These mince pies are vegetarian and can also be alcohol free by substituting whisky for orange juice. I used yellow/orange ingredients to keep the mincemeat light in colour. I also decided to use quinces instead of the traditional apples. Even thinly sliced, quince keeps its texture and still absorbs the juices and the whisky. Since quince pieces don’t melt away like apple would, I also added chestnut to help the ingredients to stick together.
One of my favorite spreads on toasted sourdough bread is Chestnut Spread. I usually bring back a few pots with me back from France, but when I run out, and this usually happens before Christmas, I usually manage to restrain my cravings with a few roasted chestnuts that you can find everywhere around London’s Christmas markets.
Chestnuts from the Ardeche region in France are famous and roasting them at home in the fireplace with the special chestnut pan is a favorite childhood memory of mine! When I was young we used to sit around the fire on cushions and wait for my dad to take them off the hot coals. We would then crack their burned crunchy skins on stacked old newspapers and eat them straight away!
The smell in the house after roasting chestnuts is unforgettable and this is what I wanted RIGHT NOW! My husband mentioned a few weeks before about this chestnut tree on his way to work that had beautiful red and orange colours and that we should go take some pictures. That was it, I had my moment! I am always foraging (yes even in London), and planning a chestnut foraging trip made my day! It turned out this chestnut tree was a maroon tress (chestnut for pigs as we call it in France), but I knew I have seen chestnut trees before and we decided to head straight to Hyde park on our bicycles. It was beginning of November, perfect sunny and crisp day to cycle across London and spend a few hours around the park.
I love the wilderness of Hyde park and we found chestnut trees near the North entrances on these wild looking fields. It didn’t take very long to find a dead branch and start to dislodge the beautiful spiky pods from the tree. After 15min or so the floor was covered with chestnuts that we happily picked up, with a proud smile on our faces.
We found so many that day that I left the small ones behind and kept only the big chubby chestnuts to roast at home. We unfortunately don’t have a fireplace but they were still delicious roasted in the oven. Don’t forget to make a little incision in their skin carefully with a knife before cooking them to avoid chestnut explosions, fun to watch but very annoying to clean!