In My Holiday Kitchen


It’s that citrus time of year again. The clementines, satsumas, tangerines and kumquats are everywhere in the markets. I can’t get enough of them! Recently, I was intrigued by a recipe for candied kumquats that fellow blogger, Cheesy Biscuit posted. It’s on the list of things to try. But, nothing is better than fresh clementines. I love putting them in this blue stoneware bowl we bought at the studio of a potter in Exmoor.


Also, around this time of year, Brussels sprout tops are available for a short time in the shops – the leafy tops of Brussels sprout stalks. These are from a red variety of Brussels. Not being overly fond of sprouts (something to do with being forced to eat mushy “little cabbages” as a child), these leafy tops were a revelation! I love them chopped and cooked like collard greens or kale. They have an amazing subtle Brussels sprout flavor.


My thoughts have now turned to holiday gifts. I give edible gifts to friends – including preserves made at the end of growing season, like my brandied quince – a new recipe this year (see my post, Ambrosia). I’ve recently found a Medieval recipe for a spiced quince butter cake that would be a perfect use for the brandied quince.


There are also all those little mince pies to make. It wasn’t until I started using the correct baking trays (with shallow dips, not mini muffin tins) that I got into this British holiday custom. Then, Nigella Lawson came along with her recipe for cranberry mincemeat and star topped pies – homemade with cranberries and no suet required! Come to think of it, with no suet, the last vestige of “meat” has gone from mincemeat. Perhaps it should just be called mince? Yes, there really was meat in early mince pies. I just saw a recipe for “minst pies” from a document dated 1624 in The National Archives that lists “a Loyne of fatt mutton with a little legg of veal to mince with it” in the list of ingredients. For my meatless mincemeat, I modified Nigella Lawson’s recipe and added some quince to the mix – makes it go a little bit further = more mince pies!


Cranberry-Quince Mincemeat

  • 3/4 cup ruby port
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 medium-size quince
  • 2 clementines
  • 2 cups sultanas (= American golden raisins)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 Tablespoons brandy
  • 4 Tablespoons thick golden honey

Put the port, sugar, cranberries, juice and chopped zest of the clementines, sultanas, dried cranberries and spices in a large sauce pan. Bring up to heat and leave at a simmer for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring and crushing cranberries with your wooden spoon. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely grate the quince, discarding the core. Add the grated quince to the pot after the initial 10 minutes and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off heat, add the brandy and honey. Stir and ladle into a clean jar. Cool completely, seal and store in the refrigerator. Use within a few weeks. In addition to mini mince pies, I also use this mincemeat with apples or pears in strudels and crumbles. Or, I simply spoon a little into batter for Christmas morning breakfast muffins.


But, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without that American custom – cookies! When my son was young, I used to make a lot of cut-out cookies which we would decorate with mad splash designs in colored icings – á la Jackson Pollock. I still make some, mostly stars and gingerbread men. I’ve found some new sprinkles – tiny sugar stars, pearls and bronze nuggets – for classy decoration. But our favorite cookies are various flavored shortbreads, rolled and then decorated by stamping with Scandinavian clay cookie stamps.


Of course, it helps with the baking that my spices are now lined up on their rack in the pantry, back in place after months of living in boxes in the living room while the kitchen reconstruction was in progress.


Kitchen reorganizing was just in time to think about all these holiday preparations. The turkey, chipolatas and pork pies (a Yorkshire must!) have been ordered from the organic farm. It’s almost time to decorate the tree. This year my husband presented me with a new ornament to hang – a miniature Christmas cake!


Another batch of mince pies is just about ready to come out of the oven, so it’s time to sign off. Wishing you all seasonal good cheer in your own kitchens out there in the virtual IMK global village.

I’m very excited about joining the ranks of IMK (In My Kitchen) bloggers. Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has really thought up a winner! All of us out there in the blogosphere – and in the real world – once a month writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens. Celia lists them all, so it’s easy to find your way into a virtual friend’s kitchen to see what they’ve been up to. Now, it’s time for me to open my kitchen doors.

♥ ♥ ♥

I’ll be listing all of my In My Kitchen blog posts on a separate page (just click the link), or you can find them by clicking on the In My Kitchen category listing.


  1. Hi Debi, I can’t believe how organised everyone is this year. At least it has made me feel guilty and do and do some Christmas shopping. Thanks for the impetus. Everything looks great BTW.


    • Hi Glenda, I’m not really so organized – a little bit of blog magic going on. I’ve only got around to making a few mince pies and have only just opened the tin that contains my cookie-making paraphernalia (nothing more!!!). I feel a bit like a sluggard, really – no Christmas shopping to speak of, and though the tree is up, there are no decorations on it. Have to get cracking… The post was my impetus, also! Thanks for stopping my In My Kitchen.


