Tag Archives: Fruit

Cracked in the Box

Foodie Penpals July Box

A Box of Treats

It’s that time again when I can reveal my matches for Foodie Penpals. I have to say, I really am enjoying this, from deciding what to send out, and trying to make that as tailored as possible to my penpal; to receiving my own box and thinking about some great recipes to make with the contents.

This month, I was matched with Kay at KayTeasCakes and I got a parcel from Teresa from Rockspring Crafts.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I have just heard from Kay that her parcel has not arrived. I am away at the moment, and don’t have a tracking number, although I am trying to sort something out. I am really sorry that there has been this problem for Kay, but if I have to I will recreate her parcel and send it to her as soon as I get home. In the worst case scenario, Kay will get two parcels next month, but I hope that her parcel will arrive soon. Please go and cheer Kay up by marvelling at the beautiful cakes that she makes for her stall in Harringay, or even popping along and buying some if you are in the area.

I was very lucky to be matched with Teresa this month. She was also kind enough to notice that I am an expat, and ask me if there was anything I needed from home. I am really appreciating these offers from my penpals, it is nice that people think that there will be things I am missing.

Teresa sent me a lovely box of goodies, some of which have really got me thinking. She obviously had a good time finding me unique items.  An added bonus is that she is a fellow Westcountry person, so, it has been great to get products from almost home!

Firstly, was a lovely lamb, with garlic, fennel and chilli recipe. I love lamb, and we can get very good Texel lamb here, so I know this is going to be a winner. There was also some pineapple and papaya. I make my own muesli (mostly because too many shop-bought mueslis have unwelcome banana chips in), and this has already featured as a very tasty addition. I am thinking of doing some baked goods with the rest soon. Of course, I shall blog it when I do. Also included was some onion salt. I have never used flavoured salts before, but this is a great addition to salad dressings, and I am sure it will be in many more things to come.

Foodie Penpal Cayenne Pepper and Nutmeg

Spice and More Spice Make all Things Nice

These spices will certainly come in handy. Spices form an essential part of my store cupboard, and I use both cayenne and nutmeg regularly. I have already grated a bit of nutmeg into some rogue nettles that popped up in my broad bean patch. I wasn’t about to let them go to waste, so I cooked them like spinach, and added butter and nutmeg after I had squeezed out all of the moisture. I love this way of eating nettles, and definitely recommend that you give it a go. They are also fantastic as a spinach substitute in curries and greek dishes, like spanakopita.

Foodie Penpals One Shot Garlic and Marmite Cheese

New For Teresa and Me

Teresa says that she enjoys finding a few new items to include in her foodie parcel. This time it was One Shot Garlic and Marmite Cheese. Originally there were three of these moreish little cheeses, but I think everybody gets one item that doesn’t make it as far as the photo, and this may have been mine this time. Ahem!

Foodie Penpals Meringue and Chocolate

The Makings of a Great Dessert

Teresa took a chance and sent me a meringue. Unfortunately, this was the cracked in the box that I refer to in the title. However, I am really pleased, because the two of these ingredients are the basis of a great dessert that I first had in Sweden. It is called Meringue Suisse, and I will make and blog that soon. It requires broken meringue, and I am lazy, so the Foodie Parcel has saved me a job.

A Hand Made Mug Rug

A Hand Made Mug Rug

To help pack things together, Teresa included a mug-rug that she made herself. . I am always in awe of people that can make their own things. I did roughly six weeks of needlework at school, and the teacher made me unpick and re-sew everything that I ever made. I caught her out once, when I just returned to my seat, and didn’t unpick nor re-sew anything, returning for her approval a little later, and she passed it. I found that really discouraging though, and have never attempted to make things with textiles again.

I really love my mug rug. Teresa makes them from scraps leftover from quilting and other projects that you can see on her blog, and of course, I love leftovers! She says that the idea is to have something bigger than a coaster & smaller than a placemat to hold a cuppa with space a couple of biscuits or treats. And look, that is exactly right.

Mug Rug, Tea and Biscuits

My Mug Rug in Action

Thank you so much Teresa, for such lovely treats, and to Carol Anne for organising Foodie Penpals in Europe.

