Christmas Dessert – Lapsang souchong and persimmon sticky toffee cake with tahini caramel sauce

For the dessert for our Christmas meal we’ve gone for an indulgent moist cake based on the traditional sticky toffee pudding recipe. Rather than use plain tea to soak the dates though, we’ve used beautiful smokey lapsang souchong tea, and added sweet persimmon with their subtle melon-like flavour to the mixture.

Rather like an upside down cake, the tin has a layer of muscovado sugar and persimmon slices added before the batter goes in, so that when the cake is turned out it has a beautiful design of caramelised persimmon on top.

And the caramel sauce is pretty special! We used tahini in it, to add an extra layer of toasty flavour which balances the sweetness.

All in all, it’s a delicious, different end to the festive meal!


Lapsang souchong and persimmon sticky toffee cake, with tahini caramel sauce

makes 6 – 8 servings


for the date, tea and persimmon sauce

2 lapsang souchong tea bags

200 ml hot water

100 g stoneless dates, chopped

1 persimmon, chopped (remove the core if it is woody)

for the cake

225 g gluten free plain flour

225 g dark muscovado sugar

225 g vegan margarine

75 g plain soy yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

A pinch of salt

for the topping

5 thin slices of persimmon, about 2 mm each. Pick the slices with the attractive star shape in the middle, caused by the core.

2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

for the tahini caramel sauce

100 g white sugar

4 tbsp tahini

100 ml soy milk


Preheat the oven to fan 180 degrees c and grease a 22 cm cake tin. Line the bottom of the cake tin.

Put the tea bags, water, dates and persimmon in a small saucepan on a medium low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 -15 minutes, until the persimmon is soft and the dates have broken down and thickened the sauce. Remove the tea bags and set the sauce aside to cool.

Spread the 2 tbsp of soft dark brown sugar over the bottom of the cake tin, and arrange the persimmon slices on top. They should not overlap.

In a large bowl mix together the sugar and margarine until well combined. Add the date, tea and persimmon sauce and mix well, then add the yoghurt and mix again. It will look lumpy at this stage.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt and then add to the bowl.

Mix until everything has come together to make a smooth batter.

Pour the batter carefully into the cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 40 minutes, until the cake doesn’t wobble when you carefully shake it.

To make the tahini caramel, put the remaining white sugar in a heavy based saucepan on a low heat and cook until it melts and turns lovely deep brown. Don’t stir the sugar, but if it’s melting unevenly swirl it around the pan. Remove from the heat, add the tahini and stir quickly, then add the soy milk mixing all the time. It will bubble up! Mix until the sauce is smooth and glossy.

To serve, turn the cake out onto a decorative plate so that the persimmon slices are on the top, and drizzle with some of the sauce. Serve the remaining sauce in a jug to add as you please.


By A. and E.


Christmas main – Artichoke, fennel and chestnut pie with horseradish oat pastry, tomato cranberry carrot sauce, and Christmas fries

So now it’s time for our Christmas main recipe!

Okay, so essentially it’s pie and chips (hey, we’re northern after all…), but ramped up with new and interesting flavours and wow it’s a great meal, even if we do say so ourselves!

The traditional Christmas dinner vegetable accompaniments with a vegan gravy are always delicious, but this year we really wanted to go for something different, and totally celebratory!

The pie itself has a delicious herby creamy filling full of vegetables and chestnuts, with a pastry made with toasted oats and fresh horseradish. The little kick that the horseradish brings is so good, and works beautifully with the filling.

The sauce was a revelation, it sort of evolved as we went along… The cranberries were a last minute purchase, but they really bring something to the sauce. It’s definitely one we’ll make again, it’d be great with pasta but it’s also lovely as a ketchup type of thing for dipping.

And the Christmas fries! We wanted potato and parsnip to feature in the recipe, but thought what fun it would be to do something different than the usual roasted version. So Alex hit on the idea of making them into shoestring fries, and they’re seriously delicious! We’ve added sweet potato too, and also fine green beans which fry up beautifully, the skins blister and the flavour is intensified.

