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The world’s best home made mince pies

Summer Christmas for us in New Zealand! The weather has been lovely, although a summer Christmas still seems SO wrong. However, I’m not going to allow the thermometer to dictate my festive foods. My brother has come out for a visit with his family, so we have a great reason to cook up a storm. They’ve been here two days and so far we’ve baked Gingerbread Christmas stars for the kids to decorate, easy banana muffins, eaten a lot of my traditional Christmas cake and some mince pies. Actually, rather a lot of mince pies. And they are amazing! This is not an exaggeration. My brother, who is a mince pie connoisseur, has rated these as the best ever. Considering he’s had our Gran’s incredibly yummy ones, and some also seriously posh British ones (from whence these originate), he is well placed to judge.

Some people like flaky mince pie pastry cases (eeurgh) and the people with really good taste prefer a good, short, crumbly sweet shortcrust. I’m sure you can tell which camp I fall into.

The filling I made using a recipe, highly recommended by a friend, from stuff.co.nz and includes figs, ginger and chocolate. Good mix. Great mix actually. I’m never making plain sultana mince ever again. Ideally you want to make this a couple of months before making the mince pies. For the pastry I combined a couple of recipes to make a short sweet pastry that I liked. I baked mine in small catering foil pastry cases because they help my pastry cases get nice and crisp. However, you can use a muffin tin for small muffins, simply don’t use the full height of the muffin holes. Christmas Mince Pies

The Fig, Ginger and Chocolate Mince Filling

Ingredients:

3 cups packed dried figs
1 cup sultanas
1/4 cup crystallised ginger
150g dark chocolate
1 apple, peeled and grated
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup brandy

Method:

Chuck everything apart from the brandy and sugar into your food processor and roughly chop. Mix through the sugar and brandy.

Cover and leave in a cool place for two days, stirring occasionally.

Pack into two large sterilised jars and seal well. Leave to mature for at least 1 month before using.

Sweet shortcrust pastry (for approx 36 pies)

Ingredients:

450g cold butter cut into cubes
700g plain flour
200g golden caster sugar
1 jar of your mince meat
2 small eggs
around 4 tablespoons of cold water

Method:

Cut the butter into the flour. Try and use a pastry cutter if you can to keep the butter from melting. If you don’t have one, use a sturdy fork, or rub it in with your hands. Once the butter and flour mix resembles fine bread crumbs, stir in the sugar. Using a spoon, quickly stir through the eggs, and use a teeny amount of water to bind the pastry dough together. You are looking for a fairly dry and crumbly mix that only just holds itself together. I used 4 tablespoons of water today, but this can vary. Add a tablespoon at a time and see how you go. If you add too much, the dough will get sticky and be useless.

Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C (fan). Roll the pastry out to approximately 3mm thickness. You want the pastry to be quite thin if you can manage it. Cut rounds slightly bigger than your  muffin tin openings so that you can form the base and sides of the pastry bases. Fill these 2/3rds full with your mincemeat. Cut a smaller round or a shape to top off the pie. If you use a solid circle for the topping, don’t forget to poke a cross with a knife to let the steam out. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Once cooled on a cooling rack, top with sprinkled icing sugar.

If you want to freeze these, do so before baking them.

 

 

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Apricot and Almond Tart

Some of you may have noticed my absence from blogging over the last month or so. Life has suddenly become very busy; we have an impending emigration looming, so I’ve been busy sorting, decluttering and partially packing things. Its very stressful and exciting at the same time, but isn’t leaving me much room for cooking anything decent. We’ve been relying on an embarrassing number of take out meals. Both sad, and boring!

As an added bonus, it has been absolutely freezing cold here. Last week we had a sprinkling of snow, just enough to disrupt everything. And today, at a chilly -4 degrees C, everything is frozen and covered in frost. It looks fairyland beautiful, but is definitely a day for perking myself up with a reminder that summer will be back, eventually.

My chefy friend L over at Colour Me Happy Kitchen, who did some epic jam making with me earlier in the year, came up with the MOST delicious Apricot Almond sunshine tart that just sings of sunshine! Her version is gluten AND dairy free, whereas mine is just dairy free. You could switch out the dairy free spread for butter if you are a butter only cooking snob, but honestly, this tart is delicious and light as is, so you really don’t need to.

This was very simple to make. We had this a few weeks ago as a dessert for a dinner party and while I was putting my kids to bed, my sneaky guests dished it up and gobbled it down so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to take any photos of it ready to eat. They were however, nice enough to leave me the barest sliver to eat. Thanks guys!

Apricot Almond TartAdapted from Colour Me Happy Kitchen’s All-in-one Apricot and Almond Sunshine Tart:

Ingredients:

75g dairy-free sunflower spread

100g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 beaten eggs

30g plain flour

75g ground almonds

a tin of halved apricots

Method:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

Grease an 18cm cake tin with a loose bottom (I used a silicone tart case)

Mix the sugar and sunflower spread together in a bowl until well combined. Add the vanilla extract.

Beat in one egg till well combined, then add the other egg and beat till combined. Gently stir in the flour and ground almonds before spreading over the base of your cake tin. The dough is quite thick and you don’t need to worry about spreading it all the way to the edge.

Drain the tinned apricots and place them evenly all over the mix, rounded side up, without pressing them in.

Bake for about 25 minutes until the almond mixture has risen up around the apricots and turned golden brown. Let your tart cool in the tin for a few minutes before loosening with a knife and lifting out of the tin. You can cool it on a wire rack or on the tin base, but my dinner guests ate it pretty much straight out of the oven.

This goes brilliantly with a dollop of pouring cream or ice cream, but I enjoyed it on its own. A delicious shot of sunshine to brighten up a frosty winter day!


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Plum Clafoutis

Ages ago, Wendy over at Chez Chloe made the most delicious plum cake. Now I make plum cake all the time, but hers was different, and her photos so delicious looking that I felt inspired to make something else with my plums.  I was planning on a nice scrummy plum clafoutis. The little Toddler has a great love of plums and kept eating them, so I never had enough to make the dessert. Eventually, about 10 days ago, I was frantically using up ingredients before we headed off on a little holiday. And I had a GLUT of plums that even the Toddler couldn’t finish in time. We enjoyed this with my in-laws who were out for a visit.

Clafoutis is a fantastic French recipe that is based on a simple egg custard. You can make it as a sweet dessert or a savoury light meal. The dessert version was traditionally made with whole cherries (presumably stoned), but it is equally delicious with blueberries, apricots or of course, plums. Supposedly you should chop up larger fruits into cherry sized pieces, but I’ve honestly never bothered. Halved plums with stones removed work really well. If you’re keen on savoury, I can really recommend adding a little sharp grated cheese and asparagus! Remove the sugar from the custard for the savoury version of course.

Ingredients:

3 eggs

2 and a 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar

4 tablespoons plain flour

200ml of milk or milk alternative (I used Almond milk)

Enough of your fruit of choice (stoned) to cover the base of your pie dish in a single layer. Tightly packed is ideal. This will be roughly 400g of cherries or about 8 plums, halved.

A tablespoon of icing sugar

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C

Grease your pie dish and place your fruit in a single layer on the base.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

Gently fold in half the flour and milk and then the other half of the flour and milk to get a smooth batter.

Pour the batter over the fruit and bake for roughly 45 minutes until set.

Dredge with icing sugar while still hot and serve the clafoutis warm.

It goes really well with icecream!