Mince pies and merriment

Can you think of anything merrier than a mince pie and mulled wine?

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This is a classic Nigella recipe – no jokes about a sprinkling of snow please – and I make them every year. The first batch of these in the oven signals Christmas’ arrival as far as I’m concerned.

Some years, depending on how busy life is at the time, I make all of the elements from scratch. But this year everything is shop bought (sorry).

Although on the bright side, this meant I had time for ice-skating at the Natural History Museum, wandering the Christmas stalls on the South Bank, decorating the flat and wrapping presents this weekend.

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You will need:

  • 1 pack pre-made shortcrust pastry (1 pack is enough for 12 mince pies)
  • 1 jar Duerr’s mincemeat or Waitrose luxury mincemeat
  • handful of extra cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • squeeze of lemon
  • a big splash of Hennessy (or whatever brandy or cognac you have to hand)
  • 1 Christmas with the Rat Pack album + kitchen stereo (do not skip this bit out, it will ruin your mince pies)
  • 1 mini pie tin with 12 holes
  • butter for greasing
  • flour to roll out your pastry (any type will do)

This is so easy it can barely be called a recipe. However, there are some tips to be aware of, even when using everything pre-made, which will ensure wonderful results every time.

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1. Take your pre-made shortcrust pastry out of the fridge and its wrapper 30 minutes before rolling out (this ensures it cooks properly and ends up as wonderfully rich and flaky as possible). At the same time pre-heat your oven to 180C and grease your 12 hole baking tin very generously.

2. Whilst your pastry is resting out of the fridge, take a bowl and empty your mincemeat into it. Find some cognac or brandy (Hennessy in my case) when noone’s looking and pour in a very generous splash. Mix with the mincemeat and allow to soak into the flavours.

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3. Take your handful of cranberries and toss in a pan with around 1/2 a cup of boiling water. Let them bubble for a minute or two, and then add your caster sugar. Simmer the mixture until the cranberries just start to pop and burst. Once they have all done this, turn off your heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before adding to your mincemeat bowl. Once everything is in, add your squeeze of lemon and mix in once more.

4. Flour your work surface and roll out your pastry to thickness of around 1/2 cm. You want the pies to be little and delicate. Take a 5cm fluted cutter and cut out 12 pie bases and put them into the tin. Then re-roll the pastry, to around the same thickness, or perhaps slightly thinner if you can manage, and then with your 4cm star cutter cut out 12 tops.

5. Fill your bases with the boozey mincemeat mixture – around 1 tsp in each is about right. Then with a finger and some cold water, dab the fluted top of each base with water so that it the star tops will stick when you place them on. Press each star top on to the fluted bases and ensure each tip of the star makes contact with the pastry base. Brush generously with beaten egg.

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6. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes. If you’re not sure whether they’re done, remove the tray and use a palette knife to flip one pie out and check whether the pastry underneath has hardened and cooked through. When done, transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve with some mulled wine and crank up your Christmas album….

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… Merry Christmas!

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2 thoughts on “Mince pies and merriment

  1. Pingback: The South Beach Diet | The London Olive

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