Like Hot Cross Buns at Easter, one of the things that make Christmas for me are mince pies. I love them. So when my mate Luke who co-runs clothing label Percival asked if I fancied making some for late night shopping evenings at their new pop up in Covent Garden, I was all over it like a cheap suit.
This recipe is a bit of a remix. Inspired by and finished like the mighty Eccles Cakes of St John, the filling is simpler than traditional mincemeat, but the spices, currants, muscavado sugar and rum pack a treacle-like punch, and instead of beef suet, or that horrible veg substitute, I use frozen, grated butter, so the veggies can chow too. I’d recommend making the filling a good couple of weeks before you make your pies. Over time the flavour gets better and better, and if you keep it cool it will last for ages.
This recipe will make 24 or more mincers. I make them in muffin trays with 6 x 3 dimples which gives them a meat pie like appearance after they’re baked.
For the pastry
480g Plain white (pastry) flour
25g Caster sugar
340g Unsalted butter, cold
110-140ml Cold water
For the filling
220g Muscavado sugar
10g Ground nutmeg
10 Ground allspice
100g Unsalted butter, grated from frozen
60ml Dark rum
Zest and juice of 1 medium orange
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt
Coarse granulated brown sugar
Making the filling is a cinch. Put the currants, sugar, spices and rum into a bowl. Zest and then squeeze the juice of an orange into the mix (use a sieve to keep the pips out) and then give it a good stir. Take your butter out of the freezer, and using a course grater, shred around 100g of it into the bowl. It will clump together, so now get your hands in there and squeeze and mix everything together. Cover with clingfilm and set aside somewhere cool.
A few hours, or ideally the day before you’re going to make your pies, make the pastry as it needs to rest before you roll out and assemble. Weigh out and sift all your dry ingredients into the bowl or your mixer or food processor, and then cut up the cold butter into centimeter cubes and add to the dry. Mix on medium speed or pulse until you have a ‘mealy’ breadcrumby type consistency.
Turn your mixer back on and add around 100ml of your water. You want to add enough to bring the pastry together, but no too much so it’s wet. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to come together after a 15 seconds or so, add a bit more water until it does. Remove the pastry from the bowl and ‘pat’ together, and then wrap in clingfilm, and rest in the fridge until needed.
When you’re ready to make your pies, take your pastry out of the fridge and let it warm up a little, and then roll it out to a 3mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Again, it’s good to let the pastry relax a bit before you cut it, so cover with some greaseproof paper and leave it somewhere cool for half an hour.
Next, taking a 90mm and a 70mm pastry cutter, cut out 24 bases and lids from your pastry. Press the bases into the dimples of whatever baking tray you’re using. There will be excess pastry crinkles, but just press these into the wall of the tin. When you’ve lined all the dimples, fill around 3/4 full with the currant mixture.
Moisten the rim of each of your smaller lids with a little water, and then press them down onto the top of each of the pies. The final step is to lightly egg wash the tops with a brush, give them the Eccles Cake trademark of three scores, and then sprinkle some coarsely granulated brown sugar over the top of each one.
Bake at 170c for around 30 minutes until the tops are a lovely deep golden brown, and remove the pies from the tray as soon as you can and place on a wire wrack to cool.
They are best eaten warm, either on their own, with a glass of whiskey, or indeed a good lump of mature cheddar.
Ho Ho Ho.