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  • Marzipan & Orange Mince Pies

    Come, guard this night the Christmas-Pie,
    That the thief, though ne'er so sly,
    With his flesh-hooks, don't come nigh
    To catch it
    From him, who all alone sits there,
    Having his eyes still in his ear,
    And a deal of nightly fear
    To watch it.


    Robert Herrick (1591-1674)


    Makes: 12
    Prep time: 30 minutes
    Cooking time: 20 minutes
    Suitable for freezing?: Yes

    For the sweet pastry:

    • 250g 00 flour, plus extra for rolling
    • pinch of sea salt
    • 50g Fairtrade icing sugar
    • 125g unsalted butter (cold), plus extra for greasing the tin
    • 2 free range medium egg yolks, beaten
    • 1 tsp Arancio extra Calabria orange essence
    • up to 30g ice-cold water

    For the Frangipane:

    For the filling:

    • 440g Instant Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat *See recipe
    • 120g marzipan divided into 10g discs
    • 30g flaked almonds

    Brandy Butter

    Though Herrick’s Christmas Pie was probably filled with meat and gravy, rather than mincemeat steeped in rum or brandy, I almost want to recommend that you similarly sit up to guard these marzipan and orange mince pies, made with sweet all-butter shortcrust pastry. They really are that good.  There is a natural synergy between almonds and oranges, but mixed with warm spices and a touch of vanilla there is magic to be found. Continue reading

  • Instant Cranberry & Orange Mincemeat

    Makes 2 x 440g jars
    Prep time 15 minutes
    Cooking time 15 minutes


    • 200g soft brown sugar
    • 200ml dark rum
    • 300g fresh cranberries
    • 170g sour cherries
    • 200g mixed currants and raisins
    • 130g candied orange peel
    • 30g peeled, very finely grated fresh ginger
    • 1 tsp Fairtrade ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp Ndali Fairtrade vanilla powder

    Christmas can be a really busy time, and I’m always grateful for any ideas that help me get everything done without too many late nights or tantrums. So while in a perfect world, we might all be stirring our mincemeat together during November, the truth is we sometimes put things off until the last minute. So here’s a recipe for a really delicious mincemeat that doesn’t have to be made weeks in advance… you can even keep the ingredients in the store cupboard as an insurance policy against the mince pies all running out on Christmas Eve.

    Mincemeat is a peculiarly English invention. In the Middle Ages, our ancestors didn’t have our inhibitions about mixing meat, dried fruit and spices together, and the use of expensive imported ingredients meant you could demonstrate your wealth (and not as is sometimes suggested, cover up the flavour of rotting meat!). Then, as merchants travelled farther afield, they discovered new and exotic ingredients such as sugar, aromatic spices and citrus fruit.  As sugar became cheaper, mincemeat became less a savoury dinner course, and more a sweet end to the meal, and by the 1840s, Eliza Acton is writing a mincemeat recipe where the only meat is beef suet. Continue reading

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