Passion fruit crème brûlée served with passion fruit jellies

Crème brûlée is always a popular pud, I think it’s because everyone loves the thrill of cracking the thin caramalised sugar topping – a dessert with a bit of theatre is always a winner.

The idea for this recipe came from looking through Rick Stein’s French Odyssey in a holiday cottage in Cornwall. This book features a dairy and gelatine heavy passion fruit crème brûlée and passionfruit jellies and I thought it looked like a great flavour for a pudding. So here we have my friendly version, no eggs, cream or gelatine in sight, but a wonderful elegant pudding none-the-less. You could always serve just one or the other, but the combination of creamy crème brûlée  and the zippy jelly really works.

 I’m using Iota, otherwise known as carrageenan iota as a setting agent as it gives great results for a slightly wobbly jelly.

 

Passionfruit Crème Brûlée  

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

 

serves 4

50ml passionfruit puree

50ml dairy-free milk

150ml dairy-free cream

30g caster sugar

1 ½ tbsp cornflour

Another 1 ½ tsp passion fruit puree

4 tsp sugar, to top

  1. Place the 50ml passionfruit puree, milk and cream into a sauce pan. Stir in the sugar and start to heat

2.     Mix the cornflour and 1 ½ tbsp passion fruit puree together to form a smooth liquid

3.     Stir the cornflour paste into the warming cream mixture

4.     Continuously stirring bring the mixture to the boil, at which point it should have thickened. Turn off the heat and divide equally between 4 ramekins.

5.     Place in the fridge to set.

6.     When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each crème and blowtorch or place under the grill until you have a uniform, golden caramel layer. Serve immediately.

Passionfruit Jellies

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

makes 6 passionfruit jellies served in a half skin

3 passion fruits

50g water

1g Iota 

20g sugar

  1. Halve the passion fruits and scoop out the centres, sieve to get a lovely smooth puree. Take 1 tsp of the seeds and place back into the puree. Place in a saucepan with the water.
  2. Remove any membrane from the passionfruit skins and set aside.
  3. Mix together the Iota and sugar, pour into the passion fruit mixture and stir well. It will start to thicken straight away and then liquify when it heats.
  4. Stirring all the time, bring the mixture to a simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour into the empty passion fruit skins and place in the fridge to set

 

Pain Perdu aka French Toast

Pain perdu, French toast, gypsy toast, eggy bread – whatever you call it, this dish is a brilliant one to have in your repertoire. Basically, it’s a batter soaked stale bread made into a sweet or savoury dish, perfect for a quick breakfast, brunch, lunch, pudding or snack. Plus it’s a great way to use up some state bread, you can’t argue with a recipe that does that!

I’ve been attending a plant-based patisserie course to extend my knowledge and I’ve learnt so much, it’s been just brilliant and it’s really going to enhance my recipes 😊 

Last week we made brioche with no butter or eggs – I’ve made a brioche before but the techniques I’ve recently learnt give a much improved rich, but light result and it was the perfect bread to turn into a platter of pain perdu. Like many home baked breads, it went stale fast – making it the perfect vehicle for this new improved recipe.

Dairy-free and egg-free brioche

Don’t worry if you don’t have homemade plant-based brioche on hand (I’m sure not many people will!), any slightly stale sliced bread will do. You’d think you might miss the eggs in an ‘eggy bread’ recipe, but as the principle is soaking the bread in a batter (and pancakes work pretty well being egg-free), this recipe is equally successful. In fact, this recipe just uses some leftovers (stale bread) plus a few store cupboard essentials to combine to make a rather superior dish. If you don’t have any stale bread, just cut some slices an hour or so early and leave out to air dry and you’re good to go.

I’ve flavoured my batter with cinnamon but you don’t have to if you’d rather no spice, or vanilla would be rather lovely too. Serve your pain perdu with berries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a squeeze of honey or syrup for a delightful quick and easy sweet treat.

