Food: Mulled cider and mince pies

Mince pies 3  Really Pretty Useful
Mince pies 3 Really Pretty Useful

What a week! Super tired boys dragging their feet to the end of term has been so exhausting and it hasn't left much energy for blogging. But now they're done and work is done for me and we can live in our pjs for the next two weeks. Hurrah.

This weekend we'll be kicking off Christmas properly with our annual mulled wine and mince pies open house on Sunday. Although most of our friends come for the mulled cider and the cinnamon rolls. It's always my favourite party because it's so relaxed, people pop in to say Merry Christmas, and it's always fun and full of kids. I'm really looking forward to all the baking too. So I thought I'd share a could of recipes with you all.

Mince pies 2  Really Pretty Useful(1)
Mince pies 2 Really Pretty Useful(1)

Starry mince pies

Makes 24

You can make these in advance and keep them for a few days in an air tight container. They’re great warm so you could always heat them gently in a microwave for 30 seconds or ina low oven for a couple of minutes. They’re the perfect snack for anyone who pops by over Christmas.

1 x large jar of mincemeat (shop bought is absolutely fine but if you want to make your own my recipe  is here) 350g flour A pinch of salt 150g butter Icing sugar to dust Two bun tins 7.5cm pastry cutter 1 small star cutter


Pre heat your oven to 200c/gas mark 6.

To make your pastry – rub the butter into your flour and salt with the tips of your fingers. This can take a while and you need it to look like fine breadcrumbs once it’s all rubbed in. If you have a food processor you can whizz this up in no time.

Get yourself a jug and fill it with really cold water. Use a tablespoon and add two tablespoons of water to the flour mix. Stir with a table knife to start to bring the pastry together. Add more water, a tablespoon at time, stirring each time with the knife. When it starts to form a bit of a ball use your hand to squash together the bits of pastry into one large ball that leaves the bowl clean. If you have some stubborn crumbs that won’t get into the ball dip your fingers in the water and that should be enough to help them stick. Pop the pastry into a plastic bag and allow to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes (this makes to easier to roll out and stops it shrinking when you bake it.)

Lightly grease your bun tins. Cut the pastry ball in half and roll out one half as thin as you dare on a floured surface. Cut out 24 7.5 cm circles with your pastry cutter. You may need to re roll the pastry scraps to get all your circles. Press them gently into the bun tins.

MInce pies  Really Pretty Useful(1)
MInce pies Really Pretty Useful(1)

Fill them with a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat. If you’re running short of mincemeat chop an apple into small chunks and mix it through what mincemeat you have left. Apple and mincemeat pies – yum. Then roll out your second half of pastry and cut out 24 stars. Place them gently down on top of the mincemeat. If you want you can make solid lids for your pies, there’ll be enough pastry. I like the stars because it gives me some left over pastry to make cheese straws (roll out your scraps, sprinkle with cheese, fold over, sprinkle over more cheese, fold and roll out again, cut into strips and bake for 15 mins - easy cheese straws).

Bake your mince pies for 20 minutes then leave to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Mulled cider

Obviously mulled wine is traditional, but cider is cheaper, and it tastes much nicer. Have a big pot of this gently warming on the stove all day. If the party really gets going I’ll make a second batch later on. Don’t forget this is still alcoholic even though it’s warm.

2ltr bottle cider 1ltr apple juice 3tbsp soft brown sugar 2tsps ground cinnamon (I used ground as well as cinnamon sticks because it gives more flavour) 2 x cinnamon sticks 6 x cloves 4 x strips orange peel Apples to garnish.

Put everything into a big pot together and warm over a low heat, stirring regularly. Don’t be worried if it all foams up when you add the sugar, that’s just what it does. The bubbles will die down.

Serve in paper cups with a slice of apple in the top, if you want to be fancy you can cut out star shapes from the centres.

Save yourself buying and throwing away endless paper cups by getting your guests to decorate their own. Grab some festive washi tape, sharpies and stickers and let them loose.