Chocolate Swirl Buns

 

chocolate swirl buns, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free

Imagine: soft golden, sweet dough, swirled with rich unctuous chocolate, sprinkled with crunchy sugar and drizzled with a sticky icing. Sounds good doesn’t it? Sounds like you’d like to gobble one up right away? Well, step forward the stunning beauty of chocolate swirl buns..

My cinnamon buns are always a massive hit, not just with my family but also with any one I make them for. So that got me thinking – how about another flavour, why are swirl buns always cinnamon? Maybe elsewhere you come across other flavours, but here in the UK, I’ve only come across cinnamon. Surely other flavours would work equally well? For example, everyone loves chocolate, and a swirl of dark rich chocolate would look rather stunning against the golden baked dough. Also, it would be almost like a bready pain an chocolat, or chocolate chip brioche but in a prettier form. Plans and experiments began!

They worked brilliantly – the resulting buns are absolutely stunning and and delicious – ideal for any occasion from a truly indulgent, luxury breakfast to a tasty snack or tea time treat. The advantage of the chocolate filling is that the buns aren’t too sweet, making them the perfect go to snack. I’m not sure they totally replace cinnamon buns, but as an alternative variation they’re absolute winner.

Chocolate Swirl Buns

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

vegan chocolate swirl buns

300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

3 tbsp dairy-free spread, such as Pure

450-500g plain flour

2 tsp dried yeast

50g or 1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp chocolate extract [optional]

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free spread

1/2 tsp chocolate extract [optional]

50g dairy-free chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

For the glaze:

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp pearl sugar/sugar crystals

And/or:

1/4 cup icing sugar

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 mix 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 prodded
  • Cover and let double in size
  • Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  • Knock back the risen dough and roll out to a large rectangle
  • Smear on the chocolate paste. Sprinkle over the chocolate pieces, then roll up tightly into a long sausage
  • making chocolate swirl bunsCut into even slices – I managed to get 25 small slices from mine
  • Place on lined and greased baking pans and cover and leave to rise again for another half an hour
  • chocolate/cocoa swirl buns ready to cookPreheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through
  • 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 water icing

chocolate swirl pastries, no dairy

Maple Syrup Pancakes

Time to get ready for Pancake Day…

egg-free dairy-free maple syrup pancakes

 

Why should you only eat traditional pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Why not spice up Pancake Day with these stunning fluffy maple syrup flavoured beauties, perfect for the addition of any sweet topping. The maple syrup gives a mellow sweetness but also an additional rich flavour and gives the pancakes a beautiful golden colour. They also benefit from being refined sugar-free, so you can eat them with happy abandon! 

The addition of a little aquafaba in these pancakes gives a fantastic light, fluffy texture – a step closer to American style pancakes than traditional French Crepes, but utterly perfect for the yearly tradition of tossing pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!

 

Maple Syrup Pancakes

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

vegan maple syrup pancakes

makes about 8 medium sized pancakes

1 cup plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp aquafaba

1 cup dairy-free milk [i prefer Oat milk]

2 tbsp flavourless oil, such as sunflower

2 tbsp maple syrup

  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl an whisk.
  2. Pour in the aquafaba, milk, oil and syrup and whisk to form a smooth batter.
  3. Ideally leave in the fridge for half an hour before use.
  4. Heat a frying pan, wipe with a little oil. Add ladlefuls of batter and swirl about to make a medium sized pancake.
  5. Cook on one side until the top is covered with bubbles and starts to look less wet.
  6. Toss and briefly cook the other side
  7. Keep warm until ready to serve

dairy-free sugar-free pancakes

egg-free pancakes

Mango Chutney Crackers

mango chutney crackers, dairy-free

I don’t know where this idea came from, it just pretty much popped into my head when I was thinking of making my curried lentil soup the other day. Seemed logical to make something that would compliment the soup I was making, to match the spices. Something crisp and crunchy to go with smooth soup.

So I present these cracker shortbreads flavoured with sweet tangy mango chutney and cumin seeds. Not sure why I’ve never used mango chutney in any other cooking. They also make a nice cracker to serve with cheese (dairy-free or not, depending on your preferences and needs) or with a dip.

