Bambi, Thumper, & Moor “Old Freddy Walker” Mince Pies

From time to time I hear it said that Christmas mince pies used to include real mince, not purely a sickly-sweet mixture of dried fruit. Wikipedia documents the use of meat in the Christmas mince pie, so it must be true. There are a few “real mince mince pie” recipes floating around; one even makes an appearance in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “The River Cottage Year“. My recipe here is based on the one from Hugh’s book, the main difference being the use of game meats instead of beef. This is the second festive season that I’ve made these mince pies, they have gone down very well at home, in the local pub, and in the office (not poisoned anyone yet!)

First: get hold of some Bambi, this shouldn’t be difficult as many supermarkets in the UK sell venison. However It may be difficult to get minced venison; ideally try to buy venison from a good butcher and ask them to mince it. I have a mincer and minced some stewing venison that I picked up in the supermarket. If mincing at home I would recommend buying venison fillets or steaks, as trimming unwanted sinew from diced meat is a pain in the backside. As much sinew as possible should be trimmed off prior to mincing, otherwise there will be chewy gristly bits in the mince pies. A fine mince is desirable, to achieve this I pushed it through a coarse plate and then my finest plate (about 4mm). This recipe includes minced Thumper (rabbit) because I didn’t quite have enough Bambi to make up the weight I wanted. (If you’re dull you could just use minced lamb or beef instead of venison and bunny, I’m thinking of trying minced 50/50 pheasant and bunny next year.)

Another difference this year is that I’ve added Moor’s Old Freddy Walker old ale to the mix instead of brandy. This is part of a recent effort on my part to cook using beer more often. It has worked out fine in this case, though I’m not sure anyone could tell that there is beer in this. Next time I might try using something like BrewDog’s Paradox Smokehead – I think that would make a mince pie that’d go down very well with a wee dram of Islay whisky.

Ingredients, prepared

Ingredients, prepared

The ingredients I used are:

  • 300g minced venison (lamb or beef will do instead of venison and bunny)
  • 50g minced bunny
  • 150g grated beef suet (preferably home-processed, but “Atora” will do)
  • 150g currants
  • 150g raisins
  • 85g ground almond
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and fine-chopped
  • 8 dates, chopped to about currant-size pieces
  • 140g soft brown sugar
  • 40g stem ginger in syrup, fine-chopped
  • 25g …of the syrup from the above
  • 1 lemon – juice and zest
  • 3 lemons & granulated sugar – to make candied peel (or 75g of shop-bought candied peel)
  • ½tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground ginger
  • ½tsp ground allspice
  • 200ml strong ale (Moor’s Old Freddy Walker)

The candied peel is the most complicated of the ingredients to prepare. I made my own because a friend at work is allergic to oranges and I couldn’t find any candied peel that didn’t contain orange peel. While it would be easier to use peel from the shop, I do think that home-made candied lemon peel is more tasty and lemony than the anything shop-bought. Brief instructions for candying peel can be found at the end of this entry.[1].

The method for making the mince couldn’t be simpler: put the lot into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Hugh’s recipe suggests the mix can be kept in jars in the larder for some time, but I haven’t tried this. I put mine in a sealed container in the fridge and let it sit for at least a week to mature, and for up to 3 weeks (just because it has never lasted longer than 3 weeks!)

Puff parcels

Un-traditional puff parcels

Next thing to do is to bake some mince pies! The photo above is of mince-pie parcels simply packaged in a folded-over piece of shop-bought puff-pastry, washed with a bit of beaten egg, and baked in a 200°C oven for about 20 minutes. I prefer a sweet shortcrust pastry however, which can be simply folded over like the puff version, or formed into little pasties, or used to make little pies in tins just like the shops sell. The little mince pies are a bit of a bother to put together, but they do look good. For the pies in the photo below I used a shortcrust recipe from the Jamie Oliver website and baking was as for the puff version but with 5 minutes at 200°C then 15 at 180°C.

Traditional tarts

Traditional tarts

Have a very meaty &amp beery (not too beery) Christmas! (Well, Xmas has been and gone for 2010 now – so I hope you had one.)

[1] Candied peel, briefly:

  1. 8th the lemons and peel out the flesh
  2. With a small sharp knife slice off the inner fibrous pith (about 1mm)
  3. Blanch in simmering water for 5 minutes
  4. Drain peel and return to saucepan peel in enough fresh water to cover to double-depth
  5. Add sugar, about 1.75 times the volume of water added
  6. Bring to simmering point and simmer until liquid is thick and syrupy, but before it browns
  7. Turn out on some foil and let cool before dicing