Many people don’t like thinking about Christmas until the beginning of December – I know I don’t! However, there are a few things that need to be prepared well in advance for them to be at their peak for the big day. Christmas cake, sloe gin, piccalilli and home-made mincemeat are just a few.
I’m very fussy about my mincemeat; I don’t like it to be overly citrusy – so, very little orange or lemon zest & juice and no mixed candied peel. In addition, it needs to be veggie – so can only contain vegetarian suet. The only way to ensure it tastes the way I like it is to make it myself. A very easy job and well worthwhile. It works out much cheaper than the cost of ‘luxury’ jars of the stuff in supermarkets. Once made, potted up and put away correctly, it stores unopened for years!
Save my luxury home-made mincemeat recipe to Pinterest!
Luxury home-made mincemeat
- 200g/7oz currants
- 200g/7oz raisins
- 200g/7oz sultanas
- 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
- 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
- 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
- 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
- 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
- 200g/7oz vegetable suet
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 3tsp mixed spice
- ½tsp cinnamon
- ¼tsp nutmeg
- 6tbsp rum or brandy
- 100g/3½oz butter, cubed
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- Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
- Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
- Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
- Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
- Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
- *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut
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A couple of weeks ago, we watched an ex-fireman show Nadiya Hussain how to easily and cheaply home-smoke food. All you need is one of these cold smoke generators and a cardboard box. I immediately thought I’d like to try my hand at it so investigated online how to get started.
The process of cold smoking is done without the need for actually cooking the food. This means it’s ideal not only for meats and fish but also – if you’re vegetarian like me – tofu, cheese, eggs, nuts and vegetables. Smoked almonds and garlic are amongst my favourite smoked foods.
There are lots of YouTube tutorials for making a cold smoker out of a cardboard box. However, if you’re not confident, ready-made ones are available from Hot Smoked. A variety of sustainable wood dusts are available to try when cold smoking such as alder, apple, beech, cherry, hickory, maple, oak and whiskey oak.
- 6”/12” stainless steel round pellet tube: from £6.59, eBay
- Jaeger Sparbrand stainless steel cold smoke generator: £24.46, Amazon
- Pro Q cold smoke generator by Hot Smoked: £34, Notonthehighstreet
Last week, we featured online tea offers; this week, it’s only fair to investigate a few coffee subscriptions available. We only drink one or two cups each per day, but we like them to be made using good quality beans. Favourite of ours are full-bodied espresso beans – and decaf espresso beans for evening consumption.
- Coffee-Direct: from £5.99 per 227 sample bag (save 15% when bought on subscription)
Probably the one of the three that has the most choice – there are 16 different Espresso roast coffees alone! Coffee-Direct explain:
At the checkout you have the option to choose to receive your order periodically, at any frequency that suits you. What’s more, once your subscription is set up, you’re able to amend, skip, pause or delete your subscription at any time.
- Coffee REAL: subscriptions – £36 – £328 (3, 6 or 12 month coffee subscriptions, 6 – 52 bags of beans)
Coffee REAL is a company with a charitable heart. 10% of the purchase price of their espresso blend goes directly to the Born Free Foundation – and, even better, the blend is made from 2 top coffees that originate in areas where Born Free run wildlife projects.
- Skinny Coffee Club: from £24.95 (28 day, 8-week and 12-week day/night programmes)
Well, I never knew that you could drink coffee in an effort to help you drop a dress size or two! According to their blurb:
Skinny Coffee Club is ideal for those looking to lose weight, fast. It’s tasty, organic and designed specifically to raise your metabolism, burn fat, fill you with energy throughout the day and leave you feeling fuller for longer.
There’s only 63mg of caffeine and 6 calories in each cup. Skinny Coffee is comprised of ground coffee, ground green coffee bean extract, green tea extract powder, Garcinia Cambogia, Siberian ginseng powder and spirulina powder. I’ve no idea how much like traditional coffee it tastes but there are thousands of reviews on their website posted by satisfied (slimmer) customers!
Working from home, we drink a lot of hot beverages during the day – the kitchen is less than 10 paces away from where we sit at the computer. We tend to have one or two cups of coffee in the morning, then switch to loose leaf teas for the rest of the day.
We drink all sorts of tea – black, white, green – depending on the time of day or what we’re eating. I also cook with tea leaves occasionally.
We tend to buy our ‘everyday’ tea (Yorkshire Tea) at the supermarket,our ‘special everyday’ tea from Fortnum & Mason, our usual brand white tea from Amazon and green and jasmine teas from a Chinese supermarket in Manchester.
Tea subscriptions were made for people like us. We’re always up for trying new ones that you wouldn’t normally find in the supermarket. What kind of tea(s) do you drink?
- Teabox: from £39.70 for 3 months
- Silver Lantern tea: from £36 for 3 months
- Fortnum & Mason: from £45 for 3 months
What glorious weather we’ve been having – day after day of brilliant sunshine! It’s a bank holiday weekend, there’s only one thing for it BARBECUE!
If, like us, you only have a small garden or patio, bucket barbecues are a much more practical option than one of those super-duper barbecue grills. Much as we’d love one kitted out with quadruple gas burners, rotisserie, warming cupboard and instant ignition – we’d have no room for table and chairs… or us!
The Hema bucket barbecue (#1) is so affordable, we could buy two and have one each. One for Justin’s steak / burger / rack of ribs and the other for my vegetable skewers and veggie sausages. I’m not best keen on them being cooked side-by-side.
My favourite is the Fortnum & Mason eau de nil number. It’s not dissimilar to the budget Hema example and is almost 3 times the price. By way of justification, I really like the detailing of this one and the fact that you can lift the grill off by the handle – vital when my kebabs need rescuing quickly from certain cremation! Oh, and call me shallow… but I do love the classic F&M logo too.
What’s your favourite barbecue food?
- Bucket barbecue: £15, Hema
- Gentleman’s Hardware barbecue bucket – black: £26.91, Amazon
- BBQ bucket in Eau de Nil: £40, Fortnum & Mason
This run of sunny weather has seen us spending hours & hours in the garden each day. Pottering amongst the plants, al fresco lunching, reclining in deck chairs with cold drinks… oh, and doing some work of course.
It’s obviously had a big influence on this week’s Price Points post – bright, optimistic and fun.
Check out this cute selection of fruit salad homewares – each one under £30!
- Banana night light: £10.90, Amazon
- Sunnylife watermelon doormat: £29, Paperchase
- Outdoor garden pouffe – kiwi design by Fallen Fruits: £19.99, Selections