Easter Rocky Road

Happy Easter (or just long bank holiday weekend) everyone 🐣

We’re been so lucky this year with a glorious sunny weekend, filled with plenty of time outside enjoying the countryside, having Easter Egg hunts or just gardening. It’s been a really joyous and sunny way to spend a long weekend.

Chocolate is everywhere at easter time, which certainly poses it’s problems for the food-allergy family. Things have definitely improved, but still the majority of Easter treats (and particularly child oriented ones) have to be avoided. Oh to be able to buy candy shelled mini-eggs just like everyone else!

To ensure the chocolate quota is at maximum for everyone I’ve made wonderfully spring-themed rocky road, decorated with homemade mini-eggs (melted dairy-free chocolate set in a mould with a glitter coating) and the obligatory mini fluffy chicks! Also called tiffin or chocolate biscuit cake, this combination of roughly crushed biscuits, rice crisps and marshmallows enrobed in chocolate will delight nearly everyone.

This is also the perfect recipe to use up any leftover chocolate, take away the Easter adornments and you have the perfect teatime treat for any time of year 🙂

Easter Rocky Road

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

makes 12 or so bars

160g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped

60g dairy-free margarine

25g golden syrup

100g chocolate biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Lotus biscuits that are (currently) dairy, egg and nut-free)

25g Rice Krispies

50g mini vegetarian marshmallows (or use normal if you’re not vegetarian/vegan)

homemade mini-eggs, jelly eggs and sprinkles to decorate

  1. Line a square brownie tin with non-stick parchment
  2. Melt together the chocolate, margarine and syrup, either in a microwave or over a bain marie
  3. Stir in the crushed biscuits, Rice Krispie and marshmallows.
  4. Evenly spread into the tin and press down.
  5. Scatter over some sprinkles and press the mini and jelly eggs on top for an extra dose of fun
  6. Leave to set in the fridge.
  7. Cut into bars.

Easter Biscuits

 

Easter is such an exciting time of year; spring is finally upon us with all it’s delights of cheeping birds, frolicking lambs and beautiful flowers and it feels like everything is just starting again after the fallow winter months. Easter seems to literally put the spring into everyone’s steps, and we start to look forward again. I feel this in terms of cooking as well as nature, suddenly fresh inspiration hits and there are so many more options open to me. I can’t wait to use all those spring flavours in the next few months. 🙂

I have many Easter themed recipes on my blog, and not surprisingly lots of them feature a lot of chocolate. However, even though they’re a personal favourite, I’ve never made traditional Easter biscuits. These customary cookies are a celebration of Easter time combining a subtle ‘hot cross bun’ spice with pretty decoration or dried fruit. These biscuits lend themselves equally well to the addition of the traditional juicy currants and crunchy caster sugar topping, or the somewhat fancier crispy yet soft cover of pretty pastel hued icing. Serve these to make a nice change from the chocolate overload and everyone will be happy come Easter weekend!

Easter Biscuits

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

 

makes lots, at least 20 large cookies

300g plain flour

2 tbsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

115g vegetable fat (I used Trex)

115g dairy-free margarine (Pure)

225g sugar (either caster or granulated)

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60ml dairy-free milk

60g currants (if making fruited variety)

  1. Sift together the flour, cornflour, spices, salt and baking powder.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the fat, spread and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the dairy-free milk and whisk again.
  3. Add the flour mix and carefully combine. Stir in the currants if using.
  4. Roll out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake at 180 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden round the edges
  5. Cool on the sheet before moving to a wire rack.
  6. if making the fruity variety, sprinkle with caster sugar whilst hot.

for the royal icing:

3 tbsps aquafaba (water from a tin of beans or chickpeas)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

dairy-free milk to thin the icing

food colouring as desired

  1. In a stand mixer, or an electric whisk, whisk together all the ingredients until a smooth thick paste is created.
  2. Colour as desired. I split the mixture into two, and then coloured each with natural food colouring.
  3. Thin each colour with a splash of milk to make the icing a good consistency to coat the biscuits (thick, but thin enough to pipe!)
  4. Pipe as desired
  5. Let set but leaving at room temperature for a good few hours. If you dare, return the iced biscuits to the oven for a couple of minutes for a smooth shiny finish and then leave to set.

Marshmallow Filled Chocolate Cookies

Cookies are a perennial favourite in this household, and for the majority chocolate wins every everytime. So as you can imagine, I spend a lot of time thinking up new exciting cookie ideas. I can think of a lots worse ways to spend my time!

So picture a deep, intense freshly baked chocolate cookie, with crisp edges and a soft and slightly chewy interior? Sounds good? Well, let me make it even better….. Now picture a deeply chocolatey freshly baked cookie, with crisp edges and a soft and slightly chewy interior, wrapped around a sweet vanilla melted marshmallow with has remained gooey even once it has set. That does sound better doesn’t it!

