Christmas Recipes: Gluten Free Mince Pies

Gluten free is becoming more and more popular. Some people are going GF as a dietary choice or to have something to hashtag on Insta, and some people are actually real gluten free-ers. I’ve a mate who is a real gluten free-er, and she was saying she hadn’t appreciated mince pies enough before she had had to stop eating anything with gluten in it, so that got me thinking. Surely gluten free pastry can’t be that difficult to make, can it?! Plus, I’ve just made more than enough mincemeat to feed an army, so I need to do something with it. You can find my recipe for homemade mincemeat here on my blog, it’s so yummy and it will beat any shop bought version hands down, and it’s simple to make too.

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So, I got Googling and I found a few recipes for gluten free shortcrust pastry. They were all much of a muchness, with xanthan gum cropping up in all the recipes I read through. I got some gluten free flour, which, by the way, is the weirdest thing to touch ever; it feels like cornflour when you touch it and it made my insides feel uncomfortable when I was rubbing it into the butter.

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In the end, I decided to follow the gluten free shortcrust pastry recipe from the Tesco website, and you can view the original here. The reason I chose this one was because it got 5 stars, whereas others had got 4.2’s and the like. Moi being moi, I changed the recipe a little bit, as you know, I find it impossible to follow a recipe to a letter. I added some lemon zest to the pastry because no Christmas recipe is complete without some sort of zest.

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I like a mini mince pie, and for multiple reasons; they look super cute, people will be really impressed at their miniatureness and you can have more than one and not even feel remotely guilty about it.

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Ingredients:

  • 225g gluten free white flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 110g cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg

 

Method:

  1. Weigh the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, xanthan gum and sugar.
  2. Tip in the butter and, using your fingers, rub the butter and flour mixture together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the egg and combine until you have a smooth ball of pastry. If the mixture is dry and crumbly, add a teaspoon of water at a time until your pastry forms a smooth ball.
  4. Wrap your pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 170°
  6. Flour your surface (making sure you use your gluten free flour) and roll out the pastry until it’s about the thickness of a £1 coin. As I was making mini ones, I rolled it out even thinner than this, but for a normal sized pie, the thickness of a £1 coin will be about right.
  7. Grease the pie tin you are going to be using, and cut out rounds of pastry and press them evenly into the tins.
  8. Place a spoonful of mincemeat into the pastry. For my mini ones, I used a teaspoonful of mincemeat. For larger ones, it will be about a dessertspoonful.
  9. Cut out the stars to top your mince pies, and place them on top, pressing them down slightly to secure them.
  10. Brush the tops of the mince pies with a splash of milk to give them a bit of a sheen and place them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are golden brown.
  11. Leave them to cool for a bit in the tin and then remove them to a rack to cool completely. Dust them with some icing sugar before you serve them, and I promise, everyone will have more than one!

 

I found it was a little difficult to handle the gluten free pastry in the beginning; it was cracking when I was trying to put it in the tin. After I’d kneaded it a bit more and re-rolled, I found it much easier to handle – so, I would suggest giving it a little bit more of a knead than you would your usual pastry, before you start rolling it out. I shaped the pastry slightly before I pushed it into the moulds, to try an combat a bit of the cracking – which worked quite well.

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You could put proper tops on the top of your pies if you wanted, but I prefer the stars. This is mainly because I can never manage to keep the mincemeat inside the pies when they have a lid on, and it always seems to sort of explode everywhere and look like a complete brown car crash on the plate (yuck). The stars resolve that issue, and they look nice and festive as well.

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If you make them, I’d love to hear how they go!

 

Bonnie

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Christmas Recipes: Mincemeat

We love this mincemeat at home – it beats any mincemeat in a jar, absolutely hands down. It’s beyond tasty, and the nice big chunks of fruit and almonds in the mix make it even better. Plus, there is no suet in this mincemeat recipe, so its suitable for vegetarians and you don’t have to eat chunks of actual animal fat – winner! This is also the only recipe I have seen with cranberries in, and I can tell you; they make all the difference.

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I’ve found dried cranberries to sometimes be tricky to get a hold of. You should be fine over the Christmas period, but they aren’t standard stock in some of the smaller shops, so you are best going to something like a Tesco Extra (other stores are available, teehee). Oh, and make sure you have some jars to store your mincemeat in. We always have tonnes of empty jam jars hanging around in the cupboard, but this recipe will fill 4 jam jars, so make sure you have enough!

it’s so simple to make, all you do is add all the ingredients to the pan and cook it for 10 minutes once the butter has melted – it is genuinely that simple. I made the fatal error of not selecting a late enough pan, so I had to tip the mixture into a bigger pan. I wonder if this ever happens to Mary Berry? I doubt it, she is too good to make such rookie errors.

