Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages

It’s definitely comfort food time of year; it seems dark most of the time and a bit of warming traditional food is the perfect way to keep the spirits up. Vegetarian sausages can be a great way to have a traditional meal but with a veggie twist – there are a few good varieties but some of the ones you buy can be either unpleasant tasting and trying to be like fake meat (as a veggie, I HATE fake meat) or bland spongy things which are best avoided. Time to create a homemade version!

The Food for Friends (a veggie restaurant based in Brighton) cookbook has a couple of interesting veggie sausage recipes which are definitely worth trying, they are good, but maybe not quite to my taste. So, these are my version;  flavoured with the Mediterranean in mind, using the delicious combo of rocket, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and balsamic vinegar  – and my, they are lovely! Be warned, the mixture is quite crumbly so it’s definitely worth chilling them in the fridge for a good while before frying. But the resulting mixture is so punchy with umami flavours that we find we can forgive a bit of crumble!

Homemade Mediterranean Veggie Sausages 

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

For 2 sausages, perfect for one person – multiple the amounts for more people

  • 1 slice of wholemeal bread, made into breadcrumbs
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1-2 tbp of the oil the sun-dried tomatoes came in
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large handful rocket or spinach
  • small bunch of basil
  • seasoning
  1. Best to use a food processor, blend the bread to make fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the tomatoes, balsamic, rocket, basil and garlic and blend to combine. It should look like the texture of green sand
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning
  4. Tip out onto a sheet of cling film, shape into a large sausage shape and roll tightly. Chill well.
  5. Unwrap and cut into two. Fry in sunflower oil until golden on all sides

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes – maybe the easiest recipe in the world!

 

It’s the start of birthday season in this household – we all have Autumn birthdays and so it’s a frantic run up to Christmas filled with various celebrations. Obviously, birthdays need cake and as you can imagine all my cakes are homemade.

These teeny tiny cupcakes were probably the first ever dairy and egg-free sweet recipe I devised, but never the less I get requests for them at every birthday! Maybe it’s their size but these miniature cupcakes always go down a treat; they also freeze brilliantly which is fantastic for being prepared for any situation. They can be defrosted and iced ready to take to a birthday party in a flash, making it easy for my daughters not to feel left out when it comes to the all important cake time!

They are light but tasty and can be made any size, and are very easy to flavour with choc chips, essences or dried fruit. Probably the simplest cupcake recipe you’ll ever come across, this is great one to pass to people who want to cater for an egg-free and dairy-free guest without any unusual ingredients, visits to the supermarket or complicated instructions! I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like them, which really must be the best review going.

Super Simple Mini Cupcakes

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

 

(makes about 12 standard size or around 24 mini cupcakes)

110g plain flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

50g caster sugar

150ml water

40ml sunflower oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract or other essence of choice

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin/cupcake tin
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then stir in the sugar
  3. Add flavourings as desired. 40g choc chips or 50g dried fruit plus a splash of extra water
  4. Pour in water and oil and stir until well combined, but don’t over-mix. Some tiny lumps are fine, as with a muffin batter.
  5. 2/3rds fill the cupcake/muffin cases
  6. Bake standard size for 20-25 mins until golden, mini size for 10-15 mins.
  7. Cool and ice if desired.

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

I’m very fond of Welsh Cakes, I think they’re under-appreciated and overlooked in the world of teatime treats, unless you’re in Wales that is! They’re basically a little griddle cake or drop scone, usually subtly spiced and filled with dried fruit. Here is a rather tasty Autumnal version from me, bringing the warming spices of gingerbread to Welsh cakes.

The inspiration came from D who just went on a crazy mission to the rugged Snowdonia coastline in Wales to take part in a madcap 10km swim up a cold river estuary. It certainly is one of the last ways I would want to spend my weekend, but he loves swimming, particularly in beautiful surroundings, and couldn’t pass up this challenging opportunity. It was a massive achievement which involved over ten hours of driving, little sleep and 2 hours 40 minutes of swimming all in a 24 hour period.

