Black bean mince, parsnip, apple and pecan pies

Black bean mince pies

Black bean mince pies

This week, Malcolm brought home a piece of light blue cardstock, folded in half. It contained little messages, scrawled in pencil every which way, some in boxes, some in circles, one in a heart – all little descriptions of Malcolm. “Cool & funny.” “You have a good sense of humor.” “A great treasure finder.” “You are a outside person.” “You are good at sports.” “Kind.” One even says “I love you,” but we’re not going to ask him about that! And one says, “Your [sic] weird and collect everything.” Honestly, I liked this one as much as any of the others. I’m proud that he’s weird. I’ve spoken in the past about the fact that I like strange people, and I’m glad to be strange myself. And about the fact that having children has made me see this, as all things, a little differently. I want life to be easy for them, I want them to get along with everybody, I don’t want them to be teased. I want them to be proud of the ways that they’re unique, but anybody who has been to high school knows how hard this can be. Sometimes, David and I are bewildered by the boys’ behavior, and we have that nagging fear that they’re too strange – that they’re disturbingly strange. Why are they rolling around on the floor wrapped up in blankets? Why does Malcolm say “pineapple” or “banana” so often, and why do both boys dissolve into laughter when he does? Of course the best cure for these doubts is to spend time with other children their age. They’re all crazy! And in pretty much the exact same ways! We’re all in it together. After all, next to little phrases on Malcolm’s card like, “Your are nice, smart, neat, teachest, and uses everything.” Some kid wrote “egg sandwitch,” and nothing else! Egg sandwitch!! It is fun to say. And Malcolm’s teachers have found many occasions to question his neatness and his handwriting, but, let me tell you, they all have the same handwriting, and the same sloppy spelling, and the same inability to keep everything on a straight line! I asked Malcolm who had written the comment that he was weird, and he named a girl (it is written in a heart!). I think it’s a compliment, and he seems so cheerful about it, about everything that was written. He has a small class of clever oddballs, and they’ve all known each other since they toddled around the town. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community and conformity, the one I love the idea of, and the other I don’t like at all. I find it very moving to see people working together towards some common cause, it makes me weepy, at the most unexpected times! But I like to think about the people working together as each their own little bundle of eccentricities and strengths and weaknesses. This is why we need each other, and why we work well together as a community. At the very bottom of Malcolm’s blue paper, something is scrawled very lightly, and, to me, it’s completely illegible. I asked him what it says, and he said, “I think it says, ‘You are happy.'”

Speaking of weird! I’ve been musing about mince pies for some time now, this being the time of year that they’re mentioned very often. They befuddle me!! They’re sweet – they’re desserts (to the best of my knowledge), but they have beef drippings in them. Or something like that, I’m not completely sure. I’m fascinated by the intersection of sweet and savory. I like salty-sweet things, and I like an unexpected touch of sweetness in a savory dish, like raisins with greens, or guava paste in an empanada. Lately I’ve found myself drawn to the savory side. So I had the idea of making little mince pies, but making them savory, with black bean mince, which is something I invented all by myself!!! And then adding a few sweet touches, like parsnips, apples, raisins and clementine zest. I think they turned out quite good! The black beans, sage, shallots, and rosemary add depth, the smoked gouda and smoked paprika add…well, smokiness! The pecans add crunch, and the roasted parsnips and apples add a pleasant, not-overpowering sweetness. These were very good with mashed potatoes!! If you didn’t feel like making the crust, I think this would make a nice dressing or stuffing.

Here’s Strange Meadow Lark, by Dave Brubeck.


2 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt
lots of black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter – frozen
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Grate in the butter, and stir it in with a fork till you have a roughly crumbly texture. Stir in the olive oil. Add just enough ice water to form a workable dough – I think I added about 3/4 cup. Knead briefly, to be sure the oil and butter are evenly incorporated, and then form a neat ball. Wrap the ball in foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.


