PUBLISHED: 05:28 15 December 2014
Love 'em or loathe 'em, Christmas would not be Christmas without mince pies.
Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Christmas would not be Christmas without mince pies. They are so called because in the 17th century they were, in fact, savoury pies made using usually mutton or beef but also tongue or even tripe with equal parts beef suet, currants and raisins with sugar, orange rind, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Some say they were crib shaped – replicating Jesus’ crib. After the Restoration mince pies varied in size, up to 20lbs, but were round.
In the 18th century mince pies became sweeter when, ironically, cheap sugar was imported from the slave plantations in the West Indies and meat became optional.
There are many mince pie myths:
It’s lucky to eat one mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas and apparently to refuse one would lead to bad luck.
You should make a wish while eating your fist mince pie of the season – perhaps nowadays “I wish this was a homemade mince pie instead of one from a packet”!
Mince pies should be eaten in silence.
It is important to add three spices – representing the three gifts given to Jesus by the Magi.
There should be a star on top depicting the star that led the Magi and shepherds to the baby Jesus.
Today mince pies are usually made using shortcrust pastry and mincemeat, containing apple, with dried fruits including raisins, currants, cherries, apricots and candied peel with spices, nuts, suet and brandy or sometimes rum.
And don’t forget to leave one out for Santa!
The Taylor taste test
Which potato should I use for my Christmas roasties?
King Edward is a traditional English potato with a creamy skin and red blushes. Its floury texture makes it perfect for roasting..
Maris Piper is a great chipper but also good for roasting. Grown extensively in the UK, it has golden skin with creamy white flesh which has a fluffy texture.
Estima has a creamy skin with a firm, light yellow flesh – smoother than the other two but nevertheless makes a good roastie.
Peel them, cut them in half and par-boil for five to eight minutes. Drain and place them back on the heat for just a few seconds shaking the pan which fluffs the skin up and makes them lovely and crispy on the outside. Place in a roasting tin with some goose or duck fat and a sprinkling of salt. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until golden and crisp on the outside and fluffy and soft inside.
The Norfolk cheeseboard
I have left this wonderful cheese especially for December as it is a delicious Norfolk alternative to traditional Stilton. Mrs Temple’s Binham Blue is made to a recipe taught to Catherine Temple by her grandmother. It is made at Copys Farm, Wighton, using milk from the family herds of British Friesians and Swiss brown cows. It is a semi-soft, blue veined cheese, I think milder than Stilton but with a definite “blue” tang. You can buy it either in a piece or a whole truckle and is extremely good if left to mature a little – so make sure you buy it sooner rather than later to enjoy it at its best on Christmas Day. Available from delis, farm shops and farmer’s markets all over Norfolk and beyond.