Welcome to Mrs Simkins website


Mrs Simkins works as a recipe developer and is a regular columnist for Best of British, The Blackmore Vale Magazine, Country Smallholding, The Countryman, The Dalesman and Down Your Way.

Brought up in a home where good food was enjoyed and appreciated, she had an epiphany at the age of six:

“I first made the connection between eating well and cooking for yourself whilst enduring school dinners in primary school (or infant school as it was then). The food was, unfortunately, completely horrible and disgusting and not at all like the food at home. One day I realized the dry leathery stuff with silvery lines running through it was actually roast beef and the thin brown liquid with the peculiar dusty smell was in fact gravy. We didn’t have beef at home very often but when we did, it was a delicious treat. Mum’s gravy was rich and smooth and Dad’s creamy, fluffy mashed potato absolutely never had scary little grey lumps in it.

Clearly, to eat well, you needed to be able to cook.”

(Introduction to ‘Cooking with Mrs Simkins’ 2010)

Mrs Simkins’ style of cooking is good, wholesome, home cooking with plenty of baking: traditional with a modern edge. Not afraid to embrace labour saving technology, a food processor is one of her favourite kitchen companions.

Mrs Simkins lives in Dorset with her family.

A few of Mrs Simkins favourites; to be getting on with

Dorset Apple Cake, Caramel Apple Granny Tarts, Ginger Batter Buns, Heaven and Earth or  Champ.

Dorset Apple Cake

Dorset Apple Cake Dorset Apple Cake

This is a lovely cake for any time of year but especially in the autumn when there are so many apples around. This is a really easy cake to make and it’s delicious warm or cold. It goes very well indeed with a dollop of clotted cream.

  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 110g (4oz) butter
  • 225g (8oz) of peeled, cored, apples, fairly finely chopped
  • 110g (4oz) unrefined granulated sugar
  • 75g (3oz) currants or raisins
  • 2 fresh eggs

You will need a greased loose bottomed 20cm (8 inch cake tin)

Preheat oven to 160C (fan ovens) or equivalent: remember, oven performance can vary tremendously

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, dried fruit and apple. Mix in the eggs.

Turn into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of a metal spoon: a wet spoon makes it easier. Sprinkle some more sugar over the top. Cover loosely with greaseproof paper, tucking it underneath the tin to secure and bake in a preheated oven for approximately 1¼ hours, until golden on top. If your oven is very fierce, check after an hour.

Leave in the tin for a few moments, then remove and cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight tin.

Caramel Apple Granny Tart

Caramel Apple Granny Cake

One recipe that’s hard to pin down is Caramel Apple Granny. This elusive sweet treat is difficult to define as there are so many different versions. Is it a cake? Is it a pudding? Should it have a pastry base or one of crushed biscuits? Should the filling be a kind of substantial caramel custard or more of an apple cake? Should it be finished off with a sprinkling of crumble as well? Should the caramel and apples be inside or on the top?

Whatever the truth of the matter, all versions consist of at least two layers and they all contain apple and caramel: always a mouth-watering combination.

Here is a version in the form of individual tarts: an all-butter pastry shell spread with caramel and topped with a light apple cake containing chunks of apple. If you like, you can add a little pinch of salt to the caramel to enhance the flavour.

You should even have enough cake mixture left over for a couple of bonus apple-y fairy cakes as well.

Authentic or not, they taste delicious and are equally good warm from the oven as a pudding or cold at tea-time. Which brings us back to the difficulty of definition again: should these be classed as little cakes, or as pastries!

Metric conversions have been slightly tweaked for pastry recipe to ensure correct ratio of fat to flour

Makes 10

For the Pastry

  • 160g (6oz) plain flour
  • 80g (3oz) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 20g (1oz) unrefined caster sugar
  • Pinch of finely crushed Maldon Salt

For the Apple Topping

  • 50g (2 oz) softened butter
  • 50g (2 oz) unrefined caster sugar
  • 75g (3 oz) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 fresh egg
  • 25g (1 oz) ground almonds
  • 75g (3 oz) chopped and peeled apple
  • Plus: an additional 25g (1 oz) diced and peeled apple
For the Caramel Layer

  • 10 teaspoons dulce de leche or caramel spread
  • Pinch of finely crushed Maldon Salt – be careful not to add too much (optional)

You will need a muffin tin with 10 cups greased and a 10cm (4 inch) round cutter, fluted or plain

Preheat oven to 180C (fan ovens) or equivalent

Making the Pastry

Sieve the flour and salt carefully into the bowl of your food processor and add the butter. Whiz into fine crumbs and add the sugar. Whiz again briefly. Add the water and whiz until the mixture is starting to come together. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead it lightly until it forms a ball.

Roll it out gently with a floured rolling pin to a thickness of just less than ½ centimetre.

Cut out 10 circles with the cutter and transfer them to the prepared tart tin: the circles are generously cut for the cup size so smooth them round gently. This will give you nice deep tarts.

