I love Christmas. Every year I get increasingly excited as we get closer and closer to December, waiting until we can finally over-decorate our house and have an excuse for much feasting and frivolity. The whole season is filled with cosy warmth, big jumpers, drinks with family and friends and an excuse to celebrate. Even the Bah Humbugs can’t quite drown out the choruses of good cheer as people bustle about with twinkling lights illuminating their way through the darkened days.
For me, the only downside to Christmas is that I just can’t stand most traditional festive foods. Mince pies, Christmas cakes and puddings? Bleaurgh. Sorry. It’s all the squidgey, wrinkly dried fruit, and other lumpy surprises – textures that just repel. It saddens me a little to be so against these revered Christmas foods that are always presented with such glee, but there isn’t much to be done about it. So I have created my own version. Well, I have only tackled the mince pie so far, but you have to start somewhere…
The flavour of the mince pie, whilst far too intense and sweet, isn’t really the problem. As I said, it’s the demon fruit, chunks of candied peel and other horrors. So I took the main flavours of the mince pie and put them into an apple pie instead. Result? Delicious! Warmed with brandy, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, and freshened with satsuma zest and juice, it really works to bring a festive buzz to the average apple pie.
If you are a non-festive-food-fan like myself, see my recipe below.
Festive Apple Pies Recipe
200g sweet shortcrust pastry (I used James Martin’s recipe)
Roll out, line pie / muffin tins, cut out lids and cut a cross in their centre (to stop the pies exploding!), then lay on a tray. Chill in the fridge until needed.
2 large Bramley apples, chopped into small chunks
1 eating apple, cut into small cubes
Large knob of butter
2 tbs Demerara sugar
Good glug of brandy
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Generous grating of nutmeg
3-4 drops vanilla essence
Zest of one satsuma
Juice of half a satsuma
Stew down the Bramley apples in the sugar and butter. Add a splash of water if needed. Add in all the other ingredients apart from the eating apple. Add this in once the apple sauce has almost gone to a purée. Warm through for 2-3 mins then leave to cool then remove the clove.
Assemble pies. Slice a hole in the lid of each pie and brush with egg wash. Cook in oven at 180 (160 fan oven) for 25 mins.
When cool dust with icing sugar.
I have just made an alternative to my alternative pie(!) by doing the above but adding in blended mince meat to the bottom of it – results pending. Tense times.