Basic Pastry and Beef Pie (Sunday leftovers)

Pastry is never something I particularly like making. When I do make it I tend to make quite a big batch so I double or triple my standard recipe ingredients (below) and divide the pastry into balls; cover with cling film and put in the freezer.

The next time you need it just pop it out of the freezer an hour before and when you use it will be cold and rested but easy to use. I also tend to use my pastry metal cutter as it minimizes the time my warm hands touch the dough. I don’t exactly understand why this makes a difference but it does work and stops it being tough.

This Sunday I used the pastry to make some jam tarts ( and a steak pie to use up the left over beef from our Sunday lunch.


Recipe for Pastry:


1 + 1/3 cup plain flour

1/2 stick butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tbsp cold water


  1. Cut the butter and flour together. I have a metal pastry cutter that keeps the mix really cold as really good pastry in order to stay crumbly and short needs to be handled as little as possibleIMG_1514
  2. Add the wet ingredients and combine into a ball. Put in the freezer to really chill for 30 minutes


Recipe for Pie:




Leftover bits of beef (shredded)

Spoon of cornflour

Sunflower oil for browning

Leftover vegetables (carrots; swede)

Leftover gravy

Eggs for egg washing



  1. Grease a pie dish and add the shredded bits of piece (if cooked already)
  2. If you are using fresh beef add the beef to a pan and brown in oil. Don’t cook all the way through but just enough brown each side leaving the insides raw. Coat the beef in cornflour
  3. Add the leftover vegetables
  4. Put your leftover gravy in pan and add 100ml of hot water and a beef stock cube to loosen it a bit as it will be cooked again
  5. Add egg wash to edge of your pie dish and lay on the pastry making sure you add an air hole to allow steam to escape without making the pastry soggy
  6. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes at 190 degrees c or until golden brown
  7. Serve with even more gravy!

Perfect Jam Tarts

After a recent conversation with my better half when I recently asked on Sunday what dessert he would like after Sunday dinner, he declared he really loved jam tarts as a kid so I went looking for recipe.

Little did I know but jam tarts are the simplest thing in the world to make and I make a lot of simple things. Once you knock up a little short crust party (or be super lazy and buy the frozen stuff) you simply put little shells in a cake tin as if you were making mince pies.

On top of the pastry you add a spoon full of the jam of your choice and bake for 15-20 minutes at 180 degrees c.  I also added some little pastry cutter shaped hearts on top and a brush with egg wash  to make then brown.

Simple; quick retro dessert.


Basic Pumpkin Pie in England

Happy Halloween! Well Happy season of anyway. Pumpkin pies are very American and the only ones I’ve ever eaten have been in America so I’ve they have been of the very sweet variety. Therefore, in order to source a recipe I went straight to Martha Stewart and the various other classic American cooks. I did however then realise I live in England so don’t have quite the same ingredients so I’ve done a cheat’s version. It does taste rather good though.



Either buy some shortcrust frozen pastry or make your own


If you make your own you need:

1 and 1/3 cup plain flour

½ tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp cold water



  1. Combine the ingredients and put in cling film in the freezer for 30 minutes
  2. Press the pastry into a greased tin of your choice
  3. Put in the fridge


Filling Ingredients:

2 large eggs

1 can evaporated milk

1 can pumpkin filling (if you can’t get in the supermarket you can buy online from American food stores)

½ cup white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger (powdery stuff)

1-2 ground cloves (be careful not to add more or it can taste like medicine)



  1. Beat the eggs and then add everything else
  2. Pour the mix into the pastry case from the fridge
  3. Bake for 15 minutes at 325F
  4. Bake for 45 minutes at 350F
  5. Store in the fridge

Sorry for the American temperate measurements but it was an American recipe.

Wedding Post Box

The wedding prep continues.. This weekend’s task was a Wedding Post Box in order to hopefully hold any lovely cards we get from our wedding guests.

I will completely own this though as a cheat. I thought about making one and then I saw the prices of the ones to buy and the vary between £10 and £50! I came to a compromise of buying a kit on eBay and customising it to the colour theme of the wedding. As with all of my wedding blogs I won’t spoil the end result but will do that post wedding but hopefully you can see enough of it and see how you can make something fairly cheaply but special.

