nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

Seasonal cookery

One of many great things about my middle school was its enthusiastic approach to that suite of lessons that includes under art, woodwork, and home economics (i.e. sewing and cookery), in which we spent a great deal of time doing things, and none at all designing packaging and such things that seem now to be called “design and technology”. As a result of which I can theoretically use an exciting range of nasty electrical saws and drills (not that I often have occasion to), and everyone in the class could sew on a button and turn up a hem. I can also make pastry. We spent an entire half-term on pastry and bread (the previous two years were “ensuring all ten year olds can feed themselves”, followed by “ensuring all eleven year olds can cook for a family”). My sisters, who attended the rather more carefully socially selected CofE school, learnt to ice a swiss roll. They left after two years in order not to die of boredom.

Anyway, we made pastry. Our teacher was a splendid woman who worked part-time and played golf on her days off, and she believed that we should all be able to make shortcrust pastry, and do it properly. We made shortcrust pastry for three weeks. So it is directly thanks to her that I finally got round last night to embarking upon recreating the chocolate mince pies that I bought a couple of years ago. And so I give you:

Chocolate mince pies

Makes about 12 small pies.


4 oz plain flour
2 oz block margarine (or butter, or half and half of margarine and lard)
For larger quantities, increase in 2:1 proportions. This is the basic shortcrust recipe.

For chocolate pastry add a reasonable quantity of caster sugar and cocoa powder. I used a bit less than 1oz sugar, and I think about a large tablespoon of cocoa powder.


Shop-bought mincemeat. May be jazzed up with alcohol if you’re not taking them to work
Finely grated dark chocolate
Grated orange or lemon (optional)


First check that you have a rolling pin and pastry cutters, so that you don’t end up rolling the pastry with an empty bottle that once contained pear schnapps, and cutting the pastry with a drinking glass and a cardboard template.

Heat the oven to gas mark 6. I have an electric oven, but about 190 C seemed about right.

Sieve flour and cocoa powder into a bowl. Chop margarine into small pieces. Make sure your hands are dry and rub the fat and flour fairly lightly between your fingers, breaking up the fat and coating it with flour. It will form small crumbs. Shaking the bowl from side to side will bring the bigger bits to the top so you can tackle them again. Once you’ve got a reasonably fine crumb – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but any lumps should be small ones - add a couple of tablespoons of COLD water. Using an ordinary table knife fold the water into the mixture, and get it as well mixed as possible, before using your hands to sweep up the remaining bits in the bowl bringing it all together into a ball. Don’t knead it, you’re not making bread. At this point you should aim to handle it as little as possible. You are aiming for a nicely consolidated, slightly sticky ball.

If you are feeling dedicated, or want to do something else, you can bung it into the fridge for fifteen minutes. I am not convinced this stage is essential.

Shake some flour on a flat worksurface, put pastry on it, and roll out. The pastry shouldn’t be so thin it starts to tear, but it should be thin. A pound coin is ample. Cut out circles using the cutter you remembered to buy earlier. Put them into a bun tin – if the bun tin is non-stick you won’t need to grease it, but you can if you want. Add a teaspoon of mincemeat, and sprinkle some grated chocolate on the top. Add a pinch of orange/lemon zest/peel if desired. Cut out smaller circules, damp down the edge, put on top and press to seal the sides. Brush with milk if desired. Prick with knife or fork in the middle.

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from tin before any leaked mincemeat cements to the metal. Eat once cool enough not to burn.
Tags: food, real life
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