Mince-Pies and Chutney…

Its the 30th November. Stanley went to bed dreaming of being able to attack his advent calendar tomorrow. I love that they are both complete and utterly excited beyond belief that tomorrow is December! Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. If I make it to Christmas. If I don’t drop dead of exhaustion before hand. I’ve had a flu-jab. I have decided that this will save me, this will prevent me from dying of flu, even if I crap out with exhaustion before the 25th December.

The weekend was spent mostly trying to avoid Black Friday/Cyber Monday emails and flyers, while being the taxi-of-mum to music rehearsals and recitals, kick-boxing, visiting friends in hospital etc etc. Anyway, a jar of old fashioned-traditional mince-meat caught my eye at the supermarket and I HAD to buy it, and a roll of Shortcrust Pastry. I LOVE mince-pies, so do Stan and Daisy so we commenced to make them on Sunday. Mince-pies are great, they are so easy (unless you make the mince-meat from scratch, in which case you are obviously insane or really really bored), the kids get to cut shapes and then make a mess with he flour and leftover pastry, easy peasy…

You Don’t need much –

  • 2 x 12 hole baking trays
  • 1 x rolling pin
  • Cutters – you can just use a glass, but I like stars for the top. I use a glass for the base
  • 1 x roll Shortcrust pastry
  • 1 x jar of mince-meat
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • Milk and a pastry brush

You should grease each hole in the baking trays set the oven to 180 degrees.

Assemble the mince-pies using the cutters, don’t put more than a tea-spoon of mince-meat in each or it will ooze too much over the sides. A bit of ooze is good. But not too much.

Once they are all assembled, brush lightly with the milk and put in the oven for about 15 mins. check after 12 minutes as you don’t want them to burn.

Once cooked and out of the oven, dust with icing sugar and eat while they are still a bit warm. The neighbours helped to demolish ours.

We also made some pretty awesome tomato chutney. Its really good and bit more spicy that I thought it would be. It was a great way to set the oldest one to work in the kitchen, she has been watching Junior Bake -off and is dying to create…

The onions really got me.. Daisy told me that I needed a pair of ‘onion goggles’ – might have to google those before we make the next batch.

One thing I would say about making chutney. Be patient. It took much longer to thicken than I expected. I made this recipe up, having only made it once before, many moons ago. Anyway, I am pretty happy with the results and will be palming jars off onto un-suspecting guests throughout the festive period!

You will Need (everything approx. you do not have to be exact):

  • A huge preserving pan or saucepan
  • 2 kg Tomatoes, any, but fresh and firm, chopped
  • 1 kg red onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eating apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 x chuck of ginger, about 2 cm, grated
  • 1 teaspoon died red chilli flakes
  • 400 g light muscovado or other soft brown sugar
  • 120 ml malt vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon of pickling spices, crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 x teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • salt and pepper

You could add raisins and sultanas too, we just didn’t have any in the cupboard.

Put everything – except the vinegar – into the huge pan and slowly bring to the boil. Then simmer, The sugar must melt properly and the tomatoes, apples and onions be really soft and bubbly. This will take about 45 minutes.


Add the vinegar and stir through. You now need to simmer again, slowly, until the mixture has started to thicken and reduce down. This could take about an hour.The mixture will become darker and almost a bit sticky. Let the mixture cool before you put into Jars, big or small.

Meanwhile, prep the jars. I buy mine quite cheaply from Hobby-craft. And I also save them as we go through the year rather and putting in the recycling. Wash them in hot soapy water, then rinse under a really really hot tap. Drain on a tea-towel.

Fill the jars and close the lids tightly. Let it mature in the jars somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks.

After all that, thank the heavens for the dish-washer and sit down with a cup of tea!







Two easy cakes for a Drizzly Sunday afternoon

Finally, its started to feel like Winter, and Christmas is creeping up. Its been so warm recently, We took the kids Trick Or Treating without coats on. But this weekend has been colder and wet, or drizzly. So why not make a lemon drizzle cake? The guys in the office had asked for one anyway and I had some lemons that needed to be used. I made two – One traditional Lemon and also an orange version with poppy seeds. Its the same cake, but with very slightly different additions. This cake is awesome because its a one bowl wonder, throw everything in an off you go! Its pretty difficult to make a mess of it. Enjoy.


You will need:

  • 6 oz Self-Raising Flour
  • 6 oz Caster Sugar
  • 4 oz very soft un-salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of baking power
  • The Rind of one un-waxed lemon (or orange if orange cake)
  • add one tablespoon of poppy seeds (for the orange cake only)

For the icing:

  • Juice of 1 x lemon OR 1 x orange
  • 1 x tablespoon on normal granulated sugar or Demerara

Heat the oven to 180 Degrees and line and grease a 1lb loaf baking tin

Put all of the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until soft. Ideally you should do this in a food mixer. I set my Kitchen Aid to 1 and beat for 3 mins.

Pour into the baking tin and cook for 30-35 mins until golden brown and firm to touch in the centre.

Pour the icing mixture over the cake while still hot and in the backing tray. It seeps in and makes it super sweet and sticky.

Allow to cool then slice and eat. Really good with clotted cream or Creme Fraiche.