Ben Tish, executive chef of Salt Yard, Ember Yard, Opera Tavern and Dehesa talks mince pies.
I was brought up on mince pies. My gran made them with puff pastry and they were amazing. After she passed away my parents switched over to M&S ones. I’ve always loved them and I’ve always cooked them in my restaurants, but with a bit of a Spanish twist.
These empanadilla mince pies with smoked muscavado caramel obviously have a big Spanish influence. I use puff pastry instead of shortcrust and put sherry in there, too. The special ingredient, though, is Iberico pork fat, which gives them that really rich, smoky flavour. A bit of quince finishes it off perfectly.
It’s one of those recipes I just created myself. I had in mind the kind of thing I was after, using a lot of the traditional mince pie elements – booze, fruit and syrup – and then put it together with some lovely Spanish ingredients.
I first made this for something called the Mince Pie Project, which was a charity event for Action Against Hunger, where 100 chefs got together and all created a variation on the mince pie. Mine raised £900, which isn’t bad for a box of 24.
You can pick them up a bit cheaper than that in the restaurants, though. They’re on the menu in all of them, along with other traditional Christmas ingredients given a Spanish flavour – chestnuts with winter greens and mustard seeds; cabbage with grilled hake; and brussel sprouts and chard gratin with smoked ricotta and migas.
If you’re looking for something festive with a difference, come down and check them out.
DISH OF THE DAY
Empanadilla mince pies with smoked muscavado caramel
■ 700g currants
■ 800g sultanas
■ 700g muscatel raisins
■ 4 quince, peeled, cored and chopped small
■ 3x 190g jars frozen pork Manteca or suet
■ 100g whole toasted pinenuts, coarsely chopped
■ 600g natural demerara sugar
■ 300g dark muscovado sugar
■ 2 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
■ 4 rounded tsp ground mixed spice
■ 8 clementines – peel and zest
■ 400ml dark brandy
■ 600 ml PX sherry
■ 250g plain yoghurt
■ 125ml lamb stock or water, plus extra if necessary
■ 6cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
■ 50g fresh coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
■ Juice of 1 lemon
■ Place everything in a pan and cook for an hour together.
■ Divide the mix out between puff pastry circles and then fold over the pastry to make a half moon shape.
■ Crimp to seal and then brush with egg wash before baking for 15 minutes at 180 degrees C.