Nutty Mincepies

nutty-mincepie-close-upThis weekend we were in Edinburgh and had a really delicious meal at Jamie’s Italian. At the end of the meal we were all given a little mince-pie that had a crumble topping. Whilst we all enjoyed it, I reckoned I could recreate and maybe even make it a little better (oh! The arrogance!)

Well, I don’t know if it’s better, but the version I’ve come up with is certainly very easy and tastes even better the day after it’s made – bonus!

If you adapt this yourself, why not comment below and share your top tips with us all? I’m ready to take notes.

Nutty Mince-pies – makes about 18


  • 180g + 60g plain flour
  • 90g + 40g butter
  • teaspoon of demerara sugar
  • few tablespoons of icy cold water and a few drops of lemon juice added
  • (optional): handful of nuts of your choice: I used a tablespoon of flaked almonds and a small handful of hazelnuts because it’s all I had to hand
  • half a small jar of mincemeat (I used about 200g total)


  1. Preheat the oven to 210degC (gas 7) and take out your mince-pie tins. Clear space in your fridge to precariously balance the tins on.
  2. Make the shortcrust pastry:
    • In a food processor (with the whirly double blade), whizz up 180g plain flour with 90g cold butter.
    • When it’s the consistency of breadcrumbs, add icy cold water and lemon juice a tablespoon at a time, pulsing the processor. You’ll only need 2-3 tablespoons.
    • Stop just as the dough is coming together.
    • Roll and cut out the base of the mince-pies (ie make pie cases). I managed 18 with this amount of dough, but it depends how thinly you roll it – you might make more or fewer.
    • Line the mince-pie tins with the pie cases and put in the fridge.
  3. Make the crumble:
    This is about as dusty as you want to get the nutty crumble - still lumps of butter visible

    This is about as dusty as you want to get the nutty crumble – still lumps of butter visible

    in the same food processor (don’t wash it; no need) add 60g plain flour, 40g butter, teaspoon of demerara sugar and a handful of nuts. Whizz it up until it’s the consistency you like. Stop before it’s dust, though, or it’ll be dry and cloying! (And if it does that, serve your pies with cream or custard – sorted)

  4. When the oven’s at temperature, take the mince-pies out the fridge and add a teaspoon of mincemeat into each pie-case.
  5. Spoon the crumble over the top. For me, it worked out about a tablespoon of crumble mix per pie, but it all depends on how many nuts you added.
  6. Bake for 15 – 20 mins.
  7. Remove to a wire rack immediately because any spilled mince-pie mix will cool to concrete, cementing your pies to the tin forever.
  8. Eat alone, with a cuppa, slathered in custard, or drowned in cream.

Fish Birthday Cake Tutorial

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Happy birthdayI made Maxi a fish birthday cake and it seemed to go down quite well… I took photos along the way to remind me how to make it next year, so this is a wee photo tutorial in how to do it. I bet you could make it far, far better! Maybe next year I’ll do an all-chocolate one, with gills made of Flakes and flat scales made of white and milk chocolate buttons. Yum! Can’t wait!

You can base this cake around any round cake you like: sponge cake, Victoria sandwich, pound cake, fruit cake, etc. I made a Madeira cake (recipe at the end). Partly because it makes a dense sponge that’s really easy to cut, partly because I know I can make them easily and they turn out the way I want every time, and partly because I’m greedy and I love them.

1. Start with your round cake.

1. Start with your round cake.

Anyway, the cake can be any size. This one is from a 9″ cake tin.

So: start with your cake. It’s up to you whether you level off the top or not. I didn’t bother.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

2. Slice cake from the middle to the edge on the diagonal; lay the slice to the side.

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

3. Cut the tail slice in a curve and cut that in half

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

4. Place the 2 small pieces to the top and bottom as fins.

5. Smother in buttercream.

5. Smother in buttercream. No need to worry about a crumb-coat and no need to be neat – just smother that fish in buttercream (I used 200g butter, a little milk and about 450g icing sugar).

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

6. Roll out ready-made icing and place over central part of fish.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

7. Roll out marzipan and cover the 2 fins and the tail.

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as 'bubbles'

8. Ice stripes on the fins and tail; add a mouth. Use leftover buttercream to sandwich pink strawberry buttons as ‘bubbles’. I used a shop-bought tube of icing: they look like big toothpaste tubes, come with 3 different shaped nozzles, and are sold in the home-baking aisle. The pink buttons were in the home-baking aisle, too.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye.

