Steamed quince & wet walnut pudding

I launched Forage 6 years ago at the very first Abergavenny Christmas food & drink fair. – I’d been up all night icing wild cakes, tying up steamed puddings & labelling my very first jellies & sauces while rocking a poorly 6 month old Eloisa. In thick ice I slid off the hill with my car full of wares, my stall was outside in the cold  It was so cold I thought we’d sell nothing. We sold everything – and most of all we sold this pudding very, very quickly. I knew then that I was onto something making food from the ingredient’s most people left behind. Thanks to Abergavenny Food Festival& lots of kind customers Forage launched into the wild world…

Time goes fast, my kids are growing – they now make the pudding. She may now be 6 but Eloisa still looks like a cat that’s got the cream when she eats this…

cooking_054cooking_022If this pudding was a Sunday afternoon, it would be one with a wool blanket, roaring fire, port and a loyal dog at your feet.  a steamed pudding combining the deep flavours of quince with walnuts, rich duck eggs, nutmeg and rum. When it’s served with thick cream and quince and vanilla syrup, the pudding has a flavour that’s not a million miles away from egg nog – it’s a delicious way to celebrate those very special late autumn fruits and nuts, or even as an alternative to the traditional Christmas pudding.


200g fresh breadcrumbs
200g suet (vegetarian works fine in this recipe)
150g granulated sugar
45g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 grated nutmeg
3 duck eggs (or 4 hens eggs)
60ml whole milk
60ml rum or damson vodka
150g shelled wet (fresh) walnuts
200g peeled quinces chopped into small pieces ( taking care to leave out the gritty central area) – keep the skins and gritty centres to one side.
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod.

In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, suet, flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg, stir in the wet walnuts and quince
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, milk and rum (or damson vodka) together and slowly add this mixture to the dry ingredients and work the ingredients together until they form a thick consistency (don’t over work the mixture though).
Add the mixture to a large, well greased pudding basin, cover with clingfilm, a layer of parchment and kitchen foil and tightly tie the foil and parchment around the rim of the basin with butchers string. Place the basin in to a prepared steaming pan (you can use a normal saucepan with a tightly fitting lid and an upturned small plate inside to keep the basin off the bottom of the saucepan – add enough water to not go more than 1/2 way up the side of the pudding basin). Steam the pudding on a low heat for 4 hours.
If not serving straight away, pour  20ml more rum or damson vodka over the pudding and keep it in its cooking basin, in the fridge. To reheat, steam it again or 1 hour.

Whilst the pudding is steaming, place the quince remnants into another pan, cover them with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the juices through a jelly bag (or fine sieve if you don’t have one). Measure the juices, return them to the pan, and bring back to the boil. Then to every 100ml of juice, add 60g sugar. Add the vanilla seeds to the syrup and cook on a medium heat until the syrup is reduced by about 1/3. Pour the syrup into a jar to serve with the pudding.


Damson & Chocolate = Damn good cake.

There’s a bit of a theme happening…I may just like a bit of cake. But my oh my, wild cake is worth an extra large slice.

Damsons ripen as autumn days bring a desire for dense, sticky cakes and warming mugs of tea and the sour fruit just so happens to be a perfect ingredient in this sticky molten cake, which is equally delicious as a tea time treat or served with damson ice cream as a grown up dessert. Serves 10

2 eggs
1 kg damsons 200g sugar
150g dark chocolate (60% cocoa is ideal)
100g butter
50ml whole milk
375g self raising flour
100g cocoa powder
1 level tsp baking powder
150 ml cream

place the damsons in a pan with a splash of water, cook them over a low heat until they are soft, stirring to ensure they dont stick to the bottom of the pan. When soft, press the damsons through a sieve and collect the damson puree in a heatproof pyrex or metal bowl, (you will need to push through 300g of damson puree)
Put the bowl over a pan of hot water and place this on a medium heat. Stir in the sugar, butter and 75g of the chocolate in to the sour puree. Once the ingredients have all melted, add the milk and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Stir in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder finally mixing in the 2 eggs, stirring until you have a smooth, thick batter.
Place the mixture in a lined large cake tin, wet your hands and dab your  fingers onto the top of the cake (this helps create a delicious top of your cake)
Place the cake in a low oven (120c) and cook for about 3 hours, or until a skewer comes clean out of the cake.
Once the cake is cooked and cooled, coat it with a silky ganache made with the remaining chocolate melted in a ban marie with the cream. Decorate the cake with nuts, berries or edible the last honeysuckles of the season. Serve with greek yoghurt, ice cream, or a steaming cup of tea after an afternoon crunching brown leaves under foot.10712982_664381107014359_4318064944304686918_n-2

