Perfect mince pies

mince pies 006I love mince pies but I only love really good mince pies. So for me what’s wanted is: A high proportion of mincemeat to pastry; Excellent well-balanced and fruity mincemeat; And a good crumbly pastry. These mince pies are the business. The recipe comes a bit from Gary Rhodes, a bit from Delia and a bit from me. And whilst it might seem like a bit of a palaver to make your own mincemeat I think it’s worth it – and actually it’s a pretty straightforward process.

I was making these mince pies at home the other day and I ran out of home-made mincemeat and made the last few for us to keep at home with a jar of shop-bought mincemeat that had been in the larder for a while. Jonathan thought the mincemeat tasted a bit alcoholic and I suggested he went and checked the use-by date on the jar which turned out to be 1995 – three years before he was born. I must go through all those old jars at some point…

Mincemeat

To make about 2.5kg of mincemeat (sufficient for 100 mince pies) :

500g Bramley apples, cored and diced very small (the size of peas), no need to peel
250g pre-shredded vegetarian suet
500g raisins
375g sultanas
250g mixed candied peel
350g light muscovado sugar
2 lemons, juice and zest
2 oranges, juice and zest
2 dsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinammon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
100ml ginger wine

  1. Put everything apart from the ginger wine into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Cover the bowl with some foil and put in the oven at 110C for about 3 hours (fan – a bit higher for non-fan).
  3. Take out of the oven and stir in the ginger wine. Store in pre-warmed sterilized jam jars.

The pastry

Makes 1kg of pastry, sufficient for about 40 mince pies

500g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
350g butter
150g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

  1. Whizz flour and salt and chilled butter cubes together in a food processor until the mixture is like breadcrumbs
  2. Add sugar and whizz again very briefly.
  3. Mix egg yolks and whole eggs together. Add to flour mix and pulse a few times until the dough has just come together. Don’t overwork it or it will get tough. Divide into manageable-sized blobs and put in clingfilm. All to rest in the fridge for at least an hour before using.mince pies 002

 To make the mince pies

Of course you can make the mince pies any size you like but I think it’s helpful to have some really precise directions in case you want them. At home I use pie moulds which are 7cm diameter and 2.5cm deep with flat bottoms (you don’t get enough filling in the slopey sided ones). The current lot came from Lakeland. The pastry will come just below the top of the moulds which means overspill of mincemeat juice won’t go all over the place.

  1. Roll out the pastry quite thin and cut out circles using 9cm diameter cutter. Put them neatly into the pie mould pushing the pastry well down into the corners and making the  top rim reasonably even.
  2. Put 35g mincemeat (one good dsp) into each one and then top with a star of pastry. Brush with a little beaten egg.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C (fan oven) until golden and crisp. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then transfer to a cooling rack. Dust generously with icing sugar to serve.

These mince pies are good for days but they area at their very best when still just a little warm from the oven.