Festive gifting, particularly around this time of the year seems to be gaining a lot of popularity in India too. As known for a fact, Christmas was always associated with sharing of gifts by Santa Claus. As a kid I have lived by my share of dreams and fantasies, hanging stockings by the bedside and window sill around Christmas time, secretly hoping that some Santa would come by riding on his reindeer on this big night and drop a surprise gift that I had been longing to own as mine. I must say assertively that over the many years I hung my stockings by the window sill never did a Santa come by or drop goodies into my stockings. I realized eventually there existed no Santa, nor would my stockings be ever replenished with gifts, so I gave up on them. I wonder though why my parents never bothered to drop any goodies in there. Least I think, as a bribe that idea would have been fab.
With Christmas just around the corner and keeping in mind that these can make great give away gifts to your family and friends this season, I have 2 recipes for you today. The Home-made Christmas Mincemeat is purely vegetarian, much unlike of what it's name suggests. The inspiration to make these came from Nigella Lawson's 'How to be a Domestic Goddess', however the recipe for the same is tweaked and adapted from David Lebovitz's Quick & no-cook Mincemeat recipe I came across here; while the Candied Orange Peels are such delicious bitter-sweet treats that you will love to munch them as is or use in various recipes.
Home-made Christmas Mincemeat
175 g raisins
100 g sultanas / black currants
100 g dried cranberries
100 g candied peel, finely chopped
175 g soft dark brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. all spice mix (a freshly ground with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg)
5 tbsp. brandy
Mix all the ingredients together and stir well. Spoon this into clean and sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars by placing them in warm oven for couple of mins. Allow the flavours to mature for at least 2 weeks. This works great for pies, tarts, Christmas cakes and puddings.
Home-made Candied Orange Peels
2 large thick skinned oranges
2 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water
Neatly score the oranges into quarters. Remove all the flesh neatly and retain the peels. Carefully scrape off the white pith as much possible so that the zesty orange peel can be used. The white pith will render bitterness to the oranges, hence its essential to remove all of it for best flavours. Chop the peels into 1/4-inch-wide strips as shown above in the 2nd picture.
Drop these peels into cold water. Bring this pot of water to a rolling boil. Drain off the water and repeat this twice with a new batch of water. This will soften the orange peels and mellow down the bitterness.
Next, in a thick bottomed pan heat 2 cups of sugar with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook till it reaches one thread consistency. Add the peels and cook further till most of the sugar coats the peels and the peels get translucent. Remove from the flame and drain off any excess sugar. Place them on a tray and allow to dry further if you wish to store them. You may also roll them in castor sugar if preferred. However, I used them on the following day in recipes for Homemade Mincemeat (recipe above) and Christmas fruit cake.