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Virtuous Vegan Date & Peanut Butter Cookies


Virtuous Vegan Date & Peanut Butter Cookies


If I told you that a vegan, refined sugar-free, protein-rich, wheat-free, ancient-grain (and if you so desire, gluten-free) cookie existed, you’d think it was the stuff of myth and legend or, alternatively, something so disgusting that it couldn’t be deemed edible.

Well, it does exist.


After an overindulgent stay in NYC, I made these for my birthday. They aren’t overpoweringly sweet, and they aren’t going to be equivalent to the 500 calories a pop thick, fudgy cookies you see in bakeries. However, they are delicious in their own right, soft and just sweet enough. Plus, being vaguely healthy automatically entitles one to devour 5x the quantity. In fact, for a snack to be officially deemed a source of protein, it needs to contain 6g protein. Well, 3 of these cookies contain just that.


They are extremely quick to conjure up and would be good for that weak-point, late afternoon slump when you crave something sweet, and delicious, too, paired with a (vegan) ice cream for dessert, or even with a wedge of stilton and a dollop of pear compote if you’re going down the non-vegan route. If you want a slightly more savoury option, substitute the dates with figs as in the photos.


Ingredients (makes 20 medium cookies)

160g pitted medjool dates, roughly chopped (about 10) (if you want a more savoury cookie, substitute dates with figs, as per the photos)

4 tbsp orange juice

4 tbsp water

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp finely grated orange zest

80g smooth peanut butter

200g spelt flour (or gluten free flour)

½ tsp mixed spice

¼ tsp salt

baking tray lined with baking parchment

4-5cm round cookie cutter



1)    Pre-heat oven to 180°C

2)    Place the chopped dates, orange juice, water, vanilla extract and orange zest in a small pan over a medium/high heat and allow to come to a boil. Stir continuously for about 4/5 minutes until all the liquid has evaporated and the dates have turned into a thick, sticky pulp.

3)    Place the date mixture together with the peanut butter in a blender and pulse until smooth. Pour in the spelt flour, mixed spice, and salt and pulse until it comes together to form a slightly sticky dough.

4)    Lightly flour a board and roll out the dough to a 0.5cm thickness. Stamp out cookies with the cutter and place on the baking tray. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes until firm and slightly golden. Allow to cool, then devour.




Spelt Scones & Damson Jam


Spelt Scones & Damson Jam


Adorned with dew drops of glaucous fruits, the damson tree was innocent in its fairy tale perfection. Plump and firm, tart and succulent they were ideal contenders for picking. There seemed at first glance to be very few, but as the minutes rolled by, our bags heavier and the ladder creaking, the tree continued to proffer its bounty. The result: 6kg of damsons and a swollen stomach from ones that never quite made it into the bag.


Our supply of sugar rather pitiful in the wake of the unsurpassed abundance, I heaved an Olympian quantity back from the supermarket. The one bag that decided to split has left a coating of sticky grit on any coins that I dig out of the corners of my bag.  


Then on to the stove went the damsons, the heated sugar and a touch of water. They blistered, bubbled and broke out of their skins. The stones rose to the surface like witches on trial and had to be picked out one by one. Meanwhile the mixture boiled and thickened, giving off a foamy pink effervescence that I carved off as it supposedly tastes slightly bitter (although I rather enjoyed spooning it directly into my mouth). Then as it reached its rich amethyst depths and a satisfying viscose texture, I took it off and poured it into the sterilised jars: therapeutic and deeply satisfying…the first-time round.


But as I tried to leave the kitchen I was bludgeoned with another 3kg worth of damsons. I was pelted, too, with threats of waste and rotting fruit if I didn’t make jam immediately. The kitchen became heated with the upset from my father who had cultivated and nurtured the tree for years.


So, I gave in and became a slave to the damson tree once more, boiling, straining, stirring pouring. And now we have half a fridge thronging with jar upon jar of jam. And what does one do when he or she has a year’s supply of jam? Well, I find eating it straight from the jar perfectly acceptable, but others need a medium as an excuse. So I made scones. These are not the dry, stale and overly sweet ones that leave you desperately seeking a currant to relieve you from the accumulating doughy mass at the top of your palate. These are soft, light, moist and crumbly. Rustic in shape, they are best eaten immediately or on the same day (though it is unlikely they will survive longer). 



