Christmas is coming…

I apologise in advance for the Christmassy theme of this week’s post which will probably make you want to run for the hills covering your ears and shouting ‘no no no!’ (Geddit?)  But please bear with me, as when planning ‘experience-sharing’ activities to do with Ellen it does help the old brain cells to have a theme and so a great theme like Christmas needs milking to the maximum!

Today’s project – making mince pies.  I was inspired by our local village shop which has had its Christmas display out for a few weeks and some home-made mincemeat (vegetarian of course) for sale.  My recipe is from an old spiral bound book called ‘Lacock’s Tea Time recipes’.  I have no idea where this came from as it is ancient hence all the ingredients are weighed in ounces and more difficultly the oven, I read, should be heated to Gas Mark 5 – eh?  What’s this in fan oven temperature?  Had no idea and because I didn’t want to break off from the activity to go and look up a conversion chart on the internet the cooking times were, I admit, somewhat random.

Ellen’s first job was weighing out the ingredients and tipping them into the bowl.  Our first ‘challenge’ came when the lid of the flour jar fell onto the floor and the dog licked it yeuk!  Sometimes doing RDI feels like auditioning for RADA.  I dramatically pick up the lid and pull a face.  ‘I can’t put this back on the flour now’ I say holding the lid at arm’s length ‘it’s dirty’.  Then I wait…and eventually eureka! ‘You need to clean it’ Ellen says, I do my little internal skip of happiness and put the lid in the sink for washing.

Perhaps I was too ambitious in giving Ellen the egg to break onto a plate…?  Especially as the yolk needed separating from the white, but on the plus side she was very confident cracking the egg, it was only me who was quaking slightly at the thought of the mess.  As you can see from the photo – we didn’t stint on mess.

Ready for cooking!

Ellen still doesn’t like getting her fingers dirty, so at the moment we are working around this.  I did the ‘rubbing in’ while Ellen did the tasks like stirring and measuring which are a bit more hands off.  Having said that, she did all the cutting out and was quite happy picking up the rounds of pastry and putting them in the bun tin.  Actually she would have rather made animal-shaped mince pies (having pilfered the box of cutters) but perhaps we’ll try that next time!

Unfortunately, however much we eeked out the pastry, we could only make 11 mince pies which did sort of upset Ellen’s sense of symmetry as it left one empty space in the bun tin.  I think perhaps some of the earlier mince pies were slightly too thick – inferior rolling on my part I’m afraid.  Ellen brushed on the egg white with vigour so there was no way the lids were popping off during cooking and in fact they turned out rather well, only one got stuck in the tin and that was used as a taste – tester :-).

The mince pies will now be frozen until nearer Christmas when they will be unleashed on some unsuspecting guests.  I would like to confirm however, should any of those unsuspecting visitors be reading this post, that we both washed our hands before cooking, and only licked our fingers once….

Flopped in front of the computer later, I wondered whether I might have some valuable cook book in my possession.   With piqued interest I searched for Lacock’s on Amazon – and sure enough it was there – published 1960 – available for £3.  Might as well hang on to it then.



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