Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages

It’s definitely comfort food time of year; it seems dark most of the time and a bit of warming traditional food is the perfect way to keep the spirits up. Vegetarian sausages can be a great way to have a traditional meal but with a veggie twist – there are a few good varieties but some of the ones you buy can be either unpleasant tasting and trying to be like fake meat (as a veggie, I HATE fake meat) or bland spongy things which are best avoided. Time to create a homemade version!

The Food for Friends (a veggie restaurant based in Brighton) cookbook has a couple of interesting veggie sausage recipes which are definitely worth trying, they are good, but maybe not quite to my taste. So, these are my version;  flavoured with the Mediterranean in mind, using the delicious combo of rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar  – and my, they are lovely! Be warned, the mixture is quite crumbly so it’s definitely worth chilling them in the fridge for a good while before frying. But the resulting mixture is so punchy with umami flavours that we find we can forgive a bit of crumble!

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages 

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

For 2 sausages, perfect for one person – multiple the amounts for more people

  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1-2 tbp of the oil the sun-dried tomatoes came in
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful rocket or spinach
  • small bunch of basil
  • seasoning
  1. Best to use a food processor, blend the bread to make fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the tomatoes, balsamic, rocket, basil and garlic and blend to combine. It should look like the texture of green sand
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning
  4. Tip out onto a sheet of cling film, shape into a large sausage shape and roll tightly. Chill well.
  5. Unwrap and cut into two. Fry in sunflower oil until golden on all sides

Chocolate Twists – The Ultimate Easy Breakfast Pastry

As a family we struggle to find exciting breakfasts, and generally revert to good old toast or cereal. However, sometimes it’s nice to have an exciting, fancy breakfast; one that feels a little more luxurious than the usual. Sadly, it seems to me that most exciting breakfasts involve some combination of dairy, eggs or nuts, which is certainly not ideal in our household, and makes most exciting options out of bounds.

I always feel particularly bad when we go to France and the girls can’t tuck into a crisp flaky croissant or Pain au Chocolat like (it seems) everyone else. I have made my own rather successful Pain au Chocolat which are dairy-free but they do take a good few hours to laminate the layers, and I’m sure not many people have the time to make homemade viennoiserie too often. Personally, I think it’s a great way to spend a day, but then I’m a bit of a baking fanatic 😉

This recipe is essentially a quick an easy version of a chocolate filled breakfast pastry and is based on those chocolate twists you see in coffee shops or bakery counters. I think a twist is a very appealing pastry, with the filling peeping out of the turns between the layers of golden pastry. Served warm with a little dusting of icing sugar these chocolate twists are the perfect, easy breakfast pastry. They also freeze brilliantly, so I bake a batch to freeze then in the morning i place it frozen into the microwave for 20 seconds to thaw, then into the oven for 5 minutes to warm. Ta Da, the perfect fresh warm pastry for breakfast heaven!

Chocolate Twists

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

300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

450-500g plain flour

2 tsp dried yeast

50g or 1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp chocolate extract [optional] or vanilla essence

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free spread

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

  1. Melt the margarine and milk together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot
  2.  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.
  3. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when prodded. Cover and let double in size
  4. Mix together the filling ingredients (except the chopped chocolate) to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  5. Knock back the risen dough and roll out to a large long rectangle
  6. Smear on the chocolate paste. Sprinkle over the chocolate pieces, then fold in half
  7. Cut into even slices and twist each one to form a lovely swirly pastry
  8. Place on lined and greased baking pans and cover and leave to rise again for another half an hour
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  10. Bake for 17-20 minutes until risen, golden and cooked through
  11. Dust with icing sugar before serving

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes – maybe the easiest recipe in the world!

 

It’s the start of birthday season in this household – we all have Autumn birthdays and so it’s a frantic run up to Christmas filled with various celebrations. Obviously, birthdays need cake and as you can imagine all my cakes are homemade.

These teeny tiny cupcakes were probably the first ever dairy and egg-free sweet recipe I devised, but never the less I get requests for them at every birthday! Maybe it’s their size but these miniature cupcakes always go down a treat; they also freeze brilliantly which is fantastic for being prepared for any situation. They can be defrosted and iced ready to take to a birthday party in a flash, making it easy for my daughters not to feel left out when it comes to the all important cake time!

They are light but tasty and can be made any size, and are very easy to flavour with choc chips, essences or dried fruit. Probably the simplest cupcake recipe you’ll ever come across, this is great one to pass to people who want to cater for an egg-free and dairy-free guest without any unusual ingredients, visits to the supermarket or complicated instructions! I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like them, which really must be the best review going.

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes

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

 

(makes about 12 standard size or around 24 mini cupcakes)

110g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

50g caster sugar

150ml water

40ml sunflower oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract or other essence of choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin/cupcake tin
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then stir in the sugar
  3. Add flavourings as desired. 40g choc chips or 50g dried fruit plus a splash of extra water
  4. Pour in water and oil and stir until well combined, but don’t over-mix. Some tiny lumps are fine, as with a muffin batter.
  5. 2/3rds fill the cupcake/muffin cases
  6. Bake standard size for 20-25 mins until golden, mini size for 10-15 mins.
  7. Cool and ice if desired.

