My home-made luxury mincemeat has been ‘resting’ nicely for a month. It’s now just about ready for me to make my first batch of mince pies.
We’ve got the luxury mincemeat, so how about a bit of luxury pastry too?!
I’ve gone for a buttery shortcrust pastry flavoured with almond. The flavours work so well together – and make for the perfect Christmas treat.
Compliment them with a cup of tea or glass of mulled wine, comfy chair and real fire (sleeping dog optional). It’s what Christmas (in fact, winter in general) is all about for us.
- 180g/6⅓oz plain flour
- 70g/2½oz 'tant pour tant' (35g/1¼oz icing sugar + 35g/1¼oz ground almonds)
- pinch of salt
- 125g/4½oz very cold butter, cubed
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- A little beaten egg
- Put the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds and salt in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine
- Add the butter and pulse again until you get to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Whilst still pulsing, add the ice cold water until the mixture begins to get lumpy - like dry scrambled eggs
- Empty ⅔ of the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Form the dough into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film. Repeat with the remaining ⅓ of the pastry
- Chill in the fridge for ½ to 1 hour
- Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a 12-hole or two, 6-hole muffin tins
- Lightly flour your work surface, remove your larger ball of dough from the fridge, unwrap and divide it into 12 equal pieces (about 20-22g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into perfect circles with a cookie cutter (or upturned drinking glass if you don't have one) that's slightly wider than the hole of your muffin tin. **Rolling each pie case individually means that you don't overwork the pastry by re-rolling over & over again**
- Gently press the pastry rounds into the muffin tin holes (handy hint: use a small lump of pastry to do this if you have long fingernails!)
- Spoon mincemeat into each pastry case and press down gently to level. Don't overfill
- Get the smaller batch of dough out of the fridge and again divide into 12 equal pieces (about 11g each)
- One by one, roll each piece of dough into a ½cm thick round shape. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter. I used a star-shaped cutter but you can make other Christmas-y shapes like holly leaves, snowflakes, fir trees and the like!
- Top each pie with the shaped pastry before brushing the tops with a little beaten egg
- Bake for 12-15 minutes
- Allow to cool in the tin completely before removing
- Put on a cooling rack or serving plate and sprinkle/dredge with icing sugar
Many people don’t like thinking about Christmas until the beginning of December – I know I don’t! However, there are a few things that need to be prepared well in advance for them to be at their peak for the big day. Christmas cake, sloe gin, piccalilli and home-made mincemeat are just a few.
I’m very fussy about my mincemeat; I don’t like it to be overly citrusy – so, very little orange or lemon zest & juice and no mixed candied peel. In addition, it needs to be veggie – so can only contain vegetarian suet. The only way to ensure it tastes the way I like it is to make it myself. A very easy job and well worthwhile. It works out much cheaper than the cost of ‘luxury’ jars of the stuff in supermarkets. Once made, potted up and put away correctly, it stores unopened for years!
- 200g/7oz currants
- 200g/7oz raisins
- 200g/7oz sultanas
- 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
- 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
- 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
- 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
- 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
- 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
- 200g/7oz vegetable suet
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 3tsp mixed spice
- ½tsp cinnamon
- ¼tsp nutmeg
- 6tbsp rum or brandy
- 100g/3½oz butter, cubed
- Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
- Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
- Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
- Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
- Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
- *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut