While in Cardiff at Chapter Arts Centre to see comedienne Josie Long I spotted a few interesting snacks.
Green Chocolate Stegosaurus? Don't mind if I do! Locally made white choc just coloured a bit to get me overexcited and shaped into my favourite of the dinosaurs. Very Nice! The carob was OK, but the texture is essentially glue after the first few mouthfuls so less enjoyable. The cookie was not for me but the nibble I had was nice enough. What was worth mentioning was the following day they had a food fair - so we braved the Welsh rain and came back.
I had a good look round and would say that it was more diverse than our own Good Food Show a few weeks before and more focused to things you'd want to share with others than your own kitchen supplies. While sitting sampling the hot chocolate as we'd arrived too early we also (in a typically bizarre twist) got invited to a screening of a Charity documentary about cataract operations in India (which was a lot more interesting and uplifting than it sounds) by the charity Second Sight so enjoyed that too.
Our chosen table looked out over this little corner which had a lovely home made stall on the far side, a stall stacked with loads of amazing looking cupcakes made by Mel (that I didn't try due to the usual practice of having to ration what I could eat or carry home) and one round the corner selling preserves.
I picked up a little present from the home made stall (which I shan't discuss or photo as it's for Xmas) and gazed restrainedly at all the cup-cakes... I also looked at the preserves, and my tiny brain hatched a plan. My office/laboratory were holding a Mince Pie Celebration that would result in prizes and glory, but I can't stand mince pies (raisin/sultanas again)! I used to love baking, but had never made mince pies and decided that I could probably make a dried-fruit free version that both qualified for judging and was edible by me. As the deadline approached and I'd not managed to do anything about it I spotted this on the stall.
I had a chat with the lady running the stall both then and afterwards on Twitter and the idea of Mince Pie Samosas was born. I mentioned my chocolate and orange version too, but felt that while this would work (as would adding cocoa to the Buttery & Boozy Mincemeat) it was too much for a first attempt. If you want to pick up a jar yourself then you can do so on their website. They also have lots of things that I do like to eat that in hindsight may have made more sensible long term purchases...
I marked out the tri-force and folded up some oddly misshapen parcels. At this point the lovely smell of the apple and cinnamon was trying to convince me to eat the mixture, but I just couldn't get over the whole shrivelled grape thing and stuck to making some for the judges.
Here we have the raw item - wrapped up in their Jus-Roll pastry (yes - I know it's cheating but it's a lot quicker this way - I've made puff pastry from scratch a good few times though).
And 10 short minutes later we have a finished product! Two of them really didn't last long as Ms. NLi10 gave them their first review by eating them as pudding and saying they were nice. I also made and baked some chocolate ones, but I'll save that one for another day (I still need to write up the Gran Marnier baking disaster actually)!
The Christmas Party was tense, with the Mince Pie results jammed in between the eating of snacks and the Secret Santa. The following was read out about mine (and featured in the department newsletter):
"Excellent novelty value scoring very highly for innovation. We know that Rich couldn't decide whether to bake these or fry them, and we think that perhaps he should have gone for the fry. Nevertheless, excellent thoughtful mincemeat and a great fusion food idea."
This wasn't quite enough to win or place as runner up (far more experienced bakers received those accolades with pies made entirely from scratch so sweeping the bonus points up there), but it was good enough to get the Highly Commended certificate which is one for the trophy cabinet.
I think that The Preservation Society (whose name I love) can be proud of this, it was a universally loved mincemeat and all the secondary judges in the consultant's offices really enjoyed finishing off the batch. So much so that I have to now use the last third of the jar to make a few more for those of us in on Christmas Eve, but may need to resort to more mass produced varieties such as Waitrose for those to take to the Boxing Day family gathering.
Merry Christmas readers - I hope that you can find something similar lurking on the local stalls to add a touch of hand-made magic to your Christmas experience.