Mincemeat Pies (Based on a Medieval Recipe)

2ND YEAR MPHIL HISTORY STUDENT, ANDY, SHARES A FAVOURITE FESTIVE RECIPE…

The history of the mincemeat pie is quite old. It can be traced back to the 12th century when crusaders brought back spices from the Middle East. The spices then where introduced into the medieval diet and used for various things including spiced meat and fruit. This popular mix is what began the little pies that we know today. Mincemeat pies.

I derived most of this recipe from a course I took in 2014 from FutureLearn. I had to do some improvising, as I did not have all the ingredients available to me at the time.

What you will need:

  • 1 cupcake tin (I made a dozen with this recipe)
  • a medium size pot to cook down the mincemeat
  • bowl for dough
  • pastry cutter

Shortcrust Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour (I like King Arthur flour the best)
  • 1 1/2 sticks of butter
  • good size pinch of salt
  • 4-5 Tbsp of cold water

Mincemeat:

  • 2 pork chops –optional- (If you want to place meat in them… original pies did have meat!)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of dried currants
  • 1/2 cup of dried cherries (could even use dates. But my store didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 cup diced dried plums
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of rum
  • 1 tbs of molasses for color
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • a few dashes of salt
    (when measuring out the spices I was quite generous. But I cook like “throw it all in a pot”)
  • two large tbsp of marmalade
  • 1 slice of orange
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs for binding agent
  • 1 table spoon of olive oil

Take the two pork chops, with no bones and place them in the pot. Dust them with cloves and put the olive oil in to tender the meat. Add about a 1/2 cup of water to steam them. Cook them until they are just done. You want the meat tender and easy to chop up into fine pieces.

Chop the meat up once it is cooked through and return to the pot. Next, with all the liquid still from the pork chops, add all the fruit, sugar, orange slice, marmalade, bread crumbs, wine, and spices all into the mix. Put the mixture on low and cover with a lid. Add the rum to flavor. Taste periodically, to see if you need to adjust any of the spices or add more. It takes about a good 3 hours for the mix to cook down at low heat. It should have a consistency of thick jam. When done, let it cool. Mincemeat can be stored for up to a year if canned in a jar with sealed lid, if the mix is made without meat. Brandy or rum is excellent to preserve the mixture.

Preheat oven to 176 C -180 C.

Grease cupcake the tins with lard.

Mixing the shortcut pastry and final prep for the oven:

In a bowl, add the flour and salt mix well. Chop up the butter and add that as well. I don’t have a food processor, so I used a pastry slicer and blended the butter and flour together. I next used my fingers to get the mixture to a consistency like bread crumbs. Then add the water and kneed to form a soft ball of dough. You can refrigerate over-night or just roll it out.

Cut the dough large enough to fit in the cupcake tins and fill with the mincemeat mixture. Cut another circle to use as a top. Don’t forget to poke with a fork for ventilation. Cutting the pastry in shapes such as stars or Fleur de Lis for the top is a popular decoration for this treat. I just made mini pies.

Cook for 20 minutes or until crust is baked and a tiny golden. Lift out with a fork or knife and cool on a plate. If you love mincemeat pies and other holiday treats you will love these. Homemade is always better than store bought! These tasty pies can be stored in an air tight container or tin for a good two weeks. Refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!

 

Petite Christmas Puddings

THIRD YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE STUDENT, NIA, SHARES HER FRIEND’S RECIPE FOR PETITE CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS…

Last year my housemate, Francesca, had this amazing idea of making individual Christmas puddings (does a big one ever get finished?) and putting cocoa powder in them as, let’s face it, regular Christmas pudding isn’t always a fan favourite. So I’ve carefully shadowed her, written up the recipe and voila! Now you too can provide your housemates with festive cheer – and puddings for days!

 

Ingredients:
280g Caster Sugar
80g Unsalted Butter
2 Eggs
200g Plain Flour
40g Cocoa Powder
2tsp Baking Powder
100ml Milk
100g Raisins
30g Chopped Walnuts
50g Chopped Cranberries

 

Icing:

275g Royal Icing Sugar

8tsp Cold Water

 