Pain Perdu

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

30g flour

20g cornflour

30g caster sugar

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Pinch of salt

120g dairy-free milk

6-8 slices of slightly stale bread

  1. Sift the flour and cornflour into a shallow bowl, stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon (if using).
  2. Pour in 1/3rd of the milk whisking together to make a paste, then add the rest in two further additions. This helps avoid lumps forming in the batter – you can of course add the milk in one go if you’re not so bothered about a few small lumps! Let the batter rest for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Place a frying pan on the heat to warm up.
  4. Place the bread slices in the batter, letting them soak up the batter for a couple of minutes before turning over and making sure both sides are drenched in batter.
  5. Melt a knob of vegan butter or 1 tsp of oil in the pan. Drop in a drip of the batter, if it sizzles then you’re ready to add the batter soaked bread
  6. Fry the slices until golden on each side.
  7. Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and drizzled with syrup. A garnish of berries is also rather nice.

Chocolate tiffin mousse cake – my Platinum Pudding worthy of The Queen

Have you tried my magic four ingredient chocolate mousse cake. if you haven’t you really should because it’s a fantastic showstopper made with just a few ingredients. Everyone i’ve ever served it to has loved it! So i thought I’d make a luxury version for my entry to The Platinum Pudding Competition. I was convinced it would be special enough to celebrate the Queen’s special year.

Well, sadly Fortnum’s didn’t think the same and I haven’t made it to the final. To be honest, I think they’re missing the trick, because the beauty of this recipe is that it works with any ingredients, free-from or not, and they can be bought in virtually any shop in nearly every corner of the globe. I even made it with dairy-cream and chocolate to test it out! That involved making it when no-one was home and then thoroughly sanitising the kitchen! Now that was dedication to the cause!


What could be a better, more inclusive celebratory pudding than one anyone can make, that everyone should easily be able to buy the ingredients for, and that can cater for everyone despite any dietary restrictions, and is delicious and celebratory? Well, The Queen might not benefit from this delicious pudding, but you all can. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


The basic premise is a chocolate tiffin (allegedly one of The Queen’s favourite puddings) topped with a light mousse-like chocolate cream and then decorated with some white chocolate and glitter. In my opinion, it’s a definitely pudding fit for The Queen.


Chocolate Tiffin Mousse Cake

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


Makes one 18-20cm cake

85g dairy-free chocolate

60g dairy-free margarine or butter

2 tbsp golden syrup, honey or maple syrup

8 biscuits, roughly broken (such as digestives, ginger nuts or rich tea)

200ml (one pack) dairy-free whipping cream , I used Oatly whippable

150g dairy-free dark chocolate or 175g dairy-free milk chocolate

  1. Grease and line a springform cake tin
  2. Melt together the 85g chocolate, margarine and syrup.
  3. Roughly break the biscuits and add to the chocolate mix, stir well so they are well covered. Press into the base of the cake tin and place in the fridge to set.
  4. Whip the whipping cream on high speed for at least two minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  5. In a microwave or a Bain Marie melt the chocolate, let cool a little.
  6. Gently stir the chocolate into the cream until well combined.
  7. Pour onto the biscuit base and level off the top.
  8. Place in the fridge to set.
  9. Remove from the tin and decorate as desired.

Spiced apple galette

This is the perfect last minute pudding for when you have nothing planned or unexpected guests. it’s maybe the easiest and prettiest tart you could make, and I guarantee everyone will be impressed by your fine pastry skills!

I’m not a particular fan of apple pie, but this galette is a class above and has a delicate refined taste.

I’ve added cinnamon and the biscoff spread for a Christmas vibe, but feel free to mix it up. Apples straight onto the pastry is good, as is a layer of apricot jam.

Spiced Apple Galette

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

makes 1 tart, which serves 4-6

  • 1 pack of puff pastry, shop bought is fine as long as its definitely dairy-free
  • 10g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 1-2 crisp eating apples, I used Jazz apples
  • 2 tbsp Biscoff spread
  • 2 tbsps caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Icing sugar, to sprinkle
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6
  2. Roll out the pastry to 1/2 cm thick, then score round a dinner plate to make a perfect circle.
  3. Transfer to an un-greased baking sheet.
  4. Score a circular ring round the pastry, 1cm from the edge. Spread the Biscoff spread over the centre
  5. Quarter and core the apples (no need to peel unless you really want to), cut into very thin slices.
  6. Decoratively arrange the slices onto the pastry circle.
  7. Brush the pastry and apples with the melted margarine.
  8. Generously and evenly sprinkle the caster sugar and cinnamon over the top of the tart.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and the pastry is cooked through.
  10. Dust the top with icing sugar. At this point you can blow torch the icing sugar to give an extra cramaleized top, but it’s fine if you want to miss out that extra step.
  11. Serve warm or at room temperature with dairy-free ice cream, custard or pouring dairy-free cream.