Then because you have to have brussel sprouts with Christmas dinner we’ve simply steamed them and served them on the sauce, a really tasty combination.


Christmas fries! With artichoke, fennel and chestnut pie, tomato cranberry carrot sauce, and brussel sprouts

serves 4


for the pastry

200 g gluten free flour

80 g gram flour (chickpea and split pea flour)

100 g gluten free oats

200 g vegetable fat (we use trex)

1 tsp xanthan gum

2 tbsp fresh horseradish, thinly grated (carefully, it’s very pungent!)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp cold water

for the filling

150 g tinned artichokes, drained and quartered (about 1/2 a 400 g tin)

1/2 head of fennel, chopped

1/2 tbsp oil

45 g cooked chestnuts, quartered

300 ml soy milk

1 1/2 tbsp cornflour, slaked in a little cold water

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp chopped fresh sage

salt and pepper

for the tomato cranberry carrot sauce

1 400 g tin of plum tomatoes

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 tbsp tamari

1/4 tsp gluten free yeast extract

a sprig of rosemary

40 g fresh cranberries

a little water to thin the sauce if you like, maybe 100 ml

for the Christmas fries

1 large potato, cut into matchsticks and dried in kitchen paper

1 medium sweet potato, cut into matchsticks

1 medium parsnip, cut into matchsticks

150 g fine green beans

oil for deep frying


to serve

200 g brussel sprouts, or as many as you like


Preheat the oven to 190 degrees c.

In a large roasting tin toss the fennel and carrots with the oil, but keep them separate as they are for different parts of the meal. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes, and then remove the fennel, it should be cooked through and browned in places. Stir the carrots and return to the oven for a further 40 minutes, they should be browned, very soft and reduced in size by around 1/2. The flavour will be very intensely carroty which is what you’re looking for.

While the vegetables are cooking get on with the pastry and filling for the pies. In a dry pan toast the oats for a few minutes, stirring often, until they smell toasty. Cool a little. The pastry is best made in a food processor, this keeps the pungent fresh horseradish under control! Whizz the toasted oats until they have broken down. Add the gluten free flour, gram flour, xanthan gum, horseradish and salt to the processor and pulse to combine. Next add the vegetable fat and pulse again until it all looks, well, lumpy! Add the water a little at a time until the pastry forms a ball.

To make the filling, heat the soy milk until it’s just simmering and whisk in the cornflour to thicken. Add the herbs and salt and pepper and cook on a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring often. Mix through the artichokes, fennel and chestnuts and cool a little.

Transfer the pastry to a clean surface and roll out carefully (it’s quite a soft dough), using a little flour if needed. Line the pie dishes, ours are 12 cm in diameter and 3 cm deep. We used enamel pie dishes, and to be honest it was pretty difficult to get the pies out, when we make them again we’ll use disposable foil dishes.

Roll and cut lids to fit your pie dishes. Fill the dishes with filling and top with the lids, pressing around the edge to seal. Cut a little hole in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake ( at 190 degrees c) for 40 minutes.

Next the sauce! Put the roasted carrots, tinned tomatoes, cranberries, tamari, yeast extract and rosemary in a saucepan on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 – 20 minutes until the cranberries are soft and the sauce is thick. Remove the rosemary and blend the sauce using an immersion blender. If you want to be cheffy, pass the sauce through a fine sieve to give a velvety texture. Thin with water to your desired consistency, we kept ours quite thick. Reheat in the saucepan when you need it.

To make the fries, heat the oil to 160 degrees c and drop the vegetables in. We used an electric deep fryer, but it’s a very small one so it took a few batches! Keep them warm in the oven as they’re done if you’re doing the same. The potato, sweet potato, parsnips and green beans all take 4 minutes to cook through. We tried the green beans fried from raw, and steamed in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then dried on kitchen paper. We preferred the steamed version, but both are good. Salt the fries.

Steam or boil the brussel sprouts just before serving. We steamed ours for 3 minutes in the microwave.

To serve, carefully turn the pies out and plate the sauce, fries and sprouts as you see fit.


