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Home-made Mince Pies for Christmas

December 10, 2008

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so in a light-hearted spirit we present this witty review by author Jeanette Winterson, which combines a yummy recipe, some literary classics and a dash of topical political satire into a somewhat sharp yet mischievously irresistible mix:

As this is going to be a Home-made Christmas we had better start this afternoon. My advice for the weekends leading up to the Great Event is to begin with a stash of audiobooks to entertain your ears while your hands are nimbly at it with Sellotape and scissors, pastry cutters and kegs of mince-meat.

I like making mince pies and my recipe is nicer and easier than most, but it cannot be done without Fiona Shaw reading Alice in Wonderland (Naxos AudioBook NA213712). Following the Mad Hatter’s Budget Party this week, Alice in Wonderland is the ideal listening for those of us who now know—really know, not just in our boots, but right down to our hand-knitted Santa socks—that this Government makes up the rules as it goes along. Plan? Prudence? Prosperity? This is the Queen’s croquet ground…”They all quarrel so dreadfully, and they don’t seem to have any rules in particular—at least, if there are, nobody attends to them”.

Chapter Eleven—Who Stole the Tarts? is, of course, the question we are asking, because Gordon Brown had assured us that we were in a jam today and jam tomorrow world, and now some damn knaves have been running round with sticky fingers, and there are no tarts left.

Therefore, we will make our own.

Prep: Turn on audiobook. Pour small glass of beautifully cold dry white wine—an Alsace is good for the afternoons, and favoured by Hemingway (see A Moveable Feast, his recollections of living in Paris as a young man).

Take a pound (450g) of plain flour and mix it with 4oz (100g) of white vegetable fat til it looks like breadcrumbs. Have a drink. Throw in about four tablespoons of water [Note from the Editor: try vodka next time! Honest, it works] and mix the lot to a sticky paste. Put this in the fridge to cool off unless you have already turned off all your heating, Scrooge-style, in which case just put on an extra muffler and leave the dough in the bowl.

The next half hour can be spent making a list of all the books you want for Christmas. More wine is called for.

When you are satisfied that the pastry is cold, get out your Punch and Judy rolling pin, flour it, and flour the surface you will roll on, then fling down the dough, and by now you should be at a karaoke moment with Fiona Shaw, and somewhat near “Off with their heads!” Roll out your pastry nice and thin—more Oliver Twist than Sweeney Todd—and if you have a pastry cutter, use it, if not, an espresso cup is good, or something bigger if you want bigger pies, but remember that wanting bigger pies got us into all this mess in the first place.

Press your pastry cut-outs into a moulded pie tin. Now you need to fill and top your pies. If you want Poetic Pies, drop in a sensitive amount of mincemeat, then get a star-shaped cutter. Think pie in the sky—a little vision, like Dante gazing at Beatrice (though I do not mean to compare Beatrice to a mince pie). If you want Post-Modern Pies, then dollop in quite a lot of mincemeat, perhaps audaciously slopping it over the edge of the case, and just cut out two provocative strips of pastry and cross them over the top—self-consciously artificial, but revealing all, like Michel Houllebecq.

If you want a Bestseller Pie, then fill generously, but make a thick lid and seal the edges with fingertips of brandy. Dust with icing sugar.

Now cook them for 15 minutes or freeze them uncooked for later.

To avoid a Great Expectations Mrs Joe Gargery moment as she is about to go on the Ram-page at poor Pip and Joe, “A slave with her apron never off…” don’t make mince pies past the moment of pleasure. These are luxuries, not necessities, and you have to enjoy yourself. Whip off the apron in time, and take another tip from Hemingway, who I don’t suppose ever made a mince pie in his life, but can be counted on to make us all feel better about the amount we drink…

- Jeanette Winterson, The Times, 29 November 2008

A number works by authors Winterson mentions feature on Naxos AudioBooks:

Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland (unabridged)
Through the Looking Glass
Through the Looking Glass and
what Alice found there

Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol
Bleak House
Bleak House (unabridged)
Classic Ghost Stories
David Copperfield
Great Expectations
Great Expectations (unabridged)
Hard Times
Little Dorrit (unabridged)
Little Dorrit (abridged)
Nicholas Nickleby
The Old Curiosity Shop (abridged)
Oliver Twist
Our Mutual friend (unabridged)
Our Mutual Friend (abridged)
The Pickwick Papers
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities (unabridged)

Naxos AudioBooks also has a number of Christmas titles in its extensive catalogue:

A Christmas Celebration
The Christmas Collection
A Family Christmas
Poetry for the Winter Season
The Story of Jesus

And you can browse by Author or Title to find the perfect gift.

Ask your local book store today about Naxos audioBooks.


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