My Delicious Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

Sweet pastry Mince pies

I love mince pies, I love mince pies so much. Lilly and I set a challenge this December to try all of the mince pies we could possibly get our hands on in Jersey. Shall I let you into a secret none of them match up to today’s recipe. We hope you like them just as much.

A bit of Mince Pie history

Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Today when we make mince pies we omit the meat but most recipes contain suet. You can use the tradition beef suet or a vegetarian option if you prefer.

My Last Minute Mincemeat Recipe

You can use a good quality mince meat but you might like to use my own quite luxurious recipe. As with a lot of my recipes you can always adopt to your own tastes. You can add Drambuie instead of brandy, some freshly grated orange zest,  and fresh cranberries for example.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Buttery sweet pastry mince pies ready for baking

The best Mince Pie Recipe

The basic recipe is for sweet buttery sable pastry and any left overs can be used to make Christmas biscuits. You can make the pastry ahead and freeze and defrost as you require. If you want to make a more traditional cover seal the edges with a little cold water, top with pastry and snip a small hole in the top.

Mincemeat is traditionally made in advance and stored in sterilised air-tight jars but I this recipe is just as good and read to use immeadiately.
Sable pastry Christmas cookies

Christmas Biscuits – Great for making with the kids

My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too. 

My Christmas biscuits or cookies

sable Pastry

The recipe is a variety of Sable pastry a rich egg and butter enriched recipe from France. You can use sable pastry for making tart cases, Linzer biscuits and wonderful festive mince pies. The classic central European Christmas recipe Linzer torte is made from a sable pastry. It is filled with jam and topped with a pastry lattice. The word “sable” is French for sand which you will see perfectly describes the grainy texture when you make the biscuits. The end result is a fine crumbly texture.

Sable dough

Decorating your biscuits

You may decorate your biscuits however your choose. It is great fun with my two girls as we have a rather over stocked baking cupboard and they run riot. You can purchase a wide range of decorations now in good supermarkets and speciality baking shops. Alongside old favourites such as hundreds and thousands you can buy edible glitter, gold and silver decorations and many more. You can use royal icing to decorate your finished biscuits if you have some from decorating your Christmas cake. If not you will find a recipe for a basic water icing which is perfectly suitable.

Decorated Christmas biscuits

You can find more recipes for festive biscuits and Christmas bakes here. Enjoy.

Rich buttery biscuits made from a Sable style pastry. If you want to hang your biscuits on your tree make a hole in the dough before baking. You can use a pen top or small sharp knife. Make sure you don’t make the hole to close to the edge.

Start your Christmas Culinary Countdown on Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday

Stir up Sunday? Christmas Culinary Countdown? What is that I hear you cry? Well this Sunday is thirty days before Christmas and a week before Advent. Advent, yes the thing with the calendar! Stir up Sunday is a Victorian tradition where the family gathered together to make the Christmas pudding or plum duff. The tradition is believed to originated from families listening to the collect for the day from the Book of Common Prayer for this particular day;

 ‘ Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. ’

Advent is observed in Christian churches as a time of waiting and preparing for the Nativity.  Advent is derived from the Latin for “coming”. So your pudding is bound in the Christian Christmas tradition. And you thought Advent was all about a calendar with little doors and chocolate. So this special time would seem good enough for me to be the perfect start posting my Christmas recipes.

A Christmas Countdown

I am going to post lots of recipes in the run up to Christmas. A collection of classic dishes and a few unexpected twists in case you don’t like Turkey, so that you will be able to cook up a cracker of a Christmas. In this post you will find lots of ideas for home baking this festive season.

Get your Christmas Bake On

Lets look at a couple of the iconic Christmas recipes the Christmas pudding and the fruit cake. Now you don’t have to be scared or be a baker capable of winning the Great British Bake Off to make a great Christmas pudding or cake. As you will see it is really about preparation and making in advance.

Just click on the dish name for the recipe.

Aunty Mary’s Christmas Pudding

“This recipe is from one of my culinary inspirations my Aunty Mary, a brilliant cook, it really is the best I’ve ever encountered with lots of dried fruits, citrus peel and good soaking in some good beer, and now I work for a brewery how the circle has turned. We used to spend most of the day sorting through the dried raisins and sultanas to make sure there were no small stones in the bags, then they would be left overnight in stout.”

Christmas fruit cake

“For those of you who like to be organised now is an ideal time to start to prepare your Classic Fruit Cake for the festive season and start preparing your Christmas pudding and your mincemeat. This is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or our family Christmas Cake, it is a sufficiently sturdy bake to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and can be used in tiers.”

