Friday, 25 December 2009

It was Christmas Eve on the Allotment............

And there we were digging up our root veg. The Head Gardener had offered to cook Christmas Eve dinner for his team! We had not been for a good while so we were both keen to get down and see what was happening!

Quite a lot! Brussel sprouts were doing well but not well enough for tomorrow. Dug up some carrots and some parsnips. Leeks and garlic doing well. Purple sprouting broccoli sprouting. Next it will turn purple. The remaining lettuces have bolted entirely and look like rows of miniature rockets about to launch! quite impressive really. If completely inedible.

Unfortunately I had a camera malfunction in that I forgot to recharge it. So no photos.

I helped in the harvesting by holding the bag.

We had a team christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We had Gardener's Delight Game Pie with two root mash. It was supposed to be three root mash but the carrots didn't really hold up. You win some, you lose some. Anyway the recipies for each will follow at some point when the Head Gardener wakes up but the one for the mash is roughly:

Boil two equal quantities of root veg - in this case parsnip and potato, and mash.

Afterwards we had Allotment Widow Mince Pie which is not for the faint hearted but well worth it. I am about to steal the recipe shamelessly from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall because that was the one I used. And you can't copywright a recipe. And I don't think he will be losing any sleep over it anyway. Come to think of it, it has no direct connection as such with the allotment except that we had it after the two root mash. But I am not bothered. I am also keen to share with you my recipe for pastry as I experimented with three or four and this is the best one so far. This is shamelessly stolen from Mrs Beeton.

Here's the history - In medieval times mincemeat did contain actual minced meat (as it says on the tin). The meat, however, is "invisible" and only gives more body and subtance to the mincemeat. Everyone who has sampled my wares since I made this has said that they prefer it! So here goes:


500g finely minced beef
250g beef suet
250g currants
250g raisins
500g tart eating apples
200g soft brown sugar
125g ground almonds
100g preserved ginger in syrup finely chopped plus 4 tablespoons syrup from the jar
100g mixed candied peel finely chopped
garted zest and juice of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teasp freshly grated nutmeg
2 teasp ground mixed spice
250 ml brandy.

I would recommend drinking the rest of the brandy whilst preparing the mincemeat.


Put everything in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Put into sterilised sealed jars and keep for up to a month before using. It should be left for at least a week before using to let all the flavours blend. I made mine two years ago and just finished using the final batch last night. I felt it benefitted from this but obviously can't really recommend this!

And now for the pastry!


8 oz plain flour
1 level desertspoonful castor sugar
1/4 teasp baking powder
6 oz soft butter
1 egg yolk

Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl together.
Rub in the butter to make breadcrumb consistency
Add the egg yolk.
If necessary add a little water.
Roll out thinly and use at once.

You can make mince pies to the standard shape or "crescents" using the pastry cutter, placing the mince in the centre and folding over. However my favourite way of doing it is to line an 8 inch pie dish, fill with the mincemeat mixture and do strips of pastry as lattice work across the top. Whichever way you do it, bake at 180% for 15 - 20 minutes until golden.


Wildlife seen - one bird of prey which was neither a buzzard or a peregrine falcon - may have been a kestrel, lots of oyster-catchers freaked by said kestrel, and some other unidentified bird that was sitting in the sheugh (is that how you spell it?) and which I scared out of it.

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