Popcorn cereal bars

Next up in the recipes from cupboard odds and ends and these stunningly delicious popcorn cereal bars.

Big S and I have been on a mission to organise our larder. It’s quite an ongoing project but we’re going from a chaotic cupboard stuffed full to the seams to beautifully tidy pantry full of stacked glass jars and neat baskets of packages. It’s so rewarding! I keep going and opening the doors and admiring our work.

In organising we’ve come across so many odds and ends and multiple packs, they all had to be put to good use. The little bag of popcorn we came across made me think of those Pret popcorn bars. Do they still exist? By no means food allergy friendly, they were quite tasty. Then I found some oats and the dregs of a box of cornflakes. These seemed to make a coherent combination.

On testing it’s actually a stunning combo – toasty oats for a flapjack feel, cornflakes for the cereal taste and texture and popcorn for salty, sweet chewy hits. These bars have been declared delicious and already made twice! I urge you to make a batch for the week ahead – you’ll have a very happy family/friends 😀

Popcorn Cereal Bars

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

makes 8-10 big bars, 16-20 small bites

50g oats, toasted

50g cornflakes

17g popcorn

80g caster sugar

120g golden syrup

60g Biscoff spread

85g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Spread the oats onto a baking sheet and bake in a medium hot oven (180 degrees centigrade) for 15 minutes until toasty
  2. Melt together the sugar, syrup and Biscoff spread until you have a thick smooth mixture. Stir in 15g of the chocolate.
  3. Stir in the oats, cornflakes and popcorn mix until everything is coated in the rich caramel sauce
  4. Press into a loaf 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.
  5. Place in the fridge or a cool place to set.
  6. Melt the remaining 70g chocolate and drizzle over, leave to set.
  7. Cut into bars or squares.

Cupboard raid cookies

I’m really into baking with what’s to hand at the moment. Restrictions maybe easing here but I think I’ve gotten used to not just nipping to the shops whenever I fancy, and instead fully planning before each shop. But despite meal planning, more often than not an idea strikes and I don’t have the ingredients in, then I’m in a pickle! So to avoid disappointment I’ll take the other approach of opening the pantry doors and seeing what’s around. More often than not some interesting combination can be dreamt up on the hoof. That’s where these cookies come from, a good amount of time staring into the open larder and coming up with plans! We often seem to have bits and bobs of a variety of snacks hanging around and that made me think of Compost Cookies.

Compost cookies are very popular in the USA and the Milk Bar version seems particularly popular (at least on the social media channels I follow) but they’re not familiar in the UK. Compost Cookies are basically a cookie at which you’ve thrown in everything lurking in the kitchen cupboards, resulting in soft cookies studded with salty and sweet morsels with interesting textures. I’m not so keen on the term compost cookie, it doesn’t sound too appetising to me, hence my version ‘the cupboard raid cookie’ (well at least I think the name was concocted by me!)

You could add almost any snack like ingredient to this recipe but I’ve opted for pretzels (salty crunch), salted crisps (more salt), oats (substance), chocolate chips and crushed up biscuits (sweet crunch). I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, crisps in cookies does sound like a step too far, but they are actually pretty delicious with the sweet salty crunchy ingredients really adding to the flavour profile. Go on have a rummage and see what you come up with 🙂

Cupboard Raid Cookies

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

makes 12

110g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp essence of choice (caramel or vanilla work well)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

225g plain flour

40g assorted chocolate chips

20g broken pretzels

20g salted crisps

20g oats

20g crushed biscuits

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Centigrade (160 degrees Centigrade fan). Line two cookie sheets with baking paper
  2. Cream together the margarine and sugars until light and fluffy.
  3. Whisk in the cornflour, milk and essence.
  4. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and stir to make a soft but not sticky dough. Stir in the chocolate chips. Then very gently fold in the other additions (remember you can add whatever you like!)
  5. Roll into golf ball sized rounds and slightly flatten. I like to press a pretzels piece into the top of each one.
  6. Place spread apart onto the baking sheets and bake for 15 minutes until turning slightly golden around the edges. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets until they’ve firmed up and then move to a wire rack to enjoy.
  7. These will last for a good few days in a sealed container.

Cinnamon sugar cookies aka snickerdoodles

Don’t you just love the sweet spicy scent of cinnamon? There’s something so warm and inviting about this woody spice, especially when it’s baking in the oven, it makes the house smell like heaven.