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Overflowing pan 

I doubled up this recipe because we make lots of mince pies in the run up to Christmas and we keep making them after Christmas as well! Plus, we had so much dried fruit in the house, it wasn’t all fitting in the tin, so I used this as an excuse to get rid of a fair few bags of the stuff. This recipe is from Mary Berry (gotta love Maz), and the original recipe is here if you want to take a look at it. It’s pretty close to Maz’s original, but I can never leave a recipe untouched, so there are some small changes.

 

Ingredients:

  • 175g currants
  • 175g raisins
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g dried cranberries
  • 100g chopped mixed peel
  • 1 small cooking apple
  • 125g butter, cubed
  • 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
  • 225g light muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 200ml brandy

 

Method:

  1. Peel and core the apple, then chop into small chunks – about the same size as the sultanas.
  2. Measure all the ingredients (apart from the brandy) into a large pan and heat gently, until all the butter has melted.
  3. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, then leave to cool.
  4. Once the mixture is cool, stir in the brandy.
  5. Spoon your mincemeat into sterilised jars and you are good to go!

 

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Glistening and gleaming 

When you stir in the brandy, you’ll probably think it looks like a lot – but trust me, it’s just the right amount. If you don’t have any brandy, you can use either sherry or rum, they work just as well, but will give a different flavour.

This mincemeat keeps forever; we still have some in the cupboard from last year. The combination of the butter and booze allows it to keep well. You can make it well in advance if you are one of those people who is very organised and prepared (I am not, as you may be aware).

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The finished articles 

Bonnie

Make your own Christmas wreath – I did!

Each year I make my own Christmas wreath to hang on our front door. There are tonnes of beautiful wreaths out there to buy, but I always find they are a bit expensive and they are never quite how you want them to be. Plus, I enjoy making my own one and I get a lot of pleasure out of making a gorgeous wreath for everyone to see when they come to the door. You might have found the thought of making your own Christmas wreath a bit daunting, but I promise, if I can do it, anyone can! The main point here, is that you have fun with it, and I’m a fan of anything which looks rustic at Christmas anyway.

I have been doing this for a while now, so I have all the bits I need, but there are a couple of things you will need to buy before you get started:

  • Wreath ring; the one I have is 20 inches across, but it will depend how big your door is as to what size you will need. Take a look at the one I have from Amazon, here.
  • Binding wire; this is the wire florists use to make their arrangements. I tend to go for wire like this, it’s dark so you can’t see it.
  • Wreath hook; trying to hang thig on the front of your door with a piece of string will be a complete nightmare (I promise, I tried) so a wreath hook like this is what it’s all about.

It’s important to have an idea of the kind of look you want to achieve before-hand. You need to think about the kind of foliage you are going to use and how you are going to decorate it. I tend to keep mine pretty simple, but you can add as much to it as you like.

Here are a few photos of ideas I have seen online that I think are super cute:

I mostly use ivy in my wreath, and there are a couple of reasons for this. One being that our garden is full of it, so I don’t have to go trekking high and low to find it. I also really like the different colours in the ivy and the different sizes of leaves – this helps it hang nicely on your wreath ring. It’s also very easy to work with as it’s so bendy and flexible.

I decorated it with a red bow made out of a length of red ribbon and some pinecones. I used to use holly when I first started doing this, but we have a door knocker instead of a bell and I got a few complaints about people being speared in the hand when they tried to knock on the door (all part of the fun I say).

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you can see the holly issue 

Once you have sourced all your bits and bobs to decorate your wreath with, head out into the cold and cut yourself some foliage. If you want to use bits of Christmas tree; head to your local seller and ask if they have any bits you can use that have been cut off or have fallen off. If you notice a holly tree in someone’s garden, knock on the door and ask if you can cut a sprig or two off the bottom – most people have been more than happy for me to do this in my experience. And you can always rummage around in the garden of friends and family for bits of tree.

The first time you do this, you will have no idea how much you need. But, to give you an idea, I used about 20 lengths of ivy which were about 1 foot or a foot and a half long. I headed out to the garden in my sexy plastic gardening clogs and dressing gown, and released a tree from the clutches of a load of ivy, and headed back inside.

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I cut off some lengths of binding wire, between 2 and 3 inches in length. I make sure I have these ready, as by the time you are grappling with branches and wreath rings, you don’t want to be snipping up bits of wire.

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I start off with some thicker bits of ivy to give myself a bit of a base and some coverage. Plus, it’s easier to wind your wire round these big bits when there is nothing else on your wreath ring. I hold the ivy up to the wreath ring, then bend a length of wire around the ivy and twist the wire together at the back to hold it in place.

