Saturday, 10 December 2011

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas...

Today starting with such a crisp frost and startling blue sky that it suddenly felt like Christmas was coming. This time last year we were deep in snow and what with the ghastly news at the moment and the strangely warm weather, I haven’t felt in a very festive mood. But, a spot of mince pie making and pulling out the first of the decorations brings with it the warm, nostalgic stirrings of the season.

I don’t normally make mince pies (ahem, who needs to when you have Mr Kipling?!) but Gordon Ramsey did such a good PR job on his Claridge’s mince pie recipe that I couldn’t resist. And they are very good – different from Mr K’s as they have less pastry with a nutty, crumble topping for a lid. They're also smaller, which is fantastic if you (like me) think it’s only right that you have one every day leading up to Christmas!

n.b. the mincemeat seems a bit of a palaver but is really easy once you’ve bought all the ingredients, I left mine in the fridge for 2-3 days and it tasted even better.

I’ll hand you over to Gordon****Ramsey:

Claridge's Mince Pie Recipe
Makes about 36 

For the mincemeat
1 crisp apple (such as Pink Lady), peeled and finely grated
100g salted butter, melted and cooled 
250g raisins (or golden sultanas)
110g dried apricots, finely chopped
175g soft dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 small orange
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
50g toasted almonds, chopped
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp dark rum

For the pastry 
250g plain flour
Pinch of fine sea salt
125g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod
125g cold unsalted butter, diced
2 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten

For the crumble topping
75g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
50g unsalted butter, diced
50g demerara sugar
3 tbsp skinned and roasted hazelnuts, chopped

1 First, prepare the mincemeat. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to mix. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a cool place for 2-3 hours – or preferably overnight – to allow the flavours to mingle and mature. At first, it may seem as if there is too much liquid in the mixture but, with time, the fruit will soak up the juices.
2 To make the pastry, sieve the flour, salt and icing sugar together, then tip into a food processor. Split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape the seeds into the flour mixture. Add the diced butter and blend for a few seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Tip the beaten eggs into the flour mixture and pulse again until the mixture comes together into a dough. Scrape the dough on to a lightly floured board and knead lightly for a few seconds – just long enough to get it smooth. (The less you handle the dough, the shorter and lighter it will be when baked.) Wrap with clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the topping. 
3 Sift the flour and ground cinnamon into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub the ingredients with the tip of your fingers until they become coarse and crumbly. Mix in the sugar and hazelnuts.
4 Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut out 12 x 8cm rounds with a plain or fluted pastry cutter and press into a 12-hole mince-pie tin. Re-roll the trimmings and repeat the process to line another two tins.
5 Neatly place a tablespoon of the mincemeat into each pastry shell and sprinkle with the crumble topping. Chill for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5.
6 Bake the mince pies for 15-20 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp. Let them sit in their tins for 2-3 minutes after removing from the oven, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. If making ahead for Christmas, you can freeze the pies and warm them up in the oven before serving

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