Friday, 30 December 2016

Mince and Skirlie Pies

Shortcrust pastry filled with savoury steak mince and oatmeal stuffing AKA Skirlie

I bet a lot of you have eaten your fair share of mince pies over the festive season haven’t you? Crumbly pastry filled with that juicy, fruity and possibly boozy mincemeat.

This recipe however, is for an altogether different type of mince pie. It combines a couple of Scottish classic dishes – a pan of mince and skirlie.

Mince in this recipe refers to minced beef (or ground beef as it’s called elsewhere) braised in a pan with some onions and some gravy browning added to it. This is the way I make it, although there are loads of variations out there.

braised steak mince with onion and gravy browning.

In Scotland a pan of mince is traditionally paired with mashed potatoes to give the dish called mince and tatties. Not the most exciting sounding cuisine admittedly but it is a hearty meal, perfect on a cold night.

The skirlie part of it is another Scottish dish – made from oatmeal, onions, suet and some unknown seasoning. If you’re familiar with a white pudding from the chip shop, skirlie is like the inside of that. Bought from the butcher, we tend to have skirlie on Christmas day as a side dish, it can be used as stuffing also in poultry. It is difficult to describe the taste, but it’s very savoury and has great texture.

oatmeal stuffing

I had the idea for making these pies when planning what I would make for the Christmas buffet at work the other week. I was making the gingerbread layer cake I took in, but wanted to take in something savoury also.

These Mince and Skirlie Pies would be perfect and easy to make. I made a pan of mince, slightly thicker than I would normally, along with a pan of skirlie (you just pop this in a frying pan and the fat melts down and gently fried the oatmeal).

Shortcrust pastry filled with savoury steak mince and oatmeal stuffing AKA Skirlie

I then took some shop-bought ready rolled shortcrust pastry and cut out circles about 4-5 inches in diameter. I spooned on around a tablespoon of the mince in the middle of the pastry circle, topped with a tablespoon of skirlie. I pulled up the sides of the circle to form a pie, leaving a little gap at the top for any steam to escape. They almost looked like little purses, or santa sacks.

Shortcrust pastry filled with savoury steak mince and oatmeal stuffing AKA Skirlie

I made some in a muffin tin too, with an open top which you will see in the photo at the top and below. I ran out of pastry and used scraps to line the muffin tin ‘cups’ with.

I brushed the pastry with an egg wash and baked them in the oven until they were golden brown in colour. The insides are already cooked, so you are really just baking the pastry and heating the insides.

Shortcrust pastry filled with savoury steak mince and oatmeal stuffing AKA Skirlie

For the pies which looked like little purses or sacks, I got a bit fancy and tied a chive around the top, but that is of course entirely optional and unnecessary!!

Shortcrust pastry filled with savoury steak mince and oatmeal stuffing AKA Skirlie

These would make ideal party food at a Hogmanay bash (or New Year’s Eve party if you’re not in Scotland). Here’s how to make them… (there will be leftover mince and skirlie with this, so you could buy more pastry and make even more pies if you like).

Have a great New Year everyone!

print recipe

Mince and Skirlie Pies
Shortcrust Pastry Filled with Mince and Skirlie
  • 500 grams 12% fat steak mince
  • 1 white onion
  • 4 teaspoons gravy browning powder (I use Bisto)
  • 1 pack of skirlie
  • 2 sheets of ready rolled shortcrust pastry
  • 1 egg
  • Seasoning
Dice the onion and place in a large pan with the mince. Fry, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, until the onions are translucent and the mince is browned.Pour some water from a boiled kettle over the mince just so it is covered.In a small jug, mix 4 teaspoons of gravy powder with 125 ml water. Add this to the pan of mice, stir it through and let the pan simmer away until slightly thickened.Make the skirlie by placing in a large frying pan or skillet and cook over a gentle heat. When the suet has melted and toasted the oats, it’s ready.Preheat the oven to 180C and line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.Unroll the sheets of pastry and cut of circles about 4 or 5 inches in diameter.Spoon a tablespoon of mince in the centre of the circle topped with a tablespoon of the skirlie. Gently bring the pastry up over the filling, pinching slightly at the top. Place on the baking sheet slightly apart.Beat the egg slightly and brush the pastry of each pie with the egg.Bake in the oven for 15 mins approximately until the pastry is golden brown.Tie with a bit of chive if being really fancy!Enjoy warm.
Prep time: Cook time: 15 mins Total time: Yield: 15 Pies approx.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Vanilla Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting

Dark gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting incorporating crushed ginger nut biscuits

It was the Christmas buffet at work the other day and as ever I opted to make a cake for the event.
I decided to tweak an old recipe I had for a light ginger cake which had golden syrup in it. What if I used treacle instead – much more like gingerbread?

