Sticky Toffee Pudding (vegan/non-vegan)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I always assumed that Sticky Toffee Pudding was a bit of a technical feat, but not so.  It’s super easy to make and tastes wonderful!  This recipe comes courtesy of vegan entrepreneur Tegan The Vegan, a lady who lives local to me and has built a very loyal following since starting her vegan food business.  The pudding can be made with either regular dairy or vegan butter.   Eat it with regular custard or vegan custard or cream (available in some supermarkets and health food shops).

Thank you Tegan!  (Check out http://www.facebook.com/teganvegan or @teganveganLDN for more info about her vegan treats).

Sticky Toffee Pudding (serves 10)

For the cake

200g pitted dates
100ml water
250ml soya milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g dark brown soft sugar
115g regular butter or vegan margarine/butter  (vegan marge/butter can be found in some supermarkets/health food shops)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
200g self-raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter or vegan margarine/butter
200g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.

To make the cake, chop the dates in half, cover with the water and soya milk in a small saucepan and simmer until the dates are soft (around 10-15 minutes). Take off the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda. It will froth up, but that’s okay! Leave to cool while you make the rest.

Beat together the 115g of sugar and 115g of the margarine, then add the date mixture. Mix in the spices, then fold in the flour and mix. Spoon in to an approximate 20cm x 20cm greased cake tin (any shape is fine), and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the sponge bounces back when pressed and a knife inserted in the cake comes out pretty much clean.

For the sauce, melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar, golden syrup and vanilla essence. Gently simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring until well combined.

Prick the cooked cake all over then use half the sauce to pour over it. Reserve half of the sauce for serving with the pudding alongside some custard or cream. Devour!

Vaguely Viennese Whirls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vienesse Whirls are a British treat thought to be inspired by Austrian pastries.  The biscuit is normally piped in a pretty swirly shape (as seen on Mr Kipling packets) and then filled with buttercream and jam.  My piping went completely wrong, so I used a cookie cutter to make little shortbread biscuits with the mixture instead (hence renaming them Vaguely Viennese Whirls!)  This was much easier and the result was still absolutely delicious – sweet, creamy and crumbly.

If you have never made shortbread before it really is straightforward, and if you don’t have cookie cutters you can use the top of a glass to cut out the biscuit shape instead.  Try and eat the Vienesse Whirls when they are still slightly warm as not much beats that.  If there are any left then keep them at room temperature as the fridge ruins them!

Thank you to Mary Berry for the recipe.

Vaguely Vienesse Whirls (tricky to say how many this makes – around 16 small ones)

For the biscuits

250g unsalted butter, softened (I do this in 20 second spurts in the microwave)

50g icing sugar

250g plain flour

For the filling

100g unsalted butter, softened

200g icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract/essence

Raspberry or strawberry jam (1/2 a jar is more than enough – with pips in is best but not essential)

For the biscuit dough, preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 5. Line 3 baking sheets with baking/greaseproof paper.  Measure the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy ( a couple of minutes should do). Gradually add the flour and beat a little more, until thoroughly mixed.  Put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes until the mixture is still soft but firm enough to roll out.  With a rolling pin start to roll out the dough until it is about as thick as a £1 coin.  It helps to press lightly and ensure both the surface and rolling pin are floured to prevent sticking.  You can use your hands to help press it out too if you like.  Use a cookie cutter or top of a glass/cup to cut the dough in to circle shapes (any size you like as long as they are all the same size – but not too big).  Carefully place the biscuits on the lined baking trays, ensuring about 2 inches between them so they don’t expand in to each other.

Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10—15 minutes, until a pale golden-brown, very carefully turning over halfway through.  Leave to cool a little on the baking sheets (it’s okay if they are still a little warm but not too much or the buttercream filling will melt).
For the filling, measure the butter into a bowl and add the icing sugar. Add the vanilla extract and beat with a fork or whisk until slightly lighter (about 1  minute). Spoon the buttercream on top of a cooled biscuit then spoon a little jam onto that, then sandwich it together with another biscuit.  Repeat this until all the biscuits have been used.  Eat alongside a cup of tea!