Okay, so we were a little silly with plating the sprouts and sauce…


By A. and E.







Gluten free dinner rolls

We’ve been experimenting with bread making today. After the success of Alex’s crumpets and English muffins using a batter rather than a dough we thought the method warranted further investigation….

Usually we use the Doves Farm gluten free flour mix for baking, but this time we wanted to play around with different flours, thickeners and emulsifiers and see what we could come up with!

The resulting rolls have a great structure with little air bubbles throughout and a lovely moist crumb.

The guar gum in combination with tapioca flour and xantham gum gives the bread a much softer texture than other recipes we’ve tried, and it doesn’t toughen as it cools which can be a problem with gluten free breads.

We also tried them with and without lecithin. And although without lecithin does yield a good result, adding it far improves the rise gives a much more even crumb.

Its better to prove the batter in the baking tins, as otherwise air is lost when transferring it. It’s really important to keep as much air as possible in the batter.

They rise very prettily when they’re baking!

We’ve sampled them various ways, with soup, and as notmeatball sandwiches, and also baked as tiny foccacia with olives. All utterly delicious! Well be posting the other recipes over the next few days.

If you’re using lecithin we’d recommend smoothing the tops before you bake them, we didn’t with this batch and although the texture is great they kept pretty much the same shape as the batter.

We’ll keep a couple for a day or two to see how/if they change in texture and update accordingly…

Gluten free rolls

Gluten free rolls

makes 10 rolls

90 g brown rice flour

25g maize flour

40g potato flour

20g tapioca flour

1/4 tsp guar gum

1/2 tsp xanthan gum

3/4 tsp baking powder

3g instant yeast

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp sugar

250 ml hand hot water

1 tsp powdered lecithin, optional

Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tray.

In a large bowl mix the dry together ingredients together thoroughly. Add the water and mix together using a balloon whisk. The batter will be similar in viscosity to a victoria sponge or pound cake mix. It will be slightly thinner if you don’t use the lecithin.

Carefully spoon the batter into 10 of the muffin holes and cover the tray will clingfilm.

Leave to rise for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c.

Remove the cling film from the tray and bake for 20 minutes until risen and just starting to brown.

By A. and E.


Peanut brownie biscuits

When I was growing up these crunchy, chocolatey, peanutty, biscuits were my sister’s favourite. She used to make them with our mum and they always filled the house with a gorgeous smell as they were cooking!

With her birthday approaching, I thought it would be lovely to make a batch as part of her present, but our mum is on holiday so I couldn’t check the recipe out with her… Internet to the rescue!

I was completely convinced that if I put peanut brownie biscuits into a search engine, it would return nothing but recipes for the cake style brownie… but how wrong I was! It turns out that they’re a well loved New Zealand biscuit, and the basic recipe seemed pretty standard. But, it used eggs, butter, and of course wheat flour. So I set about experimenting… the first batch was basically cake, due I think, to a heavy hand with the soy milk. They were also too pale and not chocolatey enough!

Maybe our family recipe came from somewhere else (to be honest, I’d assumed it was a be-ro one)…

The second batch had the correct colour and flavour, but I have it on good authority that one could be held in tea for an entire minute, with no discernible disintegration (thank you Alex…).

The third batch though, is pretty good if I do say so myself! I favour a crunchy biscuit, so I’m very fond of them, but I haven’t tried dipping them in tea yet…

Peanut brownie biscuits - yum!

Peanut brownie biscuits – yum!

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Cherry jam tarts with walnut fennel praline

I had visitors yesterday, so thought it would be lovely to make something sweet to offer round, and jam tarts gave me the opportunity to make our lovely pastry recipe again…

And also, I got to make caramel, which I always think is terribly exciting, all that molten sugar and having to work quickly!

The cherry jam is tart and flavoursome and goes beautifully with the sweet nutty topping. I wasn’t sure how much pastry I’d need and made twice the amount I’ve given the recipe for below, so I also made some tarts with apple sauce from a jar (as you can see in the photo). These are good too, but I think the sharper cherry jam works much better with the praline.