‘it seems to me that we look at nature too much and live with her too little’

FORRAGING_048‘It seems to me that we look at nature too much and live too little with her’ I’ve just heard this Oscar Wilde quote on radio 4. His words set my hairs on edge. Was Oscar a forager? I’m not sure and to be honest I’m such an uncultured type I don’t even know what it connection to the wilds was (apart from lying on grass with a cigarette in his beautiful mouth) but he put his refined finger right on the button in this statement & in a way that’s utterly apt 130 years later. Lots of people in our country have nature disconnect – that’s a fact. Lots of us try and reconnect with nature by looking at her – we go for woodland walks, climb mountains, gaze at the stars but not many of us live with her. Our culture has become so distant from the notion that we belong to nature: in fact, since even before the days when  Oscar lay on grassy fields, we believed that nature belonged to us. We look on at nature with a distance gaze –  we have a relationship with nature by treating it as the ultimate commodity, controlling & often destroying it – even people who want to preserve nature often feel humans have such a negative impact on nature that we should leave her well alone & look on at the natural world as a precious place apart from human intervention.

Obviously preserving nature is far more preferable to destroying & poisoning it, but it can miss the point that Oscar made so beautifully. We should live with her – but we should really take that statement further – we are nature; we’re a part of her. To live life as part of nature we need to go further than going on a walk, building reserves, putting up fences, being fearful of ‘touching’. Ever since I gathered honeysuckle in the company of fellow foragers; bees and moths, eating the food that grows freely, of its own volition , my life in nature began. Gathering and eating the wild feels like drinking from a watering pool with other animals. We’re no more entitled to this food than the bee who is suckling nectar from honeysuckle, than the hedge dwelling birds nibbling on birch buds; or than the squirrels racing us for hazelnuts, but equally we’re no less entitled to it either. Wild, gathered food nourishes us in an incomparable way & it feed our bodies with nutrient dense food, and it feeds our souls in a way that no shopping trip can. We, the human species animal needs to be reintroduced to our native environment – we need to be rewilded. Foraging is a remarkably delicious way of connecting us back to the world we live in; changes our very view of the world we see around us; when you no longer see unkempt weedy verges, but lush larders your world view shifts in a powerfully liberating way.

What would happen if we all started to forage for our suppers? How could the world cope? I sit here writing on my hill that  flanked on the left by a plain of Herefordshire farmland – I can see on a clear day miles & miles of fields growing a handful of crops – potato’s, oil seed rape, wheat, apples and hops – huge fields of monoculture; dependant on a strict cycle of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides to ensure their crops yield well, and contracts can be met so we can be fed. To my right there are hills – too rough and undulating to grow crops on; in place of oil seed rape are thick hedgerows, pasture & woodland – full of crops; natures crops – herbs (weeds) fruit & nuts enough to feast on – nature thrives here and repays her inhabitants – insect, birds and mammals with food to feed us all – the 2 views from my hill make a statement as eloquent as Oscar could make that nature really can provide when she is allowed to flourish; and we will flourish if we live in her.



Mushroom & wild food weekend with Mark Williams

mega-fungi-layout-1024x690charcol burner        markwilliams

A few months ago I was offered the chance to forage in a beautiful woodland; the owner proudly told me of the wealth of mushrooms I could gather there. My face dropped a bit. You see, I forage plants; give me a tree, i’ll turn it into a cake; a nut & I’ll make it into a liqueur; a bud I’ll make a pickle, I am in my wild element amongst stuff that photosynthesises & is full of chlorophyll, but mushrooms have always been an elusive stanger to me. What a shame, that woodland would have to go untouched.

But I shall play in the woods! my wonderfully brilliant foraging friend (and a bit of a gigantic wild food hero) Mark Williams from Galloway Wild Foods has been lured by my puddings to come down for the weekend in October & it would be wrong of me to not share him, his fungi genius & his amazingly inspiring wild booze know how with you.

