Inspired by Fiona Beckett the Frugal Cook, and a strange compulsion to get back in the kitchen to cook some homemade grub after all those TV turkey dinners the other week, I’ve been making my own mince pies.
My mum always makes her own, which are delicious. But, being Miss Competitive, I decided to push the boat out and make my own mincemeat too. I did this last year for the first time, but I don’t think I did it quite right as the mince pies were a bit dry. So I was determined to improve on my recipe. It’s a bit of a faff when you have to make the pastry for the mince pies too – being a normally lazy soul I needed to put my feet up for a bit afterwards. But making mincemeat is surprisingly easy. I followed an old recipe by Marguerite Patten and you just combine in a bowl 1b (454g) mixed dried fruit, 4 oz (113g) grated apple, 4 oz shredded suet, 1 tsp mixed spice, ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 grated lemon rind and juice, 4 oz mixed peel, ½ tsp nutmeg, 4 oz brown sugar, 4 oz chopped blanched almonds, 4 tablespoons of rum, brandy or whisky, and then give it a good stir before using it.
Finding a bottle of whisky on the kitchen shelf, I added a generous few extra measures to it, as well as some water as I was worried the mixture would be too dry. Then predictably DJ came along – why is it men always like to interfere with my cooking? – and decided that we should add an awful lot more whisky. The mincemeat certainly had a kick to it, but was very moreish.
I used a pastry recipe from my old Dairy Book of Home Cookery to make rich short crust pastry. You take 225g flour and add ¼ tsp salt, then rub 150g butter into it until it looks like breadcrumbs and then add enough water to hold it together, before rolling it out. I’m not a great cook but, since learning to make short crust pastry, I don’t understand why anyone bothers to buy it as it’s so easy. But then again, somebody I saw on the telly last weekend said she has really warm hands and this seems to ruin her pastry! I suppose it’s a time saving thing, too, if you’re in a rush.
For once I was careful not to overcook the pies, only baking them for 20 minutes. Then I took them out and dusted them with icing sugar. Mmm…they were good! In my opinion, much better than the Aldi and Asda ones I tried out earlier this month, even if I’m not an objective critic!
I already had some suet and most of the other ingredients, so I only spent about £2.30 on a big bag of mixed fruit, peel and butter. And judging by the amount of mincemeat left, I’ll have enough to make at least four batches altogether I think, so it’s pretty frugal as well as tasty to make your own.
In fact, DJ paid me one of the biggest compliments my dubious cookery skills have ever received. He said that my mince pies tasted better than the pies we’d tried at a friend’s house from specialist bakery Konditor and Cook (sorry Vicky), which have been voted some of the best mince pies in London! Praise indeed from Caesar! Maybe it was too much mulled cider on his part…
Do you make your own mince pies? What’s your secret ingredient?
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