Monday, 30 May 2011

Strawberry and Coconut dairy-free cake

This cake is a lovely girly summery birthday cake. The pink hue of the frosting is achieved solely by the use of liquidised strawberries in the mixture - no food colouring whatsoever.

8 oz 'Pure' dairy free spread
8 oz caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
6 oz self raising flour
2 oz dessicated coconut

The remainder of one tub of 'Pure'
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tblsp strawberry jam
5tblsp icing sugar, sieved
a generous handful of strawberries, liquidised (about 4tblsp of juice)

To decorate
1 tblsp dessicated coconut
1 tblsp pink sugar crystals
approx. 4-5 strawberries, halved

1. Cream together the 'Pure' and the caster sugar for the cake.

2. Gradually add the eggs, stirring constantly.

3. Mix in the flour and the coconut and split the finished mixture between two 6 inch round sandwich tins, making a divet in the centre of each so that they rise evenly on top.

4. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 25-30 minutes.

5. Whilst the cake is baking, make the frosting. Cream together the icing sugar and the remainder of the 'Pure', and add the vanilla.
6. Whisk with an electric whisk, to make the mixture light and fluffy. Set aside about a third of the frosting (for the middle of the cake). Then gradually whisk in the liquidised strawberries to frosting that will cover the top of the cake.

7. When the cake is completely cool, spread a layer of strawberry jam over the top of the base layer.

8. Then top this with the vanilla frosting that was set aside earlier, and sit the top layer of sponge on top.

9. Cover the top layer with the strawberry frosting, and decorate with dessicated coconut and pink sugar crystals.

10. Decorate the edge of the cake with the half strawberries.

Note: This dairy-free frosting will melt a lot easier than frosting made with standard butter frosting, so it is best to keep the cake in the fridge. However, the decoration on the top of the frosting will mean that even if it is left out of the fridge for a while, it will still look good. Due to the use of fresh fruit in the frosting and as decoration, it is probably best to eat this cake within a couple of days (if it even lasts that long!)

Spicy stuffed mushrooms

This recipe is for two stuffed mushrooms - but the quantities can be multiplied as appropriate. They are extremely versatile. One mushroom served on a bed of salad makes a great started, or I have served them as a finishing touch on a polenta dish (see picture).

2 large mushrooms, stalks removed
pinch salt and pepper
1tsp yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp crushed szechuan peppercorns
2 tblsp tomato puree
4 tblsp milk (I use soya milk)
4 mint basil leaves (ordinary basil will do if you can't find mint basil)
1 tblsp grated cheese

1. Fry the mushrooms on a medium heat for about 1-2 minutes on each side until slightly tender and releasing juices. Add the pinch of salt and pepper about halfway through frying each side. Remove from the pan.

2. Fry the mustard seeds and peppercorns in the pan until the mustard seeds start popping, then add the tomato puree and milk and stir until smooth.

3. At the very last minute, tear the mint basil leaves into the mixture, and use this to stuff the mushrooms.

4. Top the mushrooms with cheese and a pinch of pepper, and grill for 5 minutes under a medium-hot grill until the cheese is browned.

Polenta in Bloody Mary Sauce

This dish is incredibly quick and simple - only about 10 minutes from start to serve.

Polenta in Bloody Mary sauce, topped with a stuffed mushroom


1 pack of solid polenta (a block)
1tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp szechuan peppercorns, crushed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 shot vodka
Fish-free Worcester sauce


1. Cube the polenta into 2cm pieces and brown the outsides in olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat for about 3 minutes.

2. Push the polenta to the edges of the pan and add the chilli and peppercorns to the centre. Fry for about a minute.

3. Add the tin of tomatoes and the vodka, and about a tablespoon of fish-free Worcester sauce.

4. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add more fish-free Worcester sauce to tast if necessary, and serve immediately.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cheese and Spinach Souffle

Serves 4-6

450ml milk (I use a mixture of soya milk and dairy milk)
3 bay leaves
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
handful chives, chopped
1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp black pepper
70g butter
3 tblsp plain flour
100ml water
50g mature cheddar, grated
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
200g spinach


Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius

1. Put the milk, garlic, bay leaves, chives, mustard seeds and pepper in a pan, and heat to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes. Steam the spinach over the milk as it is simmering.

2. In another pan, melt the butter, and add the flour, stirring continuously to make a roux.

3. Remove the bay leaves from the milk, then slowly add the milk and water to the roux, whisking continuously over a very low heat.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.

5. Remove the spinach from the steamer and squeeze it in your hands to remove all excess moisture. Chop roughly and place in a mixing bowl.

6. Add the cheese mixture and the egg yolks to the spinach in the mixing bowl, and mix together.

7. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, and gradually fold one spoonful a time into the rest of the mixture, using a figure-of-eight motion.

8. Put the mixture into ramekins, and put these into a baking tray. Fill up the baking tray to a third of the way up the ramekins using boiling hot water.

9. Bake for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees celsius.

Tastes particularly delicious served with minted new potatoes!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Easter Treats - Creme Egg cakes and Mini Egg cakes

This recipe makes a total of around 12-16 cakes. They are incredibly rich, but look really impressive and make a wonderful treat for Easter.


