It can’t be ignored that Jews like their food. It’s an old joke that the archetypal Jewish festival can be summarised by the phrase, “they tried to kill us, we survived, now let’s eat!” but there really does seem to be a traditional dish for even the most minor of festivals, not to mention the array of foods for Shabbat (the Sabbath), family occasions etc. etc.
So it should come as no surprise at all that as Jewish communities absorb influences from the cultures that surround them, many of those most enthusiastically adopted involve food in some way or other.
Take Christmas for example. I know many Jewish people, some really quite observant, who would shudder at the very thought of having a Christmas tree, decorations, Santa etc. But would think nothing of sitting down on December 25th to eat a roast turkey and all the trimmings! The mighty Evelyn Rose (of blessed memory) even included a recipe for ‘Chanukah Pudding’ in one of her books that you would work hard to differentiate from the more common ‘Christmas Pudding’. And more than one kosher bakery includes mince pies in its seasonal range of winter goodies.
And why not?! These things are tasty (although no turkey for me thanks, I’m vegetarian). Everyone gets the time off work, pretty much. Why not use it as an excuse to get together with friends and family and have a good fress, as they say in Yiddish?
All of which brings me to this recipe for ‘tarted up’ mince pies. Mincemeat* is one of those things that is absolutely delicious if you make it from scratch and mature it yourself, but let’s face it, who has time for that? A few years ago a friend who works very long hours shared her tip for turning shop-bought mincemeat into something a bit more special. It takes about five minutes, and also enables you to pretend you put in much more effort than you actually did. Imagine the following conversation:
“These mince pies are really delicious!”
“Thanks! I put cherries and rum in the mincemeat – I think it makes it extra special.”
Your guest would be forgiven for thinking you’d made the mincemeat from scratch, despite you saying no such thing. Cunning.
You can use your tarted-up mincemeat in regular mince pies, but I thought I’d have a go at making hand pies instead. When I was a kid, we’d have called these turnovers. I’m not sure when they became hand pies. I blame the Americans. You can call them what you like – they’re a doddle to make and look the business 🙂
So, if you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, or any other winter festival, or none, I hope you enjoy these delicious, and super-easy pies. Makes 10-12.
* Note for Americans and other foreigners: the mincemeat used here is not actually minced up meat. It is a sweet pie filling made from dried fruit, apple, spices, and fat, among other things. It is typically matured in jars for several weeks (at least) before using.
- 200g prepared mincemeat (from a jar)
- 20g crystallised ginger, chopped
- 20g glace cherries, quartered
- 10g flaked almonds
- zest of half an orange
- 1-2 tbsp rum or brandy (optional)
- 375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a bowl, mix the mincemeat, ginger, cherries, almonds and orange zest. Stir in the rum or brandy, if using.
- On a lightly floured surface, unroll the puff pastry and roll out slightly to about 4mm thickness. Use a fluted round 10cm cutter to cut out as many circles as possible.
- Place a dessertspoonful of mincemeat onto each circle. Brush the edges with beaten egg and fold in half to make a semi-circle enclosing the filling. Press the edges together well to seal.
- Transfer the hand pies to the baking sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.
- Bake at 200C for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Serve warm or cold.
- You can substitute dried cranberries or blueberries for the glace cherries if preferred.
Don’t forget – seasonal gift inspiration for your foodie friends and family can be found in my handy gift guide!
This month’s Biscuit Barrel challenge hosted by I’d Much Rather Bake Than… is on the theme of Winter Warmers, so I’m entering these yummy little pies. I’m also entering them into November’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers.