Togolese Beef in Spicy Peanut and Tomato Sauce

WEEK 12 – Togo

Beef in Peanut Sauce

So searching for a recipe this week I used my favourite site for obscure cuisines, Celtnet and once again the site lived up to standards, providing three long lists of recipes for me to browse thorough. Scanning the lists I saw a lot of recipes based around seafood this is because Togo in the south borders the ocean.

Togo is one of Africa’s’ smallest countries and resides in West Africa along with other countries such as Ghana, Niger, Benin and several others, a few as small as Togo.

Some interesting things about Togo are : Togo means ‘House of Sea’ in the native Ewe language, For 200 years the coast was raided by Europeans in search of slaves and it was then known as the Slave Coast and the national language is French.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 6.36.19 PM

I choose to make Beef in Peanut Sauce which I sourced from here www.celtnet the recipe is for 6-8 people so I halved the amount of meat and water but everything else I left the same.


400g beef (I used 4 oyster steaks, which are known as butlers steaks in the UK and flat-iron steaks in the US) cut into bite-sized pieces

4 tbsp smooth peanut butter

1 onion, grated

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, cut into thick long sticks

 1 green capsicum, thickly sliced

1 fresh tomato, diced

250ml tomato purée

vegetable oil

1 vegetable or beef stock cube + 1 cup water

1 hot chilli

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste



  1. In a bowl, combine the grate onion and garlic. Season liberally with salt and black pepper then mix in the beef, cover and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes or longer if possible.
  2. Turn the beef mixture into a saucepan and add 35oml water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Drain the meat and reserve the broth.
  3. Add 2 tb of oil to a large wide saucepan (I used a large sauté pan) and fry the beef until nicely browned all over, you might need to do this in two batches as meat does not brown if touching. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Add 2 tb more oil to the pan then stir in the tomato purée and cook for about 5 minutes, or until dark red in colour. Add the fresh tomato and crush with a wooden spoon. Stir in the peanut butter and the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more than add the reserved meat broth along with  the stock.
  5. Stir until smooth, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. At this point add the beef and chilli. Return to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Serve hot, accompanied by plain white rice.


We served this with white rice and some cooked vegetables. The beef and sauce were very nice and I would definitely eat this dish again, the same was said by the rest of the family. Scored: 8/10

A Slovakian dinner – comfort food for a cold night

Week 11 – Slovakia


Beef Paprikás̃ with Haluŝky

It was time to pick our new culinary adventures – where would we be cooking from next? Bunny drew Togo out of the box this week and I pulled out another African country, so I picked again as hubby said “two African meals in one week was too much” Yah, I got Slovakia, another Eastern European country.

What did I know about Slovakia? 

Not a lot…….. It’s a landlocked country surrounded by five other (larger) countries, and was once half of Czechoslovakia. Home of the original Slav’s from the 6th century on, it formed part of Greater Moravia in the middle ages. Then gradually became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and later the Hapsburg Empire. Unified to become one country Czechoslovakia, which peacefully dissolved in 1993 becoming independent Slovakia and the Czech Republic.


The capital and heart of the country is Bratislava, situated on both banks of the Danube River, it was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. Loomed over by the impressive Bratislava Castle, it features many medieval towers, baroque palaces, wonderful churches and many green parks.

The small population is well educated, the fabulous natural landscapes of wild mountains, lakes, rivers and caves, strong and colourful folk traditions, and many well-preserved historic buildings and quiet towns make this a great country to visit.


wooden church Slovak Carpathians










Top Attractions

Skiing, fishing (in rivers & lakes) cycling, sight-seeing of fabulous castles, fantastic churches especially the UNESCO site of the Wooden Churches of Slovak Carpathians, the mountains, especially the High Tatras, Bratislava itself, spa resorts and the Andy Warhol museum. Yes, Andy Warhol was actually Slovakian, born Andrej Varhola to parents who migrated from Miková in the 1920’s to Pittsburg, USA. Who knew?

