discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Thursday, 19 December 2013

My Shortbread and a Merry Christmas from me!

I think the only reason my husband realises its getting close to Christmas is by the amount of shortbread that starts getting pumped through my oven, such a gorgeous scent of Christmas...Yesterday he said "What day is Christmas next week?"  I don't know why after nearly 18 years together it surprises me!  In true oblivious style he never writes a card, sends a present to his family or organises Chrissy drinks.  Lucky he has a wonderful, thoughtful and beautiful wife who does it all : ) He does however put up the tree and he humors my need to have pretty fairy lights and some decorations.

I'm up to the last edible Christmas gift on my list.  So here it is, my shortbread recipe.  Nothing fancy, just very traditional.  I love using a mountain of different Christmasy cookie cutters and my daughter and I have lots of fun making them for family, friends and of course her teachers.

Jan's Shortbread 
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup s.r flour
1/4 cup cornflour
1/2 tspn vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 160c.  I leave my butter out long before making time as it works ever so well with super soft butter.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric beaters (this is my nan's old Janome she handed down to me, must be 50 years old and never misses a beat!) or a wooden spoon and elbow grease.  It won't take but a few minutes.  Get as much of that precious mixture off those beaters.
Using a spatula or a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla 
Sift all the flours together into a seperate bowl, and sift again and again.  This will make sure all the different flours are well incorporated.  Gradually add the flour to the butter and sugar, mixing well after each addition.  You many not need all the flour.  When it comes together into a nice ball it is enough.  Gently knead the ball of dough for a minute or so and then place into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Take out dough and cut into 4 pieces.  Roll out one piece at a time, between two sheets of baking paper.  You want the thickness to be even and not too thick and not too thin.  Cut out with your favourite cookie cutters and place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, they need to be lightly browned.  A good way to make sure they are cooked is to check they have browned ever so slightly on the bottom.

This masterpiece above is for santa's feast on 
Christmas Eve 
by my daughter, so cute.
Today I'm wrapping up the blog for the year, its time to put the computer away for a couple of weeks and relax and recharge with my family & friends.  There will be plenty of food, wine and trips to the beach in store. 

If you are still doing the Decluttering Challenge and up to week 4 on Monday coming, bless your cotton socks! I have 3 bags to go to the Salvo's tomorrow, the plastics cupboard is done, my daughters bedroom has now got room for more stuff and the car is now spick and span, so I'm very happy with the results.  

But before I sign off for 2013,  lastly thank you, my dear friends and readers for dropping by and reading over the past 6 months since I started here.  I appreciate every single one of you.  This blog has been a godsend for me this year and it has helped me to slow down, be mindful and cook!  It has been such a steep learning curve with some fun along the way, and yummy food I must not forget.  I look forward to growing more next year, just hopefully not in girth more in the mind!  I wish you all a happy, healthy and safe Christmas and a wickedly good 2014!!  Try and take some time to relax, recharge and unwind for the new year that lies ahead.  

Merry Christmas!

Ciao, Jan xxx

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sweet as Hell Chocolate Brownie

Most of my friends are foodies, devotees of all good things eaten and washed down with a precious drop.  I also pride myself on remembering things they love to eat and what they don't.  My dear friend Michelle is a desperate chocoholic.  Well actually now I come to think of it, she is partial to anything of the sugared variety and she is just as sweet as her sweet tooth.  She very rarely drinks alcohol, its a wonder we are friends really :)  but when she does she orders the sweetest sugar rush going.  Kahlua & milk, Midori & lemonade oh and if you ordered her a slippery nipple it would have to be poured over ice-cream.  I watch in awe, twitching ever so slightly anticipating the sugar rush about to unfold.  

We have been firm friends for almost 20 years, bonded over high school misadventures of our husbands but also a love of talking and gluttony.  When the 2 couples meet, it is on.  Who can out do who in the cooking stakes.  Her hubby and I had a tzatziki off a while back, and I was devastated to crown him victor.  Which reminds me, we need a new challenge.  I need to win.

