Sweet Basil & Lemon Shortbread

This simple shortbread recipe is an update on a traditional Scottish shortbread.

It is flavoured with sweet basil and lemon and it's dairy-free and suitable for vegans but still crisp and buttery with that melt-in-your-mouth texture you expect from shortbread.

Vegan Desserts

This recipe comes from Vegan Desserts by Hannah Kaminsky.

Hannah blogs over at Bitter Sweet. Her name was familiar to me before I received a lovely review copy of this book, but I had never visited her blog.

Bittersweet is a great place to visit. I can guarantee you will go away hungry and wanting more.

Hannah's photos are beautiful and droolworthy as my friend Val would say.

I was completely won over when I opened this gorgeous cookbook, although a little nervous about some of the lesser known ingredients. The sort of fantastical basics that I always read about over at Ricki Heller.

Don't be nervous!

So, as you can imagine, I was a wee bit nervous to try a recipe.

I knew from having a good old bedtime browse through the cookbook, that there were a few recipes I had ingredients for or could even just identify all the ingredients.

I thought, I might just have to adapt a few ingredients, perhaps with the help of Ricki, but then I found this recipe and I had all the ingredients I needed.

Oh and the other bit of fabulousness was that it is already in cup measures. Yippee! Easy peasy!

Sweet Basil Shortbread (with Lemon)

¾ cup non-dairy margarine
1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
½ cup cornstarch (cornflour)
½ cup confectioner's sugar (icing sugar)
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
pinch salt

Preheat your oven to 300f (gas mark 2/150c/130-140 fan oven) and line two baling sheets with parchment (greaseproof) paper.

Toss the margarine into your stand mixer (or hand mixer) and beat it by itself just to soften it a bit. Add in the flour, starting the mixer at a slow speed so that is doesn't send powder flying out. Once that has been completely incorporated. Follow it with the cornstarch (cornflour), and then with the sugar.

Chiffonade (finely slice) the basil and toss it in while the mix is still very powdery so that it is covered in flour and evenly distributed. Finally, add the lemon juice and zest, along with the salt, and simply process until it all comes together into a cohesive ball of dough. It may seem very dry and unlikely to stick together at all, but give it time - it could take as long as 5 minutes. You might need to remove it from the bowl near the end and knead the last dry bits in by hand.

On a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the dough with just a touch more flour, and roll it out to a thickness of about ¼ inch. It you have trouble rolling it out smoothly or find it is too sticky to work with , let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so before continuing (I left in in the fridge overnight). Cut into squares of about 1 ½ inches on each side (I cut into circular biscuits using a glass); move to a prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 16-20 minutes (mine took more like 25 minutes), until the edges just begin to take on some color, but you really don't want to brown these. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, and then move them onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 1-2 dozen cookies

I loved this shortbread.

I rolled it, cut it and popped it into the oven before I headed off to work today, so it was still cooling when I left.

Graham reliably informed me it was really good and Cooper loved the one he was allowed to try. I split one with Cooper when I got home and they are a delight.

The lemon and basil are there, but they are subtle flavours that just peek out to entice you. So good!

Do try them!

Disclosure Statement: I received this book free from the publisher to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Chocolate Pear Cake

I made this cake a few weeks ago. It is one of those you make and want to eat immediately. I'm not sure where it came from. I found it scribbled in an old notebook, so apologies for the lack of credit. I had to share it though, it was so good!

It was my brother-in-law's birthday and this was just the right cake to bake. It's moist and very fudgey. The pear slices are just gorgeous paired or should I say pear(ed) with the chocolate. What a great combination.

Chocolate Pear Cake
1 large pear, peeled and sliced
125g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
150ml hot water

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/350f/gas mark 4.
  2. Line a 20cm cake tin. I like to use greaseproof inserts, it saves a lot of faffing about.
  3. Dissolve the cocoa in the hot water.
  4. Sieve the flour into a bowl.
  5. Using an electric hand whisk or stand mixer, whisk together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, cocoa and flour and whisk until you have a smooth cake batter.
  7. Pour the batter into your cake tin and arrange the slices of pear on top.
  8. Bake for an hour, insterting a skewer to see if it's ready. If it comes out wet it needs longer, if it is clean the cake is ready.
  9. Cool a little in the tin on a baking rack, then carefully remove and leave until completely cool.
  10. Enjoy!


National Vegetarian Week

It's the end of National Get Grilling Week and the beginning of National Vegetarian Week. I decided to ease myself into this week (well I had a very busy weekend, was on a printmaking course all day Saturday and Sunday and at a hen night on Saturday night), by trying out one of the recipes that came in the booklet with my George Foreman Grill. I have kind permission to publish the recipe.

