Savoury Herby Soda Bread

It seems to me that savoury bakes and snacks can be harder to make and source if you avoid things like eggs, milk, sesame and nuts. Maybe that’s because I’ve become more and more adept at creating interesting sweet dishes, and there’s so much variety when you take into account cakes, biscuits, breads, chocolates and sweets. Or maybe, you miss those ingredients even more in savoury items – there is certainly a reliance on cheese, nuts and seeds when you look at savoury offerings.

For savoury items, there always seems to be a point where you want more than crisps or plain crackers (of only certain varieties mind), but you want something interesting and appetising. This might be a quick snack or an exciting addition to a soup or salad for lunch, and if it can be made in a flash then that’s always a bonus.

Thinking of quick, soda bread came to mind. Bread can be the highlight of a meal or a wonderful snack to graze on whilst waiting for the main event.

This version uses curdled soya milk to replace the buttercream which gives superbly authentic results, plus a super savoury ‘cheese’ and chive vibe to fit with my craving for more savoury bakes in our repertoire. If you’ve ever made my equally delicious savoury scones you’ll be familiar with the flavour profile. 

If you like other herbs then just sub them in; rosemary and thyme would be rather nice, as would the softer parsley or chervil. The beauty of this bread is that it really is quick – you can have it made, baked and ready in about 40 minutes – perfect for those times when you find the bread bin empty!

We ate this loaf, fresh from the oven with a spicy lentil and coconut soup (a delicious Ottolenghi recipe) and then warmed up the next day as a tasty addition to a picky bits lunch. Do you have those, or is it just us when we’re trying a use up the contents of the fridge but still have an interesting lunch!

Savoury ‘Cheese’ and Chive Soda Bread

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

 makes 1 loaf

210g soya milk

15g vinegar (white wine or cider)

1 tsp marmite

300g plain flour

20g oats (plus a few more to scatter on top)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tbsp chives

1 tsp dried oregano

30g dairy-free butter/margarine, cubed

40g dairy-free cheese, cubed (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Line a baking sheet with parchment
  2. Pour the milk into a jug, add the vinegar and marmite and leave to ‘sour’
  3. Place all the other ingredients except the butter and cheese into a bowl or stand mixer.
  4. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips, or using the paddle attachment.
  5. Stir the soured milk and pour into the dry mix. Bring together to a very soft dough. Stir in the cheese cubes, if using.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead to form a smooth ball, you’ll probably need a fair amount of flour
  7. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and sprinkle over a few more oats. Cut a deep cross in the top (this will help let the carbon dioxide created by the bicarb and cream of tartar escape in a controlled fashion). Let sit for 20 minutes, uncovered on the worktop
  8. Place in the prewarmed oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 170 degrees Centigrade and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and crusty. (30 minutes baking time in total)
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla Sprinkle Cookies (with or without a chocolate cream filling)

Yay, it’s Spring at last. Suddenly there’s light, warmth and colour popping up all over the place. If feels like a new start and I have this urge to add colour and flavour to my bakes.

I’ve got some exciting ideas with raspberry and lemon, but first up are these fun, extremely happy and colourful vanilla sprinkle cookies. How could a batch of these not make you smile and improve your day? Great as they are on their own, and they really are delicious, you can always make them even better with a wonderfully chocolate cream filling. Surely a filling improves any cookie, and with the sprinkle decoration and the chocolate heavy centre you’ve got a match made in heaven. These cookies do spread out quite a bit in the baking so mine are large, if you want to make small versions make the balls of dough olive sized and reduce the baking to around 8 minutes

 

Vanilla Sprinkle Cookies (with or without a chocolate cream filling)

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

 

Makes 10-12

112g dairy-free margarine

100g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

155g plain flour

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

Quite a lot of sprinkles – I used half a tube!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment
  3. In a large bowl cream together the margarine, sugar and vanilla until well combined and lighter in colour.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt and mix to form a soft dough.
  5. Break off walnut sized pieces and roll in a bowl of sprinkles until totally covered
  6. Place well-spaced apart on the lined baking sheet
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes until starting to turn golden.
  8. Let firm up on the baking tray and then move to a wire rack to fully cool
  9. Eat as they are or fill with the delicious chocolate cream (recipe below)

 

Chocolate Cream

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

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk (if needed)

25g melted dairy-free chocolate

  1. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar until it is all incorporated, adding the milk if the mixture is too stiff.
  2. Stir in the melted chocolate.

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.