Here’s the rough outline of how it works:

  • All interested parties in the UK and Europe – bloggers and blog readers alike – sign up by the form available at the bottom of this post
  • Participants are matched on the 5th of the month
  • Penpals send thoughtful, food related parcels, on or before the 20th of the month. The parcel must include something hand written – a note explaining the box’s contents, a recipe card, whatever you like. The price limit for the boxes is £10 – this is a limit, the point is not the cost, but the thought (no, really!)
  • Penpals open their boxes and rejoice!
  • At the end of the month, everyone blogs about their box, or writes a guest blog post if they are usually a blog reader and not writer. Everyone reads one another’s posts and rejoices some more. Posts are made available on Lindsay’s blog so we can all find each other easily
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Mince Pies

And so we finally come to the stars of the party, my mince pies. If they weren’t, I would have had to call it a Mulled Wine and Some Snacks Party,and  to be quite honest, I’m not really sure it would have had the same draw.

Mince Pies are a traditional British Christmas snack. My best friend refuses to eat them, due to an early childhood disappointment when he discovered that they did not contain mincemeat, but rather that they had fruits and spices inside. Originally, they actually did contain spiced meat, which was a way of disguising the fact that by the middle of winter, the meat was not at its freshest. They also contained some dried fruits.

Mince pies have existed since about the 13th Century, when crusaders brought back the idea of mixing spice with meat from their trips to win the hearts and minds of the residents of the Middle East. They were considered symbolic of garish Catholic Idolatry by the professional miserablist Oliver Cromwell, but apparently it is quite difficult to come between us Brits and our little Christmas pies, so he was not successful in his attempts to ban them. Again, quite lucky for me and my themed parties.

There is something to be said for the traditional ritual of baking these little treats that I find really restful, but exciting at the same time, as it heralds the start of my Christmas celebrations.

I had made some Pear and Ginger Mincemeat back in September, which I got out. You can just use mincemeat to fill your pies, but I like to fiddle some more, for a more luxurious pie. To ordinary fruit mince, I would add nuts and port, and let them soak for a few hours. As this mince had ginger wine in, I let this one soak in a little brandy, although I did add more nuts, for some crunch.

I had invited some people to the party that are vegan, and so I made up a batch of the Vegan Shortcrust Pastry. Some people prefer puff pastry in their mince pies, but I really think this is pastry overkill. Shortcrust is traditional, and for me it is the best way to get the right balance of pastry to filling.

The best bit about making these pies is getting the right mix of the circles between base and lid, so as to maximise the number of them you can cut from a single roll of the pastry.

Making mince pies

Terrific Tessellation

Firstly, you need to get the right size of circle for your tins. I use muffin trays, because I like the added depth that you can get than with ordinary tart trays. Whichever you choose, you need to cut out 2 sizes of circles for the base and the lid. The base should be about 2 cm larger than the diameter of the “hole” in your tray – this is to allow the pastry to sink into the tray, and to come right up the side. The lid should be about the same diameter as the hole. If you are going to use pastry cutters, then choose the size down from the base. I have also used a variety of glasses, and find a wine glass and a shot glass is also fine to use.

Roll out your pastry thinly. If you can 2-3 mm is ideal. Cut out the same number of base and lids. You will be likely to need to collect up the offcuts and re-roll these. If there is any left over, you can make a pasty with your mincemeat, or fill it with currants, a little sugar and some lemon zest and make an eccles cake.

Grease the tart or muffin trays well using butter or olive oil, and put the oven on at 180°C. Then gently put the bases into the trays, and press down with a little offcut pastry.

Add a heaped teaspoon of the mincemeat into each base. It needs to be generous, but not too full, otherwise your pie will burst in the oven.

Take the lid, and brush round the rim of one side with a little water (if you are not making this for vegans, then you can use egg wash or milk). Place the lid, watered side down, over the pie. You will need to seal the pie, which I do by placing a glass that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the lid over the lid, and pressing it down to seal he base and the lid together.

Filled pies

Pies – filled and sealed

Brush with a little water and place into the oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is a golden brown.

Serve the pies warm with a little icing sugar sprinkled over the top. You can make these in advance, and warm then through in a low oven before serving.

Mince Pies

Mmm Mince Pies

Great on their own, or with cream. Best served with a glass of mulled wine!

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