17-12-2019

Traditional Mince Pies

There are few symbols of a British Christmas more iconic and widely beloved than the mince pie. A marriage of dried fruits, brandy, suet and sugar, encased in sweet, crumbly shortcrust pastry is the perfect accompaniment to a festive brew, a flagon of something mulled, or something to nibble on after the vast Christmas feast.

Of course, it has been a long time since the ‘mince’ part of the mince pie was literal – for over a century the term ‘mincemeat’ to describe a pre-made blend of festive fruit and spices has been standardised, and nowadays many Britons are unaware that the pies once contained minced beef, though the name and the inclusion of beef suet in the mix remain to this day.

Combining meat and sweet in pastry is a concept with centuries of culinary history in the UK – recipes for beef and bacon pies with dates and prunes can be found in 16th century cookbooks – a cookbook inspired by Game of Thrones resurrected one of these a few years back.  Mince pies have since were served around Christmastime as an annual indulgence, the exotic spices and fruits used in them - not readily available to the average consumer – were seen as a nod of reverence to the Middle Eastern setting of the birth of Christ – indeed the first mince pies were said to be oblong-shaped, in reference to a manger.

Recipes for mince pies including the use of beef date back to the 1590’s, with the last few meat-inclusive recipes seen towards the end of the 19th century. It is not entirely clear when meat was phased out of the mince pie as we know it today, but the 21st century has seen a few bold chefs advocate for the inclusion of beef or mutton in their take on this Christmas classic.

We’ve brought back a touch of the Victorian to our mince pie recipe, giving this British Yuletide favourite a traditional kick with some of our finest British beef, and a lightly spiced savoury shortcrust to bring it all together.

You can use any of our minces to put this together (we’d recommend a lower fat once due to the suet in the mincemeat) – or if you’re feeling truly indulgent, mince your own from a choice cut or steak (we diced up a juicy rump steak for ours!). A few spoonfuls of shop-bought mincemeat will do the trick, but we’ve included ours if you feel like making your own!

INGREDIENTS

makes 6

FOR THE PASTRY

-4oz plain flour

-2oz butter

-Sea salt and black pepper

-Pinch fivespice

FOR THE MINCEMEAT

-100g dried fruit

-50g suet

-25ml brandy

-100g brown sugar

-Small apple, cored peeled and diced

-100g minced beef

METHOD

  • Prepare the pastry in advance, rubbing the butter and flour together with your fingers until it is well mixed, then add salt, pepper and fivespice. Add a small amount of milk and mix until it is just consistent enough to roll. Store in refrigerator until ready for use.
  • Preheat oven to 180C
  • For the mincemeat, assemble all ingredients in large bowl, allow to sit for at least 1 hour. Pour off any excess brandy at this point.
  • Mince the beef (if not using pre-minced) then brown on high heat until evenly cooked. Drain the fat and put aside.
  • Roll out pastry and cut out 12 rounds.
  • Put 6 rounds into a baking tin and bake to 10 minutes until beginning to turn golden brown.
  • Put spoonful of mincemeat mixture onto each pastry bottom, then seal the top with the remaining pastry rounds.
  • Bake for a further 7-10 minutes until golden brown.
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve!

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