Wednesday, 4 December 2013

CT's Mincepie (or pince mie if you've been at the brandy) Recipe, Birds In The Garden, and Dylan Comes To Play

I'm a cobbler-togtherer of recipes and this one is no exception. 

Most shop-bought mincemeat contains oranges and candied fruit. I avoid orange because of the migraine connection, and am not massively keen on candied fruits, so my recipe has nuts, apples and cranberries in place of candied fruit and oranges, and cranberry juice in place of lemon juice, but you can substitute them all back in if you prefer and it will work just as well. 

I suppose if we were feeling a bit affectationy, we could re-brand them 'CT's Cranberry and Almond Mincepies' but we're not, so we won't.

The pastry is also cobbled together from several recipes. You can roll it out onto icing sugar which coats it and makes it sweet when it's cooked. I tend to roll it quite thick, which I think is the secret of a good mince pie (that and the homemade mincemeat).

CT's Mincemeat Ingredients
4oz sultanas
4oz currants
2oz cranberries
6oz raisins
6oz brown sugar
8oz suet (vegetable is fine)
2oz almonds, sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
a few splashes of cranberry and blackcurrant juice
several sloshes of brandy
various shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg, mixed spice and ground all spice, or anything else you like

1. Put all the ingredients except the brandy in a bowl and mix together.
2. Leave in a cool place with a cloth over the bowl for 12 hours.
3. Transfer the mixture into a oven-proof bowl, cover with foil and cook at 120 degrees C or 1/4 gas mark for an hour (check at 30 mins to see how it's going. I tend to ignore cooking times because all ovens are different. Basically, you don't want it to look dry so get it out before it does and don't worry if it looks like it's swimming in fat because it coats all the ingredients as it dries).
4. Stir from time to time as it cools to make sure all elements have suet on them
5. When the mincemeat is cold, add the brandy (again, I ignore quantities and add to taste instead).
6. If not using it straightaway, pack in sterilised jars. The mincemeat will keep happily in a cool dark cupboard for 2-3 years (if it doesn't get eaten long before then!). It's important to remember that this is where mincemeat differs from children - they tend to complain if you put them in a cupboard and don't much like being eaten either.

Sultanas, raisins, currants and cranberries mixed together

Chop the almonds
Chop the apples

Add them to the fruit

Add sugar
And spices

And the suet and mix all together, then leave with a cloth over the top in a cool place for 12 hours.

 I urge you to sniff it during this period- the smells it releases are wonderful!
Once cooked it will look like this. Remember to stir is as it cools to keep the suet from congealing in unattractive grey blobs. Yum.
Add the brandy when it's cold and put it in a pot if not using immediately.
There. Easy Peasy. 

Now you have absolutely NO EXCUSE for not making your own - it really isn't complicated or time consuming, and once you've done it you WILL NOT go back to the shop-bought stuff I promise. Plus the smells when it is cooking are heavenly and so redolent of Christmas, if it doesn't get you in the mood for the festive season nothing will (especially if you stick some carols on in the background, which I always do, and sing along loudly to them. This will probably result in your family swiftly leaving the room with their fingers in their ears).

Of course, if you're making your own mincemeat there is no way you can ruin it with shop-bought pastry, so here is mine:

CT's Pastry Recipe
10oz plain flour
6oz butter
3oz golden unrefined caster sugar
1 egg yolk (or to be honest one whole egg- it doesn't make any difference, saves time and is less fiddly, plus you don't then have to also make meringues).
3 tbsp milk (ish)
Flour or icing sugar to roll the pastry out on

