Mediterranean Bean Salad

 

Yay for sunshine, yay for summer and yay for the great outdoors! June and July are peak picnic time of year for us, the diary is littered with sports days, festivals, outdoor theatre showings and general outdoorsy stuff. Let’s try and forget that the recent ‘heatwave’ has sadly ended and we seem to have entered a premature damp and drizzly Autumn. But to be honest, if you are British bad weather is far from unusual and we do all the same summery outdoorsy stuff, we just wear wellies and raincoats instead of shorts and flip-flops!

I do struggle with finding interesting, portable and friendly picnic foods that please the whole family. It’s not just the varied dietary requirements, but also a good dose of general fussiness. I seem to be on a constant mission to find family friendly packable lunches.

I’m a massive salad fan, I just love the freshness, colours and textures you find in salads. In fact I could eat salad almost every day. Now, I might love salads but my children are less keen. They have some favourites, but faced with a bowl of dressed lettuce or some unusual vegetables they do spectacularly badly! Not a helpful situation when planning multiple picnics. This Mediterranean bean salad though is hard to dislike. The beans, once marinaded are such a great carrier of flavour, and the Mediterranean embellishments are like jewels of flavour, although you may want to serve the olives on the side if you have some fussy palates around šŸ˜‰

MediterraneanĀ Bean Salad

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

2 tins of beans, I used Cannellini beans

2 tbsp sherry or wine vinegar

1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

a good grind of black pepper

4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 onion, sliced

handful of pitted black olives [optional]

small bunch of basil

  1. Drain the beans (reserving the water or ‘aquafaba’ to make meringues) and rinse
  2. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and leave to marinate for half an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, place the onions in a colander and pour over a kettle of water. Place in a bowl and pour over a mixture of 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp water and a pink of sugar. Set aside to quickly pickle. If you use red onion you’ll get pretty pink onions after pickling.
  4. Add all the other ingredients to the marinated beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  5. Enjoy.

Perfect Cinnamon Swirl Buns

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Who doesn’t love cinnamon buns? Not only are they light, fluffy and sweetly spicy, but they also make your house smell heavenly as you make them. I’ve tried many versions over the years, but never been totally happy with the results until now. As I’ve said before, I often shy away from egg-replacers and prefer to use standard store cupboard essentials. I don’t know why really, it’s just how I like to cook. This is a totally reliable recipe I’ve developed which only uses ingredients you would find in any household store cupboardĀ and can easily be pronounced!

This recipe gave the most perfect results, and they’ve been thoroughly tested with plenty of batches Ā – the dough is soft and silky without a hint of stickiness and an absolute joy to work with. The filling packs the right kind ofĀ cinnamon punch. I do recommend the double whammy of glaze and then icing. The buns themselves are not overly sweet and the glaze gives a wonderful stickiness and everyone likes a drizzle of icing on top!

The addition of sprinkles is totally optional, but does add a little fiesta of summer colour which I find rather appealing in these sweltering hot days.

Cinnamon BunsĀ 

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

makes about 20

 

250-300ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, such as Pure

400g plain flour

2 tsp dried yeast

50g or 1/4 cup caster sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cornflour

For the filling:

1/2 cup soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon

2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp hundreds and thousands sprinkles

For the glaze:

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp water

2 tbsp pearl sugar/sugar crystals

And/or:

1/4 cup icing sugar

Water to make into a runny paste

sprinkles

  1. Melt the margarine and milk together – you want it to be warm and melted but not hot
  2. In a bowl mx together the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, cornflour and salt.Ā Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm milk mix
  3. Bring together to a soft dough and knead until its smooth and bounces back when poked
  4. Cover and let double in size
  5. Knock back and roll out to a large rectangle
  6. Smear on the dairy-free margarine.Ā Sprinkle over the sugar and cinnamon (and sprinkles if using), then roll up tightly into a long sausage
  7. Cut into even slices – I managed to get 25 small slices from mine
  8. Place onĀ lined and greased baking pans and leave to rise again for another half an hour
  9. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4/375 degrees F
  10. Bake for 17-20 minutesĀ until risen, golden and cooked through
  11. Melt the brown sugar with the water and brush over the top and sprinkle with the pearl sugar (if using)
  12. Remove from the pans and peel off the paper
  13. Drizzle with the water icing and add sprinkles if desired

 

Dairy-free Pain au Chocolat – New Improved Recipe

 

One of the true joys of a French holiday are morning trips to the boulangerie to buy fresh crusty baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Every morning, little S would come and buy the fresh bread and pastries first thing and then look enviously at our pain au chocolat on the breakfast table. So I made a promise to make a batch on return.

Since last summer’s wonderful holiday in Corsica, I’ve got in the habit of regularly making friendly pain au chocolat for the girls. It’s been a mixed blessing, they’ve got rather used to freshly made viennoiserie for breakfast, so I end up making them often which takes time, but my croissant dough skiIlls have improved dramatically.

