Herby and smokey straws/breadsticks

20140913-080047.jpg

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)

20140913-080120.jpg

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.

20140913-080142.jpg

Lemon Melts

IMG_4563

 

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)

IMG_3912

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.

 

IMG_3914

 

IMG_3918

 

Zesty chickpea salad

IMG_3924

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)

IMG_3926

  • 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.

IMG_3923
– Pour over the dressing and stir well
– Leave to marinade for at least 2 hours before eating.

IMG_3925

Teriyaki aubergine skewers

IMG_4118

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

IMG_4020

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

IMG_4017

 

 

 

Provençal potato gratin

20140809-073122.jpg

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)

20140809-073024.jpg

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.

20140809-072920.jpg

 

 

 

3 Bean Salad

IMG_3873

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)

IMG_3874

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.

IMG_3876

Courgette (zucchini) soup

 

img_4340 courgette soup

If you grow vegetables or know anyone who does, then you might well be facing a glut of certain varieties right now (well in the Northern hemisphere anyway). Everyone I know who grows veg always seem to grow courgettes and runner beans in abundance. I have to say I’m a bit stumped over ways to make runner beans tempting and delicious, rather than tasteless, woody and stringy! But courgettes are another matter – cooked badly they’re the stuff of nightmares (watery, tasteless), but treated with the respect they deserve they can be wondrous.

This soup is perfect for a big harvest of courgettes, particularly less than perfect specimens, as it is really a recipe comprised of just courgettes and flavouring. You may think that there is no way you could enjoy a dish solely made from courgettes, but I promise you, as long as you treat them right you’ll end up with a wonderfully flavourful, silky smooth and unctuous soup. So next time you see that glut of courgettes, don’t sigh, think ‘mmmm, courgette soup for lunch’ instead!

Courgette (Zucchini) Soup (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

IMG_4339

Serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (or 1 tbsp per courgette used)
  • 3 courgettes, cut into fairly chunky slices
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of basil
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • Seasoning

- Sauté the courgette slices in the oil until nicely browned
– Add the garlic and basil and continue to cook until fragrant but the garlic hasn’t browned too much
– Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 minutes
– Blitz then taste.
– Season to taste
– Serve garnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves.

IMG_4341

Plum tart

IMG_4230

This is such a simple, stunningly pretty tart you’ll wonder why you ever thought a tart needed anything more than fruit and pastry. And it was a great way of using up a pile of slightly over-ripe plums from Clive’s Fruit Farm.

You could just use the soft stone fruit and pastry which works impressively enough, but a few grinds of black pepper and drizzles of honey (or maple syrup) give this simple dish a much more special feel. I have to admit that the concept behind this recipe isn’t my own, I came across the idea online (somewhere) a while back, but only with the divine Opal plums from Clive’s did the idea resurface.

Plum Tart (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan if use maple syrup)

IMG_4338

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 sheet puff pastry
  • Plums, halved to cover the pastry
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • Honey or maple syrup to drizzle

- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 4
– Roll the pastry out to an even rectangle (or whatever shape you like)
– Score a frame around the edge, about 1 cm in.
– Fill the centre with the plum halves, some facing up and some down, then sprinkle over the caster sugar

IMG_4334-0
– Grind over the black pepper
– Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are browned and all the pastry is cooked through
– Drizzle with the honey or syrup
– Serve at room temperature with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream

IMG_4333-0

 

 

 

 

Plum Streusel Muffins

IMG_4134

We’ve been glamping. I’m a rather reluctant camper (much to the rest of the family’s dismay) – it can be lovely if the weather’s good and granted, you do ‘get away from it all’. But we live in the UK, so, quite often the weather isn’t perfect and to be honest I find it all rather hard work! Maybe it’s because we don’t have all the kit – all we have are airbeds, the tent, sleeping bags and a single ring gas burner. No luxury seats for us, no table, no heater. My main problem is the cooking – we can’t easily just eat in a local pub, well, we can manage a meal or two but there’s only so many ‘something and chips’ meals you can consume without a sense of doom. As you can imagine, we normally cook for ourselves on holiday but catering for 1omnivore, one vegetarian and 2 with various food allergies on a 1 ring gas burner isn’t easy! (With me, the vegetarian being the annoyingly difficult one). How do you cope with food when camping? I’d be interested to hear your tips and failsafe camping meals.