Cherry jam tarts with walnut fennel praline (and apple tarts too!)

Cherry jam tarts with walnut fennel praline (and apple tarts too!)

makes 12

for the pastry

175 g gluten free flour, this time I used the marks and spencer one

25 g almond milk powder

a pinch of salt

100 g vegetable fat

2 tbsp cold water (I found that this flour blend needed a lot less water than the Doves farm one I’ve used before)

for the jam

175 g frozen cherries

50 g sugar

juice of half a lime

for the praline

85 g walnuts

85 g sugar

a small pinch of fennel powder

First get the jam cooking. Put the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for around 25 minutes until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Leave to cool.

Next make the pastry, mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and then cut the fat in, in little pieces. Rub the flour mixture and fat together until is resembles breadcrumbs. Mix the water in, a tablespoon at a time until you have a soft dough.

Now make the praline, this recipe will make more than you need but it seems a shame to just make a tiny bit of praline! And it keeps very well. Line a tray with baking paper. Heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. Don’t stir it, but swirl it around the pan as it starts to melt. When it’s a rich golden colour, add the nuts and fennel, stir quickly and tip it out onto the lined tray, spreading out as best you can. When cool either bash into pieces or whizz it in a food processor if you want a finer powder.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c. You’ll need a 12 hole muffin tray.

Roll the pastry out to around 3 mm thick and cut out 12 6 cm rounds. Push each pastry circle gently into a hole in the muffin tray. Not squashed all the way to the bottom, or the tarts may be difficult to get out.

Put a teaspoonful of cherry jam into each pastry case, and then bake for around 15 minutes. The edges of the tarts should be golden.

Let the tarts cool in the tin, then carefully remove them, and top with praline.

By E.


Caramelised onion and courgette pasties

Alex and I have been wondering for a while whether our gluten free and vegan pastry recipe could be adapted to make flaky pastry. The sort where you freeze the fat and grate it into the flour to give a well, flakier pastry, which is perfect for pasties and rolls.

It turns out that it could! It’s not as flaky as I remember the traditional version to be, but it’s definitely lighter than shortcrust, and much better suited to a pastie.

It is a little more difficult to work with though, I rolled it out between sheets of floured baking paper which just about kept it under control… The filling is inspired by an oregano plant I bought today, it’s a lovely combination and would be yummy with pasta too.

Caramelised onion and courgette pasties, with oregano, capers and garlic

Caramelised onion and courgette pasties, with oregano, capers and garlic

makes 6 pasties

For the pastry

210 g gluten free flour, plus extra for rolling

30 g almond milk powder

120 g vegetable fat, frozen

small pinch of salt

55 ml water

For the filling

1 large onion, sliced

1 courgette, in small dice

1 clove garlic, sliced

1 tbsp oil

1 tsp capers

1 tbsp fresh oregano

salt and pepper

First make the pastry. Put the flour, almond milk powder and salt in a large bowl. Grate the frozen vegetable fat into the bowl and toss it around to coat in flour. Add the water and mix quickly to form a dough. Pop it into a plastic bag or wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for a while to give the fat time to set again. Half an hour at least.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and saute the onions with a pinch of salt for around 10 minutes stirring often until softened and golden brown. If the onions start to catch and burn, take them off the heat, add a splash of water, stir well and continue cooking. Add the garlic and the courgette and cook for a further 5 minutes, still stirring regularly. The courgette should still be firm, we don’t want mushy.

Stir through the oregano and capers, and some black pepper. Leave to cool. Don’t put hot filling into cold pastry! It will end in soggy disaster.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c. Roll the pastry out to around 4 mm and cut it into 6 rectangles. Spoon 1/6 of the filling onto half of each rectangle. Don’t overfill the pasties, you may have a little mixture left but that’s okay, it’s the cooks perk! Fold the other half of the rectangle over the filling and either crimp or squash to seal. Bake for 20 minutes until golden.

I forgot to photograph the filling before I put the pasties together... but there was a spoonful left!

I forgot to photograph the filling before I put the pasties together… but there was a spoonful left!

By E.