Traditional Homemade Mince Pies (and mincemeat)

December is here, so time to legitimately eat our own bodyweight in mince pies! I’ve been thinking about making mince pies for a long time – my gran used to do so, as did my mother but over time that changed. Home made mincemeat was replaced with shop bought, and ultimately my mum started buying her mince pies rather than buying them.

I wanted to have a go at making my own, but my mum was unable to track down my gran’s recipe for mincemeat. I was then going to have a go at making Nigella’s cranberry and port mincemeat but couldn’t find any fresh cranberries, so I decided to have a go at making up my own recipe! Fortunately, it was a success.

There are a lot of recipes out there for mincemeat, but they vary widely. Many use suet, although Mary Berry prefers the taste of butter. There’s usually cinnamon, but after that the spices vary from recipe to recipe. There’s usually some nutmeg and either some allspice or some mixed spice. After a bit of thought and indecision I came up with the following recipe, which makes enough to fill two jam jars with mincemeat, or 24 mince pies:

  • 75g of unsalted butter
  • 125g of soft brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of a clementine
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 400g seedless raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • About 1/2 of a nutmeg, grated
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons of port
  • 1 tablespoon of brandy

The method is really simple. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan over a low heat. When they’re well mixed, add the spices and the dried fruit and stir well – I cooked this for about 10 or 15 minutes. Finally, add the alcohol and mix in. If it seems a little too wet, you can always leave the heat on for a little longer – but as the butter cools the mixture will thicken up.

I then made a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry (125g unsalted butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 large egg, 200g plain flour, 2g salt) which was enough for 18 small mince pies using half the mincemeat, and 12 slightly larger pies using the other half.

Delicious! I definitely recommend making your own mincemeat – it’s surprisingly easy and the above recipe seems to work really well!

Pineapple, Courgette and Walnut Loaf

The government says we should always try to get our five portions of fruit and veg every day, and Thrive on Five is a great book for finding tasty ways of doing just that. We’ve made one of their cakes before and it was fantastic, serving up 2 portions per slice. This cake only serves up 1 portion per slice but that’s still a portion we’d have missed out on otherwise!

The list of ingredients is pretty long, and grating courgette is tedious work. Beyond that though, it’s pretty simple. Mashing the pineapple in a mortar and pestle was a bit tedious, and the recipe was unclear as to whether the resulting juice should go in the cake or not (I assumed it should, and this seemed to turn out OK).

End result is a great looking and tasting loaf – it took a bit longer in the oven than expected and nearly burned so I had to cover it with tin foil for the last 10 minutes. It’s not often you can have a slice of cake and say it’s one of your 5 a day though, so the effort is definitely worth it.

Banana and Cardamom Loaf

There were a pair of bananas gloating at me in the kitchen, slowly turning brown in the fruit bowl so rather than let them go to waste it seemed appropriate to try out a banana bread recipe from Nigella’s latest book, Simply Nigella.

I had to deviate from the recipe though because it calls for cacao nibs. There were only two places I could find selling these – a health food store where they were very expensive, or through the wonderful Bulk Powders website but they wouldn’t have arrived in time for when I wanted to cook this. So I took the easy option and went with dark chocolate chips instead.

The cardamom is an unusual addition but it works… I really need to invest in a proper mortar and pestle though because grinding them using a rolling pin in a bowl wasn’t the most efficient method.

End result was a success – I know this because Mark wanted a second slice!