I blog information, news and recipes about gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, alcohol-free and vegan cooking. Right now I've been working on an exciting project where I avoid refined sugar and create recipes using a range of healthier alternatives.

Happy cooking!

ps. ask all guests if they have an allergy (because the recipes use some unusual combinations and they may not expect to find citrus and soya in the chocolate cake, for example).
pps.if you are cooking for someone with an allergy, please read my allergy page first.

Easter biscuits

Though I do say so myself, these Easter biscuits are nicer than many I have eaten made in the conventional way. Light and crisp with a lovely lemony tang, they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea in spring.

Makes about 20

50g cornflour
75g gram (chickpea) flour
75g sugar
75g dairy-free margarine (eg Pure)
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
¼tsp baking powder (make sure it doesn't contain wheat flour)
¼tsp cinnamon
1tbsp water
25g currants
Sunflower oil

Oven at 160C. Mix the cornflour, gram flour, sugar, margarine, lemon zest, baking powder and cinnamon in a food processor until you get a mixture with a consistency of breadcrumbs. Add the water and knead to a dough. You may need a little more water/cornflour to get the right consistency, which should be soft without being sticky. Add the currants and knead into the dough. Leave for half an hour to let the lemon flavour develop before rolling out to a 2mm-thick sheet. 
When it comes to choosing cutters, because of the currants, a not-too-detailed shape is best. The rabbits worked OK, but the ducks and lambs I tried were a bit of a disaster (their legs fell off).  Use the sunflower oil to grease the baking tray and then bake for 20 mins until just starting to turn golden. Remove from the tray as soon as you take the biscuits out of the oven (or they will weld themselves to it – pop the tray back in the oven for a few moments if this starts to happen) and cool on a wire rack. Best eaten fresh, but will keep in an airtight tin.

Wide Circle chocolate traybake

I figured that if this whole gluten-free and vegan thing is to work it needs to have a figurehead chocolate cake. After experimentation, this is the result (and it has been tested on a group of people who can eat normal chocolate cake who all thought it was delicious and didn’t really notice anything unusual about it). It keeps well for up to three days in an airtight container.
One word of note though: gram flour is made from a small chickpea so the unbaked mixture does have a weird pea flavour to it (which disappears during cooking) but it does mean the bowl scrapings aren’t as yummy as you might expect… On the upside, I think it does mean the cake counts as one of your five a day. Bonus.

For the cake
 250ml soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar (vital)
125g sugar
75ml sunflower oil
125g gram (chickpea) flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder (make sure it doesn't contain wheat flour)
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing
150g dairy-free dark chocolate*
100g dairy-free margarine (eg Pure)
100g icing sugar
4tbsp soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)

Put the oven on at 160C. Measure out the soya milk in a measuring jug. Add the lemon juice/vinegar and let it stand for a minute or so. Next add the sugar and oil and whisk together with a fork.
Sift the gram flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl (don’t skip the sifting – I’m not a big one for doing it normally but I have found that gram flour tends to clump together unless you sift it first). Pour in the liquid and stir together swiftly.
Pour the whole lot into a 20cm x 20cm brownie tin and bake for 20–25 minutes until fully cooked. Allow to cool in the tin.
To make the icing, place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat gently until the chocolate and butter have melted. Stir everything together and pour over the cake. Decorate if you like with sugar strands or grated dairy-free chocolate. I find it’s nicest to eat it at this point, with the slightly warm cake doused in runny icing.
* Read my separate blog post about chocolate before choosing this recipe

Curried pea and leek tart

This tart is a hybrid of two of lovely dishes: first, a delightful pea, leek and ham tart that my husband makes; and second, a tongue and curried leek dish that my mother makes. Obviously, neither of those are suitable for Wide Circle Cooking, but the curry does lend a certain something to the tart and stops it merely being mushed green stuff in pastry. I know the addition of the sugar seems bonkers, but it works and it seems to stop the pastry being so crumbly when it’s cooked. For a really colourful meal, serve with mashed potato (use oil and salt instead of butter) and roasted carrots tossed in maple syrup, olive oil and cumin seeds.