Sable pastry Christmas cookies
Sable pastry Christmas biscuits

Christmas Biscuits

“My Christmas biscuits or cookies are a definite family favourite. They are great if you want to make something with your children to decorate the Christmas tree. But don’t worry they are very tasty too.”

Mixed Jam Linzer biscuits
Assorted Linzer Biscuits

Linzer Biscuits

Linzer biscuits are made with sable pastry which is cut into rounds and baked. The top biscuit often has a small cut out which allows the jam or fruit preserve to be seen when two biscuits are sandwiched together with jam in between. The finished biscuits are dusted with icing sugar


Biscotti

“Biscotti or cantucci ( most commonly used in Tuscany ) are delicious twice-baked Italian biscuits. They are usually made with almonds. Traditionally they are served with a sweet Italian dessert wine called Vin Santo. You might also find them on the side of a cappuccino or latte. To be honest I’m very happy dipping them in nothing more than a mug of tea. We always make several batches at home, in December, as they are a wonderful handmade small gift at Christmas time.”

Sweet pastry mince pies

Homemade Buttery Mince Pies

“Mince pies are a peculiarly British individual pie now eaten across the English speaking world. They are traditionally served over the Christmas period. Although in America they are more likely to be made in large tart cases and eaten at Thanksgiving. It is thought the name is derived from mince meat and preserved fruit pies first bought back during the crusades. These would have been quite heavily spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. “

Classic Beef and Ale Pie – British Food Fortnight

Love British Food logo

Summer seems to have come to a chilly, wet and blustery end and it is time for an overhaul of the summer salads and barbecues and start to cook some of my favourite foods, warming soups, hearty stews and casseroles, and traditional pies and puddings. As we shift into Autumn if you are a bit of a foodie you will know it is also time to celebrate National Cask Ale Week* and to promote British Food Fortnight, and if you follow this blog you will also know how I feel about some of the more obscure food promotions but as my day job is working for a brewery pub chain this is an ideal opportunity for me to promote two great passions, classic British pub food accompanied with a pint or two and what can be more suitable than a traditional Beef and Ale pie, a real pub favourite.

 

Braised Beef and Ale Pie
Beef and Ale Pie

Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.

Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.

Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.

 *Most of my recipes now include a beer and a wine choice to match the dish.

 Love British Food logo

More Great British Recipes

Classic Beer Battered Fish and Chips

The Best Ever Bramley Apple Crumble

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings

Shepherd’s Pie

 

Braised Beef and Ale Pie

Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can adapt the recipe further sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking. I am using Liberation Ale ( obviously ) but you can substitute any good flavoursome beer of your choice Adnams Broadside and Fullers ESB are other personal favourites.

 1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks

( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin

and ask the butcher to give you the bone )

500 gr Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped

750 ml quality Beef Stock

500 ml Liberation Ale or a good Ale of your choice

100 ml quality Olive Oil or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping

100 gr Plain Flour

2 tablespoons Tomato Puree

1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

Fine Sea Salt & freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

Ready-made puff pastry

(use an all-butter one if you can) or Shortcrust

1 free-range Egg, beaten

Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the beer and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.

Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.

To serve, preheat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish. Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked. Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas or seasonal greens.

Wine

What to Drink? A fruity, smooth spicy new world Merlot is a perfect match with the rich, full flavours of the slow-cooked gravy or have a pint of the ale that you cooked with.

 

 

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk    Eggs  Celery  Raw Fish In the Worcestershire sauce

Please see the Allergens Page

Clovelly, Devon

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone;
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.

However you pronounce the word everyone loves a scone, we are eating our way through North Devon and the Devonshire Cream Tea is a big favourite. To my mind, at least a large pot of freshly brewed tea and a plate of warm scones ready to be smothered in clotted cream ( never whipped and just don’t even bother with a tin of squirty cream ) and strawberry jam is one of civilisations greatest treats. There is some controversy between those great rivals Devon and Cornwall as to the correct way of eating a scone, cream, and jam or scone, jam, and cream, but they are united on no butter.

Scones with jam and clotted cream
Scones with jam and clotted cream

Families all have their own favoured recipes; my mum used the Bero flour baking book and the recipes can often include raisins or currents and even mixed peel and glacé cherries. In America blueberry scones are popular, you can also make savoury scones with ingredients such as cheese, bacon, onion, dill, and chives, cheese scones are almost the New Zealand national dish. The baked scone should not be confused with the dropped scone, or drop scone, which is like a pancake, and made by dropping or pouring batter onto a hot griddle or frying pan to cook it.

