Delia is still cool after all these years. Despite the rather sanitised covers of her How To Cook 1, 2 and 3 series of the 1990s matching her staid TV appearances, she still kicks a*** in the kitchen when it comes to ‘real’ cooking. ‘Real’ being a series of chapters aimed at teaching skills rather than indulgence in food porn.
So the time of mince pies is upon us and I have thrown myself into the arms of Delia for guidance. Along with the usual annual shocking revelations that yes, mincemeat once contained meat (and still does if you count suet) and that Chaucer and Pepys both enjoyed the little pies, there is the expected round-up of supermarket bests (yawn).
Whether you were caught up in the marketing for Heston’s pine-dusted/toilet cleaner version for Waitrose, are a fan of M&S’s The Collection All Butter range (sounding unnervingly like an underwear collection for the re-make of Last Tango In Paris ahem) or go all out on The Duchy’s organic offerings (wins in the bourgeois smug stakes), there really is no point in buying mince pies from a supermarket. Why? Because mass-produced pastry cannot fail to be anything other than a mouthful of woolly blanket (something I haven’t sucked on since a child and I don’t want to pay for the privilege now).
The bunny’s guide to mince pies from ideal through to compromise:
Compromise: go to a small local bakery such as Baker Tom and buy your mincers.
Almost ideal: make your own pastry but buy your own mincemeat (the most expensive you can get) – tart it up with a slug of brandy or zest in an orange.
Ideal: make your own pastry, your own mincemeat and wallow in your own domestic bliss like the best organic free-range Gloucester Old Spot in s***.
Click here for Delia Smith’s Caramelised Mincemeat Ravioli and here for her seriously easy (and delicious) flaky pastry. She says it makes 30 – I got 16 rather large squares but still bite-sized. These little Italian tributes to pasta re-write the spherical dullness of mince pies, all in a fail-safe, light, crispy pastry. Only downside to the squareness: no lid to take off and fill with clotted cream – blob it on top and eat quickly instead. Xanthe Clay and Beth Sachs both make their own mincemeat, check out Beth’s blog too for making mince pies for freezing in advance.