soberandhungry's Blog

we love wine, we love food and we love sharing

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Brandy & Port Fruit Cake (Mincemeat) with Brandy Icing

It was again my turn to deliver the goods for Bake Club at work. Seeing as it is getting cold and the shops are already starting to get festive I decided to create a comforting fruit cake with a mincemeat twist! I found some lovely mincemeat cake recipes online. Here is my take on a festive fruit cake – it fed 12 hungry faces.

slice of cake



  • 140g butter (room temperature)
  • 140g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 85g Cranberries
  • 411g mincemeat (whole jar)
  • Splash of brandy
  • Pecans to decorate


  • 50g butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • ~2 teaspoons brandy (need to judge by eye)



  1. Preheat the oven to 140C/fan. Grease and line 2 x 20cm (8 in) round tins.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a bowl (except for the pecans) and mix thoroughly until thoroughly blended. Turn into prepared tins and place almonds on the top of one of the layers.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45-50 mins or until the cakes are golden brown, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  4. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then loosen the sides with a small palette knife, turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  5. Mix the butter and the icing sugar. Add brandy in very small amounts until you have a smooth stiff icing. Lay over the plain layer and stack the pecan layer on top.

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Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Dreams of a short break to a large European Christmas market had been flooding my mind, and although it was November, the Christmas spirit had taken over. A passport renewal threatened to scupper my plans but undefeated, I did some research and discovered a little gem – Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market.

With over 180 stalls, it is the UK’s largest outdoor Christmas Market – and a busy one at that! We arrived in Birmingham at mid-day on Sunday and the streets were already bustling with families and large groups enjoying a Stein or two.

Birmingham festival

The German food stalls lining New Street were very busy, with people patiently queuing (a good 20 people back) to get their hands on a 0.5m German Bratwurst (sausage) in a Brötchen (bread roll). It was worth the wait; we chose to share a grilled Bratwurst, which we smothered in ketchup and mustard. Later that evening we enjoyed a Blooming Onion with garlic sauce. If you ever have the chance to try one, we would recommend that you do – it a thing of beauty! The onion is carved, lightly battered and then deep fat fried so that it opens up like a flower for you to pluck tasty onion morsels from. Yum! We also enjoyed some beer and a Brezel, rotisserie ham baguettes, gluhwein, and mulled cider. We proceeded to sing into the evening with two very jolly Germans entertainers in Victoria Square, dressed like Santa (sort of) singing Christmas tunes with some Abba thrown in for good measure.

Dotted around the food stalls were Craft Stalls selling a good range of items such as Christmas decorations, jewelry, clothes, candles, wood carvings, as well as some more obscure items like lego comic book figures and eco-friendly fire places. The stalls in Victoria Square and Chamberlain Square got a bit repetitive, but we found some nice stalls in Centenary Square such as

In addition to the crafts and German food stalls, there were also stalls selling locally produced food and drink including real ale (Woods Shropshire Beer), delicious cider courtesy of Orchard Pig Cider, fudge, pork scratchings, as well as homemade chutneys and cheeses (of which we bought everything).

I detail some useful info below. The market is definitely worth a visit – you only need to stay for one night as you will run out of things to do / see / eat. People told us that Saturday was full of debauchery. Sunday was full but pleasant.

Where is it?

The market starts at the Bullring shopping center with stalls along New Street leading to Victoria Square (where the main market is) and Chamberlain Square. We nearly missed Centenary Square, which you can access through Paradise Place shopping mall.


The event is still on – it started on 13 November and ends on 22 December (open 10:00am – 9:00pm)

 Where should you stay?

We stayed at the Staybridge Suites which are in a great central location. The room felt like a little apartment. We would recommend it.


Toilets are very scarce! We found some portaloos in Centenary Square and everyone was utilsing the facilities at Weatherspoons in Paradise Place.

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Katie and Marco’s Gingerbread Men

Our waistlines have grown and are still growing! We are all still in the festive spirit… yesterday we finished off the Turkey in a very yummy risotto (making a total of 17 meals from one bird!). One of the most popular treats this year has been our gingerbread men, which have been enjoyed in England, as well as having been well travelled and appreciated in Italy. They are super tasty and great fun – a must for this time of the year. The following recipe will make around 15 men (or biscuits).



  • 140 butter
  • 180g light soft brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (we like it very gingery)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


  1. Heat oven to 200C.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
  3. Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Sieve the flour, soda, spices and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in the butter mix and ginger to make a dough. The dough is very very delicate and slightly crumbly, but work with it!
  4. Wait until cool enough to handle, and then roll out dough to about 5mm thick. Stamp out gingerbread men; re-rolling and pressing the trimmings back together and rolling again. Make small holes in the top of the head with a straw if you would like to thread a ribbon through.
  5. Carefully lift onto baking sheets (we use a flat knife to help move the little fellas)
  6. Bake for 10-12 mins until golden, it is very tempting to leave them in longer as they come out of the oven soft, but will harden as they cool – so trust the timing!
  7. And for the fun bit, wait until completely cooled and then decorate… we used melted chocolate and pre-bought squirty icing tubes – let your imagination go crazy!
  8. They will keep up to one week in an airtight tin.