Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chestnut Chocolate Truffle Cake

After making my own chestnut puree for the chestnut tofu burgers I made a little while back I had quite an excess taking up space in my freezer so thought I had better find another use for the stuff. That was when my friend Poppy dug out a recipe from her collection of old Good Food magazines for a chestnut truffle cake which I decided to give a go. The result was a rich, delicious mousse type cake, that was easy to make and gluten free as well, so a perfect addition to this blog!

400g chestnut puree (see chestnut tofu burger recipe for method to make chestnut puree)
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into cubes
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons milks
Seeds scraped out from half a vanilla pod


100g dark chocolate
25g butter
1 tablespoon single cream

Put the chestnut puree into a food processor with the sugar, and whizz until smooth.

Put the butter and chocolate in a pan with the milk and heat gently, stirring, until they have melted forming a smooth sauce. Stir in the vanilla seeds, then add the sauce to the chestnut mix in the food processor, and whizz again until well combined.

Line a lightly buttered loaf tin with cling film and pour in the chestnut mix. Smooth the top, cover with cling film and chill for 24 hours.

To serve turn the truffle cake out onto a flat plate or board and peel off the cling film.  Then return to the fridge to firm up a little while you make the topping.

Gently melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat until smooth and well combined. Remove the cake from the fridge and spread the topping over the top and sides of the cake spreading evenly with a palette knife or spatula. Return to the fridge to set before serving.

The cake will keep in the fridge for another 6 days. To serve cut into thin slices and serve with a little single cream or mixed forest fruits.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Mince-Custard Pies

Well Christmas really is fast approaching and my homemade mincemeat has been maturing nicely for the last month so I thought it was about time to make some mince pies. Other than using my suet-free mincemeat there isn’t anything missing from this recipe, but Christmas is the time of year when we all indulge a little so I thought I could get away with it this time! In fact there is a little hidden extra in this recipe, with a custard layer hiding below the mincemeat in these mini pies.

250g plain flour
150g butter, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 large jar of homemade mincemeat (about ½ the quantity made in my original recipe…although if you haven’t got time to make your own a jar of shop bought mincemeat will be fine)
Birds Custard Powder (I’ve cheated slightly on this one! You could make your own custard from scratch….or cheat a little more and buy ready-made custard)
½ pint of milk
1 tablespoon caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degC/ 400 degF

Start by making the pastry.

Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Put the butter, salt and egg into the well and use your fingers to gently bind these ingredients together, gradually drawing the flour into the centre of the bowl, producing a dough with a slightly grainy texture.

Add the milk and continue to gradually incorporate this into the mixture with your fingers until the dough begins to hold together. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes to create a smooth texture. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make the custard. I cheated a little and used birds custard powder, following the instructions on the back of the tub to make a pint but halved the amount of milk added to the mixture to ½ a pint to make an extra thick custard.

Grease each dip in a muffin tray (I like to make mini mince pies so used in mini muffin tin).

Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface and cut out circles to line the muffin tin. Gently work each circle into the muffin tin and place a large teaspoon of the custard into each. Then top with the mincemeat.

You can now add a pastry lid to each pie. Although I find adding a full lid to a mini pie can result in a bit too much pastry compared to the filling making them a little heavy so I cut out little stars and added one to the top of each pie. Then brush the pies with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven sprinkling each pie with a little extra sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool.          

Any extra pastry can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days until you find another use for it, or popped into the freezer for use at a later date.                

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I have learnt in the past week that it is quite difficult to take a decent picture of a bowl of gnocchi. First of all there is the issue of avoiding the steam from the food fogging up the camera lens. Then because gnocchi are essentially little lumps of dough it is quite tricky to get a photo which manages to distinguish all of these little lumps from each other. I also found that as I watched the lumps of gorgonzola added to my dish slowly starting to melt and go all gooey I became an increasingly impatient photographer and just wanted to sit down and eat. So eventually I gave up the pursuit of achieving the perfect gnocchi picture and just got on with enjoying my dinner! But hopefully the pictures below give you enough of a rough idea of what to aim for when making this gluten free recipe.

1 large baking potato
1 large sweet potato
Gluten free, wheat free flour blend (available from most health food shops)
Salt and pepper

This is quite a basic gnocchi recipe using just the two varieties of potato and flour. Some recipes also use egg but I chose not to making this a vegan as well as gluten free recipe (as long as you don’t add the cheese at the end that is!).