Mark is one of the most respected and inspiring wild food teachers in the known universe; he also is very brilliant at teaching in a clear, safe way – if you’re a fungi novice like me this is for you; but his knowledge is so wide that if you know already your agaric’s from your boletus he’ll give you a depth of knowledge you didn’t know went so far down. Marks website is a well thumbed mine of information for foragers – take a visit & you’ll see why I’m excited to be hosting him in the Black Mountains!

Mark & I are hosting what I think will be a pretty magical weekend; on Saturday we’ll be tip toeing in the woods finding the food he knows so well & we’ll all learn quite a huge amount about the mysterious mushrooms. On Sunday, we’re back on my turf & we’ll be leading a wild food / wild booze extravaganza. Cake and cocktails, and chocolate…

Tickets to this rare chance to learn from Mark are £75 for each day, but if you’d like to come on both days & have a wild (and slightly life changing) weekend then you can join us for both for £120. Never has just over a ton been so worth while.

Tickets for the Saturday & Sunday are available here: (Saturday) (Sunday)

If you want to come on both days, don’t book on the site, email me at to reserve your tickets (as I can apply your £30 discount)

See you in the woods!


Rowan bud & cherry blossom cake

Right now the sun is shining & cherry blossoms are suspended in trees like trapped pink clouds. Tomorrow the weather is due change its fickle tune and cold chills are predicted to storm across our hills, thug like knocking clouds from the trees and bringing my sun washed children back inside, begging for the fire to be lit. This is the cake to make in anticipation of tomorrows bad mooded weather. Reach up and grab a sprig of cherry blossom, and turn it into cake made for fairies. I made this cake on Friday night for a tiny but magical market I take my wares to in the lovely village of Grosmont, if you haven’t been come next time, it’s worth a drive. I thought I was a genius inventing milk cake but of course, I googled milk cake and discovered it’s a thing, just a thing I never knew about – anyway even if you are blossomless you need to make hot milk cake, it makes the best cake I have ever eaten, and I’ve eaten quite a few. In fact you could swap blossoms & buds for any combination of wild treats – rose icing & elderflower batter is sounding quite tempting..

Rowan Buds have the most wonderful flavour of marzipan hidden in them, their flavour transfers magically into warm milk, turning it almost pistachio green – they are the perfect partner for bitter almond laced cherry blossoms.

Head inside, light the fire & eat cake until spring returns (without pink clouds)



Rowan Bud Milk Cake with cherry blossom icing

125 grams butter

1 ¼ cups unrefined sugar

2 cups of self raising flour

200ml milk

Handful of rowan buds

4 medium eggs

Gently heat a pan with the milk, add a table spoon of sugar & the rowan buds & leave to infuse for ½ hour

Cream the butter & sugar, adding in the eggs & flour in stages to reach a thick, smooth mix. Slowly blend in the rowan infused milk & stir until you have a smooth velvety batter.

Add a handful of cherry blossom petals & stir well.

Place the batter in a cake tin & cook at 200 degrees until golden.

Once cooled, pour over a loose icing paste (made with either lemon juice or cherry liqueur) & scatter liberally with blossoms.



Christmas, just a bit wilder (and less stressy – how good is that?)

There is no denying it, Christmas is poking its head around the corner, chestnuts are roasting, cider is mulling and we’re all starting to get that scared look. In a blink of a bleary eye December will be in full swing & stress levels will boing of the charts. There is a wild ally you need to get know about to get you through the chaos of December, whether you’re running late on your shopping, fighting lurgies, or swinging from the rafters having drunk all your sloe gin.

So take note good people, you might thank me for it (I’m expecting a full stocking this year) Now, we’re not herbalists at Forage, we’re greedy cooks who know something that tastes good when we see it, but as anyone who has the foraging bug will tell you it’s pretty nigh on impossible to not get a bit excited about the medicinal benefits of wild food when you get to know a bit about them

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….a few years ago,  I saw someone was selling nettle seeds – yes nettle seeds. Oh how I mocked them, those fools; who on earth would buy nettle seeds?…little did I know that I was the dunce. I knew nettle leaves were quite frankly magical stuff, aside from making brilliant soups & pestos, they turn marmalade into something so good it should be a compulsory ingredient, and make spring cocktails that fizz with vitality. However, I didn’t have the foggiest idea about quite how marvellous nettle seeds were until I met a nettle seed eater. They didn’t knit their own wellies, everything about them was normal apart from being extremely calm (like horizontal) their secret? Tiny little nettle seeds. It turns out those people buying nettle seeds online were onto something, nettle seed is pretty amazing  – google its uses and you’ll find HUGE amounts of accounts of how it balances your adrenal gland (stressed? That’ll be adrenalin you’re living on) it acts as a natural stimulant giving run down souls much needed energy AND it helps keep your kidneys fighting fit (and lets face it that’s got to be a good thing in the month of office parties)

So there you have it, our recommendation for this most festive time of may not be around in the great outdoors right now but fortunately you can forage online for your seeds this year, I promise not to mock you, in fact I’ll doff my nettle twine cap to your wisdom & your fantastically chilled out Christmas.