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

These are not just any cupcakes, these are the very best chocolate cupcakes. A deep chocolate flavoured light and fluffy sponge, topped with a rich and intense chocolate buttercream, even Marks & Spencer’s would market these as the best! If you’re stuck a home today due to the massive storm, you might want to make these (you’ll likely have all the ingredients in) and cheer everyone up.

I’ve got out of the habit of making cupcakes; I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I don’t so often cook for whole classes of children anymore. I used to bake a sweet treat for the girls classes every Friday when they were in junior school, now it’s more like once a term and cookies often trump cupcakes because they’re so much easier to transport. But there is nothing like a good cupcake, and these double chocolate delights are a class above. 

This recipe serves 6 or so, just the right amount for a houseful on a Friday night after school, but you could easily multiply the recipe if you have more to feed – after all, no-one would want to miss one of these!

The Very Best Chocolate Cupcakes

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

 

Makes 6-8 cupcakes

150ml dairy-free milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dairy-free margarine, melted

140g self-raising flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.
  2. In a jug combine the milk, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and bicarb. Set aside.
  3. Melt the dairy-free margarine, set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir in the sugar
  5. Pour the melted margarine into the milk mixture and give it a good stir. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix together to form a smooth batter. 
  6. 2/3rds fill each cupcake liner and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

 For the chocolate buttercream:

enough to generously cover the 6-8 cupcakes in the recipe above

75g dairy-free margarine

250g icing sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

½ tbsp dairy-free milk

 

  1. Whisk the margarine until it is light and fluffy
  2. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and dairy-free milk and whisk until you have a light buttercream.
  3. Pipe or spread a generous amount onto the top of each cooled cupcake

Iced Buns

IMG_4827
2014 photo!

Here we have another updated recipe. I rarely make Iced Buns but this has been another recipe that has gathered a lot of great comments and likes over the years, so it needed revisiting, updating and embellishing with some shiny new photos! (Although I have kept one of the previous photos just for my own nostalgia – haven’t cameras improved over the past years!)

Iced buns, viewed in the window of any English bakery, are a must for a collection of comfort food. For some reason they make me think of roaring fires and cosy knitwear – odd I know! Apparently some iced buns found in supermarkets are dairy-free, but I’ve never found any that are also nut-free – if you know of any safe brands please let me know?

Anyway, these iced buns are the perfect tea time treat, and this recipe will give you authentic but friendly buns to please your friends and family. They certainly go down a treat in this house 🙂

Iced Buns 

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

makes 6

  • 150ml dairy-free milk
  • 50g dairy-free margarine
  • 260g strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3g or 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 50g caster sugar

for the icing:

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water

– Melt the margarine into the milk (don’t make it more than tepid though)
– Place the flour, salt, yeast and caster sugar in a bowl and pour in the warmed milk and margarine mixture.
– Bring to a dough and knead until smooth and bounces back when you press a finger onto the surface.
– Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to double in size in a warm place.
– Divide into 6 even sized pieces and form into balls, then roll out to sausage shapes, trying to make them nice and even.
– Place about 1cm apart on a lined baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes
– Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade/180 degrees fan, or gas mark 4
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden, risen and they sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

– Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and water to form a very thick, smooth icing. Start by adding 1 tbsp of water and gradually add more as required.
– Once the buns are cool top with the thick water icing.

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.

Fabulous Vanilla Fudge

Who doesn’t love fudge? The ultimate naughty treat, basically a combination of fat and sugar, is utterly irresistible, well it certainly is in this house! I have a chocolate fudge on my site but i’ve really been wanting to make a perfectly smooth and creamy vanilla fudge, just like those ones you buy in postcard adorned boxes in the West Country.

Having done seeming hours of research it was hard to find a ‘friendly’ version that doesn’t contain a dairy-free condensed milk. Besides having none in, I really wanted a recipe that could be whipped up with ingredients that were already in the larder/fridge. I also wanted to avoid coconut cream as I think it imparts too strong a flavour unless you’re making a coconut variety. But then again, I wanted a smooth creamy finish so it needed to have some creamy addition along with the sugar and margarine.

As often is the right place, I turned to The Guardian and found Felicity Cloakes recipe for the ultimate fudge which features cream, Demerara sugar and golden syrup. Now, those are staple ingredients. We started experimenting and this ended up as the basis for this ‘friendly version’. The Demerara sugar gives a wonderful depth of flavour and the whipping oat cream gives the silkiest, creamiest finish. It may take a good 5-10 minutes of rigorous stirring, but the arm work out is definitely worth it, both for upper arm strength and the resulting divine fudge! I hope you enjoy the results as much as we do – we love it so much that i made two batches in a week!

