Today brings the next instalment in my weekend baking series, which takes a chattier look over recent gluten-free bakes I’ve tried: this week’s post features two gluten-free and vegan tarts I made over the Easter weekend! I am a total food pusher, a trait I’ve inherited from my mum – we both like to express love by feeding people. I will make cakes, dinners, snacks, anything, and then incessantly try and
force them on offer them to people. If it sounds annoying, that’s because it is.
Consequently, when I invited my family down to stay with us for a lovely, relaxing weekend in Devonshire countryside, I then immediately proceeded to plan an elaborate Saturday luncheon of many previously untrialled courses that would involve a lot of cooking and potentially a lot of handwringing and Belsy meltdowns that would be sure to unravel the cosy Devon weekend plan in two seconds flat. Thankfully, Greg (my long-suffering boyfriend) intervened, and we got Saturday’s luncheon menu down to a manageable Thai coconut soup from the cookbook My New Roots, a roasted pepper & onion pesto tart and a no-bake Bakewell tart.
Let’s start with what didn’t work. The soup. The Thai coconut soup. Everything else I’ve made from My New Roots has been *amazing*. The life-changing loaf of bread, the green pea soup, butternut squash stacks. All lovely. This soup? A total failure. I’ve not had one on such a scale in a little while, as I’m usually pretty good these days at sensing what I can and can’t tweak in a recipe. As it happens, in this recipe I tweaked nothing and I still had a total Bridget Jones’s Diary moment (a la when she spends all day cooking, only to serve up a dinner party menu of blue soup, omelette and marmalade).
With my family sat comfortably and blissfully unaware in the living room, Greg and I were stood over the soup, sadly observing the results of an hour’s worth of effort and what seemed about £20 worth of lemongrass. “It’s pink.” “Yep.” *a long pause, during which we continued to prod it with a wooden spoon, perhaps in the futile hope that this might improve its colour* “Are we still gonna serve it?” “…yep.” I’ve not preserved any photographic evidence of its existence.
Fortunately for us (and my family), unlike Bridget, our main and dessert courses came out beautifully, and it’s those that I’m blogging about today, as you’ll be pleased to hear.
The entrée: Gluten-free roasted pepper & pesto sweet potato tart
The main event of the meal was a roasted pepper and onion sweet potato tart from the cookbook Eat Smart – filling and yet wholesome, its vibrant mixture of roasted vegetables look so beautiful on a plate!
I am a huge fan of Niomi Smart’s cookbook Eat Smart, and actually bought it last year without any knowledge of her personally or having watched any of her videos. I’d just gone vegetarian and bought it for its meat-free recipes and good reviews. I would highly recommend her book for a varied, but also gentle and achievable introduction into the world of plant-based cooking. Everything I’ve made from it so far has been delightful, including a squash soup, lentil ‘meatballs’, vegetarian shepherd’s pie and a lovely homemade hummus. In comparison with other books of its kind, its recipes are (relatively) free from difficult ingredients. She might recommend using pink Himalayan salt, for example, but will let you know that regular sea salt will work fine, too.
Nevertheless, the first time I made this tart, it was not a particular success. Eat Smart offers a lot of gluten-free recipes, but it’s not explicitly a gluten-free cookbook and in this case her recipe recommended using a mixture of wholewheat and spelt flour. I tried swapping in Dove’s Farm flour, but unfortunately the pastry became quite solid and developed a definite ‘squeak’ (if you’re a seasoned gluten-free baker, you’ll know what I mean by that).
It was frustrating, as the flavours of the pesto and the roasted onion & peppers were beautiful – the tart was so almost there. I was determined to make it again, and this time to make it right. 😤
This time, I substituted a mixture of buckwheat and brown rice flours for Niomi’s wholewheat and spelt and – the triumph – the tart came out beautifully. You can purchase Niomi’s book to see the original recipe (and you should), but it’s also available from a variety of sources online. If you’d like to make it successfully gluten free, I’ve posted my tried & tested version below, with my own recipe for making the sweet potato pastry and some other little tweaks!
