Category Archives: Dairy Free

The sourdough files…

I haven’t talked about my bread making on my blog for a while, although I share loaves regularly on Instagram, so I thought I’d post an update. I now make 3 loaves of sourdough bread every week for my son, Ben, plus 2 regular loaves for my husband, who doesn’t like sourdough. I now have my method for producing sourdough loaves pretty fixed, and as Ben raves about the bread on a regular basis, I can only assume that I’m getting it right – for his tastes anyway! 

I’ve also been playing with scoring the loaves, as you might notice! 

It’s great fun! Let’s be honest, Ben doesn’t care about how it looks, that bits just for me ๐Ÿ™‚

The basis of my standard loaf is formed from the overnight loaf recipes created and shared by Celia and Selma, with tweaks for my requirements. I’ve played around with various methods and flours and recipes in the past couple of years, but I always come back to this method, this is my failsafe, and when you need to produce bread regularly for breakfasts and school lunches, you need to know it works!

A key element for me is that I need a closer crumb than typical sourdough. Artisan holes are great, but not for making sandwiches for school dinners. To achieve this, I have found that replacing some of the water with olive oil creates a softer tighter crumb and softer bread. 

I keep my starter, Star, in the fridge, and every couple of days, I bring her up to room temperature, feed her equal amounts of flour and water, and once she’s bubbly and happy, I make up two lots of dough. 

I follow the quantities in Selma’s recipe, linked above, but I replace 30g of the water with olive oil.

In two bowls I squidge two lots all of the ingredients together to a rough mix, so that the flour is completely mixed, cover the bowl with a plastic bag, and leave it for an hour.

After the hour, I fold and knead the dough in the bowl for a minute or so until it comes together and forms a smooth ball. 

I then place the dough in bannetons sprinkled with rice flour to prevent sticking. 

I cover the bannetons with plastic bags, and place them both in the fridge. 

Sometimes they’re in the fridge for a night, sometimes for 4 days – the longer proving develops more flavour. 

When I’m ready to bake one, I remove it from the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature and prove for another couple of hours. 

I heat the oven to 220c fan, and only when I’m ready to bake, I turn the dough out onto an baking tray, lined with parchment paper. If you turn the dough out too soon, it can spread. 

I quickly slash the dough then bake. 

I put the loaf in the oven, turn the temperature down to 200C fan, and bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C fan for another 25 minutes.

Then remove the loaf and cool completely on a rack before slicing. I usually bake my loaves the day before I need them to ensure that they are completely and utterly cooled.

Each of my loaves covers Ben’s breakfast and lunch for two days. He loves it so much, I even made him a special loaf for his birthday earlier this month ๐Ÿ™‚ 

And that’s my sourdough conveyor belt! I hope it’s useful. 

I hope you’ve had a great week, enjoy your Friday and a visit to Fiesta Friday with Sarah and Liz

Spiced coconut chips..

I’ve been play in my kitchen…nothing new there, I know…;)

This time it’s been with coconut chips. 

I don’t eat crisps or chips (whatever you call them in your part of the globe) but if you’d like an alternative option to those fried potato morsels, give this a go, if you get the flavouring right, I’d challenge you to miss your usual crisps, and you’ll have a healthier version.

It all started with a big bag of raw coconut chips, which I toasted in the oven:

I laid the chips out in a single layer on my oven tray then put it in the oven at 180C. To be honest, the oven could be set a bit lower and I think it would still have been fine. You really need to watch them, they toast very quickly so you need to stay on hand to take the tray out, move the chips around, then put the tray back in the oven and keep doing this until they’re all toasted how you want..

Whilst they’re warm, they remain soft. As they cool, they get nice and crispy, and they’re good just like that. 

However, whilst they’re warm is the perfect time to toss them with your chosen flavouring, then leave them to crisp up and take on the spices. 

I mixed some of the chips with my chai spice mix…

…some with my rose harissa spice mix…

…and (no individual photo) some with my barbecue spice mix from my previous post (which I’m very proud to say has been featured on this week’s Fiesta Friday picks).

