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Tony Grist

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Puddings And Pies [Nov. 18th, 2007|10:23 am]
Tony Grist
You can laugh all you like at traditional English cooking, but no-one does desserts like we do. No-one else even really tries. The continental Europeans make finicky little pastry things- and very good they are too- and the Indians have all those brightly coloured sweets, but there's nothing in any other national cuisine to match our puddings and pies.

British deserts are heavy. They're comfort food-  stodge- a defence against the British weather. The miracle ingredient is suet. 

I was talking to Judy about Christmas puddings and mince pies. Judy is a New Yorker and she wasn't sure she'd ever had either. I was incredulous. I can't imagine Christmas without puddings and pies. Oh, and cake. These are the things that make the winter months bearable. I'm being entirely serious when I say that Christmas pudding- served with brandy butter for preference, but custard or cream will do- is the most delicious dish known to Man.

I've already started making mince pies. I make a batch, we eat them, I make some more. It's what's keeping us going. Ailz tells me I have a particularly light touch with pastry.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-18 12:31 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid I've never made my own christmas pudding. My grandmother used to- and she'd fill it with sixpences too.
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[User Picture]From: aellia
2007-11-18 11:18 am (UTC)
I rememeber buying lumps of suet from the butcher and grating it.
It was even better than the packet stuff. I don't know if you can still get it.
I'm good at pastry too. I'm making steak pie today
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-18 12:33 pm (UTC)
These days I get my meat from the supermarket. I don't suppose it would occur to them to sell suet at the butchery counter.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2007-11-18 02:02 pm (UTC)
Funny you should post this today. I stopped at the grocery store this morning on the way in to work, and what do I see but premade Christmas puddings for sale. They were packaged in bowls the size of a large orange. I've been tempted to make one for quite some time now - maybe I'll buy one of them, and if I like it make one from scratch for Christmas. I'm glad you say they are both easy to make and delicious.

I'm going to have Tiny Tim's voice in my head for the remainder of the day, now.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2007-11-18 02:03 pm (UTC)
oops - I guess it was jfs who said they were easy to make. :P
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[User Picture]From: unbleachedbrun
2007-11-18 02:40 pm (UTC)
Do you put real meat in your mincemeat? My octagenarian mother speaks of mincemeat pies in her childhood with venison in it.

Where do you get your suet? It's been so long since I've seen an actual butcher in the meat department of a supermarket, I wouldn't know whom to ask. And an actual butcher shop? LOL
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-18 08:31 pm (UTC)
No, my mincemeat doesn't contain meat (unless you count the suet). The main ingredient is vine fruits.

Our supermarkets (well, some of them) have butchery counters with real live butchers behind them, but I wouldn't buy my suet from them. Instead I'd expect to find it on the shelves- in the same section as the flour and other baking ingredients.

It's sold in packets. The leading brand is Atora.
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[User Picture]From: mummm
2007-11-18 02:51 pm (UTC)
Your version of suet must be different than the American version?
We buy suet in the winter for the birds but I think it's a combination of fat and different types of birdseed. I can't imagine that you eat that.

I love Christmas anything treats! I'm not a huge fan of mince pie but my husband loves it.

Have you ever made cake that has coconut and fresh citron in it? My great aunt used to make it and I loved it. I have no clue how to bake one.
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From: pop_o_pie
2007-11-18 03:16 pm (UTC)

Suet/Lard

Suet is rendered (or not rendered) from cows or sheep and lard is rendered (or not) from pigs. In the US it is easier to get lard, as it is available in most grocery stores, especially in the South and Southwest. It would behave reasonably well in the recipes being discussed here.

That cake you're reminiscing about sounds heavenly. Coconut and citron would be perfect together.
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From: pop_o_pie
2007-11-18 03:31 pm (UTC)

Goose Grease Cookies & Mince Pie

My grandmother roasted goose for Christmas dinner and, on the day after, she made sugar cookies with the fat drippings that were just heavenly. She started making Mince Meat in November with pork that would ferment in a crock. The pies were amazing. These recipes were in her head and unfortunately passed with her over thirty years ago. I haven't had them since I was a small child in the 60s. But I can still taste these wonderful things in my imagination. My parents disliked the goose, the cookies, the pies, all of it.

Mince Meat is available in jars in the grocery store, but it contains no 'meat'. It tastes sort of like a chutney with raisins.

In recent years I usually have Christmas dinner with a friend at a beloved Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood where we eat a delightful roast duck. The prospect is already making me salivate.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-19 10:24 am (UTC)

Re: Goose Grease Cookies & Mince Pie

My brother and sister in law have goose every once in a while- and coat potatoes in the fat and roast them. Their roast potatoes are generally held to be the best roast potatoes going.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2007-11-18 04:51 pm (UTC)
ooh you are not wrong! Real Xmas pud is a ton better than the xmas cake. I soak the dried fruit in brandy overnight before cooking, it plumps up all the raisins beautifully! And in general, English puddings are to die for - rhubarb crumble, jam roly poly, treacle sponge, bread and butter puidding (fabulous with nutmeg and sultana or with marmalade!)sticky toffee pudding, sussex pond pudding, apple pie, all with lashings of CUSTARD of course...

American puddings are generally of the gateau variety and even in quite good restaurants they are a bit cheap and plasticky like an Asda budget version. And their birthday cakes are quite nasty too.

Someone should do an English puddings calendar and sell it to expats...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-19 10:28 am (UTC)
I'm not going to knock Christmas cake- it's pretty fabulous- but Christmas pud is the best.

I don't know why we don't push our puddings more. Maybe it's because we don't eat them ourselves any more. I saw a newspaper article the other day which asked whether the traditional English suet pud was finished. It made me sad.
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[User Picture]From: qatsi
2007-11-18 06:01 pm (UTC)
Ailz tells me I have a particularly light touch with pastry.

Good for you; my own attempts at pastry, whilst edible, could never be described as 'light'. I probably don't do it often enough to stand a chance of getting better at it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-19 10:32 am (UTC)
I don't make pastry all that often either. The way Ailz tells it, lightness of touch is this mystical thing- you either have it or you don't.

(It could just be that she wants to get out of making the pastry herself)
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[User Picture]From: goddlefrood
2007-11-18 10:52 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. Do you have a recipe for pastry? I tend to get shop bought pastry having never had a decent recipe.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-19 10:33 am (UTC)
My recipe for pastry is absurdly simple. Twice as much flour as butter, a pinch of salt and enough water to make the mixture cohere without becoming sticky.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2007-11-19 04:43 am (UTC)
I've had very few Christmas puddings, but mince pie is a regular in our household. We make our own mincemeat, usually vegetarian but sometimes --- as this year --- with meat, usually beef. We're probably going to make ours tomorrow.

Then there are my favorite Christmas delicacies: Welsh cakes and bara brith. Took me ages to come up with gluten-free casein-free versions, but I have them now and they're almost as good as the originals. I usually only make Welsh cakes once or twice a year because they're finicky and a lot of work. Now's the time, though. Must dig up the recipe.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-11-19 10:35 am (UTC)
I have to confess I don't know what a Welsh cake is. Or bara brith.

I am curious....
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