Little Lamb Pies with Chestnuts and Spices

These excellent little spiced pies are useful at Christmas because they can be made ahead and frozen. They are then ready if you have friends round at short notice over the busy Christmas period.

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 200 g/7 oz vacuum-packed chestnuts
  • 3 medium tomatoes, the plum variety if available
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 3-5 pinches cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 rounded teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 350 g/12 oz lean minced lamb
  • 50 g/2 oz tin anchovy fillets
  • 450 g/1 lb puff pastry
  • salt

Method

Peel the garlic and chop finely. Cut the chestnuts into pieces. Put the tomatoes into a bowl, pour boiling water over them and leave for 2 minutes, then drain, peel and cut into small pieces. Put the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the garlic and spices and stir for half a minute. Then add the chopped tomatoes and stir around for 2 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the minced lamb and stir for 8-10 minutes, until the meat is browned and the juices have evaporated. Then stir in the chestnuts and remove from the heat. Cut the anchovies into small pieces and stir into the mixture. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste and more cayenne pepper if wanted. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Roll out the puff pastry until it is 3-5mm/⅛-¼in thick. Brush either one or two trays of patty tins with oil — you will probably have to make these pies in relays. Use a 7.5 cm/3 in fluted pastry cutter to cut out enough rounds to line your patty tins. Spoon the cooled filling up to the top of each one. Then, using a 6 cm/ in cutter, cut out the tops. Moisten the edges of the smaller rounds and place on top of the mixture, pressing down slightly round the edges to seal. Brush the pies with a little oil and cut a small hole in the centre of each. Cook on the centre shelf of the oven for about 15 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.

Turn the pies out on to a wire rack and leave until cold, then pack carefully in a plastic container and freeze. When you want to eat them, thaw for an hour or two in the fridge, then put on a baking tray and reheat in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes.

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