This is the way I make my mince pies, and there is no changing me or them: they are small, to be popped straight into the mouth in one go; the pastry is plain, the better to contrast with the rich, fruited filling; and they have not full casings but little stars as lids, which makes them look beautiful and taste flutteringly light.
By all means use good shop-bought mincemeat if you want, but I’m hoping you might give my new Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat a go (see p.189): it tastes both rich and boozy and fresh and fruity at the same time; and it makes for a slightly different mince pie, but in a welcome rather than challenging way.
With mince pies, I must have butter of some sort: I’ll take brandy butter (my mother’s), rum butter or a brown-sugar bourbon butter (see p.190 for butter recipes). Mince pies are to be savoured – not just as one of the last truly seasonal foods in England, but also as a home-grown culinary triumph, provoking one delighted Frenchman to exclaim in a letter, as quoted proudly by Agnes Jekyll in her Kitchen Essays: “ce que j’adore dans la cuisine anglaise ce sont vos petits mince-pi”.
MAKE AHEAD TIP:
Make the mince pies up to 1 week ahead and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container layered up between sheets of greaseproof paper. Pop into a warm oven for 3–4 minutes before serving, dusted with icing sugar.
FREEZE AHEAD TIP:
Make and pack the pies as above and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight on a cooling rack and reheat as above.
Extract from the book Nigella Christmas by Nigella Lawson, rrp $69.95. Copyright Random House 2008