Christmas Spiced Mini Biscuits

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It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas! We’ve had two weeks of frantic Christmas fun – carol services, fairs (which saw the first outing of a commercial side of Lucy’s Friendly Foods!), parties and shopping. There’s hardly been a moment to start my food preparations for this Christmas. I’ve still got to make the panatone, Christmas Yule log, Christmas cake, mince pie cookies and chocolate truffles as well as all the savoury stuff. Phew – that sounds exhausting!

These little spiced bite sized morsels are an ideal place to start and are the perfect nibble at a Christmas drinks or tea party. By all means make them large, stamp a hole and hang them on the tree (they’ll just need a longer baking time – probably about 15 minutes) but I think these bite sized versions look as pretty as a picture – a little nibble sized taste of Christmas.

Christmas Spiced Biscuits (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 1/2 cup dairy-free spread
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp oat milk
  • pearl sugar to decorate

- Cream together the dairy-free spread, caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
– Stir in the vanilla.
– Sift in the cinnamon, spice, ginger, salt, bicarb and plain flour and mix to a soft dough, adding the oat milk to make the mixing easier.
– Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
– Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 4 and line a cookie sheet with parchment
– Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out.
– Cut out an even number of shapes and press one pearl sugar crystals onto the top of each

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– Place on the lined baking tray and cook for 6 minutes.
– Cool on a wire rack

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Iced Buns

 

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Iced buns, viewed in the window of any English bakery, are a must for any collection of comfort food. For some reason they make me think of roaring fires and cosy knitwear – odd I know! Apparently some iced buns found in supermarkets are dairy-free, but I’ve never found any that are also nut-free – if you know of any safe brands please let me know?

Anyway, I though some iced buns would be the perfect tea time treat after trudging around the shops doing our Christmas shopping. They certainly went down a treat :-)

Iced Buns (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6

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  • 225g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 150ml dairy-free milk
  • 50g dairy-free spread

- Melt the spread into the milk (don’t make it more than tepid though)
– Pour into the dry ingredients
– Bring to a dough and knead until smooth
– Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to double in size in a warm place
– Divide into 6 even sized pieces and form into finger bun shapes
– Place apart on a floured baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/180 degrees fan, or gas mark 4
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and they sound hollow when tapped
– Cool and then top with thick water icing.

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Perfect Cinnamon Buns

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Who doesn’t love cinnamon buns? Not only are they light, fluffy and sweetly spicy, but they also make your house smell heavenly as you make them. I’ve tried many versions over the years, but never been totally happy with the results until now. As I’ve said before, I often shy away from egg-replacers and prefer to use standard store cupboard essentials. I don’t know why really, it’s just how I like to cook. This is the first recipe I’ve developed which only used ingredients you would find in any household store cupboard and can easily be pronounced!

This recipe gave the most perfect results – the dough is soft and silky without a hint of stickiness and an absolute joy to work with. The filling packs the right kind of cinnamon punch. My only comment really is that they’re really not terribly sweet, and whilst still moreish, I did add an extra drizzle of cinnamon icing to appeal to the younger palates.

Cinnamon Buns (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly
  • 3 tbsp dairy-free spread, such as Pure
  • 400g plain flour
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g or 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp dairy-free spread

For the glaze:

  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp pearl sugar/sugar crystals

And/or:

  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • Sprinkle cinnamon
  • Water to make into a runny paste

- Melt the spread and milk together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot
– In a bowl mx together the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and salt
– Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk mix
– Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when poked
– Cover and let double in size
– Knock back and roll out to a large rectangle
– Smear on the dairy-free spread

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– Sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon, then roll up tightly into a long sausage
– Cut into even slices – I managed to get 25 small slices from mine
– Place on lined and greased baking pans and leave to rise again for another half an hour

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– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
– Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through

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– Melt the brown sugar with the water and brush over the top and sprinkle with the pearl sugar (if using)
– Remove from the pans and peel off the paper
– Drizzle with the cinnamon water icing

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Fiery beetroot salad

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Why buy a ready-made salad pot when this one tastes far better, can be whipped up in moments and you have the satisfaction of homemade food? Beetroot can certainly divide opinion – when I was in primary school I distinctly remember beetroot being served with everything (and I mean those cold vinegary slices) – sausages and beetroot anyone?! It took me a long while to come to like those earthy red roots after that chilling start!

But I’ve really come round to the earthy vegetables. Such a fine colour, great in salads, make beautiful soup. This one’s a salad dish that’s sweet but sharp and punchy,  versatile and very simple.

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

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  • 4 beetroots, cooked and cut into cubes
  • 3 spring onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp smokey chipotle Tabasco sauce, or other chilli sauce of choice
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

- Mix together the vinegar, oil, Tabasco, sugar and salt
– Pour over the beetroot and spring onions
– Mix delicately so the spring onions don’t go completely red! Some redness is inevitable.