Fabulous Vanilla Fudge

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

100g dairy-free margarine
550g demerara sugar
200g golden syrup
350ml Oatly whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt

1. Melt the margarine, sugar, syrup and cream together over a low heat until all the sugar crystals have dissolved
2. Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Heat, stirring now and then, until it reaches 116 degrees Centigrade.
3. Turn off the heat, stir in the vanilla and slat and then beat vigorously for 5-10 minutes until the fudge thickens from a liquid to a thick paste. The colour will change to a pale brown fudge colour
4. For into a baking tin lined with non-stick parchment and leave to set. This takes an hour or so as you want it to be fully set before attempting to cut into bite sized cubes.
5. For variety, try topping it which chopped dark chocolate as the bitter chocolate contrasts wonderfully with the sweet smooth fudge.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

I always like  to have a batch of flapjacks in the freezer. They’re such a great snack and a perfect addition for a packed lunch. Just grab one straight from the freezer in the morning, wrap in parchment and by lunchtime they’re be defrosted and ready to be munched on. I also like the way that a flapjack can fit many different occasions; it can be a substitute breakfast, an energy giving elevenses, a delicious sweet treat or even crumbled onto of yogurt or tweed fruit as an impromptu pudding!

I have many flapjack recipes on my site (just put flapjack into the search bar and you’ll find a whole variety of different flavours), but this one evolved from a few slightly sad looking raspberries left in the fridge. The fruit makes a lovely jammy addition to the flapjacks, the tart sweetness contrasting nicely with the syrupy oats, but i do recommend cooking for a few extra minutes to make up for the additional moisture in the mix.

Ravishing Raspberry Flapjacks

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

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

200g demerara sugar

200g golden syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp freeze-dried raspberry pieces

50g raspberries

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with foil
  2. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrup, and salt. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats, stir in the fresh and freeze-dried raspberry pieces
  3. Spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. remove from the oven and press down with a spatula for an even finish
  6. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  7. Try not to eat too many!!

Churros Cake

We’re still in desperate need of anything that’ll make us feel good and for these dark dismal lock-down days to pass as quickly as possible, although that said today was beautiful and sunny and hopefully a hint of brighter things to come.
Isn’t it crazy that we’re nearly a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and some of the simple joys of the first lockdown (the peace and quiet, quality family time, having to be at home but in some really gorgeous sunny weather and just the novelty of the whole situation – whilst not forgetting the horror and the misery people have had to cope with) has been replaced with boredom and drudge. No-one has zoom calls and quizzes anymore, no-one enjoys yet another day with nothing interesting to do, it’s all gone on for far too long.
I do believe that some good food and tempting treats do add little rays of sunshine into these otherwise dismal days and have been baking like crazy. Some experiments are quickly forgotten about, others become the seeds of new and exciting recipes. This is one of those successes…

Churros, cinnamon buns, snickerdoodles and more – all these bakes have such a wonderful warmth about them, there’s something so ultimately comforting about baking (and eating) with cinnamon and sugar. It’s almost like a sweet warm hug, the kind of hug we’re all missing right now.

I saw a photo of a churros cake on Instagram and immediately knew I had to make a ‘friendly’ version. So here we have a lightly spiced sponge, rippled with a spicy cinnamon swirl and then sprinkled with a crunchy sugar coating, just like a churros in cake form. How could that not be a spectacular combination? Add a warm, dark chocolate ganache sauce and you’re in churros heaven!

 

I served this cake for both pudding and a teatime treat, and it worked superbly in both scenarios. It won’t look quite so pretty without a bundt cake tin but it’ll still taste amazing. Let me know what you think?

Churros Cake

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

 

makes one cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder (make sure it’s the diary free version)

220g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsps bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

290ml dairy-free milk

2 tbsps dairy-free yogurt

100g dairy-free margarine, melted

3 tbsp soft brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp caster sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease the cake tin with melted margarine and sprinkle over a dusting of caster sugar and cinnamon
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the caster sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine and yogurt.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour half into the cake tin, sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar and then top with the other half of the better. Gently marble thebatzer with a skewer and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Remove from the tin and sprinkle with the extra sugar whilst still warm. If you want to add a chocolate sauce melt together 50g dark chocolate with 3 tbsp dairy-free cream.