Recipe: Mince Pie Brownies

I can't believe its taken this long to crack out the festive brownies. Flick and I had attempted some gingerbread chai ones, but we had a little too much prosecco to be baking and they flopped.

And so, since I've been eating a lot of mince pies of late, I decided to combine the two in the most simple way. No fussing with pastry, just buy ready rolled shortcrust from the supermarket, take a one bowl brownie mix and fold in some mincemeat, orange zest and cinnamon.

To ensure that these brownies are super decadent, it is Christmas after all, I melted down some of my favourite Lindt truffles, Christmas bears and reindeers. Whilst it was sad to see their little chocolate faces melt away I like to think they were sacrificed to make some pretty special brownies.

I'll be leaving these out for Father Christmas on Christmas eve, just don't tell that bear where his friends went...

M I N C E   P I E   B R O W N I E S
(Makes 24 brownies)

2 packs ready prepared and rolled shortcrust pastry
100g chocolate (I used an assortment of Lindt truffles and chocolate)
100g unsalted butter, softened
175g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
100g plain flour
200g mincemeat
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and use a round cutter or the top of a jam jar to cut 24 discs of shortcrust pastry. Place each into a cupcake tray, pushing into the edges with a small ball of dough. Chill until ready to bake.
  2. For the brownies, gently melt the chocolate over a pan of barley simmering water. Meanwhile, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cinnamon, zest and flour and gently fold together. Continue to fold in the mincemeat until just incorporated.
  4. Spoon the mix between the pastry cases, filling two thirds of the way up. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. The tops of the pastry should have started to turn golden and the brownie will have a firm top.
  5. Allow to cool fully and firm up before removing from the trays.
Serve with some whipped cream, preferably boozy and either some sugared cranberries, or more chocolate! This brownie pies will last up to 5 days in an airtight container. To make ahead, prepare the pastry and leave to chill until you're ready.

Recipe: Spiced Christmas Jam

Each year I attempt to make some edible treats for gifts. Last year was the year for mulled wine kits and homemade giant scotch eggs. This year, something a little more simple and perfect to make in batches. Make a big stash of Christmas jam and you're all set to spread some festive jammy cheer to everyone you know!

Cranberries, berries, orange, cinnamon and cloves make this a real winter warmer. If you prefer something sharper, make the lot with just cranberries, or for those with a sweet tooth, half and half with mixed berries like raspberries.

You don't need a giant maslin (jam) pan but it does come in very handy for making big batches like this one. My pan is a 9 litre one from Domu, which should make up to a dozen jars of jam. Or, 9 litres of mulled wine! 

S P I C E D   C H R I S T M A S   J A M
(Makes 6 regular sized jars, double up or halve as necessary)

1 cinnamon stick
a few whole cloves
450g cooking apples like bramleys, peeled, cored and cubed
zest of 1 large orange or 3 clementines
200ml fresh orange juice
450g fresh cranberries
450g mixed frozen berries 
1kg jam sugar
  1. Tie the cinnamon and cloves in  a square of muslin cloth. Add the apples, orange zest and juice into a large maslin pan and cook on a medium heat until the apples are soft, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the berries and continue to cook gently for around 5-10 minutes, checking the cranberries retain their shape.
  3. Pour in all of the sugar and turn the heat up. Continuously stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Place a sugar thermometer in the pan and leave on a rapid boil for 10 minutes. 
  4. At around 110 degrees the jam should be at setting point. To check, take a small spoon of jam on a chilled plate, leave to cool for a few minutes before pushing your finger through the jam. If the jam wrinkles then its ready. If its too runny then put back on a rapid boil for another 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and take out the muslin bag. Leave to cool for a further 10 minutes and remove any scum from the top of the jam with a slotted spoon.
  6. Warm some clean jam jars up either in the oven or with a swill of boiling water. Pour in the jam and seal with a lid. Leave to cool fully before labelling. 

Thanks to Domu for sending me a shiny new maslin pan for this post, next stop...mulled wine! 

Recipe: Caramel and Pecan Tart

I have a love hate relationship with pastry. I love eating it, but I don't necessarily enjoy making it. Fool-proof biscuit bases are my bag. Crush some biscuits, stir in butter and squidge into a tin. Easy as pie tart. 

