What is it with all the snowflakes? I’m not talking about people being overly sensitive about every little thing and I’m not talking about the weather where you are (but do send me a pic if you have snow at the moment).
Nope, I’m talking about the trend this year for mince pie makers to put snowflakes on the top of every single one.
Well, when I say every one I mean four different shops putting them as the top of their top of the range pies. (The M&S box says “shortcrust pastry star” but if I say it’s a snowflake then it’s a snowflake.)
It’s not an exact science as there are probably hundreds out there without snowflake tops but this isn’t science, this is a mince pie review.
Yep, some of the best food writing of the year comes when journos in the national papers get sent sandwiches by supermarkets, Pret, Eat and others and review them.
Sometimes they film videos about them. Other times they just wear different Christmas jumpers to match the flavours inside two pieces of bread.
They always have to write “there was too much cranberry and not enough sage and onion stuffing”.
I’ve channelled my inner reviewer (there’s a rumour I used to review pubs and have critiqued quite a few plays) to give you the Fiskal Policy’s top four mince pies of 2020.
Mince pies because a)Who is buying pre-packed sandwiches at the moment, let alone festive ones? b)Pre-packed sandwiches are more expensive than mince pies because, believe it or not, I’m not at the stage where my blog is popular enough for PRs to send me pies to review.
And instead of fancy videos and photography in a fancy studio, like the professionals have, I sat and ate the pies (who ate all the pies? I ate all the pies) at my kitchen counter sitting on a chair which is not quite high enough.
But what I do have is some words about the four top of the range pies from four shops – other shops are available but these are the closest ones to my home.
So – without further ado – here’s the Fiskal Policy mince pie review:
Co-Op – Irresistible – Luxury Mince Pie – £2 for a box of six
Kicking off proceedings was a nice looking number from Co-Op.
The dusting of icing sugar gave it a wintry feel while the not perfectly placed top made me think someone with fat fingers had put it on.
As you can see from the second picture the pastry is quite thick and breaks into chunks rather than properly crumbling when you bite into it.
Fillingwise you can definitely taste the different textures of the fruit and there’s a definite sense of the brandy in the mincemeat.
If I had these at Christmas I’d be perfectly happy but if I was reviewing them (which I am) I’d want the mincemeat to be slightly less sweet as it makes me think of a richly spiced jam with lots of bits in.
Fiskal Policy rating: 4 out of 6
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference – £1.50 for a box of six
This was the most disappointing mince pie of the four.
The pastry was golden and crumbly but also very buttery and thick. Sadly the buttery taste overwhelms the other flavours so you only really get to taste the mincemeat at the end – by running your tongue around your mouth to get to the last bits of raisin.
The filling was supposedly infused with brandy but is still quite dry so when I took the lid off and scooped a bit of out with my finger (to taste it without getting a mouthful of buttery pastry – the things I do for you guys!) I could taste the individual dried fruits in it – rather than thinking “yep, that’s mincemeat!”
Fiskal Policy rating: 2.5 out of 6
Tesco Finest – £1.50 for a box of six
If you read the other part of this week’s episode (or look at the picture) you won’t be surprised to learn this was yet another misshapen snowflake with sugar on the top.
The pastry is thinner than the others on test and the buttery taste comes in the final few bites rather than being throughout.
I ended up finishing one before I had managed to take a picture of the inside so that shows it’s a worthy pie.
And rather than being too wet or too dry, in a Goldilocks style, the filling was just the right consistency so it worked as mincemeat rather than being just a collection of dried fruits in pastry.
Fiskal Policy rating: 5 out of 6
M&S Collection – £2 for a box of six
Years ago Marks & Spencer sold a luxury mince pie that came in a gold crinkled foil case. It was a very special pie.
This year they’ve plumped for just a standard silver foil case like all the other shops. And they have followed the 2020 convention of giving it the look of being pressed together by someone with fat thumbs.
I paused eating the pie long enough to take a photo but not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because there were a lot more complex flavours in there than in your average mince pie.
Instead of it just tasting of brandy, or just dried fruits, there’s a lingering orangey taste which works well alongside the texture of the dried fruits.
It’s the clear winner for me and it might have got full marks if the packaging hadn’t pedalled the lie that it is deep-filled. It’s a standard size for a shop bought pie and anyone who doesn’t think so can bite me.
Fiskal Policy rating: 5.5 out of 6
But before you rush to the shops to buy some it is important to remember to enjoy them in moderation.
By munching my way through eight pies in putting this review together I am sure the ratings I made were the right ones. But I’m also certain I consumed more than my recommended daily amount of calories, as well as over my allowance for fat and sugar.
I did it so you don’t have to.
Stay safe for another week!