Eat out, drink up
Forget the virgin birth. The greatest Christmas question is this: who makes the best mince pies? Words: Donald Reid
hen you think about rt. the British do
many. many strange things around
Christmas. lhey put trees rnsrde their houses. They buy Cliff Richard records. They trap themselves rn a room with too many other family members rust at the trrne of year when the weather's least likely to allow them out. And they go into bakers and ask for a \.'egetarrarr rnrnce pie. For the month of December only. mince pres don't have rnrnce in them. lhey have mrncemeat. which doesn't have nrrnce or meat in rt either. It's a rich. sweet. sticky mix of sultanas. dried citrus peel. suet. spices and brandy. The suet rs the only suhrrvor from the long—past days when there was meat in rnrncerneat. though in
ackrrowledgement of vegetarian sensrtrvrtres many
manufacturers replace the beef suet with lots of r)r'es(->r‘\ratryes. So here's our guide to sorting out what's mince and whats meaty.
THE TASTE TEST
Goodfellow & Steven, Edinburgh and Fife 45;) each or £7.98 for six. lhe gia/ed pastry looks unappealing and has little real flavour. l'he filling has a distinctive crtrusy tang which may be too strong and rrch for some. .0
Miss Cranston’s Tearoom, Glasgow (Bradfords)
48;) each or‘ 5‘9. /':'> for srx. l legantly tapered. neatly corrugated round the side and lightly dusted with rcrng sugar. these pres look great. They are. however. rather petrte which makes them very pricey per mouthful. Robust construction and really tasty shortbready pastry. Much better hot than cold. 0...
Greggs Hip each or 5‘] for srx. /\ great all round pie with buttery pastry. sufficient frllrng and a well balanced taste. lhey can be crurrrbly and there's about half a pound of extra caster sugar sprinkled rnto each bag. But they come in at a very reasonable price and are widely available. 0...
124 THE LIST '3 (its, r.’ x .,.r" C
48;) for srx. lhe turkey of the mince pre tasting. They look cheap. the pastry tastes of cardboard and they seem to have been smearednot-filled with mincemeat. Good for throwing at carol singers but not much else.
t‘lttfi for six. An appealing home made look with thick. unfussy, butter-yellow pastry and a generous amount of frllrng held in by the flying— saucer design Taste even better cold than hot. which makes them a top lip for leaving out for Santa. CO...
r‘rcsr for :‘rx. A big drsar)porntment. Too fussy to look home-made with little star designs on top. the thrnnrsh pastry struggles to hold in an over- generous amount of filling. Proof that ‘deep frll' isn't always what its cooked up to be. .0.
Mr Kipling’s Finest Hot) for srx. Once the doyen of exceedingly good cakes. Mr K isn't lookrng so specral any more. Claggy. predrctable pastry. fussy Christmas bows on top. and not much effort to keep its filling when all around are losing therrs. O. I Who ate a// the pres? Thanks to the taste test team of larn ‘Srracks' Cow/e, Angus ‘Cap'n Puddrrrg' l"/rrght. (ireer/y Herr/y and (Just ar /_rtt/e rt/fo'.
PIS 03‘s“ I eat them wrth brandy butter. or farlrng that double cream rnot srnglel I try them with a crumbly cheese like Cheshire
I try them wrth a glass of port rather than the traditional mulled wine
I watch out for beef suet in the rngredrent lrst if you're vegetarian
I have your fill before Twelfth Night — come mrd-damrary they're out of the shops to make way for hot cross buns
FIVE MINCE PIE DON’TS: I microwave them — the pastry goes soggy and the filling scalds your mouth I put them in the oven and forget about them — the fire brigade rnrght be on strike
I try singing carols when eatrng one
I lay in too many for Christmas Day. After the great turkey and pud blow out. interest levels in a mid—afternoon snack are low
I think about the diet
I KEEPING UP WITH the Joneses - or in this case the Olivers, Steins and other celeb chefs of the day - Nick Nairn has also published a new cookbook. New Scottish Cookery (BBC £19.99) offers over 160 recipes and a guide on where to buy excellent Scottish produce and ingredients. ‘The secret of good food is simplicity,’ says Nairn perhaps a tad too simplistically. But a hallmark of his recipes is not only the use of fresh raw materials but also fairly straightforward methods. Among the dishes in the new book are baked fillet of halibut with cabbage, smoked bacon and tarragon cream sauce, and caramelised rice pudding with blueberry compote.
I GRAND CENTRAL IS
the new venture from Glasgow's Baby Grand group (Ad Lib. Baby Grand. Brel. Firebird et al). Opened where the Gaucho Grill once traded in the city centre (Renfield and West George streets). the bar and restaurant is named after the famed NYC railway terminal and features American-influenced Cuisine. The menus are extensive with everything from prawn po-boy sandwiches to grilled lobster and wild boar terrine to chicken jambalaya.
l BYRES ROAD HAS A new restaurant where Fusion burned out a few weeks ago. The Dining Room features the contemporary Scottish cooking of chef Jim Kerr, who has worked at Nairns, Rogano and Gamba. Kerr says the décor of ‘standard lamps, soft velvet coverings and muted colours allow our guests to unwind and really enjoy the whole expedenceﬂ