In Season: November & December

In the UK, we get pears in season for a good portion of the year – but winter is when it really kicks off, with varieties ranging beyond the faithful Conference. There are around 550 types in Britain, and a lot of them sound like something you’d expect to find in Care of Magical Creatures class, but the shelves are dominated by just four. As imported varieties typically test highly for pesticides, it’s worth making the most of the UK’s pear seasons while it’s here. So what do we make with them? It could be classically sweet, like this pear, quince and almond crumble, or  gluten-free pear and almond cake. Or perhaps you’d prefer something savoury: pear tart with blue cheese and pancetta, cranberry & blue cheese tart with pear salad or warm Roquefort cheesecake with pears in balsamic vinaigrette. Better get going, though, as the variety of pears available in the UK decreases once we hit March.

For this round-up’s recipe, we’re embracing the festive season, with Viennese mince pies.

Recipe yields around 20 mince pies.

Ingredients

375g sweet shortcrust pastry
650g mince meat
50g sugar
175g butter, semi-chilled
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170C. Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to about 3mm thick, and cut out rounds 3″ in diameter. Line a 12-hole shallow bun tin with the rounds, using another piece of pastry to push them down into the holes. Spoon in about one and a half heaped teaspoons of mince meat.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light, and whisk together the flour and baking powder using a fork. Stir the flour into the butter mixture, and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.
  3. Pipe the mixture in a swirl on the top of the mince pies, and bake for around 20 minutes, until golden. (Between batches, keep the Viennese mixture in the fridge.) Transfer the pies to a rack to cool, and clean any escaped liquid off immediately (to save on stubborn washing up later!). Dust with icing sugar to serve (a little bit of icing sugar really rounds off the flavours, particularly if your filling is boozy).

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