Blueberry & Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

Let’s get fresh, fruity and just right for the holidays. These yo-yo biscuits are are classic Antipodean staple and are perfect for warmer climes as they don’t have the tendency to melt like my favourite chocolate cookies! Talking of melting, this cookies have the wonderful melt in the mouth feels of very short shortbread, enhanced with a rich buttercream filling. It really is a wonderful combination.

I was in the mood for colour so concocted some delicate lemon biscuits (coloured with custard powder for a lovely yellow hue) and filled with bright purple blueberry filling. This biscuits will certainly get people talking, whilst also reaching for another one 🙂

Blueberry and Lemon Yo-Yo Cookies

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

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp lemon extract

pinch of salt

55g custard powder or cornflour

175g plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  3. Beat together the margarine, sugar, zest and essence until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours and salt to form a very soft, but not sticky dough.
  5. Make large marble sized balls and place on the baking sheet (try to make an even number). Flatten with the back of a fork.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. Once completely cool, sandwich together with the blueberry cream.

Blueberry Cream 

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tbsp blueberry coulis

  1. Make the blueberry coulis by cooking down 100g blueberries with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 too lemon juice. Cook until eh blueberries have burst and the mix is saucy. Sieve to give a luscious sweet sauce.
  2. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar and  1 tbsp blueberry coulis until it is all incorporated. Place in the fridge to firm up before using.
  3. use the remaining blueberry coulis for ice cream, waffles or fruit salad

Brunch Bars – the cereal bars of your dreams

Cereal bars seem to be big news. I don’t buy them (it’s rare to find a nut and dairy-free cereal bar) and don’t often venture down the ‘bar’ aisle of the supermarket. I happened to wander down it the other day and was utterly overwhelmed by the amount and variety of bars on offer. They really must be a ‘thing’ for lots of people.

I certainly get the point – a mid-morning snack with a healthy vibe (whether that is true or not is another matter!) must be a good idea. It stuck me that maybe we needed a friendly cereal bar in our lives, one to act as breakfast on the hoof or as an interesting addition to these daily triple packed lunches I seem to be making.

This recipe took a while to evolve, but the wait was worth it, these bars are seriously good. I’ve been eating them all week, and I’m not a cereal bar eater! They combine granola (homemade in this case) for flavour and texture with rice crispies for crunch. This is enrobed in a delicious mix of sugar, syrup and biscoff spread. Nut or seed butter would work wonderfully and give a ‘nutty’ undertone if you can tolerate it. Don’t worry if you don’t have safe granola just sub for oats (ideally toasted) and a handful of dried/freeze-dried fruit of choice. There must be some shop bought dairy-free and nut-free granola available, but I’ve not come across it. Do let me know of any recommendations.

I definitely recommend the chocolate drizzle – not only does it look nice but it also gives a touch of luxury. Besides, chocolate is always a good addition!

Brunch Cereal Bars

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

makes 6 large bars

100g granola

25g rice krispies

60g caster sugar

90g golden or maple syrup, or use honey

50g Biscoff spread (or nut/seed/wow butter of choice)

20g dark dairy-free chocolate

  1. Melt together the sugar, syrup and biscoff spread until you have a thick smooth mixture
  2. Stir in the granola and rice krispies and stir until everything is coated in the rich caramel sauce
  3. Press into a baking tin lined with parchment. I used a 2lb loaf tin which is perfect for the amount quoted about. If you want to make more, double the quantities and use a standard square baking tin.
  4. Place in the fridge or a cool place to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over, leave to set.
  6. Cut into 6 bars.

Pizza Swirls and Savoury Swirls

These little swirls are the answer to your snack dreams! Easy, moreish and worthy of any occasion. I serve them instead of crisps, with an aperitif or as a tasty addition to packed lunches. These bites are one of my ‘go to’ recipes when the girls are hungry and only a savoury option will do. To be honest, it’s not much of a recipe, nothing complicated here, but sometimes it’s the inspiration that’s needed rather than the instructions.

Puff pastry has a miriade of uses, and these little bitesized snacks are a great example of a super quick puff based recipe. This recipe if for either pizza flavoured bites (cheese, tomato and oregano), or the ultimate umami taste of cheese and marmite. I know Marmite totally divides people, so go for your favoured choice, or maybe even a combination of the two.

Most puff pastry is dairy-free if it isn’t the ‘all butter’ version (but do check) and is certainly a great freezer staple. I don’t often use dairy-free cheese as i find most of it pretty unpalatable, but it really does work in this recipe as it’s paired with such strong flavours any unpleasant flavour is overpowered and you are left with a pleasing savoury umami taste.

 

Pizza and Savoury Swirls

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

makes 10-15

1/2 pack of puff-pastry

1 tbsp tomato puree or 1 tbsp marmite

about 3 tbsp grated dairy-free cheese (enough to lightly sprinkle over)

1/2 tsp oregano if making pizza swirls (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade, Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry to an even rectangle (or be really lazy and use pre-rolled!)
  3. For pizza swirls: Spread the tomato puree evenly all over the puff. For savoury swirls do the same with the marmite. Sprinkle over the cheese and oregano if using.
  4. Roll up into a Swiss roll shape. Cut 1cm slices and place onto the baking sheet, with room to spread.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.

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.