Home made mince pies are so different from the shop-bought, you might as well see them as different species. Even the best of the shop-bought ones have thicker pastry, so that they keep longer. Home-made can have crisp, flaky, buttery thin pastry, which snaps slightly in your teeth, revealing the plump raisiney-appley juicy mincemeat within. I do generally make my own mincemeat, and it keeps years so it’s worth a go to get your own ideal recipe, but there are some very good jars out there, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at them. Just get the mincemeat out of the jar and into a bowl and make it your own – add some chopped almonds, or top up the booze content, or jazz up the Christmas spicing with some powdered ginger. Maybe a little bit of grated apple, but not too much as you don’t want the filling too liquid.
I made a batch of mince pies for my Seniors Lunch group and they were most appreciative. I’ve been making them for our Covid-secure “Gate Date” neighbours parties too. We meet (in groups of 6 only) at the end of our drives, not inside gardens, to raise a mug of mulled wine and scarfle down a hot mince pie with brandy butter. Mince pies are good Covid-secure food as you can hand them out (wearing plastic gloves) in one-person portions, topped with a scoop of brandy butter for luxury. For twenty minutes you can forget about the cold and the damp and that you are standing on the pavement wearing your ski anorak, talking to your neighbours, instead of being cosy round your tree. In this very odd Christmas, we have to make the best of what we’ve got. (I should point out, we’re in Tier 3 and allowed to meet in groups of 6 in public places. Those in Tier 4 have my sincere sympathy – perhaps you could pass a batch of mince pies across the wall to your neighbours and raise a glass of mulled wine on zoom?)
Makes 12 mince pies. Timings - 1 hour although you can make the pastry and keep it cool
Brandy butter: beat 250g butter (I like salted, though not the one with salt crystals in it) with icing sugar and brandy in your mixer until you have your preferred consistency and flavour – everyone’s a bit different in their brandy tolerance. Keep in a sealed tub in the fridge to eat on mince pies, Christmas pud, Christmas cake, whatever.
Pre-heat your oven to 200°C and grease a 12-cup pie tin
Mix the flour and butter together in your mixer with the pastry paddle or rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it is like fine crumbs. Add the ground almonds and icing sugar and mix lightly. Add one egg and keep mixing slowly. Add cold water a teaspoon at a time until the pastry binds together – don’t make it too dry or it will crack when you roll it out.
Knead very quickly to bind the pastry together and then you can wrap it up and keep it in the fridge.
You don’t have to chill this, as the pies are too small to shrink much.
Beat the second egg in a bowl.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 2-3mm thick and cut bottoms and tops – this makes just enough for the 12 pies. Put the bottom parts into the pie tins and brush round with beaten egg. Spoon the mince-meat into the pies – a goodly mound of filling is required as it doesn’t rise; put on the tops and press round with a fork to seal. Brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle a little bit of demerara sugar on top to give a crunch. Using a knife cut a little slit in each pie top for steam to escape.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden. Cool on a wire rack and keep in an airtight tin for 3-4 days.
Eat as they are or warmed up with brandy butter on top, dribbling down your cold fingers.
Merry Christmas, everyone, hope it was a good one.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.