It is with so much delight that I've busted a gut to make the wickedest chocolate brownie I could think of for our annual Christmas shindig so here goes.  

Sweet as Hell Chocolate Brownie
2 cups SR flour
2 cups of sugar ~ I used 1/2 cup of caster sugar, 1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar and 1 cup of rapadura sugar
1 shot of espresso coffee, approx 30 mls
250g melted butter
2 whole eggs, beaten
125g dark chocolate, 85% cocoa
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Line a slice tin with baking paper.
  3. In a large bowl, sift in flour, sugar and cacao powder and a pinch of sea salt, chopped chocolate, and walnuts.
  4. Stir in the melted butter, coffee and beaten eggs until all combined.
  5. Spread evenly in the tray.  Don't under estimate the value of a spatula.  It will get every last lick of chocolate into that baking tray.
  6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or a little more.  Cool in tray on a wire rack and then pop into the fridge to cool way down before slicing. 

This is gorgeous as a hot dessert served with french vanilla bean ice cream. It was worthwhile adding the different sugars too for the added depth of flavour they gave the brownie.  I think I did Michelle proud, but I'm now calling my muffin top a brownie top.  The things we do for good friends!


In decluttering news :) I DID the PLASTICS cupboard.... :D

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 16 December 2013

rosemary salt and the 2nd week of the DD challenge

For the easiest edible Christmas gift ever, take a good sized bunch of rosemary.  Give it a good wash and spin in the salad spinner.  You will need around 1- 1 1/2 cups worth of rosemary taken off the stems.  Add to that around 240g of sea salt and either blitz in a food processor or a morter and pestel until it is a fine consistency.
Put into cute little jars and give to your fellow foodie loved ones to enjoy.  It is great sprinkled on so many things.  
on a steak straight from the pan
over hot from the oven roasted vegies or chips
over a leg of lamb, whole chicken or beef before roasting
anything off the bbq ~ mushrooms, chops or ribs

Use this technique for a number of salts when you have herbs in abundance....parsley, coriander and thyme would work just as well.
This batch cost just the salt price, I used a good quality sea salt but you could use good old Saxa table salt if you really are on a shoe string budget.  It filled 2 small jars, so that's 2 more gifts for Christmas marked off my list for next to nicks but so delicous.


I'm afraid to say I've dropped the ball on the Decluttering Challenge this past week.  Our home became invaded by an ikky gastro bug, not a food lovers friend let me tell you!!! I am hoping to back in the saddle tomorrow and if any of you need a reminder of what we are doing you can read about it here.  Here's to a healthy week!

Ciao, Jan

Friday, 13 December 2013

The christmas gift most worth giving can be free

I love Christmas.  There I've said it.  I've been lucky enough to have wonderful memories of the day spent with loved ones.  I love the food and the giving and the nana nap with a tummy bursting at the seams.  I always feel content and happy on Christmas day.  Now that I've grown and have my own child who has the innocence still surrounding Christmas, it really is a magical time of year.  It really makes me sad that you hear all the time, "Oh I'm too busy for Christmas" or "I can't wait for it to be over".  I think the pressure people have come to put on the giving at Christmas is to blame, wouldn't it be great if there really was a big fat man who came down the chimney and left us a barrel load of presents!?  

Christmas is so different now compared to when I was young (oh my god! Did I just say that....)It was all about the presents and being huddled around the tree taking turns opening them.  I remember having to wait and wait for that special something I desperately wanted Santa to bring.  There is one Christmas I remember vividly, I think I was around 6 or 7 years old. I ran down the long hall to the lounge room, around the corner and to the tree and was sadly disappointed there was no pretty pink bike with glittery tassels hanging from the handle bars.  But then, Mum said, whats that behind you? And there it was.  My bike. Today our children don't have to wait for a thing and I've been guilty as charged.  Roll on 20 years and thanks to Mr.Mastercard, Australians will reportedly spend upwards of 700 million dollars.  I don't know about you but my stomach just flipped.  And sadly to make it even scarier, it will be on a huge number of unwanted gifts given by well meaning family and friends.  Do you even remember what you got last year? 

