In the lead up to Christmas Day, mince pies are an absolute essential in most British homes. And with filo pastry mince pies having grown in popularity during recent years, we already known how well-suited the soft, rich filling is to the pastry’s sharp crunch. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that mince pie baklava works so well.
While the classic mince pie is generally considered an English dish, the filling ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought Middle Eastern recipes and spices home. At the time, mince pies would contain the Christmas symbolism of representing the gifts delivered to Jesus by the Biblical Magi. The ingredients typically featured a mixture of minced meat – including boiled beef and now out of favour tongue, suet, fruits, and spices including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Today, mince pies are generally made without meat (although suet and some animal fats often feature), though the spices and dried fruits remain a staple of traditional ‘mincemeat’. Those fruits and spices are also particularly suited to baklava, a layered pastry dessert that’s become one of the most popular sweet pastries of Ottoman cuisine.
Though many regional versions are available from numerous cuisines, including the likes of Turkish, Iranian, and Arab cuisines, plus other countries of the Levant and Maghreb, baklava is commonly prepared in large pans with layers of filo pastry. These layers are typically separated with melted butter, layered with chopped nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts. It’s then baked and drenched with syrup that’s soaked up by the cooked pastry.
For this mince pie baklava recipe, the filo pastry layers are sandwiched with mincemeat, chopped pistachios and pecans, ground almonds, and crystalised ginger. It’s then baked and finished with a generous drizzle of syrup infused with cinnamon and orange.
- 2 x 270g packs of filo pastry
- 250 g butter melted
- Sea salt a pinch
For the Filling
- 25 g crystalised ginger
- 100 g ground almonds
- 100 g pistachios chopped
- 70 g pecans chopped
- Zest of 1 orange
- 350 g mincemeat
For the Syrup
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 orange rind removed with a peeler
- 200 g granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3 and line a baking tin (approx. 25 X 35cm) with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl combine a pinch of salt and all the filling ingredients. Using a pastry brush, grease the parchment paper with butter to prevent sticking. Cut the sheets of filo so they’re the same size as the tin, then cover with a damp, lint-free tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
- Press one sheet of filo pastry into the tin and brush with the melted butter. Continue to layer the pastry in this way until you have used up one pack of pastry. Off cuts of pastry can be used to make up the layers (around 10). Evenly spread the mincemeat mixture over the surface, then continue to top with the remaining pastry, brushing the layers with melted butter as you go. Brush the final layer generously with melted butter. Using a sharp knife, cut deep lines horizontally and vertically to form small squares. Bake for one hour until golden.
- While the baklava is baking, make the syrup. Add the sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange rind and 100ml water to a saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer until the syrup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Juice the reserved orange into the syrup.
- Once the baklava has baked, remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Pour the syrup over the baklava, then return it to the oven for 5 minutes or until the syrup has been absorbed. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then slice into pieces along the cut lines.