Berry crumble bars

img_1483It’s suddenly got to that time of year -Winter is most certainly here but it’s not quite Christmas! It may be the craziest year ever with days of lockdown merging into months, ever more depressing news and stress everywhere, but there is still something joyful and comforting in the seasons. I’ve always felt so lucky to live somewhere where years are marked by definite seasons, I think I’d really miss them if I lived somewhere with wet and dry instead.

Winter has its downsides (I’m mainly talking about the dark and the annoying habit of house spiders to scuttle about) but the beauty of the colourful leaves, the bounty of the harvest and the delight of a beautiful chilly morning easily out way them.

It’s time to get cosy, to eat comfort food and delight in the low sun and long shadows. These berry crumble bars are the perfect early Winter treat; comforting but with the remains of summer in the form of the berry jam filling. By all means use a different jam, but I find a berry jam adds a beautiful red band as well as a fresh tartness that brings the shortbread and crumble alive. Although it would be a travesty to only eat them in the Winter – big S has pronounced these her favourite sweet thing I’ve ever baked! That must be saying something as I bake new things all the time!

I’ve made these with both a simple crumble topping, or a fancier crumble and candied seed topping. Both are delicious, just pick the variety you’d prefer.

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Berry Crmble Bars with Candied Seeds
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Berry crumble bars with just the crumble topping

This recipe is inspired and adapted from one in the original Ottolenghi cookbook. I don’t mind admitting that I’m a bit obsessed with Ottolenghi and his amazing flavour filled food, so I was dleighted to be able to adapt one of his delicious recipes to cater for us as a family. I have a few others up my sleeve, so keep watching 🙂

I like to serve these in packed lunches wrapped in paper, for a teatime treat or even warmed slightly and served with custard for an autumnal pudding. They’d even work for a breakfast if you were inclined!

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Berry Crumble Bars (with optional candied seed topping)

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

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makes 12 good sized bars

120g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

60g caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g oats

100g dairy-free margarine

5 or 6 tbsp jam (about half a jar)

for a crumble top:

60g plain flour

40g oats

10g pumpkin seeds (optional)

30g dairy-free margarine

25g demarara sugar

for the candied seeds:

30g 0ats

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sunflower seeds

30g caster sugar

30g dairy-free margarine

20ml dairy free milk

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade. Line a square baking tin with non-stick baking paper
  2. Pour the flour, baking owder, salt, caster sugar and oats into a bowl. Cut the margarine into small cubes and add to the bowl. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until it ressembles fine breadcrumbs
  3. Lightly press the mix into the base of the lined tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. Whilst the base is cooking make the crumble top: place the flour, oats, seeds (if using) and demarara sugar into a bowl. Again rub in the margarine until you have a craggy crumble. Set aside.
  5. To make the candied seeds (if using): melt together the margarine, milk and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the oats and seeds.
  6. Once the base has cooled a little, spread over the jam in an even layer.
  7. (if using candied seeds) Spead the seeds over the jam.
  8. Sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. 
  10. Let cool fully befre cutting into square.
  11. These bars keep for a good week in an airtight container.img_1481

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I’m delighted that the Great British Bake Off is back on – not only is it light and frothy viewing (just what we need these days) but it also gives lots of new inspiration for bakes, as well as the pressure to keep up. I’ve got into a phase of having masses of recipes but never getting round to writing them up – well that has to change, and what better time than right now?

Week 1 was cake week and featured Battenberg, pineapple upside down cake or a cake bust. Well, i’m not quite in the mood to fashion a horrifyingly bad bust out of cake and Battenberg isn’t to my taste so pineapple upside down cake it is. In fact, someone asked me ages a go to come up with a pineapple upside down cake recipe but somehow it never got to the top of the ‘to do list’, until now that is! (I do hope you are still reading if it was you?)

Anyway, this cake is a real hit. Delightfully retro and garish with the tinned pineapple rings and glace cherries (I toned it down a little with morello glace cherries rather than the almost neon maraschino versions) and the epitome of comfort food. This is a cake which will take you back in time. In fact I had a leftover pineapple ring which ended up as the chef’s treat and even that was a trip down memory lane – who eats tinned pineapple these days?! This cake is probably best served with a good dose of custard, and not whipped cream like they did on the bake off, what on earth were they thinking?

Pineapple Upside Down Cake works well as a large cake as I’ve made here but would be even better as individual servings, each with a little pineapple ring topping the cake like a golden crown. I didn’t have the right sized moulds so one big cake it is! If you want to make individuals just evenly divide the mixture and reduce the cooking time to about 18-20 minutes (but do keep checking).

