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.

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. 

Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Topping

There’s something so inspiring about the run up to Christmas for cooking and baking, it just makes me want to get into the kitchen and recipe develop like crazy! Maybe it’s the dark days, or maybe it’s the Christmas spices and thoughts of sharing with friends and family.

I haven’t spent enough time creating in the past few months – I’ve been doing a new job which has taken far too much of my time and energy (even on days when I’m not meant to be working), and I’ve decided that has got to stop. I need to get baking again, to test myself with new recipes and challenges because that is when I’m most energised. This week alone I’ve created three new recipes, so expect lots more posts coming up soon 🙂

Unbelievably our local Christmas lights turned on last night (it was only the 15th November!), so it suddenly felt Christmassy and I had to go a little festive and introduce some warm spice into the mix.

This is a knock out recipe for warming spiced muffins, with all the scents of Christmas rolled into one irresistible fluffy muffin topped with a crunchy crumble topping. This particular muffin recipe gives a great, authentic texture and rise which is perfect for the subtle spice. I particularly like the contrasting texture of the crumble topping, and think it really does add to the whole effect. Do add more spice if that is your preference, I kept mine subtle to please all members of the family!

These were delicious warm straight from the cooling rack, but I’m also thinking they’d make a fabulous Christmas breakfast or brunch.

Gingerbread Spiced Muffins with a Crumble Top

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

makes 12 large muffins

85g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

250g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

115g dairy-free margarine, melted

150ml dairy-free milk

150ml dairy-free yogurt

75ml golden or maple syrup

for the crumble topping:

1 tbsp oats

3 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp margarine

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

  1. First make the crumble top: rub the margarine into the other ingredients to make a lumpy mix. Set aside
  2. Heat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade.
  3. Fill a muffin tray with liners.
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the wet ingredients and combine. You want not clumps of raw flour but do not overtax, lumpy is good.
  5. 1/2 fill the liners and then sprinkle over the crumble top
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen and golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

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 🙂

Cappuccino Coffee Cake

A coffee cake is certainly one of the absolute classics, and this cappuccino inspired coffee cake adds an elegant and grown up touch to any coffee morning. It’s also pretty good as a cheeky pud 😉

It’s been a funny old week for me. Little S, who is our energy-filled whirlwind, has been away on a residential trip. The centre seemed well prepared for allergies, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking handing over to an unknown party. She is also a home loving type and was really nervous about going away for a whole week, so the build up was long and painful, and probably not helped by the fact that I’m useless at goodbyes and end up crying (embarrassing!). So it’s definitely been a week to keep as busy and occupied as possible, so it would pass quickly. A perfect week for some baking experiments, and ones that may be more to Big S’s tastes!

I’ve had the idea of a coffee cake, surely one the absolute classics, on the back burner for a while. Previously it seemed odd to cook a coffee cake for young children, but now Big S has developed a taste for an occasional coffee. I used decaffeinated coffee and I really don’t think it made any difference to the flavour. I know that walnuts are a customary addition to a coffee cake, but mine is nut free (as you might expect!). If you wished to add walnuts, add a handful of chopped nuts to the cake batter and decorate the top with a few walnut halves.

Personally I’m a black coffee drinker, but cappuccinos or flat whites always look rather pretty and have provided the inspiration for this loaf cake. The sponge represents the coffee with a rich deep coffee flavour, and the icing is the creamy coffee scented top, all finished off with an obligatory dusting of cocoa.

Cappuccino Coffee cake

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

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

130ml dairy-free milk

20ml strong coffee

1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/Gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix together the oil, milk, coffee and lemon and set aside
  3. Combine the flour, salt, bicarb,  and sugar.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until well combined
  5. Pour into the lined loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the icing:

2 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Pure)

1 to 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

1 tbsp strong black coffee

1/2 tsp coffee essence (optional)

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat.
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the coffee, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Spread or pipe onto the cake.