Friday, 13 December 2013

When mince pies go wrong.

During the month of December I tend to forego my usual croissant with my morning coffee in favour of a mince pie.

The jury is still out on who makes the perfect mince pie. I suppose as a stay at home dad I ought to be making my own, but as always seems to be the case there is never enough time and shop bought ones are perfectly nice and convenient. Generally I allow my value seeking principles to guide me, in other words I buy whichever ones are on a buy one get one free offer so it can be Sainsbury's Own Label one week and Mr Kipling the next.

I can't ascertain a huge amount of difference in taste, in fact my preferences are more of an aesthetic nature. I like my mince pies to have a solid lid sprinkled with sugar. I dislike those lattice style designs. Why, I have no idea but a pie should be completely encased in my humble opinion.

I also don't like eating them cold. At one point my favoured mode of consumption was to have two heated up in the oven and then pour some cream over them. This however at 250+ calories per pie and the cream on top is a rather highly calorific mid-morning snack. So I've cut down to just one. It also seems rather uneconomic to heat up the oven just for one pie, not to mention wasting time, so I have reverted to the seldom used microwave for this particular task. In fact it is about the only thing I use the microwave for during the entire year.

After much experimentation and debate I have come to the conclusion that 19 seconds is the perfect time to microwave a mince pie for - just long enough to get it nice and warm inside without burning your mouth. Even a few seconds over that and it becomes seriously radioactive. The trouble is with 19 seconds is that it is an awkward amount of time. I like to be constantly on the go and multi-tasking and don't like to waste that 19 seconds just standing in front of the microwave. I don't like standing in front of it anyway, no matter how safe they claim they are I've never quite got over the fear that some rays might be escaping and frying my insides. But there is not a lot you can realistically do in 19 seconds. I try and utilise it with a very small task - e.g. putting something in the bin which is on the other side of the kitchen, or pouring out a cup of coffee from the pot. The danger is it is easy to get distracted and forget the microwave is on. I might head over to the bin and then see the cat wants to come in, so I let her in and then she wants food. By this time steam is coming out of the microwave and then there's an explosion. When a mince pie blows up it is not pretty - and not easy to eat either. Anything above 30 seconds and you are in serious trouble.

This year I have been pretty good so far, and have got managing the situation off to a tee. Unfortunately this morning the phone rang and guess what, it was one of those bloody 0843 numbers which cut off as soon as I answered. I headed back to the kitchen but not quickly enough to save today's Mr Kipling offering which was haemorrhaging filling in a manner which would be certainly fatal to any living being. I scraped up this culinary road kill off the plate as best I could, but my enjoyment was severely curtailed. Oh well, another couple of weeks and we'll be back on to the croissants. There is very little that can go wrong with a croissant.

One of the type of mince pies that died horrifically this morning. R.I.P.

As we are in December, one other little topical piece. Yesterday was December 12th which believe it or not is the date of the earliest sunset in the UK. Very few people know this because they assume it is on the shortest day which is December 21st, but it isn't. The dates of the two are different. It's all to do with the way the earth rotates, but I shall not go into details here as it would detract from the prime purpose of this writing i.e. entertainment. If you want the science bit, you can head off to to Google where there are lots of pages on the subject.

Anyway, I always have a bit of fun with this on facebook each year and put up around this date how nice it is that the nights are drawing out again. I can almost guarantee someone will jump on confidently deriding me and telling me I'm wrong and that the shortest day is December 21st. It's a bit naughty of me really, springing this trap and then coming on to tell them otherwise, but it has become almost an annual tradition, I've done it every year since facebook started. Anyway it seems people have tired of this "know-it-all" little game of mine as there was a distinct lack of responses this year. It seems I have gone to the well too often on this one and people have got wise to it. Still, it's all good news really, we all like the nights to draw out and it comes as a pleasant surprise to people to discover it starts happening a good week or more earlier than they thought it did!

Those long summer evenings will be back with us before you know it.

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