Gastronomically Terrific

June 21, 2014

Gluten free & vegan raisin flapjacks

Filed under: Cake, vegetarian — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:34 pm

It is always worth documenting successful vegan recipes. This flapjack recipe is doubly-valuable, since it is also Gluten Free. It is also “dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, maybe gluten-free [depending on oats used], vegetarian and vegan”. So it can be enjoyed by almost everyone!

This is not a flattering picture - they look exactly like ordinary flapjacks!

This is not a flattering picture – they look exactly like ordinary flapjacks!

Of course, flapjacks are a good choice for vegan + gluten free cakes. The recipe remains fundamentally the same because all the ingredients can be replaced by gluten free/vegan counterparts without changing the bake.

I used as a guide, but modified the recipe to get the taste and size I wanted. That recipe also contains banana – which my subconscious clearly didn’t want since I left it out by accident! The recipe below is what I actually put in, and it worked.


  • 125g dairy free spread
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 300g oats (gluten free if desired; note that oats are not gluten free as standard)
  • 50g raisins (You can add double this and it would be fine. You could also change it for chocolate chips; again gluten free/vegan is possible)
  • pinch salt


Mix everything in a large bowl. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius (conventional oven). Grease and line a 20x20cm baking tin, put the mixture in, compact and smooth it.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Final thoughts

You can do a lot to make flapjack more interesting. A chocolate covering is always popular, and there are ways to add layers of jam, apple etc to change the flavour. This is going to be the starting point for many of my “everything free” recipes, because it is so versatile and hard to mess up!

I was told by a colleague that this was very tasty flapjack, the second best he’d had that week. That is a fair analysis, because the recipe above really is the simplest thing you can do. But everyone agreed that it was good and lost nothing for having no dairy or gluten in it, which I also agree with! Next time I’ll try to be more exotic and win “best flapjack of the week” award. Watch out in 2015!

Who made it: Dan

Recipe: provided above, based on


November 25, 2013

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , — thinkingdan @ 10:51 pm
Biscuits for Christmas. You can tell by the little snowflakes on top.

Biscuits for Christmas. You can tell by the little snowflakes on top.

We were initially not that impressed by these biscuits – they are very bitter, and have a strange crumbly texture that when they were still hot from the oven we weren’t keen on. We had an abrupt change of heart the next day, when they seemed really rather pleasant and rich and melt slightly in your mouth like a chocolate brownie with an identity crisis. So overall these are certainly worth a try if you like your chocolate bitter.

They are really rather simple, too. To make 24, you’ll need 250g butter, 150g caster sugar, 40g cocoa powder, 300g plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda and 1 teaspoon baking powder. You can basically just mix the whole lot together and bake at 170 degrees celsius for 15 minutes (for a batch of 12).  It is that easy.

The topping is basically just melted chocolate.  To make it, take some chocolate, and melt it.  Pour it on the biscuits, then use your finger to clean the bowl.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, page 207.


January 14, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Traybake with chocolate topping

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 11:11 pm

Another “cake club” recipe, this vegan cake was a lot more challenging than the sultana and orange traybake.  My intention was to make a chocolate traybake, but it came out just a little too crumbly and, well, “cocoa-ey” for my tastes, so I added a cherry jam layer and a sweeter chocolate topping.  I broadly followed this recipe, and this for the topping, but I was afraid of the warnings that the main cake would be too sweet (so reduced the sugar) and too oily (so reduced the oil).  The consistency I ended up with was perfect for a pudding, but not that practical for a working cake session!  Still, I think it tasted pretty good.  Perhaps a little more oil would be wise.


For the cake:

  • 175g plain flour
  • 200g Demerara sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 150ml water
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 2/3 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling and topping:

  • Cherry jam (for the filling)
  • 100g sugar
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 75ml water


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, grease a 9×9 inch (23x23cm)  traybake tin and line with greaseproof paper
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Pour in water, vegetable oil and vanilla; mix until well blended.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer/knife comes out clean.  Wait for the cake to cool.
  4. Slice in half, generously smother one half with jam, and place the second half on top of the jam.
  5. To make the frosting, Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cocoa in a medium sauce pan, add the water slowly. Heat over medium until it gets thick and starts to boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes.  (“Make sure you don’t boil too long, or it will set like taffy”.) Remove from heat and stir in oil and vanilla.