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I keep going round and round in circles until my wreath ring is completely covered, and I don’t have any bare patches. At this point I then go and put it on the door. This gives you the opportunity to take a step back and make sure you are happy with your wreath. I often see parts that need a bit more added or a bit taking away. If one bit has too many leaves, you can snip off any you don’t want.

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Once I’m happy, I add my decorations. This year I only wanted to add a couple of pine cones at the bottom and a big bow, but you can add holly, baubles, ribbons, or even some battery-operated lights! The opportunities are endless with your wreath! Last year I used holly, some extra red berries and a little robin (who I couldn’t find this year). I wanted it to look a bit wild and unkempt this year, and I think I achieved that. Next year I am sure it will look completely different and I will be coming at you with something that doesn’t even look remotely similar. If you want to make your own wreath and you do have a go at it, please let me know how it goes!

Bonnie

The 2 Day Hangover

The work Christmas party was on Wednesday. Ohhhhhhhh the work Christmas party was on Wednesday. That was days ago and I am still not okay. Who even knows what happened that night? Not I! I thought I didn’t drink that much… Turns out that was a lie! Christ.

drunk camera man it seems…

I woke up the next morning feeling a bit tired, but that was about all. But, as time went on, I started feeling a bit retchy and my tummy a bit churny. No bother – I’ll just have some water and that will sort me right out. It didn’t. Just a little bit more water, that won’t make me feel sick at all. It did. I’ll just sit here for a moment, next to the loo and I’ll rest my eyes for a bit – I won’t be sick. I was. Hell. HELL. Urgh, but at least I wasn’t sick ON anyone this time, so I’ll take that as a win. I shoved all my stuff into my bag and met the girls downstairs for a spot of breakfast. I kept retching at the breakfast table which was less than glamorous, and I could barely manage half a slice of toast on account of each bite resurfacing in a less than lovely manner.

da outfit – looking pretty Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat 

Dress is from Zara (but I bought it like 6 days ago and obvs it’s already gone from the site) and boots are from ASOS. I do love a boot at a party, because you can wear socks and socks are comfy and I love them. Plus, no one likes chilly toes. But, I digress.

There was a coach taking us back to the office in the morning. I made it down the stairs with a bit of retching along the way and managed to deposit myself on the coach without too much mishap. The coach seemed to go over every bump possible and round every corner as fast as possible. It was like the driver was trying to make me vom as fast as possible. It’s any wonder I didn’t vom all over the girl in the seat in front of me, I would have done as well if she’d carried on shouting over my head. It got so bad that I had to stop talking because I feared that opening my mouth may result in sick coming out of it, and I NEVER stop talking, ever. So, it was bad.

I made it to work without being sick in the coach, but I didn’t last much longer. I stumbled off the coach in a daze, by this time, it was now tipping it down with rain. I grabbed my sodden bag and dragged myself up the steps and into the office. I ditched my crap, threw of my coat and legged it to the loo just in the nick of time. Charging to my favourite cubicle (far right-hand side), I threw myself through the door, locked it behind me and made connection with the cool white ceramic. Ah heaven. As I retched up the half a litre of water I had drunk on the coach I wondered what it was like to feel well. When was the last time I had felt well? Was it when myself and one of the girls had pushed the button for the lift, got in and pushed the button to go one floor up, travelled up, got out of the lift, only to realise we’d stayed on exactly the same floor and we had stumbled out on to the same floor we were just on. However, I don’t think anyone noticed. All they noticed, was us bent double, laughing so much we could barely walk straight. But I’m sure they were all none the wiser as to what had happened.

Anyway, where were we? Oh, that’s right, I was clinging onto the loo. Sicking done, and mouth wash swilled, I headed back out into the office and switched on my laptop. It was then that another wave of nausea hit me and I had to make it swiftish back to the loo. Clinging to the loo again, trying to remember the last time I felt well. Was it when myself and my team were headed to the photo booth? It might have been. We went in there and had a few photos; we all had turkey hats on in one of them (we fondly call that the triple turkey). On the way out, I leant on the wall of the photo booth, only to quickly find out it was an inflatable photo booth which wasn’t at all ready to hold my weight. At that point Ben came running out for a photo, absolutely smashed. We raised this point, at which point he informed us he wasn’t at all drunk, and proved that point by throwing his whole glass of wine over his shoulder.

Photo Booth 1 

Anywhere, where way we? So, I was vomming in the loo, then I went out for a bit of fresh air. I had a bit of a retch out there and I was worried I was going to be sick in the top pocket of my dungarees. At this point, the decision was made by my manager that I should take the rest of the day off. I can tell you now, it was a sorry Uber ride home. I got straight into bed, after drinking about 3 points of water, and slept until 6 pm. I don’t know where all that water went, but it didn’t even generate a wee!! How dehydrated was I?! I struggled downstairs to heat myself some chicken soup (which took me about 3 years to eat) and I was back in bed again. I had more water, but I think had turned into some kind of sponge, because I was still absorbing it.

