Tag Archives: home baking

Very moist & delicious vegan chestnut loaf cake

This recipe was a bit of an experiment, but one that has worked wonderfully well which is why I’m sharing it with you.

I’d wanted to bake a vegan cake for a while, but struggled with the idea of substituting the ubiquitous eggs and butter and did not want to end up with something dry, heavy and “worthy”.

In this cake, I’ve used

The secret (which is out now!) I think to this moist, moreish cake are the chestnut puree and the coconut milk.

This cake is no looker”: it’s a dark brown brick of a cake, much like Parkin, studded with small pieces of cooked chestnuts, but its plainness is part of its appeal I think.

Serve it, like I did, with pears poached in red wine + coconut cream as a dessert or sliced thickly for elevenses or afternoon tea.

If you want to tinker with the recipe, you could substitute the chestnut puree for (canned) pumpkin puree, replace the chestnuts with (toasted) walnut pieces and use 2 tsp of mixed spice + 1 tsp of ground ginger to flavour the cakes.

It could probably also be turned into something chocolatey by replacing 100g of the flour with cocoa powder (the real thing, not drinking chocolate powder) and the chestnuts with small pieces of dark chocolate.

Let me know if these suggestions work: I’m interested in broadening my vegan cake repertoire!

Makes 2 1kg cakes

This is what you need:

440g plain flour

440g dark brown soft sugar

500g unsweetened chestnut puree (1 can + a bit)

250ml Carotino oil

150ml reduced fat coconut milk

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp dark rum

150g cooked chestnuts, chopped into small pieces

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4
  2. put the chestnut pieces in a small bowl, add the rum, vanilla extract and 1 tbsp of the sugar
  3. grease + line the bottoms of 2 1kg loaf tins with baking paper
  4. in a large bowl mix the remaining sugar with the oil using a handheld mixer
  5. add the chestnut puree and coconut milk, whizz until smooth
  6. add the flour, bi-carbonate of soda and salt in three batches, making sure that the flour has been absorbed before you add the next batch
  7. fold in the chestnut pieces + all the soaking liquid
  8. divide the mixture over the two baking tins and smooth the tops with the back of a metal spoon
  9. bake at 180C for 1 hr and 15 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean
  10. remove the cakes from the oven and cover tightly with aluminium foil for 10 minutes, leaving the cakes to steam
  11. remove the foil and turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Good luck (if you’re planning to tinker with the recipe) + enjoy!

Monique x


Butternut squash & ricotta cake

Butternut squash & ricotta cake

Squashes, pumpkins and gourds.

Crown Prince, Turks Turban, Harlequin, Onion, Gem, Wee be little, Gold Dust, Howden Big Boy, Sumo, Rouge de Temp, Munchkin ….  

I can go on and on and on!

One of autumn’s most versatile vegetables, I really love the squash family which also includes courgettes and marrows.

The harvest is in October, but as they store well, the pumpkin season can last until January. When buying pumpkins look for unblemished skins. They should be heavy for their size, which indicates ripeness.

Munchkins: almost too cute to eat, but delicious stuffed + baked

I usually roast pumpkins, cut into slices and well seasoned, because this concentrates the flavour, before using in soups, risottos and pasta.

They also add wonderful bite when added in chunks to curries and stews.

To ring the changes from savoury, here follows a recipe for a wonderful cake that makes the most of pumpkin’s inherent sweetness and dense texture.

Based on a recipe by Leela, author of the beautiful and inspirational food blog  www.shesimmers.com this is without doubt my favourite cake at the moment!

Light as a feather, soft and with a texture best described as a cross between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.

Autumnal, easy to make, delicious with (whipped) cream this cake can easily double as a dessert.

Perfect for those of you who are not that keen on regular cheesecake (me included: too rich, too claggy) or traditional pumpkin pie.

To lighten the cake somewhat, I have replaced the mascarpone (40% fat) with ricotta (8% fat). I used large eggs, slightly less milk, a smaller spring form and also reduced the baking time.

Use good quality, free-range (and organic), eggs. It really makes a difference. I love Burford Browns but they are too small for this recipe.

