A few years ago, I gave a book talk/cooking demonstration on Irish holiday foods at a local library. One of my personal favorites is mincemeat, an ingredient that’s nearly as synonymous with Christmas as fruitcake and turkey, so I included a few recipes featuring it. To my surprise, a number of people in the audience had no idea what it was, had never tasted it, and weren’t too anxious to give it a try; that is, not until I offered them a tiny brandy-spiked tart! Convinced, they begged for more! I assume Echo readers are already well acquainted with the fruity/spicy mixture and, with less than three months to go until December 25, will appreciate two more recipes featuring the Christmas staple that, along with steamed pudding and fruitcake, has been the standard-bearer of traditional Christmas desserts for centuries. You’ll find more holiday treasures in my newest cookbook “Festive Flavors of Ireland.” To order signed copies, visit irishcook.com.
MINCEMEAT CAKE WITH LEMON CURD CREAM
SERVES 10 TO 12
This mincemeat cake is perfect “as is,” but you can cut it into cubes and use it in place of lady fingers or pound cake as the base of a holiday trifle. Substitute the lemon curd whipped cream for traditional custard and sprinkle with colorful pomegranate arils between the layers. This make-ahead sweet is perfect for a post-Christmas buffet or to serve at teatime.
For the cake
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 cup homemade or prepared mincemeat
For the lemon curd cream
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
5 tablespoons lemon curd
Grated zest of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pomegranate arils (optional)
Sugared cranberries and rosemary, for garnish (optional; see Note)
ONE Preheat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.
TWO In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; add vanilla.
THREE In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat in flour mixture in three additions, alternating with milk; fold in mincemeat. Transfer to prepared pan.
FOUR Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for 25 minutes. Loosen cake from pan; invert onto rack. Let cool completely.
FIVE Make lemon curd cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk (or with a hand mixer), whip cream, lemon curd and zest on medium-high speed until soft peaks form; gradually add confectioners’ sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
SIX If making trifle, cut cake into 1-inch cubes. Layer about one-third cake cubes in a 4-quart trifle bowl (or use a deep glass bowl). Spoon some lemon curd cream on top; sprinkle with some pomegranate arils; repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with additional arils and garnish with sugared cranberries and rosemary, if desired. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
NOTE: SUGARED CRANBERRIES AND ROSEMARY: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup cranberries; stir to coat in syrup. With a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack set over a baking sheet or paper towels to drain excess syrup. Let dry for 30 to 40 minutes. Roll in additional sugar; return to rack to dry completely. Repeat with rosemary sprigs. Store in a single layer in an airtight tin; refrigerate for up to 1 week.
MINCEMEAT & APPLE PUDDING WITH CUSTARD SAUCE
Anyone who loves mincemeat can never have too many recipes for ways to use it beyond the traditional tart or pie. The fruity mix goes especially well with tart apples in this pudding, a delicious sweet that can go straight from oven to table when it’s baked in a decorative serving dish. (The pudding can be made 1 to 2 days in advance and reheated). Top it with Custard Sauce.
For the pudding
2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
5 ounces butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon homemade or prepared mincemeat
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon milk
For the custard
2 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
ONE Make pudding. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick butter flavored cooking spray.
TWO In a large bowl, toss apples with brown sugar, orange zest and juice; spread evenly into bottom of prepared pan.
THREE In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and mincemeat.
FOUR In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into mincemeat mixture; stir in milk. Spoon mixture over apples; smooth top.
FIVE Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and springs back when lightly touched. Serve warm or at room temperature with custard sauce.
SIX Make custard. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring milk and cream to simmer; stir occasionally. Stir in vanilla bean paste.
SEVEN In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and corn starch; bring gently to simmer. Slowly pour into cream mixture, whisking constantly until blended. Return pan to heat; continue to whisk until thick and smooth. Serve warm, or at room temperature. (If not serving immediately, transfer custard to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming).
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page expands this year to “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work or to order a signed cookbook, visit irishcook.com.