Traditionally baked for the St Ives fair in Cornwall on the Saturday before Advent Sunday, these little pig-shaped biscuits have an endearing history. With the fishing season ended, and the fisherman all feeling flush from their catch and readying themselves for the festivities ahead, the fair was one of the highlights of the year. Cornish fairings were sold by the pig-pie man (no doubt with spare pastry to roll) to young men who bought biscuits for their sweethearts.
Makes about 12
250g plain flour, plus more to dust surface to roll biscuits
Pinch of salt
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon (unwaxed is best)
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated
½ tsp mixed spice
50g caster sugar
225g clotted cream, well chilled
- Sift the flour and mix in the salt, lemon rind, spices and sugar
- Work in the cold clotted cream until you have a firm cohesive dough. Wrap and rest for 1 hour in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 180° and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Lightly flour the surface and roll the biscuit dough flat to about 1 cm thick.
- Use a pig shaped biscuit cutter (or use another shape) and cut to size.
- Place the biscuits on the tray and bake for about 12 – 15 or until firm to touch and beginning to turn golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- Stored in an airtight tin, the biscuits should keep well enough for up to a week or more.
Brussels sprouts, blue cheese and chestnut tartlets
Classic Christmas combination of savoury flavours here, use any seasonal vegetables and cheese you have to hand if you prefer, but it must be said that this trio takes some beating.
To make about 8 tartlets, or one 22cm tart-tin
120g plain flour
70g cold butter, diced
300ml double cream
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, beaten
60g chestnuts, shelled and roughly chopped
80g Colston Bassett cheese, or use any blue cheese, crumbled
150g Brussels sprouts, inner cores removed and leaves finely shredded
¼ whole nutmeg, freshly grated to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Sift the flour and pinch of salt into the bowl of a food processor; add 60g of the butter and blitz for about 20 – 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Through the top of the food processor, with the motor still running, add between 1 and 2 tbsp. ice-cold water until a rough dough forms and begins to just ball together. Remove from the food processor and gently shape to form a round. Cover in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, use shop bought shortcrust pastry.
- With the remaining butter, gently fry the sprouts over a moderate heat with a pinch of salt and nutmeg until soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, scatter the worktop with a light dusting of flour and roll the pastry approximately 1cm thick.
- Line the tart tins and cut to size.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- In a jug beat the eggs into the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set to one side.
- Preheat the oven to 190°.
- Blind bake the tart cases covered with a square of greaseproof and filled with baking beans to prevent the pastry from rising. This can take anywhere from between 15 minutes for individual cases to 30 minutes for a larger tart case; until the pastry is crisp throughout. Remove from the oven.
- Remove the baking beans and greaseproof and fill each of the cases with a portion of brussels sprouts, blue cheese and chestnuts. Place the tart cases on a flat baking sheet and gently fill each of the tart cases with enough of the tart filling to come just shy of the top of the tartlet.
- Reduce the oven to 180° and cook the tartlets for 10 – 12 minutes until the filling sets and the brussels sprouts and blue cheese begin to bubble and just caramelise in places. Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a wire rack.
Devilled Cheese Straws
Nothing beats a cheese straw and this recipe is a doddle to prepare. Best eaten on the day they are baked, these cheese straws smell outrageous good they bake so you won't want to wait to take a bite!
Makes about 12
110g grated mature cheddar cheese
50g unsalted butter, diced
100g plain flour, plus more for dusting
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp hot paprika or use cayenne pepper
1 tsp. English mustard (not powder)
1 tbsp. whole milk or thin cream
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