Oh, and of course whilst you’re buying nettle seed you might want to take a sneak at our very own creations to help your Christmas go with a wild swing -quite frankly I think hiding in a locked room with a jar of wild chocolate mincemeat could be just as helpful as those stingers..

Crab Apple & Quince mincemeat with The Botanist gin


A tiptoe through the wild garlic

Just as garlic makes vampires turn on their evil heels and run, so up and down the countries woodlands and valleys, the dark shadow of winter is cast to one side as wild garlic emerges out of the brown earth…the musty scent of the woodland floor turns into a pungent aroma of wild umami – you’ll find no sharp toothed blood drinkers in the woods during April, but you will find plenty canny cooks filling their baskets with the addictive flavour of spring. Just as sophisticated eateries in sophisticated cities hail the arrival of wild garlic on their menus with huge fanfairs, so tastebud driven people through the ages have gorged on the green shoots of spring – perhaps with the same delight as todays savvy eaters knowing it was a sign of warmth, sunshine and abundant days to come. Just like blackberries in the atumn,  wild garlic makes even the most timid gatherer forage with rampant abandon, grabbing handfuls of the flavoursome green leaves, stuffing bagfuls for pestos. to wilt as spinach and to turn intp soup – delicious, healthy and free -wild garlic is surely the safest to forage, easiest to gather and easiest to use of all the wild plants right? Well not quite -it IS one of the loveliest flavours that natures head chef could conguer up, but you need to pick with a bit more respect than you might imagine to ensure you enjoy wild garlic for a long time to come.…

Gather wild garlic from patches which are abundant and as all good foragers would tell you, only take what you need & don’t pull up clumps of garlic, or rip all the leaves from a patch – if leave your patch looking like you haven’t been there you’re on the right track. I pick wild garlic leaves leaf by leaf – it sounds painstaking, and it’s a lot slower than grabbing handfuls but I do it for a very good reason.…
Far from being the easiest to identify of wild greens, there are some very poisonous lookalikes that lurk in the very same hangouts as wild garlic. Let me introduce you to the shiny green leaves of Lords and Ladies (or Cuckoo Pint – a tiny bite on a leaf makes your mouth feel like it’s being burnt – the up side is that you are likely to spit it out…you’re not so likely to notice you’re eating a  highly toxic Lily of the Valley, that’s snuck into your haul or worse still,  you’d proably not notice the rouge deadly foxglove leaf or of fatally posionous Meadow Saffron (Autumn Crocus) who in the spring just so happens to be in full leaf yet with no flowers – looking rather like wild garlic. Meadow Saffron is crammed full with an incredibly posionous compound which is as dangerous and deadly  as arsenic – it is a native wild flower which  grows in meadows and in woodland drives and one of the few places in the UK that it is still going strong is in the West Mildands & Welsh Marches. The carefree afternoon of going crazy in a woodland of wild garlic might not seem so fact the thought of  foraging when there are so many deadly menaces lurking around every tree trunk might put you off for life…but don’t let it! Follow the simple rules of foraging and you’ll be able to gather  wild garlic with confidence  and you’ll enjoy a long, fruitful, delicious and sustainable gathering career..
Know what NOT to pick. Make sure you know how to identify wild garlics poisionous lookalikes – these are: Arum maculatum (known as Lords and Ladies or Cuckoo Pint) Lily of the Valley, and Colchicum autmnale (Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus)
Arum maculatum leaves have irregular edges and very deep veins on glossy leaves – wild garlic leaves have a single main vein on duller leaves.
Lily of the Valley leaves come from a single purple stem – wild garlic leaves come from individual green coloured stems
Colchicum autumnale (Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus) leaves are in full growth in the spring – they are slightly more straplike than wild garlic.
Foxglove leaves are hairy compared to wild garlics smooth leaves, but they grow in the same places and unless you gather carefully they could end up in your basket.
Many people recommend rubbing the leaves of plants they are trying to ID to see if they are garlic scented – be aware though that if your hands already smell of wild garlic it’ll be difficult to work out if it’s a leaf that smells of garlic or your hand – my recommendation is to  learn what the poisonous mimics look like, to pick leaf by leaf, not clump by clump. Don’t rush your foray, don’t be greedy and don’t take risks.
Once you’ve learnt what not to pick, and have slowly but surely  gathered your well earned treasure , celebrate your responsible foraging by making the most incredible pesto you’re likely to ever pick, make or eat.
200g wild garlic leaves
50g blanched & dried nettle tops
circa 250ml olive or rapeseed oil,
freshly grated or hot horseradish sauce
dried English mustard
cider apple vinegar
75g grated hard cheese (I use Wye Valley cheese)
50g ground toasted hazelnuts.
Wash the wild garlic leaves  in water with added vinegar, dry and  roughly chop the nettle and wild garlic leaves. Put the leaves leaves into your food processor, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of vinegar, a good pinch of mustard powder, a  teaspoon of horseradish, a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt, add enough oil to cover the ingredients and blitz until  finely blrnded. Add the grated cheese and ground nuts, blend again and then start tasting – season  according to your taste. Wild garlic pesto can be kept in the fridge for a week or so – any longer than that & you should store it in the freezer.
 It may of taken a careful gather, but once you’ve made your pesto smothered it on meat, veg, pasta & bread, you will be glad you spent the afternoon on your knees in the woods…

