Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf

A good banana loaf recipe is a winning addition to any baking repertoire, and this update of a 2013 recipe, it’s one you definitely need in your life. I have others, but this loaf is a cut above the rest with the additions of Lotus Caramelised spread (you could use peanut butter), roasted bananas and large chunks of rich, dark chocolate. By all means use nuts or dried fruit instead of the chocolate, or even just leave them out, it will still work nicely, but make sure you roast the bananas for that extra special banana flavour. That’s the key to this one.

This is a beautiful loaf just plain, but if you want a bit of pizazz then i’d recommend either a water icing drizzle, or the extra special biscoff drizzle.

Caramelised Roasted Banana and Chocolate Loaf (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

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makes 1 2lb loaf

  • 100ml or 1/2 cup oat milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 125g or 1 cup plain flour
  • 85g or 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flourless oil, I use sunflower
  • 2 medium roasted bananas, mashed
  • 75g or 1/3 cup Lotus caramelised spread
  • 50 g or 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (optional)
  • glaze: icing sugar and water, or 1 tbsp biscoff spread, 3 tbsp icing sugar and 1 tbsp water whisked til smooth

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 4

– Halve the bananas lengthways and roast for 20-30 minutes. Mash and cool.

– Line or grease a 2 lb loaf tin

– Add the lemon juice to the oat milk and set aside.

– Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar.

– Add the bananas, caramelised spread and oil to the oat milk mix. Stir well

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the chopped chocolate (if using) and gently stir to make sure they’re evenly distributed.

– Fill the loaf tin with the mix.

– Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden and a knife comes out clean.

– Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

– Drizzle with a simple water icing.

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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.

Triple chocolate hot cross buns

My it’s been a long hard Winter! But at last things are starting to look brighter and the first signs of spring are hitting at the same time as an early Easter. It’s such a joy to see the spring flowers burst through and the first real warm sunshine of the year. It seems like a hopeful time.

Easter means plenty of hot cross buns and chocolate so why not combine both to get the best of both worlds! I really enjoy making hot cross buns, they’re pretty simple but there’s something magical about the soft dough, sweet spice and gorgeous shine.

I have a lot of flavour varieties on my site (just put hot cross buns in the search bar!) but these are particularly rich and decadent so I would urge you to give them a go. Plus the white cross on the dark chocolate dough is particularly striking!

The big question is what variety next? I’m thinking a savoury version (inspired by those cheese and marmite/cheese and chilli ones from M&S), so what this space as I’ll hopefully be able to develop it before next weekend!

Triple Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

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

makes 9-12

460g strong bread flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tbsp dried yeast

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed spice

400ml warm dairy-free milk

2 tbsps melted dairy-free margarine

100g dairy-free chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk, dark and white)

for the crosses:

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp water

for the glaze:

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

  1.  In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa, yeast, sugar, salt and spice. Make a well in the centre and pour in the dairy-free milk and dairy-free margarine, bring together to form a dough (adding more flour if too wet, or more liquid if too dry)
  2. Knead for about 5 mins until the dough is smooth
  3. Place in a bowl and cover, leave in a warm place to double in size
  4. Knock back, knead again and then form into 9-12 even sized balls. Place well spaced on a baking sheet lined with grease proof paper
  5. Leave to rise again for 10-20 minutes
  6. Mix together the water and flour to make a paste and pipe onto the top of the buns in crosses. Bake at 190 degrees/Gas Mark 5 for 15-20 minutes until risen and the buns sound hollow
  7. Make the glaze by dissolving the sugar in the water and boiling briefly. Brush over the hot buns.
  8. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  9. These buns are best kept loosely covered or the glaze will make them go a bit soggy.

