‘Who ate all the pies?’ is a football chant, sung to suggest that someone on the opposite team may be a little …er…fat. It goes something like this:
‘Who ate all the pies?
Who ate all the pies?
You fat bastard, you fat bastard
You ate all the pies’
But it is from this that we get the equally lovely term pie eater, which also means someone who is fat. But it’s a slang term. I don’t think your doctor would use it with you.
Around 1st October (and getting earlier every year), the discussions begin on social media about which supermarket has the best mince pies, how we should eat them, what to drink with them… it’s really a national obsession. When Waitrose launched a Heston Bluementhal mince pie made with “pine sugar dusting” a while back, Facebook nearly exploded with debate. They might have got one of our poshest chefs to create them, but (sorry, Heston) most people thought they tasted like toilet cleaner.
This year, one friend has gone one step further in her quest for the finest mince pie. A couple of weeks ago, her family taste-tasted the full A-Z of them. They tried 26 pies, from Aldi (a low-cost supermarket) to Harrods, and scored the lot. This delight was the result. That, my friends, is true dedication.
We are so obsessed as a nation that the most visited page on the whole of the BBC website is a recipe for ‘unbelievably easy mince pies’. The whole of the BBC is less interesting to us Brits than mince pies? Yep, sounds about right.
The best way of making them that I have ever seen, is the way Jemma makes them. She pours herself a huge gin, then grabs balls of pastry and squashes them into the pie tin with her thumb before dolloping the mincemeat in. No need for rolling or cutting or anything, and plenty of time saved for more gin. Genius.
The very best way to eat them, however, comes from my big brother. He lifts the pastry lid, puts in a thin slice of Stilton, pops the lid back on, and then eats the lot, with port. My brother is, occasionally, a clever, clever boy. [My sister reminds me, however, that when we were younger, he used to do the same but with cold, tinned custard. Thankfully his taste buds improved over time]
Mince pies were originally made with meat and the spices first brought back by the crusaders. They used to be square and called coffins, until we started using the word coffin only in relation to the dead, and people found it all less appetising, and made them round instead. These days they are purely fruit-based and small.
Don’t confuse them with meat pies. Or this might happen …
- 175g currants
- 175g raisins
- 175g sultanas
- 100g dried cherries
- 75g dried cranberries
- 100g mixed peel (mixed, dried citrus peel
- 1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 125g vegetable suet
- 50g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
- 225g light muscovado sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
- 200ml brandy, rum or sherry
Makes 4 x 370g jars
- Measure all of the ingredients except the alcohol into a large pan. Heat gently, then simmer for about 10 minutes, very gently, stirring occasionally.
- Allow the mixture to cool completely then stir in the brandy, rum or sherry. (If you do it whilst warm, the alcohol might evaporate, which would be dreadful)
- Spoon the mincemeat into sterilised jam jars, seal tightly, label and store in a cool place for up to six months. Once the jar is opened, store in the fridge
Thanks to Sam for making and photographing her splendid mince pies, and giving us the recipe.
© 2016 Kayte & Nicer Kate – authors assert moral rights