The Independent on Saturday's team on a mince pie tasting test, from left, Ziyanda Mgandela, Lindsay Slogrove, Thabiso Goba, Tashni Bridgmohan, Tanya Waterworth, editor Mazwi Xaba, Frank Chemaly and Duncan Guy. Pictures: Shelley Kjonstad (ANA)
The Independent on Saturday's team on a mince pie tasting test, from left, Ziyanda Mgandela, Lindsay Slogrove, Thabiso Goba, Tashni Bridgmohan, Tanya Waterworth, editor Mazwi Xaba, Frank Chemaly and Duncan Guy. Pictures: Shelley Kjonstad (ANA)

The Independent on Saturday brings you this year's best mince pie

By Frank Chemaly Time of article published Dec 7, 2019

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Durban - Fruity, boozy, spicy, yummy. What would the Christmas season be without delectable and fattening little morsels like mince pies?

The Independent on Saturday sat down to do the ultimate tasting test to help you put the best pies on your Christmas table. And our eight panellists didn’t mince their words. Comments ranged from lead-heavy and rock hard to melting moments.

Last year’s winner, Checkers, didn’t quite crack the nod this year, with the judges split between Pick n Pay and Woolworths for the 2019 crown. 

And the winner is Woolworths with a score of 75%. Second was Pick n Pay and third Food Lovers Market. Well done.

The judges tasted all the pies blind, wrote their comments without team collaboration and scored each pie out of five. So it was possible for each mince pie to score 40.

The judging panel was: LS Lindsay Slogrove, TW Tanya Waterworth, ZM Ziyanda Mgandela, DG Duncan Guy, TG Thabiso Goba, FC Frank Chemaly, MX Maxwi Xaba and TB Tashni Bridgmohan.

30 Cost: R39.99

  • LS: The pastry was a bit thick, but not overwhelming. Torn between describing the filling as “not too sweet” or “slightly bitter”, but generally a good ‘un. 3
  • TW: Lots of fruit with a thinner, crustier pastry, but I prefer a more melt-in-the-mouth mince pie. 3
  • ZM: It looks tasty, I like the sugar on top. It tastes really nice, with a touch of cinnamon. 4
  • DG: The sugar coating gives it a classy appearance. The pastry and mince are in good balance. 4
  • TG: Perfect light pastry, aesthetically pleasing, great consistency on the filling, cooked beautifully. 4.5
  • FC: Certainly the best looking pie with its prettily browned edges. The pastry was firm and melted in the mouth while the filling was strong on lemon or orange zest. My pick of the bunch. 3.5
  • MX: This was the best. The perfect brown top rim and the icing sugar were just right. And it wasn’t just a pretty pie, it also tasted as good. The pastry was well baked, crumbly and just right in size and everything. The mince meat was also just right – not too sweet, not too spicy, nor jam-like. 4
  • TB: This looked good with the sugar on the top. It was presented well and the base was good. 4

25.5 Cost: R48.99

  • LS: My favourite. It looks nice and plump, and the pastry didn’t crumble and tasted good. It was well filled with a warm and spicy mixture. Had thirds of this one. 4
  • TW: Great overall taste for both pastry and fruit – my favourite. 4
  • ZM: It looks nice, the pastry is soft and chewy. 4
  • DG: The tasty mince is its forte. Pastry and appearance are very average. 3
  • TG: Very light and crumbly pastry which disintegrated inside my mouth. Fulfilling. The filling was a tad too chewy. 3.5
  • FC: These were a bit stodgy but the mince was pleasant enough without being too distinctive. They are very sweet. 2
  • MX: This one was too soft and the mince could have been jam taken straight from a tin and mixed with raisins. The pastry lacked that crumbling effect you get before it melts in your mouth. It was also too thick, perhaps made to prevent it losing shape. 2
  • TD: Was a bit sour but the base was good. Tasted a bit like biscuit. 3

