TEA, ROSE AND CARDAMOM GIANT MINCE PIE
This Christmas is the first Christmas I’m hosting from my own (and new!) home so I’m keeping things simple — just one homemade dessert for the big day. I’ve created a lot of popular festive sweets over the years but a new home called for a new recipe and this is what I’ll be baking on Christmas Eve: an easy, nutritious twist on the classic British mince pie. I’m still unpacking my bakeware so in the search for the cupcake tray I decided that a giant mince pie, or rather a mince pie tart, was the way to go — quicker and less fiddly.
With just a few ingredients to pick up: raisins, apples, chickpea (gram) flour, butter (or coconut oil) and an orange, I was able to assemble it with some of my store cupboard favourites: rose extract, tea, cardamom, a handful of pistachios, and jaggery. Jaggery is a favourite of mine, a traditional sweetener from South Asia made from raw, unrefined sugar cane juice or palm tree sap.
Cheaper than the usual whole-food sweeteners it’s a little trickier to source but can be found in Indian, Portuguese and Hispanic (where it will be labeled as “piloncillo”) stores or online. Otherwise maple syrup works well here. The recipe also works for vegans if you swap the butter or ghee for coconut oil. Rather than an array of dried fruits I opted for raisins — choosing these over sultanas, even though they are both a form of dried grape, as raisins retain more nutritional benefits during the drying process, including their low glycemic index and fibre content, and are not treated with vegetable oils and chemicals like sultanas are. I’ve balanced their sweetness with fresh apple and orange.
As with all my recipes this one is gluten-free thanks to a nifty chickpea or “gram” flour crust. You can easily source gram flour from your local supermarket — it’s economical and easy to work with, a great one to try with kids as it’s easy to make repairs while you work and, unlike regular wheat flour, you cannot overwork it and there’s no need to keep everything cool. Gram flour does need a good cook through so, using a traditional Indian and Ayurvedic cooking technique, I toast it first to get rid of any rawness and then once assembled the tart just needs 15 minutes in the oven to serve. Pair it with a tart creme fraiche or make your own dairy-free version with a quick blend of soaked cashews, fresh ginger, honey and lemon juice — it’s well worth it.
I’m a fan of fragrant spices all year round but never more so than this time of year when their warmth adds to the festive cheer of the season. Since you’ll find cinnamon, and the rest, throughout my Christmas Day feast I’ve gone smokey and floral for my mince pie with a Lapsang Souchong tea (or choose your favourite tea like Earl Grey) and a little rose water which always pairs well with pistachio and cardamom. Since everyone's cardamom and rose will vary in strength feel free to keep tasting throughout.
Tea, rose and cardamom giant mince pie with chickpea crust served with a ginger and lemon cashew cream
For the tea
4 lapsang souchong/Earl Grey tea bags (or 4 tbsp of loose leaf) infused in 150ml boiling water for 10 minutes
For the pastry
220g (scant 2 cups) gram flour (AKA chickpea/besan flour)
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
80g unsalted chilled butter, ghee or coconut oil
3 tbs jaggery or maple syrup
4-5 tbs of water
For the mincemeat
3 large apples, about 450g
1 tbsp chickpea flour
½ tsp rose water (plus more to taste)
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp jaggery
Zest and juice of one orange (use unwaxed otherwise use an unwaxed lemon for the zest)*
30g pistachios, chopped
Rose petals, optional
Finely desiccated coconut, optional
Creme fraiche or my cashew ginger lemon creme fraiche below
Steep the tea bags in 150ml of boiling water for 10 minutes in a medium pan, lid on (if using loose leaf tea, strain after steeping and return to the pan). Add the raisins, juice and zest of one orange and 1/2 a tsp of ground cardamom and allow to macerate while you prepare the crust.
To make the pastry. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, dry roast the gram flour for about 15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring frequently to ensure even roasting and to keep the flour from burning. At the end of this process, the mixture should be fragrant and a few shades darker.
Add the chopped butter, salt and jaggery/maple syrup, remove from the heat and mix and mash a bit, then set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle rub the mixture with your fingers to make fine bread crumbs. Add most of the water and knead until until you reach a workable dough, adding more water if necessary.
Roll out the dough to 3mm thick between 2 sheets of baking paper/parchment paper using a rolling pin and line a 9-inch greased tart dish (with chickpea pastry you can also press the dough into the bottom and sides of the dish). Remove excess and roll or press out to 2mm thick — use a pastry cutter to make stars/shapes (I used the back of a piping nozzle to cut little circles from the dough scraps).
Loosely cover and chill in the fridge for an hour or freeze for 20 minutes.
To make the mincemeat. Warm the pan with the raisin on a low heat until the liquid has evaporated and the raisins are plump.
In a large bowl, mix the apples with the rosewater, jaggery and pistachios (setting some aside) then fold in the raisins. Taste and add more rosewater or cardamom if required.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Prick the bottom of the crust 5 times with a fork and fill with the mincemeat. Top with the stars/shapes. Finely slice remaining pistachios and sprinkle over. Bake at 170°C for 15 minutes, covering the edge of the pastry with tin foil if they are already browned.
Remove and cool on a wire rack, sprinkle with rose petals and dessicated coconut if you like and serve with your choice of creme fraiche.
For the ginger and lemon cashew cream
200g (1.5 cups) raw, unsalted cashews
1 dried Medjool date, pitted or 3 tbsp jaggery or maple syrup
500ml (2 cups) of water for soaking
125ml (1/2 cup) water, for blending
Pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
1–2 tsp jaggery/maple syrup or raw honey
Squeeze of lemon juice
Place the cashews and date (if using) in a medium bowl and add the 500ml of water. Set aside uncovered at room temperature and soak for 10 to 12 hours. The cashews are ready when they break apart when pressed between two fingers.
Drain the soaking water from the cashews. Add the drained cashews, date or maple syrup and remaining ingredients to a blender.
Blend on high speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. Stop scrape down the sides of the blender and process again for 1 minute.
Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
*Lemons and oranges are usually waxed in order to preserve them. When using the zest, we don’t want to ingest this wax so look for unwaxed, organic fruits or remove the wax by placing the fruit in a colander and pouring boiling water over it first.