Fig, Prune and St Agur Mince Pies 

Christmas, in our house, is about both tradition and experimentation. While we love the unquestionable ritual of Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies, we always tend to change how we do them from year to year. This mince pie recipe (created for the Waitrose #HomeForChristmas campaign) is my most recent, and I can honestly say that it will be a difficult one to contend with in the coming years. In fact, this may become the tradition of our yuletide table. 

These pies are different. The obvious difference, of course, is the St Agur buttercream (which even blue-cheese-haters seem to love), but also the form of these isn't the regular mix of pastry and mincemeat you might expect; the mincemeat is mixed with a frangipane to make everything far more chewy and interesting. 

Ingredients - makes 24

  • 50g prunes, roughly chopped
  • 50g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 50ml ruby port
  • 1 tsp mixed spice 
  • 300g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 65g caster sugar 
  • 65g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 80g ground almonds 

For the Buttercream

  • 75g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 75g icing sugar 
  • 150g full-fat cream cheese 
  • 50g St Agur cheese

Equipment

  • 24-hole mini muffin tin
  • Piping bag fitted with 10mm plain nozzle 

Method

First make the 'mincemeat'. Put the prunes, figs, port and mixed spice into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook down until the port has been almost entirely absorbed into the fruits - you should be left with somewhat of a mush. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. 

Roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 4mm (though Christmas really isn't the time for precision). Cut out discs big enough to line the cavities of the mini muffin tin (I find a 6cm cookie cutter gives the right size). Chill the tin until required. 

Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C conventional/gas mark 5. 

Cream together the sugar and butter until the sugar has more or less dissolved into the butter, and everything is paler in colour and lighter in texture. Throw in the egg and almonds and beat to a smooth batter. Mix the cooled fruit mixture into the almond mixture, then spoon or pipe it into the pastry-lined mini muffin tin - the mixture should just come to about 2mm from the edge of the pastry. Bake the tarts for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the frangipane is dark and has puffed up. Remove from the oven, tip the pies out of the muffin tin, and set them onto a wire wrack to cool completely. 

For the buttercream, beat the butter until soft - I use a handheld electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat in gently to avoid  a cloud of icing sugar smoke, then beat until very pale. Add the cream cheese and St Agur, and beat to a smooth buttercream - don't over-beat it. 

Load the buttercream into the piping bag, and pipe a blob onto each pie. 

Make Ahead

These pies can be made, from start to finish, in advance. Just pop them into an airtight container and either refrigerate for a week, or freeze them for up to 3 months (defrost in the fridge overnight and serve at room temperature).