This caramel tart is made with a Digestive biscuit base and topped with a generous swirl of chocolate and a few pecans. I'm already planning different variations including cookie bases and marshmallow fillings. 

I'm almost certain I love biscuits more than cake. Even more so in the form of biscuit tart bases.

C A R A M E L   A N D   P E C A N   T A R T
(recipe from McVitie's, serves 8)

For the base:

200g digestive biscuits
75g unsalted butter

For the filling:

150g unsalted butter
150g light muscovado sugar
200g condensed milk
100g plain chocolate
50g pecans
  1. Blitz or smash the biscuits in a sandwich bag until finely ground. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the biscuits.
  2. Use the back of a spoon to press down the biscuit mix into the base and sides of a 20cm springform tin.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes to set.
  4. To make the filling, gently melt the butter and sugar until dissolved. Add the condensed milk and stir continuously whilst bringing to the boil. 
  5. Continue to stir for 2-3 minutes until the filling is golden and bubbling. Pour the caramel into the prepared biscuit base and leave to set in the fridge for an hour.
  6. Top with pecans and swirls of melted chocolate.

Ensure you slice from chilled to get that perfect cut. Serve with boozy cream or ice cream.

Thank you to the McVitie's team for sending me the ingredients for this post.  

Cook it Forward with Hello Fresh

The best way to anyone's heart is through their stomach, or so I've found.

In the run up to turkey day its the present buying, boozing and preparations that take centre stage. There's so much time spent on the 25th itself, stockpiling goose fat, finding perfect sausages for pigs in blankets and the best way to cook sprouts.

We tend to forget about the rest of the month and my favourite part of the festive season, family, friends (and food). So the team at Hello Fresh have launched a Christmas campaign to 'Cook it Forward' by encouraging us to cook for others. Because? A whopping 50% of the UK have never cooked for others.

Not only will cooking for friends, family, charities or even your office get you mega brownie points, it's a great way of just simply spending time together.

Avoid fighting for a car parking space in the supermarket and queuing for a checkout, this is where Hello Fresh comes up trumps. No stress, just order your box and all the ingredients will come with easy to follow recipe cards.

So, grab your favourite humans and ply them with food, pop open a nice bottle of fizz and enjoy catching up with each other.

These Caribbean spicy sausages with roasted veggies and mash was the perfect Sunday dinner. Very little preparation needed, just chop some veg, pour over sauce and leave to roast leaving you plenty of time to make (or drink) some mulled wine.

For more information about Hello Fresh and their wonderful Cook it Forward campaign, take a look here. There's still time to order a box before Christmas! (Or even take a look at their archive of recipes for inspiration).

I was sent a complimentary box as part of the campaign, but love HF so much that myself and my family regularly order boxes for simple midweek meals. 

Recipe: Lindt Chocolate Gingerbread Forest Cake

I'm not usually one for decorating cakes with icing and figures, but when these cute little Santa's Helpers from Lindt dropped through my door I couldn't wait to bake with them. Guessing it was too cruel to melt them down for brownies, I figured it best to make them a little gingerbread forest home. Albeit before reaching their inevitable end, because cakes are made for eating after all!

This chocolate gingerbread cake from Nigella is gloriously fudgy and squidgy. Topped with some chocolate gingerbread shaped into trees and chocolate elves. I'm thinking of making another one now with a giant chocolate santa and reindeers too!

Whilst my cake may not win any decoration prizes, the Lindt Christmas figures are great for decorations. And, who doesn't want to spend a Sunday afternoon decorating gingerbread and drinking mulled wine?

C H O C O L A T E   G I N G E R B R E A D   C A K E

(recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)

Chocolate gingerbread cake:

175g unsalted butter
125g dark muscovado
2 tbsp caster sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp warm water
2 eggs
250ml whole milk
275g plain flour
40g cocoa powder

Chocolate frosting:

110g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
170g icing sugar, sifted
55g cocoa powder
1-2 tbsp whole milk
  1. Heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line a 7 inch round cake tin.
  2. Over a low heat, melt the butter, sugars, golden syrup, treacle and spices in a large saucepan.
  3. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a cup with the warm water.
  4. Once melted, take the butter mix off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk and bicarbonate of soda.
  5. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder until just incorporated.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool fully.
  8. Whilst the cake is cooling, make the chocolate frosting. Beat the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add a few drops if needed to help loosen the frosting.

