Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cake

I have a particular nostalgic fondness for vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream. It may be an unusual combination but it’s one my mum used to make for birthday cakes; I particularly remember a wonderful hedgehog cake decorated with mini chocolate flakes! I do urge you to give it a go, it may be unconventional but vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream totally works. The dark bitterness of the chocolate tempers the sweet sponge and the colour contrast adds to the delight.

There are a lot of so-so egg and dairy-free cake recipes out there, particularly vanilla flavoured ones. So often they can be a bit crumbly and dry, or worse flat and rubbery. I’m obviously not counting my own recipes in that assessment (ha ha!) but I have come across some depressingly bad specimens over the years. There is a tendency for vegan cakes to be ‘ok’ rather than delicious, particularly shop bought versions. This vanilla sponge on the other hand is utterly perfect – it’s light and fluffy, but in no way dry and crumbly. It’s so good you’d be forgiven for questioning whether it is vegan! The custard powder is crucial for giving a wonderful crumb and vanilla flavour but if you can’t find it (not all is dairy-free so make sure you check) you can sub cornflour and an extra tsp of vanilla.

Perfect Chocolate and Vanilla Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  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 tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack

for the chocolate buttercream:

40g dairy-free margarine

15g vegetable fat such as Trex

300g icing sugar

30g cocoa powder

2 and 1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together all the ingredients to make a smooth and fluffy icing
  2. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing and then cover the entire cake with the remaining icing.
  3. Cover with a generous amount of sprinkles

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

Since I seem to be on a cereal tip at the moment, here’s another cookie recipe featuring cornflakes.An update of a recipe first posted way back in 2016 these cookies definitely worthy of making, not just sitting way back in my old blog posts.

First created after a bit of research into International cookies and to help ‘ Spring cleaning’ my larder, using up bits and bobs that had been lurking at the back of the shelves. As you can imagine, my larder is pretty stuffed with ingredients, so any additional space is always most welcome. So, that large half-used pack of cornflakes was definitely in my sights. It was using up far too much space! And that cookie jar needed filling.

Apparently chocolate cornflake cookies, also known as Afghan cookies are extremely popular in New Zealand. Worth investigating, I thought. The traditional Afghan cookie is a chocolate cookie, studded with crunchy cornflakes, topped with a rich ganache and with a walnut sitting on top. I’m obviously going to skip the walnuts, but the rest is pretty much fitting the brief. There are many theories as to the origins of the name because these cookies are all Kiwi rather than Afghan. One is that they might have been sent to soldiers fighting in the second Afghan war in the 19th Century by their wives back in New Zealand. Like a predecessor to the more universally known Anzac cookies. Or another theory is that they could just look like the mountainous landscape of Afghanistan.

I hope you like these crunchy chocolatey biscuits – they went down a treat here

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

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

 

200g dairy-free margarine

50g soft brown sugar

50g caster sugar

175g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1tbsp dairy-free milk

50g cornflakes

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars.
  2. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Adding the dairy-free milk to slacken the mixture and making it easier to combine.
  3. Gently stir in the cornflakes, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  4. Place tablespoons of the mixture into a lined baking sheet, with enough room to spread. Flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade
  6. Cool on a wire rack

For the icing:

1tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsps dairy-free margarine

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Melt together the water, caster sugar, vanilla and  margarine. Bring to a bubbling syrup and then pour in the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Stir to form glossy icing.
  2. Spread over the cookies and leave to set.

Pizza Breadsticks

For us lockdown has been a lot about food! Either desperately searching for items that have been of stock, suddenly changing my shopping habits to a once weekly shop without the tops ups and visits to various other supermarkets to get the items we need, making what seems like constant meals and snacks or making fun from a cookbook challenge or Friday evening restaurant at home nights.

