Festive Eating


Home-made Christmas Mincemeat


I like to get started and  make my mincemeat in early November – there’s a great feeling of satisfaction as you line up the filled jars in your cupboards!

My basic recipe is taken from my precious and much-loved Delia Smith’s ‘Christmas’ book – my Mother gave it to me when I cooked my very first Christmas dinner for the family. I think it’s out of print now, but if you  check out second-hand bookshops and National Trust properties for hidden treasures, you might get lucky.

I pull my copy from the bookshelf  in early November , and it sits on the counter top from then until Christmas eve!

This recipe is all about suiting yourself – so, whilst keeping the basic quantities similar, you can do what I do, and remove the nuts, add apricots and dried cranberries, the zest of 2 or 3 oranges, etc. if that’s what you like. It’s your Christmas! The quantities here are enough to make the many, many dozens of little mince pies that I rustle up every year;  have a few pots as gifts for friends and relatives, and leave enough to have the happy chance of finding a forgotten pot later on in the year as an unexpected treat. It keeps well  for at least a year, so don’t feel you have to use it all up immediately.


  • A very large bowl, suitable for putting in the oven.
  • Mixing spoon
  • weighing scales
  • a selection of jam or Kilner jars – pick some nice ones for giving as presents – washing and sterilised (see notes)

INGREDIENTS: Makes 6 pounds, according to Delia..

  • 1 lb of Bramley apples, cored and chopped, (don’t bother peeling them)
  • 8oz vegetarian suet ( I use Atora – it’s in the baking section of the supermarket)
  • 12oz raisins
  • 8oz Sultanas
  • 8oz currants
  • 8oz of whatever else you like – I use dried cranberries as I like their tartness, and chopped dried apricots – you could use a mixture of mixed peel; or cherries chopped small; or almonds cut into slivers – or a combination of all of the above – you pick..
  • 12oz of dark Muscavado sugar
  • the grated zest and juice of two lemons
  • the grated zest and juice of two oranges (I usually use 3 as I like extra orange flavour)


  • 4 teaspoons of mixed ground spice
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • half a fresh nutmeg, grated
  • And a big, BIG splash of Brandy!




METHOD: Oh it’s sooo difficult!

  • Heat the oven to  120c
  • Put everything, except the brandy, into the bowl, and give it all a really good mix-up. The juices will make the fruit beautifully shiny, so keep mixing until everything looks like it’s gleaming.


  • Then cover it carefully with a big sheet of tin foil, and seal it well around the rim of the bowl.
  • Put the bowl into the oven and leave it there for 3 hours.


  • Take the bowl out of the oven. Then put your clean jars (either put through a hot dishwasher, or washed with soapy water  and rinsed) and their lids into the oven, and stand them on the rack, open side down. Leave them there for 30-40 minutes to get fully sterilised, then turn off the oven but leave the jars there while you wait for the mincemeat to cool.
  • Give the mincemeat a really good stir, to ensure that the suet is well distributed.
  • Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
  • When the mincemeat is almost cold, stir in the brandy (I have visions of my Mother standing with the brandy bottle upended over the bowl one time, and getting side-tracked by a conversation..)
  • Using a clean tea towel, remove the jars and decant the mincemeat into the jars and seal immediately. A jam funnel is really handy for this, as it keeps the edges of the jars clean, but it’s not essential, if you’re as messy a creature as me..
  • Label, decorate and store your creation until it’s time to use it up/give it away :)



  • I tend to save up nice jam jars through-out the year in time for Christmas, and the many delicious and useful things you can make to give as presents to fellow foodies. However, there are some lovely little jars available in Lakeland which would really enhance your home-made gift. They come in packs of 6, and  I usually buy  couple of packs early in the year, as sometimes they have them reduced in price.
  • I fill a 1kg Kilner jar for myself, as I know I’m going to use it up fairly quickly.
  •  Once I’ve baked a few dozen mince pies, I freeze them – they freeze brilliantly – give them 5 minutes in a hot oven from frozen and you have fresh, hot mince pies! This year I forgot about a box of them until July – what an unexpected treat!





Christmas pudding prep!


A batch of my famous ( so modest, I know) mince pies


Our childhood favourites – Chocolate Easter nests


My Stem Ginger Cake in yet another disguise – this time it’s wearing its Easter bonnet


Valentine’s Day at St George’s Market


Stem Ginger Cake in Christmas wrapping :)