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C/390 deg F.

Bake the potatoes in the oven until they are easily pierced with a fork (approximately 45 minutes, although the sweet potato will probably cook quicker than the baking potato).

Once cooked remove the potatoes from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Once you can handle the potatoes remove the skins and then weigh the potatoes and make a note of their weight.

Then use a cheese grater and grate the potatoes into a large bowl. You can just mash the potato but grating provides a finer texture which is required for gnocchi. Alternatively if you have a potato ricer use this instead…unfortunately I’m yet to invest in a ricer so use a grater to do the job.

Now add the flour to the potato mixture. For every 100g of potato you have you need to add 40g of flour. Season the mixture well and use your hands to combine together into a fairly stiff dough. The dough mixture will be fairly sticky at first but keep working at it until it all comes together, adding a little extra flour if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for 5 minutes.

Traditionally this dough should now be rolled into a long rope and then cut into 2cm pieces to form the gnocchi but I find it easier just to take small pieces from the dough ball (about the size of a lumped teaspoon full of mixture) one at a time and form into a small ball. As you finish each gnocchi place onto a floured plate in a single layer to avoid them sticking together.

To cook the gnocchi bring a large pan of water to the boil and gently add the gnocchi, making sure the pan isn’t too full otherwise the gnocchi may stick together. After cooking for a few minutes the gnocchi will rise to the top of the pan and begin to float. Continue cooking for another minute or two and then remove from the water and drain well.

Then serve the gnocchi with your chosen accompaniment. I gently fried up a finely chopped red onion adding a crushed clove of garlic and a handful of walnut pieces as the onions began to soften. I seasoned this generously with lots of freshly ground black pepper and added a large handful of fresh spinach. Once the spinach had wilted I added the freshly cooked gnocchi to the pan and mixed so the gnocchi was coated with the onion, walnut mixture. I then transferred the gnocchi to bowls and topped with generous lumps of gorgonzola!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Jaffa Cakes

It has become a bit of a tradition at work that anyone chairing the monthly team meeting provides treats for everyone who attends. These treats normally take the form of cakes or biscuits so I decided to experiment with making jaffa cakes for my final stint as the chair recently. This also gave me an excuse to use up the packet of vegetarian jelly crystals that had been lurking at the back of my cupboard for a while, making these gelatine free so suitable for veggies.

2 eggs
50g sugar
Zest from 2 oranges
½ teaspoon orange blossom water (can be ommitted if not available)
50g plain flour, sifted
An 85g packet of vegetarian jelly crystals
125ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200g dark chocolate

Set the oven to 180 degC/350 degF

Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Place a heatproof bowl over the water ensuring the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water, then add the eggs, sugar, orange zest and orange blossom water to the bowl and whisk for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Add the flour to the mixture and beat until well combined, producing a thick smooth batter.

Grease each well in a 12-hole muffin tin with a little butter and then half fill each well with the batter. Put the tin in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cakes are a light golden brown colour. Then remove from the oven, turn out the cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

Meanwhile heat the orange juice in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and add the jelly crystals stirring until dissolved. Then pour the mixture into a shallow sided baking tray  forming a 1cm layer of jelly. Set aside until cooled and then place in the fridge to set. (If you can’t get hold of jelly crystals you can replace the crystals with 1 normal 135g packet or orange jelly, chopping it into small pieces before added to the hot orange juice).

Once the jelly has set use a biscuit cutter to cut out discs of jelly the same diameter as the cakes. Sit a jelly disc on top of each cake.

Again bring some water to the boil in a saucepan and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Suspend a heat proof bowl over the water (again ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the bowl, stirring occassionally until melted. Pour the chocolate over the cakes (I find it best to put the cakes on a wire cooling rack with a baking tray placed underneath to catch any extra chocolate that pours off the cakes)and set aside until the chocolate has cooled and set.

Adapted from homemade jaffa cakes

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ginger Beer and Molasses Bread

Did you know that a lot of real ales aren’t suitable for vegetarians and vegans? I recently found a jar of molasses lurking at the back of a cupboard so did a bit of scouting around for a recipe to use it up and discovered a Guiness and Molasses sweet bread recipe. The recipe didn’t require any eggs or dairy products so I thought it would be a perfect vegan recipe for the blog but after a little research on Google I discovered that Guiness isn’t vegan friendly…isinglass is used in its production, which is a substance made from the dried swim bladders of certain fish!

