Mincemeat Cake

“It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.”
― Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost 

Too early (for some!) to mention the “C” word but I’m sure no one would begrudge me sneaking a mincemeat recipe into the WP ether…

I’m very high maintenance when it comes to mince pies.  Pastry has to be right, the ratio of filling to pastry has to be right and that ratio is different for everyone.  But I found a perfect mincemeat cake recipe that is so lovely and you don’t have to worry about that sweet spot for everyone.

It’s from a website called Frugal Feeding  – in fact have a good root around his site as it has a lot of interesting recipes.



• 175g butter

• 100g light muscovado sugar

• 3 eggs

• 225g self-raising flour

• 300g homemade mincemeat

• a healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

• a pinch of ground cloves

• ½ tsp ground cinnamon

• ½ tsp ground ginger

Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time.    Mix in the mincemeat and then fold in the flour and spices.   Bake at 190/gas mark 5 for 40 to 50 minutes.

Make sure it’s a good sized cake tin.  I popped mine in a loaf tin and it burnt around the edges.  Fun tip; always do what the recipe says….lol.

Anyway despite getting a bit burnt, it was delicious and I didn’t have to worry about anyone complaining about pastry to filling ratio!

Yes.  It smelt like Christmas…

Lainey x

Mind, Body, and Bread

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
~  M.F.K. Fisher


The last week or so has been a bit mentally draining.  It’s exam year  and back to school has felt a bit more stressful than usual.

September is usually my “New Year” ~  Autumn always feels like a new start with renewed energies, this year I just want to hibernate!  I’ve got my last set of assessment drawings to do for my online drawing course, and my list of jobs is just getting bigger.

So after a week of us all having flu and feeling rubbish I thought bread and soup would hit the spot.

I used to have a bread maker, it was always so easy to pop the ingredients in and let it do it’s thing.  The thought of doing all the kneading and proving always seemed too much like hard work. But since it broke I never had the inclination/money to replace it  However, I found a great basic bread recipe on the back of a tin of yeast I bought a few months ago and I’ve usually got time to make it after work.

It’s from Allinsons’ Easy Bake yeast.

  • Mix together 500g bread flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and 7g dried yeast.
  • Rub in 1 tablespoon of soft butter till it looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Mix in 300ml of hand-warm water with a cutlery knife.
  • Knead for 10 minutes.
  • Pop back in bowl, cover and leave to prove for about an hour.
  • Gently knead it 5 times, shape, and leave to prove till doubled in size.  Depending on how warm it is this can take about 45 minutes.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 200/gas mark 6.

Sometimes I’ll throw in some herbs or seeds if I’ve got any in.

Not the prettiest looking meal!


The soup we have quite often and it started out years ago as something cheap and quick I could do for my hubby when he worked shifts.  I don’t even have a proper list of ingredients or method!  I would just use about a pint and a half of water, throw in some vegetable Bouillon – about 2 teaspoons.  Bring it to the boil and then put in 200g red lentils, 2 chopped large carrots, 1 chopped medium onion, 1 chopped small potato, and a splash of tomato puree.  Simmer for about 40 minutes.

It’s not pretty but it is cheap and tasty.  Just what we needed!

Lainey x

Lemon Courgette Cake

“Freedom is… not to be bound by my wounds. And to be able to eat cake every day.”

                                              Amanda de Cadenet


Last week was Zero Waste Week and although I didn’t sign up and officially participate it helped get me thinking.

We have been shopping a bit better recently and although I’m not doing meal plans in a strict sense we are organising meals around ingredients “use by” dates and trying to make sure we throw less away.

We still have a few things ending up in the bin so recipes from leftovers are starting to come in very handy!

One thing we tend to have a lot of is courgettes and I found a great recipe for a cake.  Made with courgettes.  My first thought was eugh(!), but then I really needed to try it.

The recipe I tried was here at  allrecipes.co.uk

It’s really simple to make, and takes 45 minutes to bake with about 10 minutes to prep.


200g (7 oz) grated courgette

150g(5 oz) caster sugar

1 egg

125ml (4 fl oz) vegetable oil

200g (7 oz) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons lemon zest


Bowl 1 – beat together the grated courgette,  caster sugar,  egg,  vegetable oil.

Bowl 2 – mix the plain flour, salt, teaspoon bicarb,  teaspoon cinnamon, and teaspoons of lemon zest.

Then mix the 2 bowls together and pop in a greased baking tin.  45 minutes at 160 gas mark 3.

This cake looks very unappetising when you first pop it in the oven but when baked does look nice.  The website has a photo with drizzle icing on which makes it look lovely, especially if you’re having friends over! I didn’t do that and it was still tasty.  Watch it closely by the 35 minute mark.  Mine got very dark at 35 minutes but seemed to be no where near done.  I kept testing it (lol!) and it was done at  pretty much spot on 45 minutes.

I think it’s versatile and something I’ll bake quite often.  Pleasant flavours and not overpowering and it has a proper cake texture which would see it go very well with custard.  You could maybe swap the courgettes for carrots and someone in the comments suggested putting in some chopped walnuts/ extra lemon.

On the whole a good find!

Lainey x



Back to a Routine

“I said I wouldn’t be one of those lunatics kneeling on the floor by the oven… And here I am.”

                                                                         Glenn Cosby ~ contestant GBBO


It’s been quiet round here the last couple of weeks, it’s been the last two weeks of the school holiday.  Although we haven’t been away we have had days out, been hiking, binged The Good Place on Netflix, and generally hung out with no routine or real need to know what the time is.