The frosting was a pain.  I added just a little too much water and had to boil it a little longer; still, it did not set like frosting but was slightly gooey (in a good way!).  Obviously this is a very delicate thing to do, and if you have vegan margarine/vegan buttermilk substitutes there are easier frosting recipes out there!

Who made it: Dan

Recipe: Modified from this recipe, and this for the topping.

Sultana and Orange Traybake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:36 pm

This simple fruity “cake club” recipe was well received, and it is very flavour-filled when fresh. When a little older it loses its charm a little so eat it up! I think it comes recommended by our expert tasters, although you’d be advised to reduce the amount of orange zest as I found it left a tang for quite a while afterwards!


  • 6oz (150g) margarine
  • 6oz (150g) caster sugar
  • 7.5oz (200g) self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 4oz (100g) sultanas
  • 2oz (50g) raisins
  • 2oz (50g) dried apricot, finely diced
  • grated rind of 2 oranges (try 1 big, or 1 1/2 small?)
  • Demerara sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius, grease a 9×9 inch (23x23cm)  traybake tin and line with greaseproof paper
  2. add all ingredients except the sugar to a large bowl and mix well
  3. pur into the tin, and bake for 15-20 minutes
  4. sprinkle the sugar over the top and return to the heat for 15-20 minutes or until cooked


I didn’t put the sugar in early enough and it didn’t melt into the mixture but sat on top.  This was OK but I think a crispy sugary layer would’ve been better!  I adapted the recipe from a 12x9in recipe, hence the odd amounts.  the apricot was my own addition as I rather like the subtle flavour it gives the cake when you get a piece.  I found the sultanas sunk a bit – to fix this, you can try sprinkling half of them on top  instead of mixing them in.

Who made it: Dan.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, page 79.

July 10, 2011

Tiramasu Cheesecake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:10 pm

This sexy little number was recommended by our friend Ella, who seems to know her cheesecakes.

Tiramasu Torte

Death by cheesecake is by far the best way to go...

Correctly baked cheesecake is perhaps the most wonderful thing in the world.  This is up there with the best, though whether it takes the top spot will depend on how much you value purity against intensity: this is like being enveloped by a rum and amaretto hug whilst Tia Maria kisses you smack on the lips.  (Don’t think about the meaning of that in Spanish.  Just don’t.)

An Amaretti biscuit base works amazingly well, adding an almondly overtone that really works.  Trust me – I was an unbeliever too.  Your cheesecake will love you for it.  The second trick is the always amazing mix of coffee, alcohol and chocolate in the marbled cheescake, which is baked into an intense perfection that you will not be able to resist.


Biscuit base: 275g amaretti biscuits, 75g unsalted butter/margarine

Cheesecake: 700g mascapone/cream cheese, 150g sugar, 3 eggs (separated), 25g plain flour, 3 tbsp dark rum, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 175g plain chocolate, 1tbsp coffee, 3 tbsp Tia Maria


Crush the biscuits in a bag or food processor, add melted butter and stir until mixed.  Press into a 9inch (23cm) cake tin and chill for 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.  Beat the cheese until smooth, then add the sugar and re-beat, and then again with the egg yolks. Put half the mixture in a new bowl and add the flour, rum and vanilla.  Melt the chocolate, stir in the coffee and the Tia Maria, and add to the other half of the cheese mixture.

Beat the egg whites until gentle peaks form, then add half to each mixture and mix in gently (without beating).  Then dollop each in on to the base irregularly, using a knife to make marbled swirls on top.

Bake for 45 minutes or until gently soft in the middle.

Actually, we ever so slightly overcooked ours, with the inside perfect but the outside just a little dry.  It is safer to cook “lower in the oven” (or just at a lower temperature) and to keep it covered; it should come out sticky when you poke in a knofe (but not wet, which is how it will start).

Unlike many other cheesecakes, this is actually at its best when hot straight  from the oven.  I think its because the flavours are most intense then.  When chilled, it will taste more like cheesecake and less like alcoholic heaven, which would probably be a good thing for people who don’t like such an intense coffee flavour.

