Advent seems to have brought the frost here in Oxford. I feel very lucky that it didn’t come any earlier to add an extra dimension to those early starts and long drives that I have been doing so much over the last couple of months. I have loved seeing so many of you on my travels, but am now very relieved that with only four more fairs to go the end is in sight. The dogs are back from “dog holiday”, and with normality returning I am beginning to think about Christmas.  As of this morning the wreath is on the door, and I have now started consuming mince pies on a daily basis (any excuse!)

The fairs may be almost over but "THE FINO SHOP" is definitely still open so if any of you are thinking you might need an extra present for that unexpected guest, or you need to stock up the cupboards before the Christmas madness then we are here to help, and this weekend if you spend more than £25 you can get 10% off (excluding tins) by using the discount code XMAS2019. Who wouldn't love a bottle of delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Great Taste Award Winning Balsamic , or how about Fino Chilli Jam or Chorizo Jam.  Head to www.finooliveoil.co.uk  to start shopping. Do remember if possible to add a note as to where the package can be left should you be out – more than ever, at this time of year it is so annoying to miss a delivery, but packages can only be left if there is an instruction to do so. Please remember that the last day for orders for Christmas delivery is 19th December.

I am so looking forward to a houseful this christmas but it does require a bit of forward planning on the catering front. Someone who is full of fab culinary ideas is lovely Gee Cartwright, who by coinicidence happens to be a great fan of Fino Olive Oil and Fino Balsamic which she uses in her amazing cooking demos in Hampshire and London. Do check out her website (www.geecartwrightcookery.co.uk) for future dates,  and for fab recipe inspiration too – I know from experience that it's a fun and really relaxed way to spend a morning learning how it’s done from a pro, and you come away with delicious recipes to create in your own kitchen. This festive Lamb, Juniper and Wild Mushroom Pot Pie is one of Gee’s recipes – guaranteed to be delicious (not difficult but slightly more elaborate than my normal!)


Ingredients - 50g mixed dried wild mushrooms, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1kg lamb shoulder cut into cubes, 3 medium onions roughly chopped, 2 tbsp plain flour, 14 juniper berries, 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only roughly chopped, 2 garlic cloves crushed, 3 tbsp Fino Dark Balsamic, 350ml red wine, salt and freshly ground pepper, 200g field mushrooms sliced, 15g unsalted butter, 1 sheet pre rolled puff pastry, 1 egg beaten

1.     Cover the dried mushrooms with 150ml boiling water and leave to soak for 30 mins.

2.     Heat half the oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a high heat and brown the lamb in batches. Once browned remove the meat with a slotted spoon, reduce the heat and then add the onions to the fat in the pan. Saute until soft and pale golden.

3.     Add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Crush the juniper berries in a mortar, add the rosemary and bruise it to release it’s fragrance. Add to the onion, along with the garlic, and cook for two minutes, stirring.

4.     Deglaze the pan by adding the balsamic and wine, stirring to dislodge all the flavour stuck to the base and sides. Put the lamb back into the pan, together with all the juices that have seeped from it, and add the wild mushrooms with their soaking liquor. Bring the mixture to the boil, season, then immediately turn down the heat as low as you can and cover with a lid. Leave to cook gently for 1.5 hours, stirring from time to time. Alternatively put in the simmering oven of the Aga or a moderate oven (160C) for the same amount of time.

5.     When there is about 30 minutes cooking time left, heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and quickly sauté the fresh mushrooms over a high heat. When they are well coloured, add the butter for flavor and season. Add to the lamb. You should find that the juices around the lamb are just the right thickness but if not, leave the saucepan uncovered for a bit so that the cooking liquor can reduce. When cooked allow to cool completely and transfer the stew into a deep pie dish. (Don’t put puff pastry onto a hot filling as it won’t puff up)

6.     Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6

7.     Dampen the sides of the pie dish and drape the pastry sheet over the pie dish leaving a slight overhang and crimp the edges with a fork. Brush with an egg wash and lightly criss cross with a knife, make two small vent holes  in the top and bake for 25-40 mins in the preheated oven or the roasting oven of the Aga until golden brown and the pastry is cooked through.

I love this little birdie poking out of the top!

Thank you to every one of you who has been a Fino customer this year - I so appreciate  your support.

Very Happy Christmas to you all

Susie x

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