Saturday 26 March 2011

Extra Fruity Fruit Cake

When you want to cut down your intake of sugar, eggs and dairy, you might imagine cakes are out of the question, but that's not the case at all. This Extra Fruity Fruit Cake is absolutely delicious despite the fact it's fat free, sugar free, egg free and dairy free! 

What it does contain is plenty of healthy ingredients.  Dried fruits, dates, ground almonds and fruit juice provide natural sweetness and give the cake a lovely moist texture.  Don't feel you have to use the same dried fruits as I have.  Apart from the dates which are an essential ingredient, any combination of dried and ready to eat fruits such as raisins, sultanas, apricots, prunes, peaches and pears will do as long as the total weight is around 450/500g.

One thing I discovered years ago is that cakes made with wholemeal flour can be heavy and not to everyone's taste.  To lighten a cake, I use half wholemeal, half white flour, as I've done in the recipe below.   


250g stoned dates,  chopped  
300ml water
150g raisins
150g sultanas
100g ready to eat dried apricots
50g dried peaches
50g mixed peel
85g plain flour
85g wholemeal flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 rounded tsp mixed spice 
50g ground almonds
80ml orange juice  (either freshly squeezed or from a carton)


Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3.  

Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin and line the base with greaseproof paper. 

Place the chopped dates and water in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until the dates have softened and the mixture has thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Using kitchen scissors, cut up the dried apricots and peaches into small pieces and place in a large bowl with the raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, plain/wholemeal flour, baking powder, mixed spice and ground almonds. 

Then add the cooked date mixture and orange juice and mix well.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top.

Bake for about an hour and a half or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  After an hour or so of baking, I place a small piece of foil loosely over the top to avoid the cake going too brown.

Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then slide a knife along the side to loosen and turn out on to a wire rack to cool.   

Eat one, freeze one! 
If you want to make two smaller cakes instead, split the mixture into two 1lb (450g) loaf tins and bake them for about one hour.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Vegetable Burger

Burgers don't have to contain meat!  In fact there are any number of vegetable-based alternatives to buy these days but it's also quick and easy to make your own.  They're far cheaper, much healthier for you and you can vary the flavour and ingredients to suit your own taste.

This is the recipe I use most often because, apart from the fact that we love them, in the summer when I'm picking courgettes in the garden daily, this is a handy way of using them up!   As well as being full of fresh vegetables, the burgers contain tinned chick peas and are gently spiced with cumin and coriander. 

I usually serve the burgers with a simple tomato sauce (made with an onion, garlic, basil and a tin of tomatoes),  with rice or potatoes and a side vegetable such as leeks and peas. 

Of course, they also go down well in a burger bun! 

Ingredients                        Makes about 10 burgers

1 medium onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 medium courgettes
225g carrots
85g wholemeal bread
400g can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp fresh parsley or coriander
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

In a large frying pan or saute pan, fry the chopped onion in the olive oil for about five minutes until soft.  Pound the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the pan with the ground coriander.  Stir fry over a medium heat for a few minutes.

Finely dice the courgettes and grate the carrot on a coarse grater. 

Add them to the pan with the crushed garlic and fry for about five minutes over a medium heat stirring often. If the mixture looks dry, just add a drizzle more olive oil. Once the vegetables are starting to soften, remove from the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool down.

Meanwhile, in a food processor,  blend the bread into breadcrumbs.   Place them in a large bowl with the peanut butter.   Next,  blend the parsley (or chop by hand) and add to the bowl.   Finally blend the drained chick peas until smooth.

Add them to the bowl together with the cooked vegetables.  Season with freshly ground salt and pepper and mix well.  
Then leave the mixture to cool down completely.

The mixture usually makes about 10 medium sized burgers.   You can either shape them by hand or spoon into rings or large pastry cutters.  I do this on some lining paper saved from a cereal packet to stop them sticking.

Cover and chill for a few hours.    I usually freeze some of the burgers at this point by laying them out on some lining paper on a tray in the freezer.  Once frozen, I transfer them to a large bag.

When required,  fry on both sides in a little olive oil.  


Wednesday 9 March 2011

Chocolate Pear Cake

Here's a lovely dairy-free and egg-free dessert that I've been making regularly for at least fifteen years but it's still a favourite in our house!

Because I'm more conscious of my sugar intake these days, I don't eat a lot of puddings, especially not straight after a main course.  However, I do love a good dessert especially when we have friends round for a meal. Having a whole evening to savour each other's company as well as the food is a real joy so I never rush to clear away the plates and dishes after each course!  Usually everyone's happily chatting away and anyway, it gives us time to let the food digest and make room for what's to come!

This Chocolate Pear Cake takes very little effort to make. In fact the only difficult part is remembering to buy your pears the week before so they're not rock hard!  Any variety of pears will do, such as conference or rocha.  It looks really impressive and tastes delicious too, especially served with a spoonful of Swedish Glace non-dairy vanilla or chocolate icecream.  

It can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge for a few days.   

Ingredients               Serves 6

25g dairy free margarine (e.g. Pure)
25g light brown raw cane sugar
3 or 4 pears 
1 heaped tbsp roasted chopped hazelnuts

75g dairy free margarine
85g unrefined golden castor sugar
100g self-raising flour
25g cocoa (e.g.Green & Black's)
half tsp instant coffee
2 tbsp soya milk


First grease and line an 8" sandwich tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment.  

Then make the topping by melting the margarine and sugar together in a bowl in the microwave or alternatively in a small pan. 

Mix with a wooden spoon until blended then spread over the base of your lined tin.

Peel and quarter the pears. Cut each quarter lengthways into three.  Then arrange them neatly in a wheel design around the edge of the tin, overlapping the pieces. 
Spoon most of the chopped nuts into the centre. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4

Whisk the margarine and sugar together for about a minute until light and creamy. 

Sieve the flour and cocoa together and gradually add to the mix, blending well until the ingredients are incorporated but don't overmix. Finally add the coffee and enough milk to make a fairly stiff cake mix.

Now transfer the cake mixture to the tin.  To avoid disrupting the pears, spoon the mixture a little at a time until most of the pears are covered.  

Then with a knife or your fingers, gently press the cake mixture down and carefully level the top.

Bake for 30 minutes until the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin.   Leave to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.  

When it's cold, cover and place in the fridge.  

When you're ready to serve,  take a knife and run it around the edge of the tin.  Then place your serving plate on top and carefully tip it over so the cake drops out.  If it doesn't come out straight away, hold the cake tin and the plate firmly together in your hands and give it a gentle shake.

Remove the parchment paper and add a few extra chopped nuts in the centre.