They work REALLY well, if you like barbecue spiced crisps, this combination is a winner, the harissa ones are good too, and the chai spiced ones are a great addition to your breakfast. And if you don’t like coconut, don’t be put off, to be honest, you don’t really taste it! 

I hope you like my creations, happy Friday and happy weekend!

My version of butternut squash soup..

I’m not a big soup fan, but when I do make soup, I like it thick! And I mean THICK! Like baby food ๐Ÿ™‚ 

This is also how my husband likes soup, which is why I made this last week, to make portions for him to take to work. Although I did keep a bowl full aside for me, which I ate with a swirl of yoghurt and some of the butternut squash seeds that I’d toasted (above). 

Making this was really simple, the hardest part was not eating the lovely roasted squash when it came out of the oven..

I found a wonderful HUGE butternut squash at Costco, which I cut into wedges, sprinkled with cumin seeds and chilli flakes and drizzled with olive oil, then roasted it all…

It came out so so tasty!

Whilst the squash was roasting, I chopped up 3 medium red onions, and a few cloves of garlic. In a pan over a medium heat I cooked the onions with a splash of oil until they started to soften and caramelise, then added the garlic and cooked it through. 

Once the butternut squash was cooked and slightly cooled, I peeled off the skin and added the chunks to the pan with the onion and garlic, along with some ground roasted cumin, ground nutmeg, pepper, salt and lots of Aleppo chilli flakes..

I could have happily eaten it like this!

But I managed to force myself not to eat it ALL….!

I cooked it all together for a few minutes, mashing the squash as I did so. I added some water and stirred it through, then using a stick blender, started to blend the mixture, adding water as I needed it, until i got the consistency I wanted..

Thick and luscious ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Obviously, you can make it thinner or thicker, to suit your taste. I served a portion to my man that evening with a baguette I had baked, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing him enjoy it – I’m easily pleased! 

As with so many dishes, the flavour of this soup has developed as the days have gone on. The husband had a portion from the freezer today, and the heat of the chilli had strengthened nicely ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you’ve had a great week, happy Friday! Let’s head over to Fiesta Friday and see what everyone else has made this week ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Aubergine, carrot & beetroot ‘salads’…

This little plateful of colours, somewhat like a painters palette, formed a recent meal; it included a beetroot salad, a roasted aubergine salad, a roasted carrot salad, homous, and caremalised onions.

I put salad in quotation marks because these are not what you might typically call salads – there’s no green leaves in sight and they’re quite ‘tight’, as opposed to a typically looser collection of ingredients. These are more middle eastern in style, as you’ll see from the ingredients..

You’ll also notice a theme amongst the ingredients: tahini, garlic and lemon juice, the wonderful trio that I put with so many things, and that forms the backbone of homous, along with chickpeas.

So, on the plate is..

Beetroot salad

Boiled and cooled beetroot, mashed with tahini, lemon juice & garlic

Carrot salad

Boiled, roasted and cooled carrots, mashed with olive oil, soy sauce, tahini, garlic, chopped coriander, Aleppo chilli flakes and ground roasted cumin & coriander seeds 

Aubergine salad

Whole roasted aubergine, skin removed, and mashed with tahini, lemon juice and garlic, and mixed with chopped fresh coriander and ground roasted cumin 

Plus homous, using my holy grail recipe, and sliced red onion that I’d caramelised in the oven. 

As you’ll notice, there’s no quantities, because they were all just thrown together from bits and pieces of inspiration and ideas, so I would suggest playing with the amounts. And if any of them taste or feel too ‘claggy’, just add more lemon juice, that’s my motto!

The next day I mixed up the leftovers of the carrot salad and the aubergine salad to create one thing of beauty…mmmmmm…..

I hope your week starts well ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Stuffed vine leaves, my way…

A while ago I decided I was going to try making stuffed vine leaves. I do like a challenge, especially of the culinary type, and dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves, definitely appeared to be a challenge…So let me say now, before I continue, it’s easier than you think! Rolling the leaves is a bit time consuming and a bit fiddly, but otherwise, it’s a doddle, but at the same time, rather impressive! 

