Category Archives: Dairy-Free

Little Chocolate Fondants

Cost: £2 or so, pretty much all storecupboard ingredients

If in any doubt about what to make if people are coming over, may I recommend this pudding? You can make it in advance – even the day before, and bake them from the fridge just before serving. Conversely, if you are surprised by unexpected guests (or expected guests, but you have forgotten to plan a dessert) then you can whip it up out of storecupboard staples and bake right away. My preference is to make them ahead and leave them in the fridge until we are clearing the plates from the main course. Normally, the oven is still warm so it doesn’t take much time to heat up, and as they cook we can take away the plates and set up for dessert.

Chocolate fondants have a reputation for being technically difficult, but it is totally undeserved. They are easier to make than a cake, and the only slightly tricky thing is getting the timing right – cooking them for long enough to give them some structural integrity, but not long enough for the centres to set. The truth is, it depends a bit on your oven and on the size of your ramekins (and thus depth of your puddings); these timings work for me but they might need a little trial and error. I like to serve them with some frozen berries and a dusting of icing sugar – so if the worst comes to the worst and they are insufficiently firm you can pass them off as warm chocolate mousses, which are gorgeous with the frozen berries, and if they are solid all the way through they are individual chocolate cakes. And nobody will ever know.

Chocolate fondant

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Easy Coconut Sago Pudding

Cost: under £1, serves 4 generously

This pudding is dreamy – caviar-like pearls of sago are suspended in a light coconut pudding with the gorgeous mouthfeel of custard. It is wholly composed of storecupboard ingredients – vegan and gluten-free, so it’s easy to knock up a batch when there is nothing in the fridge and no inclination to run to the shops. I make it unsweetened and then add a teaspoonful of dark, fudgy brown sugar – it’s not quite the authentic gula melaka that would be used in Singapore, but it does the trick.

Coconut Sago pudding

I feel like a guilty pleasure food should be something that is easy to make and doesn’t need lots of time/attention – after all, there is too much of an opportunity to make a more responsible choice if you actually go out of the house to buy some double cream, and for this kind of thing, delaying the gratification with hours of stirring at the stove or stacking up lots of washing up for later doesn’t enhance the pleasure – in fact it might start to seem not worth it. This is a one-bowl recipe that takes less than an hour to make – and half of that is just leaving it to soak.

My way of making sago is possibly not very authentic but it is easy, and delicious, and the result of much experimenting. It’s supremely comforting served warm from the pan, but achieves a certain cool sophistication served chilled in pudding glasses, perhaps accompanied by tropical fruit such as lychees or honey mangoes.

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Malaysian Beef Rendang

Cost: £12 for 8 people as a main course, very generously

A Malay classic – nuggets of beef slow-cooked to collapsing tenderness, in a fragrant, almost caramelised curry. The shopping list of spices isn’t particularly long – we happened to have almost everything on hand, and the base of the curry is coconut milk, so it’s dairy free but still gorgeously rich. This recipe was originally from a butchery course at the Waitrose cooking school, and overall winner in a family rendang-off that my brother won against my parents.

The only changes I’ve made have been for convenience, as well as using beef shin instead of chuck – shin is my favourite cut for this kind of slow-cooked dish, where the collagen breaks down to give a silky, rich sauce and the meat breaks down without becoming tough into pink-tinged shreds.

Beef rendang on paratha

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Easy Ramen and Char Siu

Cost: about £9, serves 6 with seconds for everyone

Ramen is not just a London trend, and not just a Japanese obsession – although it is both these things, the darling of hipsters and food fans, the subject of consumer quests for the best ramen in London and scientific quests led by patient, meticulous Japanese chefs, it is a food experience that soothes and thrills at the same time, both simple in its innate comfort and complex in the depths of savoury flavour it achieves.

This recipe is a practical way of recreating that experience at home. I say recreating, not replicating, because whilst I believe it is possible to do, it’s really not practical. This recipe for the tonkotsu ramen broth delivers collagen-rich, intensely porky broth which in turn delivers sticky-lipped contentment – but it’s easy. And although it takes many hours to physically cook, the active time for the cook is well under an hour.

Homemade "Ramen"

 

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Little Fruit Jellies

Cost: about £1 for 5 jellies (600ml total volume) but it depends on the juice and fruit you choose

These little jellies are jewel-bright and intensely fruity – with no added sugar and zero fat, they are an extremely healthy treat. And they are super-satisfyingly wobbly. A great treat for kids…and a useful gluten-free and dairy-free dessert option for guests with dietary restrictions.

Little Raspberry Jelly

 

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Guotie (aka gyoza or potsticker dumplings)

Cost: about £1 for a batch that serves 2 as a main dish or up to 6 as a side dish

These little pockets of juicy savouriness have become one of my favourite things to make at home, and by making the filling in advance and freezing it in 400g batches, it can be a weeknight treat as well as a weekend project. This is perfect low-ceilinged kitchen fare – at a restaurant these little beauties will run at about £4 for an order of 6, but at home a batch of about 24 only costs around £1 and nobody judges you for ordering 4 portions. They might seem like a restaurant food but really, they are so easy to make at home – no precision in cooking is required, and even imperfectly wrapped and inexactly seasoned dumplings will be delicious – comfort food for two (or one!) and always a hit with guests.

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls...which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls…which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

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Chopped Lobster Salad

Cost: £2 per generous serving, based on using the £6 frozen cooked lobsters from Lidl.

Chopped salad – all the healthy, virtuous charm of uncooked vegetables but without the ungainly challenge of wrestling leaves onto cutlery and into mouth. This salad is a crunchy confetti that carries the flavour of fancy schmancy lobster and fresh prawns, and served over wholewheat pasta or on toast, it’s an economical way to make special ingredients go further.

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