No-peel mincemeat

this is what it looks like before you leave it to stand overnight.

this is what it looks like before you leave it to stand overnight.

I can’t stand mixed peel in anything. There are far nicer ways of getting a sharp hit of citrus in food without those chewy, hard, waxy bits of “bacon rind”. Here’s our take on the sainted Delia’s mincemeat recipe, which is a lovely balance of sweet, sharp and fruity, without the mixed peel.

  • 450g Bramley apples, peeled and grated (easiest way is to peel them then use a box grater on the side with the largest holes – no need to core them, just stop grating when you reach the cores).  One big Bramley weighs about 250g.
  • 200g shredded vegetable suet
  • 350g raisins
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 150g soft apricots, chopped
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 350g soft dark brown sugar
  • grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 50g slivered almonds
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • half teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons brandy

This makes just under 3kg of mincemeat (about 6 normal sized jamjars).  Mix all of the ingredients together except for the brandy in a large ovenproof  bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it overnight.

Take off the cloth, stir the mixture well and cover it loosely with a piece of foil. Place the bowl in a very low oven (gas mark 1/4, 110 degrees C) for 3 hours, then take it out of the oven. As it cools, give the mixture a stir occasionally. When it’s completely cooled down, stir in the brandy and put into sterilised jars. Seal them well (wax discs and acid-proof lids, or parfait jars with rubber seals).

This keeps for a really long time in a dark, cool place.  When you open it to use, if it’s looking a bit solid just mix in a bit more brandy.

This recipe is vegan if you use vegetarian suet. It makes absolutely no difference to the flavour whether you use ordinary suet or vegetarian suet as far as I can tell.

Not quite minestrone

This made enough for 6 big portions.

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 handful frozen green beans
  • 1 head cavolo nero – a very dark green crinkly cabbage with long thin leaves (you can use spring cabbage but cavolo nero is much tastier)
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tin canellini beans
  • 500ml stock (veg or mushroom)
  • 100ml small pasta shapes (broken spaghetti, orzo, ditalini or small macaroni)
  • salt and black pepper
  • If you have a dried up old rind of hard cheese in the fridge, now is the time to put it to use!NB if you leave out the hard cheese and use pasta made without eggs, this soup is vegan. Parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians, but there are other hard cheeses which are.

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Stir it around and leave it to saute gently until the onion is translucent – high heat will burn the garlic and that never tastes good.

Add the cubed potato, carrot, green beans and peas and the tin of tomatoes. Add the 500ml hot stock and stir all the veg around. Now is the time to add your bit of hard cheese to the mixture. Bring to simmering point then leave it all to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are almost soft. Add the drained canellini beans. Shred the cavolo nero finely.  Put the pasta into a separate pan of salted boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes, while you put the cavolo nero into the pan with the rest of the soup ingredients.  Small pasta shapes don’t take long – check after 5-8 minutes to see if it’s done.

Season the soup with black pepper and salt if it needs it.   Drain the pasta when it’s done and put a spoonful in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle the minestrone over the top of the pasta.

If you cook the pasta separately, it’s easier to save any leftover minestrone for another day so that you can add more freshly-cooked pasta.  Leaving pasta in the soup mixture makes it go a bit sticky and flabby.

Tomato and mozzarella pasta bake

Pasta with tomatoes and cheese – but a bit different.

I came across the idea of baking pasta from dry in a tomato sauce via a link on the Guardian’s excellent recipe exchange – from http://practicallydaily.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/baked-penne-with-tomato-and-mozzarella.html.  Beware though – the first time I cooked it, I used a pottery casserole dish which promptly cracked when on the hob!  Back to good old cast iron… I treated the cheese differently as I’m a sucker for toasted cheese in all its forms.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • half teaspoon chili flakes (or lazy chili from a jar)
  • 2x400g tins of tomatoes
  • 350g penne pasta
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • generous handful of chopped basil
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish (or a pan with metal handles that can go in the oven).  Add the garlic and chili and stir for a minute or so.  Add the tomatoes – if they are whole, break them up a bit with a spoon. Add the pasta, a teaspoon of salt (yes you do need this much or it will taste very bland) and stir.  Add about 500ml of boiling water and stir everything together, and bring it back to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then stir in the cream and the chopped basil, and season with lots of black pepper.  At this point you could also stir in a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach or cavolo nero to up the veg content of this meal.

Slice the mozzarella very thinly and lay it on the top of the pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the mozzarella, and put the whole dish in a preheated oven (gas mark 4, 200 degrees C) for about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheeses have melted and gone a bit crispy on top.

NB if you search out vegetarian mozzarella and vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, this dish is suitable for vegetarians. Proper authentic Parmesan is not, however, veggie-friendly.