The Boulevard Restaurant, East Wittering

 

Perhaps wrongly, we don’t often frequent independent cafes or restaurants, and instead opt for the reliability of chain restaurants with their meticulous allergen folders and by-the-book trained staff with strict procedures when handling customers like us. It is quite simply easier. It is a shame as you do want to support small independent and family run businesses over large corporates. So we are really happy when we do come across somewhere independent that can suit our needs without trouble.

We came across The Boulevard Restaurant in East Wittering, West Sussex by chance. We had originally pinpointed a positively reviewed and recommended nearby pub (for allergies) but received such a terrible response from the management when we enquired about allergens – real rudeness in fact that we left pretty rapidly. Having made the unusual move of leaving the house for a day out without a full packed lunch ‘just in case’, we had to find an alternative place to eat. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far before we stumbled across this little gem of a family restaurant.

The Boulevard is family run and has I believe served since 1979. It’s a relatively ‘simple’ cafe restaurant with the kind of menu you would expect but with daily specials, very generous portions and crucially the staff have been without fail so helpful, efficient and friendly. There’s a full range of safe (or adaptable) favourites on the children’s menu, and the main menu has plenty of veggie and vegan choices – so we’re one happy family! So much so, we’ve now visited three times even though we live quite a way away.

Another highlight for us is they sell a full range of New Forest Ices, and as I’ve mentioned before their sorbet is dairy-free, egg-free and totally nut-free too. When we visited they had three flavours of sorbet. A choice of pudding for the girls when eating out is a rare luxury for us, and again outside of a chain, the girls would be offered a piece of fruit usually.

Then to the girls’ delight, the bill comes with a little tub of jelly beans rather than the ubiquitous chocolates. Happy bunnies all round!

So, if you’re near the Witterings (the beach at West Wittering is vast at low tide and well worth a trek) I’d really recommend a stop off at The Boulevard Restaurant – we might even see you there!

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

I’m very fond of Welsh Cakes, I think they’re under-appreciated and overlooked in the world of teatime treats, unless you’re in Wales that is! They’re basically a little griddle cake or drop scone, usually subtly spiced and filled with dried fruit. Here is a rather tasty Autumnal version from me, bringing the warming spices of gingerbread to Welsh cakes.

The inspiration came from D who just went on a crazy mission to the rugged Snowdonia coastline in Wales to take part in a madcap 10km swim up a cold river estuary. It certainly is one of the last ways I would want to spend my weekend, but he loves swimming, particularly in beautiful surroundings, and couldn’t pass up this challenging opportunity. It was a massive achievement which involved over ten hours of driving, little sleep and 2 hours 40 minutes of swimming all in a 24 hour period.

So as a little ‘well done’, with a nod to the Autumnal weather and Wales, I created these little gingerbread Welsh Cakes. The perfect sweet pick me up after a challenging day.

Again, like my last two sweet ’emergency ready’ recipes, Welsh cakes are ideal to make at the last minute. They’re made in a flash and work perfectly in any teatime setting. Serve warm, spread with dairy-free margarine for some truly happy guests.

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

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

makes 8-12

1 cup of plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup soft brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp black treacle

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

caster sugar, to sprinkle

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spice into a bowl.
  2. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Add the dairy-free milk, syrup and treacle and mix to form a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Roll out on a floured board and cut out shaped with a cookie cutter – circles are the traditional shape but any would be fine.
  5. Heat a dry non-stick frying pan (or any frying pan wiped with a smear of spread)
  6. When hot add the cakes and dry fry/griddle for 2-3 minutes on either side until golden.
  7. Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  8. To reheat warm in an oven or microwave

Caramel Crispy Bars

No word of a lie, these chocolate coated caramel crispy cakes are as addictive as a banned narcotic. I’ve made four batches in the past few weeks and before I could blink they’d all been hoovered up! You will make plenty of friends if you bring these to the cake sale – that’s if your new friends are quick enough to grab one before it’s too late. They only lasted a couple of minutes at yesterday’s charity bake sale… whole tray, gone in no time.

This is really my take on those Rice Krispie squares, which are sweet and gooey and for me: reminiscent of the treats a friend’s mum used to make with melted Mars Bars when I was young. It’s by no means guilt-free munching, but these bars are arguably healthier than those featuring melted Mars Bars and still just as delicious. I’ve combined syrup, sugar, Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread with vanilla for a wonderfully more-ish result that keeps you reaching for another.

I would definitely recommend a dark chocolate coating, any sweeter chocolate would push the needle on the sugar scale to overload, and besides the dark top contrasts so nicely with the lighter crispy base. This is most definitely another recipe to keep close to hand for those baking emergencies I was talking about last week.

Caramel Crispy Bars

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

 

makes about 16

120g caster sugar

170g golden syrup

100g Lotus Biscoff biscuit spread

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g Rice Krispies

75g dairy-free dark chocolate

20g dairy-free margarine

  1. Melt together the sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the Lotus spread to make a thick smooth mixture.
  2. Stir in the Rice Krispies and ensure they are well covered with the gooey syrupy mix
  3. Press into a lined baking pan [a small brownie pan is ideal] and place in the fridge to firm up
  4. Melt together the chocolate and margarine. Pour over the caramel crispy cake and spread out. I like to make a pattern with a fork to make it look pretty!
  5. Leave to set and then slice into squares or rectangles.