Category Archives: Sweet treats

Exciting news (and a vegan cake)

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First, the exciting news, which is that woman&home.com (one of my favourite sites for do-able-yet-inspiring recipes when I have no idea what to cook, which is often) have invited me to continue my guest blog for them. Massive hurrah! Today’s post is about gadgets that have changed my life; a bold claim I realise, but it’s true. If you want to check it out, it’s here: http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/538389/kitchen-gadgets-that-will-change-your-life

And now, the cake. I am not at all proud to admit that I was, in a previous existence, unforgivably unforgiving about people on special diets coming to eat at my house. ‘What, I have to cook a separate dish, just for one person?’ I’d think indignantly when, say, my sister mentioned that her new boyfriend w as a vegetarian the day before they came for supper. Well, needless to say, I now reside in a different universe and feel quite strongly that EVERYONE deserves delicious food, whatever the restrictions they operate around. So I take genuine pleasure in trying to find lovely vegetarian or gluten-free recipes for people who are that way inclined when they come over. And that is how I came to make this vegan cake at the weekend, the recipe for which is courtesy of Nigella Lawson’s new book ‘Simply Nigella’. I was sold by the fact that this is now her favourite cake to make, even for people without dietary restrictions. Enough said – right? And, although the ingredients are a bit off the beaten path and probably require a visit to somewhere along the lines of Planet Organic, the method itself was pretty much easy peasy. And, most importantly, it went down well with the vegan visitors! (although, if you are following the SCD as I am, I’m very sorry to say that you cannot share the love with this particular cake).

Dark and sumptuous chocolate cake

FOR THE ICING 

60ml cold water

75g coconut butter (which is not the same as oil)

50g soft dark sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso

1 1/2 x 15ml tablespoons cocoa

150g dark chocolate very finely chopped (min. 70% cocoa solids and vegan. I  used Montezuma’s)

FOR THE CAKE 

225g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons bicarb of soda

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder

75g cocoa

300g soft dark brown sugar

375 ml hot water, fro a recently boiled kettle

90ml (75g if weighed when solid) coconut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 x 15 ml tablespoons chopped pistachios

1 x 20 cm round springform cake tin.

Preheat the oven to 180C and put a baking sheet into it, then start with the icing. Put all of the icing ingredients expect the chopped chocolate into a heavy based pan and bring to the boil, making sure that everything is dissolved. Then turn off the heat and add the chocolate, swilling around so everything melts, then after a minute whisk until it’s dark and glossy. Leave to cool for the time it takes for the cake to cook, stirring every so often.

Line the tin with baking parchment.

Put the flour, bicarb, salt, espresso and cocoa into a bowl and fork to mix.

Mix together the sugar, water, coconut oil and vinegar until the oil has melted and stir into the dry ingredients, then pour into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until the edges are coming away from the tin and a fork comes out clean apart from a few crumbs. Transfer and cool on a wire rack.

Stir the icing, which should still be runny enough to cover the cake, then pour on top of it and use a spatula to ease it to the edges. Then add chopped pistachios and leave for half an hour before eating it with enthusiasm.

 

Hangover cakes 

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Although I am about 89.5% there on the journey of complete acceptance of my carb-free life, there are some times when it feels like only carbs will do. Pregnancy and breastfeeding was probably the worst and most extended time of needing pizza, cake and Pringles really, really badly. But being hungover and feeling like only a serious carb injection will improve matters…well that’s another really good time for feeling really cross about it all.

However, I am happy to inform that if you need cake these ones really hit the mark. Although look away if you are also nut-free as they are a total festival of nutty happiness. And also, just to be clear, despite being carb-free, they are neither slimline, virtuous, nor particularly healthy either. But nor should they be: they are CAKES for goodness sake!

Anyway, don’t get too hung up on the hangover thing. They were named this by Lady Maria (who has recently been made to live a gluten-free life) the morning after she stayed here and woke up in a fug of Prosecco fumes when we whipped up a batch of ’em for her to take on her merry way with a view to trying to shut the stable door after the horse had bolted by lining her stomach in preparation for her day ahead. Point being, you can eat them pretty much any time and still feel actively happy that the universe made you carb or gluten free and thus led you to discover them. They are particularly good with a strong cup of black coffee. They are also really robust, so can withstand a day wrapped in foil at the bottom of your bag if you want to take emergency snacks with you (which is, like, always obviously).

 But if you ARE making these because you are hungover, the other really great thing is that the quantities – I have found out over the years – are a totally moveable feast. Many is the time that I have adjusted amounts of one thing and another quite significantly due either to running out of one thing, or just general slapdashery, and they pretty much always turn out really pretty damn fine.

The other thing to mention is that I have made these cakes for people who avoid gluten-free food like the plague thinking it will be inferior – and I have watched with satisfaction as they go back for a second and then a third.

And one day I will tell you the story of the time that I tried to create a gluten free brand, and mass-produce these little beauties to sell at a well known café. But that is a really long story and, so, for another time (I know – you’re on tenterhooks, right?).

One other thing to mention: I favour the silicone cake moulds, and mine are small heart-shaped, but you do need to grease them. If you are using something bigger you might need to cook them for longer – I’ve made them in cup cake cases and regular metal tins and they work well but those buns do need a bit longer in the oven.

Hangover cakes

2 cups almond flour

2-3 eggs (depending on size)

½ cup Honey

50 g butter, melted

1 cup Peanut butter/hazelnut butter/cashew or almond butter (or a blend)

3/4 cup Raisins

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla essence.

