I had a request for my mince pie recipe from a reader (after he read about them in A Family for Christmas) so I thought I’d share it here in case anyone else wants to try it.
Making mince pies from scratch is a two stage process. You need to make the mincemeat (a fruit and spice mix) first. That can be stored in jars for ages, sometimes a year or more if it’s a cooked mincemeat recipe. But I usually make mine in early December ready for Christmas.
Once you have your mincemeat, then to make the pies you just need any basic recipe for shortcrust pastry, and that’s what you use for the cases. The mincemeat is the time-consuming part but it’s actually very easy to make.
I got this mincemeat recipe from my mum, so I love making it because it reminds me of her (sadly she’s no longer with us). I would like to say it’s a traditional family recipe handed down through generations. But in reality it’s more likely to be one from a Good Housekeeping book in the 1970s. Although knowing my mum she probably adapted it to suit her taste because – like me – she was never one for sticking to recipes exactly!
Easy Vegetarian Mincemeat
This makes two good size jars – enough for a few batches of pies. It’s easy to double or even quadruple if you’re cooking for crowds.
1 large cooking apple (I use Bramleys) – chopped into small pieces, skin on
50g vegetarian suet80g raisins
50g chopped dried apricots
50g dried cranberries
100g dark muscovado sugar
the zest of an orange and a lemon, and half of the juice.
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of grated nutmeg
1 tbsp brandy (approx)
Method for Mincemeat
Combine all the ingredients except the brandy into a large oven proof mixing bowl.
Stir, cover with foil, and leave overnight in a cool place.
Next day, put in the oven at gas mark a quarter (120C/225F) and leave for three hours.Remove and stir occasionally as it cools to stop the fat coagulating – every 20 mins or so works.
Once it’s cool, add the brandy, stir in well and then pack the mixture into clean jars.
It should keep fine at room temperature.
To make pies
To make pies – find a shortcrust pastry recipe online. I use a different one every year. This year my mincemeat came out quite sharp so I’m going to try this one as it has sugar in the pastry. But if you use plain pastry you can always dust them with icing sugar to serve, that looks pretty anyway.
Grease a pie tin, cut circles for the bases.
Add a spoonful of mincemeat into each pie. If it’s thickened up in the jar, add more brandy to get it moving (you can never have too much brandy)Cut smaller circles for the top, or star shapes if you can get a cutter because they look more festive.
Brush with sugar mixed with water, or a little egg to glaze.
Baked in a preheated oven (gas 6/400F/220C) for about 15-20 mins.
Zac never had a family of his own, but Rudy has enough to share.
Shy, inexperienced Rudy has a crush on Zac from the moment his new colleague walks through the door. On an office night out before Christmas, Rudy finds the courage to make a move, and they form a tentative bond. When he discovers Zac will be alone at Christmas, he invites Zac to come home with him.
Zac prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Yet when Rudy offers him a family Christmas it’s impossible to resist. With no parents of his own, Zac is pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Rudy’s. The only drawback is that everyone assumes they’re a couple. Unwilling to disappoint Rudy’s mum and make Christmas awkward, they decide not to deny it.
It’s not a chore for Zac to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend, but the pretence makes him want things that scare him—things like a real relationship with Rudy. Zac’s suffered enough rejection in his life already and is afraid to risk his heart. If he can get over his past rejection and let Rudy inside his armour, he might get more for Christmas than he ever imagined.