Cake mixture
50g Stork
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
210g self raising flour
2tsp cream of tartar
4 tblsp cocoa powder
100ml milk
pinch salt
1 bag mini eggs
3 or 4 bags mini creme eggs (about 15-20 eggs)

Frosting for creme egg cakes
120g icing sugar
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 standard-sized creme eggs, halved and with the centres scooped out

Icing for mini egg cakes
30g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extraact
enough water to make the icing mixture coat the back of a spoon
about 6 squares of milk chocolate, roughly chopped.


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2. Cream together the stork and caster sugar with the back of a wooden spoon.

3. Gradually add the eggs, stirring continuously.

4. Add the vanilla extract, salt, cream of tartar, half of the cocoa and half of the flour, and stir gently until thoroughly mixed.

5. Stir in the milk, and then the remaining flour and cocoa, until the mixture becomes thick and smooth.

6. Spoon into cupcake cases or a muffin tray. Insert one mini creme egg into each of the cakes that will become a 'creme egg cake', ensuring that the top is covered with cake mixture. Insert three mini eggs into each of the remaining cakes. These can be covered or uncovered as per your preference.

7. Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes until the cakes spring back up when pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

As the cakes are cooling, you can prepare the frosting....

1. Whisk half of the icing sugar, all of the butter and vanilla extract together for about 3-5 minutes until smooth.

2. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar and the fondant from inside the creme eggs, continuing to whisk. You can add a tablespoon of milk at this point if necessary.

3. Use a piping bag to pipe the frosting onto the top of the creme egg cakes, top each one with half of a full-sized creme egg, and pipe a spot of frosting on top.

4. For the mini egg cakes, mix together the icing sugar, vanilla and water until the icing is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Drizzle the icing in haphazard lines over the mini egg cakes, and whilst it is still wet, add the roughly chopped chocolate as decoration.

6. Enjoy! Preferably with a good cup of tea.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Vegetarian Sauce Puttanesca

Traditionally, puttanesca sauce gets a lot of the depth and richness of its flavour from the inclusion of anchovies. This vegetarian version recreates some of those flavours with the addition of gherkins and fish-free Worcester sauce. It's incredible simple to make and you can whack it on a high heat if you want to speed up the process. However, the flavours definitely come across richer and more satisfying if you have the patience to simmer for longer on a low heat, as this recipe suggests. Any unused sauce will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Olive oil
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tblsp capers
3 gherkins, finely chopped
10 green olives
10 black olives
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
1-2 tblsp fish-free Worcester sauce
1 des. spoon dried oregano
1tsp ground black pepper

1. Gently fry the chilli, garlic, capers, gherkin and olives for a few minutes, stirring continuously until the garlic turns translucent. I like to keep the olives whole, as I think this adds more interest to the texture of the sauce.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes and fish-free Worcester sauce and increase the heat, stirring continuosly until the sauce starts to bubble.

3. Add the oregano and black pepper and reduce the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Shortly before the end of the cooking time, test the sauce and add more fish-free Worcester sauce, pepper and oregano if necessary.

Spicy "Bacon" and Leek Ravioli

Basic Pasta Dough
(adapted from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook)

300g Strong white flour (bread flour)
3 eggs, whisked
1tsp salt
1 tbsp ollive oil

1. Sift the flour into a mound on your work surface, make a well in the middle and add the rest of the ingredients.

2. Gradually bring the flour into the egg mixture using your fingers. You will have to be alert, as some of the egg mixture is likely to escape, but bear with it. When you have brought all of the flour into the mixture, you should be left with a sticky ball of dough.

3. Lightly flour the work surface and your hands, and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and no longer sticks to the work surface,

4. Shape the dough into a ball and put it into an oiled plastic bag. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature.

5. Lightly flour the work surface again and roll out the dough as thinly as possible. The mixture is very strong, and will have a tendency to 'spring back' as you are rolling. Make sure that you keep rolling it patiently, rather than 'stretching' the mixture with the pin. The dough should roll out to about 35cm square.

6. Leave the pasta uncovered for about 20 mins to dry out slightly.

Whilst you are waiting at stage 4 or 6, you can get on with making the filling.

Spicy"Bacon" and Leek filling

4 tblsp Dried fake bacon pieces
Boiled water to rehydrate
About 5cm of a fat leek, chopped quite small
1 des. spoon paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch salt

1. Put the fake bacon in a small bowl and gradually add about 1-2 tblsp hot water. Eventually all the water should be absorbed, but without any excess being left.

2. Whilst you are waiting for the fake bacon to rehydrate, gently fry off the leek, paprika, pepper and salt in a little oilve oil.

3. Add the fake bacon to the pan, and fry gently until heated through.

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is time to fill the pasta.

Filling the pasta

1. Cut your pasta square in half. On one side, place 18 spoonfulls of the filling at regular intervals. Lightly brush the grid between the filling with water, and around the outside of that piece of pasta.

2. Roll the remaining pasta around a rolling pin and unroll over the filling. Press this pasta down around the edge, and along the gridlines so that it sticks.

3. Use a knife or a pizza wheel to cut down the gridlines into individual ravioli. Leave for about 30 minutes, turning after about halfway, until the ravioli have dried out.

4. Cook the ravioli in a large pan of lightly salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes until just tender and serve immediately.

I served these with a delicious Vegetarian Puttanesca sauce.