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!

George Foreman Giveaway

It's National Get Grilling Week and to celebrate it, I have one George Foreman Family Grill to give away.

Don't be mistaken in thinking these grills are just for steaks, they also make brilliant toasties, grill halloumi perfectly, along with cooking all kinds of fruit and vegetables. You get that lovely chargrilled look but without the fat. How can you resist?

To win your own George Foreman Family Grill, just leave me a comment.

For extra entries (separate comments please):

1. Follow my blog and leave a comment to say you have done so.
2. Follow me on twitter (@tinnedtoms)and leave a comment to say you have done so.
3. Tweet the competition by clicking the twitter button at the end of this post and leave a comment to say you have done so, using #getgrilling in your tweet.
4. Like the George Foreman Grills UK Facebook Page.

The giveaway is open until Sunday 29 May 2011, but is only open to UK residents.

Good luck everyone!

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!


Presto Pasta Nights #212

It’s Presto Pasta Night and now blogger is back up and running, we can get started. I have to say, I was getting worried that I wouldn’t get this post up at all. Come to think of it as Michelle pointed out to me last night on twitter, this is Friday the 13th or black Friday as we like to call it, so what should I expect?

Never mind all that, let’s get started. Oh and a wee reminder that the veggie nature of this blog has been temporarily suspended. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

1 Spaghetti col Tonno / Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce
Simona (Briciole)
Northern California, US

Simona got her entry in lovely and quick this week, giving me the hope that this roundup might be a success. Well, you never know do you? Simona was inspired by her mother to make this quick, easy and healthy pasta dish. Tuna, garlic, anchovy paste, tomato sauce and parsley.

2 Slow Cooker Mex-i-talian Chicken
Martha (Seaside Simplicity)
Florida, US

Hot on Simona’s heels came Martha, who needed something quick to prepare. She piled all her ingredients into her slow cooker, then left it to cook the next day. She had fresh chilli peppers from her neighbour’s garden and though these would go well with some chicken, garlic, tomatoes and seasoning. A quick topping for pasta the next night. Slow cookers are mightily handy when it comes to saving time on prep.

3 Courgette, Feta & Pine Nut Penne
Beth (Jam and Clotted Cream)
Cornwall, England, UK

Yay, one for me! Although the first two recipes looked lovely, being a veggie, I just couldn’t enjoy them, even if I did appreciate the finesse they were cooked with. Now Beth’s, mmmmmmmmm, that sounds really good to me. Garlic, red chilli, pine buts, courgette and feta. Just scrumptious!

4 Baked Brie with Rigatoni & Spinach
Heather (Girlichef)

I got really excited when I saw this dish. It reminded me of dunking bread into Camembert. Such an exciting idea for a pasta dish. Heather tossed her cooked pasta with her spinach, olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan and then poured some of the rosemary baked, unctuous, melting brie over each plate. Oh my!

5 Chilli Gnocchi served on Spiced Cabbage
Mangocheeks (Allotment 2 Kitchen)
West of Scotland, UK

I didn’t have much success the last time I made gnocchi, but I do like gnocchi if it is done well. Doesn’t this version look good? Mangocheeks says they are “light and fluffy pillow life puffs - enhanced further by the flakes of red chilli”. A world away from the poor, stodgy examples I made. I really like that they are served on a bed of spicy cabbage instead of being drowned in sauce. Sounds really appetising.

6 Creamy Pasta Salad with Ham, Tomato & Mozzarella
Maria (The Goddess’s Kitchen)
Surrey, England, UK

I am planning to adapt this one and give it a go and I am sure those of you who aren’t veggie would love a bowl of this. It is real happy, comfort food. Lean ham, avocado, plum or cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, spring onions, crème fraîche, salt and pepper. Such a gorgeous and tempting lunch.

7 Chicken & Mushroom Pasta
Cass (The Diary of a Frugal Family)

We could all learn a thing or two from Cass, who brings delicious meals to her family, whilst trying to be frugal. The key it seems, is planning. I knew this in my mind already, it is just taking the time to do something about it. I know it is the right thing to do. If you need some inspiration too, then be sure to visit Cass. Back to the pasta. This was a quick after work standby dish. Pasta, chicken, ham, sliced mushrooms, condensed chicken soup and chopped garlic.

8 Sausage Carbonara
Tina (Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor)

Tina took inspiration from Jamie’s Italy book for this hearty dish. Italian sausages, pancetta, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, egg yolks, heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, flat-leaf parsley and extra virgin olive oil all hugging a bowl of linguine. It does indeed look like a hug in a bowl.

9 Tomato, Anchovy & Basil Pasta
Tandy (Lavender & Lime)
Cape Town, South Africa

Tandy made this dish on Christmas Eve for her family. There is real love in feeding your loved ones, isn’t there? Tandy made this with two pastas, a wheat based pasta and a gluten free pasta for her dad. This sauce is a great freezer standby as well. A basic tomato sauce, olive oil, anchovies, fresh basil and thin slices of Parmesan.

10 Pasta Bake with Pepperoni, Tomatoes and Garden Herbs
Susan (Holly Grove Kitchen)
Shropshire, UK

Susan is a much loved regular at the monthly soup and salad challenge ( No Croutons Required), I co-host with my good buddy Lisa, so I was especially pleased when I saw she had put together an entry for me. Susan is re-introducing us to a favourite from her archive and even suggest a veggie alternative. She is such a sweetie.

11 Pasta with Sweet Tomato Sauce
LF (The Humble Home Cook)

British tomatoes are in season just now and if you get a good batch, they are sweet and tasty, so LF decided to make the most of this and made a lovely bowl of rich, tomato coated spaghetti for slurping. The slurping I am adding, I am sure LF eats in a very ladylike fashion. I would definitely slurp it. Oh how I want a bowl right now.

