I love Christmas. I really love Christmas. I have 1 Christmas tank top, 2 Christmas jumpers and approximately 6 pairs of Christmas socks. I like Christmas songs (even bad ones). At Christmas you eat lots of food, I love food. At Christmas you get presents, I love presents. For the most part people are in a good mood and they smile at you instead of scowl. Seriously – what is not to like? And I haven’t even mentioned Rudolph (what a guy) or Father Christmas (so generous).
But Christmas time does come with a few unspoken rules and I think we all know what they are: Buying Christmas presents in November is OK, listening to Christmas songs is not. Booking travel tickets to get home in November is OK wearing Christmas jumpers is not. Getting twinges of excitement in November is OK, eating mince pies is not. You get the idea. This year I have failed at the Christmas rules. So far I have twice had Viva on watching “50 greatest Christmas songs ever recorded in the world ever chosen by people you’d rather forget”. I have also had 4 mince pies.
When it comes to mince pies I tend to be a traditionalist; shortcrust pastry, with a good quality filling is all I ask for. Last year Heston came out with some puff pastry mince pies, they were OK. The puff pastry didn’t leave enough room for the filling and I described the pine dust topping as Christmas cocaine – most people described it as toilet cleaner. Those mince pies are back again this year, but the range has expanded to include spiced shortcrust mince pies as well.
I open the box and they look very pretty. Not I hasten to add like your normal mince pie, they are flatter and larger. They also don’t have a lid but a lattice top. The pastry is quite dark – probably because it is spiced, but they look really appealing. I stick one in the oven for 10 mins to warm up and the smells drifting forth are sensational. There’s cinnamon, buttery pastry, and a scent of citrus. If Father Christmas wears after shave it would smell like this.
I took it out of the oven and sprinkled with tangerine sugar before digging in. I love it! The ratio of mincemeat to pastry is spot on. The mincemeat is rich, dense and fruity and the pastry is short, buttery and just like the packet says – spiced. The mince pie is topped with flaked almonds for a bit of crunch and there’s a citrus kick from both the tangerine sugar and the lemon in the mincemeat. It was tricky to decipher what citrus flavour was coming from where so I decided to try the tangerine sugar on it’s own.
I took a tentative finger dab and got a fragrant sweet tingle on my tongue. I like this stuff I thought and then poured out a bit more. This was a mistake. Tangerine sugar is not meant to be eaten on it’s own. It starts out fine but quickly turns into how I imagine crystalised Kia Ora would taste. It leaves you with the sensation you get after too many boiled sweets when you feel the roof of your mouth is dissolving. I have conducted this experiment so you don’t have to, just use it as a dusting like you’re supposed to.
I was happy with last years mince pies, but this years are much better. Buy some. Eat them. And have a very merry Christmas… even in November.
Heston from Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies £3.29 for 4