Mince pies of course!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was my first attempt at mince pies, and they turned out really well, in a chunky homemade sort of way! The recipe uses homemade pastry (which, if you have never made before, is surprisingly simple), shop-bought mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest. The pastry lids are finished off with a pinch of sugar, as suggested by my oldest son. He also suggested we use chopped pecan nuts as an alternative topping for a couple of them, which was a rather excellent idea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My oldest felt his sugar and pecan suggestions were enough input, so my youngest actually helped with the making. He rolled out some of the pastry, cut the lid shapes with cookie cutters and put them on top. Hence the interesting array of shapes! Don’t worry if you don’t have cookie cutters – use the rim of a glass or a bowl instead (make sure they are slightly bigger than the muffin tray holes to allow for covering the sides too).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you want more sophisticated mince pies then aim for thinner pastry, as since the pies are quite small it is easy to end up with more pastry than filling. Don’t worry if you have some leftover pastry, just make sure it is rolled out flat, put it in a freezer bag and freeze. You could use it to make something else another day (I made cornish pasties!)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the mince pies you will need a muffin tray, cookie cutters or glasses and a straw.

Mince pies (makes 12)

For the pastry

125g butter, melted (I do this in the microwave for 20 second bursts – takes about 1 min)
250g plain flour
2-3 tbsp water

For the filling

Approx 1/2 jar (220g) mincemeat
Zest of 1 orange
Optional – white/light brown sugar for sprinkling

To make the pastry, mix the butter and flour together with a spoon and your hands if necessary, add the water and squeeze in to a ball. It shouldn’t be too sticky. Flour a surface and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll the pastry out (in two lots if short on space) until it is about 5mm (1/4 inch thick). Don’t press too hard with the rolling pin as it may stick, and use more flour on the surface and rolling pin to avoid it sticking if necessary.

Use a large cookie cutter (around 10cm) or the rim of a similar sized glass or bowl to cut circles out, and gently place them in the muffin tray holes, ensuring they cover the sides too. Add around 1 tsp mincemeat and a sprinkle of orange zest to each pie (avoid overfilling or it might overflow in the oven). Cut smaller circles/cookie cutter shapes for the pie lids, pierce a hole in the middle with a straw and place on top of each pie. Sprinkle each pie with a pinch of sugar if you like.

Bake the pies on gas mark 5/190 degrees for 15-30 minutes (this will depend on your oven), until lightly browned. Check every few mins after 10 mins to avoid burning. Once cooked leave to cool a little – they are nicest when still warm! Will last a couple of days in a sealed container.

Afternoon Tea – at home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few weeks ago we were on our way to a very rare treat of ‘afternoon tea’ at a family cafe, when it all went wrong and we didn’t make it (I won’t go in to detail, but let’s just say that tensions were high).

Anyway, not to ruin the whole day, we decided to have afternoon tea at home, which turned out to be more fun than I reckon it would have been at the cafe.  The point of afternoon tea at home is to enjoy yourself and momentarily forget about having a balanced meal.  You don’t have to make anything from scratch as it is the experience that is most important.  You could get everything from the shop, make one thing yourself or go crazy if you feel like it.

Since we don’t have those fancy three layer cake stand thingies we constructed them out of an upside-down cup and two plates.  And my son helped me decorate kitchen roll sheets to use as napkins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids decorated the table with some bizarre things like an egg timer and a dice (!)  I made two sweet treats that I knew were pretty simple: a damp lemon and almond cake (the first cake I ever made a few years ago) and banoffee pie, plus we had some leftover digestive biscuits in the biscuit tin.  I also made some simple parmesan and poppy seed lollipops (see below for recipes) and got creative with the contents of the fridge – egg mayo sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and cheese and chorizo sandwiches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids had a carton of juice each and I used my gran’s dusty teapot to serve tea, but a jug of squash or even water with sliced fruit or cucumber is a great alternative.  If you have sweet lollipops handy you could put them in a cup for people to help themselves, or if you have fruit you could cut and thread them on to a straw or skewer.  Sausage rolls, cheese biscuits, cheese and pineapple, crisps, any sweet biscuits and scones and jam would work great too.  Absolutely anything goes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are the recipes I used:

