Christmas Day 2020
A Merry Covidmas to all;
God Help Us, Every One!
Bloody Mary

The Last Present of Christmas
Well here we are, marching into another year of pointless idiot lockdowns behind our glorious leader Clown Minister Boris.
At least I can enjoy this blessed respite; since I don't live in London! And with Christmas and New Year's day falling on Fridays this year it means the whole week in between is one long glorious holiday - Hallelujah!
Now where are my bloody presents?

We cut back on our baking this year, since we never eat it all, and by popular demand only made a few quick 'n' crunchy biscuits, coffee kisses and of course the obligatory mince pies.
And then George ate them all before even New Year was out. 🙄

Here are this years tasting notes: Overall despite missing absent friends Hi Flora 🙁, we struggled through bravely and a good time was had by all. Perhaps next year we'll start the goose a little earlier though, so we're all a bit less grumpy before dinner is served?

Happy 2021 Everyone!

Prawn Cocktail
starter fish
This Christmas I was persuaded to settle for a depressingly mundane starter since, as Kurt rightly observed; "there's no-one here for you to impress this year". Prawn cocktail was the the default option since it's sufficiently lowbrow to appeal to my brother, and George likes both prawns and tomato ketchup, so there'd be no reason for him not to like it.
George didn't like it.

I mostly followed Lesley Orson's instructions for making the Marie Rose sauce, with an added festive splash of brandy.
And perhaps a dash of Worcestershire sauce - or was that only in the Bloody Marys? I forget.

I've had some truly dreadful bags of manky cooked or frozen prawns from our Local Fucking Supermarket™ before, so I insisted on buying fresh ones in the hope that it would guarantee a minimal level of quality. And the shelled raw king prawns we got really weren't too bad. I picked through them carefully and de-veined the larger ones.
If you buy them with their shells on, then you can cook them in their jackets and peel them after. They'll probably be more tasty that way.

Serves 4

Bring a pot of water or stock! to the boil, add the prawns, return to the boil and poach the prawns for 3 minutes. Drain then dump into ice water to chill. Drain and dry them off, drizzle them with lemon juice and keep in the fridge until required.

Shred most of the lettuce and fill the bottom of the serving glasses. You can line the sides with a couple of trimmed whole leaves, if you like. Whisk up the sauce ingredients, adding any spare lemon juice. Season and adjust quantities. Mix in most of the prawns and fill the rest of the serving glasses. Pile the remaining prawns on top, garnish with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, and serve.
But delicious 😉

Frangipane Mince Pies
veg sweet
On a rare (in this Time of COVID) day out with buddy Becky in Bradford, she bought herself a mince pie to eat with the takeaway coffees we drank sitting on the pavement like fucking tramps. And as she munched through it I found myself pondering how its glazed pastry reminded me of bakewell tarts, and if it wouldn't be possible to top a mince pie with that kind of almond sponge for a different take on the traditional mince pie theme.

Naturally, when I found the time to google it, Mary Berry (amongst others) had been there before me. She even has (largely incoherent) instructions for optimally utilising your AARGHA. What, you don't have an AARGHA? What sort of Mary Berry fan are you?
So I've just copied out her recipe for you - though I have a couple of comments to make:
  • 1 teaspoon of mincemeat per pie is simply not enough - it vanishes completely into the frangipane even though I was generous with mine.
    Say, three teaspoons.
    Big ones.
  • I managed to roll out 12 mince pies (using a deep yorkshire pudding tray), which left me with a little extra pastry. But I then had to over-stuff the pies to use up all the topping, and that was with too little mincemeat content. So if you make them with the proper balance you'll probably need less topping than Mary does. Unless she rolls out her pastry much thinner than I did.
    Hmmm 🤔 yes, that might be it!
  • (But unless you have Mary Berry skills, don't roll your pastry out much thinner than I did. It will end up too thin and overworked to support the pies!)
  • If you're lucky the idiot you sent shopping will actually turn up with the ingredients you asked for and you'll be able to top the pies with flaked almonds 🙄
    If not, a sprinkle of icing sugar will help to decorate them.

Makes 18 Pies (or 12!)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6.

To make the pastry, measure the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor bowl, then process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Or cut the mixture together with a knife - don't overwork it. Pour in the beaten egg and pulse the blade until the dough starts to form a ball. You might need a little extra milk if the mixture doesn't cohere. Knead lightly, wrap and chill for about 30 minutes if the pastry is not quite firm enough to roll out.

To make the frangipane, measure the butter and sugar into the unwashed processor, and blend until soft and creamy. If you don't have a Magimix which matches your AARGHA you can just use a wooden spoon. Scrape down the sides, add the eggs and continue to process. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled at this stage. Add the ground almonds, flour and almond extract, and mix briefly.

Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured work surface and cut into eighteen 6.5cm (2. in) circles. Use to line the tins. Spoon a teaspoon or three! of mincemeat into each tartlet and top with the frangipane mixture. There is no need to spread the mixture flat as it will level out in the oven (but do not overfill the tins). Sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15–17 minutes, watching carefully. They're ready when the frangipane is just set in the centre and the edges begin to colour. Remove from the tins and allow to cool a little on a wire rack.
Mary Berry's incoherent instructions for AARGHA owners:
Bake on the floor of the Roasting Oven for about 8 minutes to brown the pastry base. Turn round and slide on the grid shelf on the floor of the Roasting Oven for a further 6–8 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Put the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners if getting too brown.

Dilute the apricot jam with a little lemon juice or water and bring to the boil. Brush each warm tartlet with glaze. Like traditional mince pies, these are best served warm.

To Prepare Ahead:
Build and bake as above, cool on the wire tray and either:
  • keep them for up to 3 days then refresh in a moderate oven at 180°C/Fan 160oC/Gas 4 for 8–10 minutes, and glaze.
  • or freeze the pies, then thaw at room temperature for 2–3 hours. Warm through in the oven as above, then glaze.
Delicious - I think I'll make them again. Though with more mincemeat. And maybe some flaked almonds.

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