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Mince Pies

Christmas at home

Welcome to this very special recipe for the best home made mince pies you can imagine. Once you’ve made these, you’ll never want to buy from a shop again.

You’ll see that one of the secrets of success in this recipe is using a very high proportion of fat to flour. This makes the pastry ‘short’ and it will melt in your mouth. (I never said this recipe was in any way healthy!)

The sizes and weights of everything involved in mince pie making vary according to the size of your tin, the heat of your kitchen and, I suspect, the phases of the moon. However, you can’t go wrong using the measurements below.

So, let’s go…


1lb/450g plain flour and a handful more for sprinkling
6oz/175g salted butter plus a little more for greasing the pan
5oz/150g lard
roughly half a pint/250ml/8fl oz cold water
14oz/400g best mincemeat you can find (or make your own?)
a little milk
2 teaspoons sugar
a glass of sherry or mulled wine

Also required

large mixing bowl
2 very small bowls
rolling pin
2 dessert spoons
2 mince pie/bun tins with 12 holes each
2 sturdy biscuit cutters, one slightly larger than the other, according to the size of the holes in your mince pie tin
pastry brush (or you can use your fingers)


Put on some Christmas music.

Wash your hands very thoroughly – you need the full Covid-defiant two verses of Happy Birthday plus a scrub with a nailbrush. Especially if you are a gardener. Otherwise, the garden will find its way from your hands into your pies. 

Chop the fat into small chunks and rub them into the flour. You could use a processor but rubbing by hand will remind you that this is how the Victorians had to do it. You will also have time to sing along at the top of your voice to the Christmas music. 

When the mixture begins to stick together (it will never become tiny breadcrumbs, no matter what the cookbooks say, as there’s so much fat) it’s time to add some water.

This is where you exercise your judgement. Add some of your cold water a couple of spoonsful at a time and use a fork to bind together the mixture as you go, until it gels easily into a ball and feels slightly damp to the touch. If it feels wet, you’ve added too much, but no need to panic as you can use some extra flour to rescue it, either now or when you get to rolling it all out. The extra fat in the recipe makes this possible.

When the mixture’s binding nicely, forget the fork and use your hands to gently mould the pastry into two equal balls.

Wrap the balls in clingfilm and put them in the fridge for almost an hour. This is the most important part of the proceedings, as the cold makes the pastry pliable for rolling later.

Meanwhile, drink the sherry or wine.

An hour later, put down your glass and retrieve the pastry. If it’s too cold to work, let it come to for a few minutes. Time for more sherry, perhaps?

Grease the mince pie depressions in the baking trays with fat.

Now, sprinkle flour on your worktop. Take one of the balls of pastry and divide it up into two portions, one slightly small than the other. 

Take the larger ball, flatten it on top of the sprinkled flour and roll it out. I like my pastry thin, so I roll it to about one eighth of an inch (3mm.) Make sure there is always a light dusting of flour under the pastry, or it will stick to the surface.

Cut out twelve rounds with the larger cutter. 

Roll out the smaller ball of pastry and cut out twelve rounds with the smaller cutter. 

Slide your knife under each larger round to pick it up easily and then place the pastry round in a depression in your first tray.

Deliver a teaspoonful of mincemeat right in the middle of the pastry. 

Pick up each smaller round, wet the rim with water and pop it on top of the mincemeat, pressing down the pastry edges so the top sticks to the bottom, in hopes of preventing the filling from escaping.

With scissors or a sharp knife, cut a small cross in the centre of each pie, so the steam can escape. This stops the mincemeat leaking from the sides of the pie (it leaks upwards instead). 

Brush the top of each pie with milk, or use beaten egg if you have the energy to beat one.

Sprinkle a little sugar over the top, to make the pie crunchy.

Put the tin in the oven at 200degrees centigrade for twenty minutes. 

Meanwhile, make your second tray of pies using the second ball of pastry. 

You thought I’d forgotten that one, didn’t you? Ha!

You can open the oven at any time to put the second tray in, because this isn’t a cake and the pies won’t sink like my Christmas cake did.  Hallelujah! This is why I offer advice on mince pies, not cakes.

When the pies are nice and brown, remove them from the oven. Some of the filling may have escaped and be sitting exposed on top of its pie, but that won’t spoil the taste. In fact, any sticky bits on the outside are especially delicious. 

This is, as I tell my family, how mince pies are meant to be.

Use two dessert spoons to scoop the pies out of the tray, because the pastry is really fragile at this point. Leave them on a rack to cool for as long as you can resist them before a) eating them, b) storing them in a tin, or c) putting them in freezer-proof containers and freezing them. These pies freeze wonderfully well.

Warm them up whenever you want them, for 4 or 5 minutes at 200degrees.

Warning. Please don’t put them in a microwave. The filling will burn your mouth and the pastry will be soggy.

Below is a video, showing the process.

Merry Christmas