Damp lemon and almond cake: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/damp-lemon-and-almond-cake-20-mins-prep1-hour-cooking/

Cheats banoffee pie: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/cheats-banoffee-pie-ready-in-30-mins/

Parmesan and poppy seed biscuits: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/snazzy-yet-simple-party-food/

And a few that would also work well:

Instant cheesecakes https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/instant-cheesecakes-for-the-party-season/

Veggie mince cups (feel free to fill with other ingredients as long as not too wet): https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/veggie-mince-cups/

Sausage rolls: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/stilton-crust-veggie-or-meat-sausage-rolls-20-mins-prep30-mins-cooking/

Choc peanut butter cups: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/chocolate-and-peanut-butter-cups-4-minutes-of-effort/

Anzac biscuits (an Australian classic!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anzac biscuits are an Australian classic, believed to have been sent to the ANZAC’s (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) during World War I. Everyone seems to love this crunchy biscuit made from oats, desiccated coconut, flour, butter, sugar and syrup. They are super easy to make, taking about 8 mins prep plus 10-20 mins baking, and are great warm or cold. If you have kids they could help out – once mixed they are just dolloped on to a baking tray so don’t have to look perfect, as you can see!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recipe is from Annabel Karmel’s rather excellent ‘The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book’. The biscuits will keep for a few days in an airtight container and can be frozen.  Just look at my son tucking in…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anzac biscuits (makes approx 18)

85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g caster or brown sugar
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g butter/marge, melted
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Grease a couple of baking trays with butter or marge and preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Mix the oats, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Put dessertspoons of the mixture on to the baking trays, flatten the tops slightly and place a fair bit apart to allow room for spreading – they can increase up to twice in size when baking.

Bake for 10-20 mins, turning them over halfway through once the bottom is cooked. They should be golden brown on each side. The exact time will depend a bit on your oven. If your oven is not great like mine then swap the shelves around halfway through too. Leave 10 mins to firm up before eating!

Speedy Hot Chocolate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This creamy, silky hot chocolate recipe is a big treat and takes the edge off the suddenly very cold weather!  It only takes a few minutes to make and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

To make it extra special top with marshmallows or whipped cream; for an extra kick go Mexican and add a pinch of chilli powder; for a boozy drink add brandy; and for alternative flavours try substituting the cinnamon with ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.

Speedy hot chocolate (serves 2)

600ml semi-skimmed milk
142ml tub double cream
100g chocolate, broken up (use milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on your taste)
Optional – 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the milk, double cream and broken chocolate into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, whisking or stirring until smooth. Pour in to a flask or mug and drink!

Bakewell Tart – a British classic!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bakewell tart is a British classic and consists of shortcrust pastry and a layer of jam topped with frangipane and flaked almonds.  This awesome recipe (based on one by Mary Berry) is surprisingly straightforward to make. If you have never made pastry before don’t worry as it is pretty simple here, and if the rolling out isn’t going great you can just cheat and press the pastry in to the tin with your hands. Or you can buy ready made shortcrust pastry instead.

The filling really is just a case of mixing everything up and leaving it to puff up and get crunchy during the baking.  Then feeling really snazzy when it comes out of the oven.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The bakewell tart looks gorgeous and tastes authentic.  Eat with cream or ice cream!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bakewell tart

For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g chilled butter
2-3 tbsp cold water

(or buy ready made shortcrust pastry from the shop)
For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry/strawberry jam
125g butter, soft (I soften mine in the microwave)
125g caster sugar
125g ground almonds
1  egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
50g flaked almonds

To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and mix in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.  Attempt to roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm flan tin or similar.  If the rolling out doesn’t go too well just use your hands to press the dough to the bottom and around the edges of the tin, covering up any cracks.  Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).  Line the pastry case with foil and fill to the top with baking beans.  If you don’t have baking beans use dried beans or rice instead (this is to stop the pastry puffing up).  Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.

For the filing, spread the pastry generously with jam.  Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown on top. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.  Eat with cream or ice cream.