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Mince pies


You'll need

60 gm each of currants, sultanas and raisins 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and coarsely grated 50 gm slivered almonds 50 gm cold beef suet or unsalted butter, finely chopped 25 gm candied orange slices, finely chopped (see note) 1 lemon, finely grated rind and juice only 150 gm light muscovado or brown sugar ½ tsp each of ground cloves and nutmeg ¼ tsp each of ground cinnamon and allspice 60 ml (¼ cup) brandy or rum For scattering: caster sugar   Pastry 300 gm plain flour 60 gm corn flour 1 tbsp caster sugar 200 gm chilled unsalted butter, chopped 1 egg, separated

Method

  • 01
  • Rinse dried fruit under cold running water, then pat dry. Place in a bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Store in a sterilised jar for up to 3 months in the fridge, inverting the jar occasionally. Makes 4 cups.
  • 02
  • For pastry, sift flours into a bowl, add sugar and, using fingertips, rub in butter until mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg yolk and 1-2 tbsp water, turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • 03
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Roll pastry onto a floured surface and, using a 6cm cutter, cut out 48 rounds. Line patty pan trays with half the rounds, place a tablespoon of mince into each, brush edges with eggwhite, place remaining rounds on top, press sides together, pierce top with a fork and scatter over sugar. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note You'll need to start this recipe at least 1 day ahead. Candied orange slices are available from gourmet food stores. You can substitute candied mix peel from supermarkets.


"It's mince, Jim, but not as we know it." The mince in question here today refers, of course, to the chopped dried fruit that constitutes these classic Christmas pies' filling (typically an assortment of currants, raisins, peel and apples buoyed with spices and a good lick of brandy or rum). But it wasn't long ago that it was a different story.

Up until the 19th century, mince pies (they're called mince tarts if they don't have lids) were indeed made from minced or shredded meat, typically pork, beef or a mixture along with the fruit, as were Christmas puddings. Gradually the balance tipped in favour of more fruit and less meat (fruit becoming much cheaper over the course of the Victorian period may have been a factor) until almost no flesh of beasts remained. Suet is still used in many recipes (most butchers can render this beef fat for you with a little notice), as it is here - a preserving agent, it doesn't go rancid like butter, and it moistens the mixture and adds flavour.

Meat or no, traditions abound. The stars sometimes seen topping them are symbolic of the star that led the Magi to Bethlehem. Folklore also has it that eating a pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas brings wealth and prosperity for the future 12 months. Whether they truly assure good fortune or not, these sweet treats are worth the eating.


At A Glance

  • Serves 24 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 24 people

Featured in

Dec 2006

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