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Curried parsnip soup

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It’s time to get the roots out! The first frost has been and gone and it’s time to indulge in some serious warming food. In my opinion, you can’t get much more wintery than parsnips – well maybe Brussels, but they are more controversial (for the record – I like them when they’re done right).

The toasty, spicy curry flavour works so wonderfully with sweet, rooty parsnips and you end up with the smoothest, silkiest soup ever, no cream needed to achieve this. What could make a better wintery lunch or light supper with some fresh warm bread? Any one dimensional dish is made better with additions of garnish / texture, and I’ve used some vegetable crisps here for a bit of crunch.

Curried Parsnip Soup (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Serves 3-4

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 5-6 medium sized parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 an apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp curry powder of choice
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • handful of vegetable crisps

- Sweat the onion in the oil until just starting to get a hint of colour
– Add the garlic and cook until fragrant
– Add the curry powder and ‘cook out’ for a few minutes to remove any raw spice flavour
– Add the parsnips and apple and stir well to coat evenly with the spices
– Pour in the stock
– Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the parsnips are soft and well cooked
– Blitz with a hand blender or in a liquidizer for an even smoother soup
– Add the lemon juice and seasoning, taste and add more if required.
– Serve topped with vegetable crisps

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Parkin

 

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Ever heard of a Parkin? Well you probably have in the UK, and most certainly if you’re from Yorkshire. It’s a sticky ginger, syrup, oat and molasses flavoured sponge that is traditional at this time of year. It’s most commonly served around bonfire night, when the sweet spicy sponge is likely to warm the cockles after a bracing evening standing in the cold. Sorry I didn’t get to write up the recipe until after the big night, but it’s well worth making for any wintery occasion!

I’d read about Parkin more than eaten it, and it seems that in its most authentic and traditional forms, it’s egg-free – hooray! But try as I might, no egg-free recipe could be found. Maybe most people think they might as well add eggs to a sponge mix to make it ‘better’? It’s funny because people make such presumptions – cake can only be nice if its made with eggs and milk/butter – but having eaten both varieties, I can safely say that I prefer the ones without. They are lighter, more delicate, with no discernible eggy-flavour. I reckon others would also think the same, if only they opened their eyes and gave them a go!

Despite being resolutely egg-free, I can’t say this Parkin is truly authentic – it’s devised to suit my taste with far less treacle than usual as I find the flavour hugely over-powering. Sorry to any Yorkshire folk out there, I apologise for messing around with your traditions! Feel free to up the molasses and reduce the syrup for a ‘darker’ flavour and do let me know how it turns out, maybe I’m missing a trick in being a molasses scaredy-cat!?

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

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  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 large handful of oats
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup dairy-free spread, melted
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp treacle or molasses
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/4 pint dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 3
– Line a square baking tin with parchment and grease the paper or it will stick!
– Mix together the flour, sugar, oats and ginger in a bowl and make a well in the centre
– Gently melt together the spread, syrup and treacle (do not let it boil) and pour into the well
– Sprinkle the bicarbonate onto the syrup mix and then sprinkle the vinegar over that. The bicarbonate will fizz and bubble.
– Pour the milk over the top and mix to form a very wet and sloppy batter
– Pour into the prepared tin and bake for up to 1 hour, until golden, risen and a knife cones out clean
– Once cool, cut into cubes.

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Maple and spice muffins

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It’s suddenly got cold! After an incredibly mild October in the UK, November has really kickstarted late Autumn with the temperature plummeting. Just in time for Bonfire Night when tradition says it  has to be freezing cold and a bit wet as you stand watching fireworks in the dark.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as it gets cold my whole food repertoire changes – suddenly I crave spiced comfort food. This combination of sweet maple syrup with a warming hint of cinnamon seems ultimately cosy and comforting. These muffins are best enjoyed by the fire and stroking a warm furry pet (guinea pigs in our case).

Maple and Spice Muffins (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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Makes 6 big muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free milk, I used Oatly
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp Demerara sugar

- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 6
– Line muffin tins
– Mix together the wet ingredients and set aside
– Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and make a well in the centre
– Pour in the wet ingredients and gently mix to form a lumpy (but no blobs of raw flour remaining) batter
– Spoon into the muffin cases
– Sprinkle the tops with Demerara sugar
– Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden, risen and a knife ones out clean
– Cool on a wire rack

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Almost Instant Chocolate Doughnuts

 

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This recipe was inspired by a vegan donut recipe by Jamie Oliver. Some people are really down on Jamie, but I think he’s great – when he came along he was totally unique and makes such accessible and delicious food without fuss. I also applaud the fact that he has recently started producing egg/dairy-free/vegan recipes. There is perhaps a bit of ‘brand Jamie’ overload but it’s hard not to like the guy.