Black Forest Cheesecake

Sometimes a recipe evolves as a idea and sometimes it just happens due to the contents of the larder!
I wanted to make a cheesecake for Sunday lunch last week and had all the necessary ingredients except for the icing sugar that I use to sweeten the cream cheese filling. It was nearly a case of no pudding for Sunday lunch – shock, horror! Luckily lurking at the back of the baking shelf was the remnants of a bag of Sugar and Crumbs black cherry icing sugar… could I use that? Then lightbulb moment, of course if it’s black cherry flavour then that goes perfectly with chocolate and we can have a black forest cheesecake. Bingo! What started as an experiment using what I had in the cupboard ended up as a complete hit. Everyone was wowing about it as a combination, so it’s certainly worth recreating 🙂
I urge you to seek out Sugar and Crumbs icing sugars and cocoa powders – they’re allergen free and flavoured with natural flavourings, and add an fabulous flavour to many a dish. If you don’t have the flavoured icing sugar then use either 1 tsp cherry essence, or maybe a tablespoon of cherry jam to flavour the cream cheese filling. Perhaps even a marble of cherry jam would be a nice addition?
Have you come across the Oatly ‘cream cheese’ yet? I’ve been emailing them for years to bring it to the UK as all their products are so good, I really hoped it would be a great cream cheese alternative. We always used Tofutti out of preference, as the creamy smooth spread was in our opinion the best you could buy. So many dairy-free cream cheeses are too ‘cheesy’ and no good substitution for a standard cream cheese which is smooth, creamy and mild tasting. So since the UK distributor of Tofutti disappeared we’ve had a sad lack of cheesecakes. These have been sad sad days as cheesecake is the favourite pudding in the household. But now with Oatly creamy spread is widely available in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, it’s back to cheesecake a go-go! The mild flavour works perfectly as a cream cheese substitute and carries additional flavours without any underlying cheesy aroma.

This black forest cheesecake will be the prefect Valentine’s day pud – i hope you enjoy as much as we did ❤

Black Forest Cheesecake

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

makes one 20cm cake, serves 4-6

115g Biscuits, crushed (I used Lotus)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted

1 tub of dairy-free cream cheese (150g)

1 tbsp dairy-free yogurt

2-3 tbsp black cherry icing sugar

30g dairy-free dark chocolate

fresh or glace cherries to garnish

  1. Line a spring form cake tin with parchment.
  2. Mix together the crushed biscuits, cocoa powder and melted margarine. Press into the bottom of the tin (and slightly up the sides if you’d like the biscuit crumb edge look). Place int he fridge to chill.
  3. In a food processor (or with a whisk), whisk together the cream cheese, yogurt and 2 tbsps icing sugar. Taste and add more icing sugar if desired. Pour over the chilled base and level off. Leave in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to set.
  4. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cheesecake. Garnish with glaze or fresh cherries.

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.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

Have you been making marmalade? It seems like the thing to do in January. The Seville oranges hit the shelves after Christmas and then suddenly everyone is making marmalade. 
I jumped onto the marmalade bandwagon and made some rather tart but tasty grapefruit marmalade this year and have ended up with so many jars that I’m not quite sure what to do with it all. But it is a very rewarding and thrifty thing to make, with just a few citrus fruits, a ton of sugar and some water and you end up copious amounts of the sticky orange stuff. I used 3 grapefruits and 2 lemons and have ended up with 7 jars of Paddington’s favourite!
In usual times I’d give the jars to friends and family, but as you can’t really see anyone right now and everyone is simply stuck at home, the pantry shelves are groaning with jars of freshly made marmalade! So it is officially operation use up the marmalade. Obviously it’s great on toast, works well in marinades and sauces or for when you want a sweet dish to not be too sweet, such as in a cake or biscuits. 

This marmalade cake is a fantastic combination of sweet sponge with the bitter hints of marmalade running through it, topped with a sweet icing which also has a bitter marmalade edge. You might say it’s a more grown up kind of cake, one that is more akin to accompanying a cup of tea than to a children’s tea party.