I'm quite old fashioned when it comes to Christmas, I still prefer to hand write Christmas cards and sending a text or emailing is fine as well.  But its cards that really make if feel like Christmas.  Having my mantle heaving under their weight warms my heart, and to consider having it bare would make me sad.  Not that I count them or hold a grudge for not getting them off friends, its more a feeling they give me as a Christmas tradition.  I've an old work colleague who I actually haven't seen in 17 years but we exchange cards every year at Christmas.  I'd be so disappointed to not get his card if one year he decided to stop, I'd still send it.  My nan exchanges  a Christmas card with a man in Italy who she met as a teenager during wartime in Australia.  Its just a lovely thought that at this time of year it doesn't matter that you haven't seen nor heard from loved ones or dear friends but its the Christmas excuse of the card that allows all to be forgiven. This year I did think of forgoing the tradition, but I just can't.  I enjoy the ritual of sitting down and going through the motions.

This year I've down sized the amount we spend at Christmas and it really hasn't been that hard.  Its not just because I'm being a tight arse either. Nor is it with much thought about landfill waste or our carbon footprint. I've focused on instead on replacing thoughtless gifts given for the sake of it with thoughtful gifts. No, I don't mean being a Scrooge or dare I say it regifting! If you have been reading my blog you will have seen some of what I'm making my loved ones in the way of edible gifts but one thing that is free that I'm doing for my closest family is an appreciation letter.  

When you think about it, all anyone wants is to be truly valued and felt appreciated and loved.  To be told is very foreign to many of us and to actually take the time to sit and write a few words about a loved one and why you cherish them is really a beautiful thing.  I will admit to feeling a little dorky writing it down but I remember my hubby and I did it for our Wedding anniversary this year and it really felt wonderful as both the giver and the receiver. It can just be added to the poor forgotten left hand side of the Christmas Card that is always left blank or on some paper that can be saved and read over and over again. It may be free but its value and warmth will be priceless.

Would you consider doing an appreciation letter for a loved one this year?  Have you ever been guilty of regifting?   

Ciao, Jan.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Robyn who sadly lost her mother a week ago.  My thoughts and prayers are with you at this very sad time. 
Much love Jan xxx

Thursday, 12 December 2013

spiced up apple and walnut slice cake

I'm developing a sweet tooth with all this baking I'm now craving on a daily basis.  Its the ritual of the measuring, cracking and experimenting that has me wanting more.  I love that you can plop together plain old ingredients and end up with a multitude of baked goods within an hours notice.  I smile everytime I open the oven to see what has transpired.  I'm bending the rules with recipes but keeping to basic principles so as to not have too many failures.  The only thing that has been binned was some baked rice pudding that was forgotten due to too much talking to visitors.  It was a shame as I'd lovingly added fresh vanilla bean and the smells from the oven were heavenly, but once unveiled I rather red faced put the train wreck in the bin.  I really must do it again, otherwise it will become my baking nemesis, bloody rice of all things!!