I have a wonderful local market that’s on 5 days a week where I live, it’s where I buy all of my fresh produce, and it includes a fabulous, fabulous Turkish food stall. It is literally packed with all of the products that I love, things I only ever used to be able to buy from London or online or when I visited Abu Dhabi, even the same makes. I love it! I visit it every time I visit the market, I now chat to the lovely Persian lady (and regularly pick her brain about recipes and tips!) who runs the stall with her husband, and a while ago I saw the vine leaves. They were vacuum packed and so cheap, they came straight home with me. I did my research and read up on several recipes, and a standard method and filling quickly became obvious, which was where I started, and then I created my own version…of course ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

The first thing to do was to soak the leaves as they were packed in brine, which needed washing off; it also helped to release them from one another. I soaked them for a couple of hours and then draped them round the kitchen in colanders and on kitchen roll to dry a bit, although, if they’d been damp they would still be fine, as I later discovered when I made my second batch and didn’t bother..

A typical recipe utilises a stuffing of rice, that’s been presoaked, chopped herbs like parsley and mint, maybe some spring onions, I used red onions, and tomatoes, lemon juice and olive oil…

What I learned very quickly, was not to overfill the leaves. Then you just fold in the sides of the leaf and roll it up nice and tight, and pack them into your cooking vessel…

They need to be packed together snugly to keep each other rolled up during cooking – make sure you don’t pick a pot that’s too big for the job. 

I started to run low on filling before I’d filled the pot, so I added uncooked quinoa to the mixture and created an immediate new version..

My first attempt at stuffed vine leaves therefore included rice and quinoa versions…and they came out perfectly! I was so proud! I used arborio rice so the rice filled ones are nice and sticky.  

There was the odd burst leaf but nothing major. (There had been a layer of sliced tomatoes in the base of my pot, hence the tomatoes in the photo) The fillings were cooked and the leaves were soft, and I was a very proud parent…I did however think that there could be other ways to fill them and to bring more flavour…which is why my ‘foodbod version’ came to life (and because I had lots of leaves left and couldn’t bring myself to waste them)…so, I introduce…

Chermoula inspired buckwheat stuffed vine leaves…

Choose a cooking vessel that can be used on your hob/stove. I used a 20cm diameter enamel roasting pot. 


Mixed herbs, I used a bunch of parsley, a bunch of coriander, a small handful of dill and a few mint leaves

2 cloves garlic, peeled 

2 tsp roasted ground cumin

2 tsp sweet paprika 

2 tsp pul biber chilli flakes

Juice of 1-2 lemons

A few good glugs of olive oil

Buckwheat – I used about 170g 

Soaked and drained vine leaves, still damp is fine 


Put all of the chermoula ingredients (list up to lemon juice) into a blender and chop so that it retains some texture. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir

In a bowl add the herb sauce to the buckwheat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes 

Place a few leaves in the bottom of your cooking pot 

Fill the leaves: put the shiny side of the leaf down on your counter; place 2 teaspoonsful of the filling mixture in the middle; fold the two sides of the leaf into the middle, then roll up from the bottom and create tightly packed ‘cigars’

Start packing the rolled parcels into the cooking pot from the edge round into the middle; I used smaller leaves to make some smaller ones to fill in the gaps in the middle 

Depending how many leaves you have, either create a single or double layer

Fill the pot with enough water to cover the parcels, place over a medium/high heat and bring the water to the boil

Pour over some olive oil, turn the heat down and simmer for 35-40 minutes; at this point place a plate on top of the rolled parcels to hold them in place, and then a lid on the pot (I used a thick heavy plate that fitted inside the pot and sat on top of the parcels)

You may need to amend the heat under the pot to stop the liquid bubbling out, and keep check not to boil the pot dry

After 30 minutes, turn the heat off and leave to cool, then try at will! 

