Ok, here is what you need:
Scales; a large bowl; a blunt knife; a sieve
some sort of fat (butter or lard or both)
twice as much plain flour (by weight) as fat,
a pinch of salt
some cold water.
When I’m making pastry I use all butter, but my mum, who taught me how to make pastry, uses half-and-half butter and lard.
When you first think about making your pastry, get your fat out of the fridge and leave it on the side to soften a little bit.
Put some cold water in a jug or something (you won’t need much), and stick it in the fridge.
Now sift your flour into a bowl. Just get a sieve and hold it as far above the bowl as you can get away with to get the flour through it and into the bowl rather than all over the kitchen. This gets air into the flour and will be a Good Thing later. Throw the pinch of salt in there, too.
Now it’s time to add the fat. First of all, cut it into cubes with a blunt knife. Add these to the flour and cut them into the flour, using the blunt knife to get the cubes as small as possible. The next step is the fun bit – rubbing.
For these stages it’s good to get everything as cold as possible; open the window, leave the knife in the fridge for a bit. If you have terrible circulation, here is one consolation; you will probably make good pastry. Before I start rubbing the fat into the flour I run my hands under a cold tap for a few minutes and then quickly dry them.
I think this is the step of making pastry that worries people, but it’s really easy. Just pick up some of the fat/flour mix in your fingertips and rub it between your thumb and fingertips, so it forms tiny crumbs. Repeat until the fat has all been rubbed in, so there aren’t any large lumps left. It shouldn’t take too long; you’re overdoing it if what were small lumps start to stick together and make bigger lumps, so stop.
Now get the knife you used before, and use it to bring together your mix. It won’t stick, so this is where the water comes in. Add it a dribble at a time, until the mix JUST starts to stick together – you don’t want it too wet. As soon as it begins to stick, use your hands to gather it all up together. Either shove it in a plastic bag or wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to chill for about half an hour. It’ll keep up to 3 days (which probably gives you time to make Squeamish mincemeat) (Squeamish Kate- “Which takes NO time!”)
Pastry doesn’t like to be handled too much, so when it’s time to use it flour a large surface, roll it out to about half a centimetre thick and then cut the shapes (I’m guessing circles for mince pies...) you need out as close together as possible, so there’s less ‘spare’ pastry to be re-rolled and cut again.
Make your mince pies, and then be all smug when people compliment them, "I make my own pastry you know". Pastry rules.