Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
No eggs, no added fat nor added sugar, gluten-free and dairy-free, these loaf cakes will probably sound either a bit boring, or too good to be true, depending on your point of view. Actually, they are extremely tasty and a wee bit too eatable for my liking!
This recipe is a great way to use up all those odds and ends of dried fruit you often have leftover. You can add nuts and seeds to the mix too if you like. Just after Christmas, I made up a bag of dried and candied fruit that was getting towards its use-by date, and put it in a tub the freezer, where it stayed until this week, when a craving for fruit cake came upon me. Combined with a recently opened bag of dried cranberries I had in the fridge, the frozen mix of chopped dried apricots, red and green glacé cherries and golden sultanas made up a colourful addition to my cake mix.
The recipe below will fill 8 mini loaf tins or 1 large (1kg) loaf tin. The cakes taste better if left until the day after baking – the flavour and texture improves on keeping. You will be rewarded if you can leave it alone for a few hours! They also freeze well. I find that the lower content of fat in this recipe means that after 3 or 4 days, the cakes begin to lose their freshness; it is well worth freezing any that you’re not going to eat within a couple of days of baking, in order to enjoy them at their best.
Makes: 8 minis or 1 x 1kg loaf
250g stoned dried dates, chopped
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
150g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan oven, gas mark 3). Grease 8 x mini loaf tins or 1 x 1kg loaf tin, or line with paper loaf tin liners, if preferred. Put the chopped dates in a saucepan and pour over 350ml water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to cool completely. Blitz with a hand blender or in the food processor to make a smooth purée. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, arrowroot and chai masala or spice into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds and dried fruit. Add the date purée and then mix until well blended.
Divide equally between the prepared tins and smooth over the tops. Place on a baking tray and bake for about 35 minutes for the individual cakes or about 1 hour for a larger loaf cake – a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake mixture is cooked. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. For best results, wrap the cakes well or store in an airtight container until the next day before serving.
Rich, short, lightly fruited biscuits with a hint of spice, this is a spring bake that takes me back to my childhood. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without them. Traditionally the biscuits are dusted with white sugar before baking to give them a crusty top, but I love marzipan and it makes a delicious topping for these biscuits. Using a chai masala mix instead of the usual ground spice blends adds a delicate citrus note to the flavour. I think this Indian spice mix tastes lighter and more fragrant than the more familiar blends used in baking.
You can buy ready mixed chai masala for putting in your bakes (or tea!) (Steenbergs organic chai masala), but if you have selection of traditional spices, it is easy enough to put together your own blend. Making your own means that you can experiment by adding more of your favourite spice to personalise your mix.
To make your own chai masala, mix together 4 level teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 level teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 level teaspoon ground ginger and ½ level teaspoon each ground nutmeg, ground cloves and finely ground black pepper. As with all spices, store in a sealed jar out of direct sunlight, in a cool, dry place. I keep small vitamin supplement jars for keeping spice mixes in as the glass is often brown or dark green, and so perfect for keeping out the light. Make up the blend in small batches to insure fresh flavour every time you use it. Chai masala can be used in any recipe where a ground mixed spice is called for.
Here’s the recipe for my Easter biscuits.
100g vegan margarine, softened (use butter if you prefer)
75g caster sugar
3 tbsp non dairy milk
200g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (such as Dove’s Farm)
1 ½ to 2 tsp chai masala
65g mixed currants and chopped cranberries
Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Put the margarine and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Whisk in the milk.
Sift the flour and spice on top and add the fruit. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined, then bring the mixture together with your hands to make a softish dough.
Dust the work surface with flour and knead the dough gently until smooth. Roll out thinly to a thickness of approx. ½ cm. Using a 7cm crinkle-edge round cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Arrange the rounds on the baking trays, spaced a little apart. Prick with a fork, and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes until lightly golden round the edges. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The biscuits are delicious left plain but if you are a marzipan fan, dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out 200g marzipan thinly. Using a 6cm diameter crinkle-edged cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Brush each biscuit with a little smooth apricot jam and secure a marzipan disc on top of each. Score the marzipan with a knife and lightly toast the tops with a cook’s blow-torch if liked. Happy Easter eatings!