This is the kit. It comes flat packed with the cut out pieces still in their single sheet ready to push out.

wed post box 3

My next decision was colour. The wedding color themes are duck egg blue and rose gold so that’s what I went with. I choose some acrylic blue in a matte and some shiny metallic rose gold which i then used on a whole range of wedding crafts for consistency.




So using some PVC glue I stick the letters and trim; painted the core box in blue and the trim in gold.


If you like any of my wedding planning items please see my ‘Super Simple Wedding Planner’ book on Amazon:

Christmas Mincemeat (slow cooker)

So it’s that time of year again. It’s time to get my mincemeat for mince pies ready. This year I saw an article in a magazine about using your slow cooker so decided to give it a whizz. The slow cooker is the perfect size for making mince meat and heats up everything together so the suet melts but you don’t risk boiling it or boiling any alcohol away. Just reduce a little of any liquids you add in as they won’t evaporate.

I tend to make my mincemeat at the same time as I do my Christmas cake as the ingredients are broadly the same and you can avoid wasting items. You can add whatever else you really like such as cherries or different fruits or spices to make it really personal. Let people know if you’ve add the alcohol if you are giving them away.

This year I added white rum as my alcohol so let’s see how it goes at Christmas time!


175g currants

175g raisins

175g sultanas

175g dried cranberries

100g mixed peel

1 small apple diced and cored

125 butter or suet

50g blanched or flaked almonds

225g brown sugar

½ tbs cinnamon

1 tbsp mixed spice

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

200 ml of brandy, rum, sherry or orange juice


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a pan/slow cooker and warm through on simmer for about 25 minutes.
  2. Cool and add the alcohol.
  3. Store in glass jars (sterilize with boiling water or in the dishwasher first).


Basic Homemade Hot Sauce

My other half work’s in an office with large glass windows. One of things his team decided to go was grow chillies using the heat as we don’t get much if that in England so it was acting as a mini greenhouse. After the summer had passed he came home one day with a massive collection of chillies. Some of them were small and they were all different colours. We decided we’d use them up in something we loved which was hot sauce. We found some funky skeleton jars in a local shop thinking these would give the perfect scary appearance as we wanted the sauce to be super hot.



5 different types of fresh chilli

Handful jalapeno style chillies

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

1 whole clove of garlic chopped up very small

1 tablespoon of salt and pepper

1 squeeze of tomato puree

1 squeeze of garlic puree

1 cup of water

1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

1 tablespoon dried habanero chilli flakes

1 large onion diced finely

1 tablespoon white sugar

50 ml white wine vinegar



  1. Slightly soften the onion and garlic in a pan
  2. Add them and everything else to a slow cooker
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours
  4. Bottle in sterilised jars
  5. Store in the fridge as it doesn’t have preservatives ib


Now we love the type of hot sauce that is sweet but wanted to start out fairly simply so I think next time we’ll add a whole bottle of honey and see where that takes us.


Update on Wedding Confetti

Our wedding is getting closer so the wedding planning and crafting is getting much more serious and my organisational skills need to kick in. Earlier in the year when the flowers were in bloom I collected and dried lots of petals (see link to blog below) and now I’m moving onto making these actual wedding confetti. I saw a really fab picture on Pinterest for wedding cones made from lace and stored in what looks like an apple crate. My father in law to be is a really good wood craftsman so I’ll share some of the other items he’s making for the wedding in future but in light of that he’s agreed to make us the box to store them (see picture below). Post wedding so I don’t spoil the reveal I’ll share a picture of the full box.


So then I needed the lace cones. I bought some paper dollies from the local pound store. By cutting them in half and gluing them together you can make a good cone. If you use two layers and insert one into another you get a stronger and prettier lace effect. I sealed the front with a sticker which I got personalised from a store on eBay with our wedding married names.


The plan closer to the time is to then pour a small amount of my dried petals into each cone and the place the cones in the box and voila.. hopefully homemade wedding confetti (and we should have a nice apple crate/box to keep forever).


I’ll update after the wedding with final photographs.


If you are interested in my Wedding Planning activities please see my ‘Super Simple Planning Book’ available on Amazon in digital or paperbook format below:

Cheat’s Mulled Wine Recipe

It’s almost time for the annual Christmas markets in Manchester. Every year we attend and every year I spend a ridiculous amount on buying the cups as they have the year of the market on them. I have almost 10 cups, however I do love a good mulled wine. Now apart from buying my favourite flavour gluwein I have on occasion made it home (using the cups bought from the special market). Making mulled wine can be as elaborate or complicated as you like.


