Luscious Vegan Gingerbread

So, there I was, snuggled up with Ignacio watching another film (it passess the time in Tier 4 land) and my sister called me. She was making a request, having travelled from ‘overseas’ to be home for Christmas she wanted me to cook a Christmassy cake. At first we though that I might recreate one of the Persian lovecakes that I had made in the summer. However, fate had me watching Nigella’s Cook Eat Repeat, a few days later and I was rather seduced by the thought of my kitchen smelling of ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Yes, I decided I would make the Luscious Vegan Gingerbread. I looked in my cupboard and the only thing I didn’t have was black treacle which was resolved by a quick trip to Tesco.

This recipe was really easy to execute and made for a rather joyful Christmas Eve in the kitchen.

Somehow really pleased and excited that I have the same whisk as Nigella!

The finished product.

The gingerbread has been happily consumed and I am told that it is very tasty.

I think I might make another one for New Year.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 12 slabs but could easily be cut into 18

  • 150 millilitres vegetable oil
  • 200 grams golden syrup
  • 200 grams black treacle
  • 125 grams dark muscovado sugar
  • 75 grams pitted soft prunes (about 8 in number)
  • 30 grams fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ready-ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 250 millilitres oat milk
  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons regular cider vinegar

METHOD

  1. Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/325°F. Line a 23cm / 9-in square tin with a sheet of baking parchment, so that it covers the bottom and comes up the sides of the tin. Leave something heavy on it to keep it down while you melt everything together.
  2. Measure the oil in a jug, and pour it into a fairly wide, heavy-based saucepan; I use one of 22cm / 9in diameter. Measure the syrup and treacle using the oily jug, as this will stop them sticking and help them pour out easily into the saucepan.
  3. Tip the sugar into the pan, and chop the prunes finely before adding them. Peel the ginger with the tip of a teaspoon and grate it finely into the pan. Sprinkle in the spices and salt and warm over gentle heat, whisking to combine. But don’t whisk too much: you do not want to get a lot of air in the mixture.
  4. Once everything’s melted and mixed, take the pan off the heat; it should be warm at this stage, rather than boiling hot. Add the oat milk, whisking gently to make sure it’s incorporated.
  5. Whisk in the flour in 3 or 4 batches, getting rid of any lumps patiently as you go. This will take a few minutes; the only lumps you should see are the little bits of prune, although they will melt into the gingerbread as it bakes.
  6. Dissolve the bicarb in the warm water in a bigger cup than you think it needs, then add the vinegar and quickly whisk the fizzing mixture into the pan.
  7. Pour the gingerbread batter into the lined tin carefully and bake for 50–55 minutes, though start checking at 45. It may look cooked at 45 minutes, but as it’s so damp, a cake tester won’t help enormously – you’d expect some crumbs to stick to it – so take it out of the oven and touch the top quickly; if cooked, it should bounce back a bit under your fingers.
  8. Leave to cool in its tin on a rack, although I’m afraid I’m going to caution you against eating it the minute it’s cold. To taste this at its best, wrap the tin first in baking parchment and then in foil, and leave for a day or two before cutting into it.

Chicken with lemon and orzo

Christmas 2020, one for the history books I’m sure. One hopefully never to be repeated again. It goes without saying that it was different for all of us this year. The difference and difficulties are not have been the same for everybody. We have realised this year that while we are all in the same choppy waters we are all in different vessels, meaning that some of have a bit more resilience while weathering this storm and others are painfully horribily exposed and vulnerable.

This year I did not make any solid plans or have high expectations for a full family gathering. It would have been nice but for me, because nothing had improved in terms of disease transmission and infection rates, staying at home was a saddening but safe option for me. I live in London and after Prime Minister Johnson’s announcement on 19th December, we have been living in tier 4, which means no mixing of households, effectively any different decisions I might have made before that date had been taken out of my hands. In the pre-COVID days – when was that? – we had actually wanted to spend this Christmas in Spain, southern Spain, with the sunshine, sea and delicious food. Instead we got lockdown Christmas.

So the set up this year was Ignacio and I in our little flat, leisurely cooking and eating our way through the day. We contacted the rest of our little world by telephone, video calls and text message.

It was actually fine. I am grateful to be alive to see the day. I have friend who has been unwell for sometime with this horrible illness and I feel bad that this has happened at this time.

It being a different Christmas, turkey was off the menu, for me at least. If I am being honest, I’m not sure I would have cooked one anyway! The last Christmas dinner I hosted I went for a salmon option. This year, I decided that I would cook the whole chicken that has been sitting in the freezer, for a very long time. Some where on Google I happened upon Nigella’s one pot chicken recipe which turns out to be featured in her new book Cook Eat Repeat. It looked amazing.

