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!
I had planned that my first recipe post of the year would be a recipe bursting with nutrition and vitality – new year, fresh start, etc. However, it’s been so cold these past few days, when it came to it, I simply couldn’t face anything too healthy. Instead, I’ve been in the kitchen keeping warm by baking, and thus, my first recipe of 2018 is one of my favourite cakes.
I took this shot of the garden from an open window about 9am yesterday morning, just as the sun was rising. The image below is the window adjacent to the one I opened – the beautiful ice pattern is on the inside!
So, in my books, cold weather is enough justification for cake, and I start my new year blog posts with one of my “desert island” cakes: a coffee one.
I’ve been using a heritage brand of coffee and chicory essence as a coffee flavouring in baking for as long as I can remember. It was our “turn to” flavouring long before decent barista-style instant coffee and espresso shots came to British shores. Sadly, the glass bottle packaging of old has been replaced by a plastic version (making it look less authentic), but the old-fashioned label is practically unchanged in design and the product within tastes just as good as always. I haven’t found anything that comes close to the concentrated flavour it offers in baking. In summer, I use it to make a base for a deliciously smooth and well-rounded iced coffee, ice-creams and chilled custards.
The sweet, nutty flavour of pecans goes particularly well with coffee. You can use walnuts if you prefer, but I find them a bit overpowering if you really want the taste of coffee to dominate your bake. For this recipe, grind up some of the pecans very finely to make a “flour” for a better formed cake crumb, and then add the remainder as finely chopped pieces for extra nutty texture. I add a little arrowroot to help bind the mixture but you can leave it out if you prefer. I hope you enjoy the flavours as much as I do 🙂
225g pecan halves
125g gluten-free plain flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
2 level teaspoons gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
175g light brown soft sugar
3 large eggs (or, for a vegan cake, use 180g silken tofu)
175ml sunflower oil
4 tsp Camp coffee essence or similar
50g Demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Put 125g pecans in a blender or food processor and blitz until very finely ground. Chop the remaining pecan nuts finely.
Sift the flour and arrowroot into a bowl and stir in both lots of pecans along with the sugar. Beat the eggs (or tofu) with the oil until well blended, and then thoroughly mix into the dry ingredients.
Transfer to the prepared tin. Smooth the top and put the tin on a baking tray. Scatter the top of the cake with the Demerara sugar. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes until risen, lightly cracked, and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn on to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and store for 24 hours for better flavour and texture.
It’s that time of year when the weather turns a bit dull, the nights draw in fast, and it begins to feel a bit chilly. For me, it’s time for a pick-me-up. My standby on these occasions is always some kind of melted chocolate-based mix; it’s easy to put together, requires no baking, and keeps for several days in the fridge.
The recipe is the perfect way to use up all the bits of seeds, fruit and nuts you have in the fridge or cupboard. I usually end up with a different combination of flavours every time I make this recipe. If you prefer, simply half the quantities, pack the mixture into an 18cm square tin and cut into 12 portions instead.
Makes: 24 chunky pieces
500g 90% cocoa solids, dairy-free chocolate
100g coconut oil
60g golden syrup
200g gluten-free, vegan granola
75g crisp rice cereal
100g pumpkin seeds
75g shredded coconut + extra to decorate
400g chopped dried, glacé and candied fruit such as pineapple, cherries, orange peel, golden sultanas, etc.
100g dairy-free, vegan white “chocolate”
Line a 20 x 30cm cake tin with baking parchment or cling film. Break up the 90% cocoa chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the coconut oil and golden syrup. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and leave to melt. Remove from the water, stir well and cool for 10 minutes.
Mix in all the remaining ingredients except the white chocolate. Stir well until everything is coated, then pack into the prepared tin, pressing down well with the back of a spoon. Cool for at least an hour or until firm.
Carefully remove from the tin and peel away the lining parchment or cling film. Place on a board. Use a large bladed knife to cut into strips and then chunks – the mixture is quite firm to slice.Line a large tray or board with baking parchment and arrange a few pieces on top. Melt the white chocolate as above and then drizzle over each piece. Sprinkle with shredded coconut if like. Leave in a cool place for several minutes to set before serving. Decorate the remaining pieces in the same way. Enjoy!
When I lived in London, a trip to the Edgware Road meant I could get my fix of my favourite Middle Eastern pastries. Full of chopped almonds and pistachios, the crisp, buttery, layers of filo pastry soaked in rose and lemon flavoured syrup were so sweet, my whole mouth “jangled” with the sensation of a sugar-overload.
Those days are long past me now, but this cake combines the flavours and some of the textures I love so much. In my post last week Cooking with rose petals – make your own rosewater, rose petal syrup and dried rose petals (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) you’ll find all the rose-scented recipes you need if you want to make this very floral cake from scratch. However, I realise that rose isn’t to everyone’s taste so if you fancy the cake without the floral flavours, it works very well with the grated rind of a lemon added to mixture instead of vanilla, and make the icing made up with freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of rosewater. It is utterly delicious however you flavour it, I guarantee!
