Tis the season for Christmas baking, and I only hope I haven't peaked too soon as I was whacked this morning after spending all day Saturday and Sunday stirring and rolling-out. I kicked off last week with this chestnutty-meringuey concoction from Ottolenghi that caught my eye in last week's Guardian, largely because I had most of the ingredients in the cupboard and chestnuts were £1 in Tesco. It was okay - it looked like the picture (well, it doesn't always, does it?) - but I'd never made meringue cuite before and I think I cuite-ed it a bit too far because it was a bit chewy. Oh, well.
I was far more excited about my mince-pies for the working-classes c1852 made from Francatelli's recipe. He was Queen Victoria's head chef and his recipe for the Queen was far more lavish. (I'm already planning mincemeat royale for next year's bake-off, so many recipes, not enough time!) The mystery ingredient in working-class pies was tripe. I had to order it from the butcher in namby-pamby London because Heston hasn't rediscovered tripe yet; my sister was laughing because where she lives, there's still a tripe stall on the market. (Anybody else remember UCP (United Cattle Products) butchers? They were old-fashioned even in the 1960s when I was growing up.) The hardest thing to find was proper butcher's suet which was ordered from a farm in Rutland and collected from Borough Market. (Not a good idea because I ate 10,000 calories worth of 21st century salted honeycomb doughnuts while I was there.)
I served my tripe pies with some trepidation ... and no, I didn't do the big reveal until everybody had tasted (and swallowed!) And you know what? They were delicious, though I say so myself. Honestly, everybody liked them. I got the idea from the Victorian Bakers Christmas programme, so I can boast that my pies will be on BBC2 on Christmas Day. (Well, not literally my pies!) Anyway, in the search for Christmas novelty, they were a heck of a lot better than star-spangled crisps (not good) and Heston's slimy banana and bacon trifle (a free taster in Waitrose, absolutely disgusting). Remember his Toilet Duck-scented mince pies a few years ago? Tripe pies win hands down Here's the original recipe: Ingredients, eight ounces of stoned raisins, eight ounces of washed and dried currants, one pound of tripe, one pound of apples, one pound of chopped suet, four ounces of shred candied peel, one pound of moist sugar, one ounce of allspice, the juice and the chopped rind of three lemons, half a gill of rum. First chop the raisins, currants, apples, and the tripe all together, or separately, until well mixed; then place these in a pan, add the remainder of the ingredients, mix them thoroughly until well incorporated with each other; put the mince-meat into a clean dry stone jar, tie some thick paper, or a piece of bladder over the top, and keep it in a cool place till wanted for use.