Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentines Day! I hope you are all enjoying spending time with your loved ones and have received little signs of appreciation for your love.

In honour of St Valentine’s Day and all things red, and to show some appreciation to all my lovely followers here is a red velvet cupcake recipe. I haven’t posted a cupcake recipe for an age, despite them always being one of my most requested baked items. I guess it’s the fact that when you have a cupcake, you get the whole thing, with the decoration complete – a perfect little mini cake for one, making it the ideal bake for handing to a loved one.

These red velvet cupcakes adorned with velvety white buttercream and freeze-dried strawberry powder are perfect for Valentine’s Day to fit in with the all things red theme. My red velvet cakes are not so red as I didn’t want to use too much food colouring – just double the amount for extra red if you wish!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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

makes 20-24

375g self-raising flour

200g caster sugar

25g cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

200ml sunflower oil

300ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice (or vinegar)

1 tsp red food colouring gel or paste (use 2 for greater red effect)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade and fill the cupcake trays with liners
  2. In a bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and bicarbonate of soda
  3. Mix together the milk, oil, vanilla, lemon and food colouring, pour into the dry ingredients and mix well
  4. Half fill the cupcake cases and bake for 15-17 minutes until a skewer comes out clean
  5. Cool on a wire rack, then decorate with the buttercream and a sprinkle of something red

Velvety White Buttercream 

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

enough to ice 24 cupcakes

12 tbsp vegetable fat (such as Trex)

3/4 cup dairy-free spread (such as Pure)

3 cups icing sugar, sifted

1/4 cup oat milk

  1. Whisk together the spread and vegetable fat. (the fat adds stability to the icing)
  2. Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time with a splash of the oat milk, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread onto the cupcakes.

 

 

Chocolate Pancakes with Rich Chocolate Sauce

Everyone loves pancakes, and it is essential to have a good few recipes for creating quick and exciting breakfasts or puddings, and obviously for Shrove Tuesday a.k.a. Pancake Day 🙂

It would be logical to presume it wouldn’t be possible to make nice pancakes without the milk and eggs, because in essence a pancake is just milk, eggs and flour. But you would be very wrong, it is in fact very easy to make delicious, authentic tasting and looking pancakes without any milk or eggs in sight. I have, mind, eaten some bad rubbery vegan pancakes along the way, but these are not them. These turn out as lovely light, puffy pancakes (yes no egg needed involved!). Perfect for eating from a stack and smothered in sauce.

We’re generally a sugar and lemon, or golden syrup household, but the picture on the cover of this month’s Waitrose food magazine of these chocolate pancakes tempted me in. Chocolate pancakes covered in chocolate sauce looked so deliciously double chocolatey good, that I had to have a tweak of the recipe to make it dairy and egg-free.

And they’re good. We had them as a dessert, as I am not sure I can cope with that rich chocolate sauce at breakfast time. But you never know! There’s a sinful breakfast right there if you want one.

Happy Pancake Day to all. I hope you enjoy these deliciously chocolatey pancakes as much as we did.

Chocolate Pancakes

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

makes approx 10-12 pancakes

1 cup plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 tbsp flavourless oil, I used sunflower

1 cup dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and salt.
  2. Pour in the oil and milk and whisk to make a smooth batter. If possible leave to rest for half an hour before using.
  3. Heat a frying pan to medium hot, wipe with a dab of oil and fry ladlefuls of the batter. You will know it’s time to turn them over because the bubbles will rise to the surface of the pancake showing it’s time to flip.
  4. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Rich Chocolate Sauce

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

50g dairy-free chocolate

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

1 tbsp maple or golden syrup

2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Gently melt all the ingredients together, either in a saucepan or in the microwave.

Stained Glass Gingerbread

 

I’ve always thought that ‘stained glass’ window biscuits with their jewelled sugary centres are the most beautiful cookie around, and without doubt perfect for Christmas. Traditionally made to adorn Christmas trees, where the fairy lights can glitter through the colourful centres, they’re also delightful as an extra special Christmas treat to eat. I don’t think they’d work nearly as well at other times of year and so this recipe is another that has been on the back burner ever since I didn’t get to write it up last Christmas!

No cookie can be more festive than gingerbread, it’s certainly what Father Christmas expects when he comes to our house, so that’s what I’ve chosen to surround the bejewelled centres. It may look tricky, but the stained glass effect is simply made from popping a boiled sweet into the hole in this biscuit before baking which melts to fill the gap and then hardens once the cookies are cooling. Do be very careful to either bake them directly onto a greased baking sheet or use non-stick paper. With one batch I made the mistake of using regular baking paper and the results weren’t pretty or easy to prise off at the end!

I’ve made a batch of jewel filled Christmas trees and also these super cute reindeers. Maybe you’ve seen this hack on Pinterest too? The idea is to use a gingerbread man cookie cutter, then turn it upside down to provide a shape that can be piped to look like a reindeer. The most perfect cute Christmas cookie.

Stained Glass Gingerbread Cookies

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

Makes 12-15 small cookies, 6-8 large

50g/ 1/4 cup dairy-free margarine

20g/ 2 tbsps cream cheese (I used Tofutti)

75g/ 1/2 cup soft brown sugar

2 tbsps golden syrup

20ml/ 1.5 tbsps dairy-free milk

170g/ 1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 boiled sweet for each cookie

icing sugar

chocolate chips for the eyes

  1. Cream together the dairy-free margarine, dairy-free cream cheese, sugar, syrup and dairy-free milk
  2. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger
  3. Knead into a soft dough
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Stamp out a hole from each cookie.
  5. Place on a greased or lined (with non-stick baking paper) baking sheet and place a boiled sweet into each hole.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes at 190 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 5 (10 minutes for soft, 12 for crisp)
  7. Cool on the sheet a little before transferring to a wire rack
  8. To make the reindeers, turn the gingerbread men on their heads and pipe on antlers and ears with icing, add chocolate chips for eyes.

