Vegan and Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies with Almond Butter Swirls

Vegan gluten free black bean brownies 1

When my friend Rebecca comes to stay, I pretend to be a tourist. Together we visit London zoo, art galleries and museums. We wander the streets and admire landmarks, and we also spend a lot of our time on missions to specialist shops and eateries. As Rebecca is, rather stressfully for a keen baker like me, a strict vegan.

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I’ve come to utterly love our weekends, not least because our Saturday nights are usually finished off with a cocktail or 2. So when she came to stay this weekend I felt she needed a treat, something to sustain her through our endless tourist ramblings. It was time to take on the challenge of vegan baking.

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There was only one place to go for guidance and that was the wonderful blog, Minimalist Baker. Dana features lots of vegan recipes, all tirelessly tested and tweaked, so I knew she’d see me right. And oh boy, did she! (continue reading…)

Sloe Gin & Tonic Cupcakes

Sloe Gin & Tonic Cupcakes

Merry New Year all! So another Christmas has come and gone. Mine involved a rebellion against tradition, resulting in a truly excellent Christmas dinner of roast duck with a herby root vegetable gratin, and sprouts with bacon and chestnuts (okay so the rebellion didn’t go as far as sprouts, some traditions are here to stay)  

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As it turns out, starting a food blog leads to birthdays and Christmases filled with wonderful new cookbooks and tableware, as evidenced by both this recipe and the fabulous cake stand featured in the picture above. Isn’t it beautiful? I think so and I’m truly grateful. 

Sloe Gin & Tonic Syrup

I’m also grateful that every year my lovely boyfriend buys me an utterly fabulous bottle of sloe gin for Christmas.  For those unfamiliar with the wonder that is a good sloe gin (none of that cheap fake chemically nonsense please) I beg you, try it this winter over a little ice (if you like your liquor strong) or mingled with tonic.

For me it will always be my winter beverage of choice, it has a certain astringency and bitterness that warms my cockles. So when I was flicking through one of my Christmas cookbooks and came across the concept of cocktail cupcakes, I knew what had to be done. (continue reading…)

Chocolate Hazelnut Buns

Chocolate Hazelnut Buns 1

Pat me on the back, I have officially sorted your Christmas breakfast. Well, that is provided you like chocolate for breakfast, and given that my all time favourite breakfast cereal is cocopops, you know I do.

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Can you imagine, getting up on Christmas morning and opening your stocking as the beautiful smell of baking drifts around the house. Then sitting down to a soft, warm, chocolately breakfast bun, punctuated with the crunch of hazelnuts? Let’s make it happen!

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And best of all, you can do the preparation the night before and all you’ll have to do in the morning is pop them in the oven. I can’t imagine anything more perfect! (continue reading…)

Oreo Topped Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake

Oreo Cheesecake

I don’t wish to appear immodest, but I simply must say, this is quite possibly the most scrumptious cheesecake that I have ever eaten.

Oreo cheesecake 2

A perfectly smooth and tangy baked cheesecake, punctuated by chocolate chunks, with a crumbly chocolate biscuit base and an utterly insane crumbled Oreo topping. Heaven.

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It’s my birthday weekend folks, and if that isn’t an excuse for an incredibly decadent cake, then I don’t know what is. (continue reading…)

Gluten-free Venetian Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake 1

Today’s post is for my good friend Helen. A while back she was declared gluten intolerant and condemned to a life of missing out on amazing cakes, so when I started my blog Helen requested that I post some interesting gluten free desserts. There’s only so many meringues a person can eat and whilst a coconut macaroon is heavenly, sometimes you just fancy a change.

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My search for a slightly more unusual gluten free cake led me to this wonderful carrot cake. Like all good carrot cakes it’s scrumptiously moist and this is only improved by the addition of ground almonds and sultanas. As well as being gluten free it’s also dairy free, and I’m sure you could replace the eggs with flax eggs to make it completely vegan.

Carrot Cake 3

The cake is unleavened so it’ll stay fairly flat, but it still feels light and fluffy, I guess it’s something to do with it not being weighed down by dense, wheat flour. This lightness makes this the ideal cake for an afternoon treat or a moderately virtuous dessert. We all need a little break from wheat every now and then, so why not give it a go? (continue reading…)

Blackberry and Coconut Squares

Coconut Blackberry Slice

This weekend, with the sun on my face, I could almost believe that the summer was still here, but a cloud passed over, the chill kicked in and I had to accept the fact that autumn is upon us and winter is coming. (Quick nod to my fellow Game of Thrones nerds there!) But, my friends, do not despair for the start of autumn heralds the arrival of the blackberry.

