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Mince Pies with Gill and Louise, the Great Little Cookery School

Christmas for me is a time for family traditions, whether long-established ones or newly added. This recipe is my mum’s mince pie pastry recipe; although she sadly died almost 17 years ago a lot of my recipes that I use today constantly evoke her memory. I have a small A6 handwritten book that she gave me back in Christmas 1994, now falling apart at the seams and so well thumbed through, a very treasured possession. It all depends how much time you have but I find shop-bought mincemeat overly sweet. I tend to add to a 400g jar a selection of things: some grated peeled cooking apple, a handful of chopped dried apricots, sultanas, some chopped cranberries either fresh or dried, possibly a slosh of brandy. I decant the jar into a larger bowl and stir in my additions. Do not let the mixture become too wet. Any that I am not using straight away can be frozen in a zip lock bag for the next baking session. Or add to stewed apples for a simple festive apple /mincemeat with crumble topping.

Ingredients:

For the mincemeat: dried fruit -raisins, currants, apricots, cranberries, mixed peel approx 350g total weight, 150g beef or vegetarian suet, 120g dark brown sugar ,1/4 tsp mixed spice and 1/4 tsp nutmeg, zest and juice of a small orange, grated peeled cooking apple, 1/2 inch root finely grated peeled fresh ginger, approx 75ml brandy, or if you prefer alcohol free 75ml of well brewed black earl grey tea.

For the pastry: 225g/8oz plain flour,110g/4oz packet margarine (I use Stork), 25g/1oz lard or vegetable baking fat -Trex, 1oz sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1-2 tbs cold water

Method:

For the mincemeat, add all to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with hands. Store in fridge in clean sterilized jars for one week or freeze in a zip lock bag and use within three months.

1. In a large bowl rub fats into flour until resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir through sugar. Stir through egg yolk. Now add water slowly initially 1 tbs and keep stirring through with a knife. Add more water slowly. You are aiming for a cohesive non-sticky ball that you can gently knead briefly. Really no more than 30 seconds otherwise you will have tough pastry. If you have added too much water simply dust with a small quantity of extra flour and gently knead until you have smooth dough.
2. Cover with cling film and allow to rest for at least 30 mins. It will keep well at least a week at this stage.
3. When you are ready to make the mince pies pre heat the oven to 210C – gas 7. Lightly flour both your work surfaces and rolling pin and roll to desired thickness. I find shop-bought mince pie pastry too thick and the fillings too sweet. With home made you can create them exactly how you like them. For me, I roll to about 2mm thick.
4. The number you make does depend on the thickness of your pastry but I make around 15 with this quantity. Don’t despair if you are new to pastry making -if the first rolling out doesn’t go well simply form back into a ball and start again – it is always easier to roll second time around. I like my mince pies decorated with a variety of pastry shapes suchas hearts and stars rather than a full pastry lid.
5. Make sure your mince pie tins are lightly greased – I use the wrapper from the packet margarine to do this. Don’t overfill each pie – approx 1 heaped tsp as you don’t want the mixture bubbling up and over the edge on cooking. If that happens just work fast to remove from the trays before it starts to stick.
6. Cook for 10-15 mins in the oven until lightly browned and smelling delicious Carefully lift out the pies whilst still hot. I use the tip of a rounded knife to ease out- allow to cool on a cooling rack. The filling will be very hot at this stage so resist all temptation to eat straight from the oven.
7. Once cold or just pre serving, sprinkle lightly with icing sugar. Stored in an airtight tin they will keep well in a cool place for one week or freeze well wrapped.

For more information, please visit www.tglcookeryschool.wordpress.com. They offer gift vouchers which make fantastic presents to the would-be cook. 10% off either a course or a voucher if you mention VantagePoint Magazine.

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