My absolute favourite Christmas treat is without a shadow of competition from elsewhere…..mince pies! So here’s a great Sun Temple mince pie recipe in perfect time for Christmas. For my readers who may not know these amazing little pies, they are sweet and filled with dried fruit flavoured with oranges and lemons and spices. The old English word “mincemeat” gives them their name and some of you will be familiar with using the word “sweetmeats.” Not many people make their own homemade mincemeat because it is usually sold in jars in shops and I think people just don’t realise the dramatic difference in taste between the store bought and the homemade. In fairness neither did I.
My mother in law Dorrie always made homemade mincemeat and I have gratefully taken on the tradition for over 25 years. It would be impossible to conceive of buying enough jars of store bought mincemeat to add up to the 3.75 kg (6 lbs) I make each year which translates to over 200 mince pies. I know, I know, it sounds excessive, but Stephanie and Louise learned a song when they were in primary school that said you “? get a happy month for each mince pie ?” so we have adopted that as our Christmas mantra. I feel the need to assure you dear reader that I give away many as gifts as well.
The original recipe comes from Delia Smith and as with everything, we adapt it to our own needs. I normally make double the quantity of the mince pie recipe that follows.
Makes approx 100 mince pies
450 g (1 lb) tart green apples (best are Bramleys), cored and chopped small (no need to peel them)
225g (8 oz) vegetable suet
350g (12 oz) raisins
225g (8 oz) sultanas
225g (8 oz) currants
225g (8 oz) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
350g (12 oz) soft dark brown sugar
grated zest and juice 2 oranges
grated zest and juice 2 lemons
50g (2 oz) whole almonds, roughly chopped
4 level teaspoons mixed ground spice
½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons brandy
Just as an aside, I was really quite advanced in age when I worked out the difference between all the various dried fruit, so I will share this “ah ha” knowledge with those of you who may not yet be enlightened. A raisin is a dried grape, a sultana is a smaller dried grape, and a currant is simply that, a dried currant. There are however 3 colours of currant that I know about, black, which is what Ribena is made from, and red and white. You’re welcome.
Doesn’t the candied mixed citrus peel look jewel-like?
The hardest part of making homemade mince meat is the grating of the zest and the squeezing of the juice from the citrus. You quickly develop arm ache. I suggest helpers for this.
My cousin Douglas who is quite a bit younger than his sister Colleen and I who are the same age, declared with indignation many years ago, that the reason he did not eat his lunch box apple was because it had gone “all rusty”….this because his other sister Roslyn had helpfully chopped it up for him. The photo below shows my success at stopping the apples going “rusty” before I can add them to the mix, by mixing them in with the citrus juices as I chop.
Mix all the ingredients except the brandy in a large container that can go in the oven. Stir to thoroughly mix. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight. Next day heat the oven to 110ºC (225ºF) and cook, stirring once, for 3 hours. Allow to cool thoroughly before adding the brandy. Do stir a few times during the cooling process as you need the fat to coat everything evenly.
Enough for 36 mince pies
112g (4oz) butter
112g (4 oz) vegetable lard (shortening, the sickly white kind)
454g (1 lb) white flour
enough cold water to bind
Everyone has a different way to make pastry. Mine is very simple. I blitz all the ingredients, except the water, together in the food processor until large bread crumb shapes are formed then chuck in about 120 ml (4 oz) water and blitz until it just comes together. This is as precise as I can be and I’m sorry but you will have to experiment as each time its different. The key thing is to blend as little as possible. If you look in the photo below you will see bits of butter not mixed in. That’s exactly what you want to see because this will result in a lighter pastry as when this butter melts during cooking, it leaves a tiny hole which our mouths read as crumbly and yummy.
Make the pastry a few days before if you would like, as it keeps beautifully in the fridge (or even freezer). Whatever you choose, please let it “rest” in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes minimum before rolling out.
Cut out your shapes and line the cupcake pans. Put enough filling into each one, so that you are not being miserly, but visualise the mincemeat heated up and flattened out and what you don’t want is leakage as this is troublesome to clean up. I used to completely cover my mince pies but have found its nicer to have less pastry on top and stars are my thing. You could (as I have in the past) cut out all manner of Christmassy shapes to crown them with.
Sprinkle a small amount of sugar on each one. I think this makes them look even more lavish.
Cook in a 180ºC (350ºF) oven for approx 20 minutes. Keep an eye though as you really don’t want these beauties to burn, and traditionally the pastry should only just be cooked rather than starting to brown. Release them from the cup cake pans immediately using a knife and place them on a cooling rack. If you don’t do this, and allow them to cool in there, you will need a chisel and all your beautiful artistry will be ruined because they will crumble. There you have it, the Sun Temple Mince Pie recipe just in time for Christmas!