Score: 23.5 Cost: R36.99

  • LS: Looked the prettiest, but there was too much pastry and not enough filling, which left a slightly bitter aftertaste. 2
  • TW: Definitely the most festive with the mistletoe detail, but a bit stingy with the fruit filling. 3
  • ZM: Looks good, I like the mistletoe detail on top. It tastes as good as it looks. 4.5
  • DG: The leaves give the pie a bit of character. Neither the slightly crumbly pastry nor the mince match the aesthetics. 3
  • TG: The extra pastry on shaping the mistletoe is welcome. The filling was the right kind of sour. 4
  • FC: These looked attractive with decorative pastry, but the pastry was thick and heavy and the underfilled pies tasted more of date loaf. 2
  • MX: This pie gets an F like the letter randomly assigned to it. If it wasn’t for the mistletoe, it would get zero for me. The taste of the pudding should also be in the eating, and there was nothing in this pie. The pastry, although looking thick and inviting, was papery and boring. The mince also lacked taste. 1
  • TB: This one looked amazing with the mistletoe decor. It was creative. The taste was good but the base needs to be cooked a bit more. 4


Score: 21 Cost: R28.99

  • LS: Plain Jane in all aspects. The filling is quite sweet and tastes too much like jam. 2
  • TW: Pastry was too on the tough side, but lots of mincemeat filling. 2
  • ZM: It looks all right, the pastry is a bit tough. 3
  • DG: Just very average all round. 2
  • TG: Twenty more minutes inside the oven and they would’ve come out as Eet-Sum-Mor biscuits. The filling was enjoyable, toeing the acceptable line between tangy and sweet. 3
  • FC: These didn’t look like much but were pleasant, the mince if anything a little sweet. It had a slightly astringent aftertaste which probably meant they had used too much nutmeg. 2.5
  • MX: This one was another average looker and taster. The crust wasn’t too bad in terms of looks and when you bit into it, offered enough crumbling effect. The mincemeat was average and unremarkable. I wouldn’t go for seconds. 2
  • TB: Tasted good, was not too sweet or sour. The base was the right thickness. 4.5

Score: 20 Cost: R36.99

  • LS: Nothing noteworthy about appearance, but the pastry is firm. The filling, of which there is enough, has an unusual taste, with too much of something overpowering. 2
  • TW: If you prefer a less sweet mince pie, this will do the trick. Could have had more sugar sprinkling. 2
  • ZM: The pie looks pretty plain and it tastes okay. 3
  • DG: Rather drowned by the pastry but it’s nonetheless edible. Appearance is not bad. 3
  • TG: The pastry tasted like a wet, flavourless biscuit. The filling was okay. 2
  • FC: The pies looked a little heavy, but the pastry was enjoyable, if somewhat crumbly. I liked the fact that the cinnamon-heavy mince meat wasn’t too sweet. 3
  • MX: This was boring in presentation and taste. In parts, the dough was half-baked and seemed short of some key ingredient or overloaded with preservatives where something like butter was required. The mince was okay to qualify as a Christmas mince pie. Enough to stand apart from the lead-heavy and rock-hard “current squares” I remember from my school days. Nothing to write home about. 2
  • TB: This one is not for someone who has a sweet tooth as it was a bit sour. The base was not completely cooked. 3


Score: 18.5 Cost: R34.99

  • LS: Pastry is very crumbly but tastes fine, and has Scrooge attitude to volume of filling. 2
  • TW: Looks good, soft pastry and a zingy hint of lemon in the fruit. 3
  • ZM: The pie looks okay, but it tastes nice and sweet. 3
  • DG: The pastry is the strength here. It has a crunchy feel. It’s light on mince and looks rather ordinary. 3
  • TG: The pastry was doughy, not crumbly enough. The filling was too chewy and got stuck on the top of my mouth. 1.5
  • FC: I hate the taste of uncooked flour and this doughy pastry had it in spades, and with no real flavour in the mince, that was all I could taste. 1
  • MX: Bland and boring. The dough was more evenly baked, but still lacked character. The mince was okay. I also detected a slight after-taste of something that clearly was added to extend its shelf-life. 2
  • TB: Looked great, but the base was a bit thick and it had less sugar. 3
The Independent on Saturday

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