Chef Dario Cavaliere writes a weekly food column for the Waterford News & Star
ALWAYS a favourite at Christmas time, there is something very comforting about homemade mince pies. They are simple to make, and taste delicious. Here I have used Gran Marnier to add a little extra festive flavour, but if you prefer you can use brandy. Also, many people do not like currants, so instead you could use the large Californian raisins or dried cranberries. The mincemeat stores well when placed in an airtight jar, so to make things even easier you could always make this a few days before hand. Always a lovely treat for Christmas Eve.
For the mincemeat filling mix all the following ingredients together in a large bowl:
250g mixed fruit – raisins, sultanas, currants
60g dark brown sugar
60g mixed peel
Juice and rind of 1 orange
2 grated granny smith apples
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier
For the Pastry;
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
200g plain flour
25g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, then add the cubed butter and mix with your finger tips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar, vanilla essence and milk. It should come together into a dough ball. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured worktop, and knead the dough until it is firm and completely combined.
To make the mincemeat simply place all the ingredients in a pot and cook on low for 20 minutes, remove and allow to cool.
Butter a 12 hole cupcake tray, and then roll the dough out until it is 1cm thick. Using pastry cutters, cut 12 discs each one around 7cm in diameter. Then cut a further 12 discs, 3cm in diameter. Line the holes in the tin with the largest pastry discs, and spoon the mincemeat into each one, about half full.
Then place the smaller discs on top of each base. The tops should be slightly smaller than the bottom, this allows the mincemeat to bubble and caramelise as it cooks. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes at 180oC, and then cool on a wire rack. Dust the top of the pies with icing sugar and serve with brandy butter.
Easy Vanilla Ice Cream
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
2 vanilla pods, seeds removed
Place the vanilla pods in a large saucepan with the fresh cream and slowly bring to the boil, stirring all the time. When just at boiling point then add the sugar and whisk until it has dissolved in to the cream.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they have lightened in colour a little then add the hot cream, again whisking all the time.
Sieve the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla pod, then add the vanilla seeds to the mix and stir well.
Allow the cooked cream to cool, before pouring it into a plastic container. Cover with a lid and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
Remove and stir with a wooden spoon, and place back into the freezer and freeze until completely set.
You can keep the ice cream for 3 to 4 weeks covered in the freezer.