I hope you’ve all had excellent winter holidays, celebrated in all the ways which made your hearts sing and your bellies full. Tell me what you ate and what you made.
I celebrated Christmas up in Sheffield with my friend Mary, a large ginger striped housecat called Whiskers, and Mr. Pear. For the main meal (which took place at 6 in the evening because I rolled out of bed at noon) there was goose, which was slightly overdone but still delicious. If you pay that much for something then I really hope to get several meals out of it, so there was goose and ham pie and then goose and leftover sandwiches, which were all fine things. I also got a litre of pure, lovely goose fat and managed, with great grunting difficulty, to saw the carcass in half and boil it into stock.
For sweets, I couldn’t be bothered to think of anything new and exciting and so stuck to orange cranberry cookies, chocolate chestnut cinnamon sandwich biscuits, and cranberry mince pies. Not bad, and I really only make these around Christmas time anyway. Perhaps this is how tradition happens: you are too exhausted to be novel. I did, however, think of a new jam recipe, which I’ll share later next year, for reasons of fate.
There was a bit of mincemeat left over from the mince pies; instead of a flies graveyard I mixed them into a loaf cake. The slight downside of using cranberry mincemeat is that it turns the batter an awful puce, but it does make a moist and lightly spiced cake which is just sweet enough. This is fruit cake for people who don’t like fruit cake, like me. I frequently find them too sweet yet too bitter, with highly disagreeable pockets of slimy fruit lurking within. Exceptions include good home-made bara brith and now this mincemeat loaf cake.
MINCEMEAT LOAF CAKE
Makes 1 loaf cake, 8 – 10 inch-thick slices. Keeps for a while wrapped in baking paper and some foil then sealed in an airtight container.
This would be a taller cake in a 1 lb loaf tin. I used a 2 lb tin (of 23 cm x 13 x 7 cm, or 9 x 5.5 x 3 inches) in this recipe as this was the only one I had to hand, hence the squat shape and slightly shorter cooking time.
225 g self-raising flour
125 g unsalted cold butter, diced
75g soft brown sugar (dark or light; up to you)
200g – 250g mincemeat
finely grated zest of 1 lemon or other flavouring, if desired
5 tbsp milk, plus more if needed
1 – 2 tablespoons granulated, caster, or demerara sugar for sprinkling on top if desired, or any other decorations you want, such as nuts
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C/140 fan. Line a 1 or 2 lb loaf tin with a sling of baking parchment. Greasing isn’t necessary for my tins, but lightly butter or oil yours if needed.
Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the cold diced butter and either rub in well using your fingertips or cut the fat into the flour with a pastry blender so the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Mix in the soft brown sugar, breaking up clumps with your fingers if needed.
In separate medium bowl or jug, mix together eggs, mincemeat, lemon zest and milk. Pour this into the flour mixture and stir until thick, soft and well combined, adding more milk by the tablespoon if the batter seems dry and clumpy.
Scrape batter into prepared tin and sprinkle over 1 – 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, just to cover the surface. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes. Start checking at 45 minutes in, a wooden skewer or piece of dry spaghetti should come out with a few damp crumbs clinging to it. The top should be crackly and browned.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out to cool completely. To store, wrap the baking paper around the cake followed by a a tight double thickness of foil before sealing away in an airtight container.