Continuing my adventures with Nigella Christmas, I decided to put my skepticism of cooking with raisins on hold because these little mincemeat pies were too cute to be denied. I also made some wee apple alternatives for certain family members who tend to be squeamish around the unfamiliar. But let's face it, the red ones are infinitely Christmas-ier.
I made the mincemeat last weekend and froze it, so all I had to do yesterday was make the crust. What follows is the crust recipe (with my notes in italics), and while you could use store-bought mincemeat for these, I liked Nigella's recipe a lot, and I've put it at the end here.
- 240g/8oz plain flour <--something like 1 3/4 cups
- 60g/2oz vegetable shortening <-- 4.2 tablespoons if you do the math
- 60g/2oz cold butter, cut into small cubes <-- also 4.2 T
- 1 orange, juice only <--I needed 2 oranges, but mine were small
- pinch salt
- 350g/12oz Christmas mincemeat
- powdered sugar, for dusting
You will need a miniature tart tray, each indent 4.5cm/1¾in diameter, a 5.5cm/2¼in round fluted biscuit cutter and a 4cm/1½in star-shaped pastry cutter. So in American terms, this ended up being a couple of ordinary muffin tins. Luckily I had a collection of star cutters in various sizes, all packed together concentrically in a tin. But you could use anything at all here, and it's not important that it completely spans the top of your pies, but come on, you can't help but feel happy when it does.
Sift the flour into a shallow freezer-proof bowl, then add small mounds of vegetable shortening. Add the butter, shake to cover it, then place into the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. (This will make the pastry tender and flaky.) Mix the orange juice and salt in a separate bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge to chill.
After the 20 minutes, empty the chilled flour and shortening mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to make porridge-like crumbs. You know what she means. Incidentally, I did all of this by hand. There's some weird part of me that resists using a food processor, and I have made so many pies that to bring a machine into the mix seems like cheating to me. But by all means, use a processor. I recognize that I have a problem.
Gradually add the chilled salted orange juice, pulsing until the mixture is just coming together as a dough. Stop just before it comes together (even if some orange juice is left). If all the juice is used up before the dough has begun to come together, add some iced water.
Turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured work surface and, using your hands, knead the mixture to form a dough. Divide and shape into three equal-sized discs (you'll need to make the mince pies in three separate batches of 12, unless you've got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once). Wrap each disc in cling film and place into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
Remove a pastry disc from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface thinly, but so that it will be sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat filling. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut out 12 circles a little wider than the molds in the tart tins. Press the circles gently into the molds. So you know how Nigella says you'll get 36 pies out of this? I only got 24, and I was rolling them as thinly as I felt was sane. I'm guessing it's because my cutter and muffin tin must have been bigger than what she was using.
Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case. (I followed this instruction exactly, but I feel like I could have added more.) Reroll any remaining dough to a similar thickness, then using a star-shaped cutter, cut out stars and place each lightly onto the mincemeat filling.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown. Keep an eye on them as they don't take very long to cook. Mine took 14 minutes.
Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and placing onto a wire rack to cool. Allow the empty tray to cool down before repeating the steps from step 10. Repeat until you have made 36 (24) mince pies. Dust the mince pies with powdered sugar and serve.
I'm banking on Nigella's advice being right on when she said that these could be made up to one week ahead of time, placed in an airtight container (waxed paper in between layers), and reheated in the oven on the day you serve them. And now, on with the mincemeat!
- 75g/2½oz soft dark brown sugar
- 60ml/2fl oz ruby port <-- couldn't find; went with "tawny" port which looked red enough to me
- 300g/10½oz cranberries
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1 t ground ginger
- ½ t ground cloves
- 75g/2½oz currants <--dried ones are located where you normally find raisins
- 75g/2½oz raisins <--I tried golden raisins, but they clash a bit with everything else in here
- 30g/1oz dried cranberries
- 1 clementine, zest and juice only
- 25ml/1fl oz brandy
- few drops almond extract
- ½ t vanilla extract
- 2 T honey
In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat. I had a huge pan and it ended up being too huge. I don't even think you need a large one here. Add the cranberries and stir.
Add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, currants, raisins, dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementine. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. (You may need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them fully.)
Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Add the brandy, almond extract (go easy on that stuff), vanilla extract and honey and stir well with a wooden spoon to mash the mixture down into a paste. Spoon the mincemeat into sterilized jars and, once cool, store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Or just put it in a freezer bag and freeze. Mine never quite got solid in there but it firmed up. Try this! Nigella calls her mincemeat "boozy and fruity," and while it's tart I am pleased to report that it was nowhere near as weirdass as I thought it was going to be.