Last Christmas Eve, which is the Big Night here as far as Christmas dining goes, we were a “small” group of only about 20 over at Big Man´s mother´s home. He comes from 10 siblings, all apart from one have at least two children. Most of the neices are nephews are also married and have children of their own, so you can imagine what family weddings are like.
Because I have the biggest oven, I was put in charge of cooking 2 whole lambs. Even though they weren´t enormous by some standards, it was a whole lot of lamb and a whole lot of cooking. In true Up the Mountain style, we had a power cut on the evening of 23rd December which lasted 24 hours. Luckily my oven is gas, so cooking the meat was not a problem but I was doing it by torch and candlelight. As they tend to eat their meat cooked through here, and I had to ensure it wasn´t remotely pink, keep it warm and transport it 25km whilst ensuring no one went down with food poisoning, it was challenging to say the least.
Yesterday, we ran out of gas. Not through negligence on my part but because the man who delivers the gas cylinders (no mains gas Up the Mountain) seems to have disappeared and we haven´t been able to swap the empty “bombonas” for full ones for a few weeks. Not to worry I thought, planning my baking today, I can use my little electric oven and Big Man can load the empty bombonas onto the truck and drive to the nearest village which stocks them and change them over.
Meanwhile last night, the lights went out, then came back on, but it looked as though they were being run by a generator fired up by an old lady pedaling slowly on a rickety old bicycle. As I type this I am working on battery power, fingers crossed things resolve themselves soon and I can cook, bake and post.
Today I will make mince pies. I don´t come from a family of great pastry chefs, but my best friend Ria, luckily does. Her mum, Clara, makes the best pastry ever, and like many people of her generation, does it without a list of ingredients or measuring. When I moved to Spain I remember calling her one Christmas in desperation and she yelled the ingredients down the phone to me which I then managed to transfer into measurements I can use. She always uses margarine in hers with lard, I use butter and lard. You can use all butter, the choice is yours, but don´t blame me if the pastry is not as good as Clara´s.
- 200g plain flour
- Pinch of Salt
- 50g each of cold butter and lard
- One egg, beaten
Rub the fat into the flour and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (I won´t tell Clara if you do this in a food processor….not an option for me today with the electric situation), Then using a broad knife, work the egg into the flour. Now gently start to bring the pastry together with your hands. You will probably need to add a very little milk so add drops rather than slugs. This morning I used about a tablespoon.
Now wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge until you are ready to use it, but bring it up to room temperature first.
Bake at about 200ºC when you have filled with mincemeat, jam, whatever. Obviously I had another power cut mid way through baking today, hopefully you won´t and yours will be perfect!
I made my mince pies using my mincemeat, but even a humble jam tart is elevated to perfection with this biscuity pastry. Clara doesn´t bake anymore, but I hope she´s proud that her recipe is being shared for so many others to enjoy.
Merry Christmas Clara – wish we could have a sherry and a mince pie together this year!