Speaking of food (now there's an elegant segue for you!), I got asked at Jamestown for my Banbury Tart recipe, so I thought I'd post it here.
Banbury Tart - Laura's version
(There are lots of different versions, including some that work the fruit into the dough, and come out like a thick cookie, and some that are more like cake. This one is a close cousin to mince pies, for those of you familiar with them.) I really do this by feel, so all measurements are approximate.
In a Tupperware-style tub, put together, as much as you want for filling pies:
dried chopped figs
sultanas (golden raisins)
assorted dried fruit bits - whatever floats your boat.
- I end up with about 2-3 cups of fruit.
2 tablespoons of candied orange peel (extra points if you candy it yourself)
1 Tbsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp ground mace
1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp white pepper
(adjust all amounts if you're making more than 2 cups of filling.)
Put the lid on, and shake until the fruit is lightly coated with the spice mixture.
Take the lid off. Stir.
2 cups marsala or madeira wine (or any sweet wine; I buy whatever's cheap and hellishly sweet.)
Put the lid back on, shake hard, and put in a dark cool place for minimum two weeks, a couple of months is better (the ones I had this last Jamestown were soaked for 5 months). Stir every month or so, if you remember. If the fruit soaks up all the wine, add a bit more. It doesn't matter if you have liquid left by the time you use the filling.
Okay, I cheat with the pie crust, I just buy Pillsbury refrigerated crust. If you want to make your own, any regular pie crust recipe is dandy. I use a mini calzone-maker, because I have two different ways of cooking the pies, and this works for both (the filling must be completely encased). If you plan to bake them, you can just use a tart pan and spoon the filling into the pastry tarts.
Make small pies with the pie crust and a teaspoon or so of filling. Make sure the edges of the pies are completely sealed - I use milk, and roll the edges once they're pushed together. The pies can be round or half moon-shaped, as long as they're sealed.
To bake: prick the pies to release steam. Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is nice and golden-brown.
To fry (this is super-tasty): Fill a medium-sized saucepan with a bottle of vegetable oil. Heat until just boiling - if the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat a little. Drop the pies, one or two at a time, into the oil, and fry until the outsides are deep golden brown. This should take about four minutes - if they're burning too fast, turn the heat down. Scoop out of the oil with a slotted spoon, and put on a paper towel to drain.
Warm a little bit of honey until liquid - brush over the pies and allow to cool before storing.
The pies are awesome fresh and warm, but they're also good cold - they'll store for a week or more sealed tight, between sheets of parchment paper. I bet they'd be good hot, with ice cream or custard.