1. Rub butter into flour (I do everything in a mixer)
2. Stir in sugar
3. Add egg (or just yolk) and milk and mix to a dough (sides of bowl should be clean so not too sticky- if it is just add more flour. Likewise, if too dry drip some more milk or water in)
4. Roll out (on flour or icing sugar) to required thickness
5. Cut into relevant disc size and put discs of pastry in greased tart or pie tray moulds.
6. Add teaspoons or larger of mincepie mix to the discs
7. Put lid on and seal by squeezing round lid edges with your fingers to stick it down. Prick it with a fork. 
8. Brush with milk if you are feeling particularly posh, otherwise frankly I don't bother. You can dust with icing sugar instead if you haven't already rolled it out on some.
9. Bake in the oven at 150 (or whatever your cake baking temp usually is) for anything from 15-25 mins, depending on how golden the pastry looks and also how efficient and well-behaved your oven is. Mine is aged and therefore given to capriciousness; you have to know its quirks in order to cajole it into cooking rather than incinerating things. We are Old Friends so this is fine. I would just apply the same individual rules to your own oven when it comes to baking times and temps.

You will glean from these instructions that I'm a bit of a kitchen slut when it comes to accurate weights/ measures and cooking times (and to be honest ingredients and temperatures). I generally apply a gut-instinct-and-experiment-with-it-approach, which includes tasting the mix at all stages and altering ingredients accordingly if needs be. If you know your oven well you'll also know how long its safe to leave things in it. M always says there is no such thing as a bad pudding, so I would hold and your nose and jump and see what happens!

Flour and butter combined, it's time to add the egg and milk
Mix that all in together

You'll know the pastry's the right consistency when it comes clean away from the mixing bowl

I always tip mine out into another bowl to smooth it off with extra flour if any is needed

Roll to desired thickness- fatter for the base, thinner for the lids is my rule

press the unfilled pastry cases into the pie tray

Add the mincemeat
Put their hats on, prick them with a fork, dust with icing sugar and bung in the oven

Hey Presto! 20 mins later you have the Finished Article. Now all you need are the people to eat them.

Would love to know how you get on if you try the recipe so please do let me know.

In the midst of all this Impressive Kitchen Activity, ma came round to introduce Diarrhoea Dylan to Pops on her own territory. She spent 5 minutes super-glued to me staring at him anxiously while Ted sniffed her anxiously before she decided that having another puppy in the house to play with might actually be good fun, and then we couldn't keep them apart...

Look at the expression of pure terror on Dylan's little face, and the furious one on our little monster's.

After he'd gone home she collapsed in her bed and has been asleep ever since!

The dogs are all spending Christmas day together, so that's Ted, Poppy, Diarhhoea Dylan, Dingleberry Dougal and my sister's black lab Ember, so I am keen to get Poppy acclimatised to them before then or I'll spend the entire day with her stuck to me for comfort. L has perfected the art of rocking her in his arms as one does with a baby- she loves it and settles very quickly for him, so if nothing else he and I can share Poppy-Soothing duties on Crimble Day.

I put the Moth Box out last night. It was cold and there was a single moth- A December Moth, who I think I shall re-christen The Christmas Moth - in the box this morning. I was going to get a photo for you but when I checked ten minutes ago he had disappeared. Somewhere in the house there is a small brown furry person who should really be outside. No doubt he'll reappear when it starts to get dark.

While waiting for the mincepies to cook I got some bird pics. Having refilled the feeders this morning the garden has been alive with them all...


Bumble, my female chaffinch, so named for the bumblefoot she has- you can see it on her right foot in this pic. I haven't seen her since the Spring so am very glad to know she is still around. Bumblefoot is a condition common in female chaffinches and is essentially a lump-like growth that developes around their foot, It doesn't seem to bother her much and hasn't prevented her doing well.

The nuthatch pair are still around

I'll leave you with the damp view across the lake from our back door. 

Hope you're all having a good week,



  1. I always used to make mincemeat, years and years ago, and then I stopped because I am the only one who enjoys a mince pie chez nous. But looking at that recipe I am thinking, 'I don't CARE if no-one else likes mince pies. I am going to make some for ME!' (Much as I did with the Christmas Pud this year.)

