MINCE pies were originally made in stiff inedible pastry cases called coffins, which were shaped like a crib and acted as a dish.

Those early mince pies contained meat, mutton mostly, which was mixed with dried fruits and spices. The crib shape was banned by Oliver Cromwell's Puritan Council, which forbade all festive fare during the Christmas period.

But you can't keep a good pie down. It returned, but in the circular shape we know today, when King Charles II ascended the throne.

By the Victorian period, the meat content vanished and it was made with just dried fruits and spices.

To add colour to our mince pies nowadays, cooks are also adding a few cranberries and baking them with open tops decorated with a star and sugar to give them a really festive look.

If you want to make something that's a little different this year, but still has a festive look, try making pinwheel mince pies. They are really easy to make, and can be cooked now and frozen ready to thaw out and serve warm on Christmas Day.

The following recipe makes 12 pies.

You will need: I jar mincemeat 8oz (250g) SR flour 6oz (175g) soft butter Chilled water to mix pastry 1 free range egg - beaten 2oz (50g) sliced almonds Caster sugar to dust Method: Turn the oven to 180C/350F or gas mark 4 Grease one large flat baking dish and dust with flour to prevent sticking Mix together flour and butter with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs, then gradually add enough water to turn it into a firm paste. Avoid over-handling as this toughens the pastry Roll pastry out into a rectangle about seven inches by ten (18x25cm), trim the edges and spread the mincemeat evenly on the pastry, leaving a little space to brush egg wash on one long edge Roll up carefully, as you would a Swiss roll, sealing with the edge that has been egg-washed Cut into 12 slices and lay each one on baking tray and brush with egg wash Scatter the almond slices on top, then a little caster sugar and bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until they begin to turn a delicious golden brown.