I've gone a bit apple crazy this past week haven't I.  I had kindly been given a big load of organic apples from Dominique at Port Fairy Organics that were past their best for my fussy apple eater but perfect for this dish.  I came up with this recipe as I was tired of dear old apple crumble.  I also had a small amount of fruit mince left over from these babies here which was too good to throw out.  I've used some muscovado sugar too to add a depth of flavour and as it is unrefined, albeit a healthier version of white sugar.
Spiced Apple and Walnut Slice
2 cups SR flour
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1/2 cup of muscovado sugar
5 small apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
3 tbspns of fruit mince* 
1 good handful of roughly chopped walnuts
110g melted butter, plus 10 gm for dotting on top
2 eggs, beaten
2 tspns cinnamon sugar (1 tspn cinnamon/1 tspn caster sugar)
a good grating of fresh nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 180c.  Line a slice tin or a pie dish with baking paper.  I used a pie dish.
  2. Sift flour and sugars (muscovato can be quiet lumpy so worth the extra effort of sifting) in to a large bowl.
  3. Heat the fruit mince ever so slightly in the microwave if its stiff from the fridge, or leave out on the bench for a few hours, I'm never that organised.  Toss through the apples and coat.
  4. Add apple mixture to the flour/sugar mixture.  Add melted butter and beaten eggs and mix well until you form a type of dough.  The main thing you are after here is that all the flour is incorporated and coated with the butter and egg.
  5. Press mixture into your dish of choice.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar and dot with the 10 gms of butter.  Grate over a good amount of fresh nutmeg.
  6. Bake at 180c approx 45 minutes, but check after 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool in the dish on a wire rack.
We had this as a type of pudding while still warm from the oven with greek yoghurt.  Once this has completely cooled, it could be used as a cake served cold even with a light plain mixture of icing sugar and water made into a thin icing would be gorgeous.  It also needs to be said, please do yourself a favour and go out and buy yourself some fresh nutmeg, its under $2 for 5 or 6 whole nutmegs and the little darling graters can be brought as cheap as chips from the supermarket or your homewares shop.

*if you haven't any fruit mince, you can by all means use a mixture of 1 tspn each of sultanas, raisins, currants, orange or lemon peel, dried cranberries (omit any you don't have and make up with what you do have, could be all sultanas for that matter) mixed with a pinch each of ground ginger, cinnamon, ground coriander, a grate of fresh nutmeg and a tspn of muscovato sugar and a small amount of fruit juice, such as apple or orange just to moisten the mixture.  Leave to stand overnight to allow the fruit to soften and flavours to infuse.  Alternatively you can leave out all together, just add some of your favourite jam, around 3 tablespoons and toss the apples in this.

Oh how I love these types of you have a favourite pudding you make?  My bum will have a nice pudding wobble soon if I don't stop....but who's looking anyway!

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

52 week money challenge

While many of us are in the full swing of thinking about Christmas, I'm thinking of the new year and just want to share with you a Money Challenge I will be undertaking as of January 1 and would love any of you to join me. 

 What if I told you by this time next year you could save more than $1,300?  Would you be keen then?  What if I also told you, you won't notice the amount you will need to commit to saving?  Here it is in black and white, the 52 week Money Challenge which a friend on Facebook shared with me.

All you need is a large glass jar or go and get yourself a big money box.  I figure many of you will be hitting the shops in the next few weeks, put it on your shopping list.  You are more than welcome to open an online account and transfer the money electronically each week if you can't trust yourself to have the discipline of not using the money.  Under NO circumstances are you to use this money!! comprendre!? 

Print off this sheet if you want to or mark each week on your calendar.  Of course, in the early weeks, you can put in more than say $2 for Week 2, you might do $5 instead especially if you feel you will struggle at the end of the challenge with the 40 and 50 week allotment.  Keep a tally and you can minus that off those weeks as you go.  So if the first week of January you put in $21, put a line through week 50 and make it $30 instead, hope that makes sense.   You don't have to, just stick to the same amount of money as the week of the year and you will have a cool $1,378 next year to either make your emergency fund, pay down on any debt, pay school fees/uniforms/shoes or just for a rainy day.

I will post this again the week before new year and again on Week 1 as a reminder, but I just thought it's a good chance to start thinking about it.  Every week I will remind you, follow me on facebook or keep and eye out on the blog for reminders.  I'm so excited!! This to me seems so easy and painless with a lovely reward at the end of the year.

Where in the money.....

