Popcorn cereal bars

Next up in the recipes from cupboard odds and ends and these stunningly delicious popcorn cereal bars.

Big S and I have been on a mission to organise our larder. It’s quite an ongoing project but we’re going from a chaotic cupboard stuffed full to the seams to beautifully tidy pantry full of stacked glass jars and neat baskets of packages. It’s so rewarding! I keep going and opening the doors and admiring our work.

In organising we’ve come across so many odds and ends and multiple packs, they all had to be put to good use. The little bag of popcorn we came across made me think of those Pret popcorn bars. Do they still exist? By no means food allergy friendly, they were quite tasty. Then I found some oats and the dregs of a box of cornflakes. These seemed to make a coherent combination.

On testing it’s actually a stunning combo – toasty oats for a flapjack feel, cornflakes for the cereal taste and texture and popcorn for salty, sweet chewy hits. These bars have been declared delicious and already made twice! I urge you to make a batch for the week ahead – you’ll have a very happy family/friends 😀

Popcorn Cereal Bars

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

makes 8-10 big bars, 16-20 small bites

50g oats, toasted

50g cornflakes

17g popcorn

80g caster sugar

120g golden syrup

60g Biscoff spread

85g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Spread the oats onto a baking sheet and bake in a medium hot oven (180 degrees centigrade) for 15 minutes until toasty
  2. Melt together the sugar, syrup and Biscoff spread until you have a thick smooth mixture. Stir in 15g of the chocolate.
  3. Stir in the oats, cornflakes and popcorn mix until everything is coated in the rich caramel sauce
  4. Press into a loaf tin lined with parchment. I used a 2lb loaf tin which is perfect for the amount quoted about. If you want to make more, double the quantities and use a standard square baking tin.
  5. Place in the fridge or a cool place to set.
  6. Melt the remaining 70g chocolate and drizzle over, leave to set.
  7. Cut into bars or squares.

Cupboard raid cookies

I’m really into baking with what’s to hand at the moment. Restrictions maybe easing here but I think I’ve gotten used to not just nipping to the shops whenever I fancy, and instead fully planning before each shop. But despite meal planning, more often than not an idea strikes and I don’t have the ingredients in, then I’m in a pickle! So to avoid disappointment I’ll take the other approach of opening the pantry doors and seeing what’s around. More often than not some interesting combination can be dreamt up on the hoof. That’s where these cookies come from, a good amount of time staring into the open larder and coming up with plans! We often seem to have bits and bobs of a variety of snacks hanging around and that made me think of Compost Cookies.

Compost cookies are very popular in the USA and the Milk Bar version seems particularly popular (at least on the social media channels I follow) but they’re not familiar in the UK. Compost Cookies are basically a cookie at which you’ve thrown in everything lurking in the kitchen cupboards, resulting in soft cookies studded with salty and sweet morsels with interesting textures. I’m not so keen on the term compost cookie, it doesn’t sound too appetising to me, hence my version ‘the cupboard raid cookie’ (well at least I think the name was concocted by me!)

You could add almost any snack like ingredient to this recipe but I’ve opted for pretzels (salty crunch), salted crisps (more salt), oats (substance), chocolate chips and crushed up biscuits (sweet crunch). I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, crisps in cookies does sound like a step too far, but they are actually pretty delicious with the sweet salty crunchy ingredients really adding to the flavour profile. Go on have a rummage and see what you come up with 🙂

Cupboard Raid Cookies

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

makes 12

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp essence of choice (caramel or vanilla work well)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

40g assorted chocolate chips

20g broken pretzels

20g salted crisps

20g oats

20g crushed biscuits

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and essence.
  4. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips. Then very gently fold in the other additions (remember you can add whatever you like!)
  5. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. I like to press a pretzels piece into the top of each one.
  6. Place spread apart onto the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until turning slightly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up and then move to a wire rack to enjoy.
  7. These will last for a good few days in a sealed container.

Venus Beach Cafes, Devon

After probably the longest winter in living memory the restrictions in the UK are starting to be relaxed and suddenly we don’t need to stay at home, or more recently stay local. We live in a particularly beautiful area but sometimes you also really feel the need to widen your horizons, and particularly get a bit of sea air!

By a fluke of luck we had a mini-break booked in Salcombe, South Devon to start on the 12th April, the day self-catering holidays were first allowed. Boy, were we lucky! We’d only booked it up as we’d been in October just before the November lockdown and had the most horrifically wet and stormy weather and we really wanted to go back and see what Salcombe had to offer. Luckily for us 3 nights were available (the only available dates until October 2021!) and so back in November we snapped them up. For a while it didn’t look like we’d go, but fate was smiling down on us and all the dates slotted into place and we got our holiday! It was so fabulous to go away, enjoy some beautiful beaches and the cute winding streets of the town.