  2. I love your Christmas cake decoration for the tree! My husband adores fruit mince tarts. He won my mothers heart the first time they met by eating and enjoying all the fruit mince tarts, dare I say 40 Christmases ago! Mum wasn’t accustomed to compliments about her cooking, i was just plain embarrassed!


    • I love the cake decoration, too. It took me a while to get used to the British custom of mini mince pies. It really wasn’t something we did in the States. Enjoyed your comment – made me laugh. 😛 My first experience of little fruit mince pies was nearly 30 years ago at my first Christmas with my future in-laws. I was befuddled and had to examine them from every angle before I bit in; no doubt my husband-to-be was the embarrassed one!


  3. The photos and descriptions made me feel as if I had visited your kitchen in person. The mince pies look wonderful. Sue


    • Thanks very much! 🙂 I think it’s a lovely kitchen – scarred oak table and all! I’ll be doing an In My Kitchen post once a month and you’re always welcome for a virtual visit.


  4. You have been busy!! I wonder if I can get mince pies in Florence? Yours look wonderful. It is this time of year when I miss my ‘tools in the kitchen’ no Christmas cake, no mince pies or cookies…….I’ll go nuts next year!! Have a wonderful festive season baking


    • Only just got started! Need to start on the cookies soon. I’m sure your creative baking talents will come up with delicious treats this Christmas, making them all the more special for NOT having your kitchen tools. Enjoy the experience of Christmas in Italy!


  5. Debi, gorgeous post, and those cookie stamps took my breath away – they’re just gorgeous! I’ve never seen Brussels sprout tops for sale (can’t remember them either from the one time we grew them), but they sound yum! And cranberry-quince mince pies? They sound AMAZING! 🙂 Have a glorious festive December!


    • Celia, Thanks! I love this idea of yours and am already thinking of an “angle” for next month’s post. Brussels sprout tops were something I only saw since coming here to Britain – they love their sprouts here! The cookie stamps are made by an American company called Rycraft, based on Scandinavian and Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. I got mine in the US when we were living there, but have noticed that it is possible to get them through websites like Amazon. The mince pies in the photograph are nearly gone. Will need to make more (and hide them!). Hope you also have a wonderful festive season!


  6. Debi, for starting out in new-to-you environments (several times), it appears you’ve found your way around the marketplaces and your kitchen — wonderful post! (Also enjoyed your About page and your “intro” in the side bar.) I still have my Grandma’s recipe for mincemeat (with suet and meat) and have made it several times, but I sure like your cranberry version. Thanks!


    • Well, I’ve been in England now for over 15 years, so I hope that I’ve found my way around 🙂 But, I understand what you mean. It was really difficult at first, particularly when shopping. Would love to know how old your grandmother’s recipe for mincemeat is… I wonder when they stopped putting meat in and substituted it for dried suet? You’ve made me wonder and I can see some researching is on the cards – one of the activities I like best. Thanks for stopping In My Kitchen!


      • Debi, my Grandma wrote out the recipe for me nearly forty years ago (she was in her 80’s then.)

        2 lbs. ground beef 2½ lbs. brown sugar
        1 lb. beef suet 2 T. cinnamon
        5 lbs. sour apples 1 T. allspice
        1 lb. raisins 1 t. salt
        2 lbs. currants 1 c. molasses
        ¾ lb. citron (opt.) 1 c. boiled cider
        Juice & rind of 1 orange Juice & rind of 1 lemon

        Mix thoroughly in a large kettle. Add enough cider to make right consistency. Heat slowly to boiling; reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Pour into hot jars; seal (or freeze.) Heat filling before putting into pie crust (pie will bake faster.) Grandma noted: “Substitutions can be made for many of these things.” I’m sure she used whatever was on hand.

        Have fun with your research! 🙂


  7. Lovely post. Your pies look delicious- and I love the greens with the clementines.
    I’m late making Christmas anything this year- but there will be cookies and hopefully some tiny pies, as well.
    Thanks for sharing.


    • They sometimes sell the clementines with their stems and a few leaves attached which I think are really pretty. I’ve only started with the holiday prep – what you are seeing in the post is just the start! Thanks for stopping by!


    • Hi Joanne, Thanks for stopping by “In my kitchen”. I really like this idea of Celia’s. It allows us all to share what’s happening in our kitchens with other similar souls out there who just happen to be across the world from your own! Holidays wouldn’t be the same without homemade presents. I start preserving at the end of the growing season with this in mind. I’m only just beginning to get my head around the idea that it is summer down your way and that produce for the holidays is so very different!


  8. I love it all! Especially that gorgeous crimson colour the cranberries add to your mincemeat! Would love receiving a jar of that as a gift! Do you ship overseas? 😉


    • I’m glad you liked the post. I had fun writing it. The cranberry mincemeat is really easy to do. If you don’t have quince, substitute grated apple (but add this at the end of the 20 minutes cooking). Sorry, don’t do shipments 🙂 What a nightmare that would be getting it past customs!


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