Sensational Scones

You’ve got to love scones; light, fluffy, just sweet enough and the perfect carrier for a delicious topping. No proper afternoon tea is right without a batch of warm scones, and this recipe always goes down a storm. You can even freeze them, defrost, pop into the oven for a couple of minutes and then you can have an elegant afternoon tea in a flash.

When we had our stressful tea at Pan Pacific we met Cherish Finden and she said that scones were the most difficult thing to recreate free-from. Now these aren’t gluten-free (but I know others who make them gluten-free), but I can assure you that these are just as good as a traditional scone. Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think?


The most crucial part of scone making is a light touch – you must add air whilst rubbing in the margarine and definitely no kneading! Just very lightly bring together the dough and you’ll have some sensational scones. Just add some jam and dairy-free whipped cream and you can have a sensational tea at home.


Sensational Scones

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

  • makes 10-12
    • 450g plain flour
    • 3 tsps baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 75g dairy-free margarine
    • 70g soft brown sugar
    • 300ml dairy-free milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
    • 2 tbsp Demerara or granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 6
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the salt. Stir in the sugar.
  3. With your fingertips, gently rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and vanilla essence (if using).
  5. Bring together to a very soft, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface and very gently bring together to a soft, smooth dough.
  6. Pat out with your fingers until 3 cm thick.– Cut out with a well-floured 6cm cookie cutter (or whatever size you choose)
  7. Place on an oiled and floured baking sheet. Brush the tops with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with Demerara or granulated sugar.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.– Cool on a wire rack.

Tropical Granola Bars

 There’s something so handy about a cereal or granola bar, the can fit into so many situations – breakfast on the run, a quick pre-lunch snack, a picnic staple, or a post-workout refuel. As people are heading back into offices, these could be the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich in a packed lunch.

 When I used to go into an office regularly I always felt super pleased if I had a homemade packed lunch addition, rather than an additive filled less superior shop bought bar; hopefully these will make you just as pleased too 😊

This recipe is loosely based upon Yotam Ottolenghi’s Granola Bar recipe form the original ‘The Cookbook’, so you know they have good pedigree, and they have to taste delicious.

 

Tropical Granola Bars

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

 Makes 8 large bars

 

22g dried cranberries or sultanas

22g dried mango, chopped

22g dried pineapple, chopped

120g oats

22g sunflower seeds

15g desiccated coconut

50g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup or honey

50g demerara sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

 

  1. Place the dried fruits into a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Then drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, drained dried fruit and coconut and set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan melt together the margarine, syrup and sugar until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  6. Fold in the oat and fruit mixture, adding the salt and cinnamon. Make sure the mixture is well combined.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined loaf tin, press down and level off.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Remove from the tin and cool completely before cutting into bars.
  10. These bars keep well for up to a week if placed in an airtight container.

Bounty flapjacks

Well , doesn’t it truly feel like we’ve been in January for about 3 months so far? What is it about the post Christmas/New Year period where everything seems to slow down and weeks drag on forever?

It also means that we’re well back into the routine of packed lunches and working lunches, so I needed some tasty additions to pop in along with the usual sandwiches. Flapjacks are a brilliant packed lunch option – they’re slow release energy oats but also bundles of sugar to keep the spirits and energy levels up. People seem to presume that flapjacks are healthy because they’re made of oats, all I can say is that they surely have never made their own as they’d know how much sugar/syrup they contain!

We particularly like coconut flapjacks, and this recipe is a riff on that, Bounty flapjacks featuring a coconutty flapjack base and then a dark chocolate and coconut topping. These little bites of paradise will certainly help you get through the never ending January days!