Feeling empty? Go for a forage – it’ll fill your tummy & your soul…

I don’t think I consciously ‘got’ into foraging, it’s always been something I’ve done – as a child it was just what I did, picking apples and blackberries, picking flowers for potions, or searching for fallen branches to make dens –  gathering was my child’s play. I loved and still do love the natural world; from the incredible graphic patterns inside a foxglove flower to the smell of a camp fire on a balmy evening; gathering from the wild is just part of what makes me happy and is central to the make up of me as a person.

I went to a rather magical school in the middle of the Bedfordshire countryside, a lost in time girls school; a ramshakled oak filled & mothball smelling beautiful building set in the most bucolic grounds; sweeping Cedar lawns, hockey pitches that disappeared into the horizon, and ‘the wilderness’  my happiest memories of my teenage years were lunch breaks with my friends or by myself in this woodland area hidden at the back of the grounds – It was an ethereal place, wide mowed paths cut into thigh deep swads of grasses & wild flowers; we’d lie in the depths of the grasses, hidden from the day to day routine by curtains of corncockles, vetches, and buttercups gazing through the canopy of leaves above at what I remember as permanently cloudless blue skies. it was the place that provided comfort and peace for many of the girls at school; I don’t know if the Wilderness was consciously created with that aim but I think it was inspired to leave a wild place where we could be alone.

I was always been in awe of the natural world – laying face down on a lawn  of grass with the miniature world beneath my eyes, or gazing into a tiny flower head to discover the most beautiful painting would leave me with a euphoric sense of awe about the world & how good it was to be part of it. I have always be conscious of how lucky we are to play a part in the world; and I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve taken a moment in nature for granted.

My life was in no way unblemished however. I suffered the usual rites of passage of a teenage girl and my family went through some extremely difficult and heart-breaking times when I was in my childhood and early teens which left deep scars, but for some reason, I don’t remember the detail or even the feeling of the bad or sad times but like a mother after child birth, I can only really remember the blissful moments; and those memories are vividly accompanied by the feeling of damp grass between my toes in the summer, the smell of growth in spring, gulping in the most delicious air on misty, haw frost coated mornings, the taste of sweet ripe plums eaten straight from the tree.

I am conviced that from a young age turning unconciously to nature grounded me in the world; gave me an outlook that has helped me through the heartbreak, illness and loss that life bestows on all of us & I’ve not escaped without my fair share of heartache – but I have always felt lucky to have the abilility to turn to something that soothes, heals and grounds me; I’ve never lost faith in the wonder of the world & I feel strongly that my attachment to the land has attached me to life. In times of stuggle my urge is to get outside – planting, weeding, gathering, walking; they have all been vitally important elements of my life.

