Chocolate tiffin mousse cake – my Platinum Pudding worthy of The Queen

Have you tried my magic four ingredient chocolate mousse cake. if you haven’t you really should because it’s a fantastic showstopper made with just a few ingredients. Everyone i’ve ever served it to has loved it! So i thought I’d make a luxury version for my entry to The Platinum Pudding Competition. I was convinced it would be special enough to celebrate the Queen’s special year.

Well, sadly Fortnum’s didn’t think the same and I haven’t made it to the final. To be honest, I think they’re missing the trick, because the beauty of this recipe is that it works with any ingredients, free-from or not, and they can be bought in virtually any shop in nearly every corner of the globe. I even made it with dairy-cream and chocolate to test it out! That involved making it when no-one was home and then thoroughly sanitising the kitchen! Now that was dedication to the cause!


What could be a better, more inclusive celebratory pudding than one anyone can make, that everyone should easily be able to buy the ingredients for, and that can cater for everyone despite any dietary restrictions, and is delicious and celebratory? Well, The Queen might not benefit from this delicious pudding, but you all can. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


The basic premise is a chocolate tiffin (allegedly one of The Queen’s favourite puddings) topped with a light mousse-like chocolate cream and then decorated with some white chocolate and glitter. In my opinion, it’s a definitely pudding fit for The Queen.


Chocolate Tiffin Mousse Cake

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


Makes one 18-20cm cake

85g dairy-free chocolate

60g dairy-free margarine or butter

2 tbsp golden syrup, honey or maple syrup

8 biscuits, roughly broken (such as digestives, ginger nuts or rich tea)

200ml (one pack) dairy-free whipping cream , I used Oatly whippable

150g dairy-free dark chocolate or 175g dairy-free milk chocolate

  1. Grease and line a springform cake tin
  2. Melt together the 85g chocolate, margarine and syrup.
  3. Roughly break the biscuits and add to the chocolate mix, stir well so they are well covered. Press into the base of the cake tin and place in the fridge to set.
  4. Whip the whipping cream on high speed for at least two minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  5. In a microwave or a Bain Marie melt the chocolate, let cool a little.
  6. Gently stir the chocolate into the cream until well combined.
  7. Pour onto the biscuit base and level off the top.
  8. Place in the fridge to set.
  9. Remove from the tin and decorate as desired.

Tropical Granola Bars

 There’s something so handy about a cereal or granola bar, the can fit into so many situations – breakfast on the run, a quick pre-lunch snack, a picnic staple, or a post-workout refuel. As people are heading back into offices, these could be the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich in a packed lunch.

 When I used to go into an office regularly I always felt super pleased if I had a homemade packed lunch addition, rather than an additive filled less superior shop bought bar; hopefully these will make you just as pleased too 😊

This recipe is loosely based upon Yotam Ottolenghi’s Granola Bar recipe form the original ‘The Cookbook’, so you know they have good pedigree, and they have to taste delicious.

 

Tropical Granola Bars

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

 Makes 8 large bars

 

22g dried cranberries or sultanas

22g dried mango, chopped

22g dried pineapple, chopped

120g oats

22g sunflower seeds

15g desiccated coconut

50g dairy-free margarine

50g golden syrup or honey

50g demerara sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

 

  1. Place the dried fruits into a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soften for ten minutes. Then drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  3. Line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment
  4. In a bowl, mix together the oats, sunflower seeds, drained dried fruit and coconut and set aside.
  5. In a large saucepan melt together the margarine, syrup and sugar until the sugar has totally dissolved.
  6. Fold in the oat and fruit mixture, adding the salt and cinnamon. Make sure the mixture is well combined.
  7. Tip the mixture into the lined loaf tin, press down and level off.
  8. Bake for 22 minutes until starting to turn golden around the edges.
  9. Remove from the tin and cool completely before cutting into bars.
  10. These bars keep well for up to a week if placed in an airtight container.

Bounty flapjacks

Well , doesn’t it truly feel like we’ve been in January for about 3 months so far? What is it about the post Christmas/New Year period where everything seems to slow down and weeks drag on forever?

It also means that we’re well back into the routine of packed lunches and working lunches, so I needed some tasty additions to pop in along with the usual sandwiches. Flapjacks are a brilliant packed lunch option – they’re slow release energy oats but also bundles of sugar to keep the spirits and energy levels up. People seem to presume that flapjacks are healthy because they’re made of oats, all I can say is that they surely have never made their own as they’d know how much sugar/syrup they contain!

We particularly like coconut flapjacks, and this recipe is a riff on that, Bounty flapjacks featuring a coconutty flapjack base and then a dark chocolate and coconut topping. These little bites of paradise will certainly help you get through the never ending January days!

