Wednesday 7 December 2011

Dairyfree Fruit and Ginger Chocolates

Finding dairyfree chocolate in the shops is relatively easy.  There are plenty of dark chocolate bars around that contain no dairy (just check the ingredients on the wrapper) but finding a box of chocolates is another matter.   Whilst there is more choice available online these days, they can often be expensive so I generally do what I've always done and make my own!

I've made all sorts of homemade chocolates over the years but these are probably the ones I've made most often!  Full of lovely dried fruit and stem ginger that has been steeped in brandy, they are truly luscious and make an extra special gift at Christmas or any time of year.

Any dark chocolate bar will do as long as it's dairyfree and the same goes for the digestives.  This recipe makes a lot so don't be put off by the quantities.  You could easily make three boxes like the one above from this list of ingredients.  


150g ready to eat dried apricots
150g ready to eat prunes
3 large balls of stem ginger
2 tbsp syrup from jar of stem ginger
125ml brandy
175g digestive biscuits (dairyfree)
275g dark chocolate (dairyfree)
110g dairyfree margarine (Pure)


Chop up the apricots and prunes (or snip into pieces with a pair of scissors) and place in a large saucepan.  Chop the stem ginger finely and add to the pan with 2 tbsp of syrup from the jar and the brandy.

Place over a medium heat and slowly bring to the boil, stirring every now and then.  Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to stand for about 30 minutes to allow the fruit to soak up the brandy syrup.

Line an oblong baking tin (approx 25cm x 18m x 3cm) with cling film.

Place the biscuits in a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.

Break up the chocolate into pieces and put in a large bowl with the dairyfree margarine.    Place the bowl over a pan filled with a couple of inches of just boiled water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.   Stir over a very low heat until the margarine and chocolate have melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Add the biscuit crumbs and soaked fruit to the bowl of melted chocolate and mix well together.    Spoon into the tin, pressing the mixture into the corners and tapping the tin to allow the mixture to settle. 
Level the surface neatly with a knife.   

Leave to cool, then cover with clingfilm and chill for at least six hours or overnight.

Turn the mixture out onto a clean chopping board and remove the clingfilm.  Cut into squares.

If you like, place in petit four cases and present them in a small box, covered with cling film.

Store in the fridge until needed. They'll keep for several weeks ....  if they last that long!  

Friday 18 November 2011

Smoked Mackerel Pâté

I've made this pâté well over a hundred times during the last twenty years or so and I'm still making it!  I think it's lasting appeal has something to do with it's speed and simplicity,  not to mention the taste!

Many mackerel pâtés contain a long list of ingredients such as cream, cheese, capers, horseradish etc. but this one doesn't. I can't see the point of adding lots of other flavours to something as distinctive as smoked mackerel.  Just freshly squeezed lemon juice, some dairy free margarine and seasoning are all you need. Serve with some crispy granary baguettes or freshly made toast and a colourful salad for a fabulous lunch or starter.

I've actually never weighed the ingredients before writing the recipe today and it's always turned out fine so just use the recipe as a guide and be your own judge of flavour!

Ingredients                                                                  Serves 4

Approx. 260g Smoked Mackerel Fillets 
75g Dairy Free Margarine, such as Pure
Juice of 1 small lemon (or half a large one)
Freshly ground pepper


Remove the skin from the mackerel and any little bones that run down the middle of the fillet.  Transfer to a food processor and add about three quarters of the lemon juice and a good grinding of black pepper.

Place the margarine in a small dish, microwave for a minute or so until just melted, then add to the other ingredients.

Process until smooth. Check for taste and add more lemon juice and seasoning,  if necessary.

Turn the mixture into a serving dish or individual ramekins and use a fork to swirl the top if you like.

Chill for several hours to set.   Serve with some hot toast or warm crispy bread and salad.


Tuesday 1 November 2011

Winter Tabbouleh with Roasted Vegetables

I've always loved making tabbouleh as it's such a quick and easy salad. You may have seen the recipe I posted over the summer - with my own special ingredient!  Now that this year's tomatoes and cucumbers are coming to an end, I've been looking for ideas to make a winter version.  I hope you enjoy this as much as we do! 

The basic ingredients are just like any tabbouleh i.e. bulghur wheat with a mint, parsley and lemon dressing.  To me, colour is just as important as flavour.  It's got to look good as well as taste good which is why I chose a home grown butternut squash and some freshly picked green rocket and added bright red and yellow peppers and a red onion too.  Other roasted vegetables such as aubergines or courgettes could be used instead and baby spinach leaves used in place of rocket.

Ingredients                                     Serves 4 - 6 

125g bulghur wheat
1 butternut squash
2 peppers (red and yellow)
1 red onion
A generous handful of fresh rocket
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra oil for roasting
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper


First put the bulghur wheat in a bowl, pour over plenty of boiling water and leave to soak for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.

Peel the butternut squash, then cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.   Cut into pieces approximately ½" (1 cm) square and place in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. 

Mix well,  then transfer to a large baking tray.

Slice the peppers and mix in a bowl with olive oil and seasoning as before, then  spread out on the baking tray alongside the squash (or on a separate tray). 

