Christmas Mince Pies (Vegan)

“Every year I make Christmas mince pies.  Mum’s been doing making them for years but I’m sure mine are better!  She will disagree with this.  Anyway, this version is very tasty and vegan friendly.  Of course, you can make them with a traditional shortcrust pastry but I love the texture of this pastry and it’s really easy to make and work with. This recipe makes enough pastry for about 3 dozen mince pies, so halve it if you don’t need that many. I make the Christmas mince in bulk every year and use it to make Christmas cakes, biscuits and other delicacies. I haven’t given weights for the dried fruit because with this method you can make as much or as little as you like and use a combination of fruits that you like best.  I would also suggest you use less expensive cooking port or it can get expensive. Enjoy!”

(Photos by Gary Corbett)

Ingredients for Christmas mince

  • Sultanas
  • Currents
  • Dates
  • Dried apricots
  • Dried figs
  • Cranberries
  • Cooking port
Method for Christmas mince
  1. Cut up the dried fruit into small pieces or use a food processor.
  2. Place fruit in a large saucepan pour over enough port to saturate the fruit.
  3. Bring the heat up to medium and keep stirring until the port has been incorporated and the fruit has softened. There should be no liquid left in the mixture and the fruit should be glossy and sticky.   (When doing 2kg of dried fruit this takes up to 20 minutes) You can always add more port and keep the mixture on the heat if you want cook it for longer.
  4. Let the Christmas mince cool completely in the saucepan then transfer to a plastic container and refrigerate.  Because of the high amount of natural sugars the Christmas mince will last for ages!
Ingredients for Vegan shortcrust pastry
  • 190g Nutilex (or non-dairy margarine)
  • 190g icing sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
Method for Vegan shortcrust pastry
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and combine until it comes into a ball.  If you mixture is crumbly add a small amount of cold water. If it’s to soft put some more flour in.
  2. Empty mixture onto some plastic wrap and knead into a disc. (This will make it easier to roll out later)
  3. Wrap disc in the plastic wrap and place in the fridge until needed.
Method for Christmas mince pies
  1. Roll out the pastry until it’s about 5mm thick.
  2. Cut out circles of pastry to fit your pans.  (I have specialty pans that are shallow with a fluted edge that are perfect for these pies)
  3. Press the pastry into the base of each mould so it comes a few centimetres up the side. (Or as deep as you want if you want bigger pies!)
  4. Fill the moulds with the cooled Christmas mince and smooth the top.
  5. Using Christmas cutters make tops for the pies.  I use stars, Santas, Christmas trees or baubles for mine.  You can also enclose the top completely if you like.
  6. Before you put them in the oven you can use an egg-wash, milk or any vegan milks to paint over the pastry tops.  Or you can sprinkle a bit of sugar over them.
  7. Bake in a 180 degree C oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and starting to brown.
  8. Give to all your family and friends and everyone will love you!

 

Vegan Fruit and Nut Loaf

“I recently made a delicious fruit and nut loaf from one of Bill Grainger’s beautiful cookbooks.  It was light and fragrant with nice chunky pieces of dried fruit and crunchy nuts.  Because it didn’t have a lot of butter or eggs in it I decided to try and convert it to a vegan version.  After a few attempts I got the right balance that doesn’t lack any of the flavours or textures of the original.  It also works great toasted after a few days and freezes well. Of course I do have it smothered with butter, but you can always find a vegan alternative. Enjoy!”

Ingredients

  • 50g oats
  • 300ml almond milk
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250g dried fruit, roughly chopped (Dates, raisins, apricots, figs etc)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 70g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 lemon, rind and juice
  • 30g almonds roughly chopped for topping
Method
  1. Place oats and almond milk in a bowl and allow to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine the flour, spices, sugar and salt and mix together.
  3. Add the oats and milk, dried fruit, almonds, maple syrup, banana and lemon juice and rind and mix together.
  4. Pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin and smooth the top.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining almonds on top.
  6. Bake in a 180 celcius oven for 40 – 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool for 30 minutes then remove from the tin.  Slather with butter and enjoy.

 

 

 

Marian’s Moroccan Chicken

“I’ve got to thank my friend Marian for this recipe.  She made it for me years ago and ever since I’ve had it on my stand-by list for quick and easy dinners.  It even features on my Moroccan catering menu alongside slow-cooked beef with dates and orange almond cake.  The best thing about this dish is the combination of flavours and textures.  You get the sweet and sour tang from the vinegar and sugar and the caramelised goodness of the chicken with the salty hit from the capers and the olives.  Whoops, just drooled on the keyboard thinking about it!  Of course as an avid cook I couldn’t quite leave the recipe alone so I’ve tweaked it ever so slightly (Sorry Marian!).  You may also notice that this recipe feeds quite a few (Christmas party catering!) so just cut the ingredients in half if you want, or make huge amounts and eat as leftovers.  I’ve paired it with a roast pumpkin cous cous salad.  Enjoy!”

Ingredients

  • 2kg chicken thighs
  • 500g mushrooms
  • 1 red onion
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 400g pitted prunes
  • 400g dried apricots
  • 300g pitted olives
  • 150g capers
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups light olive oil
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 tbsn dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Quarter the chicken thighs and mushrooms and place in a large container.
  2. Finely slice the onion into rings and slice the garlic.  Add to the chicken.
  3. Add the prunes, apricots, olives, capers and bay leaves.
  4. Combine the vinegars, oil and wine with the sugar and stir into the chicken mixture.
  5. Finally add the oregano, salt and pepper and refrigerate covered for 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Place mixture in an baking dish and cook at 200 degrees c for 40-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.  Don’t worry if some of the fruit and chicken caramelises (burns!) during the cooking process, this adds to the flavour.

Roast pumpkin and cous cous salad

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pumpkin
  • 2 tbsn ras e hanout (Moroccan spice)
  • 1 cup cous cous
  • 1/2 cup currents
  • 150g pine nuts
  • 1 red onion
  • Fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Cut the pumpkin into 1cm cubes. Coat in olive oil and Ras e hanout and bake in a moderate oven until cooked.  Allow to cool.
  2. Place cous cous in a sealed container and cover with boiling water.  Place the lid on and let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir with a fork to separate the grains.
  4. In a dry pan roast the pine nuts until they start to turn golden then put in a bowl.
  5. Finely dice the red onion and coriander and add to the cous cous with the other ingredients.
  6. Top with roast pumpkin and some more coriander.