I probably think about food more than most in having to cook for a variety of different diets, writing a blog and generally being obsessed with cooking, but that seems to have increased in lockdown! I had intended to write up more recipes, but have ended up making the dishes but not having the time to write them up…. there’s now a backlog so I’ll try and post more in the next few weeks 🙂

One thing I’m constantly searching for new snack recipes to make for the family. By avoiding milk, eggs, nuts and seeds our snack options always seem limited, but everyone needs a good snack, right? These pizza breadsticks are a really good addition, and I’d recommend them to take on a picnic or snack on with an aperitif – we had them with our ‘mocktails’ before our French bistro restaurant at home night and they went down a treat. You can either make 12 bigger softer breadsticks, or 24 smaller, crispier ones, simply make smaller and twice as many from the dough for the crunchier versions – the choice is yours!

Pizza Breadsticks

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

Makes 12 or 24 sticks

250g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tbsp fast action dried yeast

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

150ml tepid water

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsps tomato puree (if you can find sun-dried tomato puree all the better)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and salt.
  2. Make a ‘well’ in the middle and pour in the water and 1 tbsp oil.
  3. Mix until it comes together to form a dough. Then knead until smooth and the dough springs back when you press it.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 hour.
  5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and turn the oven on to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6
  6. In a small bowl mix together the tomato puree, oil, garlic powder, oregano and additional salt, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and knock back the dough. Knead for a couple of minutes.
  8. Divide into 12 (or 24) even sized pieces.
  9. Roll each out into a long thin (or short thin for the smaller sticks) sausage shape and place on the parchment lined baking sheet. They don’t have to be perfect.
  10. Brush with the tomato puree mix.
  11. Cover lightly with a clean tea-towel and leave to rise for about half an hour.
  12. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they’re turning golden and sound hollow when tapped.
  13. Cool on a wire rack.
  14. Best eaten fresh.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

Every thought of having a cookie for breakfast? Maybe you’ve been in a rush, missed your breakfast slot and that cookie looks especially tempting to have alongside a cup of coffee? Well, if that’s the case then these cookies are for you! Combining all the deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie with crisp and crunchy cornflakes, these cookies are a match made in heaven (for any time of the day). Besides both cookies and cereal go with (dairy-free) milk so it has to be a good idea 🙂

I was looking for cookie inspiration, because you always need a new recipe to try, right? These Afghan cookies came to mind (not only because they’re very tasty and I haven’t made them for a while, but also New Zealand is probably one place it would be great to be right now) and I started thinking about how breakfast cereal should be used more in cooking. It has such unique taste and texture and most people have some box of cereal hanging about in their larder. It turns out it’s a fabulous addition to a cookie recipe; adding a crispy crunchy cornflake coating to a soft sweet, chocolate laced cookie takes the cookie to whole new dimension.

Breakfast Cereal Cookies

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

makes 12-14

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

50g chocolate chips

50g cornflakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow bowl and set aside
  3. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and vanilla.
  5. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. Roll in the cornflakes to coat (I say roll but you will more likely have to press the cornflakes into the dough to make sure they stick). 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.

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels – (with a savoury variation too)

I’ve always meant to make pretzels but never got round to it, until now! I’m doing a lockdown cookbook challenge lockdowncookbookchallenge on Instagram whereby one of us picks a random cookbook from the shelves and I have to cook at least two recipes from it. Why don’t you join? it’s really fun, a great way to get inspiration and the nudge you need to dip into some of those less used cookbooks.

One of the recent picks was Scandilicious by Signe Johansen, its a cookbook I really like but one that I haven’t picked up in years. By dipping in I can immediately remember recipes I’ve tried and see the ones I’ve page marked but never got round to trying. It’s a great way to fire up that imagination. Pretzels was just one of those and so here is my adapted recipe, made into a sweet sugar and cinnamon coated creation to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Think the taste of a doughnut but in a healthier, slightly chewier format – delicious!

