Not being quite English I have a problem with the classic Christmas mince pie.
Certainly the standard mincemeat mixture is far too sweet for my palate and the usual thick doughy pastry has always seemed most unenticing, and then they have always given me indigestion, which I used to put down to the rich mix of fruits but I now realise was a part of my then unidentified gluten intolerance.
This year I have tried to see if I can remedy the situation by creating a mince pie that I like and that doesn’t upset my system. I used pastry adapted from an old recipe from Josceline Dimbleby, which has freshly squeezed orange juice as the liquid, and I added grated apple and a little Armagnac to a quality bought mincemeat. The result is that I ate FOUR of these little tarts straight off – and so far no ill-effects. If you can tolerate wheat flour just substitute plain flour for the glutenfree mix. You will get a slightly more manageable pastry, but still crisp and fragrant from the orange juice.
STOP PRESS: An hour or so after I had eaten my four delicious mincepies I started to get the heartburn that is my first symptom of having inadvertently eaten gluten. I was mystified and checked everything I had eaten all day – breakfast of black coffee and home made meatloaf on glutenfree toast, lunch of homemade vegetable soup made with fresh vegetables and organic additive free stock cube. And then the mincepies. I checked the mincemeat which I had bought from a fancy farmshop nearby, and among the ingredients it listed vegetable suet. That of course is a contradiction in terms. Suet is very precisely the beef fat from around the kidneys and loin and it has long been prized for making light suet puddings and particularly for mincemeat. Originally the suet was simply clarified and grated for use, but at the end of the nineteenth century it became a processed product and has long been sold as shredded suet – with added flour! Atora vegetable ‘suet’ has about 63% fat content leaving about 37% for the flour, pectin and stabilizer, and their beef ‘suet’ is 85% fat with 15% flour – at least it has less flour and fewer additives. I thought I knew what suet was so hadn’t bothered to check the details and so missed the important information that it contains gluten. Yet another thing I will have to make from first principles.
Mincepie orange pastry (gluten free)
- 250g (8ozs) gluten free white flour
- 85g (3 ozs) icing sugar
- 190g (12 ozs) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 large orange.
Put the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food proceesor, add the butterand process briefly until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the orange zest and gradually add the orange juice while processing until the mixture just starts to form a dough. Remove from the bowl, pat it into a neat ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.