The mince pie first appeared in the Middle Ages and yes, they contained minced meat, usually mutton. They also contained cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, spices brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders. Mince pies were known as Christmas pye because these exotic flavourings represented the gifts offered to the Christ child by the Three Kings, and they have since been commonly associated with Christmas. They weren’t always baked into the shape that we have grown accustomed to nowadays and used to be oblong, like a manger. A figurine of the baby Jesus was placed onto the pie and removed for the children to play with before the pie was eaten. As time went by the pies got smaller and eventually, the meat was removed from the ingredients altogether, leaving only suet, spices and dried fruit soaked in brandy. Incidentally, when Oliver Cromwell was in power he considered Christmas to be a holiday that promoted gluttony and drunkenness so he abolished it, and he considered mince pies as a guilty forbidden pleasure. Thankfully this didn’t last. When Charles II ascended the throne Christmas was restored, and so was the mince pie that we know and love today.
Makes 24 mini mince pies
For the rose pastry:
100g (31/2oz) unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
150g (5oz) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp rosewater
1/2 to 1 tbsp chilled water
For the filling:
200g (7oz) good quality mincemeat
1 tbsp icing sugar
You will need two 12-cup mini muffin trays.
This pastry is best made the day before.
Cut the butter into cubes and put into a food processor with the flour and salt.
Using the cutting blade, blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and pulse it until it is all mixed.
Add the rosewater, and slowly add the chilled water whilst pulsing.
Pulse the mixture until it binds together into a ball.
Scoop it out of the food processor and dust it with flour.
Shape the dough into a thick disc.
Cover it with cling film and chill it in the fridge for an hour.
Allow the pastry to come back to room temperature before using it.
Butter the two mini muffin trays.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180 °C Fan).
Roll out the pastry on a floured board, and dust your rolling pin with flour too.
Roll it as thin as you can.
Cut it into 12 discs using an upturned glass or biscuit cutter, with a diameter of about 6 1/2cm (3”).
Push the pastry discs into the muffin cups.
Scoop about 1/2 tsp of mincemeat into each cup.
Cut little tops for the tarts from the remaining dough in the shape of stars, hearts or the more traditional discs.
Place one top on to each pie.
Place the muffin trays in the oven and bake them for 15 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool slightly.
Dust the pies by putting the icing sugar into a sieve and gently shaking it over the pies.