Zelene Pleso (Lake)









The food 

Naturally given the history, the Hungarian/Austrian influence is very strong and all the countries in this region share a common culinary heritage. Many recipes are very similar but still have their own regional differences. Meat, particularly pork, chicken and game is very important,  vegetables are hardy species such as potatoes, onions and garlic, the cabbage family, capsicums and carrots. Fungi are hugely popular and many are found in the wild.

Wheat the staple crop is made into bread, dumplings and noodles. Temperate fruits such as plums, apples, apricots and berries are used in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Milk products such as yogurt and soured cream, cheeses especially sheep milk ones are eaten a lot and meals traditionally were simple, tasty and hearty, using what was locally available.

Long cold winters led to many techniques for the preservation of foods from cheese-making, salamis and sausages, pickles, and of course variations of sauerkraut. A much loved spice is paprika, hot varieties or mild and sweet, caraway, poppy seeds, and walnuts are popular flavourings.  Paprika finds it’s way into many foods and recipes and is synonymous with the region.

Haluŝky – Slovak Potato Dumplings

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2-3 rashers streaky bacon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • approx. 1/2 cup water
  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil
  2. Dice bacon and fry until just a little crispy
  3. Peel and grate the potato and squeeze out excess water. Add the rest of ingredients and enough water to mix to a soft dough
  4. Put dough on a board, with a knife quickly cut into short little batons, dropping into the boiling water as you cut.
  5. Let them rise to the surface, then boil for a minute or two, scoop out and drain.
  6. Serve immediately with paprikash or even stirred into the sauce to coat the dumplings. Browned butter may be poured over the haluŝky for extra richness and flavour.

This recipe is adapted from a most excellent site for all things Slovak :


Beef Paprikás̃  – Beef Goulash


  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  500g beef round or topside steak
  •  1 large onion, chopped
  •  1 tsp caraway seeds. + a few extra to serve
  •  1½ tb sweet paprika
  •  2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 red capsicum thinly sliced
  •  1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  •  180 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 long green chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 tb tomato paste
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) beef stock
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) white/red wine
  •  1 large potato, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  •  2 tb finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook beef, in 2 batches, for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Stir onion and garlic in pan for 5 minutes until softened. Add carrot, capsicum, chilli  and mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds and cayenne for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add tomatoes, potato and beef. Season.
  4. Add wine and bring to boil. Add tomato paste, stock and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour 45 minutes or until beef is tender.
  5. To serve, mash the potato into the sauce with a rubber spatula to thicken it. Stir in half the sour cream, serve topped with a blob of sour cream, a few extra caraway seeds and the chopped parsley.

I used my own recipe and spiced it up a bit to come closer to what a true Slovak Beef Paprikás̃ should be. I hope you like it.

Thank goodness it was a cooler, rainy night when I made this hearty dish, otherwise we couldn’t have face it in 30 + degree heat! I served it with braised red cabbage, and the potato dumplings which were weird for us but good. Overall we enjoyed this meal from Slovakia and rated it 7/10. The dumplings made this dish interesting for us, as I regularly make a version of paprikash/goulash during winter.

English High Tea & Classic Roast Beef with Mini Yorkshire Puds

Week 11 – England

ENGLISH High Tea and Roast Beef with Yorkies

A Brief History of the Mighty Mother Nation – First inhabited in the Early Stone Age making England, one of the oldest nations in the world. Sharing borders with Scotland and Wales which both aren’t countries but are part of the United Kingdom. Over the centuries Britain has been invaded by many different people from The Celts, Romans, the French or Normans, Vikings and more. They brought their own foods, different cultures and ways of life, much of which became a part of English culture, and is still  around today.Screen shot 2015-01-10 at 4.10.58 PM


England’s Food History –  Traditional foods such as bread, cheese, roasted meat, savoury pies, cooked vegetables and fish have been eaten in England for thousands of years. In the Victorian era, Indian colonists brought  back with them a love of spices, chutneys and curry making to England. Later Indian and African migrants came and new curries were born such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Butter Chicken. Two of the most popular English takeaway dishes. Other classic English meals are Fish & Chips, meat pie with optional Mushy Peas and Gravy on the side, Toad-in-the-Hole, Shepard’s pie, Full English Breakfast, Bubble and Squeak and Beef Wellington, to name a few.

