Mince pies are the cornerstone of Irish holiday baking. They are what hot cross buns are to Easter. Quotidian. They are always the first smattering of Christmas spirit to hit the bakeries and markets across this fair country and the last to leave. When you see the mince pies, you know that elaborate Christmas cakes are not far behind.
Their debut tips you off to the perfect storm of puddings that lies ahead. From that day forward, you strap on your Santa face and carry forth honorably to create the picture of holiday through your kitchen. You are granted the perfect excuse to whip up a boozy brandy butter, and sip copious amounts of mulled wine with friends and family. Let the season begin!
Miniature Mince Tarts
Makes 12-14 tarts
- 225g (8oz) plain flour
- 175g (6oz) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp icing sugar, sieved
- a pinch of salt
- a tbsp or two of beaten egg
- 1lb mincemeat (see recipe below)
- egg wash
In a large bowl, cut butter into flour with a pastry cutter. Add the icing sugar and salt. Gradually add in the beaten egg to bind, then use your shand to bring the pastry together into a ball. It should not be wet or sticky. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour or if possible overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4.
Roll out the pastry until about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick. Stamp into rounds 7.5 (3 inch) in diameter and line shallow bun tins with the discs. Put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, dampen the edges with water and put another round on top. Brush with egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves or stars.
Bake the pies in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or caster sugar. Serve with Irish whiskey cream (or brandy butter.)
Makes 3.2kg (7lb) approx 8-9 pots
- 2 cooking apples
- 2 organic lemons
- 900g (2lbs) soft, dark brown sugar (Muscovado)
- 450g (1lb) vegetable shortening
- 450 (1lb) sultanas
- 224 (8oz) currants
- 110g (4oz) candied citrus peel
- 110g (4oz) fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
- 70ml (2.5fl oz) Irish whiskey
- 2 tbsp orange marmalade
- pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4
Core and bake whole apples in the preheated oven for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool. When soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into a pulp.
Finely grate the rind from the lemons then squeeze out the juice and stir into the apple mash.
Add the remaining ingredients one by one, mixing everything thoroughly with each addition. Spoon into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for two weeks before using. This mincemeat will keep for two to three years in a cool, airy place.