Crunchy Oat Cookies

I love a good biscuit, and so do my kids. It’s easier to buy a pack when you’re busy but there are only a few around which are dairy, egg and nut free and they are starting to tire of the same old stuff. And to my dismay I only found out yesterday that Jammie Dodgers – which I’ve been merrily buying for years – now contain whey. Unfortunately we found out the hard way: my eldest said she had an itchy mouth after eating one I’d put in her school packed lunch, so I checked the ingredients and they now contain MILK (the b******s!). I am going to have to start reading every label in the supermarket again to avoid making that mistake again. Anyway, they are now off our list of safe foods.

So time to make my own again, and I need it to be quick and easy so Thank Goodness for Mary Berry, these definitely do the trick. Everything I have is in the cupboard so here goes….

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Makes approx. 28 cookies

Ingredients

175 g self-raising flour
75 g porridge oats
175 g granulated sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
175 g dairy free spread/margarine
2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Put the flour, oats, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a mixing bowl.

3. Put the dairy free margarine and golden syrup into a pan, heat over a low heat, stirring until the butter has melted and combined with the syrup. Pour into the mixing bowl and stir until combined. Use your hands to press the dough together.

4. Turn out of the bowl onto a work surface and divide into about 28 and shape into balls, about 2cm thick. Arrange on 2 baking trays and flatten slightly, leaving some space between them as they will spread a little during cooking.

5. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown and firm. Remove from the oven and using a fish slice, transfer to a cooling rack to cool and firm up.

 

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Instant Frozen Berry Yoghurt

This is the quickest dessert to rustle up, it’s ridiculously easy to make and very forgiving so I don’t even have to bother measuring ingredients anymore. There are only 3 ingredients: frozen berries, soya yoghurt and liquid honey. That’s it. And what it creates is something so nice to eat and the good thing is, it’s healthy too – so no guilt involved.

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It does need to be eaten straight away though, as it starts to melt the instant you’ve made it. Alternatively if it’s looking a bit too melty put into the freezer to firm up. My kids love this as it’s just like ice cream and it never lasts long; they also like to add a bit of fresh raspberries or blueberries on top.

Ingredients (for 2-3 servings) 

200g Frozen Berries
1/2 of a 500g tub Plain Soya Yoghurt
2 – 3 tbsp Liquid Honey (or to taste)

You will need a liquidiser/blender.

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Method

Put all 3 ingredients into a blender, and whizz until combined. Add more honey to taste if required and mix again. Spoon into glasses/bowls.

The quickest recipe I ever had to write!

 

Easy Banana Bread

 

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This is one of the first dairy, egg and nut free bakes I made and whenever I have any overripe bananas hanging around, I rustle one of these up. It goes down a storm and people don’t even notice that it’s dairy and egg free – and it’s so easy the kids love helping to make it.

 

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I have to admit to having a couple of disasters with this even after making it for years, resulting in a loaf which was dense and doughy in the middle no matter how long I cooked it for… I couldn’t understand what was going wrong and thought I had lost my baking mojo – but I eventually figured out the reasons:
i) Too much liquid. I let my bananas hang around for a bit too long to the point that they were not only soft, but really, really quite squishy. They had turned into an almost purée-like consistency inside and the resulting cake mixture was too runny. This does not make a good cake.
ii) MASH your bananas but DO NOT blend! For a quick shortcut I decided to stick them into my blender for a few seconds, which resulted in a liquid purée and yet again too runny a cake mixture. Texture in your bananas are definitely required.
iii) Don’t use baking powder that has expired (duh). While I was scratching my head trying to figure out why my cake didn’t appear to rise very much, I decided to check the expiry date and lo and behold, it was nearly a year out of date! Binning it and using a new one fixed that.

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Ingredients

225g Plain Flour and
3 tsps Baking Powder
OR
225g Self Raising Flour and
2 tsps Baking Powder

100g Dark Brown Sugar
3 Medium Overripe Bananas (or 2 Large)
75g Vegetable Oil
50g Raisins
1 tsp Vanilla Essence

Method

  1. Preheat Oven to 200C/190C Fan. Peel the bananas and mash.
  2. If using dark brown sugar, make sure to remove any lumps beforehand. Mix well with the bananas, oil and vanilla essence.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder, then fold into the wet mixture and stir in the raisins.
  4. Bake in a greased and lined 500g loaf tin for approximately 1 hour. Check if the loaf is browning too quickly halfway through cooking and cover with foil if it is.
  5. Once cooked allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack.

 

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Strawberry Cupcakes

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Recently it was Little Two’s birthday. My sister had already baked a lovely vanilla sponge cake the week before but on her actual birthday I decided I needed to come up with something different. Funnily enough she is not overly keen on the cake part itself so I’ve been experimenting to see if she’ll be satisfied by one of my creations.

This is a recipe I usually roll out all the time to make cupcakes, my kids really like it and the sugar content has been reduced so it’s not too sweet. I decided to use a 50:50 ratio of coconut milk/soya milk to give a different flavour to the sponge.