Nut-free Pecan Pie

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? For us it’s familiar from cinema but not in real life. But I find celebrations are always a great source of inspiration, and I felt that it would be a good way to grab some inspiration before we’re full steam ahead in the preparations for Christmas!

I was researching recipes to recreate for a friendly Thanksgiving and came across a pecan pie. Then a little light bulb went on, don’t pretzels looks a little like pecans? Well, maybe it just me that’s seen that connection! Perhaps, I could recreate all the yumminess of a pecan pie with no nuts? I really wasn’t sure it would work, but it seems people have made dairy and egg free pecan pies, so if I add that concept to my pretzel instead of pecan idea, then we might have a plan!

First I needed some sweet pastry, but I also wanted some added flavour (without added nuts), so I’ve included some blitzed up Biscoff biscuit crumbs to add a sweet spicy taste. It actually works wonderfully. Who’d have thought biscuit crumbs in a pastry dough would be a good idea.

The filling is loosely based upon the vegan pecan pie recipes I found during my research – combining silken tofu with soft brown sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Plus some added crushed pretzels for crunch.

The resulting pretzel ‘pecan’ pie has worked far better than I expected; the filling is sweet but spicy with a good texture and the topping of pretzels gives a salty crunch which contrasts brilliantly. I urge you to give this nut, egg and dairy free ‘pecan’ pie a go, hopefully you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as we were, even our American guest approved. 🙂 I might even be tempted to pretend we celebrate Thanksgiving just to bake another one this week!

Biscoff Sweet Pastry

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

 Makes 1 tart case

 

150g plain flour

50g Biscoff biscuits (about 6) blitzed to a powder

40g icing sugar

Pinch of salt

45g vegetable fat

45g dairy-free margarine

4-6 tsp cold water

 

  1. Mix together the flour, salt, biscuit crumbs and icing sugar
  2. Rub in the fats until you have a texture that resembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Add the cold water, 1 tsp at a time to form a dough, knead lightly until you have a smooth ball.
  4. Between 2 sheets of baking paper, roll out so it’s big enough to cover the tart tin. Place in the fridge and chill well (the colder the better)
  5. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  6. Line the tart tin with the pastry, if it cracks (it’s delicate dough) just press some dough into any gaps. Fill with parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans, prick the base with a fork and bake for another 10 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool.

 

Nut-free Pean Pie

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

 Fills one tart case

 

200g silken tofu

150g soft brown sugar

100ml maple syrup

2 tbsp flavourless oil

1 and ½ tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp cornflour

44g pretzels (this was 2 mini bags but around 40-50g is a good amount)

 

  1. Melt the sugar, syrup and oil together until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Cool.
  2. Blend together the tofu with all the ingredients except the pretzels, until you have a smooth mixture. Roughly crush have the pretzels and stir through
  3. Pour into the tart case and top with the remaining pretzels
  4. Bake at 170 degrees Centigrade for around 45 minutes Keep an eye on the pastry, if it starts getting too dark, loosely cover with foil
  5. Leave to cool. The texture firms up over time and I’d say next day is perfect.

Easy Cinnamon Bun Twists

I love an easy pastry, one of those recipes that throw a few ingredients together and end up with a superb tasty sweet treat that everyone wows over. These easy cinnamon bun twists are just that, taking only a few minutes and little skill to end up with something that’s sure to get plenty of compliments. After all, who doesn’t love the sweet combination of spiced sugar with flaky crisp pastry?

These little puff pastry twists filled with a sugar and cinnamon mixture, akin to the filling of a cinnamon bun make a drool-worthy delicious pastry. Serve them as a quick homemade easy breakfast cinnamon roll, a perfect addition to coffee time or as a dessert with a pile of berries and some cream or ice cream.

The twisting may make these pastries look fancy but it’s terribly easy – just hold both ends and twist each away from each other until you have a loose ringlet of dough. Once baked they’ll puff up into a delightful twist of deliciousness. You don’t need to add the icing but i do think it makes them seem a bit more like a cinnamon bun, and who doesn’t love a little drizzle of icing?