Bounty Flapjacks

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

  • 200g dairy free margarine
  • 200g demerara sugar
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 400g oats (preferably not giant oats)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 85g dark dairy-free chocolate
  •  
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix in the oats and coconut (keeping aside 1 tbsp of coconut for the topping)
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the bars, sprinkle the remaining coconut over the top

Matchmakers

I was thinking about Christmas confectionery when I was making the After Eight Bars, and it made me think of the sorts of gifts my mum, as a teacher, received from her pupils. Suddenly my mind was filled with thoughts of Matchmakers, Terry’s chocolate oranges and quality street. Ohh, i did like matchmakers. I’ve not thought about those crunchy chocolate sticks enhanced with flavoured sugar crystals for years, do they even still exist? Either way that thought was the inspiration I needed, I had to recreate Matchmakers. I thought they’d be tricky but actually they’re the easiest homemade chocolate recreation I’ve ever made. Basically tempered chocolate with added flavoured sugar crystals and then cooled quickly to get the right set/crunch. Even though I say it myself, these are a resounding success. I’m definitely going to make them often 🙂

Feel free to change the flavour, all you need is to sub the peppermint essence for orange, coffee, strawberry or caramel and you can recreate your favourite matchmaker flavour. I’d say this recipe makes about 16-20 sticks.

Matchmakers

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

2 tbsp Demerara sugar or course grained granulated sugar

1/2-1 tsp essence

85g dark dairy-free chocolate (i like Nomo)

  1. Add the essence to the sugar, stir well and leave to dry out for 10 or so minutes. I’d advise tasting the sugar once the essence is added, as you may want more depending on flavour.
  2. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment and place in the fridge, or better still, the freezer to chill.
  3. Melt the chocolate, following these directions. Let it cool so the sugar doesn’t melt.
  4. Stir in the sugar. Transfer to a piping bag, snip off the very tip and pipe long straight lines on the chilled and lined baking sheet. Immediately place in the fridge to set. They’ll be ready after 30 minutes or so.
  5. I’d recommend keeping these in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.

Hales of Cartmel, Cumbria

We sadly had to postpone our longed for holiday to the Greek Islands due to COVID and have ended up in the Lake District. It’s stunning and we’ve always meant to visit but it really isn’t a hot and sunny Mediterranean holiday – that’ll have to wait until things return to a bit more like normal. We also seemed to time it extremely badly, after two weeks of scorching weather it’s been chilly, unbelievably wet at times and generally ridiculously changeable! But maybe it’s often like that in The Lakes and I guess it wouldn’t be so wonderfully green and verdant if it didn’t rain a lot 😉

We’ve done a lot of the Southern Lakes including Coniston, Windermere and a fell or two and had to have a trip to Cartmel, the home of both l’Enclume and sticky toffee pudding. Sadly a trip to L’Enclume was not on our itinerary but I did get sticky toffee pudding for presents (I’ll also make my own friendly sticky toffee pudding when we get home 😊).

Cartmel is a gorgeous picture perfect Cumbrian village and a lovely place to wander about, but the highlight turned out to be Hales of Cartmel. As usual with ice cream parlours we thought it it would be a ‘oh wouldn’t that be nice’ and then move along. But Little S spied a whole list of vegan Ice creams on offer, so it was certainly worth going in and asking. Sadly on our first visit it was closing time so we had to come back the next day. Oh my we were pleased we had! The owner was so knowledgable and well informed. She has a whole range of vegan ice creams and knew exactly how they were made, with a full run down of how the ice cream machines were thoroughly cleaned between batches. As soon as we mentioned allergies the first thing she did (without prompting) was to go and thoroughly wash the scoop and fetch fresh hot water for cleaning between portions, now that’s the sort of service that makes us feel confident and happy!

Not only were there ice creams, but also a whole list of safe sorbets ranging from lemon to the rather lovely sounding passionfruit and pineapple. All these were made by Luxury Lakes Ice Cream. There were safe cones on offer and even a warning given over some varieties which were made in a facility that handles allergens, plus a variety of safe toppings from marshmallows to sherbet and sprinkles. Again the owner knew immediately which toppings were allergy safe and I even noticed that she kept these in a closed box to avoid any cross-contamination. Why can’t more establishments have care and attention to detail like this?

We were in ice cream heaven! It was such a joy to have a wonderfully allergy aware owner, safe ice cream and an abundance of choice! Since Yorica sadly shut down we haven’t had the joy of an ice cream parlour with a choice, and this find was so exciting we talked about our choices for most of the day and made a return visit for the pure joy of another ice cream 🙂

As we’re so unused to choice it was almost overwhelming, with a stunning array from the usual strawberry, vanilla and chocolate to the more exciting Biscoff, tiramisu and thunder and lightning which was by far our favourite. After all who can resist vanilla ice cream swirled with honeycomb and chocolate sauce?

So if you are visiting the Lakes and are anywhere near Cartmel I would thoroughly recommend a visit even if it’s just a pick up a delicious allergy-friendly ice cream.

