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Brenna's In The Kitchen With The Grand Marnier And Oban

I can't tell you how much fun I'm having eating new-to-me Scottish (and British) food these days. I've tried about every meat-encased-in-pastry item in our local bakery, which are all called pies, no matter what shape or size they are. I've tried (and loved) Stovies (a mush of mashed potatoes and corned beef hash mounded on a plate), Coronation Chicken (created for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953!), and toasties (remember that George Forman sandwich press in the back of your mother's kitchen cabinet? Put coronation chicken on white bread and Press it Baby)!

Now Christmas is here! That means Christmas foods! Time to pour alcohol all over everything! Pour it in the whipped cream. Pour it in the Christmas Cake, and the Christmas pudding too! Add it to the Trifle - all three layers!

Pie not made, nor photo taken, by Brenna. IStock Photo thanks you.I won't be making a trifle or a Christmas pudding this year, but I've become obsessed with Mince Pies. I read recipe after recipe on-line, and time after time the recipe said the same thing: make the crust, put into pie tins, then add a spoon of jarred mince. JARRED mince! I don't want jarred mince! I need an excuse to be in the kitchen for an afternoon with a glass of wine and a sharp knife.

I asked a lady at my yoga class (it's my yoga class because I've gone more than one time. I went two weeks in a row. Course that was kind of a long time ago - but still) She said "Oh - I don't know if you make mince. I think it just comes in the jar." 

HA! I found a recipe at last from the long-acknowledged queen of the British kitchen, Delia, and after a fortnight in the grocery store gathering sultanas, currants, brambly apples, raisins, dries apricots, almonds, and something called "mixed candied peel" I found myself standing in an aisle, staring at a small box marked "Suet," and thinking, "Really? As in BEEF fat??"

I brought it all home and spent a delightful afternoon listening to BBC radio serials and making homemade mince. Mine has Grand Marnier and Oban Whisky in it, because Bob "helped". Now my mince has to sit around for a few weeks, and then I can put it into little pie crusts and bake. I taste it every day, and it's good. So citrusy and deep, sweet and syrupy, but strong and heady too. But how good is my mince really? I'm not even sure what mince is supposed to taste like, having never had it before a week ago.  Hmmm... Research!

Yesterday I bought three different boxes of mini mince pies from the grocery: One store brand, one "luxury" box (it had Cointreau in it!!), and one bakery container of mince in puff pastry. I can't do that anymore, because I've found that I'm addicted to mince pies. They're so rich-yet-tangy, and so yummy, and so GONE! 26 mince pies that yesterday came home in a shopping bag no longer exist today. Well, there may be one boozy on left, but ... never mind - Bob says it's gone too.

What next?! I'd try Christmas cake, but you have to start it in early November. You bake it for several days, and then pour whisky all over it, wrap it up, and put it away, taking it out every few weeks to pour more whisky on top. Also - I don't think the kids would go for a whisky-soaked cake. But I guess I could be wrong.

Soon I'll make my mom's famous Christmas Cheddar Crisps with Cayenne (thought of the name all by myself just now!) using the sharpest Scottish cheddar I can find. Just call me Betty Rocker! (Bob does).

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Reader Comments (10)

I've never had a desire to try mince pie, even though someone makes it every that I know SUET is in it, it's a big NO. The Christmas Cheddar Crisps with Cayenne sound wonderful!!!! Love love love the blog. It's so interesting and fun to read. It's like I'm visiting and experiencing all the same places and things as you.

Dec 8, 2009 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterpamela

Now, if you could just figure out a way we could all taste the wonderful things you are talking about!!

Dec 8, 2009 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMelinda

Love mince meat pie - except that the pie I grew up with was made of "green tomato" mince meat! My Mother in Nebraska made and canned it every year. Lots of raisins and green tomatoes (good use for them when the frosts were coming in the autumn) - she always cut up a fresh apple or two to add to it when making the pie - I still do that with canned mince meat - Yes, SUET - why do you think they call it mince meat?

Enjoy all those pies - think I will get a "jar" and bake one myself -
Oh, don't waste the Oban in a pie!

Dec 8, 2009 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterMargery

Yummmmy. I eat pies almost every day, (mainly cause they're so cheap.) Except I usually go for the chicken & mushroom. The kids prefer mince. Is the christmas cake actually a fruit cake? That's what they do here. And yes it's FULL of alcohol. I didn't even like fruit cake till I came here... the kids still don't like it. Maybe it's for "mature" palates?

Dec 8, 2009 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I was just purusing a few stores in Scotland thinking about your Christmas there and came across mince pies. Wish you'd post the recipe so we could all try it. I guess we could rely on julia or cook's kitchen for a recipe but why when you are there??? We are soooooo missing your being here! Lots of love.... and kisses!

Dec 8, 2009 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterKim

What a coincidence - I just enjoyed listening to a NPR Thanksgiving feature about old-fashioned American holiday foods, in which America's Test Kitchen made and tasted some really old-school dishes and rated them, and they liked the mince pies best!
So here's the NPR story, complete with mince pie recipe (which includes, yes, some suet, but also venison or lean beef ... it actually sounds really delicious): America's Thanksgiving Recipes

Dec 8, 2009 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterIris

i may be waaay off on this but do i smell the Oban on your breath as you read to me? (and i do use each of your voices in my head when i read these - keeps me connected to ya'll). enjoy those holiday afternoons drinking, i mean cooking and such.

hope i get a large box of Atora in my stockin year!!

Dec 9, 2009 at 6:05 AM | Unregistered Commentertravis

Can you be persuaded to post the recipe for your mom's Christmas Cheddar Crisps with Cayenne?

Dec 9, 2009 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterRosalind

"Gonna sit down in the kitchen,
Fix me something good to eat.
Make my head a little high,
Make the whole day complete..."

Busy, busy girl! You'll be opening a culinary school when you return. (And save some of that mince to pour over melted Brie cheese with sliced baguette!)

Dec 10, 2009 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Brenna, Mince Pies are my absolute favorite Christmas treat. I haven't spent Christmas "at home" in/near London for ages. Now that you've reminded me about how scrumptious and addicting Mince Pies are, I'm going to have to track some down for my Christmas here on Amelia Island. Another fav is Christmas Pudding, brought to the table in a fanfare...the blue flames of Brandy being set alight still glowing... and served with Brandy Butter and Thick Devonshire Cream. YUM!!

Dec 10, 2009 at 7:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Platel

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