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To me, mince pies are synonymous with Christmas. This year I’m swapping the usual high-fat/high-sugar supermarket version with a heart-healthy recipe from the BHF. They’re amazing!

Mmmmm, I love a mince pie at Christmas time. I usually buy a box too early, end up eating the whole thing a week before the holiday itself, and then rush out to the supermarket at the last minute to get some more.

This year was no different. True to our nature, my husband and I scoffed the lot the weekend before Christmas while bingeing on Netflix (have you seen The Queen’s Gambit?! OMG).

As much as I loved the pies, I did notice this year that they seemed almost sickeningly sweet – perhaps because I’ve been more mindful of my sugar intake lately. Rather than buy a box of the same and put my insulin levels through yet another roller coaster ride, I thought it might be a better idea to look for a healthier substitute.

It didn’t take long to find a recipe on the British Heart Foundation’s website, along with recipes for three other heart-healthy Christmas treats. Traditional mince pies are high in calories, saturated fat and sugar because of the pastry case, as well as the suet and sugar in the mincemeat filling, the BHF says.

One of the benefits of baking your own healthier version is that you can substitute the usual pastry case for a lower-fat pastry like filo. Or, if you really want the traditional pastry, you can leave the top open and just cut out a star shape to put over the top, rather than covering the whole top.

Although the BHF’s mince pies are still high in sugar, almost all of it is from fresh and dried fruit rather than added sugar, which is the kind that’s most damaging to your health. And the filo pastry has around 3% fat rather than the regular shortcrust pastry, which has around 30% fat.

The best part? They’re absolutely delicious. This is the way forward for my family’s Christmas treats. I can’t wait to try the BHF’s other holiday recipes.

The recipe

As I’ve mentioned before, I generally stick to quick and simple recipes, and this definitely fell into that category.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 tart eating apple, like Cox or Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

1 pear, peeled, cored and cut into small dice

50g (1 ¾ oz) mixed dried fruit

50g (1 ¾ oz) dried blueberries*

Finely grated zest and juice of ½ a large orange

2 tsp mixed spice

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Small piece fresh root ginger, finely grated (optional)

3 sheets filo pastry, about 140g (5oz)

1 small egg yolk, beaten with a splash of cold water

¼ tsp icing sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / gas mark 4. Put the apple, pear and dried fruits in a small saucepan with the orange zest, juice, spices and ginger, if using. Stir over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the fresh fruit begins to soften at the edges and most of the liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool.
  2. Lay the filo sheets on top of each other. Cut in half then cut each half into quarters. This will give 24 pieces of pastry in total (they should be about 2” square). Keep the filo pastry covered with a clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Using a deep, non-stick, 6-hole muffin tin, lightly wipe out each hole with oiled kitchen paper. Line each one with two pieces of the filo pastry.
  4. Spoon the cooled fruit mixture into each muffin tin and press another two pieces of pastry on top. Brush all over with the beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes until golden.
  5. Take the tin from the oven and let sit for 30 seconds. The pies will be quite firm to move by now. Using a small knife, loosen the pies from their tins and gently turn over to expose the base. Brush the bases with the beaten egg and return the pies to the oven (base upwards) for a further 5 minutes until crisp and golden.
  6. Cool on a wire rack and dust lightly with the icing sugar.

*I couldn’t find dried blueberries, so I used dried cranberries instead, which gave the pies a tangy kick. If you prefer sweeter and you can’t source dried blueberries, I’d suggest trying dates, sultanas or just using another 50g of the mixed dried fruit.

The pies can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days and warmed through in a hot oven for 5 minutes before serving. To freeze, cool the cooked pies and pack in a rigid plastic container. Re-heat from frozen in a hot oven for about 10 minutes, lightly covered with foil.

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe if you try it!

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