I love cooking. I love playing with flavours and adding a pinch of this or that. I’m not great at measuring. I’m not an excellent follower of recipes. I adapt and change and invariably add more vegetables and garlic than the recipe asks for (because you can never have enough of either).
This makes me a pretty good cook, I have to say. I know how flavours match and meld and bounce off each other and play.
It also makes me a pretty crap baker.
Especially as I like to tone down sugar, fat and traditional flours in my baking which has resulted in some pretty spectacular failures. However, there are some exceptions to this rule and when I was teaching I became quite popular amongst students because at least once a term I would bake biscuits or brownies or something similar for them (and while I hope this is not the ONLY reason they liked me… bribery works, my friends). What follows are two of my never fail biscuits recipes which are much healthier than your average biscuit. And if I can’t mess them up, even with my aversion to recipes, than neither will you. Promise.
I’m going to write the recipes verbatim from the book I sourced them from (but I’ll also add in my experiments at the end:
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage: Light and Easy
I LOVE this book and highly recommend you get a copy, along with the other River Cottage cookbooks. Easy to follow recipes, fresh flavours and a real focus on produce. Sometimes they can be a bit Brit-heavy in terms of locality (the types of fish he recommends are always ones I would never buy due to the air miles involved and the fact we have our own local versions!) but it’s easy enough to adapt.
So, without further ado:
Spiced date and almond cookies
- 200g pitted dates
- 2cm knob or 15g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 eggs (see after recipe for my vegan version)
- 250g ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
- 1 1/2 tsp of ground chinese 5 spice
- optional: pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 170C
Place dates and ginger into a food processor and blitz until it’s a thick, smooth paste. Add eggs and other ingredients and blitz until a sticky dough forms.
Wet your hands and roll the dough into little balls- what ever size you would like and place on baking tray. Flatten with your fingers until they’re about 1cm thick.
Bake for about 20mins before removing to a wire rack and let them cool before eating. They should be golden in colour and firm around the edges. They’ll keep for ages in the fridge or several days in an airtight container.
Experiments: These are great with a mixture of almond meal and buckwheat flour! I’ve also use my own ground almonds as a base and added coconut flour (beware with coconut flour- only add small amounts at a time as it is SUPER thirsty. I’ve also used a mix of dried fruit- my latest experiment (pictured) is apricots/dates. I also add ground ginger as well as fresh ginger which makes them kind of like a healthy gingerbread or a gingernut biscuit!
Vegan option: I used 3 tbsp of aquafaba (the juice from a can of chickpeas or other legume) for each egg (so 6tbsp for this recipe) and it worked perfectly!
Oaty, nutty, fruity cookies
- 200g of natural, crunchy peanut butter
- 75g runny honey
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 tsp bicarb soda
- 75g raisins
- 50 g oats
Preheat oven to 170C
Place PB and honey in a mixing bowl and beat it together (you may need to melt it slightly first depending on the consistency of your PB and honey.
Add the egg and beat it in thoroughly. Add bicarb and combine. Add the dried fruit and oats. Your dough should be chunky and stiff.
Wet your hands and roll the dough into little balls- what ever size you would like and place on baking tray. Flatten with your fingers until they’re about 1cm thick.Leave some space between them because they will expand.
Bake for 10 mins and then cool on a wire rack. Best eaten within 2-3 days of baking.
Experiments: Yet again, I’ve played with this one a lot. I’ve used alternate nut butters, including a mix of tahini and pb (pictured).
I’ve also played with the sweetener. To make it vegan, try maple syrup or molasses (or obvs, you could use sugar). In the ones pictured, I used only 5ml of blackstrap molasses as I’m not a big sweet tooth.
I also used a mix of raisins and dried apricots in the pictured batch and I added cinnamon, pure vanilla extract and mixed spice to the mixture too.
Unfortunately I totally forgot about adding bicarb so this batch didn’t rise as much as the last batch I made did, but they still taste fantastic- just a little denser.
Vegan option: apart from playing with the sweetener, aquafaba is a God send here. 3 tbsp subbed in for the egg.
Give them a try and let me know how it all goes!! ❤
Happy baking! xx