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Chef and co-founder of Lyle’s and Flor, James Lowe says the best mince pies are old school

James Lowe

We always have mince pies at Lyle’s in December and sell them at Lyle’s coffee bar and from Flor in Borough Market in the mornings. In the evening we make mini puff pastry ones as the last course of the dinner menu, too.

We included beef in our mince pies as a nod to the original recipe, before high quantities of fruit and sugar became the norm. The flavour and richness from the aged beef and fat is incredibly important and is what makes ours stand out from the crowd. We’d recommend you get in touch with Nathan at The Butchery by Spa Terminus for finding the best minced beef and beef fat, and use a good old-school apple — tart like a Russet or Cox — which you can get from Chegworth Valley.

Ingredients (makes 20)

For the mincemeat
400g minced beef (best if from aged meat)
300g chopped apples
350g sultanas
350g currants
250 soft dark
brown sugar
300g suet
2 oranges (zest and juice)
2 lemons (zest and juice)
125ml brandy
125ml rum
50ml port
Ground nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice — to taste

For the rough pastry
300g very cold diced butter
400g flour
5g fine salt
100g ice cold water
Pinch of demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Mince pies

1. Roast or fry the beef until browned, then combine with the other mincemeat ingredients in two deep roasting trays. Put in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes, then turn down to 120C and cook for 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.

2. Break the butter in 1/2cm chunks and add to a deep bowl with the flour and salt. Using your fingers, rub until it is a consistency like coarse sand. Don’t work it too much, make sure you can still see pieces of butter as this is what makes the pastry puff. Add the water and mix until the dough comes together, then rest in the fridge for an hour.

3. Once rested, roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 15cm x 40cm, sprinkle with sugar and lightly roll to press the sugar in. Fold the dough into thirds — as you would with an A4 piece of paper when you place it into an envelope — then put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Roll out the dough to form a rectangle again, sprinkle with sugar and repeat the letter folding technique. Chill and rest for 30-60 minutes and repeat the rolling, sugar and fold one more time.

4. Roll the pastry to 3mm thick and cut out large circles to line the base of muffin or mince pie tins. Leave a 1cm rim above the top of the tin. Fill each case with mincemeat and press down, leaving the lip of the pastry exposed. Cut a smaller circle, egg wash the underside and seal the top of the pie by pressing the overlapping pastry together.

5. Crimp the overlapping pieces of pastry in any pattern, then egg wash the top and sprinkle with more sugar and a little Maldon sea salt. Cut a small hole in the top of the pie and bake at 180C for 20 minutes, until the lid is golden brown.