Mediterranean Salad

 

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I guess you could say this is a combination of a salade Nicoise and a Greek salad – featuring the punchy flavours of olives, roasted peppers and basil mixed with the fresh vibrancy of ripe cherry tomatoes and fine green beans. Ideal at any time of year, I think this salad particularly sings in early autumn when tomatoes are at their very best and the beans are still vibrant and delicate.

Mediterranean Salad (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course

  • 2 peppers
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp herbs de Provence
  • 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes (a big handful!)
  • 1 handful French green beans, stalk end chopped off
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup mixed olives
  • Small bunch of basil leaves

Mustard Dressing

  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

- Skin the peppers, either by blistering the skin over a flame/under the grill. Or peel with a vegetable peeler, roughly slice
– Place in a baking tin, sprinkle with the oil and herbs, (plus some salt and pepper) and roast for 10-20 minutes in a hot oven until sweet and slippery. Cool.
– Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside
– Mix together all the salad ingredients with the dressing
– Serve on a pretty platter with some rustic bread

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Funfetti Cupcakes

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I’m in the habit of making cookies or cakes for the girls’ classes on a Friday. I normally make them for little S as another mum has always made them for Big S’s class and I’ve never wanted to step on any toes. Anyway, for this week, little S requested cupcakes rather than the usual cookies. I don’t need much convincing to whip up a batch of cupcakes ;-)

I’ve only ever come across the concept of funfetti cupcakes online before – (they’re not something you come across in the UK) but they do sound fun, and a little step outside the ordinary.

So here’s a recipe for funfetti cupcakes which I flavoured with raspberry essence rather than the usual vanilla , topped with a chocolate buttercream and more sprinkles – they were a big hit! What’s not to like?

Funfetti Cupcakes (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Makes 24

  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 209g caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 300ml oat milk
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp raspberry essence (or whatever flavour you fancy)
  • 1/2 cup sprinkles/funfetti

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5

- Place liners in a cupcake tray

- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.

- In a separate bowl, mix together the oat milk, bicarb, lemon, vanilla and oil.

- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combines.

- Stir in the sprinkles/funfetti

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- 2/3rds fill the liners and bake for 18-20 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.

- Cool on a wire rack.

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- Ice with chocolate buttercream and decorate with more sprinkles/funfetti

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Chocolate cake with Fudgy lotus/biscoff glaze

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This recipe is the result of a total experiment involving an ignored jar of Lotus caramelised Biscoff spread that was sitting in the larder, looking all lonely and sorry for itself. I’ve used it before to great success in these little stuffed chocolate pillows of biscuits, but although it would seem like a great substitute for peanut butter, however, we find it far too sweet to use as a spread. So the jar has been sitting there for many months, looking less and less loved. While it may be on the sweet side for a spread – which is only our opinion, some people can’t get enough of the stuff – I reckoned it could have some other interesting uses.

The above mentioned cookies paired the sweet caramel flavour with chocolate to great success, and this is a repeat of that combination. This is basically a riff on a chocolate fudge cake – the sponge is supremely moist and delicious, not at all dry and crumbly like some dairy and egg-free cakes can be. The Fudgy lotus topping gives a wonderful sweet glaze and compliments the deep chocolate flavour rather perfectly.

Chocolate Cake (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 2lb loaf

  • 1 cup plus 2tbsp plain flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup dairy-free yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 4
– Line a loaf tin
– Sift together the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl
– Stir in the sugars
– In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt and oil
– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until thoroughly combined
– Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a knife comes out clean and the top of the cake is springy to the touch
– Cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack

Fudgy Caramelised Icing Glaze (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 1/4 cup lotus spread (I used crunchy but smooth would work even better)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free milk, I used Oatly
  • 1 tbsp dairy-free spread, such as Pure

- Melt together all the ingredients
– Bring up to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes to thicken
– Cool slightly then pour over the cake
– Decorate if you wish, then leave to set.

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Blackberry Truffles

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Suddenly there are blackberries aplenty in the hedgerows – but you have to be quick before they’re snaffled by eager jam makers, or sadly wither on the bramble. A thousand miles better than any commercially available, tart, large, perfect blackberries. The small squishy shining black gems found in the wild are packed full of flavour, sweet and waiting to burst into a smear of purple black juice. The hedges near our house had a reasonable harvest, but not enough for any extravagantly filled pie, tart or jam…. so it was time for thinking caps on!

