Savoury Herby Soda Bread

It seems to me that savoury bakes and snacks can be harder to make and source if you avoid things like eggs, milk, sesame and nuts. Maybe that’s because I’ve become more and more adept at creating interesting sweet dishes, and there’s so much variety when you take into account cakes, biscuits, breads, chocolates and sweets. Or maybe, you miss those ingredients even more in savoury items – there is certainly a reliance on cheese, nuts and seeds when you look at savoury offerings.

For savoury items, there always seems to be a point where you want more than crisps or plain crackers (of only certain varieties mind), but you want something interesting and appetising. This might be a quick snack or an exciting addition to a soup or salad for lunch, and if it can be made in a flash then that’s always a bonus.

Thinking of quick, soda bread came to mind. Bread can be the highlight of a meal or a wonderful snack to graze on whilst waiting for the main event.

This version uses curdled soya milk to replace the buttercream which gives superbly authentic results, plus a super savoury ‘cheese’ and chive vibe to fit with my craving for more savoury bakes in our repertoire. If you’ve ever made my equally delicious savoury scones you’ll be familiar with the flavour profile. 

If you like other herbs then just sub them in; rosemary and thyme would be rather nice, as would the softer parsley or chervil. The beauty of this bread is that it really is quick – you can have it made, baked and ready in about 40 minutes – perfect for those times when you find the bread bin empty!

We ate this loaf, fresh from the oven with a spicy lentil and coconut soup (a delicious Ottolenghi recipe) and then warmed up the next day as a tasty addition to a picky bits lunch. Do you have those, or is it just us when we’re trying a use up the contents of the fridge but still have an interesting lunch!

Savoury ‘Cheese’ and Chive Soda Bread

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

 makes 1 loaf

210g soya milk

15g vinegar (white wine or cider)

1 tsp marmite

300g plain flour

20g oats (plus a few more to scatter on top)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp chives

1 tsp dried oregano

30g dairy-free butter/margarine, cubed

40g dairy-free cheese, cubed (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. Pour the milk into a jug, add the vinegar and marmite and leave to ‘sour’
  3. Place all the other ingredients except the butter and cheese into a bowl or stand mixer.
  4. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips, or using the paddle attachment.
  5. Stir the soured milk and pour into the dry mix. Bring together to a very soft dough. Stir in the cheese cubes, if using.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead to form a smooth ball, you’ll probably need a fair amount of flour
  7. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and sprinkle over a few more oats. Cut a deep cross in the top (this will help let the carbon dioxide created by the bicarb and cream of tartar escape in a controlled fashion). Let sit for 20 minutes, uncovered on the worktop
  8. Place in the prewarmed oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170 degrees Centigrade and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and crusty. (30 minutes baking time in total)
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

Tomato and Olive Focaccia

Are you getting to that post Christmas stage when you’re running out of bread and all the fresh stuff? We were in desperate need of bread for lunch today and this recipe is just perfect. It’s quick to make so can be rustled up in a morning and you can use either plain or bread flour depending on what you have in the larder.

Since our lovely (if eventful!) meal at La Pala d’Oro in Malaga (see my post on Malaga with allergies), Little S has taken to olive focaccia; and as she’s recovering from a nasty bout of Covid (gosh, it really is an unpleasant virus) and an upsetting isolation over Christmas 😢, I wanted to make her something she’d really love. It’s not surprising that she finds olive focaccia delicious, as the salty olives give a wonderful pop of savoury flavour in the soft oily bread, it’s a match made in heaven. However, Big S is also no fan of olives, in fact nothing will persuade her they’re nice. So here we have a tomato focaccia half studded with olives and half without – then everyone is happy! This loaf is perfect served with a bowl of soup on a wintery lunchtime but also makes a superior snack at anytime, especially when dipped in a good quality oil and balsamic – yummy!

If you can find Belazu tomato and balsamic paste you will notice the difference – like all their products I’ve tried, they really do make exceptional pastes, sauces etc that add depth and interest to any dish.

