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
There were a couple of culinary firsts for me this week.
Firstly, I made a vegetarian hot water pastry, based on one I found in my Pie cookbook.
Instead of using lard, I used a bit of vegetarian suet.
I’ve never, ever eaten a pork pie (I’ve been vegetarian since the eighties). I had to ask Justin if my pastry was anything like it is meant to be… seeing as he eats this kind of raised pie on a regular basis. In fact he buys & eats a pork pie every Thursday without fail – sharing it with Fudge on their walks after an early flea market foray.
My other first was cumin-spiced pumpkin chickpea pies.
We bought a pumpkin at Halloween so I was looking for a new way of using it.
I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Granted, I’ve only had it the once, but it didn’t leave fond memories.
I much prefer these squash type vegetables savoury rather than sweet.
It certainly makes a good substantial filling for this type of pie – great flavour too with the addition of the very complimentary curry spices.
This recipe makes quite a few, small pies. If like us you’re only likely to eat a few at a time, they can be frozen both before and once cooked.
They’re the perfect little autumn pies!
- 275g/10oz plain flour
- 1tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 60g/2oz butter
- 60g/2oz vegetable suet
- 110ml/4 fl oz cold water
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 1tbsp cumin seeds
- 1tbs curry powder
- 1tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 tin chickpeas (180g/6oz net)
- 750g/1lb 10½oz pumpkin, cut into ½cm cubes
- 2tsp salt
- cracked black pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl
- Make a well in the centre and crack in the egg, then use the empty shell to flick a little of the flour over the surface of the egg so it's hidden
- Put the water, butter and suet into a small saucepan and set over a medium heat, stirring until everything dissolves and the water is just coming to a boil
- Remove from the heat and pour the hot mixture over the flour and egg
- Mix continuously with a metal spoon (I used the dough hook and my electric mixer) until the mixture comes together into a ball
- Tip on to a lightly floured work surface, knead briefly for about a minute before wrapping it in cling film, forming it into a fat sausage shape as you wrap
- Chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes to firm up before using
- In a large saucepan over a low heat, soften the chopped onion in the olive oil
- Add the cumin seeds and then curry powder and chilli flakes and stir
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas under the tap using a strainer before adding to the saucepan
- Add the pumpkin, bay leaf, salt and black pepper, combining everything well before putting a lid on the pan and allowing it to cook for about 10 minutes
- Once cooked, set aside and allow to cool completely
- Cut a number of 1cm strips (2 per pie) of baking parchment to line the pie tin (I used a silicon muffin tray, see my image above). This is to help remove the pies easily once cooked
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4
- Remove the pastry dough from the fridge, remove the cling film before slicing into 1cm rounds
- Roll out or flatten the rounds and put half of them into the lined pie tins so that there is an overhang
- Fill each pastry case with filling right to the top, before using the other pastry rounds to top the pies
- Fold the overhanging pastry over the pie lid, crimping the edges to seal
- Pierce the centre of each lid to allow steam to escape when cooking
- Brush a little beaten egg over each lid
- Bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes
- Allow to cool on a wire rack
National Pie Week is going from strength to strength here in the UK. It’s been talked about all over social media and in the traditional media too. Chris Evans and his team have been waxing lyrical about pies they’ve been sent by bakeries from all over the country.
Last year for Pie Week I made a lovely butter pie; this year I wanted to keep with the theme of a vegetarian, rustic, humble pie. I turned to my copy of Pie by Genevieve Taylor that we reviewed last year. I found just the recipe – cheese and celery pies – but with a little twist.
The original recipe is a single pie done in a shallow pie plate. I quite liked the idea of doing little individual hand pulled pies. I used a couple of cling film-wrapped jars in lieu of a pastry dolly.
Pulled pies are usually made using hot water pastry, but I was being lazy and just whizzed up a quick batch of shortcrust pastry. I think it worked just fine, but I’m sure Paul Hollywood wouldn’t approve!
This recipe made 4 small pies but you can easily scale it up. We had one each so I put the other two in the freezer – pre-baked – so that they can be taken out and baked off the next time we fancy a pie.
There was a little bit of pastry left over – isn’t there always? I quite like rolling it out thinly, slicing it into long thin strips, sprinkling over with cheese and baking for 15 minutes. What do you do with yours?
I’ve already started thinking about what pie I’m going to make next year!
- 360g/12½oz plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 180g/6⅓oz cold butter, cubed
- 6-8 tbsp cold water
- 25g/1oz butter
- ½tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ head celery, sliced
- 125ml/4 fl oz veg stock (or ½ veg stock cube + 125ml boiling water)
- 30g/1oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
- salt & ground black pepper to taste
- a little beaten egg to glaze