When we visited in October we went on a day trip to Bigbury on Sea and checked out Burgh Island (famous for Agatha Christie and the setting for some of her novels) and warmed ourselves up with tea in the Venus Cafe. Warming our hands on the steaming mugs we noticed the menu looked pretty awesome for us, all allergens clearly stated, plenty of vegan/veggie options and even a selection of safe ice creams. We couldn’t resist and scoffed down Swedish Glace cornettos despite the in climate weather, and then needed to warm up again. Cue a sharing plate of some of the best chips we’ve ever tasted!

Burgh Island

Consequently we were very keen on return to the Venus cafe on this visit. It turns out there are 4 Venus cafes in the Devon area – Blackpool sands, Bigbury on Sea, East Portlemouth and Millendreath, and whilst I’ve only eaten at the Bigbury one, if the others are just as good then they’re well worth hunting out.

Luna our Cavapoo on Bigbury Beach

The Venus cafe is just what you want from a beach cafe, a good selection of ice creams, cooked breakfasts, burgers and toasties and amazing chips! We had to eat outside as that is all that is allowed right now, but what a treat. Delicious safe burgers (toastie for me) and chips followed by ice creams. We couldn’t have asked for a better beach cafe experience.

Not only is the Venus cafe allergy aware but they’re also pretty hot on sustainability, local ingredients and introducing packaging solutions that are kinder to the environment. Venus cafe, we’re big fans of you, your food and ethos, and in our experience you deserve a big allergy applause 🙂

Cinnamon sugar cookies aka snickerdoodles

Don’t you just love the sweet spicy scent of cinnamon? There’s something so warm and inviting about this woody spice, especially when it’s baking in the oven, it makes the house smell like heaven.

Snickerdoodles are a big thing in the USA but until I started fanatically reading recipe books I’d never really come across them in the UK, although I can’t fathom why because they really are a rather superior cookie. Picture if you will, a soft sweet cinnamon scented cookie with crisp chewy edges that has been rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking, giving a crisp spiced sugary shell. See, they really should be a regular feature in the cookie top ten in any country!

For a rather delicious and exciting variation, sandwich two together with some Lotus Biscoff spread and you have a spiced sandwich biscuit of your dreams 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies aka Snickerdoodles

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

makes about 18

180g dairy-free margarine

150g caster sugar

50g soft, light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 tsp ground cinnamon

300g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 and 1/2 tsps cream of tartar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

to roll the cookies in;

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade fan, 200 degrees non-fan. Line two cookie sheets with non-stick parchment
  2. Cream together the margarine, caster and soft brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate, salt and milk and gently bring together to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll large marble sized balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar, place well spaced on the lined cookie sheets and lightly press down.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until puffed up and golden. cool for a couple on minutes on the trays before moving to a wire rack.
  6. store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Triple chocolate hot cross buns

My it’s been a long hard Winter! But at last things are starting to look brighter and the first signs of spring are hitting at the same time as an early Easter. It’s such a joy to see the spring flowers burst through and the first real warm sunshine of the year. It seems like a hopeful time.

Easter means plenty of hot cross buns and chocolate so why not combine both to get the best of both worlds! I really enjoy making hot cross buns, they’re pretty simple but there’s something magical about the soft dough, sweet spice and gorgeous shine.

I have a lot of flavour varieties on my site (just put hot cross buns in the search bar!) but these are particularly rich and decadent so I would urge you to give them a go. Plus the white cross on the dark chocolate dough is particularly striking!

The big question is what variety next? I’m thinking a savoury version (inspired by those cheese and marmite/cheese and chilli ones from M&S), so what this space as I’ll hopefully be able to develop it before next weekend!

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

460g strong bread flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

400ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, dark and white)

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, yeast, sugar, salt and spice. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  7. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

I always like  to have a batch of flapjacks in the freezer. They’re such a great snack and a perfect addition for a packed lunch. Just grab one straight from the freezer in the morning, wrap in parchment and by lunchtime they’re be defrosted and ready to be munched on. I also like the way that a flapjack can fit many different occasions; it can be a substitute breakfast, an energy giving elevenses, a delicious sweet treat or even crumbled onto of yogurt or tweed fruit as an impromptu pudding!

I have many flapjack recipes on my site (just put flapjack into the search bar and you’ll find a whole variety of different flavours), but this one evolved from a few slightly sad looking raspberries left in the fridge. The fruit makes a lovely jammy addition to the flapjacks, the tart sweetness contrasting nicely with the syrupy oats, but i do recommend cooking for a few extra minutes to make up for the additional moisture in the mix.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

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

200g dairy free margarine (I use Pure soya or sunflower)

200g demerara sugar

200g golden syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp freeze-dried raspberry pieces

50g raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with foil
  2. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, and salt. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, stir in the fresh and freeze-dried raspberry pieces
  3. Spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. remove from the oven and press down with a spatula for an even finish
  6. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  7. Try not to eat too many!!