 Tomato and Olive Focaccia

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

makes 1 loaf

  • 250g plain or bread flour
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, I used Belazu tomato and balsamic paste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 150-160ml cold water
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste mixed with 1 tbsp oil and sea salt for the top
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • A handful of olives
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast and salt.
  2. Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil, tomato paste and water.
  3. Bring together to form a slightly sticky dough, then knead well to make it smooth and silky. If you have a mixer with dough hooks, it would work perfectly.
  4. Drizzle a small amount of extra virgin olive oil on the work surface. Turn out the dough onto the oil and knead well again until the oil is incorporated into the dough.
  5. Place in a bowl and cover. Leave to double in size. This will take an hour or two.
  6. Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment.
  7. Knock back the dough and press into the lined baking tray, making sure it reaches the corners. Cover and leave to rise for 1 hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade/210 fan/Gas mark 7
  9. Drizzle the tomato and oil mix over the dough and then dimple the top of the focaccia with your fingertip and press in the olives and scatter on some sea salt and the oregano.
  10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden. Brush with a little more oil to give a lovely sheen and cool on a wire rack.
  11. Best eaten fresh, but will keep for a couple of days if well wrapped in parchment. Also freezes brilliantly.

Egg-free Vegetarian Christmas Stuffing

Stuffing is an essential part of Christmas lunch but it so often contains egg, nuts or other allergens (or meat and so I avoid it!). This year we’re having Christmas at home and I wanted to make some veg stuffing to add to the meal, so I’ve been playing around with flavours and binders , and finally I’ve come up with a combination I’m happy with.

These little stuffing balls based on breadcrumbs and are flavoured with onion, garlic and herbs, then given a savoury tang from some soy sauce and a couple of sneaky mushrooms (top hint: don’t tell the kids and they’ll happily eat them!) and bound with mustard. The mustard is the genius feature, you get flavour and punch whilst also binding the ingredients together. If you can’t have mustard then I’d recommend another similar condiment such as horseradish, or perhaps a sauce or even a vegan mayo.

 

I’ve chosen to make then as small balls and only a small amount, but do multiple as desired.

 

Egg-free Vegetarian Stuffing Balls

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

Makes 10 mini balls

 

2 slices of fresh bread, whizzed up into breadcrumbs

1 tbsp olive oil

½ onion

5 sage leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 mushrooms, roughly chopped

Small handful parsley, chopped

½ tsp soy sauce

1 and ½ tsps. Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

 

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft (5-10 minutes), stir in the mushrooms, sage, thyme and garlic and continue to sauté until the mushrooms are well cooked. Taste, season and cool.
  2. In a food processor, blend together the breadcrumbs with the fried onion and herb mix. Add the parsley and blend again. Add the soy sauce and mustard and pulse until it comes together. You want to keep some texture.
  3. Form into small balls and place in a baking dish that has been drizzled with oil. Cover the dish with foil.
  4. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade with foil on, then remove the foil and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you’d like them, These also freeze brilliantly once cooked. Just heat from frozen for 10-15 minutes, covered in foil.

Teriyaki aubergine

*** Disclaimer – this is a sponsored post. I received a free bottle of Hon Mirin and took part in an online cook along. The recipe posted in this post is from the Sozai Cooking School and not my own. However, the comments and recommendations are my own***

I’ve always wanted to know how to make a good and authentic teriyaki sauce especially as Big S has become a fan of Asian flavours, but when I’ve made versions before the resulting dishes were a bit too sweet and sickly. So I was delighted to be asked to take part in an online cook along sponsored by Hakutsuru Hon Mirin and which promised the ultimate teriyaki. 

It was a really fascinating couple of hours. I knew nothing about Mirin before the class other than the name! Now I feel that I have a little insight into this really interesting ingredient and I hope to use it in a variety of dishes. Hon Mirin is apparently very popular in Japan but hardly heard of in Europe, hence this event to celebrate Hon Mirin’s global launch. Hon Mirin (with Hon meaning real) is a sweet rice seasoning/alcohol made from glutinous rice, rice koi and alcohol. It has a pleasant sweet taste, a bit like a sweet sherry and none of the additional salt you get in cheaper alternatives.  It also has the advantage of being allergen free and contains no artificial ingredients – perfect for us. 🙂

Having used this mellow alcohol in a couple of dishes (we made minstrone soup and teriyaki) I would really recommend searching out a bottle for your store cupboard (and I’m really not saying that because I got a free bottle!). It really did add a lovely umami richness to both dishes and the shine in the teriyaki sauce was outstanding. Right now, Hon Mirin is only available on the TK Trading website, but hopefully it’ll become more widely available as more people come across it’s versatility. I really didn’t think it would add much to a minestrone soup but actually the mellow sweetness was a nice addition that enhanced the tomato flavour.

