Good morning from Rome, on the day after Christmas. I hope you all had a wonderful day with your family and friends yesterday. My day was mostly spent eating what my mum cooked, though I contributed to the lunch table with a tray of homemade mince pies.
Italians celebrate Christmas in different ways depending on their regions and family traditions. In my family, we start the celebrations on Christmas Eve with a big home-cooked dinner. Traditionally, we eat fish the day before Christmas, never meat. My mum prepares an array of seafood appetizers, including oysters, smoked salmon, shrimps in pink sauce, tuna paté, tiger prawns and octopus salad – followed by a pasta dish. On Christmas Day we have a Roman-style feast – this year it was made with gnocchi alla Romana, roast chicken rolls and artichokes.
To finish off the meals, we eat traditional Italian Christmas cakes such as Panettone and Pandoro, and regional ones such as Gubana and Presnitz, which are traditional of Trieste, my mother’s hometown. This year my mum also made chocolate yule log and I made mince pies.
Festive Mince Pies
Mince pies are a divisive Christmas dessert: I know lots of people who dislike them, and others who love them. I have mixed feelings about mince pies, because I have eaten some really bad ones, from a supermarket packet, and they did put me off eaten them again. But then I ate “real” mince pies, made by the best bakeries in London, and I had to admit that they tasted amazing.
So this year I finally decided to make mince pies for Christmas Day. Because I was going to spend the day in Rome, I decided to save time by buying a jar of best quality mincemeat (from Fortnum & Mason). However, you can easily make mincemeat at home with apples, butter, brandy, spices and dried fruits.
I followed a recipe by Emma at Poires au Chocolat, which worked out perfectly. They are not difficult to make and so much better than store-bought ones. I think I am going to start a new Christmas tradition of making mince pies every year.
2017 is nearly over and I am excited about the new year. The past twelve months have had their challenges on a personal and a professional level. Overall it’s been a rewarding year and I’m particularly proud of the work I have done for Creating for Good and the money we collectively raised for charity.
I have worked hard and travelled a lot and felt very much burnt out at the end of it. In the last few months I made the decision to downsize, to take on less work projects and to take things slowly.
I have exciting news in store for 2018, so stay tuned as I will announce them soon!
Makes 10-12 pies.
- 175g plain flour
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 75g cold butter, cut into cubes
- juice of a clementine, chilled
- 400g mincemeat
Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the clementine juice and use a knife to combine. Bring the pastry together into a ball (adding cold water if needed). The dough should still be fairly dry, not sticky or crumbly. Squish into a disc then wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Evenly roll out the dough to a thin layer of pastry. Use a circle cookie cutter or a glass to cut out circles – you should get 10-12 with some pastry to spare. Use biscuit cutters to cut out stars out of the leftover pastry.
Place each circle into a greased muffin tin and lightly press into shape. Add a few teaspoons of mincemeat until nearly full, then top with the decorations.
Put into the oven until golden brown and bubbling for about 20 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack to cool quickly (any escaped bits of caramelised juice will set hard and make them very difficult to remove). Serve warm.