festive nostalgia


Photos Marie Sjoberg
When I’m in Australia I feel nostalgic for Italy and want to make a good Panforte at Christmas time or a Pastiera Napoletana at Easter.  And every single Easter I have spent in Italy I have faithfully made my hot cross buns, made using my battered and well floured copy of David Brown’s baking book, piping out the crosses and always eating them warm with salted butter.  Before Christmas in Rome I make a quick pilgrimage down to the foreign cook’s salvation Castroni for jars of Robertson’s fruit mince.  This year I have been in England a few times and have managed to stuff the case with a few essentials: Lyle’s Golden Syrup, Maldon Sea Salt and last time I was there my Aunt Lizzie had a couple of jars of Fruit Mince waiting for me.

My mum used to make her mince, as did her sister Margie, whose mince pies are rendered very special by the lightest glaze of the palest lemon scented pink icing.  At a certain point I think they all just realized that in-between plum puddings and elaborate turkey stuffings and just being a mother in general, that the bought stuff was just fine.  Heavens, I’m bumbling about with just two children so we are doing well if any mince pies come out of the oven at all.  Speaking of small people they tend to like a nice piece of ginger bread for the festive season so I’ll do that in my next post.


Mince Pies
Shortcrust Pastry
500 g plain flour
Pinch salt
250 g butter – cubed
2 eggs
150-200 g caster sugar
1 jar plus of Fruit mince
Icing sugar for dusting

To make the pastry sift the flour with the caster sugar and salt and rub the cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  A little lemon zest is a nice addition.  Add the two eggs and mix until the mixture comes together in a ball, adding tablespoon or two of cold water if necessary. Work the pastry until until it is homogeneous and elastic and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out the pastry on a well floured surface and cut out disks that fit tart or mini muffin trays.  Flour the trays, arrange the pastry fitting it well into the tray and pricking the bottoms with a fork so that the air escapes, and fill with a teaspoon of fruit mince (not too much or the mixture will sort of explode).  Top with stars, lattice or otherwise.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is a golden brown.  I like to dust with icing sugar to serve.

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