9. Stick rows of sweets in the side as scales; use buttercream to stick a Party Ring biscuit on as an eye. I used a few little packets of Fruit Buttons as fish scales. I thought they might be in rainbow shades of pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, but they turned out to be various shades of orange. And they were a nightmare to stick in the icing: too soft. Meh! Next time I’ll use Smarties or chocolate buttons.

Close-up of the scales

Close-up of the scales

fish cake tutorial 11

I added little wave wiggles and some writing and details using a little tube of chocolate icing I had leftover from another cake. I admit that I only added them because stupidly I’d placed the cake too much to the left and had a big gaping space (doh!), but it made the whole cake look pretty good.

easy fish birthday cake tutorial

Fish Cake

Madeira Cake Recipe


  • 300g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 400g plain flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • grated rind of 1 lemon


  1. Put oven on at 170degC/340degF/gas 3. Line a 9 inch round cake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar till light and airy.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture. Add big spoons of flour any time the mixture even hints at curdling.
  5. After that, add the egg and flour alternately.
  6. Stir in the lemon rind.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin.
  8. Bake for about 1hr 10 mins. If the top is getting too brown, put some foil over it. At the end, check the cake’s cooked the whole way through by putting a skewer / clean knitting needle in the centre and checking that it comes out clean. If mixture sticks to it, it needs at least another 10 mins baking.

That’s it, I’ve had enough: bring out the buns!

I’m not starting the holiday updates just yet as today’s been a wee bit trying.

Mini Minx woke around about Oh.My.God.o’Clock cutting her second big molar; then Midi decided around an hour later that she’d slide into my bed and kick me in various sore and skinless bits, just for the hell of it; Maxi capped it all by wetting the bed for the second night in a row about 45 mins later, so around 0500hrs. It was haaaaaard not scolding her, and I had to remind The Boss (through gritted teeth), “Look, make her up a *proper* nest on the floor – this isn’t a punishment, she didn’t pee on the bed on purpose”.

So the colours in my world were rather muted today. And there was me moaning only yesterday that I was so tired that I wasn’t safe to drive. Still, I had to laugh when my day got worse – my business email got hacked and apparently sent 1/4 million emails before my host suspended it. Great! Wonderful day. So I made saffron buns. I’m munching my 5th now and I’m feeling much better. Fancy the recipe?

Saffron Buns

450g strong white flour
1 teaspoon dried yeast
good pinch each of mace, ground cloves, ground nutmeg
50g caster sugar
100g butter (salty or not, doesn’t matter)
300ml diluted sherry (you decide the proportions of water to sherry – just make it 300ml total)
100g currants
1/2 teaspoon saffron
Heat up the diluted sherry and steep the saffron in it for as long or as short a time as you like. Make up the dough with the ingredients (For the breadmaker, that means put all the dry stuff in, add the butter, splosh in the sherry mix, put the currants in the dispenser and hit the ‘raisin dough’ setting) (To do by hand, melt the butter, add to the sherry mix. Mix the dry ingredients. Mix in the currants. Add the sherry mix. Knead like hell. Leave to rise for an hour.)
When the dough is ready, split it into 24 pieces. Plop each into a little muffin hole in a muffin tin (I find the mix doesn’t stick to the tin, so just plonk it in the bare tin, no need to grease or line. Though that might just be the texture I personally make it at, so don’t hate me if yours sticks). Leave to rise for another hour. Bake at Gas 6, 200degC for 20 mins. Leave in the tin 10 mins to cool, then onto a wire rack. Eat, eat, eat!

I’ll add a photo later this week, or you could make them and add a photo of yours…? That would be very cool. Anyway, I’m off to bed. Via the kitchen, for my 6th bun. Oink!

Cheesecake, Visits and Puppy Love

It’s 2025hrs on Thursday night. Mini Minx passed out in my arms, full of mummy milk*, breathing her delicious sweet smell at me from those plump red lips. When I carried her to her bed I could see Midi was still sitting up. “I making a lovely present for (Maxi). Cos I love her very much!” she said solemnly, as she stuck bits of paper onto a model flower. “Nooooo, she said she was going to cut me up and throw me in the rubbish lorry!” wailed her big sister. Sheesh.

*After a week of being ill and on all kinds of drugs that said ‘You must not breastfeed while taking x’, I’m back to feeding my wee baby (! she’s nearly 17 months! But she is very wee) for the last feed at night only.

