Monday, 24 December 2012

Treating Father Christmas

Tonight is the night that Father Christmas comes to visit good little girls and boys, isn't it? Baby's stocking has been hung by the grandparents' fireplace, in expectation of the great man's visit and, so far, she is sleeping peacefully. Now, everybody knows what Father Christmas likes to eat don't they? Earlier in the month I harboured ideas of treating Father Christmas to some good old home made mince pies - gluten and dairy free of course!

Not having made pastry for years, and not having even tried to make pastry gluten and dairy free, I decided to play it safe and try out a gluten free pastry mix. It wasn't a huge success - the mixture seemed to require far more fat and liquid than the instructions stated. But, apparently, too much liquid (as I discovered, when I read some recipe a few weeks later) can make gluten free pastry hard.

The ones we made looked good, but...

And guess what? Freshly cooked, the mince (and jam) pies were quite edible, but once they were cold the pastry did become hard - in fact very hard and completely inedible! 

Following this disastrous episode, I really, really meant to give Pig in the Kitchen's mince pie recipe (with pastry made with sweet potatoes) a try, following a tip-off from Hannah, on our Face Book page, or even Pippa Kendrick's, but... time ran out on me!

Previous to my problems with gluten, I was able to eat supermarket own brand mince pies. I think they were Waitrose and Morrison's mini ones. I noticed Tesco's own were dairy free this year, however, now that I am gluten free, these are no longer an option. 

Dairy free, but sadly not gluten free
Instead, the Free From aisle is now the first place I look for mine. Last year's mince pies of choice were Sainsbury's own Free From mince pies. This year, I gave some others a try. Both, funnily enough, we're picked by The Hub. The first choice came from Morrison's. Made by OK Foods, they were cheaper than the next choice, which was Hale & Hearty.

Available from Morrison's, I bought these from a health food store.
I like them both, but in different ways. The OK Foods mince pies were quite sugary, but I have quite a sweet tooth, so that's not a problem for me. There was a good helping of mince meat inside, which balanced the sweetness of the pastry casing, quite nicely.

They also appealed to me, because they were made without maize, which I have been unsure about - sometimes I think that some products made with maize have troubled my gut slightly. These are made with ground almonds, so a no go, for anyone with a nut allergy I'm afraid. The packet also warns that the pies contain sulphur dioxide and may contain traces of egg and peanut.

The Hale and Hearty mince pies were a bit more expensive - they cost The Hub £3.99. They weren't easy to get hold of - they were meant to be available at the Co-op, but none of the branches I visited had any. However, I was fortunate that The Hub, working in the city, was able to get some from Planet Organic.

One of the things I liked about these was that some thought had gone into packaging - they were packaged in two packs of two, inside the box. This is a good idea if you are the only gluten free person in the house - it saves you eating the whole box in one go - although that's never troubled me too much!

Hale and Hearty's mince pies. I like the star-topped look!
Another nice thing about them was that the pastry tasted almost home made and looked more home made too. However, a few of them (The Hub bought three boxes - he thought I might get through a few over Christmas and I think he's probably right) looked just slightly over cooked. This didn't seem to spoil the flavour, though.

Allergy advice, for these pies, states that they are made with egg (so sorry to those of you who can't eat egg). Also, although they are not made with milk or nuts, they are made in a factory that handles these ingredients.

So, what did Father (or actually Mother) Christmas wash all these mince pies down with? Nothing more exciting than a cup of weak black tea I'm afraid - although mulled wine would have gone down very nicely, I'm still breast feeding!!

What about you? What does/did Father Christmas get left as a treat, in your house?

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