Thursday, 16 December 2010

Heston Blumenthal and Me

Me and Heston have many things in common - we're both great cooks, both a bit geeky, and both suffering from a shortage of candied orange.

In Heston's case, you might have read the story in the news. He occasionally creates dishes for the upmarket UK supermarket chain Waitrose. For this Christmas season, he invented a large (12-14 people) Christmas pudding with a whole candied Seville orange in the middle. The company contracted to make these babies - Northern Foods - bought the entire year's supply of whole candied Seville oranges. About a week ago, it was announced that they were only days away from selling the entire production. And it takes seven weeks to candy a whole orange. These puddings are now selling on eBay for upwards of a thousand quid.

In my case, I thought it would be prudent to make mince pies for the Christmas season. I reckoned I'd planned ahead for this by making 5 litres of mincemeat - you can buy it in Madrid, but it's full of bad stuff and it's very expensive. If you're unfamiliar with mincemeat, it contains sultanas, raisins, apple, cider, chopped nuts, spices, and, in my recipe, about a half litre of brandy. Traditionally, mincemeat also contains suet, but to make ours vegetarian friendly, we use shredded butter instead. Oh, I nearly forgot, it also has candied orange peel in it. Now, I've searched high and low for candied peel, without success, so I decided to make my own. It takes four days, but it was pretty fab.

So, off we go making mince pies at the beginning of December, and before I know it, we're down to the last jar of mincemeat. Fortunately, I still have enough candied peel, and I make twice the quantity of the first batch. But in the last week, we've sold hundreds of mince pies, with more orders to fulfil in the next few days. I realised this situation was looming, so a few days ago I made some more candied peel. Except - and my marketing buddies will say I shouldn't tell you this, but hey, I'm an honest kinda dude with a full selection of funny hats - I screwed up. Didn't put enough sugar into the mix, so instead of drying out into the preserved fruit wossname we wanted, it all started to go black. Blueghhh.

I made another batch of mincemeat tonight, but instead of candied peel I used caramelised orange peel (which takes about an hour to make rather than four days), and I don't think I'll be getting any complaints.

And while I'm in boasting mode, let me just share this comment from one of my customers: "Those pies are amazing! I have only recently developed a taste for mince pies but those are the best I have ever had, and I have tried a lot."

So nerr.