An alternative recipe to my classic mince pies, it contains no nuts in the mincemeat or almonds in the pastry dough.
I never used to like mince pies until I made them at home. The fact is that all shop-bought pies, even the posh, fancy, Hestonised and overpriced numbers taste mainly of too much orange peel and too much booze. As much as I’m the last person to complain about too much booze, I like to keep it separate from cakes. And orange peel is usually nasty, unless you make it yourself (I don’t) or spend quite a bit more money than even Waitrose Cook’s Ingredients charge.
So the second worst move from buying mince pies is to buy your mincemeat in a jar. I really don’t understand what people do with it - unless they buy readymade shortcrust as well and cheat all the way. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense: pastry is relatively difficult to get right, what with butter cold or softened, dough coming together or not, chilling to just the right temperature. But mincemeat - that’s a doddle. Even if you stir together whatever dried fruit you have at home and add a banana or an apple to hold it together, it will still be better than the stuff in the jar.
This makes rather lovely filling - nut free but full of fruit. It also has no butter which might make the pies more appealing to those who still believe low-fat is good.
The pastry is delightful, the only thing is it’s hellishly difficult to roll out, so do what I did: chill, soften, chill. The pastry needs to set in the fridge, then warm up a bit to roll it, then chill again before baking - and you’ll have the loveliest, melting and not too short pastry filled with delightful, fruity mince!
- For the pastry:
- 170g icing sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 225g unsalted butter at room temperature, in small pieces
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 360g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- For the mincemeat:
- 1 large banana (150g)
- 150g dates, pitted
- 100g dried figs, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 50g candied orange peel
- 250g mixed dried fruit: sultanas, raisins and chopped apricots
- 50g fig or apricot jam or conserve
- 4 tbsp. port
- juice squeezed from ½ orange (100ml)
- icing sugar for dusting
To make the pastry, beat the icing sugar and the egg yolks in a food processor or with an electric mixer. Add the butter and lemon zest and beat to blend. Gradually add the flour and the salt, mixing until it forms a ball. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.
To make the mincemeat, blitz the banana, the dates and figs in a blender to a coarse paste. Transfer the paste to a large bowl, add all the remaining ingredients mix them in well. It will last a day or two in the fridge and freezes well but make sure to give it a good stir before using.
Bring the pastry back to room temperature - otherwise it will be hell to roll. Roll it out in batches, to about 3mm thick. Make sure you have the right size cutters: the one for the bottoms needs to be a bit bigger than the holes in your pie/pudding tin and the one for the lids about the same as the holes. You can also use shapes for half open pies.
Cut out the bottoms and insert them into the tin holes by pressing very gently from the edges. Chill them while you cut out the lids. Put the lids on a tray and chill as well while you fill the pies.
Pack the mincemeat in generously but gently. To make the half open ones, just press the lids onto the mincemeat. To make the closed ones it’s handy to brush a little of the egg white left over from making the pastry around the rim of the lids, press them on around the edge and crimp with a little dessert fork. Pierce the tops with the fork to let the air escape while baking.
Bake in the oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas 4 for about 15-17 minutes until lightly golden around the edges.
Let them stand for a few minutes in the tin and push them out gently with a little spoon. The better quality your tin (heavier), the easier they’ll come out.
Cool on a cake rack and dust generously with icing sugar.