 

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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

makes 1 16cm cake or 4-6 individuals

Tinned pineapple rings to top the cakes (i used 3)

2 tbsp demerara sugar

1/2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g soft brown sugar

50g golden syrup

Pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Grease a spring-form tin or individual mould with the dairy-free margarine. Sprinkle the sugar into the buttered base.
  3. Lay over the pineapple rings and fill the centres with a place cherry. Set aside.
  4. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Combine the syrup, oil, dairy-free milk and lemon juice. Give it a stir and pour into the dry ingredients. Gently mix to make a smooth and runny batter
  6. Pour into the pineapple lined tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes until risen, golden and a knife comes out clean. I recommend placing the tin onto of a baking sheet as you may get some caramel leakage!
  7. Invert onto a plate and carefully remove the cake tin. If a pineapple ring sticks to the base just gently place back on the top of the cake. Pour over any remaining syrup.

 

 

Turtle Bay

We recently had reason to celebrate and decided to brave the big wide world with a trip to a restaurant. D and I have visited Turtle Bay before but not for a family meal out – when we’ve been it’s been so loud with pounding beats that you couldn’t hear your neighbour speak – not exactly conducive to a nice relaxed child friendly meal!

Cocktails! 🍹

Anyway, the girls have developed a taste for spice and Turtle Bay is where you want to go for spice! As it turns out it is also a great example of an ‘allergy applause’ destination and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

As usual, we had perused the allergen menu (easily available online here ) at length and were delighted over the range of potentially suitable dishes. It seems that nuts are not much of a thing in this restaurant which is always reassuring.

We identified suitable dishes for starters, mains, children’s menu and pudding. This was looking good 🤩 as a range of pudding options is more than a little unusual for us!

We went early (6.30pm) and it was quiet, calm, felt totally safe from a Coronavirus perspective. The atmosphere is just like being on a tropical holiday – the rustic beach cafe vibe and Reggae has to bring a smile to your face.

We started with mocktails and cocktails which added to the beachy vibe. The service was fabulous – the waiter knew the menu inside out and listened to our requirements with care. We had chosen a sweetcorn fritter starter to share but the waiter was concerned about the oil they were fried in. He checked with the chefs and they confirmed they were not happy to say they would be safe for a a milk allergy. This was disappointing for the girls as they love sweetcorn fritters but reassuring and exactly the kind of response we’d want in this situation. Instead we shared some Trini doubles – delicious chickpea curry on fluffy rotis. I was expecting the girls to dislike the chickpeas (they’re never keen when I use them!) but they both pronounced them delicious and devoured the plateful. Chickpeas are now definitely on the menu at home this week!!

Trini Doubles

Little S had the barbecued chicken and chips (only allergens soya and sulphur dioxide) from the Little Turtles Menu  – which was a huge portion, grilled to perfection and served with the crispiest, fluffiest chips I’ve seen in ages.

Big S nearly had a curry but opted for the jerk chicken with chips – again it was thoroughly enjoyed but a bit spicier than the children’s version.

I maybe found the veggie offerings a little less pleasing – I had an Avo Chilli Smash beach salad and while it was very tasty it seemed a bit like a few veggie things were chucked on a plate with the hope it would make a dish. I would have chosen something else if I’d realised the same chickpeas were in both the starter and my main. I like chickpeas but twice in a meal is a bit much!

Beach Salad

When it came to it we were too full to enjoy pudding, so I guess we’ll have to return to try out the dairy-free ice creams, sorbet or chilli chocolate brownie. 

All in all it was a fabulous choice of a meal out, and a celebratory one at that. A holiday vibe, great fancy drinks, fantastic allergen free offerings and some delicious spicy food. We’d thoroughly recommend it 😀

Dairy-free Summer Berry Fro-Yo

Wow, what a scorcher! It’s sweltering here so we need as much cooling down as possible. In the UK we’re not really set up for true heat, so rather than having the benefit of air conditioning everywhere, we’ve got to get by with cold drinks and doing as little hot cooking as possible.

While there are so many fantastic dairy-free ice creams available these days (how things have changed in the past 10 years or so!), sometimes you need something a bit lighter and fresher. This simple three ingredient summer berry ‘fro-yo’ is light, refreshing, and yet creamy and utterly delicious. It takes only minutes to prepare followed by a couple of hours in the freezer, and there you have the perfect refreshing summer pudding.

Not only does it involve just three ingredients but they are ones that that you are likely to have in,  which means a beautiful frozen dessert is always within reach. By all means use any frozen fruit you have to hand, but the tartness of the berries gives an extra cooling tang which is welcome on a mid-30 degrees kind of day!

Dairy-free Summer Berry Fro-Yo

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

serves 4

250g frozen berries

2-4 tbsps icing sugar

1 tbsp water

250g dairy-free yogurt, ideally Greek style

  1. In a food processor or high speed blender blitz together the frozen berries and icing sugar and 1 tbsp water. You will end up with a granular paste.
  2. Add the Greek-style yogurt and blitz until smooth and uniform. Freeze for an hour. Stir and freeze for another hour. Easy, no? Enjoy 😊

 

 

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.