20 September 2017

Mince pies

It’s that time of year again, a time when we are all so busy preparing for the holiday season. We often have so much to do that sometimes we forget to stop and take time out to remember the true meaning of Christmas. A time of love, peace and hope.

It is also a time for family and friends, and a time when (and I am sure I am not alone) that I take great pleasure in passing on all those family traditions, ones which we hand down from generation to generation.

A time when we reflect back to Christmases past and especially the happy memories of childhood.

Food is an important part of our Christmas celebrations, and coming from a farming family some of the fondest memories I recall are of how our kitchen was always so busy at this time of year. I loved spending time with my mother and grandmother while all the Christmas baking was taking place. The warmth of the kitchen, the smell of cakes baking, puddings steaming on the stove, minces pies coming out of the oven, the smell of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, and how they taught me how to bake. Memories of climbing up on a chair so I could weigh out ingredients, stir the mixtures in the bowl, (and even how I waited to get to lick the spoon at the end).

I have always loved setting aside time for baking, and at Christmas I loved to share the same traditions with my daughters. I now have three small grandchildren who get to stir the pudding, cut out the cookie shapes and yes, each get to lick a spoon. These are moments I cherish, and I feel privileged to be able to pass down the tradition of Christmas in the kitchen.

The recipe I am sharing with you is for mince pies, it is a very simple recipe which can be made in advance and so useful to have at hand when guests call. Simply heat and serve by the fire, and enjoy spending time with your loved ones, and give thanks for the blessings God has given us at this Christmas time.

PASTRY INGREDIENTS

• 6oz ( 175g ) Margarine

• 3oz ( 75g ) Caster Sugar

• 8oz ( 225g ) Self Raising Flour

MINCEMEAT INGREDIENTS

• 4oz ( 110g ) raisins

• 2oz ( 50g ) sultanas

• 2oz ( 50g ) currants

• 2oz ( 50g ) cherries (optional)

• 2oz ( 50g ) margarine

• 3oz ( 75g ) soft dark brown sugar

• 1 level teasp mixed spice

• Juice of ó a lemon

• 1 medium cooking apple (grated)

METHOD

To make pastry, cream together margarine and sugar using an electric mixer, then add the flour. Use the lowest speed when mixing in the flour. The mixture will bind together, this mixture is very rich and soft. Flour your hands and roll mixture into a ball, cover with cling film and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Melt margarine and soft brown sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Add in raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries chopped, mixed spice, lemon juice and grated apple and stir together, let mixture stay on heat for about 5 minutes. Lift off heat and let mixture cool.

Flour worktop and rolling pin and roll out pastry, work carefully as mixture is very soft. Using pastry cutters, cut pastry and line patty tins. Fill with mincemeat (about 2 teaspoonfuls to each case).

Dampen edge of case with a little water and place on pastry case lid.

Place in oven at 170 C / Fan oven 150 C/ Gas Mark 3 for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let pies cool for about 5minutes before lifting on to a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar. Can be served hot or cold.

TIME SAVING TIPS

Make up your mincemeat ahead of time, this allows the flavour to mature but don’t worry if your are last minute it still tastes good.

Freeze your mince pies uncooked– make up your pies in baking trays and pop in freezer until solid, transfer into freezer bags or plastic container. When needed place pies back into your baking tray and bake at 180 C/ fan 160 C/ gas 4 for 20 – 25 minutes until golden and piping hot.

Andrea Gilmore