Mincemeat and Almond Shortbread

Mincemeat and Almond Shortbread from Brenda Costigan's From Brenda's KitchenThere’s likely to be at least one spare jar of mincemeat in most kitchens at this time – plenty more if you make your own – and this versatile short-term preserve deserves better than to be thought of as a ‘single use’ ingredient for mince pies.

The popular Sunday Independent cookery columnist Brenda Costigan gives this unusual recipe in her new cookbook, From Brenda's Kitchen (Gill & Macmillan, paperback, €19.99), saying “A real treat, this recipe has become a seasonal must at Christmas in our house. It also makes a lovely gift.”

Serves 8

You will need:

225 g (8 oz) butter or margarine, softened
I 10 g (4 oz) caster sugar
¼ teaspoon almond essence
225 g (8 oz) flour
110 g (4 oz) finely chopped blanched almonds
200 g (7 oz) mincemeat
I tablespoon brandy or whiskey
25-50 g (1-2 oz) chopped or flaked almonds, to decorate

Springform tin, 23 cm (9 inches) in diameter

1 Preheat the 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3 and grease the springform tin,

2 To make the shortbread, beat the butter until soft, then beat in the caster sugar and almond essence until soft and creamy.

3 In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and almonds and beat into the butter/sugar mixture to form a dough. Use your hands to gather the dough into a lump, (If the dough is a bit too soft, put it into the fridge to stiffen for about 15 minutes.) Divide the dough in two.

4 To make the bottom layer, roll out one half of the dough into a small circle. Place it in the base of the tin and press it down with your knuckles or roll with a small jar (e.g. a mustard jar) to cover the base of the tin. Make sure there are no holes in the dough.

5 To make the filling, mix the brandy into the mincemeat and spread in a layer over the shortbread, leaving a 2.5 cm (1 inch) margin all around the edge. Moisten the margin with water.

6 To make the top layer, roll out the remaining dough on a round bread board dusted with flour to almost the same size as the tin, then gently slide the circle of shortbread off the board and on top of the mincemeat. Do this carefully, because once in place it isn't easy to shift it around. Press the edges together with a fork to seal, and scatter the chopped almonds over the top. Pierce the top layer (only) with a fork in a number of places to allow the steam from the mincemeat to escape.

7 Bake in the oven for 45—50 minutes, until the top is a pale golden colour and everything is cooked through. Remove from the oven and stand the tin on a wire tray. While it's cooling, loosen the edges with a sharp knife and remove the side of the tin. Allow to cool completely, then cut into thin wedges with a sharp knife.

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