Serves 2–3

For the pastry
75g gram (chickpea) flour
75g buckwheat flour
20g soft brown sugar
100g dairy-free margarine (eg Pure)
pinch of salt

For the filling
150g frozen peas
2 medium leeks
1 onion
1 tsp curry powder (check it's wheat\gluten free)
1 tbsp soya milk
1 tsp cornflour
Olive oil

Switch the oven to 180C. The pastry is dead easy: simply put everything in a food processor and keep it on until it forms a clump. Take it out and roll to about 2mm thick before cutting to size for your tin (I used a 20cm diameter tart tin) ­– you’ll need to liberally sprinkle the buckwheat flour over all the surfaces. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
While your pastry is cooking, prepare the leeks by stripping off the outer leaves and removing the tough tops. Slice into rounds about 0.5cm thick. Boil the peas for 10 minutes. If you can, steam the leeks in a steamer above them –if not steam them in a microwave or electric steamer. Put the cooked leeks to one side.
Measure six tablespoons of the pea water into a small bowl. Add the cornflour and soya milk and stir until well mixed. Pour into a pan and leave on the heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens and becomes the consistency of soft butter.
Finely dice the onion. In another saucepan, put about one tablespoon of olive oil, the curry powder and the onion. Fry gently until the onion is soft, then add the drained peas and the cornflour mix. Use a potato masher to mash and mix everything together.
Spread this mixture into the bottom of the cooked pastry case and top it with the cooked leeks, arranging them to cover the whole of the tart. Finally, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and cook in the oven for 20 mins.

Salted caramel popcorn

Popcorn is great because it is totally Wide Circle Cooking. Of course, you could just sprinkle salt or sugar on it, but I was thinking of how nice it would be to have something a bit like Butterkist toffee popcorn (which is, of course, full of dairy ingredients and therefore not suitable). And then I thought about the whole salted caramel thing being so popular at the moment, so I had the idea to combine the two. I defy you not to enjoy this – especially in front of your favourite film!

Serves 2

1tbsp sunflower oil
4tbsp (heaped) popcorn kernels
75g sugar
1tsp salt (ideally sea salt)

Place the oil and kernels in a pan with a lid (vital to prevent popcorn getting everywhere) on a medium heat. After about five minutes you’ll hear the corn starting to pop and when the pops die down to about one every three seconds, remove the pan from the heat.
Next, add the sugar to a really big pan and put it on a medium heat. Now, I don’t know why this happens, but it is vital that the pan is completely dry and that you don’t add water – on numerous occasions I’ve thought that adding water might help speed things up a little, but it doesn’t – it just makes the sugar go all weird. Instead, wait without stirring and you’ll see the sugar gradually become liquid. Once all the sugar has melted, remove from the heat, pour in all your popcorn at once and stir vigorously to coat all the popcorn. Then add the salt and stir again. Finally, stir for a minute or so more to let the caramel solidify on separate bits of popcorn (or you’ll just end up with one enormous lump).

Chocolate fondue

Chocolate fondue is one of those things that is always popular and this is a lovely, rich version. Serve with chopped fruit eg. strawberries, bananas, cherries, raspberries, pineapple and mango (and you could even have wafers and marshmallows for those that can eat them).

Serves 4

100g dairy-free dark chocolate*
100g dairy-free margarine (eg. Pure)
100g icing sugar
4tbsp soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, place all the ingredients and heat on a low heat until melted. Stir to mix everything together and then serve immediately in individual teacups with a selection of fruit.
* Read my separate page about chocolate before choosing this recipe

The potato rosti fry-up

You can thank the Swedes for potatoes done rosti-style, and it’s a neat way to make them look more interesting. A rosti is sort of a hash brown and makes a great idea for brunch, especially if served with fried mushrooms and tomatoes (and even baked beans – though check they don’t contain wheat etc – Heinz are OK). To stay truly Swedish-style requires a lot of parboiling and other faffing, so I’ve opted for a cheat’s version that is much simpler.

Serves 4–6

5 medium potatoes (about 2kg)
1 carrot
2 onions
2 tbsp olive oil

Finely grate the potatoes and carrot using a food processor, or by hand. Finely chop the onion. Now put everything in a large bowl and pour boiling water over until everything is covered. Leave for five minutes.
Strain off as much water as you can by pouring through a sieve and using a wooden spoon to squeeze out as much water as possible. Put the potato shred back in the bowl and add the oil. Stir to coat everything in oil.
Now get a large frying pan and get it to a good, medium-hot heat. Pour a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in, then drop tablespoon-sized dollops of the potato mix onto the pan, as many as there is space for. You’ll need to flatten them down with the back of your spoon. After a few minutes, flip the rosti over to brown the other side. Drain on a piece of kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt before serving.

Carrot and chestnut soup

I am a massive chestnut fan and love this soup for its velvety richness. Strictly speaking, you don’t have to have the leek or the celery, but because we’re using vegetable stock and not, say, chicken stock, I think it’s good to have as many flavours going on as possible.