This new improved recipe has been gradually tweaked over the last year and I think we’ve finally got a jolly authentic, flaky and ‘buttery’ dough. The lamination has proved the tricky part of the recipe. Besides being the most time consuming aspect, I suffered for months with the layers simply disappearing which is really demoralising when you’ve spent hours putting them there in the first place! After some in-depth research it seems the crucial detail for lamination is that the fat content of the ‘butter replacement’ has to be around 82%. It’s that precise. In the UK our dairy-free margarines are predominantly water-based with fat coming way down the list of ingredients. If you use such a margarine the water just makes steam and you get a bready dough rather than buttery flaky layers. Makes total sense doesn’t it.

After much experimentation I’ve found that it works best to combine a mixture of dairy-free margarine such as Pure with a baking spread such as Stork (in the foil wrapper) and a touch of flour. This combination makes a great fat-rich butter substitute which also provides the right ‘buttery’ flavour.

Surely a good flaky Pain au Chocolat is possibly the most perfect breakfast item ever šŸ™‚

Dairy-free Homemade Pain au Chocolat

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

makes 16

500g strong bread flour

90g caster sugar

10g instant yeast

10g salt

100ml dairy-free milk (I usedĀ Oatly)

250ml cold water

150g dairy-freeĀ margarine

150g baking fat

1 tbsp flour

160g dark dairy-free chocolate chopped into batons

a sprinkle of caster sugar

melted dairy-free margarineĀ for brushing

  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and yeast.
  2. Pour in the dairy-freeĀ milk and water and stir. Once come together, knead well to form a soft and springy dough (about 5-10 minutes).
  3. Cover and leave to rise for a couple of hours
  4. Meanwhile, put the dairy-free margarineĀ on to some cling film, sprinkle with the flour and then top with the baking fat (making a kind of sandwich affair) and loosely wrap. Roll out to a square shape, and place in the fridge or freezer to harden.
  5. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough. Cut a cross on top of the dough ball and roll out the leaves (see photo below)
  6. Place the cooled ‘butter’ in the middle and fold the four flaps over the ‘butter’ making sure it is entirely encased with dough.
  7. Roll out and fold into thirds twice
  8. Place back in the fridge for thirty minutes or so, then roll out and fold back into thirds twice more. Repeat two or three times.
  9. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes more.
  10. Roll out to form a large rectangle.Ā Cut into four long strips, halve each.
  11. Place a line of chocolate at one narrow end and roll over to cover. Add another chocolate baton and continue rolling up.
  12. Loosely cover with cling film and let rise on the baking tray for 30 minutes.
  13. Brush with the melted margarineĀ and sprinkle with caster sugar
  14. Bake atĀ 200 degrees centigrade for 20 minutesĀ 

 

Homemade Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

The latest in my ‘recreate a classic’ series, which I work on occasionally.

Digestives. We all know the digestive in the UK. They come as plain or chocolate covered. No plate of biscuits, selection box or office meeting is complete without a few of these tasty but wholesome biccies, and they’re normally the first to be eaten. There is something about the combination of wholewheat, and that sweet/salty balance which gives such a great all round flavour. Digestives are big hitters in the biscuit world.

It’s extremely difficult to come across dairyfree digestives. Doves Farm make some but otherwise they’re normally a noĀ go for us. And that is how these experiments come about. How did mine turn out? Pretty close Ā I am happy to say. Dunk them if you are that way inclined (not me thanks!).

Dairy-free Digestive Biscuits

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

makes about 14

225g wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g icing sugar

120g dairy-free margarine

30ml dairy-free milk

50g dairy-free chocolate (for chocolate coated biscuits)

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and icing sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  4. Stir in the milk and bring together to form a soft dough
  5. Using plenty of flour, roll out and stamp out circles.
  6. Place onto greaseproof paper and prick with a fork or skewer
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. For chocolate coated biscuits, melt the chocolate and spread over one side of the cooled biscuits, making an attractive pattern on top.

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

Is there any moreĀ traditional English cake than a Victoria sponge? It’s the very essence of tea time, maybe along with some scones and cup of tea in fine china cups!

I’ve found itĀ quite a journey to develop the perfect Victoria sponge recipe, for some reason it has been so much harder than a chocolate cake. Sometimes the texture is a bit too rubbery/bouncy or the flavour not quite right. However finally thanks to some gratefully received input from a reader and his mother in law, the a pretty fineĀ egg and dairy-free Victoria sponge is here. It’s always such a delight to me when I feel I have developed a great ‘friendly’ alternative to a classic staple. I feel like I’m finally hittingĀ my ‘brief’ from the outset of this journey, which is about enabling everyone to enjoy the same things. This cake would make an awesome birthday cake if chocolate isn’t your cup of [English] tea.

This sponge has a wonderful crumb, perfect for a layer cake and the addition of custard powder adds an additional welcome vanilla hit. Custard powder – that’s the tip I was given and wouldn’t have thought of myself.

