Berries andPie

baking, cooking, recipes, eating, and obsessing over food

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fruit Mince

Fruit Mince Pies

Hubby is a huge fruit mince pie fan, and rightly so! They are one of the first 'Christmasy' things that find their way into our pantry at this time of year, and get us excited about the coming festivities. In the past, we've always bought these from the supermarket. They're cheap enough, and in previous years it had always seemed like they would be such a chore to produce myself. But when I found a recipe for fruit mince a few weeks ago, I thought I had to give it a go! I don't know about you, but whenever I see recipes for fruit mince pies, the ingredient list goes something like this: "300gm quantity of fruit mince. Pre-made Shortcrust pastry", so I had no reason that could justify doing this when it's so close to just buying them from the store.

The fruit mince recipe is something like this. I've really adapted this to my tastes, so you don't need to be too strict. This isn't easy to mess up - you just don't want it too wet (or too dry, I imagine!).

- 200g Sultanas
- 200g Raisins
- 200g Currants
- 100g Dried Apricots
- 100g Dates
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds
- 2tspn mixed spice (I use 1 part cinnamon, 1 part nutmeg, 1 part allspice)
- 2/3 cup tightly packed brown sugar
- 1 grated granny smith/green cooking apple
- Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- Grated zest and juice of one lemon
- 1/3 cup brandy

NOTE: I've adjusted this recipe from what I had originally made (removed the requirement for butter)--it's so easy to make; you truly can't get it wrong!

1. Pulse the dried fruit in batches in a food processer. It will help get everything nice and fine. if you don't have one, chop the dry ingredients finely (paying special attention to the larger fruits and ingredients. I sometimes include my currants and sultanas whole.

2. Thoroughly combine remaining ingredients and the fruit mixture in a mixing bowl, or a large container you can seal. This will more or less fill a medium sized mixing bowl (or a 2L pudding basin as a guide), so you will likely have leftovers you may want to keep for a while.

3. Store in a sterlised, air-tight jar until ready for use.

For best results, allow the fruit mince to sit for at least two days before use. Just give it a stir once a day. It will still work if you use it straight away: I did, and the pies were fine.

NOTES:
The dried fruit in the recipe can be used interchangeably. The recipe I had originally didn't call for apricots or dates, but I like them, so I used them. Personally, I hate candied peel, and always substitute it for fresh zest in every recipe I find. If there's something you don't like - don't use it. I also love my Christmasy things to be spicy, so you may want to use a little less (or a little more!) of the mixed spice.

The fruit mince will keep well if tightly sealed and refridgerated, and the taste will improve. The fruit mince can keep for up to 6 months is you store it in a sterilised air tight jar (just the same as you'd do for jam).

Realistically, these should last at least a week in an airtight container, but they only last a few days in my house without being eaten! We're only a house of 2, so I've been making half batches of pastry and cooking lots of 6, which means they're always fresh, and the mince flavour improves as it ages each time.

An Affare to Remember

Oh yes, you knew a subject line that clich├ęd was coming! Good Food Affare was this weekend just past at Castle Hill showgrounds (Fri 21-Sun 23); we made our way there in the chilly weather of the Saturday afternoon. Despite the confusing weather (unpleasantly hot to shiveringly cold within moments, on and off all day!) there were quite a few people there, and the rain held off for the time we were there. We didn't arrive till around 3, so there is every possibility we missed morning crowds; sadly, we missed most of the shows, and some of the stands, also. Upon arriving we were met with the rather exciting prospect of a building dedicated to COFFEE! Racing ahead of my mother and Nick I quickly found out this was coffee machines. While my brother, the coffee snob, would not have been impressed, there was a very pretty, powder pink, compact espresso machine. Nick generally allows me to indulge my "Oooh, it's pink!" tendencies, but at the around $1000 mark, I knew I wasn't going to win this one, and moved along. Besides, being pink alone was probably not a good excuse for purchase when I'm just as happy with my plunger! There was another similar hall with very shiny and very expensive stoves and fridges. Nick wanted the $10 000 oven, but I think we'll hold off on that one for, erm... awhile. We moved along to the first of the food halls we encountered. It was here that we fell in love with a bottle of lemon myrtle infused olive oil, and tried quail for what I have to admit was the very first time. I also saw a size 115 turkey that quite possibly could have fed every person at the show. Nick also had a chorizo sausage sandwich. Well, half of one... The other half disappeared whilst in my possession.

Next up was the oh-so-pretty Country Women's Association building. Hosting a beautiful afternoon tea, decorated in all shades of pink and loveliness, the CWA had me so impressed I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there. Nevertheless we drank our tea, ate our cupcakes and scones, and moved on. At this point I could go into detail about the seriously amazing stalls and halls througout the entire show, but I seriously don't have enough time! I was a little disappointed there wasn't more fresh produce, and more to the farmer's market side that had been advertised, but I really can't complain. The event was free, you only paid for what you wanted, and the attention to detail in the styling of the event makes my head hurt!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's Alive!