12 Orecchiette with Fresh Fava Beans, Ricotta & Mint
Theresa (Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine)
Phoenix Arizona, US

When Theresa was offered some fresh fava beans in an Italian shop which has become her local store, she snapped them up and decided to make this pasta dish. Doesn’t it look pretty? I immediately want to eat it. I have never tried fava beans and I am now looking at this pasta dish longingly and wondering why. Fava beans, orecchiette pasta, olive oil, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh mint, freshly ground black pepper and mint sprigs.

13 Avocado Pasta
Johanna (Green Gourmet Giraffe)
Melbourne, Australia

Yum, yum, yum! I don’t know about you, but I love avocado and I love the sound of this pasta. Spaghetti lovingly coated avocado, olive oil, garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and lemon zest. This pasta floats my boat, as they say. I don’t know who says that, but allegedly they do. As if that wasn’t enough, Johanna topped her pasta with some veggie haggis. If you haven’t tried veggie haggis before, I urge you to give it a go. It is lovely and spicy, mmmmmmm.

14 Herby Spring Pasta
Jacqueline (Tinned Tomatoes)
Dundee, Scotland, UK

Yippee, blogger is back up again and even better it has restored my last post, which was my entry for PPN. I was getting a little worried there and thinking as I approached some of the newer entries that they might too be missing. Phew! That’s all I can say. Anyway, you say, the pasta. Oh, yes! For my dish I made a herby dressing for my pasta dish by whizzing up fresh herbs with oil and garlic. I coated my pasta with this and then topped it with lightly steamed fine beans and asparagus. I finished the dish of with a sprinkling of feta cheese. It was very yummy.

15 Rotini with Chickpeas and Kale in a Creamy "Cheesy" Hummus Sauce”
Deb (Kahakai Kitchen)

Deb is taking part in a 28 day diet challenge , which pretty much means a vegan diet with no or very little oil. She is doing very well sticking to it and is already feeling lighter, more energetic and has also lost some weight. Quick everyone make a note of this dish. You just know it is going to be good for you as well as being super tasty. I really should take note. I am very impressed Deb! Homemade hummus, almond milk, nutritional yeast, chickpeas and kale. Mmmmmmm, it does sound good and it looks so creamy.

16 Simmered Kale Somen Noodles
Tigerfish (Teczcape – An Escape to Food)
California, US

Tigerfish was hit by the blogger malfunction too, so wrote a new post for PPN. Now that is dedication folks! Isn’t it gorgeous? Tigerfish did a bit of experimentation with this one. She usually uses somen noodles in soup, but discovered they work fabulously as a pasta dish. Caramelised onions, ginger, carrots, garlic, cabbage and kale combined with somen noodles.

17 Pizzocherri
Adam (Yogi Kitchen)

This is a northern Italian dish cooked by the lovely Adam. Adam and Theresa follow a diet that very much ties in with their practice of Ashtanga Yoga, but on Saturdays they relax their diet and quite often indulge in their love of pasta. Adam found this dish online and thinks it may be from Giorgio Locatelli or as Graham calls him “My Good Friend Giorgio”. It is a long story, but basically, I bought Giorgio’s wonderful tome Made in Italy and found it all so fascinating that I quoted and read from it a lot and so Graham began to call him “my good friend Giorgio”. Hehe, it does make me smile and he is lovely, Giorgio that is, although of course Graham and Adam are too! Adam made his own pasta and combined it with potatoes, cabbage, celery, butter, parmigiano cheese and fontina cheese. Mmmmmm, lovely.

18 Herb & Garlic Orzo and Manicotti
Ruth (Once Upon A Feast)

Our lovely creator and host of Presto Pasta Nights is next up and of course as you would expect it is pretty spectacular. Ruth made us a Eggplant (& Lamb) Manicotti and the pasta in the dish is actually slices of aubergine. The filling is made up of garlic, ricotta cheese, spinach leaves, fresh basil leaves, flat leaf parsley, Swiss cheese, toasted sunflower seeds & parmesan topped with a tomato sauce and mozzarella. The lamb is optional, I was glad to hear. It looks pretty darn tasty to me.

19 Roasted Garlic Pesto Pasta
Michelle (Ms. Enplace)

Michelle's husband came up with the wonderful pesto for this dish. If you are like me, then you love pesto. This pesto is a lot mellower than your average pesto because of the roasted garlic. Roasting the garlic makes it mellower and sweeter. Michelle's secret to this dish is a wee splash of cream to loosen the pesto. Slurp!

20 Orecchiette with Dried Tomatoes & Melted Leeks
Lauren (Healthy. Delicious.)

Lauren tells us that this simple yet satisfying meal was inspired by the Shepherd’s Pasta at New World Bistro Bar. This is our last entry, but a really delicious one. Grape Tomatoes, Oregano, Orecchiette, Leeks, Fennel, Fennel Seeds, Feta, Salt and Pepper. Drool, drool. Sounds good doesn’t it? A great dish to end on. On a side note I am keeping Lauren’s post open to show Graham. I don’t know how long I have been hinting for a silpat liner. Jings, I am not event subtle! Whenever, I see chef using one, I point it out and yet it hasn’t worked so far. I have had other liners from him that are a complete waste of time, but my point just isn’t getting across. Might just have to give in and treat myself. It is such a pity they are not available here in the UK. Lauren use hers (lucky sod!) to dry her tomatoes, to make them extra tasty. Oh, here he comes, wish me luck!

Thank you to everyone who took part this week in my first roundup for Presto Pasta Nights and thank you to Ruth for extending me the offer to host. Pasta it’s just the best! Oh and in case you are interested I showed him and he just sort of sighed and grunted. Oh well!
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