The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

December 7, 2013

COOKING WITH SIMON: Delicious memories of Christmas past

By SIMON WEBSTER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — It's only three weeks away but my taste buds are flowing.

Yes we've all had Thanksgiving with the turkey, trimmings and all those great pies, but Christmas has so much other great food to offer.

I am reminded of home and great memories of Christmas with family, but especially mom making the Christmas cake, which was made three to four weeks ahead of time.  It’s similar to what Americans know as fruitcake, but not as dense and more spongy. Once the cake was cold it needed to be basted with brandy each week. and given plenty of time for the flavors to soak through. The brandy basting was my Dad's job. It’s funny now to remember he always had a full glass of brandy, but only half went into the cake.

Then there were the mince pies, not a meat mince, but a fruit one with brown sugar, mixed dried fruit and all the spices of Christmas. Brookshire's, and maybe Walmart carry these in the cookie aisle. Walmart also carries jars of mincemeat filling on the seasonal aisle.

Or if you're like me, it's great to make your own. You can make a full eight-inch version with a pastry top, but the best ones were made in a muffin tin lined and topped with pastry, and easy to eat in two bites.

After they cool, slightly warm in the oven with some melted butter spiked with brandy. The fruit mince had a great shelf life but once made in our house they disappeared fast.

Many of the fruits used in the pies aren't available here so I've made some substitutions with other dried fruits that are similar in flavor profile. It pains me to make these substitutions, so if you can't find the actual fruit; I advise buying a jar of the mince filling.



ENGLISH MINCE PIES

Ingredients


1 batch of pie pastry (your favorite from scratch or refrigerated pie crust)

1 cup dried currants (or dried figs)

1 cup chopped fresh apples

1 cup dried sultanas (or golden raisins)

1 cup dark raisins

1 cup candied citrus peel

1/3 cup sliced almonds

8 ounces brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup brandy




Directions

Place all of the filling ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop. Line muffin tin with rounds of pie pastry. Fill with the fruit mince. Top with another round of pastry. Bake at 350 until golden.

—————

Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to www.saborapasion.com or call 903-729-9500.