14 Vegan, Gluten Free Treats to make before New Year

 

All these recipes are gluten free and vegan.  Perfect for treating yourself before the New Year’s Resolutions start!

  1. Gingerbread
  2. Jam Buns
  3. Chocolate Bark
  4. Banana Bread
  5. Chestnut and Cocoa Teabread
  6. Treasure Biscuits
  7. Chocolate Cake
  8. Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Crumble
  9. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
  10. Jujube Energy Treats
  11. Fossil Biscuits
  12. Free Nut Butter Cookies
  13. Ombre Cheesecake
  14. Chestnut Shortbread

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Christmas Tree Tear-and-Share Bread

This is a really simple, but effective idea.  You need to start with bread dough made from approximately 400g of flour.  I used Orgran Pizza and Pastry Multimix.  The Free From Fairy’s bread dough recipe would work too.  Of course, you lucky gluten eaters could just use wheat flour dough!

Take your bread dough and split it into two.  Take one half and split it into two pieces.  Then split each of those pieces into three smaller balls.  You should now have one big ball of dough and six little balls of dough.

Take two of the little balls.  They are going to be the trunk of the Christmas tree.  I used the bread dough as it was.  If you can eat cheese then topping those two rolls with cheese would give a nice, brown trunk.  Put these dough balls on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Now, you need to make the “baubles”.  Take three of the small balls and colour them by mixing in a red ingredient.  I used Pepperami to decorate these rolls.  If you can eat tomato then adding sun-dried tomato paste to the balls will give them a much stronger colour.  Put these three “baubles” to one side.

You should have the big ball of dough and one small ball of dough left.  Squish these together and colour these green by kneading in spinach.  I used 80g of frozen chopped spinach.  I defrosted this and squeezed the moisture out of the spinach before adding it to the dough.  You now need to split the big ball of green dough into seven small balls.  I did this by roughly separating the dough into two.  I split the “bigger half” into four small balls, and the “smaller half” into three small balls.

Now, you have seven green dough balls and three red dough balls.  Lay these out on top of the trunk in a 4 ball, 3 ball, 2 ball, 1 ball triangle shape.

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Finally, bake the Christmas tree as per your dough recipe.  I baked my tear-and-share bread at 200°C/400°F for 15 minutes.

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The Olive Branch, Wivenhoe, Essex, UK

A crucial part of the Christmas story is people making long journeys from the Middle East and finding themselves without accommodation.  It seems in keeping with the season to review a Syrian restaurant in the UK.

The Olive Branch (1a Station Road, Wivenhoe, CO7 9DH; 01206 615741; website) is in a fairly unprepossessing building.  Despite this, on a Friday lunch time on a cold, drizzly December day, there was nearly no room at the inn, or tables in the restaurant.  Luckily, the customers were feeling positive, and strangers ended up sharing tables so everyone could fit in.

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I (gluten and dairy intolerant) visited with my friend (severe nut allergy).  When we stated our food needs, there was absolutely no sign from the welcoming staff that this was in any way a problem, and it wasn’t.  The only physically uncomfortable feeling was eating slightly more than we should have because it was so delicious!

We ordered a platter for two, and were given the choice of vegan or vegetarian.  My friend had a hankering for halloumi so we went with the vegetarian option.  We were so eager to get stuck in that I forgot to take a photo so the platter is already looking a bit wrecked in the photo.  Our platter consisted of hummus, falafel, marinated halloumi, tabbouleh, warak inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables), marinated olives, baba ghanouj, midammas (seasoned fava beans in a sauce), green salad, and pickles with flat breads or, in my case, toasted gluten free bread).

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To accompany the platter, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and minty lemonade.  The food was excellent.  This is the sort of vegan restaurant to take a confirmed carnivore to.  They will be so excited by all the different flavours, textures and spices that they will completely forget that there is no meat in the meal.  The only things I can think of to improve this meal are that, although it was great to have gluten free bread available, it would have been nice if it was more like the flatbread normally served; this would be perfect.  The only improvement to the restaurant would be moving to a slightly bigger building so more people can enjoy this fabulous food.

 

Vegan Cheese Showdown

The holiday season has all sorts of associations for different people.  Rather shallowly and greedily, one of the things I love about Christmas is the food, especially cheese.  I was really pleased to see some new (to me) vegan cheeses on the Veggie Stuff website.  So, without further ado, it’s a vegan cheese showdown <hum the Rocky theme tune here>.

The two cheeses are Jeezini Intens and Green Vie Smoked Gouda flavour.

Obviously, the most important criteria on this site is ingredients.  The Green Vie’s ingredients are “Water, Coconut Oil (Non-Hydrogenated) (24%), Modified starch, Sea Salt, Vegan Flavourings, Smoke Flavouring, Colour: Natural Beta Carotene, Preservative: Sorbic Acid, Vitamin B12”.  The Jeezini ‘s ingredients are “Water, Plant Based Fats (Shea Kernal Oil, Coconut Oil) (23%), Modified Starch, Starch, Sea Salt, Vegan Flavour (Contains Soya Bean Oil), Olive Extract, Colour: B-carotene.”  They are both free from dairy, gluten, lactose, and palm oil.  The Green Vie brand is also soya free, while the Jeezini includes soybean oil.

Round One to Green Vie on points

Now, price – the Green Vie was £2.85 for 180g and the Jeezini Intens was £3.50 for 200g.

Round Two to Green Vie on points

Finally, it’s the taste test.  Recklessly, and despite all my previous experience with vegan cheese, I decided to try a slice uncooked.  The Jeezini was not good; it had that weird soapy taste that vegan cheese often has.  The Green Vie tasted really good.  To be fair, the Veggie Stuff website had a tip about the Jeezini “Best served at room temperature, as the flavour and texture is improved when warmer. This cheese alternative melts very well, ideally under direct heat like grilling or also zapped in a microwave.”  I grilled the cheeses on a wrap.  The Green Vie was still really good.  I am afraid that the Veggie Stuff website and I will have to agree to disagree.  Heating the Jeezini just made it stinkier and soapier.  At this stage, I decided to take The Green Vie Smoked Gouda to the ultimate level – the mighty crisp sandwich.  Some of the cheese and crushed Pom Bears in a wrap turned out to be the crowning glory of this taste test.  The Jeezini was consigned to the rubbish bin, which as I am both frugal and greedy gives you an idea of how bad it really was.

Round Three – win by knock out to Green Vie.