These may not be the most photogenic mince pies in the world, but I promise that they are the best you will ever taste. They are orange pastry mince pies and I found the recipe last year while leafing through a Daily Telegraph magazine. It had been taken from a 1978 classic cookbook called Cooking For Christmas by Josceline Dimbleby, which I have since purchased (it has been reprinted by Clearview Books).
Last year, I made the pastry and added some bought mincemeat. But I’ve unexpectedly had some time on my hands this week while waiting for some hospital test results, so I decided to go the whole hog and make everything from scratch. Baking is therapeutic for me. If I’m feeling a bit rubbish, I like the repetitious acts of slicing, chopping and stirring, and the fact that I have to focus on simple instructions. It feels mindful. Then there’s the delicious smell, of course. Citrus, spices and brown sugar wafting through the house from top to bottom. There is also a hidden surprise in these little pies. A fresh cranberry tucked under the lid of each one. It gives a pop of tart flavour that is very hard to resist.
If you have limited time, I’d make the orange pastry and use bought mincemeat with some extra nuts, grated apple and brandy stirred in. Here is the recipe for the pastry:
Makes 24 mince pies.
400g plain flour
100g lard (or vegetarian alternative)
grated rind of a large orange
Method: Cut the fat into the flour and rub with your finger tips until it resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the grated orange rind. With a knife, stir the orange juice into the pastry until it just begins to stick together (if there isn’t enough juice, add some cold water). Gather into a ball, cover and chill for half an hour before using.
I’ve never made mincemeat before, but I had all the ingredients in the cupboard, so I thought I would try. For this, I have used Delia’s recipe as it is so straightforward. I halved the quantities of this, but I’ll give the full recipe here.
450g cooking apples, peeled and grated
225g shredded suet (vegetarian is fine)
225g chopped mixed peel
350g dark soft brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
Grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
50g almonds, cut into slivers
4 teaspoons mixed spice
quarter teaspoon cinnamon
half a grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons brandy
Mix all the ingredients, except the brandy in a large bowl. Leave for 12 hours. Put the mixture in a cool oven (225F 120C) for about three hours. Meanwhile sterilise some jars in the dishwasher. Let the mincemeat get cold, then stir in the brandy, and put into the jars. Cover with waxed discs and seal until ready to use.
The mincemeat smells so heavenly as it is cooking. It isn’t quite as glossy and clear as a bought jar, but the taste is vastly superior!
To put together the orange mince pies, roll out the pastry thinly and cut into circles. Add a spoonful of mincemeat to each one. Then add a fresh cranberry, and put a pastry lid on top of each pie. I like to cut out star shapes as it makes the pies less heavy and looks prettier. Brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at gas mark 7, 425F, 220C, until golden brown.
A box of freshly baked mince pies makes a good gift for friends or neighbours. With a bowl of bulbs or some fresh flowers, it’s a another way to have a plastic-free Christmas.
I’ve still to make a Christmas cake. No pressure, but if I do it will be a Delia recipe.
So there we have it. Some tastes of Christmas. To be enjoyed in a leisurely fashion – and ignored if you are flat out busy.