Clovelly, Devon
Clovelly, Devon

Now we haven’t visited too many gardens and stately homes on our holiday as the girls are a little young, we did discover Clovelly* and it’s fantastic almost vertical cobbled streets, but the author Sarah Clelland seems to have the almost perfect job she has visited and wrote about scones at over a hundred National Trust properties. I’m not sure I can think of ten different scone recipes so maybe I need to go try some more. In the meantime, here is my go-to scone recipe.

*We discovered Clovelly has a Channel Islands connection and was used as a location for the film ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’. Just don’t ever ask why Guernsey was not a location.

Classic Sweet Scone Recipe

The secret to making light crumbly scones is to handle the dough as little and as lightly as possible. Many recipes call for buttermilk, this is not always easy to get hold of, so this recipe substitutes a little lemon juice and milk. The acid helps activate the baking powder to aerate the scone mix.

350 gr Self Raising Flour, plus more for dusting

85 gr cold unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

175 ml Full Fat Milk

40 gr Golden Caster Sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

A generous pinch of Salt

A beaten egg with a little milk for the glaze

Pre-heat your oven to 425 F / 200 C / Gas Mark 7. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl and using a metal whisk, mix thoroughly together. Add the butter then rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  Add the golden caster sugar and gently mix in with a fork.

Pour the milk into a small heavy-bottomed pan and warm over a low heat. It does not want to boil or form a skin it should be just warm to the touch. Add the lemon juice and stir, make a dip in the middle of your crumb mix, add the milk and quickly combine with the fork. Once the mix comes together to stop, it is really important from now on to try not to overwork the dough.

Now comes the slightly mess part, sprinkle some extra flour on to your work surface, over the dough and onto your hands, tip the dough on to the flour and gently knead it three or four times to make a smooth formed ball of dough. Sprinkle a little more flour then gently pat the dough down until it is a level four centimetres thick. Take your cutter or a sharp cook’s knife if you prefer diamonds and press straight into the dough trying not to twist. Place the cut scones onto a flat baking tray. Combine any remaining dough into a ball and press into the cutter, this last scone will probably not rise as much as the others. Brush the scones with the egg wash and carefully place into your oven.

Bake for ten minutes until the scones are risen and golden on the top. Eat still warm, generously topped with jam and clotted cream. The scones can be frozen, defrosted and warmed through in the oven.

Allergens in this recipe are;

  Flour   Milk  eggs (1).jpg

Please see the Allergens Page

Homemade Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Easy Peasy Cheese Straws – this recipe contains no peas!

WARNING THIS IS A RECIPE FOR SERIOUSLY ADDICTIVE CHEESY NIBBLES

This is a very simple recipe to produce mouth-watering, addictive bar snacks or party nibbles, puff pastry Cheese Straws. Unlike American cheese straws when a flavoured cheese pastry is piped on to baking trays, these straws are made with puff pastry. Puff pastry, as I posted previously, is one of those items where I think the shop bought item is pretty damn good and you are hard pressed to make such a uniform pastry at home. That is what makes this Cheese Straws recipe really easy peasy, they are great for parties or as a garnish for French Onion soup instead of the classic toasted croute, but be warned make a seriously generous amount as you will eat loads of these.

Homemade Puff Pastry Cheese Straws
Cheddar and Parmesan Cheese Straws

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws     makes 30 to 40

350 gr frozen Puff Pastry

60 gr very finely grated Cheddar Cheese

30 gr very finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Smoked Paprika

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 fresh free-range Egg

30 ml  fresh Milk

Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. On a clean floured worktop roll out your pastry into a rectangle about one eighth on an inch thick. Whisk the egg and milk together and brush over half the pastry. Cover with three quarters of the Cheddar and Parmesan and a generous sprinkle of paprika and black pepper. Fold over the other half of the pastry and roll out again until just over half a centimeter of an inch thick.

Cheese Straws 2

Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut the pastry into thin strips about the width of a finger. Working quickly place the strips on to a baking tray covered with baking parchment. Then hold a straw at each end gently twist three or four times and replace onto the tray.

Cheese Straws 3

Repeat until all the straws are twisted. Brush with the remaining egg wash and carefully cover with remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle with more paprika and a little salt. Place in oven and bake until the straws are puffed up, light golden brown in colour and crispy.

You can vary the recipe by replacing the Cheddar with Gouda or Gruyère and finishing the straws before you bake them with any of the following; freshly cracked black pepper, sesame, poppy and fennel seeds, smoked sea salt ( this is delicious ), freshly chopped thyme or rosemary and finally if you like heat cayenne pepper or chilli pepper flakes.