Easy Cinnamon Bun Twists

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

makes 8-10

1 pack ready make puff pastry (ready rolled is easiest as you already have the required rectangle)

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

3 tbsp caster sugar

3 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp icing sugar to dust the pastries before baking

water icing (3tbsp icing sugar mixed with 1-2 tsp water)

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment
  2. Roll out the puff pastry and spread half with the margarine, sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon
  3. Fold over and cut into 8-10 stops with the one end being held together where the join is (it’s easiest to use a pizza roller)
  4. Twist each strip into a pastry ringlet and place on the lined baking sheet. Dust with the 1tbsp icing sugar
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
  6. Cool and then drizzle with the water icing.

Tarte aux Framboises (Raspberry Tart)

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I’ve updated this delicious celebratory tart with a far better Creme Patissiere recipe. One of my lovely followers has a daughter who is using this recipe for her GSCE food tech exam. I’m so proud and happy that she is using one of my recipes! Anyway, they were having problems with the original recipe and the creme pat was ending up lumpy. Seriously not good, and I felt so bad that one of my recipes was failing at such a crucial time. So, the recipe has been tested and tweaked and we now have a creme pat that is as smooth as you like. Good Luck Charlotte, I hope the teachers like the result 🙂

There’s so much more buzz around free-from than when I started my blog 7 years ago, and certainly many more products for sale (although I’d have to say the egg-free options are still sadly lacking) which is fantastic. But, it seems to me that lots of the products and recipes available fail to think about flavour or appearance. I don’t see why a free-from foodstuff should not be as pretty as a ‘conventional’ one and it should certainly taste as good. I bought some highly recommended ‘freeform’ doughnuts recently – they looked great but oh my, I have never eaten anything so heavy or unappealing masquerading as a doughnut before! In fact both girls took a bite and threw them straight in the bin, which was especially galling as they’d cost a pretty penny! Why do people accept such offerings? Maybe deep-down inside many people think sweet treats can’t be really tasty without dairy or eggs?! Well, I’m telling you they can be (sometimes they can be far nicer!). Ok, they’re often not identical, but I’m on a mission to prove the friendly food can be delicious food – there’s no making do or missing out with my recipes!

This tarte aux framboise is a perfect example. I think it looks good (I hope you agree!) and it certainly tastes good – I ramped up the vanilla in the creme patisseriere to compensate for the richness which is lost when eggs are not used. I don’t think anyone feels like they were eating an inferior ‘free-from alternative’ –  so job done 🙂

Whilst the delicate arranging of fruit makes this tart look complex it really is very simple – a crisp blind baked pastry case (shop bought shortcrust pastry is fine), a rich vanilla scented custard, fresh fruit and an apricot jam based glaze. All that is required is a little patient arranging and you have a pudding worthy of any patisserie window! p.s. note the difference between the next two photos – the apricot glaze really is the icing on the cake!

Tarte aux Framboises

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

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make one 12 inch tart

for the pastry case:

1 recipe shortcrust or 1pack of shortcrust pastry

  1. Follow this recipe substituting dairy-free margarine for the butter, or use shop bought that is dairy-free
  2. Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin. Fill with cling-film or parchment filled with baking beans. Bake at 200 degrees Centigrade (180 degrees Fan) for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further five minutes until golden. Cool.

for the creme patisseriere:

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1/2 cup corn flour (cornstarch)

2 cups dairy-free milk

1/3-1/2 cup caster sugar (depending on how sweet your tooth is)

1tsp vanilla paste or extract or seeds from I vanilla pod

Salt, a pinch

  1. Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla into a saucepan. Heat until hot but not boiling.
  2. Pour the cornflour into a bowl, stir in a small amount of the hot milk mixture to make a smooth paste. Then add the rest of the milk mixture and stir well.
  3. Return to the saucepan and stir continuously whilst heating. It will initially look like it’ll become lumpy, but these will disappear as it gets thicker. You want it to be thick enough to be able to be piped.
  4. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film (touching the top of the creme pat so no skin forms) and leave to cool

for the nappage (glaze):

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tbsp water

  1. To make the nappage (apricot jam glaze) heat the apricot jam with 1 tbsp water (strain if lumpy) until bubbly and sticky.
  2. Brush over the fruit whilst hot

to assemble:

  1. Whisk the creme pat thoroughly and either pipe or spoon a 1/2 cm layer into the tart shell.
  2. Top with raspberries (whole or sliced in half) and bush with hot nappage.
  3. Leave to cool before eating.