My lovely brother gave me some rather wonderful handmade chocolate from ‘Melt’ which was flavoured with blackberry and cinnamon. I was rather taken with the berry / chocolate combination, but found the cinnamon not to my taste. These are rolled in a mixture of icing sugar and purple edible sugar (not that you can notice the glitter!) as I’d run out of my first choice of cocoa powder. In the end I think they look rather pretty with the contrasting coating. Feel free to roll the truffle balls in anything you like, or nothing at all.

Blackberry Truffles (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 16-20

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1-2 tbsp caster sugar (taste the blackberries to see how tart or sweet they are)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 100g dairy-free dark chocolate, such as Kinnerton
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup, maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp dairy-free milk
  • 2 tbsp sieved icing sugar
  • 1 tsp edible glitter (optional)

- Place the blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and cook down until all the berries have burst and made a jammy texture

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– Pass through a fine sieve to remove all the pips and pour back into the saucepan
– Reduce until the liquid has thickened and is only about 2 tbsps worth – this will give you a lovely intense blackberry flavour
– Set aside to cool
– Meanwhile, melt together the chocolate, syrup and milk until smooth and silky and no lumps remain
– Stir in the reduce blackberry syrup and leave in a cool place to harden. It has to be firm enough to roll into balls, but not so firm that it has reformed into a solid lump!
– Put the sieved icing sugar into a shallow bowl (mix in the glitter if you are using)
– With damp hands roll the truffle mix into cherry sized balls, then roll each one in the icing sugar
– These keep well for up to 1 week

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Herby and smokey straws/breadsticks

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Breadsticks and savoury straws – such a handy savoury snack aren’t they? Particularly for children, they provide that little something to fill rumbly tummies without an extra dose of sugar or resorting to fried snacks like a bag of crisps. We, however, have great difficulty finding breadsticks which don’t have traces of sesame and most straws are laden with butter and/or cheese.

These fine crunchy sticks are the perfect vehicle for carrying dips from bowl to mouth and would fit either as a snack to accompany an elegant aperitif or a savoury addition to a children’s tea party.

Have I given enough reasons why you should make these herby straws? Well, if those reasons aren’t enough – the recipe is a doddle and you can add any flavouring you like. Lots of variations possible… more spice, different herbs, cheese if you aren’t avoiding it.

Herby and Smokey Straws (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 24

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp sweet smoked paprika (depending on how much you like that smoky flavour)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 100g dairy-free spread, such as Pure
  • 80-100ml water

- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade/ Gas Mark 3/ 325 degrees Fahrenheit 
– Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment
– Either rub the spread into the flour, baking powder and flavourings/seasonings with your fingertips, or whizz all those ingredients together in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
– Gradually add the water until you form a soft, but not sticky dough. You may not need all the water.
– Roll out to a thickness of about 3mm, they need to be fairly thin as you want really crisp and crunchy sticks
– Cut into straw shapes and place on the baking sheet
– Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and cooked through
– Cool on a wire rack
– These straws keep well for a few days.

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Lemon Melts

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I wanted to make some cookies – you may have noticed my passion for making cookies by now – but it seemed too sunny for chocolate; and besides, we were off to the beach for the day, so the idea of sandy, oozy chocolate chips didn’t really appeal. And that brought me to making these chewy citrus-packed lemon cookies. The lemon flavour is surprisingly zippy and zingy, making these softish cookies ideal to be paired with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea, or just any time really.

To make ‘fairy cookies’, certain to appeal to any little (or big) girl, roll the balls of dough in hundreds and thousands (also called non-pareils or funfetti) before baking.

Lemon Melts (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 18

 

  • 2/3 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/4 cup oat milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sprinkles (for the fairy-cookie variety)

- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade/gas mark 3/325 degrees Fahrenheit
– Whisk together the sugar, oil, oat milk, lemon zest and essence and corn flour.
– Sift in the flour, bicarb and salt.
– Mix together to form a soft dough.
– Make tbsp sized balls and place well apart on the baking sheet, press each one down slightly
(for fairy cookie variety, roll each ball in sprinkles before placing on the baking sheet)
– Bake for 10 minutes, until starting to turn golden
– Cool briefly on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.

