OK, a non-Marmite post, though it does deal with some odd and frankly disturbing brown English food so I guess it fits in here.
Christmas is coming and I’m craving mince pies. Even Castroni, those overpriced purveyors of foreign muck with a scowl, doesn’t stock them. And of course mincemeat is not available in the ‘exotic’ section of the supermarkets (and why would it be – it’s a horrible substance if you stop and think about it). However, undeterred I decided to make my own.
Just like Delia, her recipes are basic, English, reliable and stodgy, and I Googled up this recipe of hers. Problem is, a lot of the ingredients aren’t available, so I took her recipe and adapted. Her ingredients are in italics, and below is the substitution I managed:
8oz (225g) Bramley apples, cored and chopped small (no need to peel them)
1 apple and 1 pear.
4 oz (110 g) shredded suet
110 g strutto (lard)
6oz (175 g) raisins
4oz (110 g) sultanas
4oz (110 g) currants
All the above are in fact available in Castroni. But at a hellacious price – €3-4.50 for 100g. Instead I was able to find a bag of 250g juicy sultanas in Auchan for about €3. More about this at the end of this list.
4oz (110 g) whole mixed candied peel, finely chopped
They had this in Auchan too but I forgot to buy it. Sod it, it’s probably not necessary and it would probably be way too sweet.
6oz (175 g) soft dark brown sugar
Now here’s a problem. You can’t get muscovado anywhere in Italy that I’ve seen. You can get demarara, listed as ‘zucchero tropicale’ in Auchan but it’s very pricy. Back to Castroni where they have own-brand demarara for a not-too exorbitant price. And here’s the trick: they also sell jars of molasses. So I used 150g demarara and 50g molasses to give it that dark, sticky taste.
grated zest and juice 1 orange
grated zest and juice 1 lemon
No problem, get them anywhere.
1 oz (25 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers
40g for 99c whole shelled almonds in Auchan, passed through a food processor.
2 level teaspoons mixed ground spice
‘Mixed ground spice’ is a bit general, so I used a teaspoon of ginger.
¼ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
I get my spices from Chinatown. The difference in price is astonishing. You can get 100g of all sorts of spices in a bag for less than €2. I stocked my entire spice cupboard a couple of months ago for less than a tenner. Don’t bother going to the supermarket for this stuff. Except:
good pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Todis sells lumps of nutmeg with a grater for a very good price.
3 tablespoons brandy
I can’t get a naggin of anything here and the cheapest nasty-ass brandy I’ve seen was €9 for a whole bottle. No worries – Castroni to the rescue again with a jar of raisins soaked in grappa.
Mix everything except the grappa raisins and leave overnight in a bowl. Strain the grappa raisins and add them then bake the lot in an oven at about 200C for three hours. Allow to cool (this will take a long time), stirring occasionally. When it’s finger-cool, add the grappa and stir in. Store in sterilised jars.
It’s in the oven at the moment and smells incredible. In fact, it smells like Christmas.