You may wonder why there is a need to add isinglass to ale, well here comes the science bit…isinglass is used to remove the residual protein and suspended yeast cells left at the end of the fermentation process preventing ale from becoming cloudy. The collagen in the isinglass carries a positive charge, attracting the negatively charged yeast cells forming a precipitate that settles out of the beer. Isinglass is mainly used in cask ales as beer stored in smaller quantities in cans or bottles is often just filtered instead. This isn’t always the case however and canned and bottles Guiness is produced using isinglass.

CAMRA the campaign for real ales provides information on ales that are definitely vegan/vegeterian . But I thought to save confusion and to guarantee that this recipe is definitely vegan I would replace the Guiness with ginger ale (of the non-alcoholic variety) producing a lovely sweet, malty gingery bread recipe!

3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup molasses
A pinch of salt
360ml of ginger beer (of the non-alcoholic variety)
Margarine for greasing the tin
2 tablespoons of marmalade

Preheat the oven to 180degC / 350degF

Grease a 9x5-inch loaf tin with margarine

Put the flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl and mix until combined

Slowly pour the ginger beer into the flour and start to mix together. Once the dry ingredients start to combine with the ginger beer add the molasses and continue to stir until all of the ingredients are mixed together, there are no lumps and you are left with a batter like consistency.

Pour the mixture into the greased tin and bake for 50 minutes. Check that the bread is cooked by inserting a knife into the deepest part of the loaf and ensuring it comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Then melt the marmalade in a small saucepan and brush on top of the loaf to give a sticky, shiny glaze.

(Recipe adapted from Guinness Bread with Molasses ... And here is a little more information on isinglass alternatives)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Zesty Mincemeat

‘It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas’…… Well that John Lewis advert is on the TV and random Z list celebrities are turning on lights in town centres across the country. I usually aim to avoid anything vaguely festive before December 1st at the earliest. But this year I decided to make my own mincemeat and to allow the flavours to mature a bit I thought I had better get into the Christmas spirit a little prematurely. I' ve also used a recipe that doesn’t contain any suet, as is traditional, and there are no nuts involved so it is suitable for vegans, veggies and nut allergy sufferers!

200ml cider
The zest and juice of 1 orange
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
300g dark brown sugar
1kg cooking apples (cored and grated)
225g sultanas
225g raisins
125g dried cranberries
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
50ml Grand Marnier (or other orange liqueur)

Put the cider, zest and juice from the orange and lemon and the sugar into a large saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Then add all of the other ingredients to the saucepan excluding the Grand Marnier. Bring the mixture to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer steadily for 40-50 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the grated apple has cooked and broken down to more of a paste like consistency.

Allow to cool slightly and then add the Grand Marnier to the mixture.

This can be used straight away to make mince pies or stored in sterilised jars until a little closer to Christmas!


There are a number of methods that can be used to sterilise jars but I usually do as follows;

Pre-heat  the oven on to 140 deg C.

Wash the jars in hot soapy water and then place upside down on a baking tray. Place the tray in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat, but leave the jars in the oven for another 20-30 minutes (so this could be done as you are making the mincemeat).

Finally take the jars from the oven, handling with oven gloves as the jars will still be hot, fill with the mincemeat mixture and cover the mixture with a circle of greaseproof paper before covering the jar with a circle of clingfilm or cellophane.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Chestnut Tofu Burger

I love crisp autumn days, wrapping up warm against the chill in the air and stomping through the large piles of golden leaves that collect on the ground. And whenever I venture back home to see my parents at this time of year those piles of leaves are also full of glossy little chestnuts. As a family we have always collected up this seasonal offering of free food and turned them into comforting soup or stuffing for the turkey at Christmas. But when I recently returned from a trip to see the family with a bag full of freshly harvested chestnuts I decided to do something a little different…and so was born the soon to become seasonal classic, vegan friendly, ‘Chestnut Tofu Burger’!