I got seriously grumpy this morning: my new Health Visitor had invited herself over for a home visit this morning, so I booked a shopping delivery over the same time period. I explained to poor Midi that we couldn’t play at the swings after dropping Maxi off at school because we had to get back. You can maybe imagine how cross I got when neither showed…

I let both little girls go mental with Play Do to make up for being stuck indoors. Midi happily cut long dough sausages up into tiny pieces while Mini merrily bashed it flat then stabbed hell out of it with a plastic knife. I don’t even want to know what a child psychologist would make of their destructive antics. I just let them get on with it and tried to play along without feeling like a wannabe axe murderer. 

Maxi had quite a Day 3 at school: at lunchtime she hugged her new friend James and declared, “I love you so very much!” to the amazement and consternation of me and his mother. I’ve no idea how the wee boy felt about it, because he was muffled up in Maxi’s bear hug.

The girls’ grandma sent Maxi a surprise present of a bookbag in the school colours, which she was over the moon with. Other good news: The Boss can get a long lunch tomorrow to go with Maxi to the Parent/Child School Dinner.

To celebrate surviving (and really enjoying) this tough week, I made the ultimate cheesecake for greedy gut sweet-tooths. I’m sure it’s not an original recipe, but I just did it on the spot without reading a recipe, so will quite happily share it here with you.

Grumpy Old Trout’s Cheesecake Reward

200g digestive biscuits
70g unsalted butter
300g pack of full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese
397g tin of Carnation caramel Dulce du Leche
as much or as little home-made fudge as you like, cut into chunks
Bash the biscuits in a bowl with the end of a rolling-pin till they’re crumbs. Melt the butter. Mix it into the crumbs then press into a tin (about 20cm diameter tin is about right). Put it in the fridge. Whisk the cream cheese and the caramel together till they’re thick. Fold the fudge chunks in. Pour it in the tin, smooth, and chill for an hour or 2 (overnight is best, if you can wait that long). Add some sliced banana if you must, or just attack as it is.

Egg-free Chocolate Cake

It looked like this for about 15 seconds

Just a quickie.  I’m posting this here because I have an appalling filing system and I know that I’ll lose a paper copy.  This is the recipe for an egg-free chocolate cake that my friend Julie emailed me.  I’ve not had much luck with egg-free cakes, so made it half-heartedly.  I only bothered because it was so kind of Julie to take the effort to transcribe it.

Well, crikey gor blimey, I’m so glad that I did!  It has a sponge that is very light, it’s perfectly sweet (I hate sugary sweet cakes), is intensely cocoa-y, and very, very moreish.  The coconut adds a hint of mystery rather than a crazy flavour combination.  I absolutely love it!  The icing is far too rich, though,  for someone with gallstones a year old baby, so I’ll do a different icing and a different shape of caketin for baby R on the advent of her first birthday next month.  I may even make another in the meantime, just to practice <whistles innocently>  The Boss, Maxi and Midi Minx all had a fantastic time making it at the weekend, so I’m sure there’ll be lots of volunteer helpers.

I’m afraid I have no idea which cookery book it came from, so can’t credit it, yet.  I’ll edit this post to add a credit when I find out.


Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

150ml (1/4 pint) sunflower oil, plus extra to grease
75g (3oz) creamed coconut
25g (1oz) plain chocolate broken into pieces
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
350g (12oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
175g (6oz) light muscovado sugar

For the icing:
350g (12oz) plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
150ml (1/4 pint) double cream

* Preheat the oven to 180 degC (160 degC fan) mark 4
* Grease and line a 12 x 4 tin
* Put the coconut into a heatproof bowl, pour on 425ml boiling water and stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
* Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth, then remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly
* Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the middle. Add the cocount mixture, melted chocolate and oil. Beat to make a smooth batter. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin.
* Bake for 1-1.1/4 hours or until risen and just firm to the touch (if necessary, cover with foil after about 40 minutes, if it gets too brown on top). Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. When cold, trim to neaten the edges.
* To make the icing, put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point. Pour on to the chocolate and stir until melted. Leave to cool, beating occasionally, until thick – pop into the fridge for 30 minutes to help thicken if necessary.
* Cut the cold cake in half horizontally and sandwich the layers together with one-third of the icing. Spread the rest evenly over the top and sides of the cake.

Autumn Crumble Recipe

D’you know, I never intended this blog to hold my recipes, but while I’m basking in the joy of making an edible soup, here’s one of my and Rose-pose-podge’s favourite puddings: apple and plum crumble.  If the oven’s going to be on anyway for something, this will almost always be in there, too, because I Rose loves it so much.

