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.

Rhubarb fool

I have tested this dessert on about 10 mainstream eaters who all thought it delicious and who were amazed that it was dairy-free (not to mention much lower fat than the cream version!). A lovely way to use new rhubarb.

Serves 4

400g rhubarb
75g sugar
2tbsp water
500ml ready-made soya custard (eg. Alpro)
175g tofu firm silken style (eg. Blue Dragon)
1tbsp orange juice
1tsp sunflower oil

Trim the ends off the rhubarb and wipe the stems clean with some kitchen towel before slicing into 1cm slices (you may have to de-string it a bit too). Add to a saucepan with the sugar and water – leave on a medium heat for about 15 minutes until soft and delicious. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
In a food processor (or you could use a blender/hand blender) process the tofu, orange juice and oil until you get a smooth and creamy mixture. When the rhubarb has cooled, stir in the tofu mix and the ready-made custard. Will keep for up to three days in the fridge (though you may need to stir again before serving because the rhubarb juice can separate out a little).

Four desirable Easter eggs

Easter is one of those times when not being able to have milk chocolate really sucks, especially if you’re a child.
Anyhow, apart from being egg-shaped, an Easter egg is just chocolate with great (or in many cases, not so great) packaging. So… here are four ideas so you can create your own masterpiece.
I actually made my own eggs by melting dairy-free dark chocolate* and shaping it in moulds I made (see later), but you can buy dairy-free dark chocolate eggs – they often have rather adult-focused packaging – and tart them up using these tips if you prefer. Also, the sugar eggs used in my pics aren’t strictly vegan because they’re coated in beeswax, but it is sometimes possible to find ones that are coated in a plant-based wax.

To make the eggs
Find some egg-shaped objects – I used one of those large cardboard eggs, and two small metal eggs that you often find with sweets in. Press foil or cling film into the shapes and then brush with sunflower oil using a pastry brush (use a new brush if you’ve actually brushed pastry with yours).  I found that 150g of dairy-free dark chocolate was enough.
To melt the chocolate, break up the pieces in a saucepan, place on a medium heat and once half has melted, take it off the heat and let the rest sit in the melted chocolate until the melting is complete. Pour the chocolate halfway up the moulds, and then after about 5 minutes, swirl it around the sides. Keep swirling round the sides every few minutes until the chocolate has become really thick and difficult to move about. Turn the egg shapes upside down and allow to cool completely. Trim the edges with a knife before decorating.

Dinosaur egg
Attach sugar eggs to a half chocolate egg with paste made from icing sugar and water. The egg is sitting in the lid from a pot of jam, with the dinosaurs behind and in front. This would also work well for other children’s favourites: Peppa Pig, Bob the Builder etc. etc.

Rabbit egg
The power of cellophane to make an impact is used here. Once again, sugar eggs have been attached to the chocolate egg with a paste made from icing sugar and water. I used a clear plastic lid as the base, with the egg and the Easter rabbit arranged on top. Everything has been wrapped in cellophane and a bow added on top.

Chick egg
Using a little extra melted chocolate, stick the two halves of the chocolate egg together and then break a small hole in the top. Make the ‘yolk’ from icing sugar, water and yellow food colouring, then dribble down the sides of the egg. Add a chick and present in an attractive egg cup.

Glamour egg
Fill the two halves of the egg with sweets (though make sure the ingredients are OK for the person getting the egg) and wrap the whole lot in cellophane. Top with some attractive ribbon and some flowers. Finally, find a gorgeous egg cup to present it in.

*see my separate page about choosing chocolate.

Minestrone soup

This hearty and flavoursome soup is a meal in itself and a great way to use some of the spring cabbage that is available now. Real minestrone has pasta in it – I’ve substituted that for risotto rice, but you could also use short grain pudding rice.

Serves 4

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 leek
2 carrots
2 celery sticks
3 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 handful basil leaves
1 tin borlotti beans (or other bean of your choice)
2 tins (or one giant tin) chopped tomatoes
1litre vegetable stock (see my separate recipe)
2tbsp risotto rice/short grain pudding rice
1 spring green or small spring cabbage
4 savoy cabbage leaves

First, wash, peel and chop the onion, leek, carrot, celery and garlic. I usually dice the onion and then do the carrot, leek in celery in 1cm discs, but use your own judgement on this one. The garlic should be chopped finely. Add all of this to a large saucepan or casserole with the olive oil. Put a lid on and allow to steam gently on a medium heat for about 5 minutes.
Next  add the chopped leaves from the rosemary and basil, the beans, tomatoes, rice and stock. Put the lid back on and leave to cook for about 20 minutes.
During this time, wash the cabbages and remove the outer leaves. Roughly chop all the spring greens/spring cabbage except for the big stalky bits. Chop the savoy cabbage the same way, again avoiding the biggest bits of stalk. Place the leaves back on the soup and pop the lid back on so they can steam nicely. After five minutes, stir the cabbage into the soup and cook for a further five minutes before serving. Season with salt to taste.

Coconut rice pudding with warm mango

This sophisticated take on rice pudding makes an excellent all-round dessert and looks great too (though admittedly slightly like a fried egg in this picture..!). The slightly acidic mango really complements the silky coconut rice. I know the proportion of rice to coconut milk looks bonkers, but trust me it is right!

Serves 4

50g short grain pudding rice
25g sugar
1 can coconut milk
1 ripe (but not squidgy) mango
1 tsp non-dairy margarine (eg Pure)
1 tsp brown sugar

Place the rice, 25g of sugar and coconut milk in a lidded ovenproof dish and stir together. Place in an over at 120C for 90 minutes. After this time, give it another stir, then take the lid off and cook for a further half an hour.
A few minutes before serving time, cut the mango into smallish cubes, about 1cm large. Fry gently in the margarine and brown sugar until warmed and glossy.
Remove the rice pudding from the oven and spoon into bowls, topped with the mango.