Repeat with the red onion, then place on a separate baking tray.

Now roast the vegetables in the oven until tender, turning occasionally to ensure they are evenly cooked.  The onions and peppers will probably take about 20 to 25 minutes whilst the butternut squash will need longer, usually 35 to 40 minutes.  The vegetables should be tender but not brown and crispy.

Meanwhile make your dressing by whisking together the olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Then add the finely chopped parsley and mint and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. 

Drain the bulghur wheat through a sieve and press with the back of a large spoon to remove excess water.

When your bulghur wheat has drained thoroughly, place in a large bowl and stir in the dressing.   Add the roasted vegetables and mix together gently.  Check seasoning. 

Finally, just before serving,  tear up the rocket leaves and stir into the salad.

This salad can be made well in advance. I often soak the bulghur wheat,  add the dressing, then leave in the fridge till needed.  I think the flavour improves with keeping and then you can roast your vegetables sometime when you've got the oven on.

Monday 17 October 2011

Pear and Apple Tart

Now's the time to be making the most of this year's bumper crop of apples and pears and here's a special autumn treat. This traditional French fruit tart looks and tastes so good.  It's really easy to make and, because it's made with eating apples and ripe pears, it's sweet enough without adding sugar!

As well as being sugar free, it's also free from eggs and dairy too.  The shortcrust pastry is made with flour and equal quantities of vegetable fat and dairy free margarine with a hint of cinnamon for added flavour.  The fruit is cooked to make a rich, smooth filling without losing the lovely fresh flavour of an autumn harvest!

A French pâtisserie recipe that's healthy and simple?  Must be too good to be true, surely?  Why not make it for yourself and see!


225g plain white flour
55g  vegetable fat (Trex)
55g  dairy free sunflower margarine (Pure)
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch salt

About 700g sweet eating apples
About 700g ripe pears
1 large orange
50g dairyfree margarine

Start by preparing the fruit.  Peel the apples and pears and leave whole.  Then using a coarse grater, grate each piece of fruit into a large bowl, discarding the core and seeds.

Using a fine grater,  remove the zest of the orange and add to the bowl with 3 tbsp of the freshly squeezed orange juice.

In a large non-stick frying pan,  gently heat 50g dairy free margarine.

When it's melted, add all the grated fruit and stir well.

Cook over a high heat, stirring constantly!

After about 10 minutes or so, the moisture from the fruit will have evaporated and the mixture will have thickened, so much so that when you run the spoon across the pan, there is no juice remaining!


Set aside the fruit mixture whilst you make the pastry (or you can always make it the day before and keep in the fridge).

For quickness, I often make pastry in a food processor.  Measure the flour, vegetable fat and margarine and place in the processor with the salt and cinnamon. Process briefly until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  

Add 3 tbsp water slowly through the funnel at the top whilst the machine is running.  As soon as you see the pastry coming together to form a ball, switch off.  It's best not to overwork the pastry.  

(If you prefer to make the pastry by hand,  sift the flour and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt.  Place the vegetable fat and margarine in the bowl and chop into small pieces with a knife. Then using your fingers, rub the fat into the flour until it becomes crumbly and resembles breadcrumbs.  Add about 3 tbsp water and, using the knife again, mix together to form a soft dough.) 

Dust your work surface with a little flour, then roll out the pastry thinly into a rough circle shape approximately 2 - 3cm larger than the greased shallow 24 cm loose-bottomed flan tin.  

Carefully transfer the pastry to the tin.  I find the best way to do this is to roll the pastry loosely round a rolling pin and then lift it into the prepared tin.

Ease the pastry into position and make sure no air is trapped underneath.  Gently strengthen the sides to avoid it shrinking down when baked and trim away the excess pastry with a knife. 

Either cover and leave in the fridge until needed or bake straightaway.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6 and put in a baking sheet to heat through.

Prick the base of the flan all over with a fork, place a piece of foil or greaseproof paper on top and fill with baking beans (any dried beans) to stop the pastry base from puffing up whilst baking.

Place on a heated baking sheet in the oven at 200C (G.M. 6)  and bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and place the flan base back uncovered in the oven for 5 more minutes or till completely cooked through but not brown.

Fill the pre-baked pastry base with the cooked fruit mixture and level the top neatly with a knife. 

If you like, you can make lattice strips to decorate the top.  Roll out the pastry trimmings and cut into even strips with a pastry cutter or knife.  


Lay 5 parallel strips vertically over the filling, then fold two alternate strips away from you.  
Place the first strip horizontally across the middle, then replace the two verticals.


Fold the other three vertical strips towards you and place a second one horizontally. Replace the vertical pieces.


Fold the three vertical strips away from you and place a third strip horizontally.  Then replace the vertical ones.  Continue with the two remaining strips to form the lattice.

Here it is completed!  Don't worry about the rough ends. You can tidy them up later.

Brush the pastry strips with a little cold water and return the tart to the oven.  Bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes until golden. Serve on it's own, with natural soya yogurt or Swedish Glace non-dairy icecream.

Let me know what you think!