Stuffed vine leaves are typically eaten at room temperature; I think they are best made the day before you need them. Once cooked, I drizzled some more olive oil over mine and left them to rest until the next day and the flavours developed more and the leaves stayed soft. 

In my buckwheat version, the grains retained some texture, which I like, I like my grains to retain some bite. 

NOTE: The cooking method is the same for the rice and quinoa versions too.

Ta da! My stuffed vine leaves experiments! I’ve had so much fun making these, consequently I now have a great pile of them to eat, but I’m not complaining! I shared some yesterday with a friend who gave them the thumbs up; I served them with salad, Greek yogurt with dill and garlic, and a citrus tahini sauce….more on that soon. For now, I’m just working my way through them all..

What I have learnt… is that you can fill the leaves with whatever grains and flavours you like really; the cooking time is required to cook and soften the leaves as much as to cook the grains; and, like so much in food preparation, the rolling is really rather meditative. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my vine leaf stuffing…I am taking these to this week’s Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Nancy and Sandyha, and to Corina’s Cook Once Eat Twice round up, and I promise, there’s more than enough for everyone! 

NOTE: if you’d like to try making something similar but can’t find vine leaves, you can always use cabbage leaves. Check out Fae’s post for more details. 

Another sourdough loaf in pictures…

 Last weekend I put together two sourdoughs and, just like the other loaf, I photographed the process of this one too so I thought I’d share it…

This one is a mix of strong white, kamut/Khorason and spelt flours, with added pumpkin seeds and linseeds/flaxseeds. I put the dough together initially on Friday morning.

and so it began to come alive.. this was at 9.30am.. this was the growth by 1.00pm.

and then at 5.30pm.

I then folded the dough several times and covered it and put it in the fridge to slow the proving. Yesterday (Tuesday) morning it had grown again whilst in the fridge..

7.00am on Tuesday.

I knocked it back and folded it a few times then placed it into a floured banneton to come to room temperate and prove for one last time..

 By midday it had grown again and was ready to bake..

 I heated the oven to 250C then carefully tipped the dough into my enamel roaster..
 And slashed the dough..

Once the oven was up to temperature, I turned the heat down to 220C, put the lid on the roaster and cooked it for 45 minutes with the lid on, and 5 minutes without.. 

The dough spread more than rose as it baked, but the flavour and texture was GOOD! It’s quite chewy and the seeds are lovely, and it’s seriously sour – my mouth is still sore a day later! 
  My lovely boy has eaten 8 slices of this loaf today, I do love that he enjoys sourdough, it adds to the joy of making it. His mouth isn’t sore like mine though luckily ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy Wednesday! 

The lifecycle of a sourdough loaf…

Having shared these photos on Instagram over the last couple of days, and possibly bored people to tears, I thought I’d share them with you all too…!!! Hopefully I won’t bore you to tears too?! Or everyone at this week’s Fiesta Friday?! 

This is a loaf I put together yesterday morning and the photos chart it’s growth through to baking and eating..having used my lovely patterned Moroccan bowl again, you can literally see the growth. This is a sourdough loaf made with a mixture of my freshly fed bubbly starter, rye flour, kamut flour, strong white flour, pumpkin seeds and poppy seeds..

It began at 7am on Friday morning which is when I first put the dough together. 

This is the growth after 6 hours.

This is a later in the day at 5.30pm, hence the lack of light.

I then knocked back the dough, folded it several times and left it to prove again overnight.

This is what I woke up to at 6.30am on Saturday. Wow! The fact that it just keeps growing blows my mind ๐Ÿ™‚

 All ready to bake. The dough was quite sloppy so difficult to shape and slash. 

The baked loaf 45 minutes later.

And the inside story…

Isn’t it cool to literally see a loaf of bread come alive?? I love it! And it tastes good, which is a bonus! 

Check out my loaf plus lots of other people’s amazing dishes/offerings at Fiesta Friday, co hosted this week by the lovely Steffi and Andrea

Happy Weekend!!!