09 March 2012

Darina Allen and Christmas in March

If it can snow in March, then I guess I can bake one last wintertime dessert and give it my own snowy dusting! Darina Allen's recipe for Ballymaloe Mincemeat Crumble Tart is a highlight in her book of Christmas recipes. It was more than I could resist ...

" I had no ambitions. I wanted to find a nice chap, get married, have picnics and shop. At the end of my schooling all I knew about was cooking and gardening. The nuns at my convent were encouraging us to have proper careers, so they suggested I do hotel management." - Darina Allen

That answer to an interview question in a London Financial Times article reminded me of the old adage "All who wander are not lost." I can just imagine the assessment of a young Darina ... 'a simple girl with simple dreams ... what do we do about this girl ?  She'd make a lovely cook. Let's encourage that.' Well, she did what those nuns suggested and look where it got her ! A simple girl with simple dreams has done a whiz bang job of bringing a cooking school to fame, runs a couple lovely restaurants, publishes successful cookbooks, and still lives in one of the loveliest places on Earth! Good job, Darina!

Over the years, Darina Allen has grown and developed her own 'direction'. Her studies and work in hotel and restaurant management have given her a strong urge to advocate for fresh, safe, local food. Consequently, she has spearheaded the farm-to-table movement in Ireland and championed  the establishment of local farmer's markets. She encourages shopping for the freshest of the fresh in order to make her recipes. And that's a good thing.

Darina's successful cooking school has spawned an excellent cookbook that was up for an award from the James Beard  Foundation and she has since published other cookbooks on topics as diverse as holiday cooking and Irish tradition foods. She has found her niche in the cooking and gardening world and is # 38 on Gourmet's List of 50 Woman Game Changers.

I loved looking at pictures of her farm and gardens in Shanagarry, County Cork. When I found her holiday recipe for Ballymaloe Mincemeat Crumble Tart, I knew I had to try it, even though the holidays have come and gone. The jars of mincemeat that I 'put by' two autumns ago are calling to me. That rich sweet fruity concoction settling into a cake-y tart is a real siren song. So, I will pretend that we have snowbanks outside and stockings hung by the fireside ...it will be a bit of Christmas in March in honor of Darina Allen!

This tart, as Mrs. Allen calls it, is rather cake-like with an almond crumble on top, but sandwiched between the layers is this incredibly rich, incredibly sweet, and incredibly fruity mincemeat - all apples, sultanas, green tomatoes, lemon, orange peel, spices and sugar. It makes for an intense warm bite and topped with softly whipped cream it is the perfect dessert for a holiday or special wintertime meal.

The crumble topping makes for a pretty finish to the tart and you could get away with not dusting with the confectioner's sugar. For me, though, that snowy finish was a must. Diet? What diet? We had a piece warm from the oven with a dollop of whipped cream and a hot cuppa.

It was impossible to resist .... and I'm glad I didn't try all that hard!

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Crumble Tart
a Darina Allen  recipe from the Cooks Academy – Dublin website
Serves 8-10
Crumble Topping
4 ozs (110g) self-raising flour
3 ozs (75g) chilled butter, diced
3 ozs (75g) castor sugar
1 oz (25g) flaked almonds

6 ozs (175g) self-raising flour
4 ozs (110g) softened butter
4 ozs (110g) soft brown sugar
2 organic eggs, preferably free-range
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1lb (560g) Ballymaloe Mincemeat (see recipe)
icing sugar

8 1/2 inch (21.5cm) spring form tin

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4

Butter the tin with melted butter.

Next make the crumble topping.
Put the flour and castor sugar into a bowl.  Rub in the diced butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the almonds.  Keep aside.

To make the cake.
Cream the soft butter in a bowl.  Add the soft brown sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one by one, add the vanilla extract and stir in the sieved flour and milk. 

Spoon the mixture into the greased tin.  Spread the mincemeat over the batter.  Sprinkle the crumble over the mincemeat.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Remove the sides and dredge the cake with icing sugar. Serve warm with softly whipped cream.

Notes: Mincemeat: Please refer to the Cooks Academy website for a recipe for the Darina Allen Mincemeat. Recipe Ingredients: I made my own self-rising flour by measuring the flour weights, combining the two measures and getting a standard measurement and then adding ¼ tsp salt and  1¼ tsp. baking powder per one cup measure of the flour. It all got whisked together thoroughly and then broken back down for the crumble and cake measures. I used confectioner's sugar in lieu of the castor sugar.


  1. That crumble topping really makes this dish much more tempting than the classic mincemeat pie. It must have been heaven warm from the oven!

  2. I'm with Sue, this tart really looks good to me and I'm not a huge fan of mincemeat (although I'll eat it). I think it's the crumble topping. It really does look incredibly good, especially with that freshed whipped cream. I think this tart could make me a mincemeat lover!

  3. I don't normally like mincemeat, but this one sounds pretty good. I didn't see any lard in it a the almond topping sounds like it would add a lot of flavor.

    1. beef suet replaces the lard ... my particular mincemeat recipe uses vegetable shortening and just a little at that ... it's really the only way to get a slippery texture to the heavy sugar and fruit juicy sauce.

  4. Agree on the hesitancy to gobble this one if all you've got to compare it to is mincemeat pie ... that is SUCH overload on the heaviness of the mincemeat. This tart is way more discreet. The layers are not overly sweet so the tart allows the mincemeat to add just a bit of its decadence.

  5. Great job Susan, I cant wait to try this one. The topping looks devine. Thanks for the buzz love and right back at ya!

  6. I love mincemeat, but I am the only one in my family so....Really enjoyed reading you posts; great looking plates.

  7. I can understand how resisting the urge to grab a big chunk of this would've been futile because I wouldn't have even tried! If I had ready minced meat with me, I'd be in the kitchen by now, baking myself one of these babies. That dollop of soft whipped cream is perfect on top.

  8. Such a cute photo of her...the first one. She looks so entirely happy!
    I love Christmas in March! Super write-up, great recipe. Saving it for the holidays.

  9. Oh my goodness...yum! I'm up for Christmas in March - pass me a fat slice ;)

  10. What a gorgeous looking tart...lovely! I would love Christmas in March! Enjoyed your post...nicely done!

  11. My husband has proposed you for canonization. He adores mincemeat and can eat it at any time of year. I showed him your post and I'll have no peace until I make this for him. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

    1. Hmmm ... Saint Susan has a nice ring to it, but I prefer to hang around for a good while longer! Thanks, Mary! High praise coming from you!

  12. I would find it hard to resist as well. There was a time when I used to make my own mincemeat back in the day.

    1. I only make it every third of fourth year, as it makes such a huge amount thatI have it in supply for a good while!

  13. My mother would make a mince pie every Thanksgiving. In a house of eight people only three of us loved mincemeat. We had the whole pie to ourselves. How lucky were we? Now, if only I could have your whole tart to myself. What a good looking tart and how lucky for you to have this dessert to enjoy all weekend.


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