With Christmas just around the corner, now is the time to perfect your homemade mince pies from scratch – infinitely better than those bought from a shop, and definitely more rewarding.

(makes about 12)

You will need…

Pastry (almond shortcrust)

10 oz plain flour
6 oz butter
3 oz icing sugar
1 oz ground almonds
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk
The grated rind of a half a lemon  

Preheat the oven to 190ºC

Sift the flour into a large bowl and cut the butter into small cubes (mine aren’t very cube-like, more chunks…but you get the idea)
Separate the egg from the white
In a cup, mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of milk
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, and add the almonds (much easier if the butter isn’t too cold)
Add the lemon rind and icing sugar, lightly mix
Add the milk and egg yolk mix from the cup, mould into a dough (if it won’t bind, add a little more milk at a time, until it will)
Knead lightly then allow to rest for about 10 minutes (can be a bit more – enough time to make your mincemeat)

Mincemeat (so worth making your own, if you’ve the time and the inclination, rather than picking up a jar from the shop – the difference really is huge)

1 lemon
150g raisins
150g sultanas
85g mixed peel
150g currants
150g brown sugar
150g shredded suet
1 cooking apple (peeled, quartered and cored)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp. dark rum or brandy (you can also use whisky)

Boil the lemon in a saucepan for about an hour (or until it’s soft) – allow it to cool and chop it in half. Throw away the pips but keep everything else
Whizz the lemon in a food processor with the mixed peel, raisins, sultanas and apple (not the currants) until it becomes a thick paste
Decant into a large bowl and add the currants, spices, sugar and suet
Mix well and pour in the alcohol (be liberal!)
Store in sealed jars/containers (if needed this will keep for months)

Divide the rested pastry into three balls, and roll each into a round shape (I would say a circle, but its’ more of a vague shape than a circle in reality)
Use a scallop edged ring cutter and make as many as you have tin space for (rolling the cutter in flour stops it from sticking) – I like my mince pies bite sized, but it is of course up to you
Butter your cake tray(s) and pop the shapes in (using a rolled piece of dough, rather than your fingers stops the shapes from breaking or distorting)
I don’t like to seal the tops of my mince pies, as the juice bubbles out and makes them look messy – so after I have added a dollop of mincemeat, with a teaspoon of ground almonds on top to each shape, I add star or holly shapes to the top instead – but you can of course make more scalloped shapes and seal the tops using your fingers around the edges
If adding star or holly shapes rather than a lid, press them lightly with a fork, and a light scraping of butter – this will help them to stick to the mincemeat
If you are freezing your mince pies then now is the stage to do it at – but if using holly leaf tops, be aware that they are quite fragile when frozen
Pop in the oven for 15 minutes

Sprinkle with icing sugar and adorn with holly – well, tis the season after all!

Mention to all and sundry that you made them yourself (festive smugness is optional)