Mango Chutney Crackers

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

mango chutney crackers, vegan

Makes about 12

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tbsps dairy free margarine

2 tbsps mango chutney

1/2 tsp curry powder

Pinch of salt

Cumin seeds to sprinkle

  1. Rub the margarine into the flour, curry powder and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the mango chutney and gently bring together to form a soft dough
  3. Roll out and cut out shapes, sprinkle with cumin seeds.

chutney crackers4. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 12 minutes 

egg-free chutney crackers

 

Curried lentil (Dhal) Soup

curried lentil dhal soup, dairy-free

Lentil soup reminds me of being off school as a child and eating a steaming bowlful, balanced on a tray whilst watching trashy daytime TV – pure cosy comfort!

I’d also call this recipe a ‘nifty thrifty’ recipe – packed full of spicy flavour and goodness but costing pennies to make. You can’t argue with that.

Ideal served with my tasty cumin and mango chutney crackers (recipe very soon) or a naan, roti, chapati or whatever your bread of choice.  Enjoy.

Curried Lentil Dhal Soup

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

vegan curried lentil soup

Serves 4

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp curry powder of choice

140g red lentils, washed and picked through

1 small potato, peeled and roughly chopped

1l vegetable stock

  1. Sauté the onion in oil until translucent, add the carrot and continue to cook until starting to colour
  2. Add the garlic and stir until you can smell the fragrance. Stir in the curry powder and briefly fry to cook out any rawness
  3. Add the lentils and potato. Pour over the stock and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils and potatoes are cooked through
  4. Liquidise as desired, I prefer to leave a little texture. Serve piping hot.

vegetarian lentil soup

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

 

dairy-free, egg-free Afghan cookies

I’m in the process of ‘ Spring cleaning’ my larder, using up bits and bobs that have been lurking at the back of the shelves – there’s something about the new year and wanting to get stuff sorted. As you can imagine, my larder is pretty stuffed with ingredients, so any additional space is most welcome. So, that large half-used pack of cornflakes was definitely in my sights. It was using up far too much space! And that cookie jar needed filling.

Apparently chocolate cornflake cookies, also known as Afghan cookies are extremely popular in New Zealand. Worth investigating, I thought. The traditional Afghan cookie is a chocolate cookie, studded with crunchy cornflakes, topped with a rich ganache and with a walnut sitting on top. I’m obviously going to skip the walnuts, but the rest is pretty much fitting the brief.

I hope you like these crunchy chocolatey biscuits – they went down a treat here

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

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

vegan cornflake cookies

200g dairy-free margarine

50g soft brown sugar

50g caster sugar

175g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1tbsp dairy-free milk

50g cornflakes

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars.
  2. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Adding the dairy-free milk to slacken the mixture and making it easier to combine.
  3. Gently stir in the cornflakes, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  4. Place tablespoons of the mixture into a lined baking sheet, with enough room to spread. Flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade
  6. Cool on a wire rack

For the icing:

1tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsps dairy-free margarine

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Melt together the water, caster sugar, vanilla and  margarine. Bring to a bubbling syrup and then pour in the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Stir to form glossy icing.
  2. Spread over the cookies and leave to set.

  

Strawberries & cream macarons – egg-free and nut-free.

nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free macarons

Macarons, or to be precise Macarons Parisiens are those stunning little almond sandwiched delicacies which we all know because they are absolutely everywhere these days. It’s another one of those tempting treats that has been out of bounds for us, what with them being made with eggs and almonds/nuts.

It has taken me years to get this one right. One of those unattainable recipes that no matter how many times I tried, I’d never be able to make a free-from version. I’ve tried so many times before, but when you’re leaving out two essential ingredients of a recipe it’s understandable to find it difficult to make a free-from replica.

Those pretty pastel-hues kept me trying though. There was no way the macaron was going to win in this battle. This journey has taught me that I hate to be defeated and that everything is possible.

vegan no-nuts macarons

The first problem with free-from macarons was replacing the egg-whites but luckily last spring fellow bloggers started having great success with aquafaba. We were one step of the way there.