The slight problem for me was that I did not have a container big enough fit the chicken and cook in the oven.

So the leek and carrots are at the bottom of the dish. It was a tight fit! I held down the lid with my heavy marble mortar (thanks Ikea!)

I made a ‘chicken rub’ out of minced garlic, dried mixed herbs, olive oil, salt and black pepper and smooshed it under the chicken skin. I rubbed the chicken skin with butter. I grated lemon zest over the chicken (and somehow managed to remove the edge of the nail of to my right thumb – very painful), added some more minced and whole garlic, dried tarragon, fresh thyme. I squeezed over the juice of two lemons. I sprinkled over the salt and pepper and put the bald and juiced lemon inside the chicken.

Although I made a plan on Christmas Eve to have the chicken in the slow cooker by 9 am, that plan evaporated on Christmas morning. I woke up and thought, what’s the hurry? Nobody was coming to our flat. We were not going to meet anybody. So I had what I felt was a well deserved lie-in, Ignacio made a lovely little Christmas breakfast and I managed to put start the timer at midday.

In the inbetween – Ignacio and I took a walk. We watched a film. We had a little ‘tapas’ and ate some of my baked goods.

Five o’clock came and out came a lovely well cooked chicken. There was quite a bit of juice at the bottom of the pot, so I took out the chicken to let it rest and cooked the orzo in the fluid. It worked well. Ignacio cut up the chicken and made a cucumber, olive and feta cheese salad.

It was a very simple and quiet dinner! Finally eaten sometime after 6pm.

Chicken with lemon and orzo, salad and some prosecco and orange juice!

Then, all of a sudden, Christmas was ‘over’ – food eaten, presents opened. Ignacio and I found ourselves on the sofa, watching another film and feeling quite full. Not what we had expected but I was and am grateful for every minute.

Dark chocolate and ginger brownies

It would not be any kind of Christmas without these brownies. Dark chocolate and ginger are a favourite in our little household. I cannot find the orginal website where I found the recipe but I have adapted and tweeked over the years.

Ingredients

113g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
75g dark chocolate, broken into squares
150g caster sugar
95 g plain flour
2 eggs
1 tsp fresh root ginger, grated
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease and line a 20cm square baking tin

2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Add all the other ingredients and stir until smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake until set – about 30 minutes.

5. Cool in the pan, and then cut into 16 squares.

Galletas de jengibre

A fews weeks ago, I had a craving for ginger biscuits, I searched and found this recipe on-line and voila, today thoses ginger biscuits materialised!

They are really simple to make. I made them while my dinner of homemade potato and leek stew was cooking. The recipe is meant to be enough for 40 small biscuits but I only made 18 and the dough is in the fridge and I’ll use it at the weekend.

I limited the sugar to 100g as I find these recipes generally too sweet for my liking. This did mean that I perhaps ate more than I should have when then had come out of the oven and cooled. Oh well, you only live once.

They are tasty, the right side of crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – which makes me wonder if I’m not just eating ginger cookies…

Thus ensued a short conversation between Nacho and I

Me: “Do you know the difference between a cookie and biscuit?”

Nacho:”Yes, cookies are a bit softer”

Me: “Yes. Yeah”

Nacho: “In Spain they are called one thing – galletas

Me: “Ah, they don’t get into that whole is it a cookie or a biscuit? conversation”

I walk back into the kitchen and call out

Me: “The first batch are like cookies and the 2nd batch that when into a slightly hotter oven are harder like biscuits”

Nacho: ” So you have biscookies?”

Me:”Yes, or bookies. Or Coocuits”

Me:” Hmmm. Hmmm.”

Me: “What’s the spanish word for ginger, Nacho?”

Nacho:”jengibre

Me:” so I’ve made jengibre galletas?”

Nacho: ” No, galletas de jengibre

Me: “well that’s what I’ll name them galletas de jenigbre

Ingredients

  • 340g/12oz plain flour
  • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 level tsps ground ginger
  • 100g/4oz butter
  • 160g light brown sugar
  • 4 tblsp golden syrup
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  • Line the baking trays with grease proof paper.
  • Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Rub in butter with finger tips until it looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar then the syrup and the beaten egg. Bring it all together to form a smooth pastry dough.
  • On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to be about 8mm thick. Using a 2” straight-sided round cutter, cut out biscuits until all the biscuit dough is used up. Place on baking trays ensuring enough room is left for slight expansion of the biscuit.
  • Chill on the baking trays for 20 minutes in fridge.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from tray with palette knife and place on a cooling rack.