And thus my gingerbread cake was born. A ‘damp’ cake full of syrupy moisture, and bursting with flavour too of course. It has tons of ground ginger and fresh ginger root – plus ginger nut biscuits – just like the gingerbread brownies I made the other week. A triple ginger whammy.

The addition of treacle really changed things up and made this eggless cake a big hit.

Dark gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting incorporating crushed ginger nut biscuits

The ginger nuts were crushed up and folded through a light creamy, cream cheese frosting, which complimented the dark, brooding interior of the cake. I also sprinkled crushed biscuits on top to decorate the cake.

Dark gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting incorporating crushed ginger nut biscuits

The cake itself comes together in a strange fashion. You melt butter, sugar, milk and treacle together and then sift in the dry ingredients stirring furiously until everything is combined.

This actually was one of the most popular cakes I think I have made - everyone was asking to take a piece for their others halfs.

Dark gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting incorporating crushed ginger nut biscuits

The buffet was a big success and the table was groaning at the weight of all the food.

Give this cake a go, at Christmastime, (or anytime really) for anyone who loves gingerbread!

Here's how I made it...

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Vanilla Creamy Cream Cheese Frosting

Thumbnail UrlGingerbread flavour layer cake with a frosting made from cream cheese, double cream, vanilla and crushed ginger nuts
Cuisine:CakeCategory:FestiveYields:1x8" layer cake
Prep Time:Cook Time:Total Time:

  • 350 grams unsalted butter
  • 400 grams caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons treacle
  • 500 ml milk (any type, I used semi-skimmed)
  • 500 grams plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled
  • 225 grams full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 115 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 100 grams ginger nut biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease, line and flour 3 8" cake tins.
  2. In the largest saucepan you have, place the butter, caster sugar, treacle and milk. Heat gently until everything has melted together. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Sieve the flour, ground ginger, allspice, cinnamon and bicarb directly into the saucepan.
  4. Stir until the cake batter comes together. don't overmix.
  5. Grate the fresh ginger into the batter and stir this through.
  6. Divide the batter equally between the three cake tins and bake for 20 to 25 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 mins before removing from cake tin and cooling fully.
  8. With a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar until smooth.
  9. Add the vanilla and stir this through.
  10. Pour in the double cream and beat on high until it reaches a thick spreadable consistency.
  11. Crush the ginger nut biscuits into crumbs and add 50 grams to the frosting, stirring through.
  12. Spread frosting on one layer of the cake and place another layer on top.
  13. Repeat this process and spread the top with more frosting and bring this down the sides of the cake, covering it all over.
  14. Sprinkle the remaining crushed ginger nuts over the top and you are ready to serve.

Dark gingerbread cake with cream cheese frosting incorporating crushed ginger nut biscuits

Thursday, 15 December 2016

After Dinner Macarons

Chocolate mint flavour French macarons perfect for after dinner

Thinking ahead to the big day, after dinner mints are a bit a tradition aren’t they – in the UK at least. Usually these are a toothpaste like minty fondant surrounded by a thin layer of dark chocolate – or milk depending on which variety you opt for.

I decided to have a bash at making French macarons again recently and wondered what festive flavour I could concoct. I decided upon chocolate and peppermint with peppermint extract in the macarons themselves and a chocolate spread as the filling.

Chocolate mint flavour French macarons perfect for after dinner

Now, if you have read my attempts at making French macarons before, they are my nemesis and they don’t always turn out like I had hoped. This occasion was no exception and it took a couple of goes. As I am still getting used to my oven even after all these months, it took a bit of experimenting to get the right temperature and setting.

I succeeded in the end however and had lovely minty meringuey cookies which I could spread some chocolate between, giving a beautiful, delicate chocolate mint macaron cookie. I used a shop bought chocolate spread, any would do, but the darker the chocolate the more complimentary to the mint.

These really would be the perfect way to round off a meal and a great alternative to regular after dinner mints.

Chocolate mint flavour French macarons perfect for after dinner

After Eight you say? Non, Apres Huit!

