A special treat for our Christmas guests my homemade mince pies are based on a wonderful recipe passed onto me by Ginny Evans – a super cook who used to make and freeze these uncooked, ready to take out and pop in the oven and fill the house with the glorious smell of Christmas baking. Guests now request these and in the spirit of shared recipes feel that I should pass the magic on. My mincemeat is lighter in style than the original as I have never been a fan of the dark treacly interior of the traditional pie. But if the latter is more your thing then just substitute some of the cherries and apricot for more currants and raisins.
Mincemeat (makes 24)
50g butter, 1 small earing apple cored, 75g undyed cherries, 75g dried apricots, 75g sultanas, 75g dried cranberries, grated rind of a large lemon, 1.5 tsp of mixed spice, 3 tbsp of brandy, a chopped banana, 30g mixed peel (the fine stuff not the chunky) 40g chopped almond with skin on. Ginger wine (optional)
Mix all ingredients together, except for the banana which you add just before filling the pies. Give it a stir and leave in a cold place for at least 24 hours – ideally a couple of days. Stir occasionally and if dry add a little brandy or ginger wine. Just before use add the chopped banana and fill the pies. I use a good dessertspoon of filling per standard pie and pack it down to get loads in.
Pastry (for 24)
275g plain flour, 25g ground almonds, 175g butter, 75g icing sugar, finely grated zest of half a lemon, 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsps. of milk, icing sugar for dusting.
Sift flour into mixing bowl and add ground almonds. Add butter in pieces and rub in. Sift over icing sugar and add grated lemon find. Mix egg yolk with milk and stir into flour mixture. Mix to rough dough in bowl (adding a drop more milk if necessary) and then turn out and knead lightly to remove cracks. Cover and rest for 30 minutes or chill in fridge overnight.
Roll out quite thin – the pastry behaves well. Line patty tins, fill with mincemeat and then damp edges of tops and press gently onto bases over mincemeat sealing edges all round. Cut hole in top with pair of scissors. At this point you can freeze them in their tins or pop in the centre of a preheated oven (Fan 180/Conventional 200) for 15-20 minutes until a light golden brown. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.