December is here and so is our festive extravaganza. As our readers will already know, and as reiterated last week with the Hanukkah post, G&T come from different backgrounds, one Jewish, one loosely Christian at best. It is really interesting to dissect the difference between them and this time of year is a great opportunity to do so.
Although Hanukkah and Christmas are two worlds apart, they have one big similarity and that is complete and utter indulgence. I come from a family that is perhaps lacking a little religious direction, but where we lack in devotion to God, we make up in the worship of food, drink and raucous laughter that we find in each other’s company.
Coming from a family of fantastic cooks, my mother is (although a little chaotic at times) a total domestic Goddess who puts every inch of her heart and soul into giving her family the most beautiful Christmas yet. Every year tops the last. Our home is always stroon with beautiful ivy garlands, twinkling decorations and the sounds of the spine-tingling choral music my father adores so much. I learnt everything I know in the kitchen from my mother, and she was taught by her sister before her. My brother and my father are great appreciators of food and wine, although I am still waiting for them to roll up their sleeves and put their kitchen skills where their mouths are. In my extended family, you will find a plethora of cooks, bakers, sushi makers, macaron-masters and connoisseurs of all things delicious. So, you can imagine the overindulgence we all experience when we get together. It is almost teetering on the edge of grotesque.
Although the Tighe family are heathens with our gluttonous approach to food, it is still Christmas that brings us all together. We live, or at least my family lives, in a world that is not ruled by religion. Christmas doesn’t mean what it used to anymore in our almost secular lifestyles, but some things have remained intact when God was taken out of the equation. It is about family togetherness and buying gifts to remind your loved ones you care. It is about sitting down around a table and sharing a meal together and perhaps drinking a little too much. That being said, I’m pretty sure I will be going to go to hell for writing this, but at least my entire family is coming with me; it will be a right laugh.
I would love to write a recipe for my ultimate Christmas dinner, but we would be here until the New Year. Instead, I’ve gone for something small. The humble mince pie is the ultimate symbol of the festive season. It has all the flavours we love about Christmas – cinnamon, nutmeg, brandy, orange and there is nothing more indulgent than buttery pastry, accept perhaps buttery shortcrust pastry smothered in sweetened cream. Go on, it’s Christmas.
They are that perfect little afternoon treat when you just fancy something sugary, and you simply must have some lying around if there are little ones – what else are you going to leave out for Santa Claus?
I may sound cynical, but don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas and all the dysfunction and gluttony it brings. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Merry ‘effing Christmas everyone.
See you next Thursday, for the last post of 2017!
400g of sweet shortcrust pastry
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of half an orange
300g shredded suet (vegetarian or not)
250g dark brown sugar
85g mixed peel
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
100ml of brandy or rum
1 small sweet apple (or pear) finely diced
Icing sugar for dusting
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl (bar the pastry and the icing sugar) and mix until the granules of sugar have completely dissolved. Leave to soak in the liquid for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, roll out the pastry and cut 12 discs with a 5cm round cutter. Place them in a muffin tin, line with paper and place some ceramic baking beans inside. Cook for ten minutes at 180 degrees. Allow to cool completely.
Place one dessert spoon of the mixture in each case. Cut 24 stars from the remaining tolled pastry and top the pies. Brush with a little whisked egg and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a dollop of brandy flavoured cream.