Anyway, his recipe inspired me to whip up a batch of these little cocoa scented doughnuts for a Friday after-school treat. I wouldn’t say they’re a patch on ‘proper’ yeast-risen doughnuts but for an almost instant version they’re a pretty good alternative. It’s really of prime importance that the oil is the right temperature exactly: 375 degrees F or 180 degrees C, or the little fried balls of dough will be either greasy, or bullet-hard with raw centres – really not nice!

Almost Instant Chocolate Doughnuts (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes about 18

  • 50g or 1/4 cup dairy-free spread
  • 120 ml or 3/4 cup dairy-free milk
  • 220g or 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g/1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

- Combine the dry ingredients
– Melt together the spread and milk
– Pour into the dry and mix to form a soft but fairly dry dough
– Roll into walnut sized balls
– Heat the oil
– Then fry the balls for about 1.5 minutes on each side until good through
– Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately roll in the sugar

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Tabasco sauces and marinades review

I’ve started being sent products to review which is a welcome little bonus to writing a blog! I haven’t been paid to write this article and only received the free products I mention. All the opinions are my own, based on tasting the products.

Most products offered just aren’t suitable – I’m talking to you Mr PR person who asked me to feature a poster of how to best cook eggs! I don’t think he’d even looked at my blog, in fact I know he hadn’t. I just happened to appear on some list of foodie bloggers. How lazy. And this happens a lot. It’s very much one-way product featuring from the companies’ marketing departments on the whole, and while I may accept their product, I often don’t write about it.

Anyway, I was delighted with this offering – 4 spicy marinades/sauces from the Tabasco brand – or should I say D was especially happy as he loves spicy sauces and is always looking to grow the collection. All four are free from any ingredients that would cause us difficulty and we took great delight in having a taste testing session.

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Starting at the mild end of the scale:

Sweet chipotle and cola – this was a sauce to appeal to the whole family. Predominantly sweet with smokey undertones, I would say this is reminiscent of barbecue sauce. Pretty similar really. The heat factor is mild and I would happily use it as a sauce as well as a marinade – in fact a dollop on beans on toast was a rather nice addition.

Next up: chipotle and smokey bourbon – again this is a mild sauce but definitely one for the grown ups. The bourbon flavour is quite pronounced and the smokeyness is a little more intense. I see this one as working more as a marinade for a barbecue.

Moving onto the medium spicy peppery Deep South creole – the heat has been cranked up a notch, but it’s a pleasant and fresh chilli flavour that shines through. Fresh, fruity and spicy is how we rated this one and it worked equally well as a sauce or a marinade. It was too hot for my children though!

Finally at the hot end I’d the scale was fruity and fiery habenero – wow this was hot! Or should I say hot, hot, hot! Far too hot for me I’m afraid. I found it fruity but with the bitter twang you can get from very spicy foods. I can see it appealing to real heat fans, but still probably best as a marinade. But maybe Tabasco should have one that’s up there in the heat scale, as that is their roots. It’s going to last a while.

Are they worth buying? Well, I’d say yes, they have really tried to evolve the spicy flavours and I can see a lot of uses. I’m not sure I’d buy all 4 but it would be well worth having one in the fridge to enliven a plain dish.Perhaps one of the two more mild ones would be enough and one of the hotter ones.

 

 

Very berry granola

 

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Cereal can be so dull. When you have restrictions on your diet the choices aren’t so great, despite being faced with entire aisles of boxes! Having to avoid milk, nuts and seeds we’ve found Nestlé brands are a no-go, so it has to be Kellogg’s every time, but even then only certain varieties. Rice Krispies and Cornflakes are good staples, Coco Pops are also fine but bizarrely Frosties are not an option! You might have imagined the opposite would be true. Sugar Puffs and Honey Pops can go down well but that’s about it. Dull huh?

That’s where granola comes in ( homemade, as most varieties contain nuts in some form) – working perfectly with any type of yogurt, this is a breakfast to appeal to both adults and children. I’d opt for dried fruits that aren’t sticky as the whole mix goes a bit cleggy – so with this one, I used a mixture of dried blueberries and freeze-dried strawberries. A colourful, healthy, tasty breakfast of champions!

Very Berry Granola (dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, can-be gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, soya-free)

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makes a 500ml jarful

  • 1 1/2 cups of oats
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 2 tbsps sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup/golden syrup (honey for non-vegan option)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dried berries of choice
  • 1/4 freeze-dried berries of choice

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade

- In a bowl mix together all the ingredients, except the dried fruit.

- Spread evenly over a baking tray lined with foil

- Bake for 20-30 minutes (stirring every 10 minutes) until very lightly golden.

- Cool, then stir in the dried fruits.

- Serve for breakfast topped with soya yogurt and maple syrup

 

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