Remember that episode of Friends where Rachel mistakenly adds mince, sautéed with peas and onions, to her trifle? Her reasoning goes something like this – ‘The beef? Yeah, that was weird to me, too. But then, y’know, I thought “well, there’s mincemeat pie,” I mean that’s an English dessert, these people just put very strange things in their food.’
Well up to the age about 15 I also thought mince pies where a savoury, meaty, peculiarly English treat. Despite my mother’s huge anglophile tendencies she never made mince pies and I don’t think I ever tried one until I moved to London, got a job and experienced my first office Christmas party.
It’s not such a silly assumption though. A mincemeat recipe found in a old cookbook contained 5 lb of stewing beef and helpfully suggested using a beef’s heart as a substitution – yum! Even modern mince pies are not necessarily vegetarian – mincemeat often contains shredded suet (the hard fat found around the kidneys of beef or mutton).
You can buy good quality mincemeat but in my experience it always tends to be cloyingly sweet. Making your own is easy and you can tailor the ingredients to suit your taste. I was never a fan of the mince pie before I made my own – then finally understood what all the fuss was about!
You can use this within a few days of keep for longer. This recipe makes only a small quantity – enough for about two dozen mince pies. You can double the recipe if you wish.
140g | 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
90g | 1/2 cup sultanas
90g | 1/2 cup raisins
90g | 1/2 cup currants
75g | 1/2 dried cranberries
75g | 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
2 large cooking apples, chopped into small cubes
60g | 2 oz unsalted butter, cubed
60g | 2 oz whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
Zest and juice of a lemon
2 star anise
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp brandy (or dark rum)
2 tbsp cherry brandy
- Put all the ingredients apart from the brandy into a large bowl and mix together thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a large plate and leave overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 110C | 225F. Spread the mincemeat onto a large baking tray, cover loosely with foil and cook for about 3 hours.
- Cool completely. The butter, which will have melted in the oven, will solidify again and make the mincemeat look a little gross… this is how it should be!
- Put into a large sterilised jar (or two smaller ones). Pour in the brandy. Seal and keep in a cool dry place (no need to refrigerate).
- If, after a few days, the mincemeat is looking a bit dry add a bit more brandy.
This is optional but does taste delicious smeared over a warm mince pie!
85g | 3oz unsalted butter at room temperature
85g | 3 oz icing sugar
2-3 tbsp brandy
zest of half an orange
- Beat the butter and sugar together by hand using a wooden spoon (or use a mixer). Mix the zest and brandy in.
- Keep in the fridge for up to a week or pipe into little star shapes and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use.
Mince pie dough
Enough for 12
You will need a 12-hole patty tin
170g | 6 oz plain flour, plus more for rolling out
85g | 3 oz unsalted butter, cut into small dice
25g | 1 oz vegetable shortening, cut into small dice
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1-3 tbsp cold water
Zest of half an orange (optional)
1 small egg mixed with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
or just use a little milk
Granulated sugar for sprinkling
- Put the flour, butter, icing sugar, salt and zest in a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg you and water and pulse again until the mixture forms a clump around the blade.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and gather it into a ball. Shape into a flat disk, cover with cling film and chill for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200C | 400F and place a large tray in the middle shelf. Lightly grease the patty tin with vegetable shortening.
- Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured worktop. Cut rounds with a fluted cutter (I used 3 in cutter but you may need to adjust depending on tin you are using) and line the holes of your tin.
- Give your mincemeat a good stir. Place about a teaspoon of filling into each case – don’t be tempted to overfill as I did!
- Cut slightly smaller pastry rounds to use as lids. Brush the edges of the mince pies with milk and put the lids in place. Gently press the edges together to seal.
- Brush the pastry lids with egg wash or milk, pierce a small hole in the centre of each using a skewer (or use fondant cutters to cut small shapes). Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden. You may want to check whether the pies are cooked underneath by flipping one over very carefully. If they are not ready cook for a further 5 minutes. Cool before gently turning out of the tin.
- Serve warm with some brandy butter placed under the pastry lid.