The simplest method is buy it! Simply go to a good Marks & Spencer’s supermarket and buy it.


Option 2, which probably yields the easiest results are to buy a bottle of good quality red wine. It doesn’t have to be expensive but don’t buy the really watery stuff. Then you can buy mulled wine spice mix (see picture below) and sprinkle some spoons of it in a pan with some of the red wine and warm through (don’t boil as you can boil off the alcohol). You can make it more elaborate by adding a few chopped oranges; lemons or a sprinkle of sugar and it’s starts to look a lot more homemade.


Option 3 which is where I am now is to make your own spice mix. I have a jar that I keep and use each year topping up and refreshing each year with a mix of:


  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground all spice
  • Ginger
  • Brown sugar
  • Dried orange and lemon peel


Basically put all your classic Christmas spices in a jar and mix it up. If you particularly like cinnamon add more of that or you hate ginger then leave it out. If you prefer your it sweet then a little more sugar. Don’t put too much sugar though as you can always add that later once you’ve tasted your mix in your red wine as your wine of choice will make it taste different each time.


Option 4 which is the final flourish is to then a large or very large splash of your favourite spirit such as honey rum; cherry brandy or even chocolate liqueurs. This is dangerous element as you can make your mulled wine so alcoholic you only manage a glass full!


mulled wine 2

Toasted Teacakes

Every Sunday we eat toasted teacakes. I think the tradition came from the local coffee shops offering them as a cheap and filling hot breakfast alongside a caramel latte coffee. They weren’t available the other week so I bought hot cross buns which are similar but felt too like Easter for me.  I’ve also recently gotten better at making bread (it finally proves and rises and everything) so I figured I’d have a go at making homemade teacakes.




120ml milk

350g bread flour (I had white in)

2 tsp white sugar

50g butter

1 sachet of yeast

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

100g fruit (I had raisins in)

1 egg beaten

Small spray of oil



  1. Slightly warm the milk and add the butter
  2. Take off the heat and add the yeast and sugar whilst still a little warm
  3. Mix together and add the rest of the ingredients except the fruit
  4. Knead into a smooth dough (takes about 5-8 minutes)
  5. Leave to rise in bowl with a damp tea towel over it for about an hour
  6. Add the fruit to the dough and shape into balls placing on a baking tray
  7. Cover again and leave to prove for about 30 minutes
  8. Brush with beaten egg or milk making sure to cover the whole surface so you don’t get stripes on the side like I did
  9. Bake at 180 degrees c for circa 45 minutes


Mine kept for a few days in a tin. Serve as you would normally sliced; toasted and with butter


Perfect Carrot Cake with Cream Frosting

Last weekend I went through a phase of making homemade soups. I go through this phase fairly often when I have a load of vegetables leftover or it’s cold outside. I’ll add some soup recipes soon. Consequentially I had a load of carrots left over so figured I’d ruin the healthy eating and make a carrot cake. For whatever carrots you have leftover adjust the proportions below as long as you keep the wet and dry ingredients in proportion to each other.





300g plain flour

150g brown sugar

100g white sugar

3-4 large eggs dependent on their size

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt

300 ml sunflower oil

300g carrots peeled and grated



100g full fat cheese (I like Philadelphia)

30g butter

200g icing sugar sieved

100g walnuts (I keep whole)

100g caster sugar



  1. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees and line a tin
  2. Beat everything together with a wooden spoon and transfer to the tin
  3. Cook for 40-45 minutes until firm and a skewer comes out clean
  4. Allow to completely cool (really important when using cream cheese frosting!)
  5. Mix the topping together with an electric whisk. It will go really light fluffy after about 5 minutes
  6. Spoon on the top and top with walnuts



  • You can change the quantities as long you keep the proportions of wet to dry ingredients
  • Grate some walnuts and add them to cake mix to add some extra flavour
  • The mixture will look really moist but that’s great as the cake will be too
  • Adding more spices or fruit can make it more Christmassy so you can use it in place of a traditional fruit cake recipe if your family doesn’t like it