How to make vegetarian mincemeat

fanny and brendas home-made vegetarian mincemeat for christmas

This year we have decided to make our own mincemeat. Our recipe does without beef suet and instead it uses butter. I am a big fan of home made mince pies and find that most of the commercial ones are okay but somehow lack the feasting element in their soul. They are convenient, but so is my fridge. I want something that says “let’s celebrate”. And believe me when you have to look at Fanny’s face every day a little joy is very welcome.

fanny and brendas home-made vegetarian mincemeat for christmas

We spent the majority of the time finding the right ingredients – ie the ingredients that we wanted in the mincemeat. It’s strange how much time it does take up, and to get ready. This is also half the fun though. We also candied our own peel and I had to show you the candied grapefruit peel- what a colour! And it’s delicious too. Please refer to our candy peel recipe if you want to make it.

Homemade Mincemeat Ingredients

100 g salted butter
250ml juice from citrus
2 large apples, peeled (e.g.. braeburns)
100g raisins
100g sultanas
100g dried currants
80 g glace morello cherries
100g chopped dried figs
100g chopped prunes
200g candied mixed peel (grapefruit, orange, lemon)
Zest and juice of one orange and lemon
100g  dark brown sugar
100ml triple sec
100ml brandy
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

fanny and brendas home-made vegetarian mincemeat for christmas

Get a large pot and place the butter, sugar and spices in the pan on a medium heat. Allow the butter to melt and stir.

Add the rest of the ingredients.

Stir well and let simmer for half an hour or until most of the juice has evaporated.

Switch off hob and leave to cool.

Sterilise a jar by heating to 100°C for twenty minutes; then leave to cool thoroughly.

Add mincemeat to jar.

You can store this in the fridge and it will last for this Christmas period, ready to be used at any time over the next few weeks.

fanny and brendas home-made vegetarian mincemeat for christmas

Warm chorizo and quails egg salad

Fanny Klunge's Chorizo and Quails Egg Salad

Warm chorizo and quails egg salad (serves 4)

approx 100g rocket leaves – either snipped,
or more conveniently if slightly less desirably, from a salad bag.
125g chorizo, sliced into “coins” about 3mm thick
8-9 quails eggs

For the dressing

olive oil
white wine vinegar or lemon juice
Dijon mustard
runny honey
sea salt
cracked black pepper

Start by making the dressing by whisking together 6tbsp olive oil to 2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice (or combo thereof, if you like), a tsp mustard, a tsp honey and plenty of salt and pepper. Set aside

Boil kettle

Place chorizo in a dry frying pan and switch on hob to medium high heat – as the chorizo warms, it will start to release its oils and fry. After a couple of minutes, it should be getting crisp in which case, flip over the pieces, fry on the other side for a few minutes until also getting crisp then switch off heat. I also few off a few teaspoons-full of the gorgeous paprika-laden oil and mixed it with the dressing but this isn’t compulsory

Use hot water from kettle to set pan of water on to simmer then carefully put quails eggs in to boil. They’re so tiny they will only need 1 1/2- 1 3/4 minutes to reach a point where they are hard boiled but retain a soft yolk. They can be retrieved using a slotted spoon and then, as they lose heat so fast, can almost immediately be picked up by hand and run under the tap for about 15 seconds which will totally stop any cooking without turning them fridge cold which is not desirable given this is a warm salad!

Peel the eggs.

In a large bowl, dress and toss the leaves

To assemble, gently pile a handful of the glossy leaves onto a plate, scatter some crisp slices of chorizo and two quails eggs, all of which should still be warm.

For those who cant do without carbs, a few croutons are ideal, plus they add extra colour and crunch!

In Memory

It isn’t my style to bring my family into this, but as my parents revolved around good food it would seem a bit strange if I didn’t. Two years ago my father stewed some Egremont Russet Apples and stored them in kilner jars in his kitchen cupboard. Sadly he was never to eat any- he died before he could do so.

In all the strangeness of the clearing, furniture was put in storage, books in boxes, crockery in cases, all to be rearranged somewhere else.

Yet if there was a more personal legacy I’d like to see it. I took it, along with an annoyed cat and my mother’s cookbooks one cold night late last year.

I decided to finally open the last jar this week. Here I was eating food produced by Dad two years ago which was sweetly delicious and slightly caramelized after its two year storage. It reminded me that he had a slightly sweeter tooth than me, which made me smile. Memories flooded back; the meals we used to eat together, the confidences we had, the laughter we shared. God I miss him.

