gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat 2

It’s official: the Christmas season has started. Slade’s rendition of “Merry Christmas, Everyone” has at last been played on local radio and my son has cracked open his advent calendar.

So, also time for another round of challenges set by the ever-ingenious Caleigh over at Glutenfree[k]. This challenge has as its inspiration “Christmas Past”, for example, a traditional recipe that’s been passed down through the family.

As a family, we’re not very keen on the traditional Christmas fare of pies, puddings and cakes, stuffed with dried fruits, nuts and suet and smothered in marzipan. I find them far too rich, sickly and cloying and a little almond flavouring goes a long way with me.

My mum has been making this low-fat mincemeat for the last twenty-five years. I think she copied it down off the telly or from the Radio Times. It’s much lighter, fresher and fruitier than traditional mincemeat and much less sweet but is still packed full of the flavours of Christmas. People who profess not to like mincemeat love this.

This recipe makes a good three or four jars of mincemeat and you’ll only want about two-thirds of one jar for the mince pies here. But I guarantee, once you’ve eaten the first batch, you’ll be knocking up the second. And then the third…

gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat

Gluten-free low-fat mincemeat

Makes about 1.6kg

225g soft dark sugar
200ml apple juice
900g cooking apples, peeled and cored
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
225g raisins
225g sultanas (golden raisins)
55g slivered almonds
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Zest and juice of half an orange

You will also need sterilised jam jars and greaseproof paper discs.

In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the apple juice over a medium heat. While the sugar is dissolving, chop the apples into small pieces. When the sugar has dissolved, add the apple and all the other ingredients. Bring up to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the apple has turned to a mush and the raisins and sultanas (golden raisins) have become swollen and plump.

Bottle in sterilised jars whilst still hot. Put greaseproof paper discs on top of the mincemeat before screwing on the lids.

Because this contains no preservatives, it won’t keep indefinitely. Keep it somewhere cool and use it up over the Christmas season.

Gluten-free mince pies with a citrus shortcrust and low-fat mincemeat

Makes 12 mince pies

250g gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tbsp icing (confectioner’s) sugar
140g chilled butter, cubed
Zest 1 lemon
Zest 1 orange
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water
12 tbsp mincemeat (about 270g)
Icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting.

You will also need a 7.5cm, a 6cm and a star-shaped biscuit (cookie) cutter and a 12-hole shallow bun tin.

Place the flour, icing (confectioner’s) sugar, butter and lemon and orange zests in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add half the egg (reserving the other half for glazing the pies) and the tablespoon of cold water and pulse until the mixture comes together as a soft dough. Add a little extra water if the dough appears dry but avoid adding too much as it makes the pastry tough. Tip the dough out of the food processor, form into a ball,wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (my oven is fan-assisted so adjust accordingly). Dust a sheet of greaseproof paper and your rolling pin with cornflour (cornstarch) and roll out two-thirds of your pastry to about 2-3mm thick (wrap the remaining third in clingfilm to avoid it drying out). Cut out 12 discs with the 7.5cm cutter and use these to line the bun tin, re-rolling scraps as necessary. It’s a good idea to put each disc into the bun tin as you cut it, as the longer it is in contact with the air, the drier it becomes and, therefore, more likely to crack when it is moulded into the tin.

Spoon a tablespoonful of mincemeat into each pastry case then roll out the rest of the pastry. Cut 6 discs with the 6cm cutter and cut star shapes out of the centre of each. Place the 6 lids and 6 stars on top of the pies and press the lids down gently. Brush each pastry top with a little beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and take out each pie carefully from the tin with a palette knife. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar before serving.