Who made it: Anna, though Dan licked everything clean.

Recipe: Good Housekeeping Cakes and Bakes (probably.. this is from memory…

Butternut Squash Risotto

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:35 pm

This is now such a regular feature in our house that we just make it up as we go along.  This qualifies as the “Summer Risotto”, being based mostly around herbs for flavour instead of spices and alcohol.

Summer Risotto

Summer Risotto with Butternut Squash and white wine

Of course you can do basically anything with risotto.  They key is getting some flavours in, here provided by mint and basil in a white wine and stock.  The next most important thing is making sure it has enough vegetables in  that you like.


1/2 Butternut squash, 1 carrot, 1/2 onion, 1/2 leek, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 pepper, 2 mushrooms, pine seeds, butter, white wine, fresh herbs.

Method (serves 2):

To make the butternut  squash, peel (1/2 a fair sized squash) and chop into chunks, drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and bake (evenly spread) at 200 degrees for an hour. (optionally sprinkle on pine seeds after 30 mins).

Meanwhile for the risotto, fry some onion, leek and garlic in a dollop of butter.  Make 500ml of vegetable stock.  When the onion starts to go soft, add 1 small cup of rice (risotto if you have it, but actually most rice types work) and a small amount of stock, and turn down to a simmering heat.  Keep adding stock when it needs it to keep the consistency sticky but not wet.  Add the thinly sliced carrots and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the diced pepper and simmer for a further 15 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms and a good guzzle of white wine, and give it an additional 10 minutes.

When the rice is cooked (which should take about 50 minutes), add a dollop of butter with a handful of two of your favourite chopped herbs (say, basil and mint). Mix and leave to “breath” for a couple of minutes.  Serve the squash on the risotto, with grated cheese on top… and a salad on the side if that floats your boat 🙂

February 27, 2011

Creamy carrot and parsnip soup with orange

Filed under: starter — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:30 pm

Parsnip soup is always a good thing, but I really liked the creaminess and orange twang from this recipe.


Mmmm, oranges with cream.


There are two surprising flavours in here – orange, and ginger.  The soup is otherwise a fairly standard affair – stock and cream and vegetables all blended together – but it does taste quite distinctive and in a good way.  We would have this again.

Method (serves 2)

Melt a knob of butter and fry half a chopped onion with a clove of garlic until lightly browned.  Add 200g chopped carrots and 1 large parsnip and saute until softened.  Add 1/2 tsp ground ginger 1-2 tsp on freshly grated orange rind, and 300ml of vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.  Blend in a food processor until smooth, then return to the saucepan, reheat and mix in 60ml of double cream.

Serve with a drizzle of cream, and a sprig of coriander.  (OK, that is parsley in the picture… the supermarket was all out…)

Who made it: A joint effort.

Recipe: The Daily Cookbook by Love Food, February 22nd.

February 23, 2011

Italian Cod/Halloumi

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:36 pm

This slightly surprising way of eating cod was well adapted to Halloumi, although Anna assures me the cod was better. Still, it was a very pleasant dinner for not a huge amount of effort.

"Italian" Cod with breadcrumbs, with tasty potato cakes.

As you can see from the picture, the basic idea is to bake some cod with a breadcrumb topping that goes all crisp, and stops the fish from charring.  Onto this is placed a “dressing”, which is basically herbs and lemon – as usual I went overboard with the parsley 🙂

Halloumi baked with breadcrumbs and mixed yumminess.

The halloumi replacement works very well, although the flavours don’t compliment the subtle flavourings in the drizzle and breadcrumbs in the way cod probably does.  It also sticks if you forget to grease the pan (which is why all the breadcrumbs fell off mine, and then were piled up on top…)  What makes it Italian is up for discussion – perhaps the herbs?  I’m pretty sure that the Halloumi is not served “Italian style” at any rate!

We had these with a favourite way of cooking potatoes – “leek and potato cakes with Gruyère”.

The Cod/Halloumi recipe (about 3 servings…)

To make the breadcrumbs: Melt a knob of butter and then mix well with a crumbled slice of bread, the rind and juice of half a lemon, 15g chopped walnuts, a sprig of rosemary and a tbsp chopped parsley.