England has produced and still produces some of the most iconic foods items in the world; Cheddar cheese, Devonshire tea, sandwiches , HP Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Marmite, Gravy, English mustard, Sausage rolls and Piccalilli.

Some of the most well known and renowned chefs in the world are from England such as: Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey, Rick Stein and Nigella Lawson all of which I admire and look up to.

So deciding what to make I thought I’d go with the classics; Roast Beef with Yorkshire puddings and vegetables for dinner (or tea for you English people) I also wanted to make a special afternoon tea and we invited some family friends over High Tea; scones with homemade jam and fresh cream and scotch eggs.

The recipes for the roast beef, yorkshire puddings and scotch eggs were sourced all from


Roast Beef

Serves – 6   Prep – 30 minutes Cooking – 1 hour 30 minutes 


1 tbsp black peppercorns

1 tbsp English mustard powder

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tbsp olive oil

about 2kg/4lb 8oz topside joint of beef


  1. Crush the peppercorns, mustard powder, thyme and celery seeds together with some salt, using a pestle and mortar. Stir in the oil, then rub it all over the beef. (If you have time, cover and chill the joint overnight to marinate. Bring the beef out of the fridge 1 hr before roasting.)
  2. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and sit the joint in a snug-ish roasting tin. Roast for 12 mins per 450g/1lb (about 55 mins for a 2kg/4lb 8oz joint) for medium-rare, or 15 mins per 450g/1lb (about 1 hr 10 mins) for medium-well.
  3. Remove from the oven, lift onto a platter, cover with foil and rest for 30 mins. If you’re making the Yorkshire puddings increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

This recipe is also served with an caramelised onion gravy we varied from the recipe at that point and made our own, the full recipe with gravy can be found here – roast beef with caramelised onion gravy

Yorkshire Puddings

Makes – 12        Prep – 5 minutes        Cook – 40 minutes


450ml milk

4 large eggs

250g plain flour

2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil


  1. Up to 3-4 hrs before cooking, mix together the milk, eggs, flour and 2 tsp salt in a food processor or blender until you have a smooth batter. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, whisk the eggs into the flour and salt, then gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Transfer to a jug, cover and leave at room temperature for at least 15 mins.
  2. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and brush 12 holes of a muffin tin with the oil. Heat the tin in the oven for 5 mins, then carefully lift out and quickly pour the batter into the holes. Bake in the oven for 5 mins, then reduce oven temperature to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6 and cook for a further 30 mins until puffed, risen and golden.

This recipe was from the same site as the roast beef and link is here no fail yorkies


We also served our meal with duck-fat roasted potatoes, cooked  beans, honey tossed baby carrots and beefy gravy.

Sorry about the photo this meal ended up taking quite a long  time to make with all the components and once again Mimsey did help so by the time it was made it was late and we had really  bad lighting.The overall rating of this meal was a 8/10 it was very enjoyable.


 Now onto the High Tea, I made this the following weekend. We had scones for which I used a basic scone recipe of Mum’s, with Four Berry Jam which Mimsey makes (she will be putting a a recipe for her jams in the future) and fresh whipped cream.

I saw a photo of Scotch eggs , that classic of English picnic foods from the 60’s, and really wanted to make them – even though my dad said he hated them. I found a good recipe for extra special ones, yet again on the BBC Good Food website and the link to that will be below in the recipe. We sipped Twinings Afternoon Tea or Green Tea made properly in a teapot, served with milk and sugar.