Dairy-free Pain au Chocolat – New Improved Recipe

 

One of the true joys of a French holiday are morning trips to the boulangerie to buy fresh crusty baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Every morning, little S would come and buy the fresh bread and pastries first thing and then look enviously at our pain au chocolat on the breakfast table. So I made a promise to make a batch on return.

Since last summer’s wonderful holiday in Corsica, I’ve got in the habit of regularly making friendly pain au chocolat for the girls. It’s been a mixed blessing, they’ve got rather used to freshly made viennoiserie for breakfast, so I end up making them often which takes time, but my croissant dough skiIlls have improved dramatically.

This new improved recipe has been gradually tweaked over the last year and I think we’ve finally got a jolly authentic, flaky and ‘buttery’ dough. The lamination has proved the tricky part of the recipe. Besides being the most time consuming aspect, I suffered for months with the layers simply disappearing which is really demoralising when you’ve spent hours putting them there in the first place! After some in-depth research it seems the crucial detail for lamination is that the fat content of the ‘butter replacement’ has to be around 82%. It’s that precise. In the UK our dairy-free margarines are predominantly water-based with fat coming way down the list of ingredients. If you use such a margarine the water just makes steam and you get a bready dough rather than buttery flaky layers. Makes total sense doesn’t it.

After much experimentation I’ve found that it works best to combine a mixture of dairy-free margarine such as Pure with a baking spread such as Stork (in the foil wrapper) and a touch of flour. This combination makes a great fat-rich butter substitute which also provides the right ‘buttery’ flavour.

Surely a good flaky Pain au Chocolat is possibly the most perfect breakfast item ever 🙂

Dairy-free Homemade Pain au Chocolat

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

makes 16

500g strong bread flour

90g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

10g salt

100ml dairy-free milk (I used Oatly)

250ml cold water

150g dairy-free margarine

150g baking fat

1 tbsp flour

160g dark dairy-free chocolate chopped into batons

a sprinkle of caster sugar

melted dairy-free margarine for brushing

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Pour in the dairy-free milk and water and stir. Once come together, knead well to form a soft and springy dough (about 5-10 minutes).
  3. Cover and leave to rise for a couple of hours
  4. Meanwhile, put the dairy-free margarine on to some cling film, sprinkle with the flour and then top with the baking fat (making a kind of sandwich affair) and loosely wrap. Roll out to a square shape, and place in the fridge or freezer to harden.
  5. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough. Cut a cross on top of the dough ball and roll out the leaves (see photo below)
  6. Place the cooled ‘butter’ in the middle and fold the four flaps over the ‘butter’ making sure it is entirely encased with dough.
  7. Roll out and fold into thirds twice
  8. Place back in the fridge for thirty minutes or so, then roll out and fold back into thirds twice more. Repeat two or three times.
  9. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes more.
  10. Roll out to form a large rectangle. Cut into four long strips, halve each.
  11. Place a line of chocolate at one narrow end and roll over to cover. Add another chocolate baton and continue rolling up.
  12. Loosely cover with cling film and let rise on the baking tray for 30 minutes.
  13. Brush with the melted margarine and sprinkle with caster sugar
  14. Bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes 

 

Afternoon Tea at The Langham Hotel, London

children's afternoon tea menu at The Langham Hotel

I’m always astounded by my girls that they have never made a fuss, never whined and whinged about having food allergies. They’ve always just taken the whole thing in their stride, but for the first time at the age of 12 Big S has voiced a complaint. We were on holiday and the children’s menu came with ice cream – clearly a no go, but the nice waiter claimed there was a dairy-free sorbet. Having searched extensively in France for a safe sorbet and never having found one, we were sceptical, and there was no possibility to check the label ourselves. Besides, we were on a lovely day out on a beautiful beach and had to factor in scoops with ice cream traces having been used in the sorbet tub (happened more than once before), so we erred on the side of caution and said no. For the first time she voiced how unfair it is. We felt awful, it’s such a little thing, but being able to eat an icy dessert on a hot day can make have a big impact on your enjoyment, especially if you’re young.