Sticky Marmalade Cake

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

makes 1 loaf cake

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

1 tbsp cornflour

100g caster sugar

1 tbsp orange or lemon juice

100ml flavourless oil

100ml dairy-free yogurt

125ml dairy-free milk

4 tbsp marmalade

for the icing:

100g icing sugar

1 tbsp warm water

1 tbsp marmalade

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and line a loaf tin (I used a 2lb tin)
  2. Sift together the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt and cornflour. Stir in the sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together the oil, yogurt, lemon juice, milk and marmalade. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix to form a smooth batter (there will obviously be some lumps from the peel in the marmalade)
  4. Pour into the lined loaf tin, level off and bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  6. Mix together the icing ingredients and drizzle over the cake adding a few extra pieces of marmalade peel

Pepparkakor – Swedish Ginger Thins

I always love a cooking challenge and so was happy to be asked for a Pepparkakor recipe. These Swedish Ginger thins are a Scandinavian Christmas must have and rightly deserve a place on my site.

I’ve only had the Anna brand ones, those very thin crisp flower shapes biscuits often found in health food shops. They always make me think fondly of my step-Grandmother who would always buy Anna’s Ginger thins and a variety of dried fruit for my girls to graze on when they were tiny. She was always very kind to me and made such an effort to cater for us, despite the dietary challenges.

These pepparkakor are a little less thin and crisp and not so dark in colour as I only had syrup available rather than the syrup and treacle required. But the spice is spot on and they make a lovely addition to the Christmas spread.

Pepparkakor (Swedish Ginger Thins)

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

makes 16-20

125g dairy-free margarine

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

50g caster sugar

40g soft-brown sugar

50g golden syrup (or ideally 25g treacle and 25g syrup)

35ml water

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugar and spices.
  2. Melt the syrup (or syrup and treacle) into the water
  3. Add the syrup mix and flour, bicarb and salt to the creamed margarine and mix to a soft dough.
  4. wrap and rest for a couple of hours in the fridge
  5. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade
  6. Roll out the dough to 2-3mm thick and stamp out festive shapes.
  7. Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes until golden
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. These are best iced but if you don’t have time (like me) a little dusting of icing sugar is nice too 🙂

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.

Tomato and Balsamic Taralli Biscuits

I’m always looking for new savoury snack ideas as they can be sadly hard to find if you’re on a restricted diet. Breadsticks are mainly out of bounds due to traces of sesame, few crackers are suitable and cheese straws are a obvious no-no! Some crisps and popcorn are good but you can’t always eat crisps, well maybe you can buy you probably shouldn’t!

These little crunchy Italian bites are a great addition to the snacking scene. They savoury, crunchy and moreish – just perfect with an aperitif or to snack on whilst watching a film.

They seem to have been quite a hit as the first batch disappeared in a couple of hours – always a good sign. I think I’ll have to make a couple of extra batches to keep us going through Christmas and to add little bags to my homemade hampers!

Taralli biscuits are often flavoured with fennel but I’ve use balsamic vinegar, sun dried tomato paste and oregano. I think it results in a subtle but delicious savoury taste. If you want to ramp up the flavour use double concentrated tomato purée instead.

Sundreid Tomato and Balsamic Taralli Biscuits

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

makes about 40

250g plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dried oregano

3 tsp sun-dried tomato paste

20ml cheap balsamic vinegar (don’t waste the good stuff here!)

80ml white one or grape juice

60-80ml extra virgin olive oil

to glaze: 1 tsp tomato paste mixed with 1 tsp dairy-free milk, flaky salt crystals

  1. Stir in the salt and oregano into the flour. Add the tomato paste, olive oil and white wine and bring together to a soft dough.
  2. Knead until silky and smooth.
  3. Wrap and rest in the fridge for at least an hour
  4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade Fan, 190 degrees non-fan
  5. grab small grape sized pieces of the dough and then roll into half cm wide sausages. Cross over the ends to make a loop and place on the lined baking tray while you shape the rest.
  6. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Drop in the Taralli, ten or so at a time and boil until the rise to the surface. This will take a minute or two.
  7. Place back on the lined baking sheet.
  8. Brush with the glaze and sprinkle with the salt. 
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy. 
  10. Cool on wire rack. These will get more crunchy as they cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long!)

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