Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas roundup 2: Deluxe Christmas pies

I love Christmastime and one of the very best aspects of the season is the heady scents that emanate from the kitchen. And one of the very best aromas, for me, is that of Christmas pies. All that cinnamon and fruity goodness... While you can get inferior pies at any supermarket (at least in Australia), I really like making my own.

For many years, I've been making a version of the Christmas pies in Nigella Lawson's How to Eat; basically augmenting a jar of Robertson's mincemeat with grated apple, citrus juice and booze, but this year, at the urging of Saffron-Papa, we made these super luxury pies based on a tart recipe in The Ultimate Christmas Cookbook, a book we come back to year after year. The number and amount of dried fruits in these pies make the recipe prohibitively expensive to make in Japan, but very doable here in Australia.

And the results were really far superior than anything you could buy ready-made. Unusually, the pastry contains ground walnuts and is scented with cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of sugar. It is very rich and moreish. It is very buttery, making it admittedly somewhat difficult to work with. However, I think a little extra flour would help with this. The mincemeat itself is far superior to a bought mixture. It has a nice blend of tart and sweet fruits, balanced with some lemon and green grapes. We loved them!

The recipe gives the instructions for pastry first, but it is best to make the mincemeat in advance and leave it to mature for up to 4 weeks. Though, making it that far in advance might result in reduced supplies as you will "have to" taste at regular intervals to see how it is coming along (g). If you are in a warm climate, it will be best to store the mincemeat in a container in the fridge.

Deluxe mincemeat pies

For the pastry
225 g plain flour
10 ml ground cinnamon
50 g finely ground walnuts
115 g butter, cold from the fridge and cubed
50 g caster sugar
1 egg
2 drops vanilla essence
15 ml cold water

For the mincemeat
2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and coarsely grated
225 g raisins
115 g dried apricots, chopped
115 g dried figs or prunes
225 g green grapes, quartered and seeded [Saffron: I only used half this amount]
50 g chopped almonds
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
30 ml lemon juice
30 ml port or brandy
1/4 tsp mixed spice
115 g soft light brown sugar
25 g butter, melted

1 To make pastry, put the four, cinnamon and walnuts in a food processor. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat the egg, vanilla essence and water with a fork, and add, together with the sugar, to the food processor mixture. Process until a dough forms. Turn out and kneed briefly on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Form into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 min.

2 Mix all of the mincemeat ingredients together in a large bowl.

3 Roll out pastry to a thickness of 5 mm and cut out circles for bases and stars for lids. Place the pastry circles in the lightly oiled holes of a muffin tin and fill with mincemeat. Top with pastry stars and chill for 30 min.

4 Preheat oven to 180 C. Place baking sheet in the oven to preheat. Place the muffin tin on top of the preheated baking sheet and bake the pies for 15 min, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before removing from the muffin tin. Serve warm or cold.


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