the Langham Hotel

Anyway, it gave me the push to make plans that I’ve been harbouring for a little while come true. We’re massive fans of the Great British Bake Off Creme de la Creme (you may not know but the wonderful Claire Clark taught me patisserie when I studied at Le Cordon Bleu) and I’d heard that Cherish Findan, one of the other judges, serves a vegan afternoon tea at The Langham Hotel in London. Maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to make a fancy 5* tea for us too?? So I contacted Cherish and the hospitality team at the Langham, and yes they’d be delighted to cater for us and give us a memorable afternoon. Wow, exciting! The sorbet incident was long forgotten, luxury tea here we come!
children's afternoon tea The Langham Hotel, dairy-free egg-free

The hospitality and bookings team were most helpful (no doubt they always are in such a luxurious hotel, sadly I’m not so familiar with such surroundings 😦 … Yet!) I went through our multiple requirements many times and was reassured that we’d be admirably catered for. The only caveat was that nuts are used in the kitchen. How could they not be in a kitchen serving fine patisserie? So they couldn’t guaranteed no traces of nuts. Little S is ok with most nuts; peanuts and sesame are our problems, so we took the decision that just this once for an ultimate treat we’d go with a nut warning. I also wanted the discussions over and done with in advance – the girls have to always put up with conversations with waiting staff who then to and fro to the kitchen, ferrying labels and often knocking choices off the limited menu as they go. Just for once, I wanted us to go to a restaurant and eat wonderful food with no fuss. We were also all going to have dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free versions so we could taste each other’s delights.

We booked it for the 1st September just before the shock of the start of Autumn and the return to school after a long, magical summer. Yes, you bet were we excited! We talked of the forthcoming treat daily, and planned what to wear, guessed what we might eat. Little S had high hopes of vegan macarons but I kind of knew that it wouldn’t be that experimental, there’s no reason for a usual pastry chef to have worked out the magic of aquafaba just yet!

So what was it like? It was totally magical. Expensive yes, but we felt like true VIPs for the afternoon, and that is priceless when you’re used to multiple long conversations with catering staff, limited choice on menus and indeed limited destinations to eat out.

vegan afternoon tea at The Langham

We entered through the marble lined entrance hall, waited on by top hatted doormen and the first impression was, wow, what is that divine smell? It wasn’t food or perfume, it was just a delightful aroma. If this is what top hotels are like, I’d love to visit more often! Of course you have to check the bathrooms in these places, no?  Gilded features, soft music, freshly laundered individual hand towels and beautifully scented soap and hand cream. Check!

Palm Court at The Langham

The actual dining room of Palm Court is stunning. The epitome of luxury, with stunning chandeliers, softly played piano, extremely comfortable squidgy chairs and wonderful Art Deco features. This was going to be special. The girls were having the Hamleys children’s tea so were greeted by wonderful cuddly complimentary teddy bears holding their menu.

We were first offered drinks. The girls had a choice of strawberry and kiwi tea, fruit juice or hot chocolate. They chose fruit juice with was refreshed at regular intervals in our two hour sitting. Now neither D nor I drink tea, but were persuaded to try the drink of choice. I sampled the Langham blend which was without doubt the nicest tea I have ever tasted – taken black it had a light, delicate and flavourful with none of the bitter tannins I associate with tea. I wonder if they sell this blend anywhere as I could develop a serious habit with this one. The waiting staff were attentive and discreet which is probably perfect as waiting staff go.

strawberry sorbet lolly dipped in sherbet, vegan

Then the food started to arrive – wow! The girls began with a strawberry sorbet lolly dipped in strawberry sorbet which was probably the most strawberry tasting thing we have ever eaten. The looks on their faces were priceless as they savoured every last morsel. This was far better than a sorbet on holiday. D and I were served vegetarian champagne jellies flecked with gold flakes. I don’t make this kind of thing at home!

vegetarian champagne jelly

Next up were the sandwiches – the girls’ were cut like interlocking jigsaw pieces and contained ham, smoked salmon, red pepper and cucumber. There was an uncomfortable moment when we were told the red pepper also contained hummus which is obviously a no-go due to sesame, but thankfully it was a slip of the tongue, hummus had been kept out of our sandwiches. The adult vegetarian range included sweet red pepper, guacamole, cucumber and tapenade. And they kept coming, we had to refuse the multiple rounds which kept on being offered after a while.

