Mince pies are perhaps the most convenient of all the traditional Christmas foods, as they can be made up at any time and kept in the freezer, uncooked, to have hot from the oven at very short notice.
Short pastry is traditional and can be slightly sweetened, or you can use puff pastry if preferred. If using bought mincemeat, choose Irish if possible and buy the best you can afford; this recipe originally came from SuperValu, who are very supportive of Irish producers. If using a commercial mincemeat it can be improved by adding some finely chopped fresh apple.
You can get 24-hole, non-stick mini tart tins from Kitchen Complements on Chatham Street, Dublin 2; 01-677 0734; www.kitchencomplements.ie)
YOU WILL NEED
For the pastry
225g/8oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 dsp icing sugar
A little water to bind
Eggwash (beaten egg diluted with water)
Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until crumb-like. Add the water, mix lightly to bind the mixture, then leave to rest. On a floured work surface, roll the pastry out until quite thin, then cut out 7.5cm/3in rounds (for standard mince pies; cut the pastry half this size for mini ones) and line into shallow bun trays.
Put a good teaspoon of mincemeat into each pastry round in the tin. To decorate the tops, which can be slightly smaller than the bases, cut a star or tree shape into the pastry if you wish. Dampen the edges and position the tops, sealing the edges by pressing with a fork or your fingers.
Brush with a little egg wash and bake at 180°C/350°F for 30 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Mini pies will take less time. Serve warm.