However next week plunges us back into setting alarms, routines, limits on Netflix, and keeping on top of the ironing!  It’s sad but I also love this time of year.  New stuff ready for the new school year.  We’ve kitted out the teen for her last year of school and as usual I’ve treated myself to a little something new. New stationary.  Notebooks to be precise.   I’ll be getting back into my online art course this month and it coincides with the Great British Bake Off returning!  Perfect timing this year.  The recipes and wonderful illustrations by Tom Hovey are the perfect inspirations for me.


As my drawing practice has been a bit hap-hazard the last few weeks,  I’ve bought a notebook specifically for a “drawing my day” routine.  Saw the idea on a book by artist Samantha Dion Baker.  A little visual diary to help get into the habit of drawing regularly.

I’ve started my first page and when this cake goes in the oven I’m sure I will also be found kneeling in front of the oven!

Lainey x



Never Stop Never Stopping…

“You have to make thousands and thousands of drawings before an illustration is perfected.”

                                                                             ~  Richard MacDonald


So in my About page,  I said that I would start illustrating this blog when I had the confidence to do it.

Confidence is a fickle trait.

A few months ago I started an online drawing course.  Feedback to my first assignments were positive and gave me a lot of confidence to carry on.  I stopped drawing in secret and drew at the dining room table.  The family stopped by and commented, I even drew outside and showed my neighbour.  She had also done a bit of drawing and we had a giggle because we are both working from the same book!

Then life got a bit busy and I stopped drawing as regularly as I should and I lost that tiny nugget of confidence.  My second group of assignments also came back with good feedback and I have just a few modules left to complete but they look really….I want to say difficult, but lets say challenging instead!

I don’t really feel confident to share my drawings but why wait until I’m good?

Where’s the fun in that?

This blog is supposed to be a challenge and a journey.  Journeys make for a boring story if you only see the last day of it.

So I’m posting now.  Loads of rubbish until we start seeing the good stuff.  And like all the blogs I love to follow,  it will be fun to see progress. I think.  🙂

So here is my first illustration – I’m also making it my header image.  Yikes!


Lainey x

P.S.  The title of this post is the tagline to an Andy Samberg film called Popstar, a mockumentary about a boy band.  It also looks rubbish but fun!

Let’s Go Stuff a Pepper!

“It tastes good like pepper, but crunchy like a bell.”

                                                                                            ~ Homer Simpson

I thought I’d start off my challenge with something super easy and versatile.  Scoop out a pepper, stuff it, and stick in the oven for half an hour!  It’s not too scary for the teen and it gets me feeling like I know what I’m doing in the kitchen.

There are so many different combinations of ingredients that can be used,  you’ll never   be short of choices.  I used up some little bits of food that wouldn’t have made a meal in itself.  Boiled up a bit of rice and mixed it with a couple of mushrooms, what was left of a block of smoky tofu, drizzle of oil, pinch of herbs, mozzarella, and breadcrumbs on top.  So easy it doesn’t even need a proper list of ingredients and method.

An easy introduction to my kitchen, lol.  Personally I’d use tastier cheese than mozzarella though…

Hubby liked it, and our teenager ate it….high praise indeed these days!

Lainey x

A Tale of Two Cannoli

First blog post.

It sets the tone doesn’t it?

Gives potential readers a sense of what to expect.  Hmmmm…

What better way to start a new food challenge and its blog than by going to a Food and Drink festival.  I’m hoping to rediscover a love of food and also get out and about in Nottingham and visit our independent and ethnic food shops.  The Nottingham Food and Drink Festival at Wollaton Hall (AKA Wayne Manor!) last weekend seemed like the perfect event to kick this all off.

Like this blog may end up, it was not quite what I expected.

We went for the food and came home with a hamster.

When we first walked in it reminded me of a local fair we used to have in Beeston Rylands called Plessey Sports.  Held by the local factory it included fairground rides, stalls, competitions, and visiting celebrities.  Although I only remember seeing Red Rum!  People came from all over the country. I have very vivid memories of jewellery I bought, competitions I did, clothes I wore, and even the pop I drank!

This festival had a very similar vibe.  Rides, announcements over a tannoy, tents, and demonstrations of glass blowing and chainsaw sculpting.  We ate burgers and wraps, tried samples of sauces, sweets, and moonshine.  We bought cannoli.  None of us had ever tried it before and it was beautiful.  A  Sicilian pastry with a sweet ricotta filling.  I think they’ve made them on Bake Off.  (My Godfather quotes got very boring very quickly!)

There were cooking demonstrations which I will pay more attention to next year.  I just wanted to feel inspired and this festival certainly did that.  Nothing too unusual in the way of food but plenty of strange alcohol.  We didn’t come home with bags of stuff as we thought we might.

Then we made the mistake of going into the hamster tent.  Why were there hamsters at a food and drink festival?  I’m still trying to work that one out.  However, my teen has wanted one for about 3 years.  And as we stood looking at the little balls of fur, she said she knew we couldn’t get one and hubby said “weeeeeeel….”  Half an hour later we’re in the car with a hamster, a travel case, and a cage with everything it’s heart could desire.

She’s the exact colour of the cannoli we had.  That’s what our teen called her.

Hey if it’s good enough for Joe Gatto…

I doubt anything here will go to plan!

Lainey x