Ciao, Jan

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Gluten free apple, raspberry & dark chocolate muffins

My mum, bless her, is wanting to eat gluten free as she thinks it will be less fattening.  Who am I to argue?  She asked me to make some muffins for her freezer that she could carefully portion out guilt free.  

Gluten free apple, raspberry & dark chocolate muffins
2 apples, cored but not peeled
1 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1-2 tablespoon of honey, manuka if you have it
3 -4 free-range eggs depending on size, beaten
180g melted butter, you could use evoo or the like
50g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 muscovado  sugar
1 tbspn chia seeds
1 cup gluten free S.R.flour
1/2 cup amaranth flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Sift flour into a large bowl and then add the amaranth flakes, dark chocolate, raspberries and sugar.
  3. In a food processor, blitz the apples and honey until finely pulped.  
  4. Add all remaining ingredients to the flour mix and gently fold until all incorporated.  Don't over beat though.
  5. Using an icecream scoop, plop into patty pans.  This quantity made 12 muffins
  6. Bake for roughly 40 minutes, they will be golden and the chocolate gooey.

Well, I have to say it.  I'm sorry Mum but gluten free doesn't mean fat free, but these babies are packed full of healthy antioxidants and low GI ingredients hopefully she will stop at one, but if not, at least the damage won't be that great.

Do you make 'healthy' cakes to help justify their daily consumption?  Are you on a diet or do you eat what you like and not gain weight?  I believe everything in moderation and made with the best ingredients I can afford is the way to go, thats my story and I'm sticking with it!

Ciao, Jan

Monday, 9 December 2013

Week 1 down of the DD challenge & some garden treasures

Oh I just love how good decluttering feels.  Little effort for big rewards!  I don't know about you, but when I rid myself of the clutter it eases and declutters my mind.  Strange, but true.  This past week I've tackled my daughters bedroom and things are looking up.  I've smuggled out 2 garbage bags full of stuffed animals, books that she has out grown, a zillion pom poms, pipe cleaners, scraps of paper, stickers and other craft supplies that have seen better days, seemingly unnoticed!! I'm so sneaky but it does highlight how little our kids take notice of whats around them without too much attachment unlike some of us adults.  I haven't taken the really special things played with over and over or that have been hugged to death, I'm just certain the used craft supplies and bits of paper hoarded aren't really of any use even to a desperately crafty child! 
The technique I used this past week that I love, and will put it through its paces again this week, was putting the kitchen timer on for 10 minutes, putting some music on and going my hardest for that time.  Each day I tackled a different room and put the items that didn't belong back where they did live or into the recycle, bin or op shop piles. You could just do this all week to one problem area in your home.  The kitchen, a bedroom, the garage, the car, the lounge, the linen press, the office/study or the childrens play area/bedroom will be transformed with just 10 minutes a day.  Be ruthless.  Go on, you can't take it with you.

Do you have some clutter 'hot spots'? Places that just grow stuff no matter how hard you try to keep it minimal and zen like?  It amazes me how I can NOT, no matter how I try, keep the end of the kitchen bench clear of my crap.  You need to put your keys, handbag, your latest magazine, school notices, mobile phone, a book you are reading or your knitting somewhere don't you?  I'm never going to have a sterile spotlessly clean decluttered home like you see in home beautiful.  Although, it can look like that at the start of some particularly good weeks, but it doesn't last long.  Honestly, its a waste of precious time and energy being a total slave to you house. Add a child into the equation and a husband that can walk over the same toy on the ground for days and you are seriously setting yourself up for failure if that type of perfection is high on your list.  Lower your standards just a little.  Let it go.  