Makes 12 puddings.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160° C/320° F/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole muffin tray using butter to grease each hole.
  2. Blend together the sugar and butter in a bowl using an electric whisk or mixer.
  3. Beat the eggs together then slowly whisk them into the mixture.
  4. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and continue mixing.
  5. Next, pour in the milk, also doing this slowly, and whisk until it reaches a creamy consistency.
  6. Add the raisins, walnuts and chopped cranberries and envelope them in (saving some of the cranberries for decoration).
  7. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until there is no residue left on a knife once inserted into them.
  8. Carefully remove the puddings from the tray and leave to cool before icing.
  9. For the icing, slowly mix together the icing sugar with 8 tablespoons of cold water to create a thick consistency.
  10. Teaspoon the icing onto the smaller side of the puddings, adding a little bit at a time so that it gently drips down the sides. Make sure not to heap too much icing on top as you won’t be able to achieve the dripping effect. For extra decoration, place the leftover mixed cranberries on top of each pudding for the leaves of the puddings.

8 Tips for Making the Most of the Christmas Break

THIRD YEAR PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT, KATE, SHARES HER ADVICE FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY…

You are probably thinking let me just enjoy the break full of food and fun? Solid advice, but do make the most of your break so you return in January the most rested and productive student on the earth with these top tips…

 

  1. Organization:
  • It’s always best to get ahead before going home. Get organized with your notes, assignments and your timetable – what do you need to do? Make sure you have you the right text books so this doesn’t hold you back. Put your spring timetable into a diary and organize your life around lectures and the deadlines you know.
    Work/Life Balance is Key. Planning = happy student

 

  1. Christmas Celebrations:
  • Keep Christmas celebrations on the 24th to 26th and New Years Eve completely university free. You need a break and to celebrate with your family enjoying all the festivities.
  • Make time for family and enjoy being home. They will want to hear all about your term and if you’re going to get them to do your washing the least you can do is hang out with them.

 

  1. Academic Work:
  • Some people prefer blocked days and others prefer a few hours a day. Work out what is best for you and plan it, but don’t over work yourself – little and often method works well in the holidays. Don’t forget to reward yourself for getting your work done; whether this is an extra Christmas chocolate or an extra night at the pub, it’s vital!

 

  1. Catch up with friends from home.
  • Pretty much everyone you went to school with will be home so make sure you reconnect with your friends as sometimes it’s hard to keep in contact in term time.

 

  1. Jobs
  • Earn a little extra money.
    You may or may not be in your overdraft; either way earning a little money over the Christmas period is never a bad thing. Christmas is a great time to get CV experience, paid or volunteering.

 

  1. Future Jobs:
  • Depending on your year, you might be looking at graduate schemes or internships. Christmas is the perfect time to sit down for a few hours and apply, research and apply some more.
  • Revamp your resume and keep your documents UPDATED!
    Opportunity knocks the moment you’re least expecting it so it’s always best to be prepared. Christmas is the perfect time to update all your important documents with your latest experiences.

 

  1. Wellbeing
  • Exercise: Stay healthy and combat holiday bulge by keeping up with a regular exercise regimen. You’ll feel better for it.
  • Catch up on sleep: Uni is exhausting and late nights doing work or clubbing can really take its toll. While you’ve got a break, enjoy the lie ins for a while, then try and establish a sleep routine ready for those January 9ams.

 

  1. RELAX
  • Do things that make you happy! You deserve a break after your hard work this term and need to be rested before going back for another jam-packed term!
    Whether its films, food, sleep or adventure, find what works for you!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – Bring on 2018.

Rebecca’s Christmas Fudge Recipes

SECOND YEAR ACCOUNTING AND BUSINESS STUDENT, REBECCA, SHARES HER FESTIVE FUDGE RECIPES…

 

When thinking about Christmas inspired recipes, I came to the realisation that just about anything indulgent and comforting, to me, counts as a Christmas food! Aside from the classic roast dinners and mince pies, at this time of year anything warming or laden with chocolate has me feeling festive. Here I have two fudge recipes, the first adapted from the side of carnation condensed milk tin, you can literally buy all these ingredients in the Co-op on campus, making it super easy. The second recipe is slightly healthier, I found this recipe somewhere online last year and have adapted it using cacao powder rather than cocoa to be even more chocolatey, I make it far too often and I always switch up my toppings.

