It’s Bake-Off Eve …

And I’ve honed my Bake Off battle plan into five basic principles that will hopefully secure me the Mince Pie Tiara. Here they are:

1. Source Magical Tools

I have not managed to find any Women’s Institute mince pie filling. The magic and love poured into such a concoction would have won me this competition hands down and I’ll admit there was a sense of finger tip tapping desperation as I realised I was going to have to buy a jar from the supermarket.

However, I was then saved. My gorgeous neighbour, Debbie, has lent me her most precious age-old mince pie cutters that belonged to her beloved grandmother.

The House of Bethan

Frankly, you can not get any more magical than this.

Generations of mince pie love have been ingrained into these beautiful items.

The House of Bethan

My magical confidence is now back in peak state!

2. Get Clear On The Outcome You DON’T Want 

Over the last few weeks me and Pix have been testing out a few different types of mince pies. Whilst we have found many that are middling and some that are pretty damn good – the worst ones were those with the Viennese swirl on top.

The House of Bethan

The idea is nice.

Having a claggy lump of goo attached to the top of your mouth is not nice.

Hence will not be making ones like these.

3. Get Clear On The Outcome You DO Want

Pix and I concluded that the most superior mince pie we tried were the ones in the café in Marks and Spencer. These were not the shop bought ones, but a lovely homemade version with a classic pastry bottom and pastry lid.

The House of Bethan

Rather than trying to predict what the judges might prefer, I have decided to go with what I like.

These ones.

Fingers crossed.

4. Gather As Much Info As You Can From The Opposition 

“If you put a star on your mince pie instead of a cap, it ensures a crispier pastry that is not so doughy.”

Loose lips sinks ships Ads! Hehe

5. Harvest ideas and images that delight you. Mix these together in a marriage of inspiration and gorgeousness and wah-flipping-lah.

One of Ads’ cheffy sayings is, “we eat first with our eyes.” And there are few people’s food that I have visually salivated over lately than the plates of Italian chef, Massimo Bottura, a Michelin-starred chef who heads up Osteria Francescana in Modena.

I would never have known about this guy, had Pix and Ads not have been watching the professional Master Chef episode a few days before Pix’s birthday. I had been curled on the sofa hidden behind a large pad and wafting a Sharpies cloud, when I glanced up and saw food being served like this.

The House of Bethan

And this …

The House of Bethan

I like the splattered one best.

What Massimo does with sauces and reductions, I did with paint in my Grow Your Own Gorgeousness book. This man is my creative kin! I am determined to go to his restaurant and eat his food, with my eyes and my mouth.

But first I have to beat Ads.

And its all very well splattering my plate with a constellations of astrological colour, but that colour can’t be made from paint. It’s got to taste like something.

So that’s when I thought I’d visit my other Admired Man’s Mind.


Its not the food that Heston makes that excites me, but his eccentric creativity and inventive wildness. Last year for me and Ads’ birthday we went to the Fat Duck in Bray. Do you remember? I wrote about our experience in the Naturally Sensational In Bray post – and have never forgotten it since.

By combining Heston’s flavours and Massimo’s wrist flicks, I mixed it all up and this is my offering so far:

“Divine mince pies in a constellation of hazelnut infused cream and a mulled wine reduction”.

I feel it needs something else though …

I’m not sure what.



6 thoughts on “It’s Bake-Off Eve …

  1. I think I might have something to give you the edge you need. But first I have to agree that the splattered one above is way more appetising than the kindergarten one that makes you wonder if the fruit has been pre-licked by an elf or elvina. But surely not…wouldn’t be accepted by elf and safety. Alice and I had to choose between the Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn on the other side of the street. We chose the WI and were delighted. FD’s sound like a meal of sheep-y bits served sitting crossed-legged in a Bedouin tent (RIP Lawrence of Arabia, or ‘Florence of Arabia’, as Noel Coward dubbed the late Peter O’Toole). But I digress….
    Well, I hadn’t started to gress, let alone di-gress so here goes….

    Brand yourself ‘Team Bethan’ and recruit one elf and one elvina to help. I guarantee Team Bethan’s mincies will win. 🙂

    • Er … One elf and elvina. You mean Pix and Roo? Ah haaaa … good idea. I think they would enjoy some splatting. Is the Waterside Inn the place just a few yards down from the Fat Duck? I think we popped in there for a pre-meal beverage (if it is the place). It was lovely indeed. I would recommend that you and Alice go to the Fat Duck though, Pass The Sick Bag. You would never forget it (nor will your credit card!!) What time are you eating at the Hambrough tomorrow? xx

  2. They’ll need elf/vina hats as well. Did you know that in Iceland the courts have just denied a planning appeal for a new road on the grounds that it might disturb the elves. I kid you not. 62% of Icelanders believe that elves exist. It seems that the elves weren’t canvassed so their id is unknown. Yes, the Waterside Inn is directly opposite the FD. Founded by the Roux brothers before Heston B. was born (maybe even before Heston Services were built), and a favourite eatery of the Queen though I believe she uses one of the private dining rooms upstairs so you won’t see her quaffing her gin and Dubonnet with salted cashews (served in a bowl with a line drawn round it). She does, however, phone through “One would like a table….” Years ago Alice and I used to hire cruisers on the Thames for the odd week or so (yes, they were odd!) and we’d circle in front of the weeping willows on the river, eye-balling the Waterside Inn, tongues out. We vowed we’d visit when we could afford it. Then I won first prize in a “Guess His Immense Weight” compo featuring the late and nasty Cyril Smith MP, which released enough cash for a cheap day return to Bray and a table d’hote at the Waterside Inn. I have a big birthday coming up in July….might try the Fat Duck.

    Our Christmas meal at the Hambrough is Christmas Day, at 1pm. It would be delightful to see you, and yours and, of course, your unmentionable untouchable. I’ll be sure to make sure that Alice doesn’t, either 🙂

    Coming back to Team Bethan, children always win. The judges will vote for the team with Pix and Roo on it.

    • Wow! What a story about the Waterside?? I was asking Ads if that was the place we had the drink and I was mistaken. The place we went to was the Hinds Head. We’d walked down past the Waterside to the waters edge and I photographed the swans in the river, but we didn’t step foot over the threshold. Having heard your story, I want to go there. I think I’ll wait until my tummy isn’t full of baby though as having a small person inside you limited how many courses you can manage quite dramatically!
      Sorry I didn’t pop in to see you on Christmas Eve. I would have loved to have done, but sadly the day whisked by in a frenzy of cancelled scans, flood water, Christmas wrapping, hazelnut infused cream and relatives. I hope you had a lovely meal and a lovely Christmas too. Much love and festive wishes xxx

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