vegan sandwiches at The Langham

The girls then had their teddy bears picnic pastries – a vanilla carousel cake, a chocolate and raspberry cake, mango pate des fruits and a mango and pomegranate jelly all served with a rich chocolate drink and a bag of sweets. The highlights were certainly the cupcake and sweeties. The chocolate drink was actually too intense and the chocolate cake not as stunning as I hoped for, but overall we were mightily happy.

vegan children's afternoon tea

For the adults tea we had plain and fruit scones which were out of this world delicious. I think I make good scones but these had a wonderful glazed top and finer texture – they were heaven on a plate served with wonderful soft set strawberry jam. Honestly we’d have been happy to finish there, but next came the cakes! We had thought before that we might be hungry when we left, it was only afternoon tea after all, but we certainly didn’t need to worry at all!

plain and fruit scones, vegan

Our vegan/vegetarian version contained three sponges of which the raspberry was my favourite, along with a chopped pineapple cocktail and the most wonderful light and crispy shortbread. I cannot fault the food in any way, it was wonderful especially if you take into account our various difficult requirements.

vegan afternoon tea at The Langham

Just two negatives soured the occasion – we didn’t mention anything as we didn’t want to make a fuss and it was overall amazing and they’d gone to so much trouble. But, my vegetarian sandwich had a bit of ham stuck to the bottom – not nice! And worse for us was the waiter who came to chat about our requirements and started asking if any of us were ‘normal’ or we all had allergies – I’d just wanted to avoid that ‘oh you’re not normal’ attitude for once. He meant well certainly, but it was just a bit clumsy.
All in all I salute you the catering team at Palm Court, our requirements aren’t easy to cater for, especially when you’re also producing world class patisserie for other clientele. The whole occasion was an ultimate luxury treat and we were admirably catered for.

At one point one of the chefs came out to chat and offered a tour of the kitchen to our girls, but sadly we had to leave before he reappeared. We also saw Cherish herself on our way out, managing to thank her for the wonderful experience but I was not bold enough to have a proper conversation! But if you’re reading this Cherish, thank you so much you really made our day a very special occasion. We very much hope to return one day.

Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way for this review.

dairy-free, egg-free afternoon tea

Lemon Sherbet Drizzle Cake

lemon sherbet drizzle cake, dairy-free egg-free nut-free

One of the few joys of the summer holidays drawing to an end and Autumn approaching is the return of the Great British Bake Off. It’s such great family friendly viewing, and a fantastic place to get some baking inspiration. On last week’s first show of the series, a drizzle cake was the signature bake, and who can resist a wonderful zingy drizzle cake like this traybake version based upon Mary’s own favourite recipe.

However, even better in my opinion is this lemon sherbet drizzle which is doused in a sherbety citrus syrup whilst still warm, giving the ultimate in sweet zippy citrus flavour and sticky, gooey top. This cake really packs in the zing factor so it’s one of Big S’s favourites – she has a particular fondness for anything zingy. In fact, it’s been the family favourite for many years, wheeled out for any celebration when a chocolate cake doesn’t quite fit! Try it, you’ll love it!

Lemon Sherbet Drizzle Cake

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

vegan lemon drizzle cake

Makes one 1lb loaf cake

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

a pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml soya milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp lemon essence (optional)

For the syrup:

zest and juice of two and a half lemons

6 tbsps icing sugar

  1. Sift together the flour, bicarb and salt. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the dairy-free milk, lemon juice, lemon essence and oil.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until combined into a smooth mixture
  4. Pour into a lined loaf tin.
  5. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for approx. 30 minutes (until a knife comes out clean)
  6. While the cake is baking, make the syrup.
  7. Combine the juice, zest and icing sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until gorgeously syrupy.
  8. When the cake is cooked, take out of oven but leave in the tin and stab all over the top with a knife. Evenly pour over the syrup and leave to cool in the tin. I added a sprinkle of pearl sugar for added crunch.
  9. Remove from tin and sprinkle top with icing sugar, if desired.

dairy-free egg-free lemon sherbet drizzle cake