I have changed the recipe a little. I used sweetcorn as suggested in the recipe, but I didn't take it off the cob myself, well come on, sometimes life is just too short. I also added 2 heaped teaspoons of cumin for a bit extra flavour and as the mixture seemed too wet I added the breadcrumbs from three whizzed up slices of wholegrain bread.

Santa Fe Veggie Burgers


1 cup steamed white rice cooked & cooled
½ cup of corn kernels
1 finely chopped green pepper
½ finely chopped white onion
2 heaped tsp cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp black pepper coarsely ground
1 tsp lemon juice
breadcrumbs from 3 slices of wholegrain bread


4-6 wholegrain burger buns

toppings (mix and match)

salad leaves

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the rice, bread, corn, green pepper, onion, black pepper, lemon juice, cumin & chilli powder. Shape the vegetable-rice mixture into 4-6 patties and refrigerate for 2 hours. Place three of the patties at a time on a pre-heated grill for 6-7 minutes or until well browned. Place the patties in the hamburger buns & top with your choice of accompaniments. I lightly toasted the rolls before filling them.

The burgers were rather wet even with the breadcrumbs added, but they grilled well and were rather tasty. They did spread out a bit in my foreman grill. I was scared to lift the lid, but it worked out ok, even if they did look remarkably like Mickey Mouse.

If you are in the UK and would like the chance to win a George Foreman Family Grill, just enter my giveaway, there are several chances to win. You have until until Sunday 29 May 2011 to enter. Good luck!

National Get Grilling Week

You may not know it, but this is National Get Grilling Week. It runs from 16th – 22nd May 2011.

I am celebrating it by trial running a George Foreman Family Grill. I really should have had this post up on Monday, but I was waiting for my grill to arrive, so please excuse this late introduction.

I am pretty impressed with my grill already. It is pretty slick looking and is so easy to use. Just plug it in, switch it on and wait for the light to tell you it is ready. Then get grilling.

I never thought that a George Foreman Grill would be something for me, even if they have sold 13m since their UK launch and 100 million worldwide, I mean it's for cooking meat on, isn't it? Heck no, you can cook all sorts on it: vegetables, fruit, tofu, halloumi, toasties, paninis...... the list goes on and on. My friend told me they make particularly good toasties, so I decided to try one out for lunch.

My first thought when I got the grill was Halloumi and of course, I always have a block of this gorgeous cheese in my fridge. After having a wee read through the recipe and instruction booklet that came with the grill, I decided to have a try making balsamic onions too.

After unwrapping my grill, I gave it a quick wash over with some soapy water and then lightly oiled it with some vegetable oil before heating it. It took about 5 minutes to heat and then I began.

* I sliced half an onion and tossed it in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

* I popped the balsamic onions on the grill, alongside a few slices of halloumi.

* You must remember to put the drip tray under the grill. There was quite a lot of milky liquid from the halloumi and some vinegar dripping from the grill, so it certainly came in handy.

* I cooked the onions and halloumi for about 5 minutes, turning the halloumi once, then I set them aside.

* I gave the grill a quick wipe down before toasting my bread. I toasted it a little before adding my filling, as I like both sides of the bread to be a little crispy.

* I pondered over what to add to my sandwich. My first thought was pesto, then I thought mustard would be better. I settled on some American mustard and that was a good decision.

* I squirted some mustard onto one slice of of my toasted sandwich, then topped it with the balsamic onions and halloumi, then toasted the whole sandwich until it had started to brown.

* Yum, yum!


Herby Spring Pasta

This is my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights, which I have the honour to host this week. Today is the final day for entering a pasta dish, so I would like to share my pasta dish with you.

I am not going to give you a traditional recipe for this one as quantities don't really matter, it is more about the flavour combination.

For the dressing, I whizzed up some fresh herbs with garlic and olive oil. Then I cooked some baby potatoes. The pasta went on next. I used penne, as I had it to hand, but choose your favourite. While the pasta was cooking, I steamed some asparagus and fine beans. Then I just threw it all together, grated over some black pepper and sprinkled on some lovely crumbly feta. Voila!

I served this hot, but it would be really good cold with a smaller pasta as a pasta salad. Make sure it is especially al dente for a pasta salad and run the pasta under cold water straight away to cool it down and to stop the cooking process. I, unfortunately took my eye of the pasta and it had a minute or two too long.

