Friday, 11 November 2011

Mincemeat Recipes for Christmas

Today, mincemeat is essentially vegetarian, being a blend of dried fruit, butter, suet, fruit juice and alcohol which is a classic British Christmas staple.

However, as the name suggests, it actually evolved from 'noumbles' of the middle ages. When the wealthy on the top tables were eating venison and roast meats, the poorer echelons of society had to make do with the the cast-offs, the offal and the intestines. To make these go further they would chop them with dried fruit and use this mixture to stuff pies. This product was called 'mincemeat'.

During the Elizabethan period, the quantity of meat was reduced to about 1/4 of the total, and through the ages the meat content reduced more and more, until there was no meat left, and the only meat component was beef suet. This was the classic Victorian mincemeat. Today vegetable suets or butter tend to be used, so that most mincemeats are truly vegetarian.

Mincemeats are readily available commercially and you can pep-up a basic commercial version by adding more exciting fruit (sour cherries, blueberries, cranberries etc), by adding chopped nuts or stirring in more alcohol. However, if you want to make your own, then why not check out these home-made mincemeat recipes.

The mince pie is, of course, the classic recipe made with mincemeat. Below is a recipe for a twist on the mince pie, using chocolate pastry instead of plain.

Chocolate Mince Pies

For the Chocolate Pastry:
275g plain flour
125g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
pinch of fine sea salt
200g chilled butter, diced
2 egg yolks

For the Filling:
500g good quality mincemeat
juice of 2 clementine oranges
finely-grated zest of 2 clementine oranges
2 tbsp whole milk
1 large egg, beaten

Sift together the flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mix with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg yolks and mix into the batter until the mixture comes together in clumps (you may need to add a little cold water). Use your hands to lightly knead the mixture until it comes together as a solid dough. Cover in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for 60 minutes.

In the meantime, combine the mincemeat, orange zest and orange juice together in a bowl then set aside. Once chilled, turn the chocolate pastry out onto a lightly-floured work surface and roll out to about 5mm thick. Use a 7.5cm diameter fluted pastry cutter to stamp out 12 rounds from the pastry. Use these to line the wells of a 12-hole bun tin. Fill each piece of pastry with 2 tsp of the mincemeat mix and brush the edges with a little milk.

Now take a 6cm diameter fluted cutter and stamp our 12 more rounds from the pastry. Use these to cover the tops of each mince pie, pressing the edges of the two pastry pieces together to seal. Re-roll the remaining pastry scraps and use a snowflake or star-shaped cutter to stamp patterns from the dough.

Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg then gently sit the patterns in place then brush the tops of the mince pies again. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 200°C and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then carefully slide out onto a wire rack to cool further. Serve warm with a dollop of clotted cream.

Find more classic and modern Classic Christmas Recipes Here.

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