Christmas is coming – heralded by the many pictures of decorated fir trees on social media this weekend. But it's another staple of the festive period that we're interested in: mince pies.
Traditionally, this British tart is filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Restaurants and retailers have been having some fun with the sweet treat, however, introducing different formats and flavours.
Food Spark takes a look at this year's mince pie makeovers and what could be coming in 2019.
Doughnuts to deep fried
Mexican chain Wahaca is serving up a mince pie empanada: a crispy, sugar-coated parcel filled with mincemeat that is mixed with a touch of mescal and served with brandy butter ice-cream.
Over in Covent Garden, Cora Pearl has created a mince pie doughnut that it serves with brandy custard, while south London Indian restaurant Kennington Tandoori has mince pie samosas accompanied by mango kulfi (a dairy dish similar to ice cream).
In Liverpool, barbecue restaurant Apocalypse Cow has taken its mince pies to the next level by deep-frying them in doughnut butter and dishing them up with brandy cream and salt caramel sauce.
Bigger, boozier and bursting with new flavours
Over in retail, supermarkets have been playing with the pie filling. Waitrose has a range from Heston that is filled with sour cherry mincemeat, laced with cherry Bakewell vodka and topped with a chocolate crumble. Aldi, meanwhile, has a choice of spiced caramel with fruit and nut in a chocolate pastry or festive berries and cognac in an all-butter case. Aldi is also bringing back its salted caramel mince pies, which were popular last year.
Alcohol gets a look in at the Co-op, which has spiced salted caramel and rum mince pies on sale this year, while Tesco gets boozy with its spiced rum lattice mince pies. Tesco has also ditched the pie entirely with its mince-filled butter cookies, which can be eaten straight from the pack or warmed up in the oven.
Asda has supersized its mince pies, creating a range that is three times bigger than the standard. Each one is stuffed with sultanas, raisins, orange peel and cranberries.
With its Carlton factory producing 4.5m packs of mince pies every year, Mr Kipling has created new versions of its signature cake, including deep-fried options.
Without a sniff of fruit in sight, Hotel Chocolat has a tongue in cheek alternative: mince pie pralines that have mini ‘pastry’ cases made from milk chocolate filled with hazelnut or caramel truffle.
So what does Sparkie make of these modern mince pies?
It’s interesting to see people still attempting the odd twists, when from my point of view everything seems to be pushing towards the authentic and traditional. They will still work as a novelty if they taste good, but we should definitely expect the basic to remain the biggest sellers. I think they are predominately a side effect of the overproduction of the filling – there’s always massive quantities left after Christmas that gets reduced continuously.
This time next year, if the trend for traditional keeps up, maybe variants on the original recipe which actually contained meat. It is likely to be a step too far for most, but I could see the likes of Waitrose giving it a go.