Strawberry Scones

The sun’s out and I feel inspired and buzzing with fresh ideas. There really isn’t anything like the end of Winter to make me feel ready to attack the spring and summer with gusto – it’s amazing what a bit of warmth and sunlight can do!

We had a lovely trip to see the sea of bluebells last weekend, which is a bit of a yearly tradition in my part of the country, which culminated with cool drinks in a National Trust cafe. All the other customers seemed to be tucking into cream teas (obviously it was drinks or nothing for us!), which got me thinking about making a batch of scones. Scones, with their association with cream teas and strawberry jam always seem rather summery to me, so perfect for my current vibe. So here is a cracking combination of scones and strawberries  so we can tuck into a cream tea at home.

I’d really recommend using freeze-dried berries in sweet recipes, as you get all the flavour and none of the ‘sog factor’, so there’s no need to adjust the indigents to factor in extra moisture.

 

Strawberry Scones

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

Makes about 20

450g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

75g dairy-free margarine

75g caster sugar

300 ml dairy-free milk, I used Oatly

1 tsp berry essence, if you have it

1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries , roughly chopped

To top: 2 tbsp oat milk 2 tbsp granulated sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6. Grease and flour 2 baking sheets.
  2. Rub the margarine into the flour, sugar and baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs. 
  3. Pour in the essence and dairy-free milk and very gently bring together to a soft dough. It’s very important not to work scone dough. Add the freeze dried berries.
  4. Gently pat out the dough until its about 1 inch thick. Using a 2inch cookie cutter, cut out rounds and place on the baking sheets Continue, gently bringing the dough back into a ball and cutting out, until all the dough has been used up.
  5. Brush the top of each with dairy-free milk and sprinkle with sugar Bake for about 20-25 minutes until starting to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Maple Syrup Flapjacks and the stress of being an ‘allergy family’

Flapjacks must be the ultimate energy giving treat, packed full of oats and sugar and easily transported, they’re definitely the bar to take when snacks will be hard to find, or pure energy is needed due to strenuous activity. I’ve tried many flapjacks recipes and believe me, there are a lot of bad ones out there which resemble sweet sawdust more than an indulgent treat. This recipe on the other hand, is knockout, resulting in such wonderful sweet gooey bars, you’ll definitely be reaching for another one!

If you follow me on FaceBook you may be aware of my recent additional stress from being an ‘allergy mum’. At age 14 we have finally agreed for Big S to go on her first foreign school trip. It has always felt like too much of a responsibility to hand to the staff before, but she’s growing up fast and we had to say yes sometime. Obviously when the trip was first advertised I had a long conversation with the lead teacher about Big S’s requirements. She’s only allergic to milk but they’re going to Northern France where dairy is used in lots of cooking. I was reassured that the hotel had been spoken to, she would safely be catered for, and arrangements could be made for her not to go into an environment where lots of milk could be present in the goats cheese making farm visit. We knew that nonetheless food would still be an challenge, but so far so good.

Then, it all went pear-shaped 😦

Last week we had the presentation about the trip. There was mention that on the final day the children will have to buy their own supper at the shopping centre, or on the ferry on the way home.  I started to feel a bit stressed, her command of French isn’t huge and while we can pack her off with ‘allergy cards’ to show, would she even understand the reply to be confident enough to eat the food? So many worries….

Then it got worse….. I spoke to the lead teacher and she said there was a problem. GULP! The hotel has refused to provide any food at all for Big S. To compensate, the school, has arranged for them to eat supper in a local restaurant which knows of the milk allergy and is happy to cater for her. BUT, she will not be provided with any breakfast or lunch for the entire trip, that’s 4 days! We’ve been given a slight refund and she can take her own snacks, or buy her own food in France. That’s all very well, but how can you take enough food for 4 days? We also know from experience that ready to eat food that is dairy-free is hard to find in France. She’s also a teenager who desperately doesn’t want to stand out as different. So much stress and worry on so many levels! We’re going to have to make plans, research and be extremely organised! I know she will survive (she’ll be very hungry) and still have a wonderful time, but it’s awful to think of sending my daughter to another country with little food provided and little ability to buy much there.

