Town mouse on mince pies

Last Christmas, Lord Windsor gave me a box of pies. His forebear married Clive of India’s son, Robert, and, in the Windsors’ farm shop outside Ludlow, are sold mincemeat pies made to Clive’s recipe Clive Pies. With pastry tops pinched like Berettas, they’re rather larger than normal-good in itself. Then, not surprisingly given the provenance, they’re flavoured with spices of the East. Equally remarkable is their chunky consistency. As well as the usual dried fruit, this mincemeat contains lamb.

Like Christmas pudding, mincemeat has its origins in the Middle Ages. The currants, sultanas, raisins and spices would then have seemed costly and exotic, bringing a taste of the sun from distant countries to the dismal English winter. In Middle Eastern style, the dried fruit and spices were once added to meat: hence the name.

As time went on, people found the mixture would keep longer without the meat. Eventually, they began to forego the meat altogether. But not in Lord Clive’s household. In 1768, Clive holidayed at Pézenas in southern France. His legacy to the village was a recipe for sweet, but highly flavoured mincemeat pies-les petits pâtés de Pezenas, now the Clive Pies of the Ludlow Food Centre (, on sale now. Yum.

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