Simple Carnation Fudge

Ingredients:

1 can of condensed milk (I always use carnation which is just less than 400g)

150ml milk

450g Demerara sugar

115g butter

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large pan, preferably non-stick, this makes it so much easier (especially washing up afterward)
  2. Melt over a low heat, until all the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously. (warning: the fudge will be very hot)
  3. Drop a small amount of the mixture into a jug of very cold water, a soft ball of fudge should form if the mixture is ready. If not allow to simmer for a couple more minutes and test again.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat, and vigorously beat the mixture for around 10 minutes, until the fudge becomes thick and starts to set. (this is a great arm workout, and will burn so many calories you can eat another piece!)
  5. Place into a lined tinned, and set in the fridge until firm. At this point you can add toppings of your choice, such as: crushed nuts, a layer of melted chocolate, a drizzle of peanut butter or sea salt.

Healthy Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:

1 cup pitted dates

½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

½ ground almonds

¼ cocoa/cacao powder

a couple of tbsp. water

pinch of salt

[if you don’t have a cup measurement, use any standard mug, ensuring the ratios of all ingredients remain the same, you may need to add more/less water].

Method:

  1. In a food processor, combine the dates and tahini, until it forms a paste
  2. Add the almond flour and cacao until completely combined
  3. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a ball, and does not stick to you hands
  4. Place into a lined tinned, and set in the freezer until firm. At this point you can add toppings of your choice, such as: crushed nuts, a layer of melted chocolate, a drizzle of peanut butter or sea salt.

How I’m Spending My Christmas Break

3RD YEAR THEATRE ARTS, EDUCATION AND DEAF STUDIES STUDENT, ALEXANDER, SHARES HIS PLANS FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY…

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of term! Now it’s time to spend four weeks relaxing, catching up on sleep, making some headway with course work and of course celebrating the Christmas and New Year period!

I’m looking forward to going back to Norfolk, where my family live and seeing the new house my parents live in. I’ll probably spend most of my evenings sitting by the wood burning stove watching films. Amongst course work for all those January deadlines, I hope to start looking at opportunities for next year, as I’m in my final year and have those scary decisions to make! It became apparent during the lecture for my careers module the other day, that the Christmas holidays is actually a really good time to start looking into options, depending on what you want to do.

I definitely don’t plan to be working flat out though, as after a busy term, I am looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends, preparing for Christmas and celebrating my 21st birthday, followed by my brother’s birthday a few days later. Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, so I’m look forward to several celebrations with the family, due to some of the family living in other parts of the country. I love decorating the house with Christmas decorations, and using my creative skills to help my parents do it in an artistic way; normally I do the tree.

As I’m on a tight budget for Christmas presents this year, I will probably make as many presents as I can and buy the rest cheaply. Making presents yourself can save a lot of money! Homemade truffles have gone down well in the past. I really enjoy making Christmas cards, so will probably make some this year. Due to my parents living in a different part of Norfolk now, I’m looking forward to exploring areas of the county I don’t know and meeting new people. I’m hoping to visit the local Deaf centre, because not only is it fun and great for meeting new people, it also useful for my course. I’m planning to get a Christmas Elf job, or something in retail, to help me save up for next term!

In terms of Christmas celebrations, my family normally open stockings in the morning, before breakfast (including Pain au Chocolat and other pastries!) then go to church, have Christmas dinner, open the main presents and then watch the Queen’s Speech and sometimes play board games. Boxing Day, we normally see family that we didn’t see on Christmas Day.

Hope you all have a lovely break, wherever you go and whatever you do, and if you’re staying in Reading, I’m sure you will have a good time! Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018!

Nia’s Festive Biscuits

 

THIRD YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE STUDENT, NIA, SHARES HER CHRISTMAS RECIPE FOR FESTIVE BISCUITS…

Even though we’ve all secretly been celebrating since the 1st of November, it is now becoming a socially acceptable time to spread Christmas cheer! So this week I am sharing a simple Christmas biscuit recipe, suitable for bulk-making for work parties, to celebrate the end of the university term with your flat mates or even to create with younger brothers and sisters. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:
350g Plain Flour
100g Self-raising Flour
125g Granulated Sugar
125g Unsalted Butter
3tbsp Honey
1 large Egg
1tbsp Maple Syrup

 

Decorations:
Icing sugar
Green food dye
Dark Chocolate
White Chocolate
Pre-bought sweets

 

Makes 32 biscuits.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Combine the plain flour, self-raising flour and the sugar in a bowl and stir well. Next add the butter, mixing the ingredients together with your fingers to create a crumbly texture.
  3. Create a hole in the centre of the mixture and add the honey, egg and maple syrup. Using your hands, combine the ingredients together to create a dough.
  4. With any left-over flour, lightly dust a surface and roll out the dough using a rolling pin until it is roughly 0.5cm thick.
  5. Using biscuit cutters, preferably in the shape of Christmas objects, cut shapes out of the dough. If you don’t have any cutters you could always get creative with a knife or any other objects you have lying around the kitchen!
  6. Place the shapes on the previously lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Once they have finished cooking, take the biscuits off the tray to cool before icing.
  8. Now comes the fun part! When you’re ready to ice them, you can use a variety of methods. For mine I used royal icing sugar (mixed with water) and melted chocolate to cover the biscuits, then decorated with pre-bought sweets and chocolate shapes.

