Tiramisu

Tiramisu has been on my list of ‘must recreate’ dishes for a really long time. I always really liked the coffee creaminess of tiramisu and it’s a pudding that I miss, although I think it fell slightly out of fashion in general.

I’ve been mulling over how to recreate the mascarpone and cream combo for ages. Cashews seem a popular choice to create a ‘cheesy’ alternative but we’re really not great fans. Even though Little S can now eat cashew nuts, I think soaked and blended cashews seem to only make a creamy nutty paste, which just isn’t quite right in my book. So I definitely wasn’t going to go down the cashew route. In my opinion coconut is similar in that it leaves behind an overpowering coconutty flavour and I didn’t want my tiramisu to have any unexpected coconutty taste. I was aiming for as authentic as possible a recreation, and I think this version is it.

Out of everyone who tasted my tiramisu the only comments that could improve it were that it needed more intense coffee flavour and some masala heat. I actually left out the masala as I was making it for the entire family (use vanilla if you don’t wish to use alcohol) and I used decaffeinated coffee and not quite enough of it. I know where I went wrong, but the recipe below has the mistakes corrected, but you may wish to add a splash more masala or soak the sponge for longer in stronger coffee to get an extra coffee and alcohol hit. The creaminess needs those strong flavours.

Rather than recreating the ladies fingers I baked a vanilla sponge and sliced it before dunking in the coffee. The resulting effect is spot on for tiramisu. The mascarpone and cream filling is a combination of sweetened soya cream cheese and soya whipping cream. This produces a cream which is both light and airy but with an extra richness and a greater stability. Once set in the fridge this Tiramisu lasts up to 3 or 4 days which is perfect as it does make a substantial quantity.

Tiramisu

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan. N.B. contains soya)

serves 10-12

for the sponge:

200g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a shallow baking tin with parchment
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, bicarb, lemon, vanilla and oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combines.
  6. Pour into the lined tin and level off and bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

for the cream filling:

200ml dairy-free whipping cream

100ml dairy-free cream cheese

4 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tbsp masala wine (more if you wish)

  1. Whip the cream until light and fluffy, then add the cream cheese and sugar and whip until fully incorporated. Add the flavouring and whip again.

To assemble:

 1/2 cup freshly brewed espresso or very strong instant coffee

1-2 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Slice the sponge into fingers and dunk in some freshly brewed strong coffee. The longer it’s absorbing, the stronger the coffee flavour
  2. Layer the ingredients into decorative bowls or a large rectangular serving dish.
  3. Start with soaked sponge, then a layer of the creamy cheese mixture and then a layer of cocoa powder. Repeat twice and finish with a heavy dusting of cocoa powder.
  4. Leave to set in the fridge and when ready to serve, slice into neat squares.

Baked Caramel Cheesecake (dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free)

Are you a baked or unbaked cheesecake fan? I definitely prefer unbaked one but they seem almost distinct desserts to me, more like siblings than twins. So it’s probably a good thing to have a wonderful baked cheesecake in your repertoire as well. In fact, I did some cheesecake research before devising this recipe and it seems that cheesecakes are popular throughout much of the world, with subtle variations but the baked version is more traditional.

There are many vegan recipes for baked cheesecakes but most seem to be made of soaked cashews. Clearly that’s not going to fit with my requirements of being nut-free but also I personally think people are deluding themselves with cashews. To me the resulting concoctions taste like cashew nuts funnily enough – like all nuts they have a strong pervading flavour. It seems like that’s just me as people rave about cashew-based puddings, but I have never come across a cashew product which isn’t inherently nutty. So, yep you guessed it, there are no nuts in my baked cheesecake!

This cheesecake recipe is made using tofu and in my opinion gives amazing results, the texture is completely spot on to replicate the dense, slightly cloying nature of a baked cheesecake, with the bonus prizes of a bit of wobble and squidge. I have to admit that while the results were really authentic, nobody in the family liked it as much as an unbaked cheesecake – I guess we’re just a family that prefers that fresher taste.

To add flavour to tofu which is essentially very bland, I’ve incorporated a few dollops of Lotus caramelised spread, giving a wonderful caramel taste which works so well with a fruit syrup. I’m thinking that chocolate spread or Wow Butter would work well too.