My mother had a neat way of making this rather special. She toasted some breadcrumbs laced with a bit of cinnamon.

fanny and brendas stewed apple, with toasted cinnamon breadcrumbs

A couple of spoonfuls of fruit would suffice, with a blob of plain yoghurt, topped by the cinnamon breadcrumbs. Simple but very effective and quite delicious. I hope you enjoy it.

Pears in Syrup with Creme Fraiche

There’s nothing I like more than a nice juicy pear and indeed it’s best eaten when just ripe. A few weeks ago Brenda was away and apart from picking wild blackberries which were amazing, she also scrumped some rather leathery pears from a long neglected hedgerow. God knows what appalling kind of sight beheld the locals that day as she tramped around the country lanes looking like the wild woman from beyond. A spectre too ghastly to imagine quite frankly. Anyway I assume that the pears came from a hedgerow like she told me and that they weren’t stolen from someone’s back garden. Brenda has some nasty habits but stealing fruit would seem a bit desperate.

unpromising leathery wild hedgerow pears

That said, the pears were bloody awful. No; I’m sorry but it has to be said. I sank my teeth into a couple and they were completely inedible even after a couple of weeks in the fruit bowl . Tough old leathery things with rough blotchy skin, which may be why the locals hadn’t picked them. How sensible!

There was only one thing to do; cook them.


5 grim tough old pears. Alternatively 5 lovely but not quite ripe firm conference pears will do.
2 cups (500ml) of apple juice
25 g of soft dark brown sugar
100g butter cut into cubes
150ml creme fraiche
sprinkling of ground ginger
handful of cardamom seeds crushed and ground

Preheat oven to 180°c


The beauty of this dish is it’s quick to prepare and will appeal to all the family.

Take pears and peel, halve and core them and place them in a serving dish core side down.

Pour the apple juice into a pan, place on hob, and bring to simmer. Pour in the sugar and stir till dissolved.

Add the butter to the juice and melt, and add the ground cardamom.

Once the butter has melted into the sauce then pour over pears.

Sprinkle over the ground ginger

Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take out of oven and stir in the creme fraiche and then replace in the oven for five minutes to warm through.

gorgeous delicious baked pears in syrup with creme fraiche

Take out and serve.

Cheddar cheese taste test

fanny and brenda's cheddar cheese taste test

So there I was walking elegantly around the supermarché when I hit the dairy section which offered an incredible array of cheddar cheese variants. I wondered where to start. Would the decision be based on price? Would someone grab a packet while I was there and I could ask them why they had chosen it over some other version? Cheddar is one of the the world’s most popular cheeses and it’s therefore no surprise that there should be so many producers, all offering cheese which is as it turns out are very closely priced.

Strangely, when I am shopping no one seems to come too near. Never quite sure why that should be, but on this occasion it was irritating. In order to deal with my question I decided to buy four variants of cheddar cheese  (three from Sainsburys and one from Tesco) and see which one we preferred.

I arrived home, looking frankly spectacular as usual, and emptied the shopping on to the kitchen table, awaking Brenda from a stupor. She raised her head off the table and asked ‘what the hell buggeration noise did I think I was making?’ A little impolite I thought.

I cut a slice from each cheese while Brenda went to the bathroom and when she returned I informed her that she was taking part in a cheddar cheese taste test. She closed her eyes and I popped the first cheese into her mouth, then followed in sequence by the other three.

She then did the same to me, and neither of us knew which was which at the time of trialling the cheese.

This is about as scientific (for want of a better word) that we got – and it should be stated here and now that all these cheddars are really quite good products. The two Sainsbury own brand ones are surprisingly close in both flavour and texture.

There was one winner though and it was a clearcut win – we both preferred it, and it stood out a mile for its fresh acidic flavour and slightly crumbly texture. It was the the Tickler, which is an absolutely delicious cheddar cheese  and is head and shoulders above its tough competition. It is highly recommended.

Products & Prices on Saturday 15th November 2014

Sainsbury’s Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar, Taste the Difference 200g  £2.50 (Sainsburys)

Tickler Extra Mature Cheddar 350g  £3.50 (Sainsburys)

Sainsbury’s Cave Aged Farmhouse Mature Cheddar, Taste the Difference 200g  £2.50 (Sainsburys)

Pilgrims Choice Vintage White Cheddar 250G
£2.50  (Tesco)


Chick pea cabbage and chorizo soup

This really is a lovely fresh and warming soup with vital flavours that are good for cold days. Nourishing and gorgeous, there won’t be any leftovers when you make this recipe!