120g firm tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
120g chestnut puree
1 leek (thinly diced)
60g whole, peeled chestnuts
60g breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon chopped thyme (can use 2 teaspoons of dried thyme if fresh not available)


If a back garden full of chestnuts isn’t available to you, or you aren’t able to find fresh in the local shops you can use already prepared chestnut puree. If you do have fresh chestnuts however you might want to know how to make your own puree! There are many different methods and much debate as to whether chestnuts should be peeled before or after cooking. I always peel mine whilst raw, carefully using a knife to slice off the flatter end before removing the rest of the shell. I then place all of the chestnuts in a large saucepan and cover with water (so that the water level is a couple of centimetres above the chestnuts). Then bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the chestnuts are tender. Keep an eye on the pan to ensure the water does not boil off completely, and top up as necessary. Then place the chestnuts and remaining liquid into a food processor and whizz until fully blended, adding a little extra water if the mixture becomes too stiff.
Any excess puree can be frozen and used at a later date for soup, stuffing or more chestnut tofu burgers!


Mash the tofu in a bowl together with the olive oil. Add the chestnut puree and mix well.

In a separate pan gently cook the leeks in a glug of olive oil until softened. Then add the leeks to the tofu mixture.

Crumble the whole chestnuts up into small pieces and add to the tofu mix along with the breadcrumbs, thyme and plenty of salt and pepper to season.

Finally take handfuls of the mixture and shape into burgers (possibly dust your hands with flour before doing this to prevent the mixture from sticking). This mixture should make approximately four burgers depending on how large you make them.

To cook place the burgers under a hot grill, turning after about five minutes, and cook until both sides of the burger are golden in colour.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Amaretto Almond Brownies

So this whole blog began life following a post work pub conversation one Friday. One of my colleagues (a.k.a Terry) thought it was about time I started airing my weird and wonderful kitchen experiments to a wider audience…and after a couple of pints of real ale I agreed with him! But even once the beer had stopped coursing through my veins I thought why not? And so ‘Something Missing’ was born. And upon its creation the very same Terry pointed me in the direction of a tahini brownie recipe to try out. Now I love tahini, there isn’t much better than eating sesame paste straight from the tub with a spoon (or is that just me!?!). My slight addiction to all things sesame, however, meant that when I got around to making this recipe my tahini stocks were depleted. But rather than let this get in the way of brownie production I made a few replacements and so the Amaretto Almond Brownie was born….a wonderfully nutty vegan treat!

125g good quality dark chocolate
150g almond butter (like peanut butter but made from almonds, I imagine any other form of nut butter could be substituted in here)
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
100ml orange juice
50ml amaretto liqueur (or if you don’t want to use any alcohol just add another 50ml of orange juice instead)

Set the oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F
Line an 8” square deep baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, removing from the heat once melted.

Put the sugar, orange juice and amaretto in a separate saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Add the almond butter to the melted chocolate, stirring until combined. Then add the orange juice, amaretto and sugar mix to the chocolate.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and gradually add to the chocolate mixture folding all of the ingredients together until fully combined.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin, spreading it as evenly as possible and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is nice and crispy, leaving the middle slightly gooey.

Allow to cool slightly before slicing into brownie sized chunks!

Adapted from Taste of Beirut and  We Heart Food

Monday, 7 November 2011

Choc Chunk Cookies

I have quite a serious addiction to ice cream. It is the one food stuff I find it impossible to resist and once a tub is open it doesn’t last long in my freezer! This summer as well as eating ice cream I discovered the joys of making my own, experimenting with various flavour combinations….but this left me with an excess of egg whites that I just didn’t know how to use up (especially as I’m not a big fan of meringue). So I divided the egg whites into food bags and bunged them in the freezer until I could discover a use for them. Not too long ago however, I stumbled across a cookie recipe that only required egg whites….so finally I am starting to make a dent on my egg white reserves!!

INGREDIENTS (makes at least 30 cookies – depending on how big you make them!)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup soft margarine
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
150g good quality dark chocolate
2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C

Line 2 baking trays with non stick parchment.

In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar and margarine with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add the flour, oats and baking powder and mix until a thick dough forms.

In a separate, clean bowl whisk the eggs whites up until soft peaks are formed. Then gradually fold the egg whites into the dough mix, a spoonful at a time.

Finally break the chocolate into large chunks (I find bashing the chocolate bar with the end of a rolling pin normally works well!) and fold these into the mixture.

