In my last blog post, I looked at the advantages of making your own mince meat. Having made quite a few jars the only thing left to do was actually use the resulting product in baking. That means mince pies. And lots of them.
Problem is, with 19 days still left until Christmas, I have already grown ever so slightly sick at the thought of any more. And to think the stores were selling them as far back as the end of November.
This got me thinking about the speed at which we tear through the Christmas season, its start arriving earlier and earlier each year. A very long time ago the advent of Christmas was simply the beginning of religious celebrations; but that was before the birth of consumerism and it now symbolizes the onset of frenzied shopping.
Am I the only who feels like the holiday has become associated with purchasing and all our traditions are now wrapped up in £ signs?
Everywhere I look there seems to be stressed-out faces as we try to fit in all the extra “chores” preparing for Christmas entails. Trying to give your house that Martha Stewart feel and your cooking that Nigella Lawson touch. With children come the festive markets, nativity plays, choral services, end of term discos, and a plethora of coughs, sniffles and tummy bugs. Never mind the Christmas lists that seem to contain the same items from last year but with the words “next generation” by them. Bah hum bug? You bet!
So, who has time to think about the true meaning of Christmas?
Yesterday we took our kids to the local Mall to get them some winter coats. An expensive experience with four but a necessity with our recent freezing cold temps. Christmas decorations, jingles, and crowds stuffed the halls. Price reductions in a last-minute attempt to attract the uncertain shopper could be found in many of the shops. Queues were everywhere!
When we returned home, my 10 yr old G tentatively asked me a question. “I know you aren’t going to want to but could we just look at our Christmas decorations?” She was right the mood I was in meant the answer that wanted to roll off my tongue was “no not now,” but something got the better of me and I said “yes”.
We took the two boxes filled with stockings, baubles, lights, candle holders, garlands, wreaths and miscellaneous decorations out of their hiding place and began to unwrap them. She loved looking at each item and remembering where they came from, when we got them, who had made them, etc. If there was a story she knew it.
I said, “it’s great having decorations that come out year after year.”
G said, “yeah getting them out is my favourite thing about Christmas.”
as adapted from Nigella Lawson, “Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen”
240g/8oz plain flour
60g/2oz vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
60g/2oz cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 orange, juice only
350g/12oz Christmas mincemeat
icing sugar, for dusting
Miniature tart tray
(approx) 5.5cm/2¼in round fluted biscuit cutter
(approx) 4cm/1½in star-shaped pastry cutter
Sift the flour into a shallow bowl, then add vegetable shortening and the butter. Mix lightly.
Place the bowl into the freezer to chill for 20 minutes. (This will make the pastry tender and flaky.)
Mix the orange juice and salt in a separate bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge to chill.
After the 20 minutes, empty the chilled flour and shortening mixture into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to make a breadcrumb like mixture.
Gradually add the salted orange juice, pulsing until the mixture is just coming together as a dough. Stop just before it comes together (even if some orange juice is left). If all the juice is used up before the dough has begun to come together, add some iced water.
Turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured work surface and, using your hands, gently knead the mixture to form a dough.
Divide and shape into three equal-sized discs (you’ll need to make the mince pies in three separate batches of 12, unless you’ve got enough tart tins to make all 36 pies at once).
Wrap each disc in cling film and place into the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
Remove a pastry disc from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface thinly, but so that it will be sturdy enough to support the dense mincemeat filling.
Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut out 12 circles a little wider than the moulds in the tart tins. Press the circles gently into the moulds.
Place a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry case.
Reroll any remaining dough to a similar thickness, then using a star-shaped cutter, cut out 12 stars and place each lightly onto the mincemeat filling.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown. Keep an eye on them as they don’t take very long to cook.
Remove from the oven, prising out the little pies straight away and placing onto a wire rack to cool. Allow the empty tray to cool down before repeating the steps from step 10. Repeat until you have made 36 mince pies.
Dust the mince pies with icing sugar and serve.