There’s more to be done with Christmas’ most traditional ingredient.
Argue all you want about whether to serve turkey or goose at the Christmas table, acknowledge there are some who favour trifle over pudding for dessert, the one flavour we can agree encapsulates Christmastime is mincemeat. The fruity tang, the faintest bass note of spirits beneath and heady aroma of renaissance spices; cloves, mace, nutmeg and cinnamon, provides for most of us and olfactory summation of the festive season.
Unsurprisingly, mincemeat gains its name beginning life as a mixture containing fruit, spice and chiefly mutton, although beef, rabbit, pork or game where also added. Mincemeat was originally employed as a method of preserving meat, without salting, curing or smoking, and mince pies were first served in the early middle-ages, a sizeable confection considerably larger than the ones enjoyed today, filled with a finely minced meat, chopped fruit and mixed together in a preserving liquor. At first those was usually vinegar or wine, but by the 18th century brandy was most frequently used.
Rich In History
In 1413, King Henry V served a mincemeat pie at his coronation, and Henry the VII was so fond of the dish he would regularly consume it as main course. Mince pies have been known under several names over the years. Shrid pies refer to the shredded suet that most mincemeat still contains today, while wayfarer’s pies mark them as a treat that was first served to travelling visitors. Later on they also became known as crib cakes and Christmas pyes, indicating their growing popularity in association with the winter festival.
Which makes it even more disappointing, when mincemeats rich history and flavour is reduced to a set of small, greasy-topped, foil-encased, two-for-one offerings from the local supermarket, and to be fair, even the mince pies made by your gran, with the all-butter pastry and homemade filling, can be getting a bit much by Boxing Day.
An Advent Event
At Maws we think its time to and rediscover the succulent, seasonal joys of mincemeat all over again – and in anything but a pastry case! Because with a little imagination and a pinch of festive inspiration, mincemeat can become the season star of the show once more, as some of the alternative mincemeat recipes from these well-known chefs and bakers proves.
MINCE MEAT TRIFLE: www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mincemeat_trifle_99318
Intuitive cook Nigel Slater takes a classic Christmas favourite and fuses it with the most festive of ingredients, creating a trifle that can’t fail to please. In this ingenious version the mincemeat is actually folded into the sponge mixture then baked and sliced to create the trifle base. The use of lemon curd and clementine oranges is the perfect way to create the right amount citrus zest to offset the rich sweetness of combined mincemeat, custard and cream, while simultaneously imbuing the dessert with even more festive flavour.
MINCEMEAT & MARZIPAN COURONNE: www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pauls_mincemeat_and_33176
If anyone knows how to bake a mincemeat treat for Christmas that doesn’t involve pastry it has to be celebrity baking guru Paul Hollywood, and sure enough this mincemeat and marzipan couronne is a winner. The couronne is a traditional circular twisted loaf originating in France’s Bordeaux region, and more often than not they are sold as sweet breads with additions of everything from apricots to cinnamon and pecans. In this version, marzipan in another inspired choice of seasonal ingredient that perfectly compliments the mincemeat. Pistchios and glace cherries studded over the top make this a showstopper that could easily replace a traditional Christmas Cake.
MINCEMEAT PANFORTE: www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mincemeat_panforte_60354
This is a delicious Christmas twist on this ever-popular Italian dessert. Somewhere between a cake and a chewy sweet, this Tuscan favourite is usually enjoyed in small blocks of slices at the end of a meal, often accompanied by coffee or a sweet dessert wine (possibly a Vin Santo). As it’s traditionally made with honey and candied fruit peel, a Panforte recipe incorporating mincemeat is an easy transition, bolstering the traditional ingredients with an extra layer of spicy warmth. Chef Matt Tebutt’s recipe also uses dark, chocolate and figs to create a truly sumptuous after dinner treat.