Kenneth Branagh and Mince Pies

I’ve been down on one of my quick trips to London this week. It was my daughter’s birthday – she lives in Crouch End, and we had managed to secure tickets to see Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench in a Winter’s Tale. So we had a nice couple of days of theatre going and shopping and eating.

I’ve been a huge fan of Kenneth Branagh since I was a teenager and saw him in quite a few plays with the RSC. Most memorably I saw him in Henry V then I was at university. I went to the stage door and got his autograph, then wrote him a letter to which he replied with a signed photo and a very nice letter back. That made me a very happy student.

A couple of years ago he did Macbeth in a deconsecrated church in Manchester. Tickets were like gold dust and there was no chance we were going to get one – I read recently they sold out in 9 minutes. Then they put on an extra final performance for charity with a champagne reception beforehand. We’re not sure how but we managed to get 2 tickets.  We got to the reception and realised that most of the fellow audience members were quite famous. We spotted Kim Catterall and John Sessions to name just a few.

Like Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale Production was amazing ( let’s be honest you’re not going to get an unbiased review of anything Mr Branagh does from me, but Mr B&B really enjoyed it and there was  a standing ovation ).

I had a seat 2 rows from the stage. Actually we both had 2 seats at the front but they’d reconfigured the theatre since we bought the seats and  Rob’s seat no longer existed. Luckily he managed to get a seat with lots of legroom and no one in front of him a bit further back.

Unfortunately Kenneth didn’t come to the stage door this time, which is probably a good thing as I really am a bit too old to be standing at stage doors ( husband in tow this time ) playing the besotted fan.

Because we are lucky enough to be on the Heart of Wales line I was able to get the train all the way back to Hopton Heath with only 1 change the next day.  I was feeling a bit sad on the train. It’s always a bit of a downer coming back after a great 2 days with the family. However it is always lovely, after the bustle of London, to get back to the peace and quiet of the Shropshire countryside.

It can take a bit of time to get back, as I had an hours wait at Shrewsbury. There are some great coffee shops in Shrewsbury itself but my bag was pretty heavy on the way back, so I grabbed a table in Starbucks at the station and cheered myself up with a huge mug of a tea and the first mince pie of the season.

I’ll be making mince pies at the B&B from now until 1st January so please do come and stay and try some.

I’ve copied my favourite recipe below.


5oz cold butter, cut into cubes
8oz plain flour
1oz sugar
zest of half an orange
1 egg
1 jar of mincemeat
a little water
1 small beaten egg

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or Fan oven to 180 degrees C.

Rub the butter into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs ( I use the food mixer ), add the sugar and orange zest and mix well. Add the egg and mix well until it forms a stiff dough. You made need a few drops of water but not a lot.

I put the pastry wrapped in clingfilm for at least 30 mins.

Cut the pastry into 2 then roll out quite thinly on a floured surface. I use a large and medium pastry cutter to cut out 16 large and 16 medium sized circles. You’ll probably need to pull together the trimmings of pastry and reroll them a few times.

Take a mincepie tin and line with the large circles. ( My mincepie tin only has 12 holes so I do it in 2 batches ). Put about a teaspoon of mincemeat in each ( be careful not to overfill ). Brush the edges with water and then put the smaller circles of pastry on top. Crimp the edges together. Brush with beaten egg and put in the oven for 20 minutes. My oven isn’t very even so I time for 10 minutes then turn round the tin and cook for another 10 minutes..

Put on a cooling tray and dust with icing sugar.



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