Serves 4

1kg carrots
1 stick of celery
1 leek
1 400g tin of chestnut puree (unsweetened)
750ml vegetable stock (see my separate recipe for this)
Parsley and olive oil to garnish

Clean and prepare the vegetables, then chop roughly and add to a large saucepan with 500ml of the stock. Boil for around 20 minutes until the veg is completely soft. Allow to cool a bit and then blend using a stick blender or liquidiser until smooth (do it carefully so as not to spray hot soup everywhere!). Add the chestnut puree and continue blending, gradually adding more liquid as you go. You should end up with a smooth soup without any clagginess. If you want a more liquid soup, add more stock or water. Finally, season to taste with salt. I like to serve this with a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley.

Squash and spinach curry

Curries are great because there are lots of veggie versions available and of course they are served with rice. This curry is inspired by one I once had in a pub – it’s full of flavour but not too spicy. Real Indian curries tend to use loads and loads of spices (some quite unusual ones too), so I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible. If you don’t already have cumin, cloves or cardamoms and don’t fancy buying them, just add one more teaspoon of curry powder. Serve with basmati rice, poppadums, lime pickle and mango chutney.

Serves 4–6

500g butternut squash
2 onions
4 cloves of garlic
fresh ginger about the size of a thumb
4 tsp curry powder (check it's wheat\gluten free)
2 tsp cumin seeds
20 black peppercorns
10 whole cloves
4 green cardamoms
500ml passata
2 tins of chickpeas (drained)
150g fresh spinach
Olive oil

Put the oven on at 185C. Peel the squash if you don’t like the skin (I tend to leave it on). then chop it up into roughly 1cm cubes. Place in a roasting tin with a tablespoon of olive oil, using a spoon to coat all the cubes evenly. Cook for 45 minutes.
While the squash is in the oven, start on the rest of the curry. Remove the husks from the cardamom pods and discard. Place the seeds in a pestle and mortar with the cumin, peppercorns and cloves. Grind until you get a fine powder.
Peel the ginger using a knife or vegetable peeler. Then finely dice the onion, garlic and ginger. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan and then add the onion. When soft, add the ginger, garlic and spices. Fry for a few minutes to let the flavours develop.
Now add the passata and the chickpeas. Finally, fill the empty chickpea cans with water and add that too. Simmer for half an hour, then add the squash cubes and let the mix simmer for a further 15 minutes. After this time, a lot of the liquid should have disappeared.
Roughly tear the spinach leaves in half and place them all on top of the curry, but don’t stir. After a few minutes, the leaves will have wilted. Stir them in, and simmer for a further 15 minutes until you have a thick and delicious curry.

Baked peaches with frozen pistachio butter

 This is a recipe from my mother, ingenious because of its simplicity. However, because you obviously can’t have cream or ice-cream with this, I came up with the frozen pistachio cream idea after reading about nut butters. You could also use almonds, of course, but I like the way the green of the pistachios contrasts with the orange peaches.

Serves 4

For the frozen pistachio butter
100g shelled unsalted pistachios
3 tbsp non-dairy margarine (eg Pure)
2 tbsp icing sugar

For the baked peaches
2 tins peach halves in syrup

Earlier in the day you intend to eat on, grind the pistachios in a coffee grinder (if you don’t have a coffee grinder you could substitute the pistachios for 100g ground almonds). You will probably have to grind in several batches. Place the lovely green nut dust in a bowl with the margarine and icing sugar. Mix with a spoon, then place in the freezer.
An hour before you want dessert, put the oven on at 180C. Put all the peach halves, flat side uppermost, in a baking dish and pour the syrup over. Dust with cinnamon, then bake for 1 hour until brown and the syrup has turned into a gooey caramel. Serve with a dollop of the frozen pistachio butter.

Orange sorbet

I got the idea for this sorbet from a fantastic 1970s cookbook. The way of serving is brilliant and the recipe could easily be adapted to use with lemons, limes or pineapple by varying the amount of sugar added. I’ve allowed one half orange per person, but you could easily double up the quantities. This sorbet is best eaten on the day it is made, otherwise it has a tendency to go rock hard and desserts that need ice picks are rarely popular...

