Chocolate and vanilla pinwheel biscuits

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It was the termly school cake sale last week, giving the perfect excuse to bake like crazy! I always make two types of baked offerings so that my girls get to choose, it seems a bit sad to have a vast array of cakes before you and you can only go for one type. Obviously it would be far better if there were more options for them, but I do what I can. Also, I always make a point of trying to make them as pretty and tempting as possible – I want my daughters to see other children choose and enjoy their ‘funny’ cakes. Whereas often people will say ‘ oh it’s got no dairy in it? No, I’m fine thank you’ – such closed minds!

Anyway, I made a massive batch of vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, which are always a favourite. For the second type I was going to make chocolate chip cookies, but in the end I decided they’re weren’t special enough. What I needed were some real WOW biscuits, some that were pretty, irresistible and yummy. While that may be quite a tall order, these chocolate and vanilla pinwheels fit the bill perfectly – they’re really tasty, nice and crunchy so will travel well, oh so pretty with the contrasting swirl, and well, who can resist some sprinkles! I’m pleased to say they flew out of the tin – Big S wasn’t too impressed as she wanted to bring lots home!

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Biscuits

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makes at least 20 cookies

  • 2 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup vegetable fat (I used Trex)
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free spread (Pure)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsps oat milk (Oatly)
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2-3 tbsps sprinkles

- Sift together the flour, cornflour, salt and baking powder.

- In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the extracts and oat milk and whisk again.

- Add the flour mix and carefully combine.

- Split the dough into two equal sized portions. Add the cocoa to one and mix to thoroughly combine. If its too dry add a splash of dairy-free milk

- Roll out one dough. Then roll out the other and sandwich together. Tightly roll into a sausage shape.

- Place a sheet of cling-film onto the work surface. Put the dough cylinder on one side, liberally sprinkle the decorations next to it, then roll over to coat the whole log.

- Wrap in the cling-film and then place in the fridge for at least half an hour.

- Cut 1/4 inch slices with a sharp non-serrated knife.

- Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges

- Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.

 

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Black Bean Salsa

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This is a nifty little recipe for an interesting variation on a ‘regular’ salsa. Inspired by a delicious lunch I had at the fabulous the Gate Restaurant the other day, this is my take on black bean salsa. Wonderful scooped up with tortilla chips, as an addition to a wonderful Mexican main course (recipe coming soon!) or a topping for nachos or any tortilla based dish. It’s also the kind of dish that is enjoyable to prepare, just simple ingredients put together in an uncomplicated way.

There’s nothing wrong with a tomato salsa (especially this awesome salsa), but it’s good to have more in your locker, and for me a great new way with beans that is fresh and zingy.

Black Bean Salsa (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 1 bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 1 shallot, very finely chopped
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, chopped fairly small
  • 1 tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime (or more to taste if you have a dry old line that gives little juice!)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

1. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside for about half an hour for the flavours to mingle

2. Taste and adjust the salt and lime juice accordingly

3. Enjoy!

Mini Blueberry Scones

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Dried fruits are a fabulous addition to any baked goods, giving an intense flavour hit, with none of risk of excess moisture that fresh fruit can produce. However, dried fruits can be tricky to find if you have concerns over nut traces. They always seem to process fruits and nuts in the same facilities, meaning we usually give them a wide berth. Which is a shame really as they’re such wonderful little flavour bombs, and can even appeal to those who don’t like the sogginess of fresh fruit (like my children).

I don’t have the luxury of a dehydrator but if your oven goes low enough and you have the time and patience, home dried fruits that are totally safe are at your disposal. These berries were literally placed on a lined baking sheet and put into a low oven (100 degrees Centigrade) for 3-4 hours until they were wrinkled and shrivelled but not dried up.

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The berries work wonderfully in these elegant little canapé sized scones; think a similar effect to sultanas but with bags more flavour. I couldn’t stop eating these light, crumbly and tasty little morsels – pity I made quite so many!

Mini Blueberry Scones (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 75g dairy-free spread
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 300 ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly
  • 1 tsp berry essence, if you have it
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries, roughly chopped
  • To top: 2 tbsp oat milk 2 tbsp granulated sugar (I used blue sugar crystals)

- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6

- Grease and flour 2 baking sheets

- Rub the spread into the flour, sugar and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the dried fruit.

- Pour in the essence and dairy-free milk and very gently bring together to a soft dough. It’s very important not to work scone dough.

- Gently pat out the dough until its about 1 inch thick. Using a 1inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place on the baking sheets Continue, gently bringing the dough back into a ball and cutting out, until all the dough has been used up.

- Brush the top of each with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with sugar Bake for about 20 minutes until starting to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.

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Sweet corn and sundried tomato savoury muffins

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I saw some wonderful looking savoury muffins in Ottolenghi’s deli/restaurant the other day and was inspired to make a free-from version. And they are quite a success! Light and fluffy but packed with sweet corn kernels, bundles of herbs and sticky sun dried tomato pieces.

These muffins would go nicely with a picnic, salad or bowl of soup. I’m even thinking they’d work rather well alongside a steaming hot bowl of chilli! A good dose of red chilli is also a good addition, especially as it works so well alongside the sweetcorn. The nutritional yeast is entirely optional, but does add an extra savoury dimension if you have some to hand (feel free to sub some mature cheese if you eat dairy as it would have a similar end result).

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

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makes 12

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups oat milk
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sweetcorn
  • 1/4-1/2 red chilli (optional)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 4
– Line a muffin tin with paper liners
– Sift together the flour, bicarbonate, salt and mustard powder.
– Stir in the sweetcorn, chilli, sundries tomatoes, thyme and nutritional yeast

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– In a separate bowl combine the oil, vinegar and dairy-free milk
– Pour into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and mix to a lumpy batter
– Ladle into the muffin cases
– Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean
– Cool on a wire rack

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Moroccan Couscous

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I’m trying to challenge myself. Some of my least favourite pulses are chickpeas and I’m mostly not more than luke-warm about any squash or pumpkin. So this recipe is a bit of a ‘leap of faith’ for me. In using flavours (Harissa) and textures (couscous and roasted onions) that I like in the dish, I was hoping to make the squash and chickpeas more palatable. Roasting them gives a wonderfully sweet flavour and the robust spicing overwhelms the bits I don’t like in the veg. It looks wonderful piled high on a platter and works equally well as a salad, side or even main dish. Can I say I’m a convert? Well, nearly! Just have to keep the variety going to pep your unloved veg. Hope you enjoy as much as I did…

Worth noting that this is the best, most foolproof way of cooking couscous I’ve ever come across – always resulting in tasty, fluffy grains in a flash. Couscous sounds like it should be so easy, but the number of times I have it off a menu and it’s been cooked terribly is shocking.

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

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serves 4

  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 red onion, roughly sliced
  • 1/2 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Harissa paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Small handful if parsley, finely chopped

For the couscous:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of any combination of lemon or vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt

- Mix together the squash, onion, chickpeas, oil and Harissa and roast for 30 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade, tossing now and then
– Add the balsamic and cook for an extra 10 minutes
– Taste and adjust seasoning as desired
– To make the couscous: bring the water, lemon/vinegar, oil and salt to the boil
– Pour over the couscous and cover
– Leave for 10 minutes then fluff up with a fork
– Add the roasted veg to the couscous, pls the raisins and parsley
– Serve warm or room temperature

 

 

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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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