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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Mince pies and traditions.

Last time I looked, it was the first day of Christmas and now it’s very nearly Christmas Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our household, like many,  has been struck by a couple of bouts of sickness and more than a couple of sniffles and sneezes, all rounded off with a healthy measure of weariness that comes with the time of year, racing to get everything done, a joyful and busy toddler and being really rather pregnant simultaneously. However, given the recent horrendous shooting in the USA and other tragedies closer to home, we do well to hug our loved ones extra tight, to take time to cherish traditions and, if the mood takes you to bake a few mince pies. The most onerous step is chilling the pastry for a couple of hours, really.

Last night, we welcomed our neighbours for mince pies and a glass of festive cheer. It feels terribly grown up and as I didn’t have a family or other trusted mince pie recipe, I knew as soon as I tasted this one that I’d struck gold. And, doubly so as we were also given homemade mincemeat (thank you so much N).

One of these mince pie delights, was my first of the season a couple of weeks back and it’s not only significant for that reason but also because it’s the time of year for traditions and mince pies are certainly one of them. It is lovely to be able to share this story, a friend's Christmas tradition and recipe and to weave it into what I hope will become an annual baking for our family too. 

The clementine pastry is delicious and there’s something about weighing out a recipe in pounds and ounces and using lard (actual lard), that allows us to recreate a moment from years ago. As I rubbed the pastry together, I sent my most Christmassy thoughts to my dear Granny, Eva’s namesake and a lady whose elegant hands, baking skill and warm hospitality is always remembered.

I’ll hand you over to the Mince Pie Maharani now.

I have not always been a Mince Pie Queen. I can remember finding all things non-chocolate based quite repulsive in my school years. In fact my love developed at University in Edinburgh, when every year through my six year course, as of mid-October the mince pies would be introduced into the supermarkets and my flat mates and I would immediately snatch as many boxes as possible. I can’t imagine there is a mince pie that I haven’t tried- puff pastry, iced, budget, deep filled you name it I have tried it from most high street stores.

Every week-night, as the end of the Winter Term approached and exams loomed, after an evening of studying we would congregate at 10pm for a cup of tea and heated mince pie, chats and gossip and the latest reality TV catch up. The weekend of course was not quite so civilized! As poor students we couldn’t afford to eat our mince pies in true style with brandy butter, but would sometimes heat some custard from the cupboard and have mince pies and custard. Or virgin mince pies. Either way it was bliss. Happy Memories.

However, although this was our yearly ritual the mince pies were not up to the standard of those I would get on my return home to Yorkshire for the Christmas holidays, post exams. My Mum has always made a few dozen mince pies, and these are usually devoured before Christmas Eve. The recipe has been passed across several generations in the village where I live, and was passed to my Mum from a very special lady Mrs T or AP as she is affectionately known to me. The origins of it are uncertain, however I am informed it is one of the first handwritten recipes in a recipe book which must be at least 40 years old and I am certain as the Queen of Mince Pies that this recipe, for all its simplicity (and quite possibly the shortest pastry ever!), makes the tastiest mince pies in the World. Ever. Fact. Enjoy.

Makes approx 20-24 mince pies.

You will need:

1Ib plain flour
8oz butter
4oz lard
Rind and juice of 1 or 2 oranges or 4 clementines
Mincemeat [ 1 jar was just enough using a small teaspoon]
Full fat milk for glazing

What to do:

Rub ingredients together to make pastry dough. [Tip - Soften your butter and lard out of the fridge first].
Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours or longer if you have time.
Roll out to 0.5cm thick or more.

Cut bases [using a round cutter] and place in [tart or Yorkshire pudding] tray.
Spoon in 2 teaspoons of mincemeat [lucky us, we were given a jar of homemade mincemeat by one lovely supper clubber].

Brush the edges of each pie with milk. Place the tops [or stars] on. 

Brush with milk again and snip/pierce two holes in the top to allow the mince pie to cook.

Cook until browned. Approximately 15-25 mins at 180 degrees.

Enjoy with mulled wine or tea or custard [and neighbours].


  1. That pastry looks fantastic... I shall have to try it with my last jar of mincemeat. Though pastry has always been my down fall! Did my last batch with a crumble topping.

    N Mayes

  2. And I am so sorry I didn't credit your fabulous mincemeat (I have corrected that now). It was amazing and E loved it too! Thank you. x

  3. Oh that's ok! Was glad you guys enjoyed it. :)

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