I’ve spoken to many people in the past few days as I’ve been so very stressed and rather tearful about the whole thing, and it’s made me realise that non-allergy families have no idea of the stress we live under all the time. My FaceBook community who ‘get it’ have been extremely supportive, understanding and helpful. Others, who don’t see the issues, much less so. It’s been suggested that i just send her with a few cereal bars and she’ll be fine. Yes, she’ll be fine, but how would they feel about sending their daughter to another country with only a few cereal bars? She can’t go and buy a bar of chocolate to keep herself going. She can’t join her friends in eating a McDonald’s hamburger or buying a crepe in the market when they get hungry. She’ll survive, but a cereal bar doesn’t quite cut it! I guess, as an allergy-mum and in writing this blog, creating safe-recipes etc. I’ve made it my priority to ensure my children are well catered for; it goes against everything I stand for to send her away to such unknown!

Anyway, I will send her with cereal bars (and much much more!), and some of these devilishly good flapjacks. Hopefully she’ll share them with her friends and they’ll provide a good hit of home-made energy and goodness!

Maple Syrup Flapjacks

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

makes about 24

200g dairy free margarine

200g demerara sugar

100g golden syrup

100g maple syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)

  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, syrups and salt
  3. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats and spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  6. Try not to eat too many!!

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

I love these cookies – they’re rich, chocolaty, soft and scrumptious! I had a brief time before having children when I wanted to start a cookie business and back then these were some of my absolute favourites.

It does sometimes surprise me which recipes are most popular on my blog. Out of the 500+ recipes, it so often comes back to the same ones again and again. There are many winning recipes that don’t seem to get a second chance, maybe they’re just less known about and therefore less searched for? I first posted this recipe when I initially set up my blog in 2012, and I still absolutely love these cookies. Here I’ve added a variation using aquafaba, so you have a choice of aquafaba or flaxseeds as the binder. Do eat these cookies quickly, they’re best eaten warm for the oven. Or reheat for a couple of minutes before eating to enjoy the crisp exterior and soft cakey centre.

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

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

makes about 24

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup melted dairy-free margarine

2 tbsps golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

use either:

1/3 cup oat milk and 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

or use; 1/4 cup dairy-free milk and 3tbsp Aquafaba

100g melted dairy-free chocolate

250g plain flour

2 tbsps cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking powder

large pinch of salt

1 cup of icing sugar to roll dough in

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Sift the icing sugar onto a plate and set aside
  2. In a bowl mix the sugar, dairy-free margarine, syrup, vanilla, oat milk, flax seeds (or aquafaba) and melted chocolate
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. It should produce a soft dough
  4. Take tablespoons of mix and roll in the icing sugar. Place on a lined baking sheet and press down slightly
  5. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. Best eaten straight away, or next day will do (invite people over or send into school/work!)

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.

‘The Diner’ Review

The Diner (also known as Goodlife Diner) has fair few branches scattered all over London and also one in Southampton and is temptingly styled as a retro Diner with booths and neon lights a plenty, but also boasts an extensive veggie and vegan menu. I think this is one of the few American diner style restaurants that we have eaten at as a family. Somehow all the milkshakes and sesame-seed buns makes us feel they won’t be suitable. Anyway Big S (milk allergy only) had been to a party at The Goodlife Diner and they were not only very helpful and accommodating on the phone when I scoped out the options before hand, but she also came home raving about the meal. This was the kind of destination that a teen wanted to go to.

On her recommendation we returned as a family and it was a very pleasant experience. The waitress was extremely well trained on allergies and immediately brought out the allergy folder. Naturally, as a Diner, it’s a burger and chips kind of place, not a place for exciting gastronomy – but that suited us for a simple family lunch. We always take our own rolls if we think burgers might be on the menu as invariably the bread isn’t suitable. But to our delight the Vegan gluten-free buns were safe (no egg in sight which is unusual for gluten-free). The girls said they were tasty if a bit crumbly, but what a joy to have a burger without the Home supplied bun.

The meat eaters of the family said the burgers were delicious and chips particularly fine (although looking at the allergy folder you might want to step away from the egg and dairy-free onion rings as they had a whopping 3,000 calories per portion!!)

I had a veggie burger which was only ok, it had that musty flavour of health food shops and dried herbs which I’m not particularly keen on. But there is an entire veggie and vegan menu to choose from, so I wouldn’t dismiss it as a unsuitable restaurant for vegetarians.

To our delight there was a dairy-free milkshake on the menu but we didn’t try it out as it was coconut flavoured and not to our taste.

So if you fancy a family meal in a proper ‘diner’ style setting with neon lights and milkshakes and burgers, I’d say The Goodlife Diner is a pretty good choice, not too expensive and caters well for all dietary requirements.

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.