    I am going to follow your recipe, me deario, as soon as I have finished the school term and have time to get mucky in the kitchen! X

    1. Oh Goody! You won't be disappointed. You could halve the quantities? Or just stick the excess in a pot- I've had batches last over two years quite happily.

      Yes indeedy, roll on end of term. I am Waiting To Collapse once the holidays start and plan on doing nothing remotely academic for the whole two weeks, which will be LUXURY! x

  2. Phew, I'm exhausted by this post all that cooking-it's not for me....I just like to eat, sadly you can't have one without the other. And you managed bird photography in between-I would be in chaos with my fat cat trying to eat everything on the worktops and another pulling at my jeans because I wasn't paying him attention :)

    1. Ah, go on Suze, you won't be disappointed... Or praps I'll just send you some already made up for crimble!

      We have a Poppy-free-zone in the kitchen by way of a board she can't climb over. Ted knows better than to set foot in there when I'm cooking, so I'm in no danger of tripping over either of them or (worse still) dropping something hot on them :-)

  3. Wow you are spoiling us with recipes today CT and I'll pass them along to my sisters to see if they would like to try them out :-) However as fantastic as I am sure they will be, I doubt they'll be better than me mums though that will probably be down to my sisters kitchen skills rather than your excellent recipe ;-)

    I haven't had the moth trap out since last week and after three blanks in a row I'm having a bit of a moth-ing break. However what with milder weather forecast for next week I might have another go before the year is out.

    Love the bird pics and living as I do in a region of the country where Nuthatches are a real rarity I am super envious of your garden pair :-)

    1. You are a lovely and loyal son :-) Hope your sisters like them - I feel under pressure now! :-)

      Yup, I'm also scaling down moth production but will do the odd night between now and warmer weather, out of curiosity as much as anything else. The Dec Moth reappeared as night fell and has been returned to the Great Outdoors.

      Wishing you a pair of Christmas Nuthatches for your garden, CT x

  4. Thank you so much for teaching us how to make mince pies! I love them so much! I will be heading to London soon and will try to get all the spices! The birds pics are splendid, the dogs just lovely and I have never heard of moth box! So interesting and useful I assume! Enjoy life! Christa

    1. I don't know why we only eat them at Christmas, except, I suppose, they are more special if only eaten at a certain time of year. Enjoy your trip to London x

  5. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Although we don't eat mince pies here I love the look of it and so I shall keep it to impress guests. I'm still behind with Christmas preparations and I feel there is a clock ticking somewhere. Must do more.
    Poppy does look as though she's just lurched at a terrified Dylan but I'm glad they all ending up having fun.
    I love the Nuthatch pair. I wish we had some here. And I'm glad Bumble isn't troubled by her foot.

    1. I'm worryingly up to date with crimble and now thinking I may have peaked too soon and will be fed up with it by the time it arrives properly! x

  6. I have a problem with grapes in any form so need a recipe without sultanas and raisins.......difficult. I hate candied peel too so I'm a bit stuffed. Oh - I'm a kitchen slut too by the way! x

    1. How about dates, prunes or apricots and other types of berry? Mixed in with nuts, apples and cranberry and spices and of course brandy I reckon that would do the job. Glad it's not just me re the sluttish kitchen habits!! x

  7. That looks a great mincemeat recipe CT - I normally follow one from an old BBC Good Food magazine but I like your idea of cranberries especially as my daughter doesn't like mixed peel. Interesting that you cook it because I've never cooked mine!!! You are so right that its worth making - it really is easy and fairly quick (compared to a Christmas Cake or Pudding) and so worth the effort. 100 x better than bought and as you say the smells wafting round are heavenly :)

    Your finished mince pies look great :)

    I've trapped several times this week - resulting in a Winter Moth. Sadly no December moths here.

    1. That's fascinating about the cooking- presumably it all gets done when you cook the actual pie instead. I can't stand mixed peel and the cranberries are a really lovely substitution.

      Haven't had a winter moth here yet... :-)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x