Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

This time of year is just wrong without Hot Cross Buns. I eagerly await the criss crossed beauties appearing in the shops, and very year there’s a new variety to tempt and inspire. These days I wouldn’t buy a Hot Cross bun as I’ve not found any safe ones (I know vegan versions exist but they’re generally not free-from enough for us) and so come March I make batch after batch of buns. I’d really recommend giving it a go, they’re not hard to make and the satisfaction of a house filled with a spicy aroma and perfect buns appearing from the oven is second to none!

I’ve made many friendly hot cross buns and they’ve become a firm favourite, so much so that Little S has them for breakfast if she gets the chance. For some reason my children have an aversion to dried fruit, so I concocted this variation that appeals more to them.

The addition of chopped chocolate may be slightly unconventional, but the resulting buns are delightfully aromatic and tasty with the bonus prize of the chocolate going oozy and gooey when the buns are toasted. The added bonus is that they freeze beautifully. Simply defrost and then warm in an oven or toaster, and enjoy perfect hot cross buns anytime 🙂

Chocolate Chip Hot Cross Buns

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

 

makes 9-12

500g strong bread flour

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 or 2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

500ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate, chopped

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, salt and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses
  7. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  8. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  9. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  10. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

 

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.

 

Roasted Parsnip and Garlic Gnocchi

Where do you stand with parsnips? They seem to divide people, but for me they’re an essential part of Christmas and I absolutely love the sweet taste of a roasted crispy parsnip. In an attempt to win over the parsnip haters I’ve been experimenting with parsnip based dishes. I came across a recipe online for parsnip gnocchi and thought it sounded like a fabulous idea. All the bouncy pillowyness of gnocchi with a sweet parsnip and roasted garlic flavour – yum!

I’m also currently looking for a veggie addition to my Christmas lunch and I think these gnocchi could be what I’m looking for. We’re going to the in-laws for Christmas Day and as the only veggie in the family I end up with some vegetables or I have to sort myself out. It’s not a problem as I love to cook but it does give me yet another thing to think about as I also have to provide all safe snacks, chocolates, puddings and sauces.

I’m always keen that my veggie dish is something the whole family can dip into, as I really hate being the solitary ‘odd’ vegetarian who has their own solo meal whilst everyone else enjoys a communal eating experience (which is what Christmas lunch is all about after all). So my intention is for a veggie addition that everyone can enjoy; however, from experience everyone else will probably stick with their turkey and give my invention a wide berth! What’s your experience? Do you have a family who just want the usual traditional dishes, or one which is happy to try new additions?

The beauty of these gnocchi is that they have the flavours of Christmas in an interesting format, they’re easily reheated and they also make a pretty good nibble when bunked in a dip. They also went down well with the parsnip hating younger members of the family, and that’s no mean feat!

Roasted Parsnip and Garlic Gnocchi

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

serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as an addition to a roast meal

1 baking potato

4 medium parsnips

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

75g OO flour

1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

A sprinkle of Herbs de Provence or thyme

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade
  2. Peel and Chop the potatoes and parsnips into even sizes large pieces
  3. Place in a roasting tin with the unpeeled garlic. Drizzle with oil and season. Roast for 30-40 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and add to the roasted veg.
  4. Cool and then blitz the veg and garlic in a food processor. Add the flour, nutritional yeast, herbs  and seasoning and pulse until it becomes a dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to relax for a while.
  5. Roll into 4 sausages, each about 1cm thick. Cut into 2 cm slices, gently squeezing to give a pillowy shape
  6. Bring a pan of water to the boil and in batches cook the gnocchi for 2-3 minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  7. Heat another 1tbsp oil in a frying pan and fry the gnocchi until golden and crispy on all sides.
  8. Serve drizzled with oil.
  9. To reheat just pop in a hot pan to warm through.

Marmite Scones

Are you a Marmite lover or a Marmite hater? There seems to be no in-between and we’re a family that contains both, so it’s always a quandary as to whether to use it as a flavouring or not. Although to be fair there are far more Marmite lovers, so the savoury yeasty spread often wins.

I find that savoury snacks are lacking for Little S – there are so many things she can’t have when out people would reach for a savoury option. That’s where the marmite comes in. Little S really doesn’t like marmite but she loves these deeply savoury scones, somehow the marmite-y flavour turns into a more appealing savoury taste when it’s added to a bake. Savoury scones make a perfect tasty snack or side to a big bowl of soup, or just a speedily made change from a bread roll. The beauty of scones is that they take little time to make and bake, so once you feel confident you can whip up a batch in no time at all. Serve with extra marmite if you’re on the fan side!