150g ground almonds
100g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
8g arrowroot (optional, but I add it to gluten-free cake mixes to help bind the textures together)
2 level teasp gluten-free baking powder (such as Dr Oetker)
100g finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
175g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
175g silken tofu
175ml sunflower oil
2 teasp good quality vanilla extract
3-4 tbsp rose petal syrup (optional)
115g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp homemade rosewater
A few drops natural pink food colouring
Dried rose petals
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Grease and line a 1kg loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
Blend the tofu, oil and vanilla extract together in a food processor or blender for a few seconds until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually combine all the ingredients together until well blended.
Spoon into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top and stand the tin on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, or until golden, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then if using rose petal syrup, skewer the top in several places and spoon over the syrup. Leave to cool completely, then remove from the tin, wrap and store for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop.
To decorate. sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add sufficient rosewater to taste (Note: if you’re using distilled or shop-bought rose water, you will need to add less than homemade) then add a few drops of warm water and pink food colouring to make a smooth, spreadable icing.
Spread the icing on top of the cake and sprinkle with dried rose petals. Leave for a few minutes to allow the icing to set before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
For several weeks, every now and again, I have been trying to make eggless meringues. The meringues I prefer are the large, pillow-like ones made with brown sugar and lots of chopped nuts and a drizzle of dark chocolate, and not the plain white, dainty variety. Sadly, I haven’t been successful so far. However, my experimentation has led me to find other uses for vegan “egg white”, hence, I come to this week’s post.
Next time you open a can of cooked white beans or chickpeas in water, keep the canning liquid, for this is vegan “egg white”. Amazing as it sounds, the liquid whips up into a thick foam and can be used (with care) as a substitute for fresh egg whites. You may find it referred to as aqua fava for after all, that is what it is: bean water!
The drained liquid content of a 400g can is approx. 140ml which equates to 3 medium egg whites. It freezes well so you don’t need to use all of it in one recipe – an ice cube tray is perfect for individual egg-sized amounts, but don’t forget to label it otherwise your G&T may taste a little strange! As with fresh egg white, place in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk in the same way. I add a pinch of cream of tartar to assist the volume when whisking up.
Once I have cracked a decent meringue recipe and got my sugar and nut quantities correct, I look forward to sharing it with you. Until then, here is my recipe for Italian amaretti cookies. These are the soft variety, and are truly delicious (and very moreish). They make a lovely gift too.
A few sheets of gluten-free edible paper (optional)
45ml chickpea or white bean canning water
Pinch of cream of tartar
225g ground almonds
100g glacé cherries, chopped
125g + 2 tsp icing sugar
2 tsp natural almond extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Using a 4cm diameter round cookie cutter, trace and cut out 18 rounds of edible paper if using, and place on the trays, spaced a little apart.
Put the canning water in a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until softly foaming. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until the beaters leave an impression in the foam – this takes about 3-4 minutes of whisking.
Put the almonds and cherries in a bowl. Sift 125g icing sugar on top. Mix well and then add the almond extract and whisked foam. Carefully mix together to make a softish dough.
Divide into 18 portions and form each into a ball. Place one on top of each paper circle and press down gently to flatten slightly – if you’re not using the paper, just space them out directly on the lined trays.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden and firm to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The biscuits will store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.
For gifting, wrap each amaretti cookie in a small, clean square of tissue paper, and twist the ends on each side to seal the wrapping. Arrange in a shallow box and tie with ribbon to present. Perfect for serving with coffee.
I’m spoilt for choice at this time of year as to what sweet treats and edible goodies to make, but Florentines have to be up there in my Top 10 of all time favourites. These thin, crisp, Italian, chocolate-spread morsels are jammed packed with fruit and nuts, and they are just as delicious served with a spoonful of your favourite ice cream or sorbet, as they are with a cup of coffee.
I have chosen to use a combination of candied green fruits, seeds and nuts, but you can use any dried or candied fruit, and any unsalted, roasted nuts and seeds – in fact these biscuits are one of the best ways to use up any bits and pieces of dried fruit, nuts and seeds you have leftover. They will also work with all fruit or all nuts and seeds, so you can make up your own combinations to suit your personal preference.
Traditionally, Florentine biscuits are spread with melted dark chocolate on the back, but they are good left as they are. Cover the backs with 90% extra dark chocolate for a less sweet finish, and, if you can bring yourself to give them away, they make a lovely gift.
75g coconut oil or vegan margarine
75g golden syrup
50g gluten-free plain flour blend (such as Dove’s Farm)
1 tsp good quality natural almond or vanilla extract (such as Dr Oetker)
200g milk free, vegan white “chocolate”
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 4). Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Melt the oil or margarine with the syrup in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients except the white “chocolate”.
Drop 20 heaped teaspoonfuls, spaced well apart on to the prepared trays, and flatten each mound slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes until flattened and lightly golden. Leave to cool for 10 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To cover the biscuits with chocolate, put just over half the amount of chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Line a large board with baking parchment.
Working on one biscuit at a time, carefully dip and roll the edge of the biscuit all the way round in chocolate and place on the lined board. Leave to set.
Once all the biscuits are dipped and set, melt the remaining chocolate as above. Turn the biscuits over and spread a little chocolate thinly over the backs. Leave to set. Note: If you can leave them alone, these biscuits will store well in an airtight container for up to 1 week.