The whiskey and vanilla come through (more as a scent than a flavour especially when the cake is still warm), but they don’t overpower the subtle flavour of the ricotta and pumpkin providing just a hum in the background – as it should do.

Instead of butternut squash you can ofcourse use any other squash or pumpkin. They’ll all give the cake a subtly different colour.

Leela says its OK to use canned pumpkin but I don’t see the point of that when squashes are so plentiful at the moment. If you are going to make this cake, having to boil + puree a chunk of pumpkin should not hold you back.

I urge you to give this cake a try – you won’t regret it!

This is what you need:

A buttered, bottom lined with baking paper, 8 inch/20 cm spring form or round cake tin

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 240g pumpkin (I used butternut squash), boiled until soft + pureed until lump-free and left to cool completely
  • 140g granulated sugar
  • 125g ricotta
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp whisky
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring!)
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 65g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Just out of the oven, lightly puffed up + tops cracked slightly

This is what you do:

  • pre-heat the oven to 170C
  • in a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the milk
  • using a handheld electric mixer, whisk in the vanilla extract, whiskey and melted butter until the mixture is smooth
  • add the egg yolks, one by one, whisking (on low setting) to make sure each egg yolk is fully absorbed before you add the next one
  • using a spatula, mix in the pumpkin puree
  • gently whisk in the flour and salt
  • in a freestanding mixer/food processor, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar
  • add the sugar in 3 lots, continuing to whisk until the mixture is glossy and starting to form peaks
  • using a large metal spoon, lightly fold 1/4 of the eggs whites into the squash puree until absorbed
  • mix in the remainder of the egg whites until well combined and the mixture is streak-free
  • pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin
  • bake for 50 minutes and then check to see if the cake is done: the cake should be golden brown and the middle should feel firm but springy when pressed lightly with a finger
  • if not add continue baking and check at 5 minute intervals
  • remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the baking tin before turning the cake out

Perfect with a cup of tea - in the garden whilst catching last few rays

I love the soft sheen on the top of this cake and its pale orange colour and therefore prefer to leave it unadorned, but you could dust the cake lightly with icing sugar.

Serve as it is or with whipped cream.

Hello autumn – happy baking!


Peach cobbler

Specially for @CityJohn.

Hope you like the look of this pudding. IMHO it is a real crowd pleasure, dead easy to make and works beautifully with (even not so great) peaches.

What’s not to like?

Peach + blackberry cobbler

Here goes ….

This is what you need:

4 ripe peaches

punnet of blackberries (or blueberries or raspberries)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

for the cobbler crust

150g plain flour

pinch of sea salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp caster sugar + extra for sprinkling

80g butter

pot of sour cream (142ml usually)

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat oven to 200C/gas 6
  2. put flour, salt, baking powder, sugar + butter in the bowl of a food processor + blitz for a few seconds; the mixture should resemble sand
  3. tip into a bowl
  4. slice the peaches in half, twist out the stone, slice into 8 and drop the fruit into an ovenproof dish
  5. toss with the berries, lemon juice + tbsp of flour and sugar; this won’t look appealing but it’ll be fine once baked
  6. mix the sour cream into the flour mixture; you’ll have a soft dough
  7. using a tablespoon, scoop out bits of dough and blob them on top of the fruit, flattening the blobs slightly as you go
  8. dust the dough rounds with sugar
  9. bake for about 30 minutes, till the crust is golden and you can see the fruit bubbling at the edges of the dish

Hope your dinner party goes well.



PS: if you like this recipe, try is later this year with plums or  apples + blackberries or quinces (stew these first). Sometimes, I sprinkle the dough rounds with flaked almonds or crushed hazelnuts which adds a pleasing crunch.

Date, walnut & sesame bars

These bars are delicious, nutritious as well as really easy to make – child’s play!

I have used half honey and half date syrup which has a lower GI (glycemic index) than sugar and contains some valuable nutrients. You could use only date syrup or only honey – your call.

Dried dates are a good source of potassium, calcium and iron as well as fibre. They contain both insoluble fibre (helping to keep the digestive system healthy and regular) and soluble fibre (helping to control levels of cholesterol and sugar in the blood).

