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.

Reverse Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

img_1545I don’t often come across dairy-free white chocolate so I was just delighted to find that MooFree now produce white chocolate bars and chips. This is so exciting, I have so many ideas swirling around my brain on where white chocolate can fit into my recipes. Keep watching for  rather special cheesecake coming very soon 🙂

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I used to (pre-Covid) sometimes ahve coffee in a branch of ‘Gail’s Bakery‘ and I would always notice the rather lovely looking ‘back to front’ chocolate chip cookies – by which I mean dark cocoa flavoured biscuit with white chocolate chips shining out like treasure in a piece of coal. So here’s my friendly version turning a choc chip cookie on it’s head – in fact maybe it could be even better, with the delicious contrast to rich cocoa rich cookie and bright white sweet morsels.

Reverse Chocolate Chip Cookies

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

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makes about 18

  • 50g or 1/4 cup cup soft brown sugar
  • 150g or 2/3rds cup caster sugar
  • 150ml or 2/3rds cup sunflower oil
  • 60ml or 1/4 cup dairy-free milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 180g or 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 25g or 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 50g or 1/2 cup dairy-free white chocolate, chips or chopped
  • (optional) 25g oe 1/4 cup chocolate chips

– Preheat the oven to 160 Degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 3

– Lightly grease two baking sheets

– Whisk together the oil, milk, sugars, vanilla and cornflour. It will combine to form a smooth caramel.

– Sift in the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt. Mix well.

– Fold in the chopped chocolate

– Roll into walnut sized balls, place slightly apart on the baking sheets and flatten a little.

– Bake for 12 minutes

– Let cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.

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Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I’m delighted that the Great British Bake Off is back on – not only is it light and frothy viewing (just what we need these days) but it also gives lots of new inspiration for bakes, as well as the pressure to keep up. I’ve got into a phase of having masses of recipes but never getting round to writing them up – well that has to change, and what better time than right now?

Week 1 was cake week and featured Battenberg, pineapple upside down cake or a cake bust. Well, i’m not quite in the mood to fashion a horrifyingly bad bust out of cake and Battenberg isn’t to my taste so pineapple upside down cake it is. In fact, someone asked me ages a go to come up with a pineapple upside down cake recipe but somehow it never got to the top of the ‘to do list’, until now that is! (I do hope you are still reading if it was you?)

Anyway, this cake is a real hit. Delightfully retro and garish with the tinned pineapple rings and glace cherries (I toned it down a little with morello glace cherries rather than the almost neon maraschino versions) and the epitome of comfort food. This is a cake which will take you back in time. In fact I had a leftover pineapple ring which ended up as the chef’s treat and even that was a trip down memory lane – who eats tinned pineapple these days?! This cake is probably best served with a good dose of custard, and not whipped cream like they did on the bake off, what on earth were they thinking?

Pineapple Upside Down Cake works well as a large cake as I’ve made here but would be even better as individual servings, each with a little pineapple ring topping the cake like a golden crown. I didn’t have the right sized moulds so one big cake it is! If you want to make individuals just evenly divide the mixture and reduce the cooking time to about 18-20 minutes (but do keep checking).

 

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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

makes 1 16cm cake or 4-6 individuals

Tinned pineapple rings to top the cakes (i used 3)

2 tbsp demerara sugar

1/2 tbsp dairy-free margarine

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g soft brown sugar

50g golden syrup

Pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Grease a spring-form tin or individual mould with the dairy-free margarine. Sprinkle the sugar into the buttered base.
  3. Lay over the pineapple rings and fill the centres with a place cherry. Set aside.
  4. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate and salt. Stir in the sugar.
  5. Combine the syrup, oil, dairy-free milk and lemon juice. Give it a stir and pour into the dry ingredients. Gently mix to make a smooth and runny batter
  6. Pour into the pineapple lined tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes until risen, golden and a knife comes out clean. I recommend placing the tin onto of a baking sheet as you may get some caramel leakage!
  7. Invert onto a plate and carefully remove the cake tin. If a pineapple ring sticks to the base just gently place back on the top of the cake. Pour over any remaining syrup.

 

 

Turtle Bay

We recently had reason to celebrate and decided to brave the big wide world with a trip to a restaurant. D and I have visited Turtle Bay before but not for a family meal out – when we’ve been it’s been so loud with pounding beats that you couldn’t hear your neighbour speak – not exactly conducive to a nice relaxed child friendly meal!

Cocktails! 🍹

Anyway, the girls have developed a taste for spice and Turtle Bay is where you want to go for spice! As it turns out it is also a great example of an ‘allergy applause’ destination and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

As usual, we had perused the allergen menu (easily available online here ) at length and were delighted over the range of potentially suitable dishes. It seems that nuts are not much of a thing in this restaurant which is always reassuring.

We identified suitable dishes for starters, mains, children’s menu and pudding. This was looking good 🤩 as a range of pudding options is more than a little unusual for us!

We went early (6.30pm) and it was quiet, calm, felt totally safe from a Coronavirus perspective. The atmosphere is just like being on a tropical holiday – the rustic beach cafe vibe and Reggae has to bring a smile to your face.