Spelt Scone Recipe – makes 12

500g white spelt flour (can be substituted with plain)

4 ½ tsp cream of tartar

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

(optional: 2 tbsp sugar if would like them sweet)

1/2 tsp salt

125g cold unsalted butter, diced

300ml milk

1 egg, beaten, for egg wash


6cm round cookie cutter

Large baking sheet, lined with baking parchment



1)    Preheat the oven to 220°C.

2)    Into a large bowl sift all the dry ingredients. Add in the butter and with fingertips rub it into the dry ingredients until like damp sand. Pour in the milk and very gently fold in until just combined (there may still be pockets of flour).

3)    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it lightly for about 10 seconds. Roll out to a 3cm thickness and then cut out as many scones as possible. Lightly re-knead the scraps of dough and roll out once more to cut out the last remaining scones.  Space them out on the tray and blush with the beat egg. Place in oven to bake for 8-10 minutes until they are shiny and golden.

Damson Jam Recipe (makes about 3kg, 9 jars)

NB. This recipe can be adapted for any number of damsons by maintaining the ratio

2kg damsons (slightly under-ripe and not too soft)

2kg sugar

200ml water

9 jam jars, sterilised


1)    Pour sugar into an over proof dish and place in oven heated to a low temperature (around 120°C) while the damsons are prepared. Place a couple of small plates into a fridge to cool – these will be used to check the jam’s consistency later.

2)    Grease a large stainless-steel pot with butter to prevent the fruit from sticking. Then pour in the damsons and water and stew over a medium-low heat, stirring gently until the damsons’ skins break. Pour in the warmed sugar and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

3)    Increase the heat to medium-high and allow to boil (controllably), stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking. After a few minutes, as the fruits break down, a pink foam will rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, siphon this off into a bowl. If some remains it won’t ruin the jam, it just doesn’t taste as pure as the rest. Then, as the stones begin to rise up, siphon off those too.

4)    After about 15 minutes of boiling, when all the stones have been removed, pour a teaspoon of the liquid onto a cold plate. Let it sit for about a minute then tilt the plate, if the liquid is no longer watery, with a viscosity between a sauce and a jam, and wrinkles when pushed with the finger, it is set. For the more scientifically-minded, it should be 105°C on a sugar thermometer. Pour the jam into the sterilised jars and allow to come to room temperature before sealing them with lids.








Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe


Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes (Dairy-free) - Recipe

Khanom krok, crepes, blinis, dosas, tortillas, msemmen, ingera, beghrir, and both pandan and rice  pancakes - dense, spongy, fluffy, light,...  I've devoured them all.  But when it gets to Sunday, and brunch is obligatory, I always revert to American-style pancakes.   I want to whisk up something quick, easy and delicious.

The internet is currently riddled with recipes for "sugarless, 2-ingredient protein pancakes".  Warning: two ingredients = egg and banana, and there are many things I'd rather eat than a banana omelette.  So I came up with my own healthier version of American-style pancakes using wholegrain spelt and coconut oil.

They're fluffy, light and filling, and the wholemeal spelt flour adds a warming nuttiness as well as lowering the overall GI level.  They're also really  addictive - the photos are of the fourth batch I made on the day (as the first batch were consumed as a solo act, and the second and third were inhaled by my brothers).

I paired them with a very simple mixed berry compote, the recipe for which is below.


Wholesome American Style Spelt Pancakes

340g wholemeal spelt flour (can be substituted with plain flour, wholemeal wheat or white spelt)

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 large eggs

450ml unsweetened almond milk (can be substituted with any other kind)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

45g coconut oil, melted + extra to coat frying pan (can be substituted with butter)

Berry Compote

500g mixed frozen berries

3 tbsp maple syrup (optional)

1tbsp vanilla extract



1.) In a blender, blitz together all the ingredients until smooth.

2.) Place shallow frying pan over a medium-high heat and melt 1tbsp of coconut butter (or butter, if using), swirling it around to coat the pan.

3) Pour batter into pan to desired pancake size and cook for a couple of minutes until bubbles begin to break through the surface.  Flip, and cook for a further couple of minutes until golden.

Mixed Berry Compote

1.) Place pan over high heat, pour in all ingredients, and stir to mix through.