I worked with a woman once who wouldn't let her kids play in their bedrooms as she didn't want them to mess them up. I'm serious.  They were show stoppers those rooms.  Perfection at its finest.  But that sort of pressure must be toxic to a person don't you think, not to mention the tension it caused the whole house, just for order.  if you are constantly picking up after little maniacs people, do it once a day, get them to help if they are old enough or do it after they have gone to bed or if you really can't cope that long, do it once at lunchtime and then at the end of the day.  While you are cleaning up the day's fun remnants, pour yourself a wine or make a cupa and put the timer on and go for it!  You may as well do a quick declutter while you are at it.  Your sanity will thank you.  Remember, there is a difference between a clean but messy house and a dirty one.  Kids need to make a mess, its in their DNA, the more you fight it the more stress and tension there will be.  Lighten up just a little.  
                                                                            This coming week I'm decluttering my facebook account.  Firstly, I want to clear the air.  I like facebook for many reasons.  It makes me feel connected to my friends, allows me to share special moments, brag items, fill in time and if I'm honest, its where I get my news content of whats happening in the world, sad but true.  I have an 'A gluttonous wife' page that I've got some likers on.  Half are people I do not know, but for what ever reason, they have decided they like what they see and have clicked on the 'like' button that has changed the world.  I am very grateful for support and have actually made 'friends' with people on there who are like minded people and feel some kind of connection.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart if you are one of them reading this .  I truly value my readers and likers and feel very blessed to be living out my hobbie in this internet space. 

What I'm talking about decluttering is my personal facebook page.  I know it isn't polite to say, but here it is my friends, the cold hard truth....I have many 'friends' on facebook as I'm sure you do too if you were silly lucky enough to start.  I have people on there that I haven't actually spoken a word to since primary school and that wasn't yesterday nor was it always a meaningful exchange.  I have 'friends' who have turned the other way to dodge saying hello in the supermarket or crossed the street in avoidance but are happy to share with me their childs precious moments or their deepest darkest feelings about something or other.  To me this is just plain weird.  So I'm sorry if I offend anyone, I really don't like hurting peoples feelings deliberately, I'm a lover not a fighter, but I am deleting non-friends on facebook and decluttering my feed.  I'm just being honest and if you are still my friend on there, you are special to me in your own way.  

Other areas I will be hitting in the house this week will be the plastics cupboard in my kitchen.  You all know what I'm talking about.  If you are one of those people who have organised caddies and glass containers, I applaud you.  I can't open the door of this cupboard without a lid or a container falling out and I'm sick to death of it!  Its time to finally throw out the lids with lost bottoms for once and for all.

So tell me dear reader, what is on your decluttering radar this week?  

If you want to start the challenge(I know its Christmas silly season but seriously, less than 10 minutes a day), its not too late!! You can read more about it here  to find out how to start.  If you really are lacking motivation, invite someone over for a cuppa...nothing like company coming to get your A into G!
In gardening news, it was garlic and onion harvest at our house this weekend.  It makes me so happy to see the fruits of my hubbies labour come to maturity.  So motivating and rewarding to be plaiting up your own garlic and onions let me tell you. It just gets my cooking juices flowing.  I can feel a garlic pizza and some caramelised onion jam coming on!!
Ciao, Jan

Friday, 6 December 2013

a porky kitchen experiment

So, whats under the foil?
I had roasted a leg of pork and as it sat resting all snug in its foiled bed, I had a brain wave.  Why not make a potato bake with a porky top? So that's just what I did.

I always roast my pork or any meats for that matter like this over a rack with water to collect the juices from the meat.  This is what I used to add to the 'bake' once I sliced up the spuddies and layered them up with salt & pepper, thyme, little dots of butter and then added the slices of pork and crackling on top, with some fresh sage leaves, with the stock half way up the dish.  I then let the oven work its magic for an hour and 20 minutes.  The first hour it was covered in foil then the foil taken off to brown the meat and crack that crackle a bit more.
Verdict? It was a revelation! Makes a damn fine change to 'normal' roast I can tell you! We teamed ours with some freshly podded broad beans sauted in pork fat, skimmed off the stock, wicked but so tasty!! Everything in moderation and all that jazz....