Walnuts are rich in protein and contain several antioxidant nutrients including selenium, zinc, copper and vitamins E.

Oats are also an excellent source of soluble fibre. This can help reduce high blood cholesterol levels. It also slows the absorption of sugar in the body which in turn helps to keep blood sugar levels stable.

These bars are nicest when quite thin, so make sure that you spread the mixture out evenly in a large enough baking tin.

Makes 24 bars

This is what you need

100ml sunflower oil

125g date syrup and 125g clear honey (or 250g date syrup or clear honey)

300g porridge oats

75g sesame seeds (toast for a couple of minutes in a dry frying pan – careful, they burn quickly!)

150g ready-to-eat dates, chopped

100g walnuts, chopped

30x23cm rectangular baking tin, lined with baking parchment so it stands proud of the tin on the 2 long sides.

 This is what you do

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C, fan 130C or gas 2
  2. Place the syrup, honey and oil in a small saucepan over low heat
  3. Stir until the syrup + honey have dissolved and the ingredients are well combined
  4. Tip the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  5. Pour the warm honey mixture and stir until well combined
  6. Using a plastic spatula, pour and then press the mixture firmly into the baking tin
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool completely, then cut into bars.

 Per serving

169kcals, 10g fat of which1.3g saturated fat, 19g carbohydrates, 8g added sugar, no salt, 1.3g fibre





Hedgerow baking: “Limburgse bramen vlaai” or blackberry flan

I’ve got a thing for yeast baking at the moment … and blackberries. This time of year, blackberries are a serious distraction!    

Just can’t resist picking a small bag full of berries every time I go to the park with the hounds.  I have even been known to make a special trip and come home with 1kg or more.    

When I look at my bramble-scratched arms I feel a glow of pride and it does surprise me that not more people descend on this free, nutritious food.Over the years I have become a more discerning picker though, and as the blackberry season gets into full swing I head for the older bushes with larger, sweeter berries and go for the easy to reach branches.  

Full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants, seasonal and delicious, blackberries are plentiful and accessible: they are an urbanite’s easy link with the foraging world and the seasons.What’s not to like?  

I am quite aware that the hedgerow variety is a different species to the blackberries sold in small plastic punnets in the supermarkets, but this does not bother me. The “wild” ones may be slightly smaller and less sweet than their supermarket cousins, but this does not matter that much especially when you cook them.   

Now on to the interesting bit, hedgerow baking. The concept of the “vlaai” , or flan, is about 400 years old and originates in German convents, just across the border from Limburg which is Holland’s southernmost province.   

The early flans were Easter offerings made with dried fruit from the convent’s garden. The sweet flans were a welcome end to the period of fasting which precedes Easter.   

The tradition was then extended to other celebrations, including weddings and carnival and these days “vlaai” is still a very popular treat, particularly, in the Southern provinces where it is considered not much more than “slice of bread with jam”.  

So go on, spend a pleasant 2o minutes or so picking blackberries this week and then indulge in a bit of easy yeast baking.    

Blackberry flan


  This is what you need:     

for the dough     

200g plain flour     

pinch of salt     

20g fresh yeast + 5 tbsp milk     

or 10g dried yeast     

15g butter, at room temperature     

2tbsp muscovado sugar     

2 tbsp olive oil     

2 tbsp whipping cream     

1 egg yolk     


1kg blackberries     

50g demerara sugar     

2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs     

icing sugar for dusting     

This is what you do:     

