To me mince pies are the best thing about Christmas. I’m not even exaggerating. This recipe uses home-made vegetarian mincemeat. I’ve provided a recipe for enough mince to make approximately 24 mince pies as once it’s made you can store it for ages because of all the alcohol. Mincemeat is really versatile and could be used as the base for an alternative Bakewell tart, in sweet doughs to make christmassy swirls or in a rich crumble tray bake.
200 ml brandy
100g dark brown sugar
1 brambly apple
150g chopped peel
rind of 2 oranges
rind of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
generous sprinklings of cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg (too taste)
caraway seeds (optional for the more eclectic taste buds)
100ml melted butter (unsalted)
For 12 mince pies
375g plain flour
250g butter (unsalted)
10g golden caster sugar
tablespoon-ish of water
To make the mince, first soak the raisins, sultanas and chopped peel in the 200ml brandy. I left mine for approximately 24 hours until it was nice and potent. Then flavour the fruit with generous dust of cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice (and perhaps a tiny sprinkle of caraway seeds) and stir in. How much spice you use really depends on your own flavour preferences, this may be a good time to taste. Again, leave the fruit for a couple of hours to absorb the flavours.
Peel and cube one brambly apple and add to the mix. Grate 2 oranges and 1 lemon and add the rind to the mix. Add the juice of half a lemon and 100g dark brown sugar and stir in again.
Finally melt 100g butter and stir into the mix.
It is now ready to jar up and store until when needed.
Now for the mince pie construction……
Firstly cube the 250g unsalted butter, which should be chills, and add to a large bowl containing 375g plain flour. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. There should be no lumps of butter remaining. Then add the 100g caster sugar.
Add an egg to the dry mixture and cut through with sweeping strokes to encorporate the moisture of the egg. Then add 1 tablespoon of water and press the pastry into a ball. You may need a little more water but add it a bit at a time as this is where it can all go wrong. When you have brought the pastry together into one, wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Grease a 12-hole muffin tray and preheat the oven to 220*C.
Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately 3mm thick. To cut out the pie case I used the largest cookie-cutter in my set, approximately 12cm across. However, this was with my equipment so double check what size will nicely line your own muffin tray. Punch out 12 pie cases and line the tin, pushing the pastry into the corners.
Spoon mincemeat into the pastry cases until almost full.
Then cut out pie lids with a slightly smaller cookie cutter. Place these over the top of each case and seal the lids shut by crimping the edges of the lid with the tops of the pie cases with your fingers.
Brush the lids with milk then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Once baked, dust liberally with icing sugar and eat warm.