Scotch Eggs

 Makes – 9     Prep – 1 hour 20 minutes    Cook – 30 minutes    Chilling – 4 hours +



12 large eggs

800g good-quality pork sausages, skinned

5 tbsp  parsley, finely chopped

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp English mustard powder

2 tsp ground mace

12 rashers smoked streaky bacon

85g plain flour

140-200g/5-7oz dried breadcrumbs

about 1 litre/1¾ pints sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

scraps of bread or wooden chopsticks or toothpicks, for testing oil


  1. Put 9 eggs into a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, set the timer for 5 mins. When 5 mins is up, quickly lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a big bowl of cold water.
  2. Put the sausagemeat, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder and mace into a bowl with plenty of seasoning. Break in 1 of the remaining eggs and mix everything together.
  3. Crack remaining 2 eggs into a bowl, beat with a fork, then sieve onto a plate. Tip the flour onto another plate and season well. Finally, tip the breadcrumbs onto a third plate.
  4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Drop in the bacon rashers, turn off the pan and fish out the bacon with a pair of tongs – it should be just cooked.
  5. When the eggs are cool, tap lightly on a hard surface to crack the shell, then peel. If you hold the eggs over the bowl of water as you peel, all the shell bits will collect in there and you can dip in the egg to wash off any fragments. Wrap a slice of bacon around the middle of each egg, overlapping, like a belt.
  6. Now finish coating the eggs. I set up the ingredients along my bench like a conveyer belt: eggs, then flour, mince, beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs, plus a baking parchment-lined tray at the end to put the finished scotch eggs on.
  7. Roll your bacon-wrapped eggs in the flour, shaking off excess. Take a good chunk of mince and pat out to thinly cover one hand. Sit the egg on the meat, then mould over the mince to cover, squeezing and patting so it is an even thickness. You’ll probably have a gap (depending on how big your hands are – just patch and pat with a bit more mince). Dip in the egg, shaking off the excess, then roll in the breadcrumbs to coat, and transfer to your tray. Repeat to cover all 9 eggs, then cover with cling film and chill for 4 hrs or overnight.
  8. To cook, pour the oil in a large, deep saucepan to about 4cm deep. Heat until a small chunk of bread browns in about 1 min. Carefully lower in a scotch egg and fry for about 5 mins, turning gently, until evenly browned. Depending on your pan, you can probably do 2-3 at a time, but don’t overcrowd. Lift out onto a kitchen paper-lined tray. (If you like your scotch eggs warm, pop them into a low oven while you fry the rest.) keep an eye on the oil – if the scotch eggs start browning too quickly, the oil might be too hot and you risk the pork not being cooked before the scotch egg is browned. If the oil gets too cool, the scotch egg may overcook before it is browned. enjoy warm or cold; best eaten within 24 hrs of frying.

The recipe on the site is at

So the High Tea took a long time to make and prepare, we ironed a tablecloth and napkins and set the table all pretty with Mum’s bone china cups and saucers (not the really good ones!) and cute little cake plates.

The Scotch Eggs took quite a while but the scones were easy and only took 45 minutes start to finish. Thank you to Mimsey for helping and thank you to Lauren for helping set the table, I couldn’t have done this all by myself.

Even Dad was won over by this delicious version of Scotch Eggs, and quietly scoffed quite a few I noticed, before hoeing into the scones with jam & cream.  We ate way too much and gave the scotch eggs 7/10.







Shortbread with a Christmas Twist and homemade Gevulde Speculaas

Virginia’s Christmas Shortbread

I have always made a lot of different shortbread at Christmas, especially when the kids were little and I would make heaps of Christmas goodies as gifts for their teachers at school, as well as giving them to our friends and workmates. I have a quick slice and bake recipe that has lots of variations, a Greek coffee & hazelnut variety, and my mother’s delicate and melt in mouth shortbread made with a lot of wonderful New Zealand butter and icing sugar.

So I thought I had the best shortbread, until my dear friend Virginia offered me some of hers last Christmas and I was smitten! This rich, lightly spiced shortbread was the best I’d ever tasted – elevated to something really special by the addition of a clove embedded in each biscuit. I had to have that recipe, and a year later ………..I got it! Thank you so much Virginia for sharing this with me. And thank you for going to all the trouble to make some extra biscuits for me to photograph as I was rushing to pack for a holiday and ran out of time.

This recipe comes from The Australian Women’ s Weekly Cookbook ‘Biscuits Brownies and Biscotti’

Sugar and Spice Shortbread      Makes 3 doz.