For the pastry:
- 120g brown rice flour
- 180g buckwheat flour
- 60ml olive oil
- 1 sweet potato (around 200g), peeled
- pinch of sea salt
For the pesto:
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 225g Brazil nuts, unsalted and raw
- 3 big handfuls fresh basil
- 3 big handfuls fresh baby spinach
- 3 tbsp white wine or apple cider vinegar
- 100ml olive oil
For the topping:
- 2 red onions (or 4 small ones), cut into 8 wedges
- 3 bell peppers (I went for red, green and yellow), sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Set your oven to 180C fan. Toss the onion wedges and chopped peppers in the oil and balsamic vinegar (the vinegar is my addition, for a little extra flavour – you can omit if you prefer). Roast them in a roasting tin for around 40 minutes, taking them out and tossing them halfway through so that they don’t burn.
- Meanwhile, grease a shallow baking tin around 20 x 25 cm in diameter. Roughly chop the sweet potato. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the sweet potato and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Once it’s done, drain the pan and allow the potato to cool.
- Combine the buckwheat and brown rice flours along with a pinch of salt, before adding the olive oil and 60ml of water at room temperature. Mash the sweet potato and combine it with the flour/oil mixture.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface, before placing it over the tin and gently pressing it into the corners and edges of the tin. Tidy up the edges with a knife, and then add baking paper and some baking beans. Bake the pastry blind for 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the pastry’s colour.
- While the pastry is baking, prepare the pesto. Blitz all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, reserving 25g of the Brazil nuts for later.
- Remove the baking beans and baking paper from the pastry and allow it to bake for a further five minutes, until nicely brown. Allow it to cool for five minutes or so and then spread the pesto in a thick layer across the base. It looks kind of like astroturf at this point!
- Top with the roasted veg, and 25g of chopped Brazil nuts. Pop it back in the oven for another five minutes and then serve! We had it with green beans and a few herby potatoes, which was lovely.
Dessert: No-bake bakewell tart
My dad loves bakewell tart, and he’s recently done me and Greg a few kind turns, so I really wanted to make his favourite for him. However, since dipping my toes recently into the world of raw and vegan cooking, I wondered whether there was a healthier version of the traditional bakewell I could make. A Google search brought up a recipe for a gluten-free, no-bake cherry bakewell tart by the blog Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen. It looked straight forward and reasonably unintimidating in terms of ingredients, so I was sold.
Having said that, despite the recipe looking pretty easy on a first glance, I’m not familiar with no-bake baking and a couple of the steps definitely seemed counter intuitive while I was actually doing them, as I’ll describe below. However, if you find yourself similarly dubious, do stick with it, as it produced a beautiful end result!
For the base, you blitz whole almonds, a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil, pitted dates and a pinch of salt until it forms the recipe calls a ‘dough-like mixture’. For me, it didn’t form a dough exactly – it remained quite grainy/gritty in texture – and I was worried that it wasn’t going to come together. Consequently, I added another teaspoon’s worth of coconut oil, and three more dates, which brought it together a little more but not much. However, judging by how well it set once I popped it on the freezer as instructed, I really don’t think I need have worried or messed with the original recipe!
You then press this into an 8-inch loose-based cake tin lined with parchment paper, and whack it in the freezer for half an hour. Meanwhile, the next step is to mix 100g ground almonds with 3 tbsp of maple syrup and a tsp of almond essence. I don’t think you’d want any more syrup in there, as it was quite sticky as it was and I think you’d have trouble spreading it.
Next, you evenly spread this layer with a good helping of jam. Nadia includes a method for chia seed cherry jam in her original recipe, but says that most store-bought berry jams would also work just fine. I had some strawberry jam that had been languishing unopened and unloved in my cupboard since I bought it a couple of months ago, so I used that! After sprinkling the top with some flaked almonds, you then pop it back in the freezer to set for a couple of hours.
The end result was so beautiful, and it tasted gorgeous – I was so pleased at how great the end result was, considering how simple it had been to make each element of the tart. It cut into fantastic-looking layers:
In summary, this tart is easy, delicious and naturally gluten free: I would definitely make it again. It went down a treat with my dad, and it was so much easier to throw together than a regular bakewell tart. If you’d like to have a go at making it yourself, the link to the recipe is here – I’ll also be looking to see what else Nadia has shared on her blog, based on the success of this one. ☺️
All in all, a very successful weekend of gluten-free cooking (with the exception of the soup, which we will never speak of again). We also went out for a delicious GF lunch in Exeter on Good Friday, which I’ll write more about in my next blog post. 😀