Over the Christmas period, the UK sells 370 million mince pies. That’s right, 370 million. The average brit eats 27 mince pieces each and more worryingly, 74 million mince pies get thrown out each year. If you wanted to know what contributed to some of the biggest food waste (and expanding waistlines) here is your answer.
Of course, the humble mince pie which dates back to Stuart and Georgian era was used in such periods as a symbol wealth; especially when you look at the different shapes that were made. Nowadays though, you can’t walk through a shopping aisle without spotting a rafter full of the sweet pastry cakes that we seem to have such a fascination with.
Now here, at Stefano De Blasio Kitchens & Interiors, we are a bit partial to a good mince pie as much as anyone else, in fact, we always have some in our Waverton showroom for visitors. But we wanted to know from some food experts what it was that made a great mince pie, and where you can find some of the more highly rated varieties.
Start with the pastry
Cook and writer, Nigel Slater swears by making “a shortcrust so buttery and rich that it is hard to handle.” The quantity of butter to flour make take people by surprise with his version, 50% butter to flour, but the taste test results of some prepared under this recipe were a complete thumbs up.
Shop bought filling is always a winner for those short on time, but for the cooks in the family that want to experiment, then Eric Lanlard, pastry chef extraordinaire works his magic by combining a traditional mince mixture, prepared “days in advance to soak up the juices” with his own “dark ale.”
There are those that keep an open top and finish with a pastry star or shape, there are others who prepare a traditional pie casing. There is no real right or wrong answer as the most traditional Christmas cakes had a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any eater.
There is one thing though that shouldn’t be left off the top of a mince pie, icing sugar; after all that helps make them look pretty, as according to etiquette expert, William Hanson.
How to serve
This courted controversy across the showroom floor and even at home, but according to William Hanson, see above, he recommends that “mince pies should be served, warm.” So there you have it.
So who does the best mince pies that you can buy from shops? The answer may surprise you but in three different publications; The Guardian, Good Housekeeping and The Independent, the top of the taste test in 2016 was… Iceland.
At £1.50 for 6 they trumped the taste tests in many publications beating the power houses of Fortnum & Mason’s, Marks & Spencer and even Harrods!
“These tasty morsels from the budget frozen food specialist beat a lot of the big players, thanks to the combination of juicy, glossy-looking mincemeat and buttery pastry, along with the home-made appearance.”
Somewhere local to Chester or the Wirral?
Well we obliged and did our own little scouting mission, after all, we needed to sure up our numbers of the average person eating 27 in the festive period. From chain restaurants to local independents, the verdict was in…
Elephant Coffee Lounge Bar
Hamilton House, The Parade, Parkgate, Neston CH64 6SB (Website)
Less than £2
“The shortcrust is crumbly with a little bite, but the thing that stands out is the flavouring of the mince and the pastry itself. It’s how Christmas food should taste. Warm, not overly sweet but comfort food at its finest. Bravo!”