I have to say that I'm really rather impressed I haven't killed our new garden yet. In fact, it's to the contrary: Things are growing! Having said that, I do think the credit belongs to my lovely husband.

I've been eagerly checking our new vegetable and herb garden daily for the past 2 weeks, and we now have two baby roma tomatoes on the way, about 2 dozen little lettuces sprouting up, and a couple of carrot tops are starting to peek up through the soil. I feel like a proud expectant mum!

Baby Roma Tomatoes

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fig & Gingerbread Biscuits

Fig and Gingerbread BiscuitsAs the weather heats up and Christmas draws ever closer, my desire to cook seems to rise with the mercury. So it was, when my Mum told me about some fig and ginger biscuits she was enjoying, I was inspired to create my own version.

Last year around this time Fiona, from The Grape and The Grain, and I found a seriously amazing recipe with a twist on gingerbread. It's quickly became s favourite! I made this for 2 friends and my hubby last year to find it had dissapeared only moments later. The delicious bite sized pieces do make this quite easy, though!

While not the prettiest biscuit, their spicy lovliness and the slight crunch of the fig seeds are really quite enticing, if I can say so myself! My recipe is really quite similar to the original with a couple of extra ingredients.

Ingredients - 1 cup chopped dried figs - 1/2 cup chopped crystalised ginger - 1/4 cup golden syrup - 40g brown sugar - 20g butter - 100g plain flour - 1tbsp self-raising flour - 1/4 tbsp bicarbonate of soda - 1tbsp dried ground ginger - 1/4tbsp cinnamon and 1/4tbsp allspice OR 1/2tbsp mixed spice - 1 egg yolk

Makes about 15-20.

Method 1. Preheat oven to 160°C, and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine the golden syrup, brown sugar, butter and figs in a saucepan over low heat; stir until the butter is melted, sugar disolved and figs coated. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little while you complete the next step.

3. Sift flours, bicarb and spices into a bowl

4. Stir the egg yolk through the syrup/fig mixture and add to flour, along with candied ginger. Stir the ingredients until combined, use your hands to form a dough if needed.

5. Roll tablespoon(ish) sized balls of the dough, and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking tray.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on trays

7. Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good Food Affare

I'm getting really excited about Good Food Affare - an event coming up at the end of November at Castle Hill Showground (map), in Sydney, which is only 15 - 20 minutes from where I live.

It's on November 21st to 23rd, and even better is the free admission! I'm hoping to go on the Saturday, and I'm really looking forward to the Growers Market and Skye's Cafe.

(a sucker for pretty anything, I love their website,too!)

A Garden's Growing

"Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe of God, nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and the result thereof."

Julie Moir Messervy

The last two days my husband, Nick, and I had the rare luxury of a weekend at home together. Nick works shifts, swapping between rising before the sun, and finishing long after I should be asleep!

We've been speaking (with the slight possibility of me nagging) of setting up a herb and vegetable garden for a while now. Yesterday's beautiful weather, plus a few too many hours spent watching Jamie at Home on the Food channel prompted us to go ahead and do it.

So off we went to the nursery where we bought pots, plants, seeds and soil, and toiled our afternoon away, finally collapsing, satisfied, with our hands covered in dirt. It felt so honest and real, and I realised how much I've missed the garden. I remember hours of our childhood which we spent planting freesias and digging up weeds. My Grandma showed me how to grow geraniums from clippings, which was an absolute delight!

I'm now eagerly awaiting the fruits of our labours in the kitchen, and can't wait to share!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Step 1. About This Blog & Me

Oska

I'm a Sydney based web designer who loves to bake. I live with my husband, ridiculously fluffy cat, and rickety electric oven. Sadly, husband and cat can not eat as much as I'd otherwise like to cook!

After admiring a bounty of beautiful foodie blogs for a while now, the creation of my friend Fiona's blog pushed me over the edge and I 'had' to start my own.

The name of this blog comes from one of my earliest food memories: my brother, cousins and I climbing the fence to pick mulberries from our neighbour's tree (she didn't mind - I promise!). We'd take them (with stained and sticky hands!), inside and nag our mother to make mulberry pie. She would always refuse (there was little she could do with only a handful of mulberries!), but the activity, something we had done ourselves, was so fun and exciting. The memory still makes me smile to this day (and want to pick mulberries!).

I love to bake and cook, and this blog is really to document this, hopefully disasters avoided (or omitted!), so let's see how I go!