Whether I’m in the garden for 10 minutes or out gathering until the stars are in the sky, there is nothing more soothing, relaxing and mindful for me to do than to gather – it’s not about the food at this point, it’s not about the buisness, it’s not even about the recipes I’m thinking about in my head; it’s about the moment, the drone of nearby bees gathering the same nectar as I am, the evening song of the thrush sharing its folk song  just with me, the canada geese gliding over head enroute to its summer home, walking into the pockets of warm air  that only people or animals willing to be still and slow for long enough can enjoy. It is also about the child who is still residing in me being allowed to come out & get face to face again with branches that would make a good pole for a den, perfect flowers for fairy hats & the beauty of the world around us that makes me & my inner child know our life is a wonderful gift.

Pine needle & sloe gin mincemeat

Christmas is done. Phew. The only sign left of festive cheer  is an expanded waist line, a prolonged hangover  & malingering tree you need to take outside.  But the shower of pine needles that fall like missile splinters everytime a butterfly even thinks about batting her wing is enough to put you off moving it out. You’re in no fit state to do anything to your tinkling tree apart from eat it.
If you don’t know me, you’ll probably think im joking but, those who do know me know I am very serious indeed. You could do an awful lot worse than chewing on a pine needle in January & here is why…

Pine trees are good to eat for 2 very important reasons,  they are  really good for you and they taste incredible – really really incredible. And food that is very delicious & very good for you shouldn’t be sniffed at (in pines aromatic case it should of course)

Firstly the health bit;  pine needles are full of vitamin C & fat soluable vitamin A – they are thought to be good for the cardiovascular system, skin, eyes and fighting colds. Used as a super tea in North America for hundreds of years, the early settlers were taught by Native Americans to drink the brew to fight scurvy – and from all accounts it worked! If you want to be convinced by the health benefits of pine, do a google for it – you’ll be amazed!

But, I am greedy & even if it wasn’t good for health, i’d still be eating it for its flavour. From pine infused vinegars that make green perfumed dressings, to flavoured sugars for cakes and shortbreads, infused salts and oils for basting on fish & meat through to pine needle flavoured vodka & gin, once you discover pine as a flavour, you’ll never be able to look a Christmas tree in the eye again without wanting to nibble…

This months recipe is a post Christmas mincemeat – fruity, nutty & slightly boozy. Full of the goodness of pine, it’s an ambrosia for the depths of January & certainly too good to stop eating once the decorations are down…

Pine & Sloe gin mincemeat

This spring I made a bottle of beech leaf & pine gin – since May this little bottle has sat next to the remnants of last years sloe gin, waiting to be turned into something to do justice to the aromatic flavour that could ruin the most puritanical of mothers.
Recently I mixed the piney gin with a slug of syrupy sloe gin, poured the tempting elixir over wet walnuts, russet apples and raisins. The result was tasty. Woody, aromatic, fruity & rather boozy. This years mincemeat was born – it’s too good to keep to myself & you can emulate the spring flavours with your Christmas tree.

It’s too early to make beech  & pine gin this year – but in the spring force some zingy  & sour beech leaves & pine shoots into a 2/3rd filled bottle of gin – you’ll thank me.

you’ll need:

100g shelled wet walnuts or dried walnuts
250g chopped russet apples (russet apples hold their shape when cooked & are a perfect mincemeat apple)
250g raisins
a large sprig of pine
150ml sloe gin
150ml gin – the more botanical the better.
sugar or zyiotol (a delicious sugar free sweetener extracted from birch trees) to taste

chop the walnuts & russet apples until they are the size you like your mincemeat to be (no rules, you know how you like your mouthful)
add them to a bowl with the raisins, pour over the gin, stir in the sweetener & taste to check for sweetness.
Press into the mixture a handful of pine sprigs.
Cover the mixture.
Pour yourself a gin, make a cup of tea, unload the dishwasher (reload the dishwasher with the dishes you just unloaded but look dirtier than when they went in)
Wait for a couple of days…tasting every so often.
When the fruit is plump & tastes of pine woods take the pine sprigs out &  it’s ready to cook into mincepies that will make you want to eat your Christmas tree.
There will be quite alot of liquid left at the bottom of the bowl. What ever you do, don’t throw it away – pour it into a hipflask, go into the woods & drink it with the Whisps.

*You can use pine needles from dougla fir, scots pine  and spruce. Just remember not to mistake Yew trees for pine as they are incredibly toxic & you won’t see January out let alone next Christmas if you nibble on Yew leaves.
Pregnant women also should avoid pine, as it can have abortive properties*