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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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Please note, we are only able to answer questions selected for publication and aren't able to enter into personal correspondence.

Latest Queries

  • Star Topped Mince Pies

    Hi, I am going to make Nigella's Star Topped Mince Pies using the Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat and I just wondered if Pedro Ximenez sherry or cognac would work instead of using the ruby port stated in the recipe? Thank you!  

    Hi Nigella and team, I was interested in making these mince pies but was unsure of where to get the cranberries from. It states 300 grams of cranberries and later says to use 30 grams of dried cranberries. When using the 300 grams are these fresh cranberries? Could I use frozen as I am not sure where to purchase fresh and if these are also unavailable what could I use alternatively? Thanks for your help Michelle

    Hi I'm wanting to make these pies this Christmas but I don't have a food processor. Is there any way I can make this pastry by hand? Thanks Nigella Team, love your work! Swil1020.  

    From the nigella team:

    Nigella's Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat (from Christmas and on the Nigella website with the mince pie recipe) uses ruby port and cognac/brandy in the mixture. Ruby port is a fortified wine and we would prefer to use another fortified wine, such as the PX sherry, or a sweet Marsala or Madiera, rather than additional cogac. You could also use cranberry juice instead of the port, if you prefer, but in this case increase the brown sugar by 25g/2 tablespoons.

    The recipe for the cranberry mincemeat that is part of the star-topped mince pies uses 2 types of cranberries. The 300g of cranberries does refer to fresh or frozen cranberries. If you are using frozen cranberries you can use them without thawing first. Put the frozen cranberries in a large saucepan with the other ingredients over a low heat and stir them regularly until the mixture comes up to a simmer. 

    If you want to make the pastry from Nigella's Star-Topped Mince Pies (from Christmas and on the Nigella website) then it is possible to make it by hand. You need to rub the cold vegetable shortening and butter into the flour after it has had its chilling time in the freezer. You can do this by rubbing the mixture between your first and index fingers and thumbs, lifting the mixture up as you rub, or if you have an implement called a "pastry blender" then you can use this. Once the fat has been fully rubbed in then the mixture will look like fine breadcrumbs. It is important to keep the mixture cool so once you have finished rubbing in the fat then we would suggest that you give the mixture a second chilling in the fridge or freezer before adding the salted orange juice. Add the juice to the fat and flour mixture in the bowl, a little at a time, using a flat-bladed pallette knife to mix it in until the pastry starts to stick together in large clumps, then see if you can get it to form a ball. If the ball won't hold together or feels dry then continue to add the liquid, until the pastry forms a ball. However the ball should not be sticky or wet.

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