These mallow stuffed cookies are a revelation, they’ve quickly become a firm favourite. Little S took one into school in her packed lunch and her friends all asked for a nibble and then asked where to buy them. High praise indeed 🙂

Marshmallow Filled Chocolate Cookies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan [if using vegan mallows])

makes about 9

200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar

115g (1/2 cup) dairy-free spread

2 tbsps golden syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla

30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder

150g (1and1/4 cups) plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

For the filling:

standard size marshmallows

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Cream together the spread, sugar, syrup and vanilla. Sift in the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt and mix to a stiff dough.
  3. Take tablespoon or two sized amounts of the chocolate dough and pat out to a small round. Place a marshmallow in the middle of each and bring the sides up and around to form a chocolate ball with no gaps.
  4. Place on a lined cookie sheet and slightly press down with the fronts of a fork.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool for a couple more minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. These cookies keep well for a few days in a sealed container, and are lovely warmed for 20 seconds in a microwave before eating.

 

Perfect Egg-free and Dairy-free Pancakes

 

I haven’t posted a pancake recipe for ages, but since it’s Shrove Tuesday, today is the day for an updated version. I first devised my pancake recipe when Big S was in nursery and everyone else was partaking in pancake day, and i just couldn’t let her miss out. It was moments like these that were the driving force for starting, and then carrying in my blog. Food is such a big part of life, particularly any social or celebratory occasions that I have always been desperate to make sure my girls (and everyone else with allergies) don’t feel left out.

This pancake recipe is as simple as anything and gives fabulous results from a few store cupboard ingredients. They have a bit more pouf than traditional English style pancakes or French crepes; think one step towards a big puffy American version. We’ll be having them tonight for Shrove Tuesday with sugar and lemon or garnished with Plamil chocolate spread – delicious 🙂

These also make a wonderful breakfast, and also reheat successfully so you can make a batch on a Sunday and have exciting breakfasts for the next few days. I’ve added the quantities in both grams and cup measurements because pancakes are sometimes easier to make using cups than scales

Perfect Egg-free and Dairy-free Pancakes

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

makes 10-12 small or 6-8 large pancakes

 120g plain flour (1 cup)

2 tsp baking powder

30g caster sugar (2 tbsp)

pinch of salt

2 tbsp sunflower oil

250ml dairy-free milk (1 cup)

  1. Sift the flour and mix in the other dry ingredients
  2. Add oil and dairy-free milk and whisk until smooth, add more oat milk as necessary to make a ‘single cream’ consistency
  3. Fry on both sides in a hot pan wiped with a smear of sunflower oil
  4. Eat hot topped with lemon and sugar, honey, maple syrup etc.

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.

Jamaican Spiced Banana Bread

This time of  year is perfect for a culinary road trip, a way to pretend you’re in sunnier climes that the cold grey of February. Although to be fair it’s been pretty sunny this week, but not as sunny as the Caribbean where I’m taking you today (without leaving home).

We used to visit a small local farmers’ market when we lived in South London at which there was a family-run stall selling only home-made Jamaican loaves and breads. They were fabulous. I seem to remember one banana loaf being the perfect food after giving birth to my eldest. And they were vegan too – it was my first introduction to vegan cakes and how wonderful they can be. I’ve since searched and searched for a suitable recipe but not found one. The family in question stopped selling at this market, and we moved away from the area anyway. So here’s my take on a spiced banana bread… It’s really wholesome and tasty, with warm spices and tons of banana flavour, but still not quite like the one I remember. If you were that family who sold those spiced loaves at Abbeville Road farmer’ market, Clapham or know who they are, do get in touch. I’d happily travel to get hold of more!

The spicing in this recipe is quite mild so if you’re a spice fan I’d recommend doubling the spices for extra oomph! I particularly like the half banana on the top of the loaf, it certainly says what is in the tin, and a little crunchy sugar gives a nice contrast in texture, but both are totally optional and won’t alter the inherent spiced banana nature of the loaf.

Jamaican Spiced Banana Bread

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

 

makes 1 loaf

225g plain flour

2 heaped tsps baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g muscovado sugar

3 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

pinch of salt

1 tbsp rum or oat milk

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

A banana sliced lengthwise for decoration (optional)

Pearl or Demerara sugar for extra crunch

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5. Line a loaf tin and set aside.
  2. Whisk together the mashed banana, sugar, oil and vanilla.
  3. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, bicarb, spices and salt.
  4. Mix to a dough, adding the rum/oat milk if it looks a bit dry.
  5. Pour into the loaf tin and sprinkle the top with the halved banana and some Demerara or pearl sugar
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden on top and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin before transferring to a wire rack.
  8. To freeze, wrap well and freeze whole. Defrost at room temperature before unwrapping.