CB Slice 2

I long to go blackberry picking, but being stranded in central London I’ll have to settle for foraging in my local branch of Waitrose, which isn’t quite the same thing. However, the supermarket does have the advantage of an ample supply of dessicated coconut, which the British countryside is sorely lacking.

CB Slice 3

After several happy hours spent leafing through a stack of recipe books, I came upon the ideal recipe to celebrate this wonderful fruit, in my trusty copy of Bill’s Food, by Bill Granger. (continue reading…)

Nectarine Crumble Muffins

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If it wasn’t for muffins, I don’t think this blog would exist. Muffins got me into baking. More than that, they made me obsessed with baking.

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A simple Christmas (or was it birthday??) present of a muffin recipe book, a quick visit to John Lewis (the best department store in all the world) to pick up a couple of muffin tins and the course of my life was changed forever! Melodramatic? Moi? Never!

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Muffins are just so simple, any baking novice can make them, and I definitely was a bit dense when it came to the kitchen. They can also be super impressive and are always a popular choice, I don’t think anyone has ever refused one when I’ve taken a batch into the office.

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For a long time I baked muffins almost every weekend, ploughing my way through the book, always coming back to banana for obvious and delicious reasons. But man cannot live by muffin alone, the time came to branch out into biscuits, cake, tarts and cheesecake and the humble muffin became sorely neglected.

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So now it’s time for a revival! Given that summer fruit is still utterly fantastic right now, I thought I’d go with nectarines again. Sorry to be repetitive, following my nectarine frangipane tart, but I love, love, love them and always have them in the fridge in the summer time. So deal with it.

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These little guys are a cut above your average muffin. Supremely moist, with a crumbly top and occasional, insanely sweet, little bursts of nectarine. There is nothing here that couldn’t be described as utterly gorgeous.

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To make these muffins look as special as they taste I decided to dispense with the usual muffin wrappers, this helped give a nice, smooth, brown underside and avoid those ugly crinkled edges. A non-stick muffin pan will help with this, as will a good brush of melted butter.

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Nectarine Crumble Muffins
Adapted from Cupcakes and Muffins
Makes 12


85g melted and cooled butter (plus a little extra for greasing your tins if you’re not using paper liners)
280g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder (yes a tablespoon, don’t be scared!)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
115g caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml natural yoghurt (I used low fat greek style)
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 ripe nectarines, diced

Crumble topping:
50g plain flour
35g butter
2 tbsp caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 200 C / 180 C Fan / 400 F.

Start by melting the butter for the muffin batter. Once melted, if not using liners, brush a little onto the base and sides of your muffin tins and put the rest to one side to cool.

Now put all of the ingredients for the crumble topping into a bowl and rub them together with your fingertips until they resemble chunky breadcrumbs.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. I personally don’t go in for this sifting malarky but feel free to sift it if you’re that way inclined.

In another large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then stir in the yoghurt, vanilla and cooled butter.

Make a little well in the middle of your flour mixture, poor in the liquid mix, add the nectarines and stir it together just until the flour is no longer visible and then stop! Don’t over mix, this is the secret to a nice, light muffin!

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tins, filling them up pretty much to the top. Scatter the crumble topping over each muffin and press it down lightly.

Pop the muffins into the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until they are golden brown and firmish to the touch.

Leave them to cool in the tins for 5 minutes until removing them and either tucking in while they’re still warm or leaving them on a wire rack to cool completely.


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Nectarine Frangipane Tart

Nectarine Frangipane 1

Today is another day of combining things that I love. Namely nectarines, almonds and pastry. If you could show me a better way to bring them together than a frangipane tart, I’d be extremely surprised, and I’m sure it wouldn’t make my kitchen smell quite so amazing.

Nectarine Frangipane 2

Frangipane, that beautiful almondy, spongey stuff, reminds me of home. Back in my family home the frangipane tart is the ultimate treat. Concealing apricots, plums, raspberries or gooseberries, the whole lot of us would be overjoyed with any combination.


I think my own personal obsession comes from an over consumption of marzipan in my younger years. My mum always made fabulous fruit cakes for Christmas and Easter, meaning that there was always a block of marzipan in the ingredients cupboard.

Blind bake

I loved nothing better than sitting on the kitchen floor, fashioning the marzipan into little egg shapes for the tiny, chicken cake decorations to sit on and then scoffing the lot. Frangipane feels (and tastes) like a grown up version of those stolen marzipan moments.

