Christmas is coming …

It’s November. Cold and dark evenings. We need some sharp citrusy and warm spicey smells to get us in the mood for the pre-Christmas madness to come in December. We are puddinging and mincemeating. Read on…

I don’t understand why anyone would buy a Xmas pud. So easy to make your own, the only onerous bit is the shopping but that’s hardly an issue since we’re all in and out of the supermarket all the bloomin time anyways. The recipe should really just read – buy the stuff, mix it up, cook it, easy peasy lemon squeasy but here it is in full just in case.


500g mixed dried fruit (best quality, don’t scrimp here)mixed fruit soaking in rum and raki
RUM & RAKI (lots)
100g chopped pecans and walnuts
125g veg suet
50g brown breadcrumbs
125g dark brown muscovado sugar
2 tblsp treacle
50g plain flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
zest and juice of a lemon and an orange
2 eggs
(Sue forgot the eggs. The night -and possibly Christmas itself – was saved by Hannah-round-the-corner)

At least a day before start to soak your fruit – we used a mixture of rum (because we like it and it reminds us of Mojitos) and Raki for a waft of liquoricey exotica. Add as much as the fruit needs and keep adding it if the fruit keep soaking it up.

Next day, combine the fruit, nuts, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar, treacle, flour and spices and mix well. Then mix together the eggs and zests and juices and add to the fruit.Christmas pudding mixingChristmas Pudding mixing

Butter your bowl and spoon in the mixture. We scaled up this recipe and made some big puds and little ones too. It’s REALLY nice to cook a little one – ramekin size – and eat it on the day of cooking. Put the pudding in a saucepan of water with the water level halfway up the pudding and gentle simmer away for 2 hours. When the pud is cooked, let it cool then keep in the fridge til Christmas. To reheat on Xmas day – simmer for 45 mins or zap in the microwave.

The smell when you’re grating, chopping, mixing and cooking is absolutely delish.
Whilst the puddings were cooking we made mincemeat…


500g mixed fruit
3 apples, grated
150g best-quality mixed peel
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 tsp ground cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
150g dark brown soft sugar
your alcohol of choice

Put everything in a big bowl and mix thoroughly. Tradition has it that everyone should have a stir starting with the littlest – this had the dangerous potential to start a sizest arguement so we just took turns as WE ARE GROWN UPS. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jars up to 2cm from the top and top up with your chosen liquor. We had access to a fine selection belonging to someone who wasn’t there so we went for Mandy’s fave Metaxa. Pop on the lids and keep in the fridge topping up the liquor every now and then as it needs. Delish in teeny tiny bite sized pies as everyone knows but we are going to have a go at mincemeat ice-cream if there’s any left in January. Nice.


Feeling super virtuous looking at our stack of jars we were also hungry. The tiny ramekin-sized puds were done so we tipped one out onto a warmed plate, splashed it generously with brandy and set it afire! We ate it with unpasteurised Jersey cream and Meadow Farm ice-cream from Blackburn & Haynes Farm Shop in Headley.

Christmas pudding aflameChristmas pudding with cream and ice-cream

We drank…
 mulled wine of course, first of the year. We also had a snifter or two of the Metaxa and Brandy to help us decide which to use haha.

We talked about… impending operations, Skyfall, Farnham Food Initiative, kids at Uni, mice in kitchens (not the one we were cooking in!), OHs in SA, visiting scousers, stilleto marks in wooden floors, Christmas singing falalalala


Where’s the time gone? Our last get-together was July and now KABOOM it’s October. Lovely autumny October and our thoughts turn to pickle…

We were very lucky to be offered some local apple and beetroot gluts and snapped them up immediately to pickle and chutnify. La Culinari and pickle go together like beans and toast or fish and chips. When our children were little and at Potters Gate Primary School in Farnham there was an old apple tree that every year shed apples onto the school field which got used as mouldy footballs (when the lunch time supervisors weren’t looking). We thought it was such a shame to waste the apples so began an epic, annual, hysterical apple collection at the beginning of every Autumn term involving ladders and many a Chuckle Brothers moment. We turned the apples into Potters Pickle and sold it at the Xmas Fair to raise money for the school. Sadly, the tree is being lost to the school’s new building project but Potters Pickle lives on!

Potters Pickle

2-3kg apples, any sort – we used a mixture of eaters and cookers for a good “mushy but with chunks” texturechopping apples
4 onions
2 chillies
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
5 tsp ground cloves
5 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
black pepper
a big thumb of ginger, grated
500 ml cider vinegar

Just peel and chop the apples, onion and chillies and bung in a big pan with everything else and cook for about an hour til the fruit is soft. Taste and see if it needs more spices or chillies when it’s about half way through cooking. Spoon into clean, warm jars and according to Hugh F-W via Mandy you should invert the jars and leave to cool upside down which seals them. I’ve never heard this before and have just spent tooooo long googling this and cannot find out the definitive answer, any ideas anyone?

We had been given loads of home grown beetroot so the second chutney we made was a vivid pink and spicy beetroot and ginger one, christened Brooty Toot. Here’s the recipe:

Brooty Toot Chutney

3kg beetrootchutney pans
1 kg apples
4 onions
2 chillies
a big thumb of ginger, grated
half a jar of stem ginger in syrup
500g demerara sugar
5 tsp allspice
2 tsp salt
black pepper
500 ml red wine vinegar

As before, just chop peel and chop the onions, beetroot, chillies and apples. Chop the stem ginger. Put everything in a big pan and simmer away til the beetroot is soft and tender. Spoon into warm jars and seal. The best thing about this chutney (apart from the earthy, sweet and sour taste) is the zingy bright pink colour.

Both chutneys had a fair chilli kick which we liked. The chillies we used were hot ones from a mixed box from the South Devon Chilli Farm – an ace birthday present from my brother @hippyjon We also got to christen another present from my other sibling @fabiapol – my jam funnel, sounds rude but it’s NOT. Very practical and much less messy jar filling guarenteed.

All in all the above made about 12 jars of Potters Pickle and 15 of Brooty Toot, plenty enough to share between the four of us and to give some to Helen and Sue who generously provided us with the apples and beetroot. THANK YOU, YOU TWO.

We were starving after a good couple of hours of chop n chat so we ate some still-hot chutney with home made smoked mackerel pate (the easiest thing in the world to make – smoked mackerel, cream cheese, lemon juice, pepper) and some shop bought pate with prunes in (very nice) and some boring cheese, baguette and oat cakes. DELICIOUS SUPPER and a massive sense of achievement looking at our stack of chutney filled jars. Not bad for a Monday!

chutney jars

We drank… well it was almost Mandy’s birthday so we had to have a fizzy and Gilly treated us to a bottle from a local vineyard, Greyfriars on the Hogs Back. The vineyard changed hands in 2010 and our bottle was from the previous owners time, very good, but the new owners are promising improvements so we’ll keep an eye out. Always nice to support local producers.

We talked about… Christmas (sorry), Nigel Slater, Mandy’s upcoming party, apple shortages, English sparkling wines, gardening woe, Milton Jones, kitchen refurbs.