Monday 4 January 2010

I’ll raise a tart to that…

The table's set By the way, we never eat anyone’s health, always drink it. Why should we not stand up now and then and eat a tart to somebody’s success?

Jerome K. Jerome

So I’m still picking glitter out of the floorboards and suspect I will be for some time.

We returned from my parents’ just in time to prepare our New Year’s Eve party, planned as an elegant dinner for six - all (bar one heavenly Portugeezer) people we’d spent Millennium Eve with. I was looking forward to it, rather loving the fact that in a world where things change at a terrifying pace, some friendships remain constant. Those who were dear to us then are dear to us now, their presence woven like the weft through the (time) warp of our lives. But then, over the course of the morning, the party grew to twelve adults and four children. More linens, more glasses, more food, more fun. More angels at my table.

Sean and I spent a happy day getting everything together. We chilled champagne, roasted meats, peeled vegetables, whisked dressings. I made a delicious chocolate cake, but given our increased numbers I needed a second pudding I could pull together from things in the larder.

I made some mincemeat in November. Not just any mincemeat either, the world’s best mincemeat, from Pam Corbin’s River Cottage Handbook No2: Preserves, fat with fruit and fragrant with brandy. I’d used up half the jar making mince pies for the highlight of my social calendar, The Dog Walkers’ Christmas Party in Clissold Park, but I still had quite a bit left.

Mince pies in the parkA cold party......with warm mulled wine At least someone dressed up!The dog walkers’ party in Clissold Park

I threw together a quick tart, with pastry from the freezer, a couple of thinly sliced apples and a walnut-y crumble topping. If you have any mincemeat left over, it’s a great way to use it up.

At 4am, surrounded by a flotsam of plates and glasses and ends of cheese, I sat at our marble counter with my dearest friend in the world sipping the last of the champagne as our husbands and her children dozed in beds and on sofas around the house. We’ve known each other for almost twenty years. Our lives have changed a lot. But the one thing that drew us together in the first place remains constant. Neither of us ever wants the party to end. We may not be dancing on the speakers any more, we may have swapped the night bus for taxis and (sometimes) cava for premier cru, but we’re always there, ‘talking nonsense’ when less doughty, more sensible souls are tucked up in their beds. How lucky I feel to be entering a new decade doing the very thing that has brought me so much happiness over so many years. So here’s to nonsense, here’s to old friends and new ones, here’s to constancy and here’s to change. I’ll raise a tart to that.

Happy New year!The spreadA bit of beefHoping for some beef... Damian's new motto

Mincemeat crumble tart

Mincemeat crumble tart

1 sheet of ready-roll all-butter shortcrust pasty
2 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
About 200g mincemeat, enough for a nice thick layer
180g plain flour
70g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
50g finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Butter a 22cm loose-bottomed flan tin.

Line the flan tin with the pastry, letting the excess hang over the sides, and place on a baking tray. Line with baking parchment filled with baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and baking beans. Brush some egg wash over the base and put it back into the oven for eight minutes. Trim off the excess pastry with a sharp knife.

While the tart shell is baking, make the crumble. Whisk together the flour and sugar. Rub in the butter until it is the texture of coarse crumbs. Stir in the walnuts.

Line the tin with a layer or two of sliced apples, spoon over a good thick layer of mincemeat and sprinkle on the crumble topping. Bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm or cold with custard, cream or crème fraîche.


  1. What fun...and yum! Happy, happy new year to you!I hate to tell you that it's 70 degrees here in LA (one good thing about LA!).

  2. Sounds like a wonderful New Year!

  3. How funny - I was talking to Damian on the phone yesterday and he told me all about your feast - and here he is! So lovely to see him promoting a favourite slogan!
    Happy New Year and I look forward to many more cake recipes X

  4. Gorgeous writing, pictures that tell stories, outdoor and indoor goodwill and special thoughts about the enduring and potent nature of friendship. I'll raise a glass of surviving port to all that.

  5. Oh, is THAT what I'm to do with my leftover homemade world's best mincemeat?! Har har! And I love your mention of a he/she very, very old?
    Happiest of New Year, darling D, and a huge overseas hug from your favorite Yankee.

    Karen, the one with NO larder of handy-dandy amazing preserves to doctor up in case of pudding emergency...

  6. Catherine- Fun it certainly was! 70 degrees, I can't even imagine 70 degrees right now. We're forecasted a foot of snow tonight... A very happy new year to you. I'm looking forward to see what you're cooking up in 2010.
    Thank you Joy!
    Chey - what can be better than good food and good friends? A perfect menu.
    Scarlett - He is single-handedly going to kick start the revitilisation of the economy, I'm quite sure of it. Wishing you a wonderful new year - I'm looking forward to seeing what you grow in your garden, so inspiring to a beginner like me.
    Mummy - Thank you!
    Karen - Nooo, the Portugeezer is our dear friend Handsome H, not at all aged and entirely lovely. A huge hug back to you, darling friend.


  7. Sounds like it was an absolute blast! Happy New Year to you and Sean.

  8. I've just made this tart and it is absolutely scrumptious! I had high hopes with these ingredients, but it was even better than I expected. Thanks so much for the recipe - I can tell this is going to be a favourite in my house!

  9. Catherine - It was indeed. All the best to you, Bruce and Emma.
    Nora- I'm so thrilled you liked it - isn't it easy? A great way to use up the leftover mincemeat.

  10. Sounds like a lovley evening. Happy New Year! All the best in 2010 and beyond.

  11. Thank you Darina, and the same to you.

  12. We celebrated with friends in the kitchen too! I love your kitchen. Happy New Year.


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