Making the Apple Topping

Whiz the butter and sugar together in a food processor until creamed and fluffy. Add half the flour, sieving it carefully over the creamed mixture and then add the eggs. Sieve the rest of the flour, the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar on top and whiz briefly. Add the almonds and whiz again. Next, add the 75g (3 oz) of chopped apple and whiz until combined and the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Finally, remove the blade from your processor, scrape any mixture back into the bowl and stir in the 25g (1 oz) of diced apple.

Assembling the Tarts

Stir a pinch of salt into the caramel, if using, and spoon about a teaspoonful into the base of each tart. Divide the apple mixture equally between the tarts. Smooth it gently with the back of a clean teaspoon round the edges so the caramel won’t bubble through.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until the apple topping is just tinged golden and risen and the pastry is cooked. Leave to settle for a few moments then ease from the tin with a small palette knife and cool on a wire rack.

Bonus Fairy Cakes

Any leftover apple mixed can be baked as little fairy cakes: spoon the mixture into standard size cake cases and stand in a tart tin or muffin tin. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until risen and golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Store in an airtight container when cold.

Helpful Note

Sometimes it can be difficult to lay your hands on a 10cm cutter. A 10cm individual flan tin can double up as a cutter as can a 10cm muffin ring or food ring. A straight pint glass also comes close and can be used as an alternative.

If you are using a fluted cutter, remove any excess pastry from around it whilst it is still pressed down on the board: if you try to remove it once you pick up the pastry you’ve cut out, you will stretch it out of shape.

Ginger Batter Buns

Ginger Batter Buns

These delectable buns are a must if you are a ginger fan. They are light and fluffy the first day and become denser and stickier after that. The cake mix is very liquidy - like batter – so pour it into a jug with a good pouring spout to transfer the mixture to the bun tin: it can get very, very messy otherwise!

  • 110g (4oz) butter, cut into small pieces
  • 50g (2oz) soft dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons black treacle
  • ¼ pint water
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 fresh eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 160C (fan ovens) or equivalent

You will need a 12 cup bun tin and 12 muffin size paper cases

Put the butter, sugar, black treacle, golden syrup and water into a roomy pan. Heat fairly gently until everything has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Put aside to cool a little – but don’t let it go completely cold, it should still be warm or the buns won’t rise so well.

Once cooler, but still slightly warm, sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and spices over the mixture in several batches, stirring it in as you go, reserving a little of the flour to add with the eggs, at the end.

Stir everything together thoroughly with a wooden spoon and finally add the eggs and the rest of the flour. Keep mixing and when everything is fully mixed and smooth and glossy, pour the ‘batter’ into a jug.

Pour into the paper cases in the bun tin. Fill each case to just over half way and try not to let any mixture spill over and down the sides of the cases.

Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the tin and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Once completely cold, store in an airtight tin.

Heaven and Earth

Heaven and Earth

Here is a version of a traditional German recipe: Himmel und Erde. It is a simple dish of mashed potatoes and apples, usually served with some nicely browned fried onions. The potatoes represent the Earth, as they are dug from the ground, and the apples represent Heaven, as they are picked from branches ‘up in the sky’. Potatoes and apples always combine well as anyone who has put apple sauce and mashed potatoes on their fork together when eating roast pork will tell you!

This is sometimes served with a rasher or two of bacon (smoked is especially good) or slices of black pudding. It also goes beautifully with sausages, pork chops, or roast chicken. A dab of mustard on the side would be most welcome.

No precise quantities are given here but a ratio of 2-3 dessert apples and 2 medium onions for every kilo or couple of pounds of potatoes works well.

Peel and core some dessert apples, cut in half, lay flat side down on a board and cut into bite-size chunks. Cook gently in a splash of apple juice or a little water until just tender.

Peel and cook your potatoes in the usual way and mash with a little butter and hot milk. Beat with a wooden spoon for a smooth texture. Season with freshly ground black pepper, and a little salt if required. Stir in the cooked apples carefully, to avoid breaking them up too much.

Slice the onions fairly finely and fry in a little oil until soft and golden and just starting to brown round the edges. Remove from the pan and sit briefly on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Pile the potato and apple mixture onto a warmed serving dish or individual plates and arrange the onions over the top.



This is a traditional Irish way with mashed potatoes. Prepare your potatoes in the usual way. Alternatively, you could cook them in their skins using the traditional Irish method: either bake or boil, and remove the skins once they are cooked.

Prepare and slice a bunch of spring onions, including some of the more tender green parts. Cook them gently over a low heat in a little butter until they are soft.

Mash the potatoes with a little hot milk and stir in the onions and butter, season with pepper and a touch of salt if required. Champ is great with sausages or just on its own, eaten from a bowl with some extra very cold butter: make a hollow in the potato and slip the butter into it, then stir it through: there’s nothing like it on a cold night!