So as a little ‘well done’, with a nod to the Autumnal weather and Wales, I created these little gingerbread Welsh Cakes. The perfect sweet pick me up after a challenging day.

Again, like my last two sweet ’emergency ready’ recipes, Welsh cakes are ideal to make at the last minute. They’re made in a flash and work perfectly in any teatime setting. Serve warm, spread with dairy-free margarine for some truly happy guests.

Gingerbread Welsh Cakes

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

makes 8-12

1 cup of plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/4 cup soft brown sugar

3/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp black treacle

1 tbsp dairy-free milk

caster sugar, to sprinkle

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spice into a bowl.
  2. Rub in the margarine until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Add the dairy-free milk, syrup and treacle and mix to form a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Roll out on a floured board and cut out shaped with a cookie cutter – circles are the traditional shape but any would be fine.
  5. Heat a dry non-stick frying pan (or any frying pan wiped with a smear of spread)
  6. When hot add the cakes and dry fry/griddle for 2-3 minutes on either side until golden.
  7. Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  8. To reheat warm in an oven or microwave

Oreos – My Way and an issue with Tesco

 

I’m not sure if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook? (do follow the link in the sidebar if you’re interested). If you do, you might be aware of ‘cookie-gate’, with Tesco own brand Cookies and Cream Biscuits. If not, here’s a brief summery of the last nine months (it’s a very long and involved story so I won’t bore you with every detail)!

Oreos, the iconic American cream-filled cookies are vegan in the US, but for some bizarre reason they contain milk in the UK. However, Oreos seem to be everywhere, everyone eats them and my girls feel left out. Occasionally we’ll splash out on a ridiculously expensive imported US pack from somewhere like Urban Outfitters (oddly), but this is a very rare occurrence! So I was over the moon when I found the own brand Cookies and Cream biscuits in Tesco just before Christmas last year and couldn’t wait for us to taste test them.

Within seconds both girls had itchy mouths, tight throats and swelling lips. We administered antihistamine and everything was ok, but clearly there was something amiss with the ingredients in the cookies.

I contacted Tesco, returned the biscuits to store and an investigation took place. Well, they said an investigation took place. I was told that there were no nuts in the factory, and that milk didn’t produce that kind of allergic reaction (in their opinion milk allergy involves a stomach based reaction). That seemed the end of the matter for them, we hadn’t needed a doctor so I didn’t have any documents  to provide which they wanted for any escalation. Here’s a copy of the letter they sent…

Then months later in early summer I came across allergy forums where others had had reactions to the same biscuits, and most bizarrely had different responses from Tesco, first claiming that there were nuts used in the factory, then that milk was used on the same line but they cleaned thoroughly between, and finally last week the biscuits (all batches) were recalled because they do in fact contain milk!

We were shocked after being so clearly fobbed off to start with, and that they now admit the biscuits do contain milk which was undeclared (in fact denied). We’ve gone back to them for at least an explanation. I just hope that nobody had a serious reaction in the past months whilst the biscuits remained on sale.

So, to make up for ‘cookie-gate’, I have revamped and improved my Oreo recipe. Who needs shop bought when these are so so much nicer!

‘Oreos’

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

Makes approx. 24 sandwich biscuits

3/4 cup hard vegetable fat

1 cup of caster sugar

2 tsps vanilla extract

1/2 cup dairy-free milk

1and 1/2 cups plain flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsps cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Filling

1/4 cup vegetable fat

1/4 cup dairy-free spread

2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Cream together the vegetable fat and sugar. When fluffy, add the dairy-free milk and vanilla. Mix well. If it looks like it’s split add a couple of tbsp of flour to the mix
  3. Sift in the remaining ingredients and bring together to a firm-ish dough.
  4. Place half on a sheet of baking paper, place more paper on top and roll out to 1/4-1/2cm thickness. Cut out rounds with a cookie cutter and remove the ‘in between bits’. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on the tray for five minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  6. Repeat with remaining mixture until it’s all be used up.
  7. Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk together the vegetable fat and dairy-free spread. Add the vanilla.
  8. Add the icing sugar in 1/2 cup measurements, until fully incorporated. It may look this breadcrumbs, so squeeze together to form a stiff paste.
  9. Roll out large grape size balls of filling and squish between two biscuits.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake

Well, the summer and holidays seem well and truly over – it’s dark in the mornings and evenings and the leaves are turning golden with a vengeance. Time for thoughts to turn to comfort and cosy warming dishes to keep the spirits up, I think.

Chocolate fudge cake which is rich and gooey with a sticky chocolate glaze, surely that’s going to lift our spirits? This is a fabulous quick but indulgent recipe, perfect for an after-school treat which will be much needed in this first full week back. My, we’re all going to be tired come this Friday if this weekend was anything to go by!

This cake which is perfect as either a teatime treat or a wicked pudding with ice cream is a family favourite. It is a very simple recipe to make, and I’ve included the ingredients in grams and tablespoons so the younger members of the family can easily participate in making this moreish cake and still result in that all important wow factor. It is certainly gooey enough for the most diehard chocoholic – and who can resist a slice of gooey chocolate fudge cake…. I know I can’t.

Gooey Chocolate Fudge Cake 

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

 

makes a 2 lb loaf

9 tbsps dairy-free milk

1.5 tsps bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp vanilla essence

200g self-raising flour

4 tbsps cocoa powder

4 tbsps granulated sugar

4 tbsps soft brown sugar

50g dairy-free margarine

4 tbsps golden syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 Degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a 2lb loaf tin (or 2 1lb tins, or half the mixture to make 1 1lb cake)
  3. Combine the dairy-free milk, bicarb and vanilla and set aside.
  4. Cream together the dairy-free spread and sugar. Mix in the syrup.
  5. Sift together the flour, cocoa and salt.
  6. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the soya milk mix, add too the creamed spread. When fully combined and smooth, fill the loaf tin.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack.

Chocolate Fudge Icing 

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

 

make enough to cover 1 loaf

1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp dairy-free milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Melt together the dairy-free margarine, milk, cocoa and sugar.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and bubble furiously for a minute or two, stirring all the time.
  3. Cool, stirring now and then. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Once cool, spread over the top of your cake.

Strawberry Creams

One thing Little S dreams of but has never been able to indulge in is a box of chocolates. A pretty box filled with an array of beautiful chocolates with delicious fillings… well, who wouldn’t want such a thing? So I’m on a mission to make one for her birthday as a little surprise (Shhhh!)

We have a great fondness for Choices caramels, but they’re all one flavour which isn’t quite the same as the surprise and choice you get from a selection. I want to recreate the thrill of looking at the mini chocolate menu and choosing your favourite!

So these strawberry creams are the first in a series of filled chocolates and one of my very favourites. In my opinion the flavours of dark chocolate and berrry flavoured fondant are a match made in heaven. They’re also as simple as can be – as long as you have a chocolate mould and some patience you too can make shop worthy chocolates.

The fondant filling is simple: icing sugar (I used Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar as it’s totally safe and adds an extra oomph of flavour) mixed with a fresh strawberry purée, what could be easier!

Strawberry Creams

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

1 tbsp fresh strawberry puree (or maybe a little more)

1 cup icing sugar

100g dairy-free dark chocolate

  1. Melt the chocolate following the instructions here. It needs to be tempered to get a lovely shiny finish.
  2. Coat the moulds with the about 3/4s of the chocolate. Leave to set.
  3. Meanwhile make the strawberry fondant filling. It needs to be like very thick icing, so start with 1 tbsp of puree and add more if necessary.
  4. Pour the fondant into the set chocolate moulds.
  5. Cover with the remaining chocolate and leave to set.
  6. Try not to eat too many at once 😉