What with Christmas just around the corner, I've already started preparing. You can read my blog post about Christmas Chutney and more generally, being an expat at Christmas-time, by clicking here
Another crucial part of Christmas for me are mince pies. I've had my mince pies recipe since I was 12 years old and it's become a bit of a classic in my family. It is just a couple of secret ingredients that I'd add to the pastry, but it does make a difference.
The one thing was that because it's so easy to find mincemeat in the shops in the UK during November and December, I never used to make my own.
Now I'm in France, I don't have that luxury anymore, but I love mince pies so much that, although I have no idea how to make mincemeat, it can't be thaaaat difficult!
So setting about the task, the first step is to find the translation. Word Reference
, the solution to all my language woes, tells me that mincemeat in French is "garniture composée de fruits secs et d’épices
The lack of a direct translation worries me.
Not only do I now realise how difficult it will be to find it in the shops, but even if I make it myself, when I'm explaining what mincemeat is to les Frenchies
, they're very unlikely even to have a basic knowledge which I can work from.
Step two is to find a recipe. I, again, plumped for Delia Smith
an orange = un orange
a lemon = un citron
(for reference, a lime = un citron vert)
juice of = jus de...
the zest of = le zeste de...
raisins = raisin secs
(raisins, in French, are 'grapes' in English.
You have to specify that these are dried - 'sec')
currants = les raisins de Corinthe
sultanas = les raisins de Smyrne
(handy hint: don't use the word "sultana" in French, it means the wife of a Sultan!)
candied orange peel = les écorces d'oranges confites
(L’écorce can be the peel of a fruit or the skin of a mushroom, and even the bark of a tree or the Earth's crust.)
an almond = une amande
blanched almonds = amandes émondées / blanchies
chopped almonds = amandes effilées
cinnamon = cannelle
nutmeg = muscade
( ...all easily found in your local supermarket.)
The suet was definitely the most difficult ingredient to track down amongst this list. Word Reference says the translation is:
suet = la graisse de rognon de boeuf
Unfortunately, it doesn't tell you where you can find 'the fat of the kidney of a cow.'
This proved to be yet more difficult. I resorted to Delia's explanation of suet
for inspiration. So last Friday evening, whereas most normal people go out for a drink or a meal, I put on my coat and shoes for a different reason. Armed with the phrase "la graisse de rognon de boeuf
" swimming around in my head, I harassed four of my local butchers until finally one of them conceded - more out of curiosity of what I was going to do with it afterwards than anything else I believe! Nevertheless, I had struck gold.
I didn't take a photo of the suet... I think you'd rather it were that way. But I do have a photo of the mincemeat with the shredded suet on top.
With the labour-intensive chopping and shredding out the way and following a three hour stint in the oven, in which it filled the flat with gorgeous Christmas spices and made me regain the favour of my housemate following all the vinegar in this recipe
, the mincemeat was finished!
I had a sneaky teaspoon - just to make aaaabsolutely sure - and yes, it tastes delicious. There are now just two problems: the first is that I'm not sure I've made enough and the second, I still don't know how to explain it to the French. Any feedback / personal experiences would be most welcome!!
P.S. To my lovely butcher who gave me the suet (yes, for free!) I will be back next month with a mince pie for you to say thank you!