2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice
olive oil to coat the parsnips

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 t rosmemary – minced
1 t sage
1 can black beans, rinsed and well-drained
2 pieces whole wheat bread, processed to fine crumbs
1 egg
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 T raisins, chopped
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t mustard powder
large pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup toasted or roasted pecans, roughly chopped
zest of one small clementine
1/2 cup grated smoked gouda
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
salt and lots and lots of freshly ground pepper (till your arm gets tired!!)

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly coat the parsnips with olive oil, and spread them in a single layer on a small baking sheet. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, till they’re nicely browned and crispy on the outside, and soft inside. Set them aside.

Put the beans in a large bowl and smush them with a potato masher. You don’t want them to be completely mushy, but fairly well-smashed. Add the bread crumbs and the egg.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, garlic, rosemary and sage. Stir and fry for about a minute, until everything starts to brown. Add the bean mixture, and let it sit and get a bit crusty, then scrape and stir, then let it sit and get a bit crusty on the bottom, then scrape the pan clean again. You can add another drop of olive oil as you go. Keep cooking, letting the bottom brown then scraping and stirring it in. After five or ten minutes, transfer it to a big bowl. Stir in everything else, and mix very well.


Butter the cups of a 12-seater muffin tin. Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll it to 1/8th inch thick, and press it into a muffin tin cup. It should come up about 1/2 inch over the edge. Repeat with each muffin tin cup. Then heap a large spoonful of filling into each one, pressing it down, and letting it rise over the top a bit.

Break off a piece of dough about the size of a large grape. Roll it into a round just larger than the muffin tin. Press it on the top, rolling down the edges, and tucking it into the muffin tin to form a cohesive lid. With the tines of a fork seal all the way round and make the edges a bit more pretty, then prick each pie in the center.

Bake at 400 for about 25 – 30 minutes until the top is browned and crispy when you tap it. Let them cool slightly before you lift them out of the muffin tin to serve them.

11 thoughts on “Black bean mince, parsnip, apple and pecan pies

  1. I think the suet in mince pies is a leftover from the days when they had actual meat in them, and the sugar, fruit and spices helped the meat to keep – or at least to disguise the taste when it had gone off. You can buy vegetarian suet, or mince pies made with it. (Well, you can over here, anyway.)

    I must tell you something sweet Ivan said on the way home from school the other day! We were talking about what or who was the brainiest thing/person in the world, and he said: “One of the brainiest people in the world is a Year 3 child who knows what squares and square roots are.” (I agreed of course.) I just loved him calling himself a child, instead of a boy or a person! For some reason…

    • That is sweet! It sounds like something Isaac would say, except that he doesn’t know what square roots are!!

      So…when the mince pies had actual meat in them, they were savory, right? Part of a meal, not dessert? I think that’s what I was trying to capture with these!! I put nutmeg, but I thought about putting cloves or allspice and cinnamon as well. Might have been too much, though!!

      • Not sure they made that sort of distinction back in the Middle Ages…

        (Ivan is really keen on maths.)

    • GF – hello! I haven’t changed the settings on my camera, but the season has changed!! I was taking all of my photos outside in the bright light of day, but the days don’t last long, and it’s never very light, so I’ve been taking them indoors. Meh. Also, we changed our internet system, so I’ve been able to upload larger files faster, so when I save them for the web in photoshop, I no longer have to make them tiny. Not sure which change you’d noticed!!

      • well whenever I checked ’em in the past they were multi MB files, so I assumed you were shooting with the possibility of later publication. Lately when I’ve checked ’em, like today, it’s only a 12KB file! That ‘save for web’ shrinks the file dramatically, generally rendering them useless for anything other than a web post at small size. See what happens if you try to enlarge one in Photoshop, it’ll disintegrate.

      • GF, I’ve been saving for the web since day 1. It just means they’re 72 DPI, which is all anyone could see on a computer anyway, right? WordPress has recently changed the way that files are uploaded, so maybe they shrink them as they go. I’ll look into it. Thanks for letting me know!!

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