Nectarine Frangipane 3

Here I’ve added nectarines, in an attempt to make the most of the glorious summer fruits that are everywhere at the moment. I eat nectarines almost every day anyway, with yoghurt and oats for breakfast, but sometimes it’s nice to make them feel a little more special. This tart definitely feels like a special treat.

Nectarine Frangipane 4

In searching for recipes I found that not everyone feels the need to blind bake their pastry. For the uninitiated, blind baking means partially cooking your pastry before adding the tart filling.

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I decided to blind bake my pastry as I have a major fear of the dreaded soggy-bottom. (Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would never stand for that sort of thing.) It did result in quite a crispy pastry case but I’m all for that.

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For the pastry element, I used a trusted Jamie Oliver sweet pastry recipe from his book Jamie’s America. This recipe has never failed me and tastes divine, whilst being open to adding other flavours like orange zest or vanilla. For a tin this size you’re also left with a little extra pastry for making the compulsory jam turnover. (At least it’s compulsory in my house!)

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One thing I would say about this recipe is that the cooking time for the frangipane will vary greatly according to your oven. Whilst the recipe I used for the filling suggested 30 minutes in the oven, I found that even after 45 minutes it wasn’t quite set. In the end it took a little over an hour, but it was definitely worth the wait. I would say, just pop a timer on for half an hour, then check it regularly after that, until the centre looks and feels set.

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Nectarine Frangipane Tart
Pastry from Jamie’s America
Frangipane from Simply Delicious


For the pastry:
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
125g cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
Splash of milk

For the filling:
150g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp almond essence (sadly I had to use extract, but it still tasted good)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
50g plain flour
2 nectarines, cut into thin slices

Start by making your pastry, for this I used a food processor but I’ll give you the instructions for making it by hand just in case you don’t have one.

Sieve the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and milk and work the dough together with your hands until it forms a ball. Flatten the ball slightly, cover it in floured cling film and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, grease a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to about half a cm thick. Roll the pastry onto your rolling pin and carefully unroll it over your tin. Ease the pastry into the tin and push it gently into the corners. Cut off the excess and prick the base all over with a fork. Now pop the tin into the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180 C / 160 C fan oven / 350 F.

Scrunch up a large piece of baking or greaseproof paper, unwrap it and use it to line your frozen pastry case. Fill it with rice or baking beans and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Take the case out, remove the rice and the paper and pop it back in for a further 10 minutes. Leave the case to cool slightly whilst you make the filling.

Cream together the butter and sugar until they’re fluffy and light coloured. Add the almond essence, eggs and egg yolk and stir thoroughly until combined. The mixture may appear lumpy and split to start with, but keep going and it will eventually become nice and smooth. Finally fold in the flour and almonds.

Spread the frangipane over the pre-baked tart case, smooth it over and then arrange the nectarine slices attractively over the top.

Bake the tart for 30mins to 1hr depending on your oven, as mentioned above check it regularly until the centre is set.

Leave to cool to room temperature and then serve with ice cream or a splodge of creme fraiche, and some raspberries.

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Apricot & Date Tea Loaf

Tea Loaf

Let’s talk tea loaf. For the uninitiated, a tea loaf is a fabulously moist tea cake that gets its moisture, not from fat, but from beautifully, fragrant tea. In this case orange scented, Earl Grey tea.


For me, tea loaf is reminiscent of one of my favourite childhood treats, malt loaf, (only without the malt, obvs!). Every Sunday evening of my childhood, almost without fail, dessert consisted of a marvellous, chunky slice of malt loaf with a delicate spreading of margarine.

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Yeah, yeah, I know, margarine ewww. But in my defence we were a fairly low fat household and I didn’t know any better! Besides the marg was there more as an extra layer of moisture than for flavour. I’m not ashamed people!

Tea Loaf 3

This cake, however, is so amazingly moist and sticky that you absolutely don’t need any extra butter (or marg!) on it. Although I just couldn’t resist! The moisture comes from the fact that the dried fruit is soaked, overnight, in warm tea. By the morning the fruit has doubled in size and is wonderfully sweet and juicy.

Tea Loaf 4

The softened fruit also makes this the ideal cake for all those fruit cake haters out there. I promise that they will barely even notice that there’s any dried fruit in there!

Its other advantage is how incredibly simple it is to make. Hardly any ingredients and made in one bowl, what more could you ask for?

