I have a serious addiction.
Every evening in the lead up to Christmas, I am compelled to have a mince pie and a cup of tea.
Before moving to Australia, where this English tradition is a seasonal staple, I was blissfully unaware.
I was also a good deal thinner.
Bundled up in layers upon layers of wool sweaters, shawls and (God bless them) ponchos, the effects of an addiction such as mine are easily concealed.
If, however, you plan on spending the Big Day in your swimming cozzie, read on at your peril.
Our favorite recipe comes courtesy of the admirable, and enviable, English food writer Annie Bell.
Not only is she one of those authors whose cook books you enjoy reading for the language as much as the culinary imaginings, but she and her family divide their time between a gorgeous London townhouse and a 17th century farmhouse in Normandy.
I struggle to maintain a generous attitude.
But I can forgive anything - even a French country home - of the woman behind this recipe.
Her mincemeat pies - nutty, meaty, delicate - are a world away from the cloyingly sweet, jammy, store-bought variety.
The partially open star tops (rather than closed) are key, guaranteeing the perfect the mincemeat-to-pastry ratio.
I suspect they are behind (pardon the pun) many a New Year's resolution.
But it's Christmas.
Make a batch.
Put on the kettle.
And dig in.
Annie Bell's Mince Pies (from In My Kitchen)
Makes 2-3 dozen
150 g currants
125 g raisins
25 g blanched almonds, finely chopped
1 knob of stem ginger, finely chopped
1 dessert apple, peeled and grated
50 g shredded suet (beef or vegetarian)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
knife tip of ground cloves
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
Combine all the ingredients for the mincemeat in a bowl, cover and set aside for at least 12 hours.
450 g plain flour
250 g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150 g icing sugar, sifted
2 small egg yolks
Place the flour and butter in a food processor, give it a quick burst at high speed to reduce it to a crumb-like consistency, then add the lemon zest and bring the dough together, wrap it in cling-film and chill for several hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 170° C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, use a fluted cutter and cut out circles to fit a non-stick mini-muffin baking tray. Place these in the tray and fill each with a heaped teaspoon of mince-meat. Roll the pastry again and cut out stars, slightly smaller than the diameter of the pies. Lay one of these in the center of each pie and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the pastry is pale gold. Allow to cool and sprinkle with icing (powdered) sugar.