Madame Pickles gets festive

Hi Lorraine, Harriet’s mum, aka Madame Pickles here again.

It’s getting near to the Christmas season and I’ve started getting prepared for a British Christmas here in France – and, I confess, reeling at the prospect of a couple of vegans coming to eat. Yes it was me Harry was referring to when she described people rolling their eyes in despair when she announced she was going vegan. I get it, I admire her commitment and concern for the health of her family but (sorry there is a but) things become difficult when you are vegan and living in France, I am being very selfish here, I knew I was going to miss the girlie lunches we’ve had when we’ve been out, nothing grand, an 11 euro meal in one of the local restaurants. These places are brilliant, they cater for working people, you could be sitting with someone booted and suited or someone that’s just come in from the farm, not quite up to their knees in mud but not far short. You have a proper three or even four course meal, wine or cider is usually included with a coffee to finish. How the “Ouvriers” go back to work I do not know, I just want to go home and do nothing for the rest of the afternoon.


Anyway, selfishness aside I wanted to make some vegetarian mincemeat for mince pies. (Harriet and Paul have agreed to be veggie for Christmas rather than vegan.)
After an SOS call made to my niece Lucy, she was coming for a visit with her partner, Sam, I was the very grateful recipient of veggie suet. I’m sure you can find it here on the shelves of the big supermarkets that cater for the UK residents but I knew Lucy wouldn’t mind and it was the easier option.
Lucy, knowing what a scavenger I am had bought me some books about preserving, making cheese, foraging and making soap, so far I have enjoyed reading them but not got around to doing anything. The preserving book came up trumps with the mincemeat recipe. I have altered it, I’m incapable of following a recipe, it might be because I haven’t got all the ingredients, more often it’s just because I can!
Here is the recipe, do as I do, alter ingredients according to your taste.

300 g peeled and grated apple
200 g peeled and grated carrot
125 g dried apricots chopped
125 g prunes chopped
125 g glace cherries chopped
125 g fresh root ginger peeled and grated
250 g sultanas
250 g figs chopped
250 g dates chopped
90 g candied lemon peel
90 g candied orange peel
90 g flaked almonds
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
125 g dark brown sugar
2 – 3 tbs mixed spice
250 ml whisky
300 g vegetarian suet (you can use chilled grated butter)

Put all the ingredients in a bowl (except for the suet) mix well and cover with a cloth, leave for a couple of days for the flavour to develop.

Stir in the suet, pack into sterilised jars, drizzle a tablespoonful of whisky into each jar and seal. Leave for a couple of weeks to mature then use.

I made half the recipe as it was my first attempt and got 3 large jam jars full.


For the pastry

500 g Plain flour
100g icing sugar
250 g cubed cold butter
Zest and juice of a lemon
Heaped tsp cinnamon
2 large beaten eggs
Milk sufficient to make a firm dough

Mix flour and icing sugar and cinnamon, rub in the butter, add zest, mix together the eggs, juice and a bit of milk, stir into the dry mix and mix together to form a dough adding more milk if necessary.
Leave to rest in the fridge for about half an hour, roll out pastry, cut into circles with pastry cutters (mine have been lost so I used the rim of a tumbler). You need a large circle to line the patty tins, spoon the mincemeat into the pastry containers then top with a smaller circle of pastry. Glaze with a little milk then put into a fairly hot oven approx 180 centigrade for 15 to 20 minutes. They are ready when a lovely golden colour on top and the bottom of the pie is cooked and golden too.
I have made my first batch and put them in the freezer ready for Christmas.


I have also made the Christmas puddings, I was going to use my very good friend Liz’s microwave recipe which she swears by and has been using for quite a few years. It seemed such a good idea, a fraction of the time in the making and tasting equally good. However, I couldn’t abandon the good old tried and tested recipe of my very good and old (in time not age!) friend Halina. I have no idea how long ago she gave me this recipe, we’ve known each other for nearly 40 years – OK so we’re old friends in time and age!!! I just love the smell of the pudding cooking for hours, it makes me feel seasonal and happy, it was a Saturday morning, I’d got all day and felt like getting in the Christmas mood so the old way won.


The choice is yours, I will give you both Liz and Halina’s recipes.
Halina’s Christmas pudding:
It’s all in ounces, I did say it was an old recipe…
5 oz breadcrumbs, like Mandy says, homemade, not those awful shop bought ones
4 oz dark brown sugar
4 oz currants (I used dates)
5 oz raisins (I used sultanas)
4 oz sultanas (I used dried figs)
1 oz mixed peel
5 oz vegetarian suet
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
(I also put a handful of flaked almonds into the mix)
Juice and rind of a lemon
1 large egg
75 ml milk
¼ pt Guinness (I didn’t have any Guinness so used a dark beer and put a splash of whisky in too – the whisky was out as I made the mincemeat at the same time, I also had to sample the whisky to make sure it tasted OK, it was very tasty!)

Mix all the ingredients, make a wish and put into pudding basins, cover with cooking parchment then aluminium foil. Secure by tying string around and make a loop to make getting the basins out of the pans easier.
Place a saucer upside down in a large saucepan, put the pudding on the saucer so it’s not touching the base of the saucepan. Fill with water boiled in the kettle to a couple of centimetres below the rim of the pudding.
Keep the water at this level by topping up as and when required. Simmer for at least 6 hours.
Take out of the saucepan, cover with fresh parchment and foil, leave in a cool place until ready to use at Christmas. They last for ages so the other pudding could be used at a later date, for example, Easter.


Just a little postscript, not about food, about me and scavenging….

Harriet, Barry (my husband, Harriet’s father) and I were in Laval doing a bit of shopping, thank goodness we were in the Harry’s camper van! I see an employee coming out of a sports shop we had just left carrying a palette heading towards a skip. I ask him if I could have the palette instead of the skip, he not only gives me that one but tells me there are two smaller ones by the skip I can take. All three palettes are wedged into the camper and off we trot back home.
My large palette is being made into a headboard. The two little ones have been donated to Paul who has some very good use for them, not quite sure what – yet!
don’t you just love upcycling.


And now for Liz’s recipe:

Microwave Xmas Pudding
Makes 3×1 pint or 2x 1 1/2 pint puddings
5oz Plain flour
3teaspoons mixed spice
6oz bread crumbs
8 oz soft brown sugar
8oz suet
2 tablespoons milk
4eggs beaten
Half pint stout
20oz mixed dried fruit
2oz chopped mixed peel
2oz glacé cherries
Grated rind of an orange
Grated medium dessert Apple
4 tablespoons black treacle
Mix all dry ingredients & then mix in all other ingredients. Leave covered overnight. Divide between pudding basins.
Cook each 1 pint pudding for 5 mins in microwave on full power. Allow to stand & cool.
Store for up to 4 weeks in a cool dry place or freeze.
Reheat in microwave for a max of 3 minutes.
For 1 1/2 pint pudding microwave for 7 minutes to cook and reheat as before.
Hope this makes sense. You may have to convert measurements to metric and not sure whether all the ingredients are available in France. Guess you can use any combination of fruit and nuts too.
I always make this as it is so easy and good says Liz.

Christmas pudding
Christmas pudding

Happy cooking, however you do it!

Lorraine/Madame Pickles


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