 

Baked Caramel Cheesecake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan) N.B. contains soya

Makes an 8 inch cheesecake

15 ginger nuts or 18 Lotus biscuits

3 tbsp dairyfree margarine

300g silken tofu

1 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp dairyfree milk

4 tbsp lotus caramelised spread

4 tbsp icing sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Centigrade
  2. Turn the biscuits into crumbs by either placing in a bag and thumping with a rolling pin or whizzing in a food processor
  3. Melt the margarine and combine with the biscuit crumbs. Press firmly into a springform cake tin and bake for 10 minutes. Cool.
  4. Mix together the cornflour and milk to make a thin paste and set aside.
  5. In a food processor, blend together the tofu cornflour paste, lotus spread and icing sugar until totally smooth.
  6. Pour on top of the biscuit base and level off. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set with a little wobble in the middle and slightly browned around the edges.
  7. Leave to cool fully in the tin.
  8. Serve with blueberry couli or caramel sauce.

Chocolate Sablé Biscuits – best chocolate cookies ever.

 

the best ever vegan chocolate biscuit

Sometimes there is nothing like a chocolate cookie, it can be the ultimate sweet treat, but so often they’re not quite right, more average than awesome. These are in the realms of awesome. They’re the kind of biscuit that you take a bite of and immediately sigh saying ‘wow, these are good’. Deeply chocolatey, just the right kind of chewy… yep, they’re up there with the best. The fact I’ve made them three times in the past two weeks says something!

the best every dairy-free chocolate cookie

The origins of this biscuit comes from a Pierre Hermé recipe which I’ve tweaked and adapted to our requirements and tastes. But as one would expect from a master chocolatier these biscuits are a chocolate lover’s dream – they’re dark, rich, chocolatey, sweet but a little bit salty all at the same time, .

These tend not to last the day round here as hands swipe them straight off the tray.

the best ever egg-free dairy-free chocolate cookies

Chocolate Sablé Biscuits

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

chocolate sable, egg-free

makes about 12-15

90-100g chocolate, chopped (I use a mixture of dark and ‘milk’)

85g plain flour

15g good quality cocoa

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

75g dairyfree margarine

60g soft brown sugar

25g caster sugar

1/2 tsp good quality flaky salt, such as fleur de sel

  1. Cream together the margarine, sugars and salt. Stir in the chocolate pieces
  2. Gently mix in the flour, bicarbonate and cocoa and combine to form a soft dough.
  3. Form into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge to chill, you want it to be as cold as possible
  4. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade
  5. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Slice the cookie dough into 1cm slices and place well apart on the baking sheets
  6. Bake for 11-12 minutes. They should have spread out nicely.
  7. Cool briefly on the sheets so they are stiff enough to move and then transfer to a wire rack.

nut-free chocolate sable cookies

 

Bahn Mi Salad

 

vegan bahn mi salad bowl

I’ve had this idea of turning Classic Bahn Mi baguette filling flavours into a salad for quite a while, and now the weather has turned super hot (albeit briefly!) it’s the perfect opportunity for exciting salad eating.

In my day job, I work in two different locations, so I spend rather too much time walking the streets of the City or sitting on London buses. It does give a lot of looking out the window and contemplating opportunities, and time to draw inspiration for my recipes. Just off one of my regular bus route there are two Bahn Mi shops within meters of each other (crazy, huh!), hence my thoughts turned to recreating the classic Vietnamese hot spicy, pickled, herby flavours of  a Bahn Mi baguette into a salad.

free-from vietnamese salad, no milk, no nuts, no eggs

In this salad bowl I have marinated noodles which are topped with Sriracha roasted beans, quick pickled red cabbage, cucumber and carrot ribbons, tomatoes and plenty of coriander. It makes for a delicious and very moreish bowlful. The noodles are best prepared in advance and cope very nicely with a couple of days in the fridge if need be. Same with the red cabbage. Just make sure you put all the topping on at the last minute to retain freshness and crunch.

Bahn Mi Salad

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

dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free vietnamese noodle salad

serves at least 4 (multiple the veg for more people as there will be plenty of noodles and cabbage)

 For the quick pickled red cabbage:

1/4 red cabbage

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp vinegar

2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp salt

  1. Massage the cabbage with the 1tsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt. Set aside for at least half an hour. Pour away any juice which have seeped out.
  2. Combine the water, vinegar and rest of the salt. Pour over the cabbage. Cover and leave to pickle for at least half an hour.

For the Sriracha roasted beans:

1/2 tin white beans or chickpeas

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp olive oil

A few good squirts of Sriracha

  1. Toss the beans in the paprika,oil and chilli sauce and roast in a medium oven (180 degrees) for 15-20 minutes.

For the marinated noodles:

4 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

5 tbsps soy sauce

3 tbsps balsamic vinegar

3 tbsps sugar

1 tsp salt

1 pack of wheat noodles (250g) or equal amount of spaghetti

6 spring onions, finely sliced

  1. Mix together the oil, balsamic, soy sauce, sugar and salt until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside
  2. Cook the noodles or spaghetti according to the pack instructions. Make sure they are slightly undercooked and then drain and run under cold water to halt the cooking process.
  3. Mix the noodles into the marinade. Add the spring onions and set aside. Marinate for as long as possible for really tasty noodles.