Sport in Mind Tennis Sessions

SECOND YEAR PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT, LAURA, TELLS US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE LOCAL CHARITY ‘SPORT IN MIND’ AND THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY OFFER…

My name is Laura, and as part of my year 2 placement, I volunteer for a mental health charity called Sport in Mind.

Sport in Mind aims to use sport and physical activity to help aid the recovery of people experiencing a wide range of mental health problems. The sessions intend to promote positive mental wellbeing, improve physical health, and combat social isolation. Sport in Mind’s activities are open to anyone over the age of 18 years, experiencing mental health problems. All our groups are relaxed drop-in sessions, where you can take part for as little or as long as you like. The charity provides a weekly timetable of sport and physical activity sessions across Berkshire, offering over 18 different sports, which include: badminton, football, yoga, and most recently the addition of indoor tennis, located at the University of Reading’s new tennis dome.

I initially decided to get involved in the charity as part of my placement, where we are required to spend 80 hours in a psychology-related field of our choice. I met Phil, the volunteer coordinator, at a placement fair on campus, and we instantly started chatting about how important it is to promote positive mental wellbeing, with sport being a great way of achieving this. Even though I discovered the charity through a compulsory placement I am so glad that I did, as I not only get to spend time chatting with people about mental health (a topic I am heavily interested in), but I also get the opportunity to meet new people and access the amazing new tennis facilities.

The sports sessions provided by Sport in Mind are so relaxed and flexible and the volunteers that run the sessions are extremely welcoming to people of all abilities. The new tennis sessions at the dome are a great opportunity to use sport to improve mental wellbeing, as well as brushing up on your tennis skills. A coach is there every week to lead a fun session and offers guidance to those that would like it.

UoR students should come along as the sessions are enjoyable to participate in, convenient as they are located at the Sports Park, and most importantly FREE (essential when being a student). It also gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the amazing new tennis facilities, within a relaxed and friendly environment. The flexibility of these sessions means that you can come as often as you like, without any commitment.

For anyone interested in coming along, the sessions run from 2-4pm, every Thursday. Why not take advantage of this great opportunity to meet other people, whilst taking part in something you enjoy and revel in the new tennis facilities?

The History Behind Thanksgiving

ANDY, A SECOND YEAR M.PHIL HISTORY STUDENT, TELLS US ABOUT THE AMERICAN TRADITION OF THANKSGIVING…

Andy here, wishing you all a warm Autumn greeting.

Like some of you this time of year is not just a prep for Christmas and Black Friday, which is really around the corner, but as a time to gather the family for the tradition in the States that we know as “Thanksgiving.”

Some of you, being American like myself, have probably noticed the absence of the holiday here. I personally have taken a break from it, mainly due to no time and not having Thanksgiving Thursday off, (The last Thursday of November). Nonetheless, it is an important part of our heritage that we still share with others far and wide. That being said, this holiday tradition, of two hundred years or so can be shared with whomever we like.

The holiday was intended to celebrate, give thanks and blessings for a good yearly harvest. Though it seems highly “Americanised”, it has roots in many other nations’ histories including the UK, dating back to the Protestant Reformation and of course various harvest festivals of New England. In the United States the holiday is primarily based on harvest festivals and events in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Additionally, from similar events from 1612 stemming from the colony of Virginia. All the immigrating pilgrims and puritans from England in the 1620s and 1630s, carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. As history states this holiday is based off a series of harvest events, contraire to the popular belief of just one.

In the United States, traditional harvest festivals were not held regularly until the 1660s. Proclamations for Thanksgiving did not take off until after the American Revolution in 1682 by both church and state leaders. It was not until George Washington, our first President on the 26 November 1789, that Thanksgiving became and was proclaimed “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and single favors of Almighty God.”

It was not until President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 26th of December in 1941 signed a joint resolution of Congress that the original national Thanksgiving Day changed from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. He had tried two years early to make it a holiday in order to boost the economy.