 

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Zesty chickpea salad

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What do you think of chickpeas (are they called garbanzo beans in the USA)? I’m a bit unsure – they’re great whizzed up, but so often I find them dry and pasty. So when I started experimenting with chickpea salad ideas I really, really didn’t think I’d like any of the end results. How wrong I was – left to marinade in a flavourful, zesty dressing, the chickpea can become a pulse of note!

Terribly simple to make, but rather stunning to look at, this salad has converted me! Next step, to find a cooked chickpea recipe that also delights my taste buds!

Chickpea Salad (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped (or a whole one if you like a bit more heat)
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sprig mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig basil, also roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • (If you eat dairy, some feta would be nice crumbled over the top)

- Whisk together the lemon, oil and salt. Taste and set aside.
– Combine all the other ingredients.

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– Pour over the dressing and stir well
– Leave to marinade for at least 2 hours before eating.

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Teriyaki aubergine skewers

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Teriyaki – full of umami and lip smackingly good! I nearly used tofu, but aubergine won in the end, partly because the triangles on the skewers look so pretty. It is essential that the aubergine is thoroughly cooked to give that slightly burnt on the outside, but slippery silky centre that only a good aubergine can provide. If it’s undercooked the aubergine remains woolly and squeaky – not a pleasant taste experience.

I cooked these in the oven, but the flames of a barbecue would be a great alternative for providing even more flavour.

Teriyaki Aubergine (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)N.B. contains soya

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For the teriyaki:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (use a gluten-free brand to make the dish gluten-free)
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp mirin or sherry
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp honey/maple syrup/agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp corn flour

- Dissolve the cornflour in the water
– Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and gently cook until the mixture starts to thicken.
– Set aside

For the skewers:

  • 1 aubergine, cut into chunky slices, then each slice quartered
  • 1 tbsp salt

- Place the aubergine in a colander in the sink, sprinkle over the salt and leave for 30 minutes to extract any juices
– Wash and dry
– Thread onto skewers and brush with the teriyaki
– Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes
– Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade until very soft in the centres

To serve:

- Plain white or sticky rice
– Finely sliced spring onion

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Provençal potato gratin

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Having recently returned from a lovely holiday in the South of France, I’m brimming with summery French ideas – be prepared for a little trip to sunny Mediterranean climes in the next few weeks!

Here’s a lovely summery take on that winter classic, the potato gratin – by omitting the cream and including fresher, lighter flavours you can enjoy the comfort of a potato bake all year round, and one that can cater for all dietary requirements too as it’s lost the dairy content. For me the thyme, olives and tomatoes really are the flavours of Provence. Will make this one more often.

Provencal Potato Gratin (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Serves 4

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4-8 tomatoes sliced
  • Handful of olives (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4-6 medium potatoes, peeled and fairly finely sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

- Sweat the onions, thyme and pinch of salt in the 1 tbsp olive oil until soft and slippery, but not coloured
– Spread over the bottom of an attractive baking dish (this gratin is best served at the table for maximum impact.
– Layer over the tomatoes, olives and garlic
– Top with a neat layer of potato slices, arranged like tiles on the roof of a house
– Season and garnish with the rosemary sprig
– Drizzle over the olive oil
– Bake for 1 hour at 180 degrees centigrade/gas mark 4 until the top is golden and a knife easily slips through the potato.
– Serve with a fresh green salad and lots of crusty bread to soak up the juices.

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3 Bean Salad

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3 or 4,5,6 – whatever number of bean varieties you like! In my opinion bean salads benefit from either simplicity or variety and this version wins on the variety front. The sweet, sticky and tangy marinade transports these simple beans to the realms of yummy salad – 1000 miles away from those tins of bean salad that are available in supermarkets, the type of bean salad to make you wish you’d never encounter a cold bean ever again! I tend to add celery but in retrospect I think I’ll leave it out next time – it’s such a strong flavour that it overpowers the delicate sweetness of the beans.

3 Bean Salad (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 big bowlful

  • Equivalent to 3 tins of 3 varieties of beans (or how ever many varieties you fancy!)
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar or other sharp vinegar
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, peeled and sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • Large handful parsley, chopped

- Plunge the red onion in icy cold water and leave for 20 or so minutes to remove some of the onion ‘bite’
– In the serving bowl, whisk together the vinegars, oil, sugar and salt.
– Drain the onions and mix into the dressing with all the other ingredients
– Leave to marinade for a few hours, or preferably overnight.

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