merry-making: day five

yes you heard right these are sweet mince pies with a twist - I was inspired by Hugh's river cottage ones and this Welsh recipe here. Its a bit of a mix of the both of them but the main thing is that there is real lamb "mince" in the mince so to speak. That is traditionally how they were always made. The filling slow cooks for four to five hours and when baked you can barely taste any meatiness - just a hint of something rich and savoury.

Yield: LOTS about 48-50 pies (in a regular sized cupcake tin or dozens of baby ones) - I've made mine for a party tomorrow, so you may like to halve the recipe for a smaller family-sized batch. Otherwise they freeze well and can be re-heated!

500g lean mince lamb
1 large apple, peeled and cubed
1 quince, peeled and cubed
750g mixed dried fruit (I used cranberries, sultanas, currents, orange peel)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
zest and juice of one orange
zest and juice of one lemon
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup brown ale
1/2 cup brandy or almond liqueur
1/2 teaspoon salt
750g plain flour
250g salted butter
100g coconut oil, crumbled
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
extra water if needed for binding

Mix all the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Let sit in the fridge for an hour or so (even overnight). Place filling in a large heavy-based saucepan and cook on a low heat (gentle simmer) for about four to five hours or until the mixture resembles a paste and is much darker than when you first started. Feel free to taste for additional spice or sugar if you like. 

Make the pastry: I found it easier to do this in two bowls with half the mixture each then in one giant bowl. I don't have any fancy mix-master or anything just my ole-faithful hands - so to make this simple shortcrust you need to rub the butter and coconut oil through through the flour until it resembles a coarse meal. Then add orange juice and as much icy cold water as needed to form a ball (or two balls) of dough. Divide the dough into three balls, flatten them into disks, wrap them in foil or cling-film and chill for 30 minutes - 1 hour. 

In the meantime preheat your oven to 190'c. Then using a fluttered round cutter (scone-cutter) cut circles that will fit nicely into your cupcake/muffin tins - you want the edges to be pushed up a bit to form a little nest for the filling. Then spoon in 1 heaped teaspoon of mincemeat into the pies before topping with a pastry star. I tried brushing some milk and sprinkling granulated sugar on some of mine for a little variety.

Enjoy piping hot! Or cold with a slice of cheddar - or however you wish - these are wonderfully flavoursome, a little different, and will surely make your house smell delicious and christmassy.