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup


1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
1 chorizo – they’re usually 200 or 225g – cut into fine rings
I small Savoy cabbage finely sliced(although any dark green leafy cabbage will work well – just avoid the almost white, very crunchy versions – the sort associated with coleslaw)
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed.
1 lemon or lime cut in halves
1 litre rich chicken stock
Fresh thyme/lemon thyme
3-4 bay leaves
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
Sea salt
Fresh cracked black pepper
Olive oil

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup


Gently heat your chicken stock which should take about 20 minutes to start simmering, during which time…

Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes in several tablespoons of olive oil, fairly slowly. Then add the chorizo and continue to fry for at least another 10 minutes so that the vegetables get really transluscent and also with some edges turning brown although be careful not to burn as the garlic easily goes bitter. The chorizo should be getting some crispiness and also have released beautiful reddish brown oils.

Add a paprika, chilli, thyme and bay leaves and continue to fry for 1-2 minutes until the pan is releasing very rich spicy aromas.

Now add the simmering chicken stock directly to the onion pan and stir together. Then immediately add the chickpeas and lemon/lime halves and simmer for 5 minutes.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Finally, add the sliced cabbage, simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the cabbage is tender but not mushy. Remove the citrus halves and squeeze any remaining flesh/juice into the soup. Given the saltiness of the chorizo, you should only check the seasoning at this point – adjust accordingly with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve immediately in warmed bowls with an additional squeeze of lemon juice and some finely chopped parsley. You definitely won’t need bread with this as the chick peas and rich, meaty, paprika flavours make for a satisfying, but still quite light and immensely tasty meal.

chorizo chick pea and cabbage soup

Christmas Cake – Part 2 -The Bake

Okay so you have macerated your dried fruit and left it for a few days to soften in the licquor. You will find that all the licquor will have been absorbed by the fruit and it will be glowing and shiny. Instead of stuffing it down your mouth (Fanny often gives in to temptation at this point unless I am there glaring at her!) we think that you would be better advised putting it straight into the cake mixture. So why not watch our demonstration on the video to get a good idea of what is needed next.


300g plain flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
300g butter
300g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
50g chopped almonds
1 dessertspoon black treacle
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 1 orange

christmas cake by fanny and brenda

Baking Day

Preheat the oven to a 130°C. We cook at a lower temperature for a more even cook. The cake should not be dry.

Place the treacle somewhere warm to increase its runniness as it’s easier to manage that way.

Grease a large cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl you want to sieve the flour and mix in the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and mixd spice together.

In another bowl cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Make sure it is light and fluffy – this is the cake mix and you don’t want a heavy lumpen cake!

Beat the eggs and add gradually while beating to the cake mix.

Once the egg has been added, add the spices and flour by folding it in carefully.

The add your fruit, nuts, treacle and peel and stir in.
christmas cake by fanny and brenda

Spoon the mixture evenly around the cake tin and then place in the preheated oven for 2 hours.

Do not check on the cake until late into the bake.

Take out of the oven and wrap well in the greaseproof paper .

Once cooled place it in an airtight container.

Some people inject it with more alcohol over its maturing period.

We will come to the subject of icing nearer Christmas.

Spiced Pumpkin Chicken

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish

It seems pertinent to continue to the pumpkin theme given that they are in the shops so plentifully at the moment. This is a delicious recipe that has some Middle Eastern inspiration and maximises the loveliness of the pumpkin texture. It has a collection of flavours and colour that are vibrant and moreish which works both as a family supper and/or a party piece that everyone will adore. The recipe itself is relatively straightforward and could be considered a marvellous one pot dish!

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish

Check out the video below to see our own demonstration.


500g pumpkin, cubed into 1-2cm chunks
glug of olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely minced or julienned
1-2 fresh chillies, finely chopped(no need for deseeding – you regulate the heat by the amount of chilli)
1 large cinnamon stick
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 chicken cut into four
400g can of tomatoes
2-3 tsp harissa
400g potato, cubed
3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Serve with a spoon of plain yoghurt and diced cucumber

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish

Peel the pumpkin and scrape out any seeds and fibrous bits and cut the flesh into 1-2cm cubes

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish

Stir in the ginger, cinnamon stick, cumin and chillies plus the chicken pieces and cook for 5 minutes, turning to brown them slightly all over

Add the can of tomatoes, harissa, potato pieces, pumpkin pieces and 1/2 the empty tomato can of water. Stir well and check/adjust seasoning. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes until the chicken, potato and pumpkin are tender. Sprinkle on the chopped coriander before serving. (A small dollop of yoghurt and some diced cucumber on top makes this most appealing!!)

fanny klunge's super gorgeous middle eastern inspired spiced chicken pumpkin dish