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Portrait using fast flow acrylics

I haven't used these paints for a portrait before. They are quite expensive but fortunately go a long way - a few small brush-fulls did this A3 sized portrait on cartridge paper. A second applications may get rid of the brushstrokes you can see and give the more uniform appearance this style of portrait needs (in my mind anyway!)

This is my daughter Sarah. She quite likes it, so for me, that's success!

Post Christmas sketchbook work

I like to work on a large scale so I suppose it's unusual that I've started a new little sketchbook. I've had a go with bits and bobs cut out of magazines etc and made collages on the inside of the covers.

It's a good place to keep copies of lino prints and odd things like beetles.

A pen and ink drawing of one of my volunteer "Leamington People".

Christmas mincemeat

Here's a great recipe for Christmas mincemeat!

A few years ago, Delia Smith made mincemeat on her TV programme and said that once you'd made you're own you'd never settle for shop bought again.

I made some as an experiment one day when I wasn't doing much and have made it again every year, proving that Delia was quite right! This recipe has similarities to Delia's but is my own take.

I couple mine with orange pastry (rich sweet shortcrust flavoured with orange zest - recipe under the mincemeat)

1 pkt veggy suet (or beef - a pkt in the UK being about 7/8 oz - don't be tempted to use less as it's necessary for a long shelf life)
2 small bramley apples (or 3 large cox) peeled and chopped into small chunks

10 oz raisins
10oz sultanas
8oz currants
4oz candied peel chopped finely (I like to use just candied orange peel but a mixed tub is fine)
2 oz dried apricots, chopped
2 oz glace cherries, chopped
12 oz soft dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 grated nutmeg
2oz ground almonds
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

Simply combine all the ingredients into a large oven proof bowl, and stir. Leave covered overnight for the flavours to develop, then cover with foil and bake the whole bowl at 110C 225F for 3 hours.

Remove from oven and leave to cool. Don't be tempted to skim off the melted suet which will have risen to the surface. Simply stir occasionally as the mincemeat cools to mix in and coat the fruit.

Pack into sterilized jars and seal. (clean your jars and bake in the oven at 100C for at least 10 minutes) I've kept mine for a couple of years in the cupboard and it's been fine.

My orange pastry

1 lb self raising flour
8 oz butter
1 egg
1 oz sugar
grated zest of one orange
juice of one orange for mixing.

Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Use the orange juice to bind the pastry instead of water. If it's too dry use water to make a firm enough consistency so you can roll the pastry.

Line patty tins with the pastry and fill with your homemade mincemeat. You can either cover with more pastry (don't forget to glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar) or grate some marzipan on top. Bake at 180C for about 10-15 minutes until golden.