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I made it to work and planted myself at the desk. Ready for a fruitful days’ work. And then it hit; The Hangover 2. I could barely finish half my breakfast and the retching was happening again. I was slumped down on my desk when it started snowing – I could barely muster half a level of excitement at the arrival of snow. The retching happened again. I managed to force down a sausage roll at lunch time and dragged myself out for a walk with Ellie and Ben. It was freezing. Freezing I tell you. The rest of the day passed in a blur. I’m not sure what happened. Did I do any work? I couldn’t say. I got my emails down from 125 to 70, but I can’t tell you whether that was because I replied to them or because I just kept opening them, reading them and never responding to them. Either way, I’ll take it as a win as I have less emails than when I started.

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Finally, the retching has stopped. But I keep having horrifying flashbacks. Like, flashback to the time when I told this guy that “his name made him sound better looking than he was”. Genuinely horrified at myself. Genuinely horrified. But, at least that is one less person I have to be nice to, because he will just ignore me forever now. And that’s a small win, right? Not really, but I need to put a good spin on this. Sorry bro.

Bonnie

The Malteser reindeer consideration

Why are Malteser reindeer so good? Why? They are other worldly in comparison to other festive chocolate treats. I am convinced they are a gift from the heavens. Nothing this tasty can have been created by one of us mere mortals. These came from a higher being; of that I’ve no doubt. I am surprised they haven’t been depicted in paintings of the birth of Jesus, and I’m equally surprised that they weren’t given at least one mention in the Bible. I’m fairly sure Mary whipped one of these bad boys out of her knapsack whilst she and Joseph were travelling on the donkey.

I’ve done a serious amount of thinking about why they are so damned delicious, and I have come up with a few reasons. These are the kinds of things I think about when I am sitting on the loo, treating myself to a change of scenery for five minutes. I feel my best work is done seated in the cubicle on the far right-hand side of the ground floor ladies’ bathroom at work. Many an epiphany has been had with my back resting against the cistern and my head resting against the loo roll dispenser. Possibly not the most hygienic of places to do great work, but I doubt Einstein would judge my choice. Whatever works for you, right?

I digress; I was supposed to be explaining why Malteser reindeer are the tastiest deer in all the land, and now I shall. Hold onto your hats people, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

  1. Chocolate to filling ratio

In comparison to your average run of the mill Malteser, the reindeer has a distinctly thicker chocolate coating and this makes a huge difference. The thicker chocolate layer protecting the delectable creamy Malteser filling is a deal breaker and a maker. It takes this treat from average to mind blowing in the first bite. Just thinking about taking a bite of one of these bad boys is genuinely causing me issues in the world of excess saliva production.

  1. Reindeer shape

I am 100% sure that when a snack if shaped as something cute, like a little reindeer, it tastes 100,000,000 times better. No lie. There is something inherently enjoyable about decapitating a reindeer in one bite. Also, because it isn’t a uniform shape, there isn’t a strict uniformity in biscuit to chocolate ratio. Every mouthful is different, yet equally enjoyable.

  1. Availability

They are only available once a year. Yes, they get reinvented at Easter to become bunnies, but the scrummy reindeer is only available for a couple of months of the year. The second Halloween is over and the Christmas treat aisle is at full capacity in Tesco, it’s game on. The most wonderful time of the year has begun. You can never over indulge to the point where you will never want another one. They are only around for 8 weeks. That is not enough time to eat so many that you will never want to look one square in the eye again. There is an extended “off season”, where you have 10 months to recover. To forget about their chocolatey goodness, then start to yearn for a taste of sweet reindeer as the weather starts to turn colder and the nights draw in. The once-a-year deer know the game, and they play it oh so well.

 

There is no greater feeling than tearing open the wrapper on the first Malteser reindeer of the season. The scrumptious waft of deliciousness emanates from inside the wrapper. It’s an “eyes closed” moment as you take a bite of your first reindeer of the festive season. This moment is almost akin to love making. The passion I feel for these things is near to unrivalled. Are these better than sex? Well, no, let’s not be entirely ridiculous. These are not better than sex. They come close, I’m not going to lie, but they haven’t quite made it to that level yet. Can the two be combined? Is that a thing that can happen? (if you’re reading this, I think we need to talk, because I’m not sure I’m going to stop thinking about this as an option any time soon). Anyway, they aren’t better, unless you are having terrible sex, in which case they might actually be better than the sex you are having. If that is the case, have more reindeer and that will probably make you feel better about the whole sex thing. And at the very least, you will eat so many that you will feel entirely sick and your “not tonight dear” won’t be a falsity this time.

 

Bonnie