Christmas is upon us again. I cannot believe how this year has zoomed by, but truly I am not complaining. I adore Xmas – not so much the presents and all the pallava, but the food is right up my alley. There is something about sitting at a long table with people you love and feasting that makes me a very happy little vegemite. I love the fact I need to be kitchen savvy and get myself organised in advance. Now is the time I need to start imbibing my fruit for my fruit mince pies, bottling chutney and condiments to serve with ham and turkey and preparing my special food gifts. One of my favourite things about Christmas is the dessert table, and I am not known for my sweet tooth – I just have a thing for melt-in-your-mouth home-made shortbread and boozy fruit.
Naturally this road leads straight to fruit mince pies, and in my world they need to be adaptable. The first question I know I will be asked when I hand a plate of pies around in Bangalow (the sweet little country town I live in just near Byron Bay, Australia) is “ are they gluten free?” I am always chuffed when I can say “Yes, and they taste amazing”. You see, I often find gluten-free pastry totally gross. It is like gluten free bread – it looks like bread but tastes like sponge!
After years of absolute disasters I believe I have managed to perfect gluten free pastry. For me it is essential to use butter (we will talk about a vegan alternative in a minute). The flours you use must be soft and silky with not too much flavour. Corn flour and rice flour are both perfectly suited for this and recently I have started adding almond meal for something a little different and it is divine.
Gluten-free fruit mince pies
- 1 cup brown rice flour (available at health food shops)
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 tablespoons pure icing sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1 egg white
- 1-2 tablespoons chilled water
- 1 cup booze-soaked fruit (I use a mixture of fresh sultanas, dried apricots and raisins soaked and simmered in brandy) or gluten-free fruit mince that you have purchased
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Lightly grease and line two 6 hole patty cake or small muffin or cupcake tin.
Sift the flour, spice and icing sugar into a bowl, stir in the almond meal. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs.
Stir in the egg white and enough water to bring the pastry together. Gather the dough into a ball.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper to approximately 2cm thick.
Cut 5cm circles from the pastry using a fluted cutter and place circles into the lined holes. Chill for 20 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden and looks dry.
Whilst the pastry is cooking, use Christmas-themed cookie cutters to cut shapes for the tops of the pies. Chill these until you are ready to use.
Fill the cooked pastry shells with your fruit mince mixture and top the xmas shapes, bake for 10 minutes or until the pastry tops are golden and the filling has warmed through. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm or cold. Makes 12.
Now for any vegans out there you can substitute room temperature coconut oil for the butter in the pastry and replace the egg white with egg replacer, or just a little extra water.
Now because I live in what could be considered one of the healthiest places in the world, I am uncomfortable in only offering just one version of the humble mince pie, so I have created a wonderful raw mince pie recipe. This one takes no time at all to prepare and looks really pretty on a dessert table. You will need a good food processor and some really stunning ingredients but apart from that they are pretty much no muss no fuss, and you don’t have to fluff around with turning the oven on, rolling pastry and all that jazz.
Raw mince pies
- 250g pitted dates
- 1/3 cup almond meal
- 1 tablespoon unhulled tahini (at room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped pistachios
- 2 tablespoons goji berries (available at health food stores)
- 1 teaspoon white chia seeds (available at health food stores)
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 100g blueberries
- 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
Put the dates into a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the almond meal and process until the mixture is smooth.
Remove and stir in the pistachios and goji berries. Press the mixture into a ball. Roll out the mixture between two sheets of baking paper to 1cm thick. Use a 5cm fluted cutter to cut out circles, press your thumb into the centre to form a small indentation for the blueberries and pinch around the edges to form a star. Fill the centres with blueberries and finish with a little shredded coconut.
Whichever one you choose, be sure to enjoy. Have a wonderful Xmas, be sure to give thanks for all that you have in your life and on your table. Give yourself permission to indulge; Christmas comes but once a year, unless of course you are greedy like me and squeeze one in July. Naughty I know!