I’d heard that adding cream of tartar made scones extra light and fluffy and I was desperate to try the idea out, and my it’s a great addition, the texture of these scones will blow your mind. Look at that craggy delicate texture, no heavy stodgy scones here!

Marmite Scones

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

makes about 8 large scones

250g plain flour

1/4tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

25g dairyfree margarine

15g vegetable fat (or use 15g extra margarine)

150ml dairy free milk

2 tsp marmite

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Centigrade
  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. Rub the fats into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir the marmite into the milk and pour into the flour mix. Very gently bring together to form a rough dough. Be very gentle, do not knead, otherwise you’ll get tough scones and no-one wants that!
  4. Stamp out circles and place on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with a little milk mixed with marmite.
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden and risen. 

Savoury Pretzels

Snacks – I don’t think we’d get through a day without snacks and that’s always particularly apparent at the weekend or in the school holidays. Biscuits and cakes are all well and good but sometimes savoury is the only way to go. Crisps are great, everyone loves crisps right? But they’re not exactly filling and nutritious.

I have a small repertoire of interesting savoury options: sausage rolls, savoury scones, cheesy crackers etc but I’m always on the look out for new ideas which are not only suitable but pleasing to everyone. Then I spied some big pretzels for sale – now that looks like a good idea. Chewy, bread based and certainly filling. I’ve never really delved into the wonderful world of pretzels before but in doing some research it seems they’re often served with mustard. Bingo! Inspiration! So here’s my take on savoury pretzels, topped with a mustard glaze and because dips make everything better, served with a sweet mustard sauce. These certainly keep those hunger pangs at bay with a satisfying snack. They also make great tasty sandwich rolls 😋

Savoury Pretzels

(Dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian, can be vegan) contains mustard

makes 8-10

500g strong bread flour

7g dried fast action yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

300 ml warm water

2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (for the boiling water)

for the glaze:

1 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

  1. Mix together all the ingredients except the bicarbonate of soda to form a dough and knead well until smooth silky and you can feel the gluten and firmed up the dough. Cover and leave to prove for at least one hour.
  2. Knock back and cut into 8-10 even sized pieces. Roll each one into a sausage shape with slightly tapered ends, then tie in a lose knot. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and let rise for another 30 minutes. 
  3. Preheat the over to 200 degrees centigrade
  4. Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling tip in the bicarbonate of soda and drop each knot into the boiling solution for about 5 seconds.
  5. Remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  6. Brush with a little of the glaze and bake for 15 minutes until deeply golden
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and bush with the remaining glaze and sprinkle over a little salt. Leave to cool.
  8. Serve fresh with a dip of equal parts honey/syrup and mustard pepped up with a dash of hot sauce.
  9. These pretzels also freeze well. Defrost thoroughly and then refresh in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Trail Mix

 

I’ve always found the concept of ‘trail mix’ rather intriguing and tempting. It’s not something you come across often in the UK but I’ve read about it so many times that I really wanted to recreate a friendly version for the family to enjoy. The concept is a pick and mix type snack to delve into a long walk or day out.

Trail mix is usually a mix of cereal, dried fruit, often nuts and sometimes chocolate, all combining to make it a nice portable energy giver on long hikes. It sounds yummy but certainly not ideal for us with all those nuts. The photos I’ve seen often contain Smarties, and whilst some dairy-free versions do exist they have never been completely trace-free therefore not safe enough for us. But colourful chocolates make such a cheery addition to the dry mix that they needed representation so I’ve replaced them with homemade ‘Jazzies’ (chocolate drops coated in colourful sprinkles) and they generally do make the mix look a lot more tempting and fun. Rather than using dried cereal I’ve added salty pretzels to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and dried fruit. I’ve also added mini spiced cookies even more variety and added energy, and well, they look rather cute too.

For some reason, dried fruits are unpopular in this household; I don’t really know why as I really like them but the girls will avoid them at all costs. So this recipe included freeze-dried berries to please the troops, but raisins, dried mango or any other dried fruit would work just as well.

Mini Spiced Cookies

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

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Cream together the dairy-free spread, caster sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla.
  2. Sift in the cinnamon, ginger, salt, bicarb and plain flour and mix to a soft dough, adding the oat milk to make the mixing easier. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 4 and line a cookie sheet with parchment
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out. Cut out cute little shapes and place on the lined baking tray and cook for 6 minutesCool on a wire rack

Jazzies

These are simply melted dairy-free chocolate with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top! Nothing could be much easier 🙂