Bounty Flapjacks

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

  • 200g dairy free margarine
  • 200g demerara sugar
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 400g oats (preferably not giant oats)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 85g dark dairy-free chocolate
  •  
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix in the oats and coconut (keeping aside 1 tbsp of coconut for the topping)
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the bars, sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top

Samosa Santa’s Sacks

I used to make Santa’s sacks for the girls every year in the run up to Christmas. Back when they were much younger with less sophisticated taste buds I made them filled with mashed potato and sweetcorn to represent the gold coins/toys in Santa’s sack. Every year they’d eagerly await the roll out of Christmas cooking with iced gingerbread, yule log and Santa’s sacks all top of the wish list!

 Whilst they still get the same excitement from the introduction of Christmas foods, this year I’ve decided to make Santa’s sacks more flavourful, and worthy of starter position in our Christmas lunch. We love homemade samosas, so I’ve filled the little parcels with a gorgeous curried pea and potato mix and I am going to serve them with a swoosh of mango chutney. If you don’t want to make sacks the filling makes a fabulous traditional samosas which can be baked and then frozen to reheat at a later date.

Another great starter for Christmas day are my cauliflower cocktails (a.k.a. veggie prawn cocktails), especially if you like a slightly retro vibe! What starters are you having on the big day?

Samosa Santa’s Sacks

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

Makes about 15-20

2 baking potatoes

1 tbsp oil

1 onion, finely shopped

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

3cm ginger, finely chopped or grated

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp garam masala

¼ tsp chilli powder (optional)

½ tsp amchoor (or use 1 tsp lemon juice)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp water

1 cup cooked peas

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

1 pack filo pastry

 see the photos below for the processes…

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade non fan/180 degrees fan. Bake the two potatoes for an hour or so until totally cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions and mustard seeds until starting to turn golden. Add the ginger and continue to sauté. 
  3. Add all the spices and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the water and stir, turn off the heat.
  4. Scoop the potato out of the jackets and roughly mash. Stir in the onion mix and add the cooked peas. Mix well and taste, adding more salt and/or lemon juice as required
  5. Cut the filo into squares about 15cm squared. Place one sheet on the work surface, brush with the margarine, place another square onto at an angle so it looks vaguely star shaped. Brush with the margarine.
  6. Place 1 tbsp of filling in the centre of the filo star, bring up the edges and pinch together to form a parcel shape. Transfer to a baking sheet and brush with more melted margarine. Repeat until all the filling has been used up.
  7. Either chill at this point and cook later. Or, bake for 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Tie a chive around the neck of the sack if you wish and then serve with condiments of choice.

Grissini

My second recipe of Advent 2021 is grissini or crunchy breadsticks, a perfect crunchy snack to enjoy at Christmas, or anytime of year 🙂

Years ago we used to be able to buy breadsticks, I think it was the Tesco own brand and they were such a great snack, but then came in the ‘may contain sesame’ warnings and we found there were no safe ones around. There is one a Italian brand which doesn’t contain sesame but you have to bulk buy from Italy so it’s not always the most convenient option! Or you can opt for the gluten-free Schar ones, but your average breadstick grossing is a no-go area for those strictly avoiding sesame.

But breadsticks or grissini are such a great addition to the festive season, alongside some drinks or just to keep the hunger pangs at bay until the meal arrives, I thought it was time to make our own.

We particularly like these as a snack with a fresh tomato sauce and a side of delicious olives. Yum! They’re super easy and rather satisfying and will keep for a day or two, if you have any leftover that is!

The dough isn’t dissimilar to a pizza dough but with additional oil so it gets nice and crispy. You can also make them your own by either adding dried herbs or spices (try oregano, rosemary or chilli) and baking them to your own specification. It turns out we prefer the slightly softer ones so I bake it for 12 minutes but go for 14 or 16 if you like them crunchier.