One of the glories of this recipe is that there isn’t really a ‘method’. You just put the almond flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and make a hole in the middle to crack the eggs into. Add the vanilla essence to the eggs and whisk together within the hole before stirring the almonds in so everything is amalgamated. Then add the nut butter and melted butter and stir again so it’s all mixed in before adding in the honey and raisins. The consistency should be slightly runny, so if it is too stiff, whisk up another egg and integrate it and remember that as you spoon it into your mould, they will rise a bit (so don’t fill it too full). Cook at 170 for 18-15 minutes, depending on the size of your moulds, and try to let them cool for a few minutes before scoffing the lot.

 

 

 

 

 

Ban-nutty cheesecake

BANANA PEANUT CHEESECAKE 2 BANANA PEANUT CHEESECAKE 1

I’ve long resigned myself to the fact that pudding is no longer on the menu for me, like ever: it’s just really hard to make a pudding without sugar, chocolate, cream, flour or any other grains and if you do, let’s face it, it’s not going to be very nice. Or it will be just fruit (fruit is not really pudding in my book). So, over the years I really have actually switched off the pudding switch and don’t even really feel hard done by any more when everyone else is tucking in to a delectable Tart Tatin or ice-cream with hot chocolate fudge sauce or a deliciously gooey banoffee cheesecake…Mmmmm. OK so I do feel a bit hard done by.

Still, hard done by is not the mother of invention. As I think I may have previously mentioned, it is greed!

And that is probably what spurred me on to adapt a recipe I saw in the Abel &Cole newsletter yesterday thinking all the while that it was probably going to be inedible – but – newsflash: it was not! It was scrumptious. And it was actual cheesecake. I fed it to two non-special needsers and, although they are family members and therefore more inclined than others to be kind to me, I honestly think that they liked it to.

Also, on the massive upside, this has only got FOUR ingredients and needs barely any cooking. This was my first foray into using coconut oil, which I’ve always been wary of for some reason and it was great – but (for the uninitiated, like me) does taste quite coconutty, which worked in favour of this recipe but if you are not a fan then you could try using butter instead. And the other thing, which feels like an exciting new vista to me is the discovery of whipping banana and peanut butter together; I used an electric whisk, it blended together fantastically and tastes sublime. OK, ready?

Ingredients 

300g almond flour (ground almonds)

100g coconut oil (melted)

5 ripe bananas

Four heaped tbsp peanut butter (I use  Whole Earth crunchy because it has no added sugar and also the crunch adds a certain something; you may feel differently and abhor the crunch, in which case use smooth.)

Cheesecake tin (8 and a half inches) with removable base.

Melt the coconut oil into a pan large enough to accommodate the almonds too. Once melted, stir in the almonds and mix thoroughly. Transfer and press into the base of the tin and cook at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes until brown, then remove and cool. Meanwhile, whip the bananas and peanut butter together, adjusting quantities to taste. Once whipped, cover, and cool in fridge. When the base is completely cool and the topping is chilled, pour the topping onto the base, smooth flat, then cover with cling film (chef’s tip: if you allow the cling film to directly touch the topping all over, it will stop a skin from forming). Leave in the fridge to cool for a couple of hours. The original recipe suggests melting chocolate buttons and spreading on top as an extra layer, which, believe you me, if I could do I would. However, this was still pretty darn good and, best of all, it is an actual pudding – and not just fruit!

Almond pancakes with cinnamon honey

ALMOND PANCAKES AND CINNAMON HONEY

I love it when it turns out that there are things I can cook and eat that are entirely about indulgence and don’t feel even the slightest bit ‘making-do’-ish, which is how one feel so much of the time when you are on a special needs diet (especially if you go out! There’s nothing like taking away the sauce and the sides of potato or rice to render most dishes duller than ditchwater).

These pancakes are a bit of a faff, but only in that you are stove-bound for a while as you meticulously turn out pancake after pancake. But if you have a lazy Sunday morning on your hands, and the desire/greed is strong enough, I can’t tell you how worth it it is. The best thing is that civilians enjoy eating them even more than I do because they have every appearance of ‘normal’ pancakes but the nut flour and honey mean that they are about ten times as delicious – and rich. So they really deliver.

You can serve this with very crispy streaky bacon, which elevates the whole experience to decadent. But I’m trying to avoid red meat at the moment and have discovered that although the bacon massively adds to things, you don’t actually notice its absence because you are too busy having a love-in with every bite of pancake, dipped liberally in cinnamony honey.

Almond pancakes

Ingredients

Cup and a quarter of nut flour (I use almond; you can do half almond and half hazelnut, especially if you are grinding your own nuts).

4 eggs

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon baking powder

Teaspoon vanilla essence

Put the ground nuts and baking powder into a bowl and make a well for the eggs, which you then crack in. Add the vanilla and whisk up before adding in the honey and mixing some more.

Melt some butter in a frying pan (you want it hot but not so hot that it burns) and use a spoon to drop batter into the pan, creating small rounds about the width of a bagel, or a bit bigger. Cook for about a minute or until you can nudge it as one entity across the pan, then flip. When both sides are cooked, put on a plate in a gently warmed oven and slowly build your stack. Then serve and talk about nothing other than how much you are enjoying every mouthful until you have eaten so many, you feel faintly queasy. Now, let that be a lesson to you!

Cinnamon honey

Half a cup honey, 1/8 teaspoon vanilla essence, a good shake of cinnamon powder (the latter two depending on how much you like vanilla and cinnamon).

Heat gently in a pan then put in to a bowl to drizzle freely onto pancakes as desired.