Serves 4

2 large oranges (choose the most aesthetically pleasing ones you can find)
4 tbsp icing sugar

Cut the oranges in half across the middle and carefully scoop out the flesh using a grapefruit knife. Use the tip of the knife to extract as much as possible from the sides without damaging the skin. Place all the flesh and juice with the icing sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a plastic tub and place in the freezer.
Check to see if the orange skins can stand by themselves as they are to be used to serve the sorbet. If not, slice a bit off the bottom to flatten it out. Place them in the freezer.
After about 3 hours, remove the orange mix and put back in the food processor. Blend again (this gets rid of a lot of ice crystals). Spoon the blended mix into the frozen orange skins and freeze again.
About ten minutes before eating, remove the oranges from the freezer and allow to defrost a little before serving.

Chocolate fairy cakes with chocolate buttercream

These cute little cakes are a real winner with kids. They have a great spongy consistency and are virtually indistinguishable from fairy cakes made in the standard egg/flour/butter way. The buttercream makes them irresistible (if you want a stiffer buttercream icing, just add more icing sugar).

For the chocolate fairy cakes
250ml soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
100g caster sugar
75ml sunflower oil
100g cornflour
50g gram (chickpea) flour
25g cocoa powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder (make sure it doesn't contain wheat flour)

For the buttercream
4 tbsp non-dairy margarine (eg. Pure)
1tbsp soya milk
25g cocoa powder
75g icing sugar

Switch oven on at 160C. Place the cake cases in the tray. Measure out the soya milk and add the lemon juice or vinegar (a vital step as it curdles the soya milk). Stir well and leave for a couple of minutes. Sift the flours, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large bowl (this is necessary to remove the clumps of gram flour – I’m not one for unnecessary sifting). Add the sugar and oil, and then finally whisk in the soya milk in a steady stream until everything is well mixed.
Bake for 20 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.
To make the buttercream, beat all the ingredients together and then spoon or pipe onto your cakes. Top with a glacé cherry. The cakes will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Carrot and apple salad

A recipe from my mother’s stable and probably my favourite salad of all time (I do have a sweet tooth though). The genius part of this salad is the sweetened lemon juice, which gives a mouth-filling juiciness to the whole dish. I can eat a mountain of this, it’s fantastic – and my son even begs for me to make it, which I can say without understatement is unusual for a vegetable-based dish.

Serves 4 (or perhaps one of me)

2 large carrots
4 small apples
1 lemon
2 tbsp boiling water
2tbsp sugar

Finely grate the carrots and apples and place in a serving bowl. In a small cup, place the sugar and boiling water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then add the squeezed juice of the lemon. Mix together, then pour over the grated carrot and apple and stir until all is well combined.

The perfect dips for sharing

Nibbles are always essential when you’re having a party so I scratched about for ideas that everyone will enjoy and came up with these. They look great and take literally minutes to make so it should be a cinch to do several and get massive host points. Serve with my crispy wedges (see recipe), ready salted tortilla chips or ready salted potato crisps and batons of carrot and celery.

This quick recipe gives a lovely fresh result and the lemon stops it going brown.

1 large soft avocado
1 large tomato
½ small onion
1 clove of garlic
squeeze of lemon

Place the avocado, tomato and onion in a food processor and blend until smooth. Using a garlic press, crush the garlic into the mix as well as the lemon. Stir well and serve.

This is a refreshing, rather than spicy, salsa. If you like yours hot, add fresh chopped chilli to taste.

2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
½ lime
5 stalks of coriander

Place the tomato, onion, garlic, coriander and chilli (if you’re using it) in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped. Squeeze the juice and stir in. You’re done!

Pea and mint
This fresh-tasting dip is particularly nice with carrots.

100g peas
1 clove of garlic
½ supermarket bunch of mint (or equivalent size of mint from your garden)
2 tbsp soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)
2 tbsp olive oil

Boil the peas until tender. Drain and pour into a bowl with the soya milk, olive oil and garlic. Using a hand blender, stir until it has formed a lumpy puree. Take the leaves off the mint and chop them finely. Stir into the puree.

OK, I admit it, I cheated on this one and bought it from a supermarket. Honestly, I’ve tried loads of times to make homemade hummus and it’s never as nice as the shop stuff (though do check the label to make sure it will be suitable for your guest). However, I’ll keep going and when I’m successful you know where I’ll post the details!

Creamy garlic dip
This is an absolutely delicious dip, though perhaps a little antisocial for those not also partaking. Don’t let that put you off though…

1 small tin of butterbeans
5 cloves of garlic
6 tbsp olive oil (no, really)
½ tsp salt
½ lemon

Drain the beans. Using a hand blender, blend the beans with the oil. Press the garlic into the mix with a garlic press. Then stir in the salt and lemon and serve.

