is especially cheering when served with special tableware in a decorative setting.  In New Zealand decorations which have their origins in the northern hemisphere continue to be popular, hence the Christmas tree pictured above which makes its annual appearance in our sitting room.  I must confess that it's made of plastic and wire which I would normally avoid, but since I found it for sale second hand for three dollars at the local Salvation Army shop I permitted myself to buy it!  Decorated with fairy lights and golden balls it certainly brightens the place up, not that we could be said to need it at the height of summer, but it certainly is festive.

    With Christmas coinciding with the summer rather than winter solstice we don't have the same need for added colour as our northern relations for whom the winter cheer of such festivities must be very welcome.

    In the Northern Hemisphere the red and green traditionally associated with Christmas and mid-winter are associated with holly.  Coming up the steps in Rachel's garden I came across this summery equivalent in her fuschia:

    This glorious bunch of roses from Penelope's garden provided festive delight on our kitchen table, thank you Penelope!  If it were the middle of winter and in the absence of flowers from the garden I might consider a Christmas-style wreathe.

    In fact, I think that celebrating the winter solstice in the dark and chilly depths of June an excellent idea. I think this every Christmas. It would make sense to put it in my brand new diary for next year right now and actually do something about it!  I could even get the tree out again for a winter showing... Nice food, good friends... But what about the berry fruit? Ah! I've thought of that already: I've made syrup for gooseberry as well as red currant fool which is safety stored away in sealed preserving jars and can be got out for the occasion, spoonfuls of summery pleasure!

    Come to think of it, I'd love to see our northern hemisphere counterparts celebrating the summer solstice in red Santa hats and lining up at Santa parades featuring the big man and his reindeer, sleighs covered with fake snow, and so on.  I suppose the fact that many of the locals  here do just this for our Christmas shows we have a well developed sense of the ridiculous, or something very like it!

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