  • 500g butter, softened
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 4 ½ cups (675g) plain flour
  • ½ cup (75g) rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 36 whole cloves
  • 2 tablespoons of white/raw sugar, extra to sprinkle
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C or a slow oven
  2. Beat butter and caster sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Stir in rest.
  3. Press mixture together to form a firm dough, Knead gently on floured surface until smooth.
  4. Divide dough in half; wrap in cling wrap &  refrigerate 30 minutes.
  5. Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until 1 cm thick.  Cut dough into 6 cm fluted rounds or star shapes. Re-roll scraps.
  6. Place biscuits about 3 cm apart on lightly greased oven trays, push a clove in the centre of each and  sprinkle with extra sugar.  Repeat with remaining dough.
  7. Bake in slow oven about 30 minutes or until a pale straw colour.  Stand 5 minutes before lifting onto wire racks to cool.

Spiced Shortbread Stars

Gevulde Speculaas – A Luxurious Dutch Christmas Treat

My husband is Dutch and that opened up a whole world of new treats fro me to enjoy – this is one of the best Holland has to offer! Rich, buttery, spicy and filled with delicious h home-made marzipan, this fantastic Christmas treat is very special and looks impressive too, but is actually easy to make.

Whenever I make it & give it to people they always rave about it – even my Dutch relatives! since it’s one of those things not many bother to make themselves anymore. Once you’ve tasted this though, you’ll never buy it again………it’s world’s away from the supermarket stuff.

Basically it’s a very rich,risen spiced shortbread, filled with almond paste, topped with whole almonds and baked in a s;ice pan, then cut into small squares or fingers. With a food processor it’s a whizz to make, and if you’re in a hurry, you can substitute bought marzipan instead of making your own. The result still tastes great, the slice is a bit thinner, the texture is a little more dense, and the marzipan goes a little bit chewy round the edges, which we rather like.

In Holland they sell Speculaas Kruiden or speculaas spice (rather like pumpkin spice, or mixed spice) in the supermarkets, but in Australia you’ll either have to go to a specialist deli, Dutch shop or make your own.

In Sydney go to the fantastic The Dutch Shop t’Winkeltje for loads of great Dutch lollies, biscuits, Indonesian condiments, pickles, Dutch sauces and tinned goods and tons more. Plus they have a great little cafe inside chock full of old Dutch memorabilia, serving a range of Dutch treats like croquettes, fresh bread rolls with paling (eel) or gevookte zalm (smoked salmon) and Apple Tart, met slag room of course! Wash down with a glass of Chocomel, a can of cassis or a dutch-style filter-drip coffee served with cold milk in a cow shaped jug.

Where to find them? : 85 Market St Smithfield Sydney 02 9604-0233

Gevulde Speculaas – Filled Spiced Shortbread   Makes 24-28 pieces

Don’t be put off by how long this recipe looks – it’s a couple of stages, and resting time. All the work is done in a food processor, so it doesn’t take more than half an hour to actually make. I promise – you’ll love it!

Gevulde SpeculaasShortbread

  • 250 gm flour
  • 220 gm butter
  • 125 gm brown sugar
  • 10gm/ 2-3 tb speculaas spice
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • rind, 1/2 orange finely grated
  • 28 whole blanched almonds
  • 1 egg & 1 tsp water mixed to glaze
  1. Process flour, butter, sugar, spices and baking powder together  to mix well.
  2. Add egg and process till forms a ball of dough. Knead lightly on floured board.
  3. Pat into flat disc, wrap and chill 1 hour to develop flavours.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 180°C- 190°C. Cut dough in half and roll out to fill 17cm x 27cm brownie tin. Grease tin and line with half of dough.
  5. Roll out almond paste or marzipan to fit, lay on top of dough in pan. Roll out second half and cover. Use scraps to fill in any gaps.
  6. Mark into squares, place whole blanched almond in each square, and brush top with  egg wash.
  7. Bake 30 – 40 minutes until rich golden brown and almonds are toasted. Cool on rack in pan 10 minutes, cut into squares then allow to cool completely.

Amandelspijs – Almond Paste (1)

  • 125gm/1 scant cup icing sugar
  • 200gm/2⅓ cups ground almonds/almond meal
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
  1. Process all together to make paste, wrap and chill to mature 1 hour or best – overnight.