Next problem: how to replace the nuts? Almonds are intrinsic to a macaron, delivering not just flavour but also the gooey texture. I’d heard of people subbing coconut, but I’m not keen on coconut and find it a very strong flavour, which in my opinion doesn’t suit a delicate Parisien Almond Macaron. I was going along the lines of ground sunflower or pumpkin seeds but was having trouble sourcing trace-free seeds. Then during the last series of Masterchef the professionals one of the contestants made a cake using popcorn. Lightbulb moment! Why not use ground popcorn in place of the almonds? As it turns out it was a genius flash of inspiration. The ground popcorn has a similar light texture to ground nuts, minus the oil and combines beautifully with the whisked aquafaba meringue to form the perfect free-from replacement.

I was worried the popcorn would have too strong a flavour, but although you could detect it if you knew it was there, it doesn’t overpower once you have flavoured it with other things. Initially the texture is a little firmer than traditional macarons, but I hear that is usually the case with vegan ones made with aquafaba. If you can resist, leave them in the fridge overnight, then the filling melds with the shells to make a slightly softer and gooey centre, far more like the authentic recipe.
My recipe is created by tweaking and experimenting with the creations developed by Floral Frosting and Crazy Vegan Kitchen, and I thank those ladies wholeheartedly for giving me the beginnings of a recipe that could be made nut-free! The joy.

Macaron making isn’t difficult but it is quite a lengthy process – be sure to leave yourself plenty of time, as the folding  and resting are crucial to the recipe.

Nut-free, Egg-free Strawberry Macarons

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

free-from nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free macarons

makes about 14

Aquafaba from one tin of beans, you will need 3/4 cup

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 1/2 cups ground ready popped popcorn

1/2 cup icing sugar

Pinch of cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp pink gel food colouring

1/4 tsp natural strawberry flavouring

  1. First reduce the aquafaba by about a third, you need to end up with 1/3 cup of aquafaba. Leave to cool
  2. In a food processor, grind the popcorn to a powder and then pass through a sieve. This takes a fair while and the popcorn turns to airy dust and flies everywhere. Be patient, you want the popcorn powder to  fine as possible. Combine with the icing sugar
  3. In a stand mixer, whisk the aquafaba and cream of tartar until you form a fluffy, bubbly mix. Slowly add the caster sugar until you have a glossy, thick meringue mixture. This will take a few minutes. Whisk in the colour and flavouring. meringue for macarons, egg-free
  4. Stir in half of the popcorn. Then gently fold in the other half, trying to retain as much air as possible. Once it is all combined, fold the mixture 15-20 times. This is called the macaronage.
  5. Transfer to a piping bag with a plain nozzle, and pipe even circles ( with the nozzle going directly downwards) onto a lined baking sheet. With a wet finger, smooth over the top of each macaron so there is no lumps or bumps. piping free-from macarons
  6. Once finished, pick up the baking sheet and drop in onto the work surface so it slaps down two or three times ( this is to remove any air bubbles)
  7. Leave uncovered at room temperature for at least two hours. This will encourage the tops to form a skin-like covering so that when they bake they rise up and form frilly feet round the bottoms.
  8. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees centigrade and bake the macarons for 22 minutes. Do not open the oven! Turn off the oven (still do not open!) and leave for a further 15 minutes. Open the oven door a little and leave for a further 15 minutes. Cool completely before removing from the baking paper.

  9. macarons made with aquafaba and popcorn

For the filling:

2 tbsps dairy-free margarine

2 cups icing sugar

1-2 tbsps dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp natural strawberry flavouring

  1. Whisk all together to make a thick, smooth buttercream. Pipe circles into the flat side of half the macarons and then sandwich together. ready to fill vegan macaron
  2. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat. They last really well for 2-3 days.

 

Salt and pepper tofu with dipping sauce

salt and pepper tofu with dipping sauce, vegan

I think lots of people struggle with tofu, we certainly do. It can be lovely when cooked right or it can be ‘meh’ if cooked badly. There’s something about the bland flabbiness which can totally fail to inspire. My favourite way to eat tofu is enrobed in cornflour and fried until crisp, then seasoned and dipped; at least then you have a pleasing texture and flavour.