Quick Savoury Straws

Now it’s December we can officially get all Christmassy, which is really exciting as I have an ever expanding list of Christmas themed ideas which I need to get on with. Some of these have been on the back burner for some time, because if they don’t get posted before Christmas then they have to be kept til the following year. This is very frustrating when they’re fantastic recipes that need sharing! As you may have guessed, I have some knock-out sweet recipes lined up for the next few weeks, but here’s an easy savoury snack for the party season.

With so much festive time spent at home or visiting friends and family, the savoury snack has a crucial place for filling gaps between meals or to nibble on with drinks. In my view there’s nothing quite like something with a crispy crunch when you feel like a savoury snack. Having to avoid certain food stuffs really restricts the choices of savoury snacks available – of course no Christmas nuts in this house, no cheese based treats, indeed no Twiglets either – sad times!

Ok there is a choice of certain flavours and brands of crisps which we rely upon (we’re all big crisp fans in this household) and some popcorn brands are a good option but after that the choices get a little dull or difficult. So, the brief is a savoury snack which is easy to make, savoury and tempting too. Something that’s a little reminiscent of a cheese straw – light, crispy and oh so tangy? Welcome then  savoury stars which are irresistible savoury nibbles that are made in a flash. You may say, ‘oh I don’t like marmite so I’ll hate these’. Fair enough, but in my experience even marmite haters tend to enjoy these savoury crispy batons – it’s just a way of giving them a salty tang. I don’t tend to use ‘dairy-free’ cheese often, but on this occasion it does lift the taste to a new level. Make them any length/width you like – the photos show some that are long and elegant, some short and kind of chubby; all equally delicious.

 

Quick Savoury Straws

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

makes 20+

1/2 pack ready made puff pastry

1 tbsp marmite

a few drops of water

a sprinkle of dairy-free grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degreesC/gas mark 7
  2. Roll out the pastry, trying to make a nice even rectangle
  3. Thin the marmite with a few drops of water and spread over the pastry. Sprinkle with the dairy-free cheese. A couple of tbsp should be plenty.
  4. Fold the pastry in half and roll it out a little more.
  5. Cut 1cm thick strips and then twist a few times. Place on a lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden and puffed up.
  7. They will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Chocolate Caramel Bars

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Next up in my series of homemade chocolate bars are a friendly version of my very, very favourite creamy dreamy Caramel. I’ve always loved the combination of sweet sticky runny caramel and smooth chocolate, it’s a match made in heaven. As a child I would always opt for a Cadburys Caramel if given a choice of chocolate, which gives you some insight into my fondness for chocolate and caramel! And I quite liked the bunny in the advert.

Free-from chocolate is ever improving in variety as well as taste, but I’ve never found anything like a caramel bar. Maybe there are some vegan versions but vegan chocolates are rarely suitable for dairy and nut allergies, so we’re left with only the more serious-looking slabs of free-from chocolate to (not) get excited about.

I know one of the things that my girls would most like to experience is a wider choice of chocolates, hence these experiments to make homemade versions. And they always prove popular. And of course, it’s a fun challenge to take on.

The inspiration for this recipe came from making a caramel sauce to serve with brownies. I made it earlier in the day and let it cool. That’s when I noticed that it had thickened nicely on cooling, to a very similar consistency to the filling of a famous brand’s Caramel bar. Bingo, lightbulb moment! Within minutes I was making the chocolate cases for the caramel, and they were ready for an after lunch treat. Honestly, homemade chocolates sound like a total faff, but they can be easy and the results are always thoroughly rewarding. The bars are top notch chocolate bars, with oozy sweet sticky caramel. My dream chocolate made friendly at last.

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Caramel Chocolate Bars

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

IMG_3204

1/2 cup dairy-free milk

1/2 cup dairy-free margarine

1 cup sugar

2 tbsps syrup (golden or maple)

2 tbsps cornflour

a pinch of flaky salt (optional)

150g dark dairy-free chocolate

  1. First make the caramel filling. Pour the dairy-free milk into a sauce pan. Add the cornflour and gently dissolve over a low heat.
  2. Add the other ingredients (except the chocolate). Add salt if using.
  3. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened enough to easily coat the back of a spoon. Cool and set aside.IMG_3184

To make the bars:

  1. Start by tempering the chocolate. In a microwave or over a Bain Marie, only just melt the chocolate, then stir until all the pieces are melted. You need to bring it down to 31 degrees either by stirring in the bowl until the temp has reduced, adding a little unmelted chocolate or by pouring out onto a cold work top ( I have a marble board which is perfect for the job) and move it around with a palette knife until it has cooled and has turned beautifully shiny.
  2. Pour a blob into each mould and evenly coat all the sides, a small brand new paint brush may help. Leave to set for a few minutes and then paint on another layer (or preferably two more). Place in a cool spot to firm up.IMG_3191
  3. Spoon the cooled caramel into the coated moulds (there will be plenty leftover to use as a warm caramel sauce). Cover with a layer of chocolate, making sure all the gaps are sealed or the caramel will ooze out.IMG_3192
  4. Leave to set and then unmould and consume!IMG_3197

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