Pious Pie

They said it couldn’t be done. A vegan mince pie (not minced pie, as I originally wrote- this is something entirely less festive looking). Well I’m not one to leave vegans out of Christmas. Or rather I’m not one to leave anyone out of joining me in pudding indulgence- everyone knows that only half the calories are ingested if a skinny friend eats something naughty with you.

It was Sunday afternoon and there was a roast in the oven, so we needed a nice hearty pud to really ensure the onset of gout.

Ominously I couldn’t find any vegan mince pie recipes online and I wasn’t about to delve back into the book that had so recently seduced and tricked me with the idea of silken tofu. Undeterred I decided to concoct my own. Now this is the thing about taking a liberal (think Lembit Opik flailing on a dance floor with a Page 3 beauty), approach to cooking: sometimes it works and sometimes it really really doesn’t. I’m the sort of person who’ll throw uncooked fruit or Marmite in at the last minute on a whim and not understand the shrieks of horror  around me. This time however my experimental, some might say alienatingly avant garde, approach to cooking paid off.

Here’s what I did:

1. I used 100g of soya margarine and 200g of plain flour and rubbed the marg into the flour, a sticky process that is curiously guaranteed to bring out the OCD in everyone.

2. Luckily my sugar instincts kicked in and a bit of cursory research told me that mince pie pastry does indeed have sugar in it. Phew. About 100g of caster sugar should do it.

3. Keep adding tiny splashes of cold water until a nice malleable dough has formed. Proceed to take your Christmas stress and anxiety out on the dough by kneading it for a few minutes.

4. Rest the pastry for 20 minute or so wrapped in cling film in the fridge. Now it has never, until this very moment, occurred to me to question why pastry needs a rest before baking- I’m taking this as a reassuring sign of my caring and considerate nature.

Well I’ve just looked into the matter and apparently it’s so the gluten in the flour has enough time to react to the water and gain elasticity. Don’t worry though it doesn’t follow that the longer you leave it in the fridge the stretchier it gets (although maybe a bendy pie would go further…) You can leave your pastry dough in the fridge for up to three days. Though this would be a risk for sugar fiends like me- there’s always a chance I’ll be pushed to gnawing at it in the event of a sugar shortage.

5. Roll the dough out using a pestle if you don’t have a rolling pin like me. Or is it a mortar…? I may never manage to remember which one’s which.

6. Don’t worry if you don’t have a suitable baking tray, I just made one biggy. Then fantasised about eating it all to myself.

7. Grease a round tin (with soya butter- don’t for St Nic’s sake lace your pie with dairy at the last hurdle), and mould roughly half of your pastry sheet into the bottom. I just plugged any gaps or missing side bits with off-cuts of pastry. I’m afraid I have no tips for neatness…and I don’t see why yours should be more attractive than mine. Remember: vegans are rarely well-versed in puddings and will be grateful for whatever you throw at them (unless it’s a slapstick cream pie).

8. Fill with a  jar of mincemeat- we used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference dahling and, well, we did. Plonk the other half of your pastry sheet on top and press the edges together. Make a couple of slits. I’ve never not done this but am assuming sticky disaster ensues if you don’t.

9. Bake for about 20 minutes or a bit longer, perhaps half an hour if you’re making one big tart (what a way with words I have).

10. Leave to cool for a bit before eating as mincemeat gets hotter than any other pie filling known to man (what would happen if you put mincemeat in a toasted sandwich I dread to think). In fact our pie was so hot it seemed to be breathing.

The result was surprisingly good. I’d have never thought the pastry would be rich enough without dairy but it was very tasty. It was a little on the robust side so conversation while pie crunching wasn’t really an option…. but then so few puddings are so good for the gums.

And there you go, Christmas just as it should be: inclusive and filling…if slightly hard work…

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