This is not a traditional mince pie, which entails soaking dried fruit with shredded suet in a jar for up to four weeks before encasing it as a filling in pastry. It is, however, inspired by the spices and flavours many associate with the Christmas period. Dried fruit was often the only source of sweetness traditional societies would have known which is why it was such a special treat for Christmas. I made the pastry with lard and it was a real hit! Even the children, normally by biggest critics, gave this dish the thumbs up and asked for more.
I used the left-over meat and marrow from the veal shanks I cooked on the previous Sunday to make a delicious gravy combining it with cinnamon, cloves, sultanas, raisins, dried apricots, barberries and a good shot of cognac. Six quality beef shanks costing EUR 40 delivered three nourishing meals: veal-shank stew, a hearty cauliflower and curry soup and this meat pie. When government officials and industry talk about the need for a GMO mono-culture and meat from CAFO’s because the alternative would be food shortages – I want to talk instead, like Hugh Fearnley about “food wastage”. The sad reality is that most people these days choose just a few select piece of meat and throw the best and choicest pieces to the dogs. Lucky dogs – foolish us!
For the pastry
500 gr flour.
5 tbs. lard softened to room temperature.
1 tsp. of salt.
A dribble of buttermilk (or water).
1 beaten egg.
For the filling
Left over veal – or approx. 500 gr of ground beef.
1 turnip (optional).
A handful of sultanas.
A handful of raisins.
A handful of dried apricots.
A handful of barberries (I still had some left-over from an Ottolenghi recipe and they add a delicious tartness to the sweeter flavours from the raisins and sultanas).
3 tbs. black treacle (molasses).
A shot of cognac.
1 tsp. cinnamon.
1 star anise.
For the pastry
Mix the salt, pepper and flour in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and ladle the 4 tbsp. of lard in the centre. Mix, by hand, the ingredients together, then gradually dribble some of the buttermilk in until the flour binds with the fat. Knead until the ingredients have come together and place the pastry in the fridge whilst you get the filling ready.
For the filling
Fry the onion in either some lard, drippings or goose fat until it has turned translucent. If using a turnip add the finely diced turnip and allow to soften before adding the left over meat. Squeeze the marrow out of the bones and add to the gravy. They will add bags of flavour and help thicken the sauce. If using mince meat just brown it in the pan.
Add the dried fruit …
… spices and a shot of cognac. It is Christams!
If necessary, add some water and leave to simmer on a low heat for approx. 30 minutes.
Place the filling into a pie dish before placing the rolled out pastry over the top. You may find that the pastry breaks easily – keep at it. You can patch it up once it is over the pie dish. The baking process binds cracks – so long as they are not too big.
Brush the beaten egg over the pasty and bake in an oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with some steamed broccoli or creamed spinach.