I’ve added a tip at the end to make savoury pretzels too – I made a batch of 12 and had 4 sweet, 4 salty and 4 coated in poppy seeds – combining a sweet treat with some lovely fresh rolls and freeze brilliantly – win win! 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

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

makes 12

500g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp fast action dried yeast

2 tbsp maple syrup or golden syrup

1 tbsp oil

250-300ml water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

(for savoury, generous sprinkling of crystal sea salt or a  handful of poppy seeds)

  1. Pour the flour and salt into a bowl, add the yeast.
  2. Pour in the syrup, oil and 250-300ml water, bring together to a soft but not sticky dough and then knead until silky smooth and bouncy. This will take up to 10 minutes. Cover and leave to prove. You want the dough to double in size and this will take 1-2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade fan/220 degrees non fan
  4. Divide the dough into 12 even pieces roll into loose balls, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Take each ball, roll into a sausage shape and then twist into a pretzel knot. Keep the made knots covered with a tea towel.
  6. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, pour in the bicarb and then add the pretzel knots in threes cooking for 30 seconds on each side. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet. Continue until all the knots have been boiled in the bicarb mix.
  7. For savoury pretzels sprinkle them whilst they are still damp with the salt and/or poppy seeds. For sweet leave ungarnished.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they have risen and have a lovely burnished bronzed appearance.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  10. To make the sweet pretzels: mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Brush each cooled pretzel with melted margarine and then roll in the cinnamon suagr until they are completely coated. Eat as soon as possible and try not to lick your lips!

 

Katsu Curry

I’ve got a fair few recipes to write up and asked my FaceBook followers for help to decide which to post first – the Katsu curry won by far! So here it is, my take on a Katsu.

Wagamama is a real favourite of ours, they offer such great service for the allergy family and we always have a fantastic experience, plus they’ve recently removed peanuts from the premises which is such a reassurance. Before lockdown we were regular Wagamama visitors, but even so we also had our own version at home. Everyone loves a Katsu in this house! So much so we had Wagamama at home last Friday, featuring paper table mats for the order to be scribbled on!

The other week Wagamama very kindly started posting their own recipes on Instagram so their fans don’t have to miss out too badly and we’ve been hungrily waiting for the bang bang cauliflower and to see if my Katsu is anything like the real thing. The bang bang cauliflower is really banging, delicious but super spicy with the chilli flakes in tablespoons!! Funnily the Katsu is quite similar to mine but has coconut and a different combination of spices, we actually prefer our usual home version! So here’s my Katsu, probably the least authentic recipe ever but one that is delicious and is definitely worth a go. Let me know what you think? If you eat chicken then you can always simply replace the sweet potato with breadcrumbed chicken.

Katsu Curry my way

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

serves 4

1 or 2 sweet potatoes, sliced 2-3mm thick

4 tbsp plain flour

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

for the sauce:

2 tbsp flavourless oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

3cm piece of ginger, minced

2 tbsp mild curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp plain flour

450ml or 2 cups of vegetable stock

1 to 2 tsp honey or maple syrup

1 to 2 tsp soy sauce

salt to taste

  1. First prepare the sweet potato but blanching the slices in boiling water for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. To make the sauce: heat the oil and fry off the onion until soft (cut finely if you like a chunky sauce, we like smooth so i sieve the bits out and so roughly chopped is fine)
  3. add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. stir int he curry powder and turmeric and cook out for a minute
  4. Next add the flour and again cook for a few minutes to get rid of any raw flour taste. Gradually add the stock a bit by bit and keep stirring until the sauce has thickened nicely.
  5. Add the soy sauce and honey/syrup. Taste and add more of either, plus salt if required. Sieve to remove the onion (if you like) and then set aside to keep warm whilst sweet potato is cooked
  6. Place 2 tbsp flour in one bowl, 2 tbsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp water (to make a thin batter) in another bowl and the panko in a third bowl.
  7. Dip each sweet potato slice into the flour, then the batter, then the breadcrumbs.
  8. Once they are all coated add a generous amount of oil to a frying pan (to cover the base) and heat. Fry the sweet potato slices until golden on both sides and then keep warm in a low oven (160 degrees Centigrade) until they all are cooked through
  9. Serve with rice and salad