Hello! Can you believe that it is only 17 sleeps until Christmas day? My house is being filled with Christmas: warm aromas of cinnamon and spices, sparkling Christmas cards twinkling on the mantelpiece above the fire and snowy silvery decorations draped around the house. This morning, the irritating noise of my dad stamping around downstairs was followed by the crisp, woody smell of fresh pine. Our Christmas tree had arrived.
Decorating the tree is a ritual. It is something you do every year, in a certain way. For me the smell of pine is redolent of childhood memories; getting our box of decorations down from the dusty attic and unwrapping each individual, precious bauble. Hanging each one in the right place, and finally climbing onto Dad’s shoulders to place the glimmering star on the top of the tree. Then comes the magical moment: the shining lights are switched on as the tiny fairies of the Christmas Tree illuminate the branches.
The first thing that I do to get in the Christmas spirit is pop the jolly carols on and tuck into a warm mince pie, topped with brandy cream. Don’t even get me started on the brandy cream! I could have that stuff with everything. But the only thing that could exceed the sheer brilliance of boozy brandy cream are homemade mince pies. And of course my homemade mince pies.
The key to a great mince pie is a short, crumbly pastry that is baked well and of course, zesty, fruity mincemeat. Oh the disappointment when you open the lid of your mince pie to uncover a couple of sad, soggy raisins! Well fear not – this recipe ensures a fruity mince pie with a wonderful flavour. So be it this weekend or next, before decorating your tree, bake a batch of these mince pies and share them with your family.
175g/6oz plain flour
75g/3oz butter, cut into cubes
25g/1oz icing sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
+ one egg beaten
About 300g/11oz mincemeat
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp brandy
1) To make the pastry, place the flour, butter, icing sugar and spices in a bowl. Begin to crumble with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and all the butter has been worked in. Mix in the egg until you have a ball of dough that just holds itself together.
2) Preheat the oven to 200/180 fan.
3) Roll the pastry out on a floured worktop (you don’t want the pastry too thick or so thin that it breaks. Cut out 12 rounds using a cutter that fits your muffin tin. Line the 12 hole bun tin with the rounds
4) In a bowl, combine the mincemeat with the other ingredients (or add more to taste) then spoon a heaped teaspoon into each pastry case.
5) Re-roll the pastry trimmings and cut out 12 lids (using a smaller cutter). Place on top of the mince pie and crimp the sides so that the pie is sealed. Brush the pastry with beaten egg.
6) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until golden and crisp.
I would recommend serving these with extra thick brandy cream (Sainsbury’s taste the difference is fab or treat yourself to waitrose champagne and brandy cream – yum). Also these are easily warmed up in either the microwave or the oven at 160 for 10 minutes. Hope you enjoy these mince pies and they get you in the festive spirit!