Thursday, 3 December 2009

Why Delia is always right

We made mince pies yesterday. A bit early for Christmas: but I am greedy, and the boy likes the rolling out/cutting bits, and it was raining. The plan was to freeze them and take them to my parents' for the big family Christmas, but we seem to have accidentally eaten most of them.
The family rule is that whichever of my mother/my sister/me gets away with not hosting Christmas contributes something towards it: I used to do a ruinously expensive sprint round Borough Market. But three years ago I was pregnant, sugar-crazed, and nesting, so I made some mince pies.
I wouldn't normally attempt the voodoo that is pastry, but for once it worked: must've been either the hormones, or this Delia Smith recipe. On a high, I hosted the whole bloody Christmas the next year (I was on maternity leave: seemed like a good idea), and made everything by hand according to St Delia.
By last Christmas, I was so busy I didn't have time to breathe: I should just have bought sodding mince pies. But I didn't want to. Not in a I-Don't-Know-How-She-Does-It way (Allison Pearson's book opens with a working mother bashing shop-bought mince pies around to make them look homemade, so other parents don't judge her): my family are very laidback and couldn't have cared less.
It was just a stubborn refusal to accept that I didn't live a life that allowed for leisurely pastrymaking. I'm not very creative, but I like occasionally making things, and that's not a side I could indulge at work: it was important to me still to do stuff like this at home.
So I ended up making them at about 3am one night, using hastily defrosted shop pastry because I was too bloody tired to make my own, and they were genuinely vile. The dog backed away sneezing. My nephew made surprisingly realistic barfing noises. I ended up making a load more mince pies, properly, in my mum's kitchen.
This year, it's back to Delia. I did it just after finishing a column on David Cameron for tomorrow's New Statesman so it was a perfect antidote. By the end I felt I'd had a taste of my old political life, but also a bit of what was always missing from it.
One problem: there's a reason Delia is not assisted on TV by a floury small boy demanding to "squish it all up". Featherlight, they ain't.
So this is not just a tribute to Her Royal Delianess (whose new Christmas series starts tonight on the BBC). It's really about lowering my family's expectations this year. Shopbought ones would probably have been nicer.....


  1. Dog backed away sneezing. Love it.

  2. Don't floury small boys just make the whole experience though? Who really cares that the mince pies are wonky, very thin in some places and great footballs in others?

    What you really need though to keep the crowds amused is a set of Bosnian Christmas cookie cutters. I can't post a picture of my favourite one to your site, but it is up on mine at

    Hope the dog enjoys this years mince pies having had to miss out last year.

  3. What always gets me is the amount of sly nose picking I catch going on while we're baking. Uggh.

    And yes, one of the biggest benefits to not working is having a bit of time and a bit of brain-space available to do some creative things. My older one and I have been using the sewing machine for Christmas decorations and it's wonderful.

    (And wow - quite the response to the post yesterday - a background in more traditional media brings in a whole new type of reader than most mum-blogs.)

  4. britinbosnia that is so not a mushroom!
    hi trish - um, yes it did all go a bit mad: suspect that's to do with some politicos linking to/tweeting on it and bringing in a slightly different traffic! welcome to my old world...
    am bracing myself for a bit of xmas decoration making shortly. will be hoovering glitter out of the carpet for months to come no doubt.

  5. Quite liked the G2 bit on delightfully dated Delia ( Stir it up - Bob Marley -when she is ...wait for it ...stirring tee hee ).
    I shall be interested to see what you have to say about David Cameron the bunker seems to have fixed on class war as the weapon of choice and I do not expect the New Statesman to be off message at this point

  6. Nah, definitely not a mushroom. But can I find a Bosnian who will 'fess up? Yeah. Right. They all reckon it is one. Who are they kidding?

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