If you’re interested in learning more Japanese cooking skills then do check out the Sozai cooking school which runs lots of interesting online cook alongs, the instructor in my class was really knowledgeable and a great teacher.

I’m posting the teriyaki aubergine recipe from the Sozai cooking school, but if you wanted to use chicken or salmon, simple cut into bite sized pieces and then follow the instructions below.

Teriyaki Aubergine

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

serves 2

7 tbsp Hon Mirin

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 aubergine, sliced in half lengthways

1-2 tbsp cornflour

  1. Mix together the Hon Mirin, water and soya sauce and set aside
  2. Score the aubergine flesh and then dust all sides with cornflour
  3. Heat some flavourless oil on a medium to high heat and cook the aubergine on both sides until golden and throughly cooked through. This will take 5 or so minute son each side. Remove from the pan.
  4. Wipe out the pan to remove any excess cornflour. Return the aubergine to the pan and add the teriyaki sauce. Cook on a medium to high heat, basting the aubergine until the sauce has reduced and you have a sticky soft aubergine.
  5. Serve with rice and steamed green veg.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

I don’t know about you but I find lunches the most difficult meal to cater for, especially right now where we’re all at home all the time, we have differing timetables and differing ideas over what makes a perfect lunch!

D and I generally have lunch and take the dog for a walk before the girls have even finished their morning lessons, so lunches have to be ready to be reheated or eaten cold. Right now, in mid-Winter slides and sandwiches seem rather less appealing and a hot option is preferred, but then there is the issue of keeping things warm for the lunches in stages. It has transpired that soup ticks all the boxes; it’s warm and nourishing, can easily keep warm and mostly all the family members like it. Also, there is something wonderfully homely about having a pot of soup on the hob and it makes me feel like I’m winning on the lunch front!

This soup is not only very easy to make from mainly store cupboard ingredients but also pleases the ‘bit-a-phobes’ (both children!) who only like smooth soups, but adds extra substance with the addition of rice to keep tummies full until supper time. I add chilli paste to mine as we all like slightly spicy food, but so feel free to leave it out if you’d rather have a more mellow soup for lunch.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

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

serves 4

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp chilli paste

2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

400ml passata

400ml vegetarian stock

1/3 cup rice

1/2 tin sweetcorn (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion  until soft and translucent – try not to get too much colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and chilli paste (if using) and cook for a further couple of minutes. 
  3. Pour in the tomato passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season. 
  5. Blitz if you want a very smooth soup and return to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  6. Add the rice to the simmering soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If using sweetcorn, add a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking.
  7. Serve with a hunk of bread or a sandwich for a hearty and warming lunch.

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

 

Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

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

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve

Pizza Marinara – the perfect naturally dairy-free pizza choice

***Disclaimer***

*This is a sponsored post by Hans Grill whereby I received a free pizza stone in return for a review.*

I’ve always wanted a pizza stone but never got round to buying one, so I was delighted when Hans Grill offered me the opportunity to receive a free stone. They really are a great addition to your kitchen if you like making pizza, and I’m a big pizza fan.

With a stone baked pizza you get such a delicious crust which has bubbles, charred bits and tastes just right. They’re not too much bother either – you just need to place it on one of the wire racks (not the bottom of the oven) and heat on full temperature for about 40 minutes. Then dust with flour and slide on your pizza using the handy wooden peel. You could of course make this pizza without the stone, by simply placing it on a baking sheet, but you will get the improved flavour and texture of a stone baked dough which I really like.