After Dinner Macaron

Thumbnail UrlChocolate mint flavoured macarons
Cuisine:Petit FourCategory:MacaronYields:20-25 macaron
Prep Time:Cook Time:Total Time:

  • 70 grams ground almonds
  • 115 grams icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 50 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • mint green food colouring paste
  • 50 grams chocolate spread
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and place the oven shelf to the lowest part of the oven.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the ground almonds and icing sugar until fine.
  3. Sieve the almond/flour mix until only clumps are left.
  4. Blitz these remaining clumps again and repeat the process.
  5. In the bowl of a food mixer beat the egg whites and granulated sugar. The eggs will become thick and glossy.
  6. Add the extracts and green colouring (go easy, not too much). Stir these through
  7. Gently fold the almond mix into the egg white mix, trying to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites.
  8. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. The rounds should be just under an inch in diameter.
  9. Smack the baking tray off the worktop to get rid of any air bubbles.
  10. Let the macarons sit for at least 30 minutes until they are dry to the touch.
  11. Place into the oven and bake for 13 minutes approximately.
  12. Allow to cool completely.
  13. Pipe or spread on some chocolate filling onto the underside of one macaron and sandwich with another.

Chocolate mint flavour French macarons perfect for after dinner

Monday, 12 December 2016

Chocolate and Chestnut Cupcakes

chocolate cupcakes with added chestnut puree made to look like christmas puddings

Do you have cans in your cupboard that have been there for years? I mean literally YEARS?
I do, or rather I did. A can of chestnut puree that I’d been meaning to use every Christmas, but never quite got round to.

chocolate cupcakes with added chestnut puree made to look like christmas puddings

‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ is a lyric that kept popping into my head every time I saw that can and as that’s from ‘The Christmas Song’ I had to incorporate them into something Christmassy didn’t I?

So I decided to make chocolate and chestnut cupcakes to satisfy that chocolate craving but with the sweet, earthy nuttiness of the nut puree. It’s something that I had never tried before, but upon opening the can (which went out of date mid-2017 so I had to use them this year!) I was pleasantly surprised.

chocolate cupcakes with added chestnut puree made to look like christmas puddings

The recipe is for a thick, cakey chocolate batter, which I baked into wee foil cupcake tins from Yatta Box. They were a substantial firm bake, which I drizzled a simple icing onto and sprinkled some holly and berry sprinkles onto, to give that Christmas pudding look.

The flavour was mostly of chocolate as you’d expect but with a slight, pleasing earthiness going on.

These would be great served warm, with some fresh cream on the side. Give them a go…

print recipe

Chocolate and Chestnut Cupcakes
Chocolate cupcakes with added chestnut puree
  • 30 grams plain flour
  • 75 grams sweetened cocoa powder
  • 170 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100 ml milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 can chestnut puree (250g)
  • 85 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 50 grams approx icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan) and set out 8 to 12 cupcake liners.In a bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the vegetable oil, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until smooth.Add the dry mix and milk in alternating amounts, finishing with the dry mix and beating after each addition.Lastly stir in the chestnut puree until the batter is smooth. Add more milk if the batter is too thick.Divide between the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre.Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.Make a simple icing from icing sugar and water, so it is a thick pourable consistency.Drizzle over each cupcake. Decorate whilst the icing is still wet, if doing so.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 large or 12 regular cupcakes

I'm entering these cupcakes into Love Cake hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber UK - the theme is Winter Wonderland.

chocolate cupcakes with added chestnut puree made to look like christmas puddings

I'm entering these chocolate and chestnut cupcakes into this month's We Should Cocoa hosted by Choclette over at Tin and Thyme. The theme is Festive Favourites.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gingerbread Brownies

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The festive season is well and truly upon us and I love this time of year especially. The build up to Christmas for me is the best time. It’s the anticipation of what is about to come. Time spent with loved ones, gorgeous food of course and maybe the odd present or two! Back to that seasonal food however…

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

This is a very simple recipe which can be knocked up in no time at all if you have guests coming over for a mug of cocoa. It combines the flavours of chocolate and ginger which go so well together, although I’m not a huge lover of chocolate gingers. In my opinion, my recipe for gingerbread brownies packs in those warm, comforting flavours in a much better way.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The recipe is an easy brownie mix with ginger added three ways – ground ginger, grated fresh ginger and crushed up ginger nut biscuits (or gingersnaps depending on where you are in the world).
The biscuits are crushed up and stirred through the brownie batter at the end before the whole mix is baked.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

The result is a fudgy, gooey brownie in the centre and crispy edges too, but with crunchy biscuits throughout. The addition of ginger gives that gingerbread hint to the chocolatey squares with a slight tingle from the ginger at the back of your mouth.