  • 150gm blanched almonds
  • 150gm caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 lemon, finely grated rind
  1. Finely grind almonds with caster sugar, in processor. Add rest & form paste.
  2. Wrap and chill to mature 1 hour or best – overnight.

Speculaas Kruiden – Speculaas Spice Mix (1)

  • 6 tsp g cinnamon
  • 2 tsp each g cloves & freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp g aniseed


  • 4 tsp g cinnamon
  • 1 tsp g cloves
  • 1 tsp g nutmeg
  • 1/3 tsp g ginger
  • 1/4 tsp g white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp g cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp g coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp g anise seeds

You can leave out the cardamon & coriander if you wish but they do add a depth of flavour. It’s a funny thing but when you make speculaas, no matter what combination of spices you use or in what proportion, it always seems to taste the same!

I’ve noticed the same thing when I make Ontbijtkoek or Dutch Gingerbread, (technically translates to mean Breakfast Cake – and yes the Dutch do eat it for breakfast, slathered in butter! In fact they like to eat it sandwiched between two slices of bread! Weird huh, a gingerbread sandwich!)

Happy Festive cooking to all and hope you try these tried and true recipes.



Vegetarian Christmas Fruit Mince and Christmas goodies




Merry Christmas to all! And to all a Happy New Year!

Ah Christmas! The scent of pine trees mixed with the perfume of Christmas lilies, the  heady, spicy aromas of fruit pies or buttery shortbread baking. The faint rustle of wrapping paper, the gentle tinkle of glass baubles on the tree. The treats eagerly looked forward to all year, marzipan fruit, exotic cashew nuts, boxes of chocolates and all the rich array of special foods only had but once a year. The anticipation and the waiting made it all so much more special than it is now.

It’s that time of the year again, when thoughts turn to all those traditional festive treats that I grew up with. Back home in New Zealand in the 60’s and 70’s that meant a hot roast lunch, no matter how hot a day it was. When I was very young, that would be Stuffed Roast Mutton with all the trimmings. Later on, when chicken became more affordable we had that – accompanied by baby new potatoes freshly dug out of the garden, minted new peas (also freshly picked) roast yams (bit like a sweet potato), roast onions,  gravy, bread sauce or mint sauce with the lamb.

After that there would be a Christmas pudding mum had made a month before, then steamed for 4 hours on Christmas Day, served with custard and lashings of whipped cream, and a sherry trifle as well. This was the only concession to the spirit (ha ha) of Christmas that my normally tee-totalling parents made.

A massive meal which was a gargantuan effort for my mum who would be up at 6am to get the meal on. After lunch the herculean task of washing the mountain of dishes  would be promptly undertaken – no resting here – followed by an afternoon tea of hot fruit mince pies, Christmas cake, and assorted shortbread. After that I think there was a lot of lolling around and not much else. It’s a funny thing but I absolutely adored Christmas pudding and really disliked Christmas cake while my sister loathed Christmas pudding but loved Christmas Cake. I would really only eat the marzipan and icing off the top of the cake. It’s funny because the ingredients are almost the same, but they taste so different.

One thing we all loved and that was Mince pies. I have tried many different versions over time, and I’ve always wondered why bought ones, even expensive ones, tasted so strong – I finally figured it out when I started making my own fruit mince recipe. Traditionally the mince mixture is baked in the oven for several hours, this melts the suet and melds all the flavours together, before been baked again in pies. But my mum never did that , and I much prefer the fresher, juicier , unbaked version. So does everyone I have shared it with over the years, and I also developed a version for my vegetarian friends.

So here is my recipe for the best, freshest, tastiest fruit mince you’ll ever have. Please make this, and leave it for a couple of days or a week for the flavours to develop – but if you’re in a hurry you can use it straight away. In the warm climate of Sydney, Australia, it will stay good in the fridge for months, just give it a stir around every now and then.