That inspired this recipe – my vegetarian take on salt and pepper squid served with a sweet, zingy, salty soy-based dip. The addition of fried chilli and garlic (plus spring onion if you have some to hand) and then the pounded salt, pepper and touch of sugar seasoning adds a great depth of flavour to the crispy tofu. It works wonderfully dunked in the salty/sweet dipping sauce. Even the girls quite liked this version of tofu which is no mean feat!

Salt and Pepper Tofu

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

dairy-free, egg-free salt and pepper tofu

1 pack tofu

2-3 tbsps cornflour

Oil for frying

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 or 2 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper corns

Pinch of caster sugar

  1. First drain the tofu, wrap in kitchen towels and place a heavy weight on top to compress it.
  2. Next make the salt and pepper seasoning: in a pestle and mortar, grind together the salt, peppercorns and sugar to form a powder. Set aside.
  3. Cut the tofu into even sized pieces, coat in cornflour and fry until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.
  4. When ready to serve, heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan, stir fry the chilli, garlic (and spring onion if using) until fragrant then add the crispy tofu and stir fry for a couple of minutes to coat in the flavours and warm through. Add the salt and pepper seasoning and toss through to evenly coat the tofu pieces. Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

1 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsps boiling water

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp light soy sauce

  1. Mix the ingredients together and pour into a decorative dipping bowl.

vegetarian salt and pepper squid

 

Veg box ragu featuring Rebel Brewing Company Eighty Shilling Dark Cornish Ale

veg box ragu, dairy-free, vegan

After the excesses of December with Christmas and New Year, we’re going to kick of January with some truly nurturing, healthy and comforting food – there no time of year when a a bit of comfort is needed more than cold, dark January! It’s also a great time to ‘ start as you mean to go on’ by making the very most of the winter veg that come in the weekly veg box. This vegetable ragu is the epitome of hearty – robust celeriac, carrots and leeks ( with some white beans for added protein) and slowly cooked in a flavoursome combination of dark ale and mustard until the veg are softened and enrobbed in a tasty sauce. The ale adds a surprising note, the initial bitter tones are mellowed by the mustard and dairy-free cream, creating a wonderful comforting stew. This is food to eat in front of a roaring fire whilst wearing slippers – it’s may not be fine dining, by my it is tasty!

Rebel Brewing Company kindly sent me a gift box of their eighty shilling dark ale to review. Now I’m no beer drinker, I find even larger too bitter, but D is a big craft beer fan and was delighted to have a new beer to sample. He found it rich, dark and mighty Cornish Ale.

This is hoe Rebel Brewing Company describes it: ’80 Shilling is a Celtic beer which is dark with a red eclipse when held in the light. It is characterised by a roasted malty smell and the taste of coffee and black treacle. IT has a sweetness not always associated with this style of beer. The taste of hops is still prevalent through the beer.’

Rebel Brewing Company eighty Shilling

As is my want, I was desperate to fit it into a recipe. I had initially planned a cake, but when our veg box arrived, stuffed full of winter roots, my mind was changed and I opted for this veg box ragu. Not having used ale in cooking before I was surprised as the results – less sweet than cider or wine based dishes, the ale nonetheless gave a wonderful depth of flavour which is perfect in hearty winter foods. I’ll definitely be using more ale in my savoury dishes.

