Food, Lifestyle
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Mince pies, mulled wine & Christmas gatherings

It’s finally that time of year again where it is perfectly acceptable to stuff yourself with mince pies, and wash it all down with a few glasses of mulled wine – preferably all whilst sat in front of a cozy log fire reading a great book  socialising with a group of friends you haven’t seen for months! I’m joking, I promise that I actually do find both of those scenarios enjoyable and that I’m not an entirely antisocial being. That being said, organising social gatherings for the holiday season can be stressful so I’ve come up with a list of tips to make it easier, as well as the recipe to make the perfect mince pies for the occasion.

Tips for Organising a Winter Gathering with Friends

Pick your location – you could choose to meet up in a restaurant (no dishes to wash/ avoids the dreaded clean-up); or you could decide to host the gathering yourself. If you decide to host the gathering yourself, follow my tips for a smooth evening.

  1. Lay out snacks for people to help themselves to, but don’t do a full on meal. Big evening dinner parties have their place, but at Christmas there is enough of that already and people just want to be able to catch up with a few small bites such as the mince pies I have included the recipe for in this post (scroll down for the mince pies).
  2. Ask people to bring something – just because you are the host, that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything. If you know that you can’t bake to save your life, ask Sarah to make the mince pies (and send her here for the recipe)!
  3. Serve mulled wine (this is my favourite recipe). It’s super easy to make, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without it! You can also make spiced apple juice for the designated drivers if you so  wish. Have other drinks all in one place, with the glasses next to them so that people can help themselves.
  4. Decorate. Just have fun – you could go out for a winter walk and collect small branches of fur trees and holly trees as well as picking up a bunch of pine cones. Put a wreath on your front door, light some candles, keep the atmosphere relaxed.
  5. Have Fun!

My biggest tip of all though, would be to do the clean up before you go to bed! Leaving it until the morning just means you wake up to all the stress of a big mess, which is far from the relaxing morning after that you would wish for. If you have some willing friends, let them help! Don’t turn their helping hands away just because you are trying to be polite, you will regret it later.

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Mince Pies

(Makes 12)

240g flour

2 tsp nutmeg

60g Trex

60g cold butter, diced into small cubes

zest and juice of one orange

pinch of salt

jar of mincemeat (approx. 400g)

icing sugar to dust

  1. Add the flour and nutmeg to a mixing bowl that is big enough to fit the ingredients (and combine them), but small enough to fit in your freezer. Break up the Trex and place it in pieces across the surface of the flour, scatter the butter over this and place the bowl in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Juice the orange into a small bowl or jus and add the salt, place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
  2. After 20 minutes, rub the fats into the flour and nutmeg in the bowl, when the mixture resembles wet sand in texture begin add the orange juice mix from the fridge. Combine the orange juice into the flour-butter mix using a flat-edged knife, adding a little at a time until it is just about to combine (stop before this point).
  3. When the mix looks as though it is just about to combine, stop adding the liquid and using your hands, form the mix into a smooth pastry. Wrap this in clingfilm and place in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  4. After about 10 minutes, take the pastry out of the fridge, lightly flour a clean work surface and rolling pin, and roll out the pastry to about 2mm – it has to be pretty thick to be able to hold the mincemeat. Cut 12 circles from the pastry and place in the wells of the muffin tray (it doesn’t matter if they don’t com right to the top).
  5. Fill each pastry case with mincemeat, try to split the mincemeat relatively equally between all the mince pies. Re roll the pastry and cut 12 small stars, place a star on top of each mince pie. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, but check them frequently as the cook quite quickly.

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