  1. if using fresh yeast, sift the salt + flour in a bowl
  2. add the butter, sugar, oil, egg yolk and cream
  3. warm the milk up in a small saucepan or the microwave and add + dissolve the fresh yeast
  4. don’t overheat the milk or it will affect the dough-rising qualities of the yeast!
  5. add the mixture to the flour and mix thoroughly using a handheld mixer with its dough attachment
  6. when using dry yeast, add the grains after step 2 above and follow the instruction from step 5 onwards
  7. if the dough is too dry add a little milk, if it is too wet add a little four
  8. use your hands to shape the dough into a ball and knead on a floured surface for a couple of minutes
  9. leave to rest for 30 minutes
  10. pre-heat the oven to 180C
  11. in the meantime, grease a flan tin with butter
  12. wash , drain and dry the blackberries
  13. knead the dough once more and, with a rolling pin (or glass bottle filled with cold water), roll it out into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and side of the baking tin
  14. prick the dough all over with a fork
  15. sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and divide the blackberries over the dough in an even layer
  16. bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown
  17. let the flan cool off a little and sprinkle with sugar
  18. just before serving, dust the edges of the flan with icing sugar
  19. delicious as it is, but even better with a dollop of whipped cream or spoonful of creme fraiche

Savvy tip: add a small oven proof dish with water to the oven – this prevents the dough crust from drying out.     

Delicious with some single or sour cream


Wishing you an hour of relaxing blackberrying (of a different kind) + baking!     

Monique x

Something for the weekend: apricot & coconut bars

Apricot & coconut bars


A vegan cake slice, nice with a cuppa or as a pud with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream.  

Dried apricots are one of the richest fruit sources of iron. They also provide useful amounts of beta-carotene, which is converted in the body into vitamin A, as well as some calcium and dietary fibre.  

Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats and very low in saturated fats. Olives and their oils are thought to be a factor in the low rate of heart disease in Mediterranean countries where the oil is used extensively.  

And this traybake is really easy to make: perhaps one to bake with the kids?  

Makes 12 slices  

This is what you need:  

200g dried apricots, very finely chopped (or buy diced apricots at Holland + Barratt or Sainsbury’s)  

35g desiccated coconut, toasted in a dry frying pan until nicely brown  

4 tbsp date syrup (from Middle Eastern shops)  

200g creamed coconut (1 block)  

200g porridge oats  

2 tbsp olive + a little extra for greasing the baking tin  

This is what you do:  

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4
  2. lightly oil a rectangular baking tin c20 x 30cm (I use a brownie tin) and line the base with a strip of baking parchment which will make it easier to remove the cake later
  3. put the apricots in a saucepan with 500ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and the apricot pieces softened
  4. melt the creamed coconut over very low heat
  5. put the oats into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and work it into the oats with your fingertips
  6. add the melted coconut cream, date syrup and 1/3 of the apricots
  7. mix well
  8. spread half the oat mixture in a layer over the bottom of the baking tin, pressing down firmly with your fingers as you go
  9. spread the remaining apricots over the oats, then spread the remaining oat mixture on top of that create layered traybake
  10. sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes evenly over the top
  11. bake for 25-30 minutes until firm and golden brown
  12. leave to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into 12 bars

 Enjoy! Happy baking (it makes the house smell wonderful)!  


Lemon & almond cake

Lemon & almond cake

Deliciously easy!   

This cake contains eggs + yoghurt, but no butter. The semolina and ground almonds give the cake a really pleasing texture.   

Perfect with a cup of tea (Lady Grey) … or could serve as a pudding with creme fraiche perked up with some lemon zest and a drop of Limoncello.   

Lemon & almond cake


This is what you need:   

200g granulated sugar   

3 large free range eggs   

50ml rapeseed oil (or sunflower oil)   

200g natural bio yoghurt   

150g semolina   

50g grounds almonds   

150g plain flour   

1 tsp baking powder   

finely grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons   

handful of toasted, flaked almonds (toast in dry, hot frying pan for a couple of minutes – watch out: they’ll burn quickly!)   

This is what you do:   

1. pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4   

2. lightly oil a rectangular brownie (or other cake) tin, c25 x 15cm, and line with greaseproof paper  

3. in a large bowl mix the eggs, oil, sugar, yoghurt, semolina and ground almonds  

4. add the lemon zest   

5. sift in the flour + baking powder and gently mix with a spatula   

6. pour the mixture into the tin and level the surface   

7. sprinkle evenly with the flaked almonds   

8. bake for c25 minutes or until risen, golden and the top feels firm   

9. let the cake cool before cutting into 12 squares   

Do send me your comments (and a picture of you tucking into the finished article…) if you are going to bake this cake!   

Happy baking!