I’m still at the amateur stage of cupcake decorating so have been trialling with the piping bag, they do have a rustic look about them. If it was the summer I would have decorated with a fresh strawberry on each, but as it isn’t I let my 8 year old do the rest of the decorating and let loose with the sprinkles which kept her occupied for an evening!

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Ingredients (Makes 12 hefty cakes or 24 small ones)

200ml/7floz dairy free milk (I used 100ml of KoKo coconut milk and 100ml of unsweetened soya)
20ml (4tsp) cider vinegar
200g/8oz self raising flour
150g/6oz caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
80ml/3floz vegetable/sunflower oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Buttercream:

180g/7oz icing sugar
25g/1oz dairy free margarine
25g/1oz Trex (hard white vegetable fat)
1 – 4 tsp dairy free milk
1/4 tsp strawberry flavouring
pink food colouring

Plus:
Various cake decorations, e.g. sprinkles, balls, edible glitter, glitter sugar
Piping bag plus icing nozzle (Star shape size 1M used for the ones in the picture)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Line a 12 hole bun tin with cupcake cases.
  • Measure the milk out into a jug, add the cider vinegar and give it a stir. After a few minutes it will appear to curdle which is a result of the milk proteins being broken down. This allows it to perform better as a substitute for dairy which normally reacts with the raising agents.
  • In the meantime place all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and combine thoroughly. Pour in the curdled milk, oil and vanilla.
  • Using a metal spoon gently fold the dry into the wet mixture together until just combined. For best results do not overmix, a few flecks of flour are ok.
  • Spoon the batter into the cases; just over 1/2 or 2/3 full will give you a decent size cake. You will see the raising agent at work and small bubbles on the surface of the mixture.
  • Just before you put your cakes in the oven give the tin a gentle tap on the worktop to pop the bubbles, which will stop the raising agents from working too quickly. Bake in the oven for around 10-15 minutes for small cakes or 15-20 minutes for large until they are golden brown on top. Cool for 10 minutes in the tin then put on a wire rack.
  • To make the icing, this can be done by mixer or by hand:
    Place the fats into a bowl and beat together until smooth. Add half of the icing sugar, 1 teaspoon of milk and the strawberry flavouring. Mix until combined.
  • Add the rest of the icing sugar, another teaspoon of milk, a couple of drops of food colouring and mix again. You may need to add more liquid a little at a time to achieve a smooth and creamy consistency, but stiff enough to hold its shape. Food colourings differ so you may need to add more depending on how vibrant you like your icing.
  • Pipe the icing onto the cakes, then decorate with sprinkles or whatever you fancy!

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Hotel Breakfasts – Allergy Friendly?

We’ve stayed at various hotels over the years, but how easy is it to get an allergy friendly breakfast? From our experience it is pretty tricky if your daughter has a fixation with toast because the biggest sticking point is BREAD.

Now bread is normally made with flour, yeast and water but 98% of the time asking for dairy, egg and nut free bread is like asking for bottled unicorn tears. Usually the response will be: “But we do have gluten free bread?”. No Thanks, it’s great you can cater for coeliacs but gluten free bread contains egg which my children are allergic to. If the words bread and allergic are in the same sentence it does not mean I want gluten free! Otherwise we are told the bread is bought in from a bakery and they have no idea what the ingredients are but cannot guarantee it would be dairy/egg/nut free so it would be best not to.

We were visiting family in Leeds and often stay at the Hilton Doubletree at least once every year when in town. A couple of years ago they had switched to a buffet breakfast service; we found that the bread contained egg and as other dairy/egg/nut free choices were limited we stopped having breakfast there. This year we had an extended stay so hoping that they would be more allergy friendly after new allergy labelling legislation came into force in 2014, I emailed the hotel with our requirements. I received a response from the manager of the Food and Beverage team:

I would like to advise you that we have the following on offer:
Fresh fruits, fruit salads, selection of cured meats and preservatives, porridge (made from water on request), bacon and cooked vegetables as well as raw vegetables. Chef advise me that we can provide gluten free, dairy free and egg free bread as well on requests.

I included my colleagues from breakfast to this email and would appreciate if you could advise one of our breakfast staff members on arrival for further assistance.

Sounds Promising.

So on our first morning we arrived for breakfast at the restaurant, at the front desk a friendly chap called Jonathan recognised our booking from the email, and advised that any of the waiting staff would help. The buffet was available and hot food items were in separate trays, but the problem with this is that you are never sure if other people have swapped the serving spoons around resulting in cross contamination, so we steered clear of these. My daughters love ham, but the platter of cured meat included mortadella – which contains pistachio, so this was also a no-no.

It was a busy breakfast service and we had a very hungry 8 year old and a hyperactive toddler, so I tried to placate them with some raisins and fruit salad. Staff were thin on the ground but I managed to order porridge for the kids to be made with soya milk. I then enquired about the bread as mentioned in the email and the waitress looked puzzled. I showed her the email and she went to the kitchen.

