Mince Pies

And Homemade Mincemeat

Some of us feel you can’t have a proper Christmas without mince pies: ideally really good home-made ones with gloriously short, rich shortbread-like pastry filled with fresh, fruity, mincemeat that has had more than a passing acquaintance with the rum or brandy bottle.

Obviously, you must eat one for every day of the Twelve Days of Christmas (beginning on Christmas Day) for maximum luck in the coming year as the old saying advises. Why not get a head start and ‘test’ one as soon as you’ve finished baking? Testing is SO important!

If you have left it a bit late to make your mincemeat, don’t worry this version, gently heated in a slow cooker or low oven tastes as good as one that’s been maturing for several weeks.

A food processor makes delicious short pastry but make by hand if you prefer.

Makes 12

  • 180g plain flour
  • 120g cold salted butter, diced
  • 25g caster sugar, plus extra for finishing
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Plus: 12 generous teaspoons mincemeat (sse below)

You will need 2 fluted cutters: 7½ cm and a 6 cm and a greased 12 cup tart tin

Preheat oven to 180C (fan ovens) gas mark 6 or equivalent

Whiz the flour and butter into fine crumbs. Add the sugar, whiz briefly, add the water. Whiz until large clumps form. Bring together gently with your hands into a ball.

Roll the pastry out ½ cm thick on a lightly floured board. Cut out 12 large and 12 smaller rounds.

Press the larger rounds gently into the tin and spoon in the mincemeat. Firm the lids gently into place.

Brush the pies lightly with water, sprinkle with sugar and make holes in the lids. Bake for 12-15 minutes until pale golden. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack: store in an airtight tin.

Slow Cooker Butter Mincemeat

Gentle cooking amalgamates the flavours beautifully. Cook on a low heat in the oven or on the hob rather than a slow cooker if you prefer.

Don’t forget to grate the apple and zest the orange and lemon in brisk up and down movements to avoid long strands in the finished article. Nobody wants long strands hanging out of their mouth when the take a bite!

Makes approximately 1.5kg (3lbs)

  • 175g (6oz) salted butter, diced
  • 780g (1¾ lbs) mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 225g (8oz) dark brown sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 225g (8oz) peeled, cored, firm, unblemished dessert apple
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 150ml (¼ pint) dark rum (or brandy)

Combine everything but rum in bowl of slow cooker. Cook on medium setting for approximately 2 hours. Stir in rum and spoon into sterilized jars.Perfect!