ThisĀ would’ve been perfect as a traditional jam filled sponge cake, but since my children aren’t very keen on jam I turned this into a salted caramel sponge cake with a Lotus spread drizzle and salted caramel buttercream. A version I highly recommend šŸ™‚

Salted Caramel Victoria Sponge Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2Ā tbsps Birds custardĀ powder

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-freeĀ milk

2 tbsps dairy-freeĀ yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven toĀ 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5.Ā Grease and lineĀ 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-freeĀ 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 forĀ 30Ā minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins.

Filling, enough to fill one cake:

  • Make the buttercream by whisking together 1tbsp Trex, 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, 1 cup sifted icing sugar [use Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel icing sugar if possible] and 1 tbsp dairy-free milk.
  • (if you can’t find flavoured icing sugar use normal but add 1 tsp caramel essence instead)
  • Make the caramel drizzle by combining 2 tbsp Lotus caramelised biscoff spread with 1 tbsp dairy-free milk
  • spread the buttercream over one of the sponges, top with the Lotus drizzle. Place the top layer on the cake and dust with a generous layer of icing sugar

Tropical Breakfast Muffins and Smoothie

It seems to have taken forever for proper spring/summer to arrive this year. Even last week I was wearing wool gloves on my early morning walk to the station! At last now we’ve suddenly experienced a few rays of proper sunshine and a glimmer of heat which will let my recipes turn distinctly sunnier in vibe (let’s not mention the deluge of rain that happened yesterday!)

As a member of Foodies100 I came across a blogger challenge to use the new Vita Coco coconut milk in a breakfast recipe for the TastesLikeNoUdder hashtag challenge. Obviously using a new dairy-free milk substitute is right up my street, so I jumped at the chance. Whilst we love Oatly, maybe there’s another milk alternative out there to add to our repertoire?

The challenge involved creating a breakfast recipe using this lovely thick and rich new coconut milk from Vita Coco. This is what they say themselves about their new product:

Vita Coco has always been nuts about coconuts, and this month thereā€™s even more reason to celebrate, with the launch of the companyā€™s dairy-free coconut milk alternative.

Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative has no added sugar and if free of both gluten and soy. Itā€™s the perfect healthy choice for breakfast, making a perfect topping for cereals, or to replace milk in your morning cuppa.

Unlike other coconut milk alternatives which are made with a whole lot of water, Vita Coco Coconut Milk is made with 70% coconut, making sure it really does taste like no udder!

The milkĀ certainly is rich, creamy and coconutty. Personally, I thinkĀ it’s a mistake to try and hide coconut in a recipe, as I find it such a strong flavour that can overpower the otherĀ ingredients. So in making these muffins with accompanying smoothie, I’ve let the coconut flavour shine out; let the coconut rule I say! Coconut immediately made me think tropical, so we have some delicious tropical muffins flavoured with coconut milk and mango and banana. Imagine swingingĀ in a hammock on a tropical beach in muffin form, that’s the basic vibe I was going for.

I’ve put in quantities for either fresh or dried mango – the fresh gives fruity nuggets like you would find in a blueberry muffin, but if you prefer a drier texture more like a chocolate chip muffin I’d suggest using dried mango.

Clearly with half a mango remaining and some more luscious coconut milk to use up, an accompanying tropical smoothie was the obvious choice. The coconut milk gives a wonderful velvety creamy texture and is enhanced with mango, banana and pineapple. Sunshine in a sip!

This recipe is an entry into theĀ Dairy Free Style Your BreakfastĀ challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. See more great breakfast ideas athttp://vitacoco.com/uk/

Tropical Breakfast Muffins

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

makes 6

1 cup plain flour

1/3rds cup soft brown sugar

1 and 1/2 tspĀ baking powder

pinch ofĀ salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, melted (or sunflower oil)

1 small banana, mashed

1/3 cup coconut milk

1/2 mango, in a small dice or 1/2 cup dried mango pieces

1 tbsp soft brown sugar fro sprinkling

2Ā tbsp coconut flakes to decorate [optional]

  1. Ā Preheat the oven toĀ 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5.Ā Line a muffin pan
  2. In a bowl mix together the coconutĀ milk, bananaĀ and melted dairy-free margarine. Set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Make a well in the centre and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined (make sure you donā€™t over mix, it wants to look a little lumpy).
  5. GentlyĀ stir in the mango
  6. 2/3rds fill each muffin liner. Sprinkle a little sugar on the top of each and some faked coconut if desired.
  7. Bake forĀ 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and a knife comes out clean.
  8. Cool on a wire rack.
  9. These are best eaten on the day they are made

Best served with this delicious smoothie!

Tropical Smoothie

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

serves 2-3

1 cup/240ml coconut milk

1 banana, chopped

1/2 mango

3 slices of pineapple, cut into chunks

  1. Blitz until smooth
  2. Enjoy!