Category Archives: Pies

Mince Pies: The Taste of Christmas

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Mince pies are among my favourite Christmas treats. When I first came across mince pies, shortly after moving here from France, I was intrigued by the name: did these crazy Brits really eat sweetened meat? A quick Google search reassured me that this wasn’t the case anymore, and only the suet remained from what was originally a meat-based dish. Vegetable suet can of course be substituted if you prefer.

Baking mince pies has to be the best way to spend a cold December afternoon; it is a real joy to bring the lovely, golden pies out of the oven and it makes the whole house smell of Christmas!
This recipe makes more mincemeat than you need. Store the remainder in sterilized jars and keep for another baking session; or decorate the jars with pretty labels to make a lovely home-made gift!

You will need (for 24 mince pies) :

For the mincemeat:

250g Bramley apples, peeled and grated
100g sultanas
60g currants
70g dried cranberries
180g raisins
110g chopped mixed peel
30g chopped almonds (optional)
4tbsp brandy
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
170g dark muscovado sugar
120g shredded vegetable suet

For the pastry:

450g plain flour
230g cold butter, diced
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 beaten egg
Icing sugar

Method:

Make the mincemeat:

In a large saucepan, combine the apple, dried fruit, peel, almonds, alcohol, zest, juices, and spices. Cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, until the mix is fairly dry and the dried fruit has plumped up (this should take 45 min to 1h).

Leave to cool, then mix in the suet and muscovado sugar.

Make the pastry:

To make by hand, rub the flour into the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add the zest and juice and bring together into a ball ( add a bit of iced water if necessary).
Alternatively use a food processor: mix the flour and butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then add the zest and juice and mix again until it comes together, adding a bit of iced water if necessary. Knead lightly a couple of times.
Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 to 20 min.

Assemble the mince pies:

PrehEeat the oven to 190*C/ fan 170*C/ Gas 5. Cut the pastry into 2 pieces, about one third to two thirds.
Roll out the larger piece (leave the other piece in the fridge) on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 3 mm. With an 8 cm round fluted cutter, stamp out 24 bases and use them to line 2 12-hole mince pie tins, or patty tins ( you will need to re-roll the trimmings).
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Fill each pastry case with about 1 tbsp mincemeat.
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Roll out the rest of the pastry as before, and cut out 24 lids with a 7 cm cutter.
Brush the edges of the pastry cases with water, then press a lid down on each base, sealing well.
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Make 3 slits in each pie top with a sharp knife, then brush with some beaten egg and bake for about 20 min or until nice and golden.
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Cool for 10 min in the tins, then remove to a wire rack and dredge with icing sugar.

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Filed under Bakes, Cakes, Christmas, Desserts, Pastry, Pies, Sweet Tarts

Looking for Comfort Food? Quick, Over Here! Chicken, Butternut Squash and Feta Pie

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If I had my way, it would be Summer all year round. I love warm weather, summer dresses, ice cream and long evenings, barbecues, and brightly coloured nail polish on my toes. I wish I could banish cold weather, umbrellas,  wellies and especially snow shovels.

If I love Summer so much, what am I doing in Northern England, might you ask. Well, I shall let you know once I have worked out a plausible answer.

In the meantime, I shall offer you the first pie recipe of the season, because if I cannot change the weather, I can at least make it more bearable with a bit of comfort food.

You will need:

For the rough puff pastry:

500 g cold butter, diced

500 g flour

2 pinches salt

About 250 ml iced water

1 egg, beaten (for glazing)

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash, cubed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped dried sage

2 chicken breasts, diced

200 g feta

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl (or directly on a work surface), make a well with the flour, and add the butter and salt in the middle. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the texture is grainy with the odd flake of butter. Add the iced water gradually, mixing with your hands as you go, until it forms a cohesive dough. Knead a few times, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Roll the pastry out into a rectangle about 40cm x 20cm. Fold the top third down towards you, then fold the bottom third up on top of the rest. Give it a quarter turn then repeat the rolling and folding. Wrap in cling film again, and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the rolling and folding as before, and refrigerate for 20 min again, still wrapped in cling film. The pastry is now ready to use, and will happily wait in the fridge for a few days. You will need half of it for this recipe, the other half will freeze for up to a month.

Make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 1 min, add the sage and butternut squash, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook on a low heat for about 20 min or until tender (add a bit more water if it starts to stick). Season the mixture, then tip into a bowl and reserve.

In the same sauté pan, heat up the last of the oil, and gently fry the chicken until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 4 to 5 min). Mix with the cooked squash and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C/ fan 190⁰/ Gas 6.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and to a size slightly larger than your dish (I use a 28 cm Ø round pie dish).

Crumble the feta over the bowl containing the filling, mix well, then tip into a large pie dish.

Wet the edge of the pie dish, cover with the rolled out pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut away the extra pastry along the edge of the dish. Press all around the rim with the prongs of a fork, then cut a small hole in the middle.

Brush all over with eggwash, then if you wish, thinly score the pastry with wavy lines made with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.

Bake for about 20 min, or until nice and golden brown.

 

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