To bake the cod/halloumi: grease and line a baking tray with tinfoil; cut 75g of halloumi into strips and lay our, or 150g cod fillet (per person). Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over and bake at 200 degrees celcius for 20-25 minutes.

To make the dressing: chop 1 tbsp parsley, 1 crushed garlic clove, the remaining lemon juice and rind, 1 sprig rosemary and mix in 2 tbsp oil; sprinkle over the cooked food when serving.

The potato cake recipe:

Boil 250g peeled potatoes, add milk or butter as needed and mash.  Meanwhile, Fry 1 well chopped leek  with 2 garlic cloves in butter.  Mix the potato and leek mixtures together when both are cooked, and remove from the heat.

Mix well with 1 beaten egg, 50g grated Gruyère cheese, 60g creme fraiche, 1 1/2 tbsp parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the mixture on a greased tin and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees celcius until well browned (whether as cakes, or in muffin/yorkshire pudding tins).

From experience, it does seem that cheddar isn’t as good for this, although it doesn’t matter hugely.  Gruyère seems to make for a more solid cake.

The vegetables:

Remember to eat some greens!  Saute in melted butter if you are feeling naughty*.

Who made it: We both did different things as a combined effort.

Recipe: Leek and potato cakes with Gruyère: “The complete vegetarian Cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 177. Italian cod: “The daily cook book” by Love Food, February 20th.

* The vegetables, obviously.  What were you thinking of?

February 11, 2011

Baked cheese Frittata

Filed under: main — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:27 pm

This baked cheese omelette is based on a dish we made a while ago.  It is really easy but a very tasty way of making omelette.


Omelette should come with chips. Sorry, frittata should come with chips. That's what I said...


Its dead easy:

  1. Fry some onion, garlic, and whatever other veg you like: pepper, mushroom, beans, brocolli, chilli…
  2. When they are cooked, add spinach, and your favourite herbs: coriander, parsley, dill, etc.  Also add fennel seeds.
  3. Mix these in with 2 beaten eggs per person, mixed in with cheese – here we had about 50g of feta cheese.  Season…
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees.

That is it. Obviously any variation is fine.  Meaties can add bacon; whatever veg is in the fridge will work well.  I think some herbs or spices are important but anything goes – a curry style mix would also do well, with cumin, paprika and coriander.

Who made it: Dan and Anna

Recipe: Made up, but based on “the complete vegetarian cookbook” by Sarah Brown, page 180.

Vegan Blueberry and Apple Muffins

Filed under: pudding — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:43 pm

For Cake Club I decided to make Blueberry Muffins.  As we have a Vegan in our midsts it is always a good excuse to experiment.  I’m pleased I did – the normal muffins were something of a disappointment, but these quite made up for it.  Since I kind of made it up, I’ll give a full recipe (sadly no photo though).

The basic idea is that instead of eggs, the pectin from fruit can act as a setting agent.  Banana is a common option, but I opted for Apple since we had some.  Searching around on the internet, I found this recipe that was along the same idea – and didn’t require very many specialist ingredients.  I also didn’t have enough Blueberries for both recipes, so split them and made up the difference with cranberries, which worked really well.  They come out very moist, rich and delicately fluffy.

Clearly, you could replace the soy cream with real cream, and perhaps replacing a little oil with an egg would firm things up for non-vegans.  Saying  that, there really is no need – these are very tasty.

Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 2 small apples
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 250ml soy cream
  • 200ml oil (vegetable, olive, sunflower, anything will work.)
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g blueberries
  • 50g cranberries (dried)


  1. Cook the apple in a saucepan with the sugar until soft (adding water to prevent it drying out).  When cooked, mash lightly.  (I forgot to do this…)
  2. Mix the sugar, flour and baking powder together with the apple.  Whilst mixing, slowly add the oil and then the soy milk.  Finally add the cranberries and blueberries and mix gently.
  3. Pour into muffin cases (it is OK to fill them at least 2/3rds full.  They do rise, but will not stay as risen as ordinary muffins – I underfilled them.
  4. Bake at 200 degrees celcius for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe: Mostly my own, adapted from

Who made it: Dan

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