Rhubarb Granita

There’s a lot of rhubarb around at the moment, but what to do when it’s a scorcher of a day and rhubarb crumble is not the most ideal dish for the menu? Why not try this gorgeous candy floss pink, icy and refreshing rhubarb granita instead? Maybe you think you’re not a rhubarb fan? Well this recipe has converted rhubarb haters after one just one taste and this frozen pud will delight everyone either in the hot weather like today or as a wonderfully interesting palette cleanser.

This granita has none of the bitter, sour stringyness you can get from a bad rhubarb dessert, instead it’s tangy, sweet but sour and really rather delightful. The tart zingy icy crystals are wonderfully refreshing and you’ll be sure to look at rhubarb in a whole new light. I added grenadine this time for added colour and a touch a sweet fruitiness but it’s still delicious without. Go on give it a go, and let me know what you think 🙂

Rhubarb Granita

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

makes enough for 4-6 portions

400g rhubarb

150g sugar

150ml water

1-2 tbsp grenadine (optional)

1. Wash the rhubarb and chop into 5cm lengths.

2. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let it bubble along for up to 30 minutes until the rhubarb has completely broken down.

3. Strain through and fine sieve and let the liquid cool. Stir in the grenadine if using.

4. Place in a container and freeze until just frozen (at least a few hours in the freezer). Break up with a fork and enjoy the tart tangy icy crystals

Tropical flapjacks

Sunny days call for not just food for outdoors but also bright tropical flavours, hence the inspiration for these deliciously lush oaty bars.

Flapjacks are one of the best packable foods- they’re sweet and delicious and stand up to be lugged about in a hot backpack, and even in the worse case scenario of them getting squashed they still make a rather delicious crumble. Besides they’re energy giving qualities are legendary and not surprising once you see the quantity of sugar and syrup they contain!

The tropical flavours are provided by a good dose of desiccated coconut, a handful of dried mango and a smidgen of pineapple juice, all topped with a optional squiggle of pineapple icing. It may be optional but it certainly looks nice!

Another of the beauties of flapjacks is that they freeze brilliantly. I often make a batch, portion them up and then freeze most wrapped in parchment. When it comes to making picnics or packed lunches you simply pop a frozen flapjack into a lunchbox first thing in the morning and by lunchtime you have a delicious fresh homebred treat.

Tropical Flapjacks

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

200g dairy free margarine (I use Pure soya or sunflower)

200g demerara sugar

180g golden syrup

2 tbsp pineapple juice

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

50g dried mango, chopped

50g dessicated coconut (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with parchment
  3. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, pineapple juice and salt
  4. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, coconut and dried mango
  5. Spread into the lined baking tray
  6. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  7. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares.
  8. Serve plain or top with a squiggle of pineapple icing (125g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbsp pineapple juice)

Teriyaki aubergine

*** Disclaimer – this is a sponsored post. I received a free bottle of Hon Mirin and took part in an online cook along. The recipe posted in this post is from the Sozai Cooking School and not my own. However, the comments and recommendations are my own***

I’ve always wanted to know how to make a good and authentic teriyaki sauce especially as Big S has become a fan of Asian flavours, but when I’ve made versions before the resulting dishes were a bit too sweet and sickly. So I was delighted to be asked to take part in an online cook along sponsored by Hakutsuru Hon Mirin and which promised the ultimate teriyaki. 

It was a really fascinating couple of hours. I knew nothing about Mirin before the class other than the name! Now I feel that I have a little insight into this really interesting ingredient and I hope to use it in a variety of dishes. Hon Mirin is apparently very popular in Japan but hardly heard of in Europe, hence this event to celebrate Hon Mirin’s global launch. Hon Mirin (with Hon meaning real) is a sweet rice seasoning/alcohol made from glutinous rice, rice koi and alcohol. It has a pleasant sweet taste, a bit like a sweet sherry and none of the additional salt you get in cheaper alternatives.  It also has the advantage of being allergen free and contains no artificial ingredients – perfect for us. 🙂

Having used this mellow alcohol in a couple of dishes (we made minstrone soup and teriyaki) I would really recommend searching out a bottle for your store cupboard (and I’m really not saying that because I got a free bottle!). It really did add a lovely umami richness to both dishes and the shine in the teriyaki sauce was outstanding. Right now, Hon Mirin is only available on the TK Trading website, but hopefully it’ll become more widely available as more people come across it’s versatility. I really didn’t think it would add much to a minestrone soup but actually the mellow sweetness was a nice addition that enhanced the tomato flavour.

If you’re interested in learning more Japanese cooking skills then do check out the Sozai cooking school which runs lots of interesting online cook alongs, the instructor in my class was really knowledgeable and a great teacher.

