Hugh (Fearnley-Whittingstall) says, “This is a recipe from the good old days, when mincemeat was what it said it was a highly spiced condiment containing meat. This makes some people squeamish, but really there is nothing to fear. The meat is ‘invisible’. But its inclusion means that mince pies made from this mincemeat are less sweet and sickly than the usual fare, and have more body and substance. I guarantee you will love them.
The quality of the beef is important: it should be lean and free from tough sinews. I like to buy braising or chuck steak and trim and mince it myself. Make the mincemeat at least a week, ideally a month, before you use it. It also makes a great stuffing for a loin of pork.”
500g finely minced lean beef
250 g beef suet
250g tart eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
125g soft brown sugar
125g ground almonds
100g preserved ginger in syrup, finely chopped, plus 4 TBS syrup from the jar
100g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp ground mixed spice
250 ml rum, brandy or Calvados
Put everything in a large bowl ad mix thoroughly, ideally with your hands. Keep in sealed jars in a cool place for up to a month before using. Make into mince pies using your favorite sweet pastry recipe, or a bought pastry.
Try hand pies with either brandy butter or a rich egg custard laced with Calvados, rum or brandy. I’ve stuffed them into ravioli, made deliciously rich pinwheel cookies and still have much experimenting left to do.