I often feel conflicted around this time of year: can Christmas food be justified in January? I’m quite strict on when the Christmas feasting begins: I’m not interested in beginning the festivities until everyone has finished work (even when that working takes place at home), so that usually means halfway through Christmas Eve. But, the end is less defined, and often has a long tail, especially this year.
Culinarily (or greedily), I have no problem with it: I love Christmas food. I’m quite happy to stretch Christmas out for as long as I can: leftover sandwiches never lose their appeal, stuffed with all manner of cold cuts and root veg, bathed in medieval-tasting bread sauce, and occasionally boasting a pig in blanket. I’ll eat Christmas pudding quite past its best, thrown into the oven with a couple of ice cubes to stop it drying out or, if caution has been truly thrown to the wind, fried in leftover brandy butter. Seven days on, I’ll still be finding frozen canapés completely charming. And as far as the endless Stilton-consumption goes: when a person is tired of a cheese board, they are tired of life, no matter how tired the cheese board in question may be looking. I would happily eat chocolate all year round, given the opportunity. In any event, our hefty Christmas cake will last this household of two until we start thinking about simnel cake.
So, now that we’re well into January, what’s left to feast on? Gone is the turkey, and our mince pies, and most of the biscuits for cheese. But I’m not quite ready to give up on what remains: I’m certain there will be plenty of time for self-flagellation and restriction in the months to come. For now, I’ll be holding onto any lingering cosiness and celebration tightly.
This dish is festive, without being a repeat of other puds, and incredibly easy to put together. The apple is cored to create space for the mincemeat, which is then spooned into it. I like a slosh of Christmassy booze poured onto the mincemeat once it’s been stuffed in the top. A knife drawn around the middle of the apple stops it bursting its banks while it’s cooked. Using a cooking apple means that it will collapse a little as it cooks — but that’s OK, this should be a spoonable pudding, and I want the softness of the apple to sit alongside the nubbly mincemeat, with little bursts from the plump, treacly, dried fruit, and the sharpness of the Bramley apple is essential here, I think, in contrast to the sweet, spiced mincemeat. The whole thing is then topped with a little butter to baste the fruit as it cooks — and if you have some leftover brandy butter, so much the better. The recipe will double, triple or halve depending on your household: one apple, an ounce of mincemeat, a third of an ounce of butter and a slosh of booze or apple or orange juice is all you need per person.
A spoonful of cold, thick cream is an obligatory accompaniment (although I conceded custard or ice cream would also be welcome), and given its festive origins, I like to use brandy cream here. Why not, eh?
Makes: Serves 4
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 30-40 minutes
4 cooking apples
3 ½ oz mincemeat per apple
1 fl oz brandy or other Christmas booze (sherry, rum, Madeira, Marsala, amaretto and Frangelico all work)
1 ½ oz mixed nuts (optional)
1 ½ oz salted or brandy butter
- Preheat the oven to 300°F
- If the apples won’t stand up on their own, cut a small amount from the base, to allow them to sit flat. Core the apples — I use a melon baller here, both for ease, and to create a generous cavity for my mincemeat. Score the apple’s circumference with a sharp knife. If you’re adding nuts to your mincemeat, chop them into a small rubble, and stir through the mincemeat
- Place the apples in a baking dish, and fill with the mincemeat to the brim: about a generous tablespoon of mincemeat per apple, but really as much as you can fit in. Slosh a capful of Christmassy booze, and top each apple with ⅓ oz of butter
- Bake for 30-40 minutes until the apple is beginning to collapse, and the mincemeat is sizzling. Serve with thick, cold cream, ice cream or custard
This article was originally published on Spectator Life.