For the veg:

2 spring onions, sliced

1 carrot, shaved into ribbons

1/2 cucumber, shaved into ribbons

1/2 red pepper, finely sliced

Large handful cherry tomatoes, halved

Coriander

To assemble:

  1. In a bowl, cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinated noodles
  2. Top with strips of pickled cabbage, roasted Sriracha beans and veg
  3. Add carrot and cucumber ribbons around the edge
  4. Top with a scattering of coriander and a few squirts of Sriracha
  5. Eat straight away

vegetarian noodle salad, Bahn Mi style

Coronation Rice Salad

dairy-free, egg-free coronation rice salad

I don’t know about you, but for us June and early July heralds peak picnic and barbecue season. It’s a quick succession of one outdoor event after another, fingers crossed for good weather (always the bane of outdoor plans in England) for Sport’s day this Friday which would be unusual for this summer!

So, I’m on a mission to perk up our picnics with some exciting additions, as I find picnics can be particularly challenging with a restricted diet. There’s none of that ‘oh I just pop into M&S and get a whole picnic spread to take to sports day!’ it’s more a case of what can I cobble together at 7am with minimal fuss and which will happily sit around in a sweaty picnic basket until lunch time – quite a tall order there!

Salads are obviously a good way of pepping up your picnic, but clearly it has to be robust and not based on delicate and easily wiltable leaves. This rather moreish coronation rice salad is based upon one I learnt at Le Cordon Bleu but with all the excessive calories and cream transformed into a light but creamy spiced dairy-free rice salad. Call it a rice based riff on the classic and ever popular coronation chicken salad.

Feel free to add in suitable extras to make more of a meal of it – blanched almonds work really well if you can tolerate them, and I particularly like mini raw cauliflower florets for an added bit of interest. If you eat chicken, some freshly shredded roast chicken would work extremely well with the rice and curry flavours.

vegan curried rice salad

Coronation Rice Salad

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

egg-free, dairy-free curried rice salad

serves 4

1/3 cup egg-free mayo such as Veganaise or mayola

1/4 cup mango chutney

1 tsp mild curry powder

squeeze of lemon juice

seasoning, to taste

1 cup cooked basmati rice

1/4 cup raisins

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas, cooked through and then cooled

1/4 cup blanched almonds [optional]

handful of parsley, finely chopped

  1. Mix together the mayo, mango chutney, curry powder and lemon juice. Taste and season as desired.
  2. Stir in the other ingredients and garnish with the parsley.
  3. Serve.

vegan coronation rice salad

 

Antipasti Jewelled Couscous

 

antipasti jewelled couscous

Fluffy couscous salad, studded with rich antipasti and pistachios (if you can tolerate them) is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But it seriously has to be fluffy, there is nothing more disappointing than stodgy, clergy, water laden couscous!

You may be wondering about the sudden introduction of nuts on my site – well Little S passed a supervised food challenge and we’ve been ordered to introduce these nuts into her diet – scary stuff when you’ve lived in a nut-free house for a few years. Well, to be fair it shouldn’t be that scary, as the challenge was to nuts she’s never been allergic to, but we avoided due to cross contamination and, to be honest, a bit of fear. So the ‘challenge’ was really just an exercise to give us confidence with a few nuts. All good, and an important step forward, but not without problems. Where on earth do you buy pistachios, cashews and almonds which are totally free-from peanuts and sesame seeds?? Any pointers gratefully received!

So, we’re proceeding with caution, adding a few nuts here and there whilst at home (and trying to persuade her to like them, which is a whole other story…..). Hence, the couscous with added pistachios!

Best eaten at room temperature, this couscous salad/side is a perfect picnic or barbecue dish, just right at this time of year.

Antipasti Jewelled Couscous

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

vegan tomato and pepper couscous

makes one big bowlful, serves about 4

 1 cup couscous

1 cup water

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp salt

4 sundried tomato halves, roughly chopped

1/2 jar roasted pepper antipasti, roughly chopped

3 spring onions, sliced

Large handful pistachio nuts (if can tolerate them, otherwise omit or use sunflower seeds)

  1. Pour the couscous into a flat-ish bowl
  2. Place water, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  3. Once boiling, pour over the couscous. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.
  4. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add the other ingredients.
  5. Serve

dairy-free couscous