Anyway, this time we made a compromise and went glamping. Here’s our rather attractive bell tent with rugs, duvets, wood burner stove inside, barbecue outside and a camp fire! It was a thoroughly lovely experience, the weather was perfect for it and it was so unlike normal life that it felt like a real break. BUT, 2 nights was definitely enough for me!

IMG_4079

The site was handily on a stunning fruit farm in Herefordshire so we did plenty of picking our own – perfect late strawberries and some wonderful fragrant opal plums (I bought back so many they’ll be a few more recipes to come!) but my first recipe is these rather delightful fruity, crunchy topped and spiced plum streusel muffins. Bookmark this one for autumn when plums are everywhere.

IMG_4125-0

Plum Streusel Muffins (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, can be soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

IMG_4135

For the streusel topping:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp cold dairy-free spread

For the muffins:

  • 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free yogurt
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free milk, I use Oatly
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 plums, chopped

- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/Gas mark 6
– Line a muffin pan with paper liners
– Rub the cold spread into the flour, sugar and cinnamon until it resembles a crumble topping. Set aside.
– Sift the flour, bicarbonate and cinnamon into a bowl
– Stir in the plum pieces so they are covered in flour (this will prevent them sinking to the bottom)
– Stir in the sugar
– Whisk together the yogurt, non- dairy milk, oil and vanilla.
– Pour into a well in the centre of the flour mix and gently combine so its just combined, but no lumps of raw flour remain
– 2/3rds fill each liner and sprinkle over the streusel topping
– Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean.
– Cool on a wire rack.

IMG_4137-0

Classic Victoria Sponge Cake (without the eggs or dairy)

20140809-072225.jpg

The Great British Bake Off is back on TV – yippee! It’s such great light-hearted escapism, perfect after a long day at work.

The Victoria sponge has to be the true classic British bake – just the kind contestants are challenged to make on the Great British Bake Off. You’ll find versions of this cake at any fete, tea room, WI meeting or farm shop up and down the land. And elderly ladies up and down the land are sure to be having it at tea time. But strangely enough you rarely see an egg and dairy-free Victoria Sponge recipe. In vegan baking I think often a good rise is achieved with the use of baking powder and vinegar and that cocoa is so often added to mask any residual flavour. Since this version doesn’t rely on vinegar, but rather the acidity in dairy-free yogurt, it stands up well and keeps hold of the delicate vanilla flavour.

You may question my making a classic cake and then filling it with chocolate buttercream rather than raspberry jam? Well, I wanted to use the jam which I personally like, and I thought the photos would look stunning with the traditional jam filling shining berry bright between the delicate yellow layers, but in the end thrift won over. I know my children well and for some reason they will not go near a cake filled with jam – little S still remembers with horror her 3rd birthday cake which had jam in!! So I filled mine with fluffy chocolate buttercream to ensure it didn’t get wasted. Please fill yours with jam and let me know how it tastes – maybe send me a photo?

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

20140809-072307.jpg

makes 1 cake

  • 1 cup dairy-free spread
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 500ml dairy-free yogurt, I used Alpro vanilla for added vanilla flavour
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • jam or buttercream to fill

- Preheat the oven to  180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4
– Grease and line the bottom of a cake tin
– Melt together the dairy-free spread and caster sugar
– Whisk in the yogurt and vanilla
– In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
– Pour the yogurt mix into the dry and carefully fold together until no lumps remain
– Pour into the prepared tin
– Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
– Leave to cool in the tin, then remove the tin and finish the cooling on a wire rack.
– Split in half and fill the centre with jam or buttercream

20140809-072357.jpg
– Place the top back on and liberally sprinkle icing sugar all over the top

20140809-072523.jpg