easiest mince pies
Christmas mince pies are confusing, if you don’t know what they are – they are made from mincemeat, which is a sweet mix of spiced dried fruit and nuts. There is nothing savoury about them and nor do you need to be carnivorous to enjoy them.
I used the fruit from my Christmas vodka (make sure you pick out all the hard spices such as cloves and cinnamon sticks) to make a simple mincemeat – I just tipped the fruit into a pan, added 150ml of apple juice, 1 couple of strips of orange zest and the flesh from 3 pears (1 grated, 2 cut into small dice) then let the mixture bubble away until most of the liquid had gone and the pear had softened. I then added a couple of handfuls of toasted flaked almonds. This approach bulks out the dried fruit mix and generally makes it lighter; it also removes most of the alcohol that comes from the vodka. Taste the mix and check if you want to add any extra sugar, spices or perhaps a little fresh citrus zest.
To make my pies – more like tarts, actually - I used sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry and cut them into 5cm squares and then used a small circular pastry cutter to mark out a circle in the centre of each square. Push down lightly on the cutter when making the mark, so you go part through the pastry but not all the way. Brush the outside edge of each square with some beaten egg and then place them onto a lined baking tray – you can put them fairly close together as the pastry will not spread much.
Place your mincemeat (which you can alse buy, ready made) within the circle you have marked - I used about a teaspoon of mix per tart. Do this neatly so that the outer edge of pastry can puff up when it bakes and create a nice crust.
The tarts were cooked at 220c and baked for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool on a tray and then dust with a little icing sugar before serving.