Breadsticks or Grissini

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

makes 30+

250g flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1 tsp yeast

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150 ml water

herbs to taste,

flakey sea salt

  1. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
  2. Pour in the oil and water and bring to a dough. Knead fir a few minutes until smooth.
  3. Leave to rise, you want it to double in size so maybe an hour or two.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan and knock back the dough. Dust the work surface with flour and a handful of polenta (if you have it). Roll out the dough to a large rectangle, dusting both sides with the flour and polenta mix.
  5. Slice into 1/2cm thick strips and roll each one to become stick shaped. (Either keep long or cut down for short breadsticks.)
  6. Place on a lined baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12-16 minutes depending on how crispy you like them!

Fabulous Vanilla Fudge

Who doesn’t love fudge? The ultimate naughty treat, basically a combination of fat and sugar, is utterly irresistible, well it certainly is in this house! I have a chocolate fudge on my site but i’ve really been wanting to make a perfectly smooth and creamy vanilla fudge, just like those ones you buy in postcard adorned boxes in the West Country.

Having done seeming hours of research it was hard to find a ‘friendly’ version that doesn’t contain a dairy-free condensed milk. Besides having none in, I really wanted a recipe that could be whipped up with ingredients that were already in the larder/fridge. I also wanted to avoid coconut cream as I think it imparts too strong a flavour unless you’re making a coconut variety. But then again, I wanted a smooth creamy finish so it needed to have some creamy addition along with the sugar and margarine.

As often is the right place, I turned to The Guardian and found Felicity Cloakes recipe for the ultimate fudge which features cream, Demerara sugar and golden syrup. Now, those are staple ingredients. We started experimenting and this ended up as the basis for this ‘friendly version’. The Demerara sugar gives a wonderful depth of flavour and the whipping oat cream gives the silkiest, creamiest finish. It may take a good 5-10 minutes of rigorous stirring, but the arm work out is definitely worth it, both for upper arm strength and the resulting divine fudge! I hope you enjoy the results as much as we do – we love it so much that i made two batches in a week!

Fabulous Vanilla Fudge

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

100g dairy-free margarine
550g demerara sugar
200g golden syrup
350ml Oatly whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

1. Melt the margarine, sugar, syrup and cream together over a low heat until all the sugar crystals have dissolved
2. Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Heat, stirring now and then, until it reaches 116 degrees Centigrade.
3. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla and slat and then beat vigorously for 5-10 minutes until the fudge thickens from a liquid to a thick paste. The colour will change to a pale brown fudge colour
4. For into a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment and leave to set. This takes an hour or so as you want it to be fully set before attempting to cut into bite sized cubes.
5. For variety, try topping it which chopped dark chocolate as the bitter chocolate contrasts wonderfully with the sweet smooth fudge.

Blueberry muffins

I do have a fondness for blueberry muffins, they’re a great excuse to eat cake for breakfast, or anytime for that matter! Are blueberry muffins a little out of favour these days? They don’t seem to be on my radar anymore… maybe it’s because you don’t come across them often, or maybe it’s because I don’t get out very often these days 😂

Maybe it’s time to put the humble but rather delicious blueberry muffin centre stage once again? Well you can certainly do just that with these friendly versions. The sponge is light and fluffy just like a muffin should be, and once you’ve added a good handful of blueberries, the fruity tart morsels and delicate sponge make a stunning combination. If like in this house, some people have an aversion to fruit in baked goods, it’s pretty simple to divide the batter and add choc chips to half and blueberries to the other, then everyone is happy 😉

If using choc chips simply replace the lemon zest with 1 tsp vanilla extract and use a big handful of choc chips rather than the blueberries.

These muffins keep well for a few days in a loosely cover container, or freeze well if you’d rather 😀

Blueberry Muffins

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

makes 12

230g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp cornflour

Pinch of salt

170g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon (for the blueberry version)

200ml dairy free milk

70g dairy free margarine, melted

1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar

A big handful of blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade and line a muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and add the zest if using.
  3. Combine the milk, melted margarine and vinegar and pour into the dry ingredients.
  4. Gently mix so the batter is a bit lumpy but there are no patches of raw flour.
  5. Stir in the blueberries.
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner and bake for 15-20 minutes until we’ll risen and golden. Cool.