Well after quite a while the waitress came back and guess what she said? “The bread we have here contains  egg but we have gluten free bread?” Argh! Never mind I thought, at least we have the porridge, it’ll be along in a few minutes. We waited nearly 30 minutes for the porridge, by which time Big One had grown bored and complained that she wanted toast all along, and Little Two had made her own entertainment wearing her fruit salad while throwing it onto the table/floor, and threatening to escape her highchair. When the porridge finally came it was boiling hot, having just been cooked and took an age to cool down; Little Two had given up on food by this time but at least Big One ate hers. However it was all far too stressful.

After our disappointing breakfast, I asked to speak to the manager who had sent the original email, and she had also brought Jonathan with her. I explained that her information was incorrect and the choices available were extremely limited, along with a long wait to feed impatient children. She apologised and offered me the option of a refund for the breakfast if I wanted to go elsewhere for the rest of our stay. I thought this was a bit of a cop out and said it was inconvenient for us to do that with the children on a cold winter’s morning, what could they offer?

Thankfully they became a bit more helpful after this and asked what they could do to provide a greater choice of food for our children. I gave them the names of brands of sliced bread available in the supermarkets that were dairy, egg and nut free (e.g. Hovis, Kingsmill and supermarket own brands). This was a revelation to them and they agreed to buy a loaf in.  I quizzed them about the ham and they said they had clean down procedures in place to prevent nut contamination, or if necessary would cut by hand. They would have a plate of ham ready in the morning and make the porridge quicker.

The following morning everything went like a breeze. The staff were very attentive and we were brought a large serving of ham straight away and a pile of allergy friendly toast shortly after. There was a bit of a wait for porridge but I guess they were cooking it from scratch. Most importantly of all my children were fed and happy (still made a mess though)!

When we were checking out, the manager was good enough to check if our breakfast was satisfactory. She said the experience had helped them for future visits from guests with allergies, the information about the bread in particular was very useful and they would offer this as an alternative option. And when we stay there next time I will know exactly what to ask for! I’m glad that at least one place has been taught to  cater better for allergies.

 

 

More Meringues! Chickpea Style (yes really)

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The baking had stalled and I’ve been offline for a bit since a) My kitchen mixer had developed a ‘wobble’ and had to be sent off to be fixed and b) My laptop screen broke, courtesy of Little Two. In fact it’s still broken since I have to take it to the Apple Shop for a quote and there isn’t one near me for miles, so I’m using Mr Normal’s computer instead.

Following up on my last post about egg free meringues, I’ve found a different way to make them. The last time I was putting an order in with my local health food shop, I was ordering Organ Egg Replacer and mentioned I was making meringues with them. The chap I was speaking to said: “Do you know you can make them with chickpea water? I read about it in a vegan magazine”. Wow, really? So off I went to Google, and it’s true. The liquid, also known as aquafaba can be used as an egg replacer. It’s a recent discovery and there is yet to be adequate research into how this works but there’s a site dedicated to the stuff and recipes popping up all over the web.

So when my fixed mixer arrived back (hooray!) it was back to business as usual in the kitchen. I have to credit Mr Normal with making the meringues actually as he’s quite the culinary adventurer himself and is going through a bit of a baking obsession phase. The method is easy and all he did was this:

Ingredients

One can of chickpeas
Caster Sugar (at least 100g)

Method

  • Drain chickpeas and reserve the liquid. Weigh the liquid (ours  was 100g) and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a separate bowl weigh an equal amount of caster sugar.
  • Start whisking the liquid at high speed for 3 minutes or until a thick foam has developed. With the whisk still on, gradually add the sugar.

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  • Continue whisking at high speed and the liquid and sugar should combine to develop soft peaks resembling meringues.

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  • Spoon out in small heaps onto a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake in the oven at 120C for at least an hour (more for bigger meringues), turn off  and leave in the oven to  dry out further.

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Egg Free Meringues (with Egg Replacer)

This is the recipe for egg free meringues I found on the back of a box of Orgran No Egg Egg Replacer. I have to say I only got it right on the third batch. The first lot collapsed after the oven door was opened mid cooking (not by me I hasten to add), and the second attempt just stubbornly remained liquid and flat despite being whipped for ages.

The results? Not bad actually. I do detect a slight chalkiness after eating but as my children had never had the pleasure of meringue before they didn’t mind one bit. I also used it in a raspberry and soya cream combo as featured in my post about  SoyaToo! Spray Cream.

Ingredients

80g Orgran No Egg Natural Egg Replacer
½ teaspoon citrus pectin (e.g. Certo)
250ml ice cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
125g pure icing sugar

1 Tbsp soft brown sugar

Method

  • Preheat oven to 130°C (260°F)
  • Blend Orgran No Egg & pectin together thoroughly while dry, and then add to cold water in mixing bowl. Mix on high for 5 minutes.
  • Add vanilla and sugars 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing on high for a further 5 minutes. The foam will increase in volume.
  • Spoon or pipe meringues on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 130°C (260°F) for 2 hours.
    After 2 hours, turn the oven off without opening the door and allow the meringues to dry out until the oven is cool.
    If not serving immediately, store in airtight container.
  • Tip: When baking smaller individual meringues, reduce the cooking time to 1hr and 15 minutes