vendredi 21 décembre 2007

Seasons Greetings!

A tous mes chers lecteurs et lectrices, je souhaite de très belles fêtes de fin d'année.

Je n'ai pas été très assidue ces derniers temps, le mois de décembre est passé à toute allure et de nombreux billets composés dans ma tête n'ont jamais fait la transition jusqu'à l'ordinateur!
Espérons que 2008 sera plus calme.
Dans 24h, je serai en route pour Montpellier pour fêter Noël avec ma famille - ainsi que mon anniversaire, cette année, c'est un big one! Je ferais mieux d'aller finir mes valises plutot que de pianoter sur mon clavier!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and see you all in 2008!


My favourite Christmas advert

Some of you will have already seen it but this is the best Irn Bru advert ever!

The original advert was launched last year but was so popular that an extended version has now been made and will be released throughout the UK this festive season. Try and see how many Scottish landmarks you can spot!

mercredi 19 décembre 2007

Mince pies

Christmas parties would not be quite the same without the traditional mulled wine or mulled cider and mince pies. I am not a big fan of the shop bought ones; I find them too dry, very sweet and sickly. But Le Petit Chimiste’s dad gave me a jar of home made mincemeat, which I took as a very poorly disguised hint to have me making my own this year!

First for people not familiar with the mince pies concept, I’d like to say that although they are filled with “mincemeat”, they do not actually contain any meat or mince. Well not anymore anyway! I found out that in Victorian time, mince pies were actually meat pies with added spices and dry fruits; hence the name. I have even found a recipe that does contain meat in this book by the legendary Mrs Beeton – not that we’ve tried it!

Le Petit Chimiste’s dad won't reveal his mincemeat recipe but I think it's pretty similar to this one – courtesy of Delia Smith.

Delia Smith’s Mincemeat

Ingredients (makes 6 lb or 2.75 kg)

  • 1 lb (450 g) Bramley apples, cored and chopped small (no need to peel them)
  • 8 oz (225 g) shredded suet (can be replaced by vegetable fat for a vegetarian option)
  • 12 oz (350 g) raisins
  • 8 oz (225 g) sultanas
  • 8 oz (225 g) currants
  • 8 oz (225 g) whole mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  • 12 oz (350 g) soft dark brown sugar
  • grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
  • grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 oz (50 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers
  • 4 level teaspoons mixed ground spice
  • ½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons brandy

You will also need 6 x 1lb (350ml) preserving jars and 6 waxed discs.


All you do is combine all the ingredients, except for the brandy, in a large mixing bowl, stirring them and mixing them together very thoroughly indeed. Then cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop. After that pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼ / 225°F / 120°C. Cover the bowl loosely with foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours, then remove the bowl from the oven. Don't worry about the appearance of the mincemeat, which will look positively swimming in fat. This is how it should look. As it cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate and, instead of it being in tiny shreds, it will encase all the other ingredients. When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy. Pack in jars that have been sterilised. When filled, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard – the jar I used was made last year but you can keep them for up to 3 years.

Pépette’s Sweet Shortcrust Pastry


  • 175g flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • Water


Put the flour, ground almonds and salt in a large bowl and add the butter in cubes. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter remaining. Try to work quickly so that it does not become greasy (you can also use a food processor). Using a knife, stir in just enough of the cold water to bind the dough together. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes before using.

Putting the mince pies together

Ingredients (makes 24 pies):

  • Sweet shortcrust pastry (as above)
  • 1 to 1½ lb of mincemeat
  • Icing sugar
  • A little butter to grease the trays
  • A little milk to brush the tops


Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C). You will also need one or two trays of 2½ inch (6 cm) patty tins – I use a shallow bun tray - one fluted 3 inch (7.5 cm) pastry cutter and one 2½ inch (6 cm) cutter.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll half of it out as thinly as possible and cut it into two dozen 3 inch (7.5 cm) rounds, gathering up the scraps and re-rolling. Then do the same with the other half of the pastry, this time using the 2½ inch (6 cm) cutter.
Now grease the patty trays lightly and line them with the larger rounds. Fill these with mincemeat to the level of the edges of the pastry (about 2tbsp). Dampen the edges of the smaller rounds of pastry with water and press them lightly into position to form lids, sealing the edges. Brush each one with milk and make three snips in the tops with a pair of scissors. Bake near the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown. Cool on a wire tray and sprinkle with icing sugar. When cool, store in an airtight container.

PS: if you want to make the same mince pies than on the photo, get yourself a star shaped cutter!

jeudi 6 décembre 2007

'Tis (not) the season to be busy

Et voilà, c’est pareil tous les ans …

Décembre arrive, je commence à me mettre dans le festive spirit après avoir lutté tout Novembre, pesté contre les sapins décorés trop tôt, les Pères Noel de sortie depuis Halloween et ma collègue qui a déjà emballé tous ses cadeaux et écrit toutes ses cartes au 1er Décembre. J’ai envie de ralentir la cadence, écrire mes cartes de Noel au coin du feu (à gaz d’accord mais bon, on fait comme on peut en ville), acheter et emballer mes petits cadeaux, décorer mon sapin, préparer mes mince pies en sirotant mon mulled wine, flâner dans Buchanan Galeries et Princes Square, admirer les décorations et le marché de Noël sur Argyle Street …

Mais non, il est écrit quelque part que je ne profiterais jamais de mes mois de Décembre. Il y a 3 ans, je finissais une thèse et je faisais des journées de 18 heures ; il y a 2 ans, je commençais un nouveau boulot et en période d’essai, j’essayais de faire mes preuves ; l’année dernière, on finissait la première phase d’un projet de 2 ans, et donc, vous l’aurez deviné, cette année on finit la deuxième (et dernière) phase. Je ne sais pas qui est l’intelligent de service qui a décidé que le projet en question finirait le 2 janvier mais vu qu'on ne reprend pas avant le 3, on doit finir avant Noël. Chouette. Donc, je suis plongée dans les revues de fin de projet et les réunions où l’on parle pour ne rien dire de la plus haute importance. J’ai des to do lists accrochées un peu partout et je jongle avec les invitations à tous ces pots, lunch et dinner de saison et malheureusement, venir poster ici passe au second plan … Mais je vous promets, j’essaie de vous écrire quelques petits billets entre deux bilans financiers !