Here is a great recipe for stretching a small amount of mincemeat into 30+ rich and delicious seasonable bites.
It is adapted from a recipe by Eliza Acton, and I’ve taken the opportunity to pair it with another of her recipes which she refers to as “Superlative Mincemeat”. Taking as an example my adaptation of Hannah Glasse’s Lenten mincemeat, I decided to try making this recipe suet-free. Now I still absolutely love Hannah’s recipe, but I also love discovering new things as well.
The mincemeat recipe is a delight for anyone who loves citrus fruit. It’s also a delight for anyone who loves a healthy slug of booze in their mincemeat. I’ve actually toned down the quantity of brandy because the alcoholic haze rising from the first test batch made my eyes water. Unusually, this mincemeat includes two boiled lemons, chopped finely, which add a real zing to the overall flavour. Once the lemons have been prepared, the method is very similar to the original fat-free mincemeat.
A portion of this mincemeat is then enriched and sweetened with sugar, fresh lemon, egg yolks and butter and used to fill pastry-lined mini tins. The pastry I’ve used is the sweet version of the cornflour shortcrust, flavoured with orange zest, and cut out using a flower cookie cutter. After an initial baking, the pies are topped with meringue and then baked for a further few minutes until nicely browned.
These little pies are extremely rich, which is why baking them in a mini muffin pan is ideal. The filling sets into a dense cross between Christmas pudding and Christmas cake and the crunchy meringue is a great contrast. This quantity makes about 30 mini pies, perfect as petites fours or to serve with coffee. You can keep them in a tin, but the meringues will go a little soft after 24 hours.
You can, of course, use any mincemeat and pastry you have to hand instead.
Makes about 1kg of mincemeat
2 small lemons (about 170g)
The weight of the lemons in raisins, currants and chopped dates
85g candied orange peel, chopped small
85g candied citron peel, chopped small
30-50g caster sugar
60ml apple juice
1tsp grated nutmeg
0.5tsp ground mace
1tsp ground ginger
- Put the lemons into a small saucepan and cover with cold water.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Drain the water and scrub the sides of the pan to remove the bitter lemon oil.
- Rinse the lemons also.
- Repeat 3 times, until the lemons are tender and a clove can be pushed through the skin.
- Cut open the lemons and remove the pips.
- Dice the pulp and rind finely.
- Put the lemons and the rest of the ingredients into a small pan over a low heat.
- Cover and allow the fruit to plump up. Stir occasionally.
- If the fruit seems a little dry, add more liquid – your choice whether it’s alcoholic or not.
- If the mixture seems too wet, uncover and allow the excess to evaporate.
- Set aside to cool.
Orange Cornflour Pastry
225g plain flour
140g unsalted butter
85g caster sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 large egg
- Put everything except the egg into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Whisk the egg and, with the motor running, gradually add to the mixture until it comes together in a ball. You might not require all the egg, or you might need additional liquid if the mix looks a little dry. If you have extra egg-white, tat would be ideal, otherwise use water.
- Knead the pastry smooth and wrap in plastic.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until required.
Eliza Acton’s Mince Pies Royale
3 large eggs
30g clarified butter
juice and zest of 1 lemon
40g caster sugar
pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Separate the eggs.
- Mix together the mincemeat, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice and the sugar.
- Warm the butter until just melted and stir in.
- Grease a large (24 cup) mini muffin pan.
- Roll out the pastry very thinly. It is easier to work with either 1/3 or 1/2 of the pastry at a time.
- Cut out pastry and use it to line the mini muffin pan. For a lovely, neat edge to your pies, I recommend using a flower-shaped pastry cutter. The petals help to avoid the dreaded folds which can sometimes be an issue with the pastry for mini tarts.
- Add a teaspoon of the enriched mincemeat mixture to each tartlet.
- Bake for 7-8 minutes until the middle has set and the pastry is cooked.
- If you’ve got filling and pastry left over (and you probably will), use them up first by making a second batch of tartlets before making the meringue. Arrange the cooked tartlets on a baking sheet, ready for the meringue.
- While the tarts are baking, make the meringue.
- You won’t need to use all of the egg white, so I suggest using just half.
- Put a bowl onto your scales and set them to zero.
- Pour in the amount of egg-white you will be using and make a note of the weight.
- Measure out an equivalent amount of caster sugar.
- Whisk the egg-whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks.
- Whisk in the sugar, a spoonful at a time until the meringue is firm and glossy.
- Spoon the meringue into a piping bag. You choose what style of nozzle to fit.
- When all the tarts are baked and arranged on a baking sheet, pipe the meringue on top. Make sure the meringue covers all of the filling and goes right to the edge of the pastry.
- Return the tarts to the oven for 5-7 minutes until the meringue is nicely browned.
- Cool the tartlets on a wire rack.