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Apricot & Date Tea Loaf


150g dried apricots
130g dates
300ml strong hot earl grey tea
340g self raising flour
110g granulated sugar
1 heaped teaspoon ground allspice (or a mixture of nutmeg and cinnamon is also lovely)
1 beaten egg

Make the tea using 2 teabags and leave it to cool slightly. Chop each of the apricots and dates into around 3 pieces and put them all in a large mixing bowl.  Once the tea is lukewarm, pour it over the fruit, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave it overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C fan oven / 350 F and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.

Add all the rest of the ingredients to the mixing bowl, stir well to combine and pop it into the baking tin, smoothing the top.

Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer can be inserted into the middle of the cake and is clean when removed.

Serve with or without butter, but definitely with a lovely cup of tea!

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Peach & Raspberry Ricotta Crumble Cake

Ricotta cake 1

Following a marvellously sunny and relaxing trip to Sicily, I have become utterly obsessed with ricotta cheese.

I breakfasted on bread with ricotta and honey at every given opportunity, added it to my pasta and chose it as a pizza topping, so I was thoroughly surprised when I returned to London roughly the same size as when I left!


There’s just something about it that’s got me hooked and I’m not exactly clear what it is, so for now I’m indulging my obsession and bringing it home to good old blighty.


The owner of one of the B&Bs I stayed in on my holibobs produced the most amazing cakes each and every morning, and those that weren’t eaten were popped in a doggy bag for lunch. Therefore, when I got home I decided that the best way to indulge my ricotta addiction would be in the form of a fabulously fruity cake.

Ricotta cake 2

I chose peaches as, for some reason, my flat is not conducive to effective peach ripening. It seems that every time I buy a punnet of peaches, they start out ridiculously hard and then after a few days in my flat they’ve taken on that odd dry texture (that I’m really struggling to describe!)

Ricotta cake 3It seemed like the best way around this problem would be to cook the peaches. Much like strawberries, peaches can be improved by a bit of heat and sugar, especially if they’re not properly ripe and juicy. The same applies to nectarines, apricots and plums.

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A quick internet scout led me to the Australian Gourmet Traveller website and this lovely recipe for Peach and Raspberry Ricotta Crumble Cake.

All I can say is yum! This cake is everything I hoped it would be. Sweet peaches, slightly sour raspberries, crumbly topping, a hint of lime zest and, best of all, delightfully tangy chunks of ricotta! It’s a wonderfully moist cake, I ate my first slice slightly warm (as my patience had left me) but it’s equally scrummy cold.

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It’s also the first cake I’ve made in my food processor. Slightly more complicated than the cakes I’ve made in the past but definitely worth the effort.

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The original recipe calls for the cake to be served with a lime and vanilla syrup, which I’m sure would be lovely, but I didn’t think it needed the added sweetness. I also omitted the dusting of icing sugar, not on purpose, admittedly!

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Peach & Raspberry Ricotta Crumble Cake
From Australian Gourmet Traveller


220g sour cream
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
220g caster sugar
160g softened unsalted butter
30g ground almonds
Grated rind of 2 limes
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
2 eggs
3 peaches, halved and thinly sliced
125g raspberries
200g ricotta

Start by preheating your oven to 180 C / 160 C fan oven / 350 F and butter and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking paper. (I used a 23cm baking tin as that’s all I could find in John Lewis!)

In a measuring jug stir together sour cream and bicarbonate of soda and set aside for a couple of minutes to foam. It’s best to use a largish measuring jug as the mixture will pretty much double in size.

In your food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, butter, ground almonds, lime rind, vanilla paste, baking powder and salt until crumbly. (If you don’t have a food processor I’m sure that you could rub these ingredients together with your finger tips instead, it’ll just take a little longer.) Take out one cup of the mixture and put it to one side.

Returning to the crumble mix in the food processor, add the eggs and the sour cream mixture and pulse again until it’s smooth.

Spread half of the mix into the bottom of the baking tin, smooth it out and then sprinkle in half of the peaches, raspberries and ricotta (in little chunks) and a third of the reserved crumble mix.

Add the rest of the cake batter, smoothing it over again. Top with the rest of the peaches, raspberries and ricotta and then cover the whole lot with the rest of the crumble.

Pop the tin in the oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until a skewer comes out of the middle clean. If it starts to get too brown, cover it with foil.

Cool the cake in the tin for 15 minutes and then take it out and put it on a rack to cool completely.

Serve with a nice cup of tea!

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