Do you have a re-creation experimental recipe that you love to make?  I'm so guilty of it, but thats just the thing that I love about cooking, throw in a bit of this and a touch of that and you can't go wrong if you use fresh good quality ingredients that work together.  

Ciao, Jan

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Baby fruit mince tarts

There really isn't much to say about these 2 bite little Christmas treats or gifts.  I've been traditionally a shortbread maker at Christmas time, but was given a request for some fruit mince tarts.  I enjoyed making them so much, I think they will be on my to do list each December from now on.  

I used Stephanie Alexanders shortcrust pastry recipe from my bible "The cooks companion", a must have in any kitchen goddess abode.  I cheated and used brought 'mince' but added my own twist.  Next year when my apple tree is layden, I'll try to remember to make the mince from scratch.  This quantity of pastry made 22 mini tarts.  It is also worthwhile adding, these are best made on a cool day or with the a/c on and your rolling pin popped into the freezer for 5 minutes or so.  I have such warm hands, not ideal for this type of handie work, but I soldiered on.

Jan's fruit mince tarts....with a little help thrown in
for the pastry
180g unsalted butter
240g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon or 2 of water or less
1 tablespoon of sugar (not in the original recipe
1 beaten egg yolk, to use to glaze your star lid
Take butter from fridge around 30 minutes before making the pastry and now is a good time to preheat the oven to 200c.  Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.  I added the sugar now too.  Chop the butter into small dice, or you can grate it, and add to the flour and lightly rub it with your finger tips to create breadcrumbs.  The aim here is to coat every bit of dry ingredients with a layer of butter.  Once you have achieved this add a tablespoon or less of water, go easy, it is just to help bind the dough into a solid ball.

Cover the dough with glad wrap and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.  While that is chilling, fold a large sheet of baking paper into a rectangle and cut off long strips.  I came up with this idea as my mini muffin tray couldn't be trusted to be non stick as it has had years of love.  This baking paper will help you unearth your buttery gems down the track.

Lay the strips across the muffin tin as pictured above.
Once your 30 minutes is up,  using 2 pieces of baking paper to stop the pastry from sticking to your board and roll it out quite thinly. This technique is wonderful as it  alleviates the need for extra flour and the frustration of pastry sticking.

Using a round cutter and a star and/or heart cutter, create your base and lid.  When you place your round base into the tray, you need to help shape it into place and even add some left over pastry to make a side higher or the base thicker if that is needed, but not too thick, mind.  I used my fingertip, but only do this if like me your manicure is over due and you have no nail length!

For the mince
1 jar of shop brought fruit mince.  I confess I used, from Aldi, Robertson's, but it really was good.
1/2 cup of roughly chopped walnuts
1 cup of chopped cranberries
1 grate of fresh nutmeg
Stir altogether and leave in the fridge overnight, but its not essential.  I think it just helps the cranberries soften up.  Use around a teaspoon full, but don't be greedy, too full and you will have molten fruit mince lava that will be your undoing once you are trying to delicately get them out of the tray.  

Are you still with me? Ok, now you have added the mince, take a precious little star or love heart and brush lightly with the egg yolk and gently place on top of the mince and push down ever so slightly.  
Bake at 200c for 10 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 180c for a further 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for around 5-7 minutes in the tray then carefully lift, using your baking paper strip and put onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Douse with icing sugar and quickly get them into the container you are giving them away in so you don't eat the gifts!!

Seeing as there are many of my dear readers who are living frugally, I'll share the cost.  These made 22 tarts and I would allow 6-8 per receiver if you are gifting them.  They all up cost well under $10 and that was using organic butter, sugar and flour.  It would be a lot more cost if you were organised and made the mince months earlier, but I'm sure the result would be a flavour punch worth the expense.  So its around, $3 or so for 3 special homemade gifts for 3 dear friends who will love them, but that can be our little secret.

Tell me, do you hand make any of your Christmas pressies? I think it is such a lovely way to say I love you.

Ciao, Jan
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