Tropical flapjacks

Sunny days call for not just food for outdoors but also bright tropical flavours, hence the inspiration for these deliciously lush oaty bars.

Flapjacks are one of the best packable foods- they’re sweet and delicious and stand up to be lugged about in a hot backpack, and even in the worse case scenario of them getting squashed they still make a rather delicious crumble. Besides they’re energy giving qualities are legendary and not surprising once you see the quantity of sugar and syrup they contain!

The tropical flavours are provided by a good dose of desiccated coconut, a handful of dried mango and a smidgen of pineapple juice, all topped with a optional squiggle of pineapple icing. It may be optional but it certainly looks nice!

Another of the beauties of flapjacks is that they freeze brilliantly. I often make a batch, portion them up and then freeze most wrapped in parchment. When it comes to making picnics or packed lunches you simply pop a frozen flapjack into a lunchbox first thing in the morning and by lunchtime you have a delicious fresh homebred treat.

Tropical Flapjacks

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

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

200g demerara sugar

180g golden syrup

2 tbsp pineapple juice

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

50g dried mango, chopped

50g dessicated coconut (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, pineapple juice and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, coconut and dried mango
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Serve plain or top with a squiggle of pineapple icing (125g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbsp pineapple juice)

Victoria Sponge Cake Jars

I’m going to go a bit of a picnic theme over the next few recipes.

It’s June and sunny and so it’s just perfect to get outside and have a picnic kind of weather, and I feel the need for some more easily transportable goodies to take on days out. Some picnic foods make sense (sandwiches, bars and robust salads) but some things which are recommended for outings just don’t seem suitable. Books and magazines always suggest taking cakes on picnics, probably because they look appealing in the styled picnic photos but in my opinion cake never transports well, especially once it’s sat in the heat for a while and been jiggled about in a Tupperware box. Until now that is! With these delightfully tempting Victoria sponge cake jars you can have your cake and eat it, even on a hot picnic.

With these jars you get all the taste and elegant beauty of a Victoria sponge neatly squeezed into a jam jar, giving not only easy transportation but also the perfect individual servings. I’ve given two versions: one a traditional raspberry Victoria sponge and the other a more unconventional chocolate version. Take your pick, or do as I did and make two to please everyone 🙂

This sponge recipe is really fantastic; the yogurt and custard powder gives a taste and a structure is so authentic with none of the crumbliness that some egg-free sponges can suffer from. I hope you like it as much as we do 🙂

Obviously these jars can be dressed up anyway you like, add whatever additions you fancy and you’ll certainly have a show stopper dessert in your cool bag.

Victoria Sponge Cake Jars

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

For the sponge: (makes up to 8 jars worth)

185g self-raising flour

1 tbsp custard powder (or cornflour)

110g caster sugar

3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

145ml dairy-free milk

1 tbsp dairy free yogurt

50g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 1 cake tin
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tin for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

for the icing: (enough for 4 jars, multiply as necessary)

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp vegetable shortening (or just use 4 tbsp of dairy-free margarine in total)

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the margarine and shortening and well combined and soft
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar and the milk until you have a light and fluffy buttercream

chocolate ganache drizzle: (for the chocolate version, enough for two jars)

20g dairy-free chocolate

1 tsp dairy-free margarine

1 tsp dairy-free milk

  1. Melt the ingredients together until you have a smooth ganache

To assemble:

  1. For the raspberry Victoria sponges: pipe in a dollop of buttercream, top with a circle of sponge (cut out using a cookie cutter so it fits snugly in the jar), top with 1 tsp raspberry jam and a swirl of buttercream, repeat.
  2. For the chocolate Victoria sponges: pipe in a dollop of buttercream, top with a circle of sponge (cut out using a cookie cutter so it fits snugly in the jar), top with a swirl of buttercream and a drizzle of ganache plus a few chocolate chips, repeat.

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.