WHILE turkey and Christmas pudding are held back for the meal on the big day, mince pies are the real staple of the festive season. People who wouldn’t normally dream of a mid-afternoon snack will suddenly find themselves gobbling down piles of pastry and fruity mincemeat, while every cocktail party and seasonal bash is overflowing with them. But all mince pies are not created equal – far from it. So we’ve risked our waistlines to pick through some of the best, and offer a little guidance for those hosting Christmas parties, or just sneaking in a cheeky pie before bed.
LAVERSTOKE PARK FARM, £10.50
Large, crusty and uneven, Laverstoke’s Luxurious mince pies look terrifically enticing – until you find out that most of the pie is pastry. As you’d expect from these specialists in organic produce, the mincemeat is pretty good – fruity, boozy, not too sweet. But all we’re really left with is the taste of flour from the pastry overload – and they’re rather pricey too. www.laverstokepark.co.uk
These look a little too uniform for our liking, though the softish pastry has a fine buttery taste and melty texture. Here’s the problem though: the pie actually sags in the middle due to a lack of filling – we reckon barely a teaspoonful. Shame, because it’s good, sweet mincemeat, and the overall taste is superb – a hit of fruit and spice with a hint of decadence. If only the mincemeat portions were that bit more decadent too.
WHOLE FOODS, £6.99
We tried two versions, with wholemeal pastry and with white pastry – and both were superb. The pies are topped off with a pastry star that just about sits over the huge scoops of mincemeat. And boy, what mincemeat – chunky, wholesome, firm, and free of the sickly sweetening that blights some other mince pies. These felt authentic and tasted delicious, the wholemeal pastry in particular adding a gutsy twist.
FORTNUM &?MASON, £9.50
Fortnum’s St Clement’s pies are delicious – big, crumbly pies brushed with just the right dusting of sugar, while a citrusy surprise lurks inside, where an abundance of orange and lemon peel adding aromatic loveliness. Classy.
MARKS & SPENCER, £2.99
M&S has come up trumps with its top tier Collection mince pies. The best thing of all is the sheer boozy brilliance of the mincemeat, while the glazed, rustic pastry is crispy and flavoursome. There’s also a collection of 12 mini mince pies in different styles (£4.99), in which the use of pecan nuts as a topping for four of them is sheer genius.
We expected Waitrose’s offerings to be a cut above those from other supermarkets, but they weren’t. They’re a generous size and look nice, but all we could really taste from the gloopy mincemeat was sugar. Unexceptional in the extreme.
DUCHY ORIGINALS FROM WAITROSE, £3.99
The pastry, though delicious, is very filling – it’s more like shortbread than pastry. There was a good amount of mincemeat inside, and while it had plenty of fruit and wasn’t too viscous like some of the others, it was bland. A rather polite mince pie.
ABEL & COLE, £4.49
It’s always good to see a mince pie that rises in the middle because it’s got so much mincemeat packed into it, and the mincemeat in A&C’s Luxury pies doesn’t disappoint: it’s chunky, full of apple and raisins, and substantial. These feel handmade and artisanal, and are very satisfying.