There is something about homemade mince pies that makes them irresistibly comforting and terribly moreish; qualities that are distinctly lacking in the ready-made supermarket varieties. The good news is they can be made in advance and popped back into a hot oven to crisp up the pastry and fill the house with a fragrance of Christmas.
For my version of mince pies I use a basic sweet pastry recipe for the shells, substituting some ground almonds for a little of the flour to give the pastry a gorgeous nutty flavour and light texture. When working with pastry it is important not to over work it; a light hand makes light pastry. I also leave the tops uncovered (like a tart) so that they caramalise slightly, then top them with a little more mincemeat for a more interesting texture and a contrasting flavour.
Mini Mince Tarts
- Process 250g of unsalted butter with 180g of caster sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 2 eggs then stir in 450g of plain flour and 50g of ground almonds.
- Knead gently then wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
- Knead gently again and roll out until fairly thin. Cut out discs large enough to line the indents in a greased mini muffin tray with an overhang, then fill with the mincemeat. Use a round cutter to make the shape even and neat.
- Bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
- In the meantime heat a small saucepan of mincemeat & simmer for 1 minute.
- Alow to cool & then top the tarts with a spoonful of the mincemeat from the saucepan.
- When ready to serve pop back in the oven on a tray lined with grease proof paper for 1 minute.
- Serve with whipped cream infused with a splash of brandy.
The recipe below is for wonderful home-made mincemeat. Traditionally made with shredded beef all that remains in a savoury sense is the beef suet, which adds a succulent richness to the mincemeat. Vegetarians can substitute this for a vegetarian “suet”.
- In a large heatproof bowl combine 450g of grated cooking apple with 225g of shredded suet, 300g of raisins, 200g sultanas, 200g currants, 100g dried cranberries, 225g mixed chopped candied peel, 350g Muscavado sugar.
- Add the juice & grated zest of 2 lemons & 2 oranges, 50g of flaked almonds, 4 teaspoons of mixed ground spice, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of grated nutmeg.
- Leave to stand for 12 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 120°C. Cover the bowl with foil and bake for 3 hours. Allow to cool, stirring occasional to incorporate the melted suet.
- When cool stir in a double brandy and pack into clean, dry jars. Cover with wax discs and seal.
- Leave for a week before using to make irresistible mince pies.