My ginger root looked like a hippo - what do you think?

I added some golden glitter to the top of the squares with a wee gingerbread man I bought in a supermarket, just to bling them up a bit, bit that is entirely optional of course.

Here’s how I made them…

print recipe

Gingerbread Brownies
Chocolate brownies with three kinds of ginger going on!
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 225 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50 grams plain flour
  • 35 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root
  • 100 grams crushed ginger nut biscuits
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line an 8”x8” baking tin with greaseproof paper.Place the ginger nut biscuits in a zip-loc bag and crush up so they are broken into pieces but not like crumbs – you want pieces of biscuit throughout.In a small bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.In a large bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, sugar and eggs with a whisk until smooth.Add the dry ingredients from the smaller bowl and fold through with a spoon or spatula. Grate in the ginger and mix this through.Lastly add the crush biscuits and stir these through also.Pour into the prepared baking tin and smooth the ingredients out.Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is slightly cracked.Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing into 12 squares.Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 brownies

I'm adding these brownies to this month's Treat Petite hosted this December by my co-host Kat, The Baking Explorer.

chocolate brownies with added ground ginger,fresh ginger and gingernut (gingersnap) biscuits - and a little bit of cinnamon too.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Some Seasonal Inspiration

The big day is only a couple of weeks away, and if you are anything like myself, you are struggling to know what to get folks.

I find it much more difficult these days, and I often look online for inspiration.  I have been sent a few bits and bobs which I have trying out and would like to share with you, possibly providing you with a spot of inspiration in the gift department.

First off we have the couch coaster. This would be a great gadget for anyone who loves sitting on the sofa, watching TV with a drink at their side. It’s made from silicone and has weighted ends which grip to the side of the arm of your chair. Your drink fits in the cup holder, which even has a notch for your cup handle. There is a detachable insert for smaller cups or glasses, so it will accommodate most sizes. A handy piece and ideal for entertaining too if you don’t have enough table space for for all those glasses. £19.99 from the Couch Coaster website.

Next, possibly something to put in said couch coaster, Parley rum. If you are partial to dark rum, you will love Parlay which is described as ultra-black. The rum is flavoured with cherries, vanilla, raisins and tangerines. It is a unique rum, but will be loved by those with a taste for the dark side. Available online from the official Parlay website at £28 for a 500ml bottle.

Now we have a few kitchen gadgets from Joseph Joseph which would be a great addition to anyone’s stocking.

Firstly we have the Gusto, the flavour infusing spoon. I plan to use mine for Christmas dinner. It’s a spoon with a compartment built in to put herbs and spices. You can then stir your gravy for example and infuse the flavours from the spoon which has holes in it to allow the flavours to come through. At the end of the spoon is also an integrated herb stripper which you pop the stalk through, pull and all the leaves come off ready to bundle into the spoon. How good an idea is that? £6 from the Joseph Joseph site.

The M-Cuisine popcorn maker, comes from Joseph Joseph’s microwave range and, you’ve guessed it, makes popcorn in the microwave. This is such a handy and healthy item to give someone. Popcorn popped without fat, which this gadget does, is a super healthy snack. Simply pop in some popcorn kernels, set the microwave for 5 minutes and listen to all those kernels popping. It has an integrated kernel sifter to get rid of those annoying unpopped bits. Then you can flavour if you wish straight in the bowl. So easy! £20 from the Joseph Joseph site.

Joseph Joseph also sent me their in-sink washing up brush Brush-Up. This item has a sucker on one end that you stick in your sink and the other end is a brush, ideal to scrub your glasses or cups. I use mine before popping the glasses in the dishwasher to get rid of those annoying bits of red wine that cling. A useful tool for those without dishwashers and those with also! £8 from the Joseph Joseph website.

Lastly Ulster Weavers sent me a selection of their bright and cheerful Frosty Garland range. In the box was a a double oven mitt, a stylish apron and tea towel all featuring their new Frosty Garland design which is full of bright colours of blues, pinks and features lots of wee birds in wreaths. Very cute. The apron retails at £16, the double oven glove £13 and the tea towel £6.50 all from the Ulster Weavers website.

And there we have a few great items which have made their way into my home and I hope have inspired you in your last minute Christmas gift buying.

Disclosure Statement: I was sent the above items free to review and any opinions expressed are my own.