Today, Thanksgiving is a day to show and give thanks for ‘have and have nots’, and gifts, quite in line with the pending Christmas festivities. To some families back home, they use it as a weekend, Thursday through to the Sunday; to start to prepare for the festivities of Christmas. The whole holiday is framed by a meal with a roasted turkey garnished with cranberry sauce, yams, pumpkin pie and whatever other tasty foods traditionally associated to the first meal the of the pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower to the Massachusetts shores in 1621.

 

The tradition has stuck and with that I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Top Tips on Being a Good Neighbour

2ND YEAR PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT, GEMMA, SHARES HER TIPS ON STAYING SAFE AND SECURE BY BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOUR…

As a Second-Year student, I am undergoing my first year in private rented accommodation and one thing I have learnt is the importance of getting on with neighbours. Not only does it mean there is less tension between locals and students, it also means you have some support if you have an emergency in your house. We had rats in our back garden and somehow this brought us and the neighbours together; although they were angry at first, we explained we were in the process of sorting the situation. Our neighbours actually ended up helping us by ringing up the council and our lazy landlord; in the next few days the landlord finally got pest control to come around- being nice to your neighbour can benefit you as well! Here are my 5 top tips on being a good neighbour:

1. Be friendly
Introduce yourself to your neighbours; if they are also students you may have lots in common with them and you could build new friendships. If they are local to Reading, being friendly can put them at ease and build the community between locals and students.

2. Be clean and tidy 
Find out when rubbish collection day is and remember to bring bins back off the street after the rubbish has been collected. Bag your rubbish properly and keep your house clean so you don’t attract vermin.

3. Keep noise levels low
You’re not in halls anymore- not everyone around you wants to party 24/7! If you’re planning a party, let your neighbours know so that you can work out a time and date that works okay for both of you- Friday or Saturday nights might be the best day as your neighbours are less likely to have work or school the next day.

4. Take responsibility 
If you do get any complaints, take responsibility for them. Apologise and let your neighbours know that the incident won’t happen again, otherwise they may get the University involved which could lead to disciplinary action.

5. Be considerate with parking 
Ask your neighbours about the parking policy and make sure you don’t take up your neighbour’s spaces. Don’t block roads, driveways or garages and make sure you stick to speed limits when driving around your neighbourhood.

Confused? Go to PAL…

3rd YEAR CLASSICAL STUDIES STUDENT, SASHA, TELLS US MORE ABOUT PEER ASSISTED LEARNING…

It’s first year, you’re sitting in a seminar, and you’re nodding your head in agreement at something your tutor is saying in an attempt to look like you know what they’re talking about. Or maybe you’re not in first year and you’re just confused.

Everyone at university has been in a situation where they feel out of their depth, and it can be far easier to settle for pretending everything is fine instead of doing anything about it. Where would you even start? Your housemates all do different subjects, you don’t know many people in your classes, your lecturer probably has no idea who you are, and you’ve never seen such a big library in your life… There’s an endless list of possible reasons why you may want to stick your head in the sand and hope that that one little passage doesn’t show up in the exam.

Talking to people in your classes about the things you don’t understand is probably the easiest way to deal with this setback. Now I don’t know about you, but interrupting a seminar to admit that I don’t know something important isn’t my idea of a great time. You get the most out of seminars when you prepare in advance, after all. But weekly sessions, run by students for students, sound like a much safer place to start. Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) is exactly that: students who took the module last year run sessions for people currently taking it, and help them figure out what’s going on.

Last year I volunteered as a PAL Leader in my department and helped field questions like “Where even is Thebes anyway?” and “Why are the 700s called the 8th century?” You’d be surprised by the number of times one person would ask a question, and suddenly it would all come out: texts are difficult to understand or no one remembers definitions or referencing is way harder than it looks. Sometimes the people in your classes have the same questions as you do, and you’d never even know it. But just as often they’ll have the answers to your questions too, and that’s the really important thing.

PAL Leaders aren’t there to teach you like a lecturer, and it’s a good thing too; in one session I drew such a geographically inaccurate map of Greece that I should have been dropped from my course on the spot. But at the end of the day, everyone at that session remembers what Greece actually looks like, or at the very least they know where Sparta isn’t, which is more than they may have known when they came in. Sessions will always be based on student feedback, which means Leaders will always focus on something the group is struggling with. The best way to get the most out of your education is to take control of it, and showing up to PAL sessions is a great place to start!

For more information about PAL click here