2.) When the berries have melted and the mixture begins to simmer, reduce to a low heat and cook until berries are completely cooked through.

3.) Drench pancakes.



Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe


Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe


Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe Last year I spent a week in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold, exercising over 6 hours a day in mud/gales/snow/hail,  under the supervision of ex-military trainers who pushed me physically beyond  my limits until every last droplet of sweat had been purged.  My fellow “bootcampers” included a fresh out of prison and rehab drug dealer/addict, a morbidly obese woman who refused to communicate with anyone, a creepy London shop owner, a z-list celebrity from a certain Chelsea based reality TV show, whose ego was undeservedly overblown, and some poor guy whose father had told him he was going on a spa retreat in Spain but despatched him instead into gruelling and bleak middle England.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe


Our diet was heavily regimented, too: no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, and nothing processed.  Despite its virtuousness, it was delicious - fresh, wholesome and innovative - all cooked by an ex-OXO Tower chef.  Admittedly, food is the first thing I think of when I wake up anyway, but this feeling became intensified at the camp, especially with a 6 o’clock alarm call, and two hours of torture before breakfast.   No, it wasn’t a prison camp: I did this out of choice.


Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - RecipeVanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - RecipeVanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

It was one of the only occasions when getting chummy with the chef didn’t reap any edible perks.  I did , however, manage to glean the recipe for the breakfast highlight of the week: Bircher muesli.  It traditionally has a fluid consistency and is made the night before to allow the oats to become plump with apple juice and yoghurt.   This one breaks all the rules but is more delicious, healthier and a hundred times more convenient – most people (excluding me) spare little thought for breakfast, let alone prepare for it the night before.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe

This recipe is dairy-free and sugar-free simply because I think it’s delicious that way, but feel free to use dairy equivalents, and add some maple syrup if you’re that way inclined – it works equally well. It can also be made gluten-free  – just use the appropriate muesli brand.

Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe


Ingredients (serves 2)


2 cups sugar-free muesli

1 Braeburn apple, grated and sprinkled with 1 tsp lemon juice (this will prevent it oxidising and going brown)

¼ tsp vanilla bean paste

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ cup coconut yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt)

3 tbsp coconut milk (or dairy)

2 tbsp apple juice

(1 tbsp maple syrup – optional)



¼ cup coconut yoghurt

100g raspberries

A handful of strawberries

2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted in a dry pan over a medium heat for a few minutes until pale brown



  1. Stir together all topping ingredients. It should be of a thick consistency but feel free to add another splash of coconut milk if you prefer.  Leave for 10 minutes to allow the muesli to absorb the flavours.
  2. Top with yoghurt, and scatter with berries and flaked almonds. Drizzle with maple syrup if you like.


Vanilla Bean & Cinnamon Bircher Muesli (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free) - Recipe


Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free Fruit & Seed Bars


Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free Fruit & Seed Bars


Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free  Fruit & Seed Bars When you get the 4 o’clock slump, moderation is at an all-time low and chocolate bars are winking at you, reach for one of these carb-free, sugar-free, gluten-free fruit & seed bars instead.  They are high in protein, vitamin rich, low GI, ridiculously easy to make (no baking), yet despite their virtuousness, they are irresistibly delicious.

Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free  Fruit & Seed Bars

Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free  Fruit & Seed Bars

Carb-free, Sugar-free, Gluten-free  Fruit & Seed Bars



500g mixed seeds (I use pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)

40g ground almonds (optional)

3 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

3 tsp vanilla bean paste (use vanilla extract if not available)

200g medjool dates

200g dried figs

Pinch of salt

20x25cm baking tray, greased


Makes about 30, depending on size


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. Spread out the mixed seeds on a large baking tray (not the pre-greased one) and place in centre of oven to toast for 5 minutes until they are beginning to turn golden. To achieve the same result without an oven, toast them in frying pan over a medium heat and stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
  3. Blend together figs, dates, vanilla bean paste and salt until they turn to a smooth paste.
  4. In a large bowl mix together toasted mixed seeds, ground almonds, chia seeds and the fig-date paste until thoroughly combined.
  5. Press the mixture into the pre-greased baking tray and slice into bars of desired size.
  6. Wrap the tray with clingfilm and place in freezer for at least an hour, or leave overnight in fridge to set. The bars will last for several weeks.