Crispy dipping wedges

These crispy wedges are the perfect accompaniment to my dips as they're thinner and crunchier than a normal potato wedge.
Serves 4

Four large baking potatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt

Switch the oven to 180C. Wash the potatoes and pat dry. Slice into thin wedges and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with oil, then use a spoon to move them about until they’re completely coated. Place in the oven for 35–40 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Mushroom risotto

Risotto is brilliant because it just involves rice, yet makes a lovely main meal. However, because you can’t use cheese or meat, you need to get some good strong flavours and stir it a lot to make it as creamy as possible (something to do with the starch in the grains). I serve this with a salad made from two large finely grated carrots mixed with 1tbsp cider vinegar. The sharp sweetness of the salad perfectly offsets the earthy flavours of the risotto.

Serves 4

1 leek
3 tbsp olive oil
200g chestnut mushrooms
15g dried porcini mushrooms
350g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock
5 tbsp chopped parsley
salt to taste

Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, blitz the leek in a food processor or chop very finely. In a large heavy bottomed pan, pour in the olive oil. Add the leek and cook gently until soft. Add the rice and stir to get it coated in oil. Turn the heat up to a medium setting and after a minute, add all the stock.
This is the time I get on with other things in the kitchen – washing up etc., returning to the pan every few minutes to give it a good stir.  It should start bubbling gently and you’ll see the liquid being absorbed.
When about half the liquid has gone, finely chop the chestnut mushrooms either by hand or in a food processor and then fry gently in a small pan until soft. Add them, and their seeped liquid, into the risotto. Add the soaked porcini mushroom and liquid. Keep stirring, more frequently now, until virtually all the liquid has gone and what you’re left with is rice and a sauce the consistency of cream. If the rice still feels a little uncooked, add some water and keep stirring until you get to the creamy stage again. Add a little pepper and salt to taste and then sit back and enjoy.

Vegetable stock

This stock is dead easy to make and forms the basis of many of the savoury dishes. You can cheat and use a vegan stock cube, but if you have the time then it’s well worth making it from scratch.

Makes 1 litre

2 leeks
2 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 onion
1litre water

Wash the veg and peel the onion. Cut everything into quarters and place in a large pan with a lid. Add the water. Simmer gently for three hours and then strain using a sieve.

Banana pancakes

I always think that one of the easiest ways to impress people is to make an effort at breakfast time. The cinnamon lends a comforting spice to the cooking aroma, though if you’re not a cinnamon fan, just leave it out.

Serves 4

250ml soya milk (sweetened or unsweetened)
1tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar (vital to help the baking powder work)
1 medium banana
1tbsp sunflower oil
100g buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder (make sure it doesn't contain wheat flour)
½ tsp cinnamon
Vegetable oil (eg. sunflower)

Measure the soya milk in a measuring jug and add the lemon juice and stir.
In a bowl, mash the banana with a fork and stir in the oil. Pour in the soya milk mix, then add the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir together well until good and mixed. It should be the consistency of greek yogurt/fromage frais.
Get a frying pan nice and hot (I don’t use the highest heat setting though, probably medium hot) and grease with a bit of oil on a piece of kitchen roll (don’t be tempted to use butter and undo all your good works!).
Using a metal tablespoon, add a dollop of batter to the pan. You can use the back of the spoon to make it rounder if it’s got a bit of a weird shape. Depending on the size of your frying pan, you might be able to get two or three (or more) of these dollops on. Wait until you see bubbles popping at the surface – about one minute – then flip over. They probably only need another 15 seconds or so.
Serve lovely and warm with maple syrup or golden syrup and fresh fruit. Yum!

Cheat's chilli

What with tacos being made of just corn and oil it totally made sense to get some Mexican food in my blog. My cheat’s chilli looks very similar to real chilli, but takes minutes to make (because I am essentially rather lazy) and is, of course, totally meat-free. Pictured here served with the salsa and guacamole dips (see recipes for these dips in the Nibbles section).

Serves 4

1 onion
1 red pepper
1 small green chilli
1 tin refried beans (eg Discovery)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
Olive oil

Finely dice the onion, red pepper and chilli. In a saucepan, add a little olive oil and gently fry the onion until soft. Add the red pepper and continue to fry until that is also soft. Then add the refried beans, the tomatoes and the kidney beans. Stir together and heat until piping hot.
Serve with corn taco shells, guacamole and salsa. You could also put bowls of sour cream and grated cheese on the table for those who can have them.