We started with mocktails and cocktails which added to the beachy vibe. The service was fabulous – the waiter knew the menu inside out and listened to our requirements with care. We had chosen a sweetcorn fritter starter to share but the waiter was concerned about the oil they were fried in. He checked with the chefs and they confirmed they were not happy to say they would be safe for a a milk allergy. This was disappointing for the girls as they love sweetcorn fritters but reassuring and exactly the kind of response we’d want in this situation. Instead we shared some Trini doubles – delicious chickpea curry on fluffy rotis. I was expecting the girls to dislike the chickpeas (they’re never keen when I use them!) but they both pronounced them delicious and devoured the plateful. Chickpeas are now definitely on the menu at home this week!!

Trini Doubles

Little S had the barbecued chicken and chips (only allergens soya and sulphur dioxide) from the Little Turtles Menu  – which was a huge portion, grilled to perfection and served with the crispiest, fluffiest chips I’ve seen in ages.

Big S nearly had a curry but opted for the jerk chicken with chips – again it was thoroughly enjoyed but a bit spicier than the children’s version.

I maybe found the veggie offerings a little less pleasing – I had an Avo Chilli Smash beach salad and while it was very tasty it seemed a bit like a few veggie things were chucked on a plate with the hope it would make a dish. I would have chosen something else if I’d realised the same chickpeas were in both the starter and my main. I like chickpeas but twice in a meal is a bit much!

Beach Salad

When it came to it we were too full to enjoy pudding, so I guess we’ll have to return to try out the dairy-free ice creams, sorbet or chilli chocolate brownie. 

All in all it was a fabulous choice of a meal out, and a celebratory one at that. A holiday vibe, great fancy drinks, fantastic allergen free offerings and some delicious spicy food. We’d thoroughly recommend it 😀

Perfect Vanilla and Chocolate Cake

I have a particular nostalgic fondness for vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream. It may be an unusual combination but it’s one my mum used to make for birthday cakes; I particularly remember a wonderful hedgehog cake decorated with mini chocolate flakes! I do urge you to give it a go, it may be unconventional but vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream totally works. The dark bitterness of the chocolate tempers the sweet sponge and the colour contrast adds to the delight.

There are a lot of so-so egg and dairy-free cake recipes out there, particularly vanilla flavoured ones. So often they can be a bit crumbly and dry, or worse flat and rubbery. I’m obviously not counting my own recipes in that assessment (ha ha!) but I have come across some depressingly bad specimens over the years. There is a tendency for vegan cakes to be ‘ok’ rather than delicious, particularly shop bought versions. This vanilla sponge on the other hand is utterly perfect – it’s light and fluffy, but in no way dry and crumbly. It’s so good you’d be forgiven for questioning whether it is vegan! The custard powder is crucial for giving a wonderful crumb and vanilla flavour but if you can’t find it (not all is dairy-free so make sure you check) you can sub cornflour and an extra tsp of vanilla.

Perfect Chocolate and Vanilla Cake

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

makes one sandwich cake

370g self-raising flour

2 tbsps Birds custard powder

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

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Grease and line 2 20cm sandwich tins
  2. Sift together the flour, custard powder, bicarb and salt
  3. Stir in the sugar
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, melted dairy-free margarine, yogurt and vanilla.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently until well combined.
  6. Pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes, until a knife comes out clean
  7. Cool in the cake tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack

for the chocolate buttercream:

40g dairy-free margarine

15g vegetable fat such as Trex

300g icing sugar

30g cocoa powder

2 and 1/2 tbsp dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together all the ingredients to make a smooth and fluffy icing
  2. Sandwich the cakes together with the icing and then cover the entire cake with the remaining icing.
  3. Cover with a generous amount of sprinkles

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

Since I seem to be on a cereal tip at the moment, here’s another cookie recipe featuring cornflakes.An update of a recipe first posted way back in 2016 these cookies definitely worthy of making, not just sitting way back in my old blog posts.

First created after a bit of research into International cookies and to help ‘ Spring cleaning’ my larder, using up bits and bobs that had been lurking at the back of the shelves. As you can imagine, my larder is pretty stuffed with ingredients, so any additional space is always most welcome. So, that large half-used pack of cornflakes was definitely in my sights. It was using up far too much space! And that cookie jar needed filling.

Apparently chocolate cornflake cookies, also known as Afghan cookies are extremely popular in New Zealand. Worth investigating, I thought. The traditional Afghan cookie is a chocolate cookie, studded with crunchy cornflakes, topped with a rich ganache and with a walnut sitting on top. I’m obviously going to skip the walnuts, but the rest is pretty much fitting the brief. There are many theories as to the origins of the name because these cookies are all Kiwi rather than Afghan. One is that they might have been sent to soldiers fighting in the second Afghan war in the 19th Century by their wives back in New Zealand. Like a predecessor to the more universally known Anzac cookies. Or another theory is that they could just look like the mountainous landscape of Afghanistan.

I hope you like these crunchy chocolatey biscuits – they went down a treat here

Chocolate Cornflake Cookies aka Afghan Cookies

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

 

200g dairy-free margarine

50g soft brown sugar

50g caster sugar

175g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1tbsp dairy-free milk

50g cornflakes

  1. Cream together the margarine and sugars.
  2. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Adding the dairy-free milk to slacken the mixture and making it easier to combine.
  3. Gently stir in the cornflakes, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  4. Place tablespoons of the mixture into a lined baking sheet, with enough room to spread. Flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade
  6. Cool on a wire rack

For the icing:

1tbsp water

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsps dairy-free margarine

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

  1. Melt together the water, caster sugar, vanilla and  margarine. Bring to a bubbling syrup and then pour in the cocoa powder and icing sugar. Stir to form glossy icing.
  2. Spread over the cookies and leave to set.