Homemade Mincemeat


Homemade mincemeat is easy to make and has the advantage that you can tailor-make it to your exact taste.

This version has a very citrus, orange flavour as I soaked all the fruit in freshly squeezed orange juice and Cointreau (optional).


Stored in sterilised jars, the mincemeat should ideally be made about 4 weeks ahead of use to allow the flavours to mature and infuse. All the ingredients are mixed together and then lightly baked in a cool oven to allow the suet to gently melt, covering the fruit and preventing the apples from fermenting in the jars.


Mincemeat is a useful store cupboard favourite. Perfect for mince pies!

Homemade Mincemeat

4 x 450g Jars


  • 225g vegetable suet
  • 225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • 125g candied peel
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 225g currants
  • 175g Demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 100ml Cointreau (50ml, plus 50ml after heating)


  1. Mix all the ingredients together (just 50ml of Cointreau at this stage) in a large bowl. Cover and leave overnight.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large, glass oven proof dish and cover with foil. Place in a cool oven, 100 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4 for 3 hours.
  3. Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely. Stir in the remaining Cointreau.
  4. Spoon into sterilised jars, cover with waxed discs and seal.


To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in soapy water. Place upside down in the oven, directly onto the rack. Heat oven to 120 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4. Allow to sterilise in the oven for 30 minutes.


Source: Adapted from BBC Food Recipes. Method adapted from Delia Smith’s ‘Complete  Cookery Course’





Homemade Strawberry Jam


Well, the school holidays are well and truly upon us and I face the challenge of keeping three kids happy and myself relatively sane. One activity that satisfies all four of us is fruit picking. Indeed, there will be many more trips this summer (I can’t resist this abundantly fresh fruit in my bakes). Indeed, what’s not to like? It is outdoors, a task for the children to carry out, cheap entertainment for them and fresh, ripe locally grown fruit and vegetables for my bakes and our supper.

This leads me nicely to the strawberry surplus in my fridge. The children were a bit over enthusiastic with their picking, in fact it was more like a harvest. Anyway, with a large, handled punnet of strawberries in my fridge, looking like they have seen slightly fresher days, my first attempt at jam making was upon me.

Naively, I thought making jam involved simply boiling fruit and preserving sugar. Now, having done a little research, yes…boiling fruit and sugar is the fundamental method… it appears it can be quite a bit more technical depending on the type of jam you hope to achieve. Firstly you need to consider the pectin level of the particular fruit. The pectin in the sweet fruit determines the setting level. Strawberries typically have low pectin levels. As my strawberries were freshly picked and grown outdoors they should have had sufficient pectin for setting and therefore I could have used solely granulated sugar. However, I wanted to ensure a good set so I used 50% granulated sugar and 50% preserve sugar. The lemon juice also acts a setting agent and well as a preservative.

So this is prime jam making season. So much lovely fresh fruit with good pectin levels. Stock up on fruit now and have a jam making session. It is very easy and very satisfying.

I was pleased with this first attempt at strawberry jam. Perfect on toast for the children, or fresh scones…

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Makes 2 jars


  • 500g strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 225g preserve sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 100 degrees C or Gas Mark 1/4. Place a saucer in the freezer (for the set test).
  2. Prepare the jars and lids by washing in soapy water and drying. Then place them in the oven, both facing down whilst the jam is being made.
  3. Put the strawberries and lemon into a large, heavy based saucepan and cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium heat until the berries are soft.
  4. Add both the sugars and heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes until your sugar thermometer reaches the 'jam' point, 105 degrees C. Alternatively, the setting point can be checked by dropping a small drop of jam onto the chilled saucer, allow it to cool and push it with your finger. When the jam wrinkles slightly, it is set. Always ensure that you remove the pan from the heat while you test for a set.
  5. Once the setting point has been reached, remove from the heat and spoon off any surface scum from the jam.
  6. Leave to cool slightly and then ladle into the warm, sterile jars. Allow to cool completely then top with waxed paper, seal with lid and label.
  7. Refrigerate the jam after opening.

Source: Slightly adapted from ‘The Preserving Book’ by Lynda Brown

Homemade Nut-Free Basil Pesto


I have included this homemade basil pesto on my gluten-free pizza so here is the recipe.

Its very simple to make, great on pizzas, stirred through pasta and baked on fish or chicken. Its keeps for up to two weeks in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and above all, its delicious.


Homemade Nut-Free Basil Pesto


  • 30g fresh basil leaves
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
  • Course sea salt, for seasoning
  • 40g Parmesan, grated
  • 5 tbsp. olive oil


  1. Wash and drain the fresh basil leaves and place in a food processor.
  2. Add the garlic, salt and pepper seasoning and parmesan to the blender. Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil and blend.
  3. Add a further 3 tbsp. of olive oil to the mixture and blend further until the pesto becomes a lumpy paste.
  4. Season further to taste, if required.
  5. Spoon the pesto into a sterilised jar. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil to the top of the pesto to prevent it from drying out. Screw the lid on the jar tightly.
  6. Store in the refrigerator.
  7. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.

Source: Adapted from Lynda Brown’s ‘The Preserving Book’