Snickerdoodles are a big thing in the USA but until I started fanatically reading recipe books I’d never really come across them in the UK, although I can’t fathom why because they really are a rather superior cookie. Picture if you will, a soft sweet cinnamon scented cookie with crisp chewy edges that has been rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking, giving a crisp spiced sugary shell. See, they really should be a regular feature in the cookie top ten in any country!

For a rather delicious and exciting variation, sandwich two together with some Lotus Biscoff spread and you have a spiced sandwich biscuit of your dreams 🙂

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies aka Snickerdoodles

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

makes about 18

180g dairy-free margarine

150g caster sugar

50g soft, light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

1 tsp ground cinnamon

300g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 and 1/2 tsps cream of tartar

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

to roll the cookies in;

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade fan, 200 degrees non-fan. Line two cookie sheets with non-stick parchment
  2. Cream together the margarine, caster and soft brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate, salt and milk and gently bring together to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll large marble sized balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar, place well spaced on the lined cookie sheets and lightly press down.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until puffed up and golden. cool for a couple on minutes on the trays before moving to a wire rack.
  6. store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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

Peanut-free Satay

 

vegan peanut-free, nut-free satay

My recipes so often tend to veer towards the sweet; I do love baking more than any other kind of cooking. So I’m on a drive to be more inventive and friendly in a savoury way, especially after the sweet excess of Easter weekend!

I’ve had in mind to create a peanut-free satay for quite some time, but as you might have noticed I shy away from Asian food – I think the reliance on fish sauce has put me off somewhat, and often when I’ve eaten veggie versions in restaurants there’s definitely been an unmistakeable fishy undertone. Not what I’m looking for!

Anyway, I thought satay skewers or brochettes with rice and chilli pickled cucumber salad would make a nice friendly family meal. The marinade and sauce works equally well on chicken or veggie skewers, keeping all members of our household happy in one go – by no means an easy task! The use of Wowbutter as a peanut butter replacement works perfectly, or you could use a seed better instead if you preferred.

The satay is deeply savoury with a ‘nutty’ dimension that pushes all the buttons of a South East Asian dish. We’ll definitely be repeating this one!

Peanut-free Satay

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, peanut-free, vegetarian and vegan. Warning: Wowbutter contains soya)

nut-free dairy-free satay

Serves 4

For the skewers: (per skewer -I served two or three per person)

3 mushroom halves

4 chunks of green pepper

4 chunks of spring onion

For the marinade:

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/2 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of one lime

1 tsp honey or syrup

2 tsp mild curry powder

1-2 tbsp Wowbutter

2 tsp soy sauce.

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together.
  2. Use one third to marinate the vegetables and/or chicken ( obviously in separate bowls if doing both!!)
  3. After an hour or two, thread onto wooden skewers

For the sauce:

1/3 tin coconut milk

Left over 2/3rds of the marinade

  1. Combine the left over marinade with the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and thicken slightly.
  2. When you are ready to cook, paint a little of the sauce on the marinated veg skewers and bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade

For the cucumber salad:

1/2 cucumber

2 tsp wine vinegar

2tsp caster sugar

1 or 2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Small handful coriander leaves

  1. Shave the cucumber with a veg peeler into fine ribbons, combine with the other ingredients. chilli cucumber salad

To serve:

  1. Place the brochettes on a bed of rice, drizzle over a little sauce.
  2. Serve with an extra bowl of sauce and the cucumber salad on the side.

peanut-free satay

 

Strawberry Torte

June is peak British strawberry season, and it’s easy to over-buy, they are so sweet, perfumed and tempting! This often results in bowlfuls of slightly tired, past their best berries unless you use them up fast. So the challenge was on to find a recipe that could use up loads of possibly overripe strawberries. I didn’t fancy making jam as no-one else in the house will eat it, and I can’t get through more than a little amount. During my research I came across this gorgeous sounding recipe on the Good Food website for a strawberry and almond torte. Here’s my ‘friendly’ version (apologies to those who can’t have them,  it does contain almonds which we are OK with) and I have to say it was a big hit all round. But do make sure you get through it fast as it will go a bit soggy after a day or so…

Strawberry Torte (dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, sesame-free, soya-free, vegetarian and vegan) N.B. contains almonds

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makes 1 large torte

  • 175g ground almonds
  • 175g dairy-free spread (such as Pure)
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsps apple puree
  • 500g strawberries, sliced

– Grease and line a spring-form cake tin

– In a food processor blitz together the almonds, spread, sugar, flour, cinnamon and apple puree until well combined.

– Spread 2/3rds of the cake mix on the bottom of the tin

– Top with the sliced strawberries

– Dollop the rest of the mix on top

– Bake at 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour, until golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Cool and remove from the tin.

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