Use a dessert spoon to dollop small amount of the mixture onto the baking tray, leaving a couple of centimetres between each dollop to allow the cookies to spread during baking. Press down each dollop of mixture slightly using the back of a floured fork or spoon. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies just start to turn golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from Not Quite Nigella, which was originally taken from Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No Knead Pumpkin Bread

So from chocolate cake to something a little more savoury…’Pumpkin Bread’. A recipe which seems appropriate at this time of year, as the nights are drawing in and the golden leaves start to fall from the trees. But what is missing this time? Well kneading! The main technique usually required to produce a loaf isn’t ‘needed’!!! You just have to leave the dough over night to do its magic. And there are no eggs or dairy products in this loaf either making it suitable for vegans and veggies.


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F/ 180 deg C.
Take a small pumpkin and clean the skin to remove any excess dirt or soil.
Slice the pumpkin in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
Then slice the pumpkin into large wedges and arrange in a roasting tray.
Add a cup of water to the tray and cover with tin foil.
Bake in the oven until the pumpkin is tender and easily peels away from the skin (it will probably take about 90 minutes, depending on the size of the wedges).
Once cooked remove from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool until you are able to handle it. Remove the skin from the wedges, put the flesh in a sieve or colander placed over a bowl and allow any excess moisture to drain off of the pumpkin.
Finally place the flesh in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree, it is now ready to use in the recipe below (any excess puree makes a great base for pumpkin soup, or can be frozen and used at a later date).

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 loaves)

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups warm water
1 packet fast action dried yeast (7g)
2 tsp salt
6 cups plain flour (plus extra for dusting)

Put all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well using a wooden spoon or spatula to form a wet, sticky dough.
Once all of the ingredients are fully combined cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of cling film and leave for 12 to 16 hours.

Flour a work surface well and using a spatula scrape half of the dough out of the bowl and onto the work surface. The dough will still be very sticky, but flour your hands well and shape the dough into a rough square. Fold each corner into the centre and carefully flip the dough over so that the folds are facing down and all sides of the loaf are coated in flour. Flour your hands again if needed and shape into a round loaf.

Dust a baking sheet with plenty of flour to prevent sticking and transfer the loaf to the tray (folds facing down) sprinkling the top of the loaf with flour.

Repeat this process with the remaining dough to make a second loaf.

Leave the dough in a warm room for 1 ½ hours to rise.

Place a roasting tin, half filled with water, in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 deg F / 220 deg C. Make an incision across the top of each loaf using a sharp knife and bake in the oven for 50 – 55 minutes. If the crust of the bread colours quickly reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 deg F/ 180 deg C for the final 10 minutes of cooking.
Allow to cool before slicing.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Chocolate Chickpea Cake

And here is where it all started…the ‘Chickpea Chocoalte Cake recipe’, where a banana is used as a replacement for eggs to make it vegan friendly, and chickpeas are used instead of flour so that it is wheat and gluten free. Although don’t worry if you don’t like banana as the flavour from the orange juice and zest seemed to dominate making a chocolate orange delight….oh and you wouldn’t know it contained chickpeas either, honest!

2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1 large ripe banana
1 cup packed demerera sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder (be careful if making a fully wheat and gluten free version of this recipe as baking powder often contains both, although gluten free versions are available)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 180 deg C / 350 deg F and lightly oil an 8-inch round cake tin lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

In a food processor, puree chickpeas and orange juice until very smooth. Add vanilla, orange zest and banana and continue to mix in the food processor until all ingredients are combined.

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the food processor and pulse until blended.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 to 50 minutes, checking after 40 minutes to see if a sharp knife inserted in the centre of the cake comes out dry. When done, let cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes, then remove and set on a serving dish, be careful when doing this as the cake is quite fragile.

If desired, top with frosting or a dusting of icing sugar. I used a chocolate fudge icing to decorate mine;


60g vegetable based margarine/spread
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
220g icing sugar

Melt the margarine in a saucepan over a low heat.

Once melted remove the pan from the heat, sieve in the cocoa powder and icing sugar and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Allow to cool slightly before spreading over the cake (if the icing starts to stiffen up too much return to the heat for a couple of minutes and stir thoroughly until it returns to a spreadable consistency).