I’m posting the teriyaki aubergine recipe from the Sozai cooking school, but if you wanted to use chicken or salmon, simple cut into bite sized pieces and then follow the instructions below.

Teriyaki Aubergine

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

serves 2

7 tbsp Hon Mirin

2 tbsp water

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 aubergine, sliced in half lengthways

1-2 tbsp cornflour

  1. Mix together the Hon Mirin, water and soya sauce and set aside
  2. Score the aubergine flesh and then dust all sides with cornflour
  3. Heat some flavourless oil on a medium to high heat and cook the aubergine on both sides until golden and throughly cooked through. This will take 5 or so minute son each side. Remove from the pan.
  4. Wipe out the pan to remove any excess cornflour. Return the aubergine to the pan and add the teriyaki sauce. Cook on a medium to high heat, basting the aubergine until the sauce has reduced and you have a sticky soft aubergine.
  5. Serve with rice and steamed green veg.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

I don’t know about you but I find lunches the most difficult meal to cater for, especially right now where we’re all at home all the time, we have differing timetables and differing ideas over what makes a perfect lunch!

D and I generally have lunch and take the dog for a walk before the girls have even finished their morning lessons, so lunches have to be ready to be reheated or eaten cold. Right now, in mid-Winter slides and sandwiches seem rather less appealing and a hot option is preferred, but then there is the issue of keeping things warm for the lunches in stages. It has transpired that soup ticks all the boxes; it’s warm and nourishing, can easily keep warm and mostly all the family members like it. Also, there is something wonderfully homely about having a pot of soup on the hob and it makes me feel like I’m winning on the lunch front!

This soup is not only very easy to make from mainly store cupboard ingredients but also pleases the ‘bit-a-phobes’ (both children!) who only like smooth soups, but adds extra substance with the addition of rice to keep tummies full until supper time. I add chilli paste to mine as we all like slightly spicy food, but so feel free to leave it out if you’d rather have a more mellow soup for lunch.

Spicy Tomato and Rice Soup

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

serves 4

1 tbsp oil

1/2 onion, chopped

2 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp chilli paste

2 tsps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp sugar

400ml passata

400ml vegetarian stock

1/3 cup rice

1/2 tin sweetcorn (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a sauce pan and sweat the onion  until soft and translucent – try not to get too much colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree and chilli paste (if using) and cook for a further couple of minutes. 
  3. Pour in the tomato passata and vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season. 
  5. Blitz if you want a very smooth soup and return to the pan and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
  6. Add the rice to the simmering soup and cook for about 10 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. If using sweetcorn, add a couple of minutes before the end of the cooking.
  7. Serve with a hunk of bread or a sandwich for a hearty and warming lunch.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pâte de Fruits (Fruit Jellies)

I’ve always loved to make homemade sweets, and as pate de fruits are such an essential part of Christmas (especially for the French side of the family) these homemade fruit jellies are the perfect addition to my 12 days of Christmas.

If you’re not familiar with pate de fruits they’re a fruity jelly sweet, like a soft fruit pastille, covered in sugar. Made with fruit juice, sugar and pectin they’re naturally vegetarian and allergy friendly despite being not particularly healthy. But then again it’s Christmas and it’s time for luxury and indulgence.

Making homemade sweets seems like the height of luxury and difficult techniques, but these are super simple and you end up with some beautiful 100% natural pure fruit pastilles. One batch makes enough for well over 50 jellies, making it easy to have some for our Christmas treats as well as an addition to my homemade hampers. As long as they’re kept in an airtight container they will keep for months.

This recipe is adapted from the fabulous book on preserving by Pam the Jam. I’d thoroughly recommend seeking it out if you enjoy delicious and exciting preserving. I’ve chosen a combination of pomegranate and grenadine as it felt suitably festive and packs a punch of flavour, but you can easily swap any juice you’d like.

Pomegranate and Grenadine Pate de Fruits

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

makes 50-100 jellies

500ml pure pomegranate juice

juice of 1 lime

3 tbsp grenadine

450g granulated sugar

15g pectin

75g glucose syrup

1 tsp flavourless oil

  1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with parchment
  2. Pour the juices and syrup into a deep saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin powder into half of the sugar. Sprinkle over the juice and stir, heating gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Add the rest of the sugar, the glucose syrup and oil. Let the sugar dissolve. Then bring to a rolling boil.
  5. You want the temperature to reach 108 degrees Centigrade. This will take 10-15 minutes and you will notice the bubbles changing as the mixture heats. Be sure to scrape down the sides whilst the mixture is bubbling.
  6. As soon as it reached 108 degrees Centigrade, take the pan off the heat and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Leave to cool, then cover with baking parchment. Once fully cold and set cut into pretty shapes. Squares or triangles are the most efficient but I like using mini cookie cutters to stamp out little shapes.
  8. Roll each shape in caster sugar and then store in an airtight container until ready to eat.