I am also sending this as a pasta salad to Lisa for this month's No Croutons Required. If you would like to enter a soup or salad into this month's NCR challenge, then post your entry and email it to lisa (nocroutonsrequired@googlemail.com) by the 20th of May. Your entries must be suitable for vegetarians and contain asparagus. You can find the rules here.

Baby Egg Pies

I made these baby egg pies (or baby quiches) for Cooper, but they are also great picnic fare, as they are so easy to pick up and eat without getting into a mess, especially for toddlers.

I used ready made shortcrust pastry for speed and to be honest, I find the quality pretty good, but you could make your own pastry if you have the time. You can find a basic recipe here.

These pies are equally good eaten warm or cold and they freeze well, so they are a great standby too and so, so simple.

Here is a photo of Cooper enjoying one whilst sitting on his dad, in the park.

print recipe

Baby Egg Pies
These baby quiches can be filled with whatever vegetables you would like to use up. They are quick and easy to make. If you don't have any cream in the fridge, just use milk instead
  • 250g shortcrust pastry
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large flat mushroom, finely chopped
  • 3 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • small handful fresh herbs
  • enough grated cheddar to sprinkle on top
1. Preheat the oven to 190c/375f/Gas 5.2. Rub a little olive oil into 8 holes of a muffin tin.3. Roll the pastry fairly thin and cut out circles of pastry to fit or a little larger than the muffin holes. I used a small bowl. 4. Gently ease the pastry into each hole and prick the base once with a fork. I have tried blind baking these and to be honest, it worked out better when I pricked them with a fork. Much easier.5. Bake the pastry for 5 minutes. The bases will have risen a little. Gently push them down with the back of a teaspoon. Set aside.6. Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Add the peas and tomatoes and warm through in the pan with the other ingredients for a couple of minutes. Season with black pepper.7. Spoon a little of the vegetable mixture into each pastry case.8. Whisk the eggs with the cream or milk and season with black pepper.9. Pour the egg mixture into the cases. Be generous, if the egg spills over the top of the case a little, it really doesn't matter as the egg will set anyway. Sprinkle each pie with some grated cheddar.10. Bake for a further 7-8 minutes until the egg is set.note: These will happily keep in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container, alternatively, you can freeze them.
Total time: Yield: Makes 8 baby egg pies


Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

I made these a few weeks ago, but never got around to posting them. I actually made them to take somewhere. It must have been a party or some other event. The shocking thing is I can't remember. That's dreadful, isn't it? I am thinking it may have been a party that Cooper was invited to, I just cannot remember which, that baby has such a good social life.

OK, I am feeling so shamefaced I am going to check the date of the photos and check my calendar. I will be back in a minute!

So, it was the day before my birthday and there is nothing on the calendar, so I am no further forward. I do remember Graham and his brother enjoying them and when I offered to pack some for Lachlan, he said I had better not as he would just scoff them all in the car before he got home.

I do remember taking one to my friend Andrew, who enjoyed it, but said it was rather sweet.

Oh well, maybe I just made them for the heck of it or maybe it was because my second whoopie pie tray had arrived. Who knows? Enjoy the photos and carry on to the end for the recipe.

Oh, and I did let Cooper try half of a whoopie pie, but it was a treat not a regular occurrence, just in case there are any tsk tsks. He usually eats very healthily!

And before we get to the photos, I can honestly declare they were lovely!. The most scrumptious, gooey marshmallow fluff sandwiched between light, sponge-like cookies speckled with chocolate chips.

Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

(converted to cup measures from The Whoopie Pie Book by Claire Ptak, I urge you to get this book, it is fab!)

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (I didn't have any bicarbs left, so I used 2½ tsp baking powder, apparently you can substitute bicarbs with baking powder, but not the other way around)
¼ tsp salt
125g/1 stick butter
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk (or the same amount if of milk with a good squeeze of lemon juice, set aside for a few minutes)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup/100g chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 f/160c fan/180c/Gas 4.

Lightly grease two whoopie pie trays or line 2-3 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Add the salt and gently combine.

Cream the softened butter with the sugars until they are light and fluffy. Next add in the egg and beat until combined. Pour in the buttermilk mixed with the vanilla and add, mixing until the batter is smooth.

Gradually fold in the flour mix and the chocolate chips until it has all been added. Don't over mix.

Scoop dessert spoonfuls of mixture onto your prepared trays. A teaspoon can be helpful in removing the batter from the dessert spoon.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the whoopies are springy to the touch.

Leave to cool on the trays. Some will lift off easily, but others might need a bit of gentle encouragement.

Once cool, sandwich together with a generous gloop of the homemade marshmallow fluff I made for the last batch of whoopie pies I posted.

Makes approx 24 complete pies
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