For 3 hungry children and 2 greedy adults:

  1. Peel, core and roughly slice up 1 – 2 Bramley apples (or any apple, really, I just like how sour Bramleys taste and how they go so mushy when cooked)
  2. Slice up 3 – 5 plums roughly.  Leave the skin on (too much faff otherwise) but take out the stones.
  3. Stick in an ovenproof dish with 2 tablespoons (ish) of sugar (a brown one, like muscovado, makes it taste all caramelly), a pinch of ground cloves, a good shake of ground ginger and a small shake of ground cinnamon.  Or whatever spices you fancy, really. I guess a ‘good shake’ = rounded teaspoon and ‘small shake’ = level teaspoon.  Ish.
  4. Rub 160g flour and 120g butter till it’s breadcrumby.  I tend to add a tablespoon of demerara sugar too, because the grains help you rub it in.  If you can’t be faffed rubbing it in, just whizz in the blender for a few seconds.  Shake this over the top of the fruit.
  5. Bake.  It’s a really forgiving recipe, so will take most temperatures.  As a rough guide, 190degC will take around 45 mins.  Just check the crumble isn’t going too brown.

I’m so greedy I tend to make double crumble quantities and keep half knocking about the fridge for a few days, ready for a superfast pudding.

This also tastes brilliant with pear (esp. if they’re hard as conkers – how else you going to eat them?!  Leave them in the kitchen too long and Minx 2 will use them as weapons!) either instead of apple or as well.

I really will add a photo of this next week – the purple plum juice oozing stickily through the golden brown crumble just sums up the yumminess that is autumnal baking, for me.  And the smell… oh my word, who needs chemical air fresheners?

This Domestic Goddess Has Feet of Clay

Clay?  Make that mud.  Slimy stuff.

It being a non-nursery day today, and having spent the last non-nursery day mostly yelling at my offspring like the terrible mother I swore I’d never turn into, I was determined to have a nice day today.  In my rose-tinted view I naively anticipated my girls smiling sweetly at each other as they helped me bake.  “No, L, you lick the spoon, it’s your turn”, and: “Thank you, P; I love you” were spoken in my fond and foolish daydream, as baby R gurgled happily and contentedly in her bouncer on the floor.

So we attempted to make butternut squash soup, Irish stew and banana cake.  The best I can say is that no-one died.

I gave L the job of squishing the bananas in a bowl.  The bowl.  That one.  Look, on the table in front of you!  Not the curtains!  Don’t shake it in the baby’s face!  Leave your sister’s plait alone!  P, stop shrieking, your hair isn’t going to drop off, it’s just… banana-y.  Right, you’re not licking the spoon.  Or the bowl.  Stop poking at the eggs, I don’t have any more.  Put it down!  Down!  Now!  Drop it!  <splatch>  No, I meant put it on the table, not drop it on the floor…  Right, that’s it, you’re not even getting pudding now!  R, I’ll change your nappy in a second, please stop crying.  P, why are you smearing the egg on your cheeks?  What …?  Why…?  Dear God above, get upstairs and get washed.

The cake turned out, well, hot and sweet and banana-y.  The Irish stew has been renamed J’s Scottish mutton soup (I got distracted by Minx 2 swiping Minx 1 on the head with her dolly and put far too much water in it.  And forgot to brown the lamb).  But the soup turned out well!  So here’s the recipe, while I relish a quiet household for 5 minutes:

J’s Autumn Butternut Squash Soup (yeah, I really did do this without a recipe!)

Some lovely cocobutternut soup


  • butternut squash
  • an onion
  • a tablespoon of butter
  • a tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger root
  • nutmeg
  • sachet of coconut cream
  • pint of chicken stock (I used a baby stock cube I was sent free in the post)


  1. Roast the squash.  I quartered mine, sploshed it with olive oil, then roasted it alongside last night’s dinner.  Around 200 deg C for about 40 mins.  Let it cool.  Scoop out the flesh.
  2. Chop the onion.  Fry it in the butter over a medium heat.  Say, 5 mins in a covered saucepan, so it cooks but doesn’t colour.  Add the ginger, a grating of nutmeg, grind of pepper and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the stock, bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 mins.  Doesn’t matter if it’s covered or uncovered.
  4. Add the squash and the coconut cream and simmer for 10 more mins, or until the squash is hot and tender.
  5. Liquidise it all.  Now’s the time to adjust the liquidity – just puree the solids, then add the liquid till you get the consistency you want.

All 3 of my little horrors demolished this silently, with wholemeal bread fingers to dip in it.  It was at least 8 mins from starting before P wailed about losing a bread finger in the soup, which is a record in this household – it means it tastes good!