There are more and more vegan pizzas available to buy which is a great thing, but my girls don’t really like vegan cheese, so we usually opt for homemade and then everyone can be happy with the choice of toppings.

A marinara pizza is a traditional Italian recipe and the perfect option if you’re avoiding dairy – the combination of tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and olive oil is a match made in heaven and is rightly classed as a classic. Enjoy it as it is or pep it up with veggies, olives, or the usual pizza toppings.

 

Marinara Pizza

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

makes 4 to 5

for the dough:

450g OO flour

1 tbsp dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

250-300ml warm water

for the topping:

150ml tomato paste or pizza sauce (try Pizza Express passata)

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

oregano

extra virgin olive oil

  1. First make the dough. Add all the dough ingredients and knead well. Leave to prove in a covered bowl in a warm place. You want it to double in size and that will take a couple of hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to the highest setting. If using a pizza stone, place it on one of the wire racks in the oven and heat for 40 minutes.
  3. Portion the dough into 4 or 5 pieces. Roll onto out using a little extra flour. Flour the peel and place the dough on top, making sure it can freely move. Or place the dough on a baking sheet.
  4.  Swirl on some tomato passata, top with chopped garlic, sprinkle with oregano and then drizzle with a little oil.
  5. Season. Slide onto the pizza stone, or place the baking sheet into the oven.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes on the stone or 10-12 minutes on the baking sheet.
  7. Serve hot.

 

Noodle Salad

Happy New Year! I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2019 🙂

To kickstart a fresh new start, here’s a delightfully tasty noodle salad which is perfect for a tasty lunch as it works equally at home or in a lunch box – even better it keeps for a good few days and so is perfect for making on a Sunday and tossing on a plate or in a Tupperware for the following fews days.

After ‘putting up with’ school lunches Little S has decided to try out packed lunches as we realised that although her school tries really hard and gives her a proper cooked safe lunch every day, she just wasn’t eating it as it often wasn’t to her taste. So we’re embarking on a packed lunch journey which will make life even busier but will also provide a new opportunity for creating interesting and tasty safe lunches. Expect lots of salads, snacks and lunchbox friendly baked goodies in the next few months!

Noodle Salad

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

serves 4

175g spaghetti, cooked and refreshed in cold water

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 and 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 and 1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp chilli paste or fresh finely chopped chilli

Veg to taste: I used cucumber and carrot ribbons and sweetcorn as they’re little S favourites. But roasted aubergine cubes, peppers (roasted or raw), spring onions, coriander and baby corn all work well too.

  1. Mix together the oil, soy sauce, balsamic, sugar, salt and chilli.
  2. Add the cooked, cooled spaghetti and toss well.
  3. Add the veg just before serving and toss again.

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages

It’s definitely comfort food time of year; it seems dark most of the time and a bit of warming traditional food is the perfect way to keep the spirits up. Vegetarian sausages can be a great way to have a traditional meal but with a veggie twist – there are a few good varieties but some of the ones you buy can be either unpleasant tasting and trying to be like fake meat (as a veggie, I HATE fake meat) or bland spongy things which are best avoided. Time to create a homemade version!

The Food for Friends (a veggie restaurant based in Brighton) cookbook has a couple of interesting veggie sausage recipes which are definitely worth trying, they are good, but maybe not quite to my taste. So, these are my version;  flavoured with the Mediterranean in mind, using the delicious combo of rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar  – and my, they are lovely! Be warned, the mixture is quite crumbly so it’s definitely worth chilling them in the fridge for a good while before frying. But the resulting mixture is so punchy with umami flavours that we find we can forgive a bit of crumble!

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages 

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

For 2 sausages, perfect for one person – multiple the amounts for more people

  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1-2 tbp of the oil the sun-dried tomatoes came in
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful rocket or spinach
  • small bunch of basil
  • seasoning
  1. Best to use a food processor, blend the bread to make fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the tomatoes, balsamic, rocket, basil and garlic and blend to combine. It should look like the texture of green sand
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning
  4. Tip out onto a sheet of cling film, shape into a large sausage shape and roll tightly. Chill well.
  5. Unwrap and cut into two. Fry in sunflower oil until golden on all sides