Christmas Fruit Mince


Vegetarian Christmas Fruit Mince

  • 125gm each of raisins (seedless or Flame Raisins if possible) currants, sultanas
  • 60gm mixed peel, chopped finely
  • 250gm cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 250gm brown sugar
  • 125gm butter, finely chopped (NB:traditional version use suet – see Note below regarding Suet)
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 65gm walnuts, toasted & chopped
  • 1 lemon, grated rind & juice
  • 1 orange, grated rind & juice
  • 2 tb rum/brandy
  • 1½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • NB. (1) if using butter, add 1 tb flour   (2) Suet mixture in Australia (Tandaco brand) is about 45% suet & 55% flour mix, so sieve it to retrieve the pure suet. Enough flour will still be in it to thicken mince slightly.
  1. Chop raisins, if large seeded ones, mix everything together in a large glass/stainless steel  bowl.
  2. Cover with cling-wrap and leave overnight (in fridge in hot climates) to macerate. Will look very runny, but the fruit absorbs a lot of the liquids.
  3. Pack into sterile glass jars and seal. Can be kept in fridge for 3-6 months, in plastic containers, just keep stirring and add more rum/brandy if it’s drying out.

Rich Shortcrust Pastry

  • 250 gm plain flour
  • 140 gm butter, cubed
  • 1 -2 egg yolks, 2 is better but 1 can do. Also depends on size of eggs. If eggs are really small, use 2.
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 4 tb iced water (may need little more depends on temperature & humidity)
  1. Whizz butter, flour & sugar in a food processor until looks like fine breadcrumbs.  (Or rub the butter in by hand.)
  2. Whisk egg yolk and water together, while running add to mix in processor and whizz till it just forms a ball. (Stir in with a knife by hand, bring together by kneading lightly)
  3. On floured board/bench, knead lightly until smooth.Pat into flat disc, wrap in cling wrap & chill 30 minutes before using.

Christmas Mince Pies



  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C fan forced -200°C /350°F & grease 18 metal patty pans
  2. Roll out pastry, not too thin, about 3mm thick, and use 7.5cm fluted round cutter to line tins, and 6cm fluted cutter for tops or use a star shaped cutter (mine is one I pinched from my kids play dough cutters – many years ago!)
  3. Fill with mince, don’t overfill as it bubbles up a bit while baking. Place top on, pinch stars to pastry to secure in place, or brush edges of round tops with water and press lightly to seal edges. My mum used to prick with the tops with a fork, or you can snip 3 x with scissors.
  4. Brush with beaten egg to glaze, sprinkle with raw/demerara sugar if you like. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes till light golden brown. After a few minutes, carefully turn out to cool on rack.

Best served warm: Can be stored when cold in airtight tin for a few days and re-heated slightly before serving. Dust with icing/confectioners sugar to serve.

Serving Tip: Delicious served warm with a small round of rum / brandy butter on top.

Rum Butter for Christmas Pudding & Mince Pies   Makes about 1 cup


(Photo from Delia Smith’s Christmas

This an old English recipe called Cumberland Rum Butter and is a hard sauce traditionally served with the Christmas Pudding and with (warm) Mince Pies. It’s really decadent and will lift your pudding or mince pies to scrummy new heights! I adore it and urge you all to try it too!

Brandy Butter seems more well-known for some reason than Rum Butter, but this recipe is much nicer and far more flavoursome. I have tried both, Brandy Butter is exactly the same except it’s made with icing sugar not brown sugar. I personally find it bland whilst this is fab.

  • 170 gm/ 6oz unsalted butter
  • 170 gm/ 6oz brown sugar
  • rind ½ lemon, finely grated
  • 6-8 tb dark rum
  • pinch fresh grated nutmeg
  1. Beat butter till smooth, add sugar, nutmeg & rind and whizz /cream till well.  Beat in rum slowly.
  2. Form into block or a roll with cling wrap and freeze. Or pile into serving bowl and chill well.
  3. Slice across rolls to form neat rounds to serve or cut block into small cubes.
  4. Served onto steaming hot pudding, it melts slowly and boozily into the pudding. On mince pies, place a small round on each warm pie just before serving. It adds a gorgeous rummy richness as it softens.