Veg Box Ragu

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

celeriac, ale and bean stew

serves 4

1 onion, chopped,

1 leek, washed and sliced

2 carrots, chopped

1/2 celeriac, peeled and chopped into even sized cubes

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 sprig of rosemary

5 peppercorns, roughly crushed

200 ml dark ale

2 tsp whole grain mustard

1/2 tin cannellini beans

1-2 tbsps dairy-free cream ( I used oatly)

1-2 tbsps Dijon mustard

Handful of parsley, finely chopped

  1. Gently fry the onion and leek in1 tbsp oil and a pinch of salt until it is soft and slippery but not coloured
  2. Add the carrots, celeriac, garlic and rosemary. Stir until you can smell the aromats
  3. Pour over the ale and stir in the whole grain mustard. Cover and gently simmer for about 15 minutes until the veg is cooked through.
  4. Add the beans, cream and Dijon mustard and continue to bubble for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.
  6. Serve on mash or colcannon, or wet polenta for a hearty meal.

dairy-free leek and celeriac and ale ragu

Cold Busting Lemon and Ginger Cookies

dairy-free, egg-free lemon and ginger cookies

Some cookies that are ideal at this time of year when everyone is sniffling and snuffling and germs seem to be lurking behind every corner. Well they might help. I see these cookies as a biscuit equivalent to a mug of hot honey and lemon that will soothe your throat and give your ailing self a big warm hug! The lemon adds that zing which you get when you bite in but also lingers after too and the ginger add subtle warmth that underpins the whole flavour.

Equally, they’re attractive to the eye and very tasty. Perfect served at teatime, and a nice change from the usual flavour combinations.

Cold Busting Lemon and Ginger Cookie

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

vegan lemon and ginger cookies

makes about 20 cookies

  • 1/2 cup dairy-free spread
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tbsps golden syrup
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup sprinkles
  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment.
  2. Cream together the spread, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and lemon zest. stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Gently mix to form a soft dough. Stir in the sprinkles.
  4. Dollop tablespoon sized balls of the dough onto the baking sheets. make sure they are well spaced apart as they will spread during baking.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes until puffy and turning golden.
  6. Cool briefly before transferring to a wire rack.

cold busting vegan cookies

Cauliflower cocktail, aka veggie ‘prawn’ cocktail

 

vegetarian prawn cocktail

There’s something about the festive season, that despite a ridiculous over abundance of food, there is compulsion to have a starter as well. It seems totally silly when there isn’t a need or want for any more food, maybe it’s the desire to provide and be the best possible festive host – besides, whilst there may be no need, a starter is a rather pleasing addition to any fancy meal.

cauliflower cocktail, vegan

As an avid masterchef fan, I often get snippets of inspiration from the show, recipes that I’d like to make in a ‘friendly’ way or simply turn veggie. The other week the skills test featured a prawn cocktail – you don’t really get a more classic starter than that! It immediately made me want to make a veggie version as I really enjoyed the classic when I was a fish eating child. The idea of crisp little gem lettuce, a tangy, creamy Marie Rose sauce and some prawn replacement really appealed to me. I thought long and hard about how to replace the prawns – it needed something with a similar-ish texture but I’m not a fan of fake fish or meat – I just don’t get it! I’m a vegetarian so I want to eat vegetables not various starches and proteins processed into meat or fish form…. I know many veggies beg to differ, but that’s me, im not touching anything that pretends to be meat!

Avocado would have been an obvious choice but I didn’t have any in, and they don’t seem to be at their best right now. Tofu may have worked but I thought it was probably a little too insipid. In the end I opted for this knock-out combo of cannellini beans and tiny raw cauliflower florets – bingo, a perfect veggie prawn cocktail alternative. So good that I fancy having another one already!

Veggie ‘Prawn’ Cocktail

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

vegetarian cocktail

serves 2

2 tbsp egg-free mayonnaise, Veganaise or Plamil is very good

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

Large squeeze of lemon juice

2 -4 splashes veggie Worcestershire sauce

2-4 drops of Tabasco sauce

Salt and pepper

Little gem leave to fill the glasses, bowls

3 large cauliflower florets, cur into small pieces

1/3 cup cannellini beans, drainesprinkle of cayenne pepper

  1. Whisk together the mayonnaise, tomato sauce, lemon juice, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces. Season with plenty of black pepper. Taste and add more of what you fancy to make it perfect for you. Set aside.
  2. Line the cocktail glasses with the baby gem lettuce leaves
  3. Toss the cauliflower and beans in the Marie Rose sauce until they are well coated
  4. Pile on top of the leaves. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and garnish with a lemon wedge.

vegan prawn cocktail, cauliflower cocktail