C H O C O L A T E   G I N G E R B R E A D   T R E E S

65g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
75g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
60ml whole milk
1 egg
150g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line two oven trays with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter a sugar together on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the spices, milk and egg and continue to beat, this time on a low speed. 
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and stir together until the mix forms a ball of dough.
  4. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
  5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about the thickness of a pound coin.
  6. Using tree cutters, or any other shapes you have, cut out shapes and place on the oven trays with half an inch space between each.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Place on a wire cooling rack to cool and firm up.
For assembly:

Ice the gingerbread trees with green icing. To frost the cake, use a palette knife to smooth the chocolate frosting over the top. Decorate with the iced trees and Lindt figures.

Thanks to the festive people at Lindt for sending me some chocolate too cute (almost) to eat!

Food in November

The month before Christmas means that if you're a self-confessed elf like me then you don't have to restrain yourself any longer. Now is the time to test every shop's mince pies just to find which ones best and to start up a plan for Christmas gifts. And if you're Scrooge? Then you'll be the one grumbling that you always have to carry an umbrella and that you've already heard Mariah Carey playing in the supermarket umpteen times.

I've planned my family's Christmas gifts, made a special advent calendar for Boy and my Christmas cake is soaking away in its Brandy pyjamas.

I lieu of any mince pies at present (I still haven't got to that part) I'll be working on soaking myself in my very own gin pyjamas (exact logistics of this to be confirmed)...

O N E   S I X T Y

The month started with a quick catchup with Emily whilst I accompanied her on a review to One Sixty Smokehouse in the City. She needed my burger opinion, one of the services I offer alongside my blog just in case you needed the same *wink wink*. You can find her full review here, but I love the mac n cheese balls and the burger was pretty good too...look at that patty!

N I N T H   W A R D

After the burger warm up, I hopped over to an old favourite of mine, Ninth Ward, to try out their infamous chocolate burger. Its like they made it just for me. I took along some fellow burger critics, although Persephone ordered chicken and Mike wasn't convinced...Gianni did share my love. Crispy bacon is incredible with a dark, rich chocolate sauce dripping over a burger patty. The patty itself was perfectly pink inside but a little too charred on the outside, but the chocolate sauce more than made up for it. I will return!

S L O W   C O O K E R   S T I C K Y   T O F F E E   P U D D I N G

It didn't take much encouraging to dust off my slow cooker for the season and have a whirl at making more recipes in it. I've not made any desserts or cakes in it before so thoroughly enjoyed creating this sticky toffee pudding for the guys over at Domu. Their slow cooker recipe hub is a great place for recipe inspiration. You'll find my recipe here. You know what I need to try next? Brownies!

L O S T   A N D   F O U N D   A F T E R N O O N   T E A,   B I R M I N G H A M

A little day trip to Birmingham to meet Emily and Amelia. We had brunch in Bar Opus, mulled wine in the Christmas market then onto Afternoon Tea at Lost and Found. I loved their cute teacups, glorious jam filled flapjacks and perfectly fluffy scones.


20 inch pizza? Yes please! Although the wait was almost an hour for three people at 6pm on a Friday, it was well worth it. Homeslice's menu only consists of wine, beer and pizza. Order by the slice or the full 20" to share. We went for half chorizo, corn and coriander and half pulled BBQ brisket with pickles. Wine also comes in a giant carafe, you pay what you drink when they measure it at the end

M U L L E D   C I D E R

You know you have the right friends when they appear at yours with cider, spices and camembert. Flick came over to bake one afternoon to bake loaded up all the essentials. This mulled cider was made with cranberries, star anise, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, a few spoons of brown sugar and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg. There's no real recipe, just leave the cider and spices to heat through and the sugar to dissolve. So good we forgot to bake the gingerbread we'd planned and left some chai brownies in the oven for 50 minutes...!

There's already so much baking planned for December, I can't wait for mince pies.

What's are your go to Christmas recipes?