Chocolate beetroot brownies

I’ve been playing with this recipe for a while and I think I’ve cracked it. My kids love these brownies and are oblivious to the beetroot despite the colour!


3 small cooked beetroot (I buy these in the vegetable department in Tesco or Morrisons)

150g plain dairy free yoghurt (I’ve used Alpro soya and Koko successfully)

200g soft brown sugar (yes it looks a lot but they are brownies and hey they’ve got beetroot in them)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup cocoa (20g)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

150g plain gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm)

Up to 1 cup dairy free chocolate chips or a full 85g Kinnerton free from chocolate bar broken into chunks


Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a baking tin (I used a 20cm square tin)

Chop & blend the beetroot till smooth

Mix the sugar, yoghurt, beetroot and maple syrup together in a large bowl

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt together and whisk to combine

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined then stir in the chocolate

Pour mix into the prepared baking tin and smooth to the edges

Bake for 35 minutes

Cool on a rack before slicing (or eat warm and burn your tongue a little, maybe, I might have, it was worth it)

Also lovely cut with a large heart shaped cookie cutter

These stay moist and delicious for a few days if they haven’t already been eaten

Simple freefrom cookies to make with groups of children 

This is a recipe I wrote to bake with a group of thirty Primary six (age 9) school children in a very basic kitchen classroom after I had been invited by my son’s teachers to share a cookie recipe that was safe for all the children in the class. My son has multiple severe food allergies and to get to bake safe cookies with his class mates was a hugely enjoyable and inclusive experience. For me it was the joy and lack of stress of him baking in a room where allergens were not present. The children were aware the recipe was safe for my son but we did not focus on it being a free from cookie and they were really just excited to be baking cookies! The children were divided into groups of five and the recipe made them two cookies each.

The following shopping list was enough to make 60 cookies with a little spare.

Baking parchment

1kg bag Doves Farm gluten free self raising flour (contains raising agents and xanthan gum

500g tub Vitalite dairy free margarine

1kg bag caster sugar

Carton rice milk

Bottle/tin golden syrup

Dairy free chocolate chips – I brought in a catering bag of Plamil dairy free chocolate drops from home (dairy, gluten, nut free but may contain traces of soya) Moo free also sell dairy free chocolate drops (may contain traces of nuts). If you cannot find chocolate chips safe for your needs buy bars of safe chocolate and get the kids to break it into pieces to make chunky chocolate chips.

Equipment needed 

Each group should have-

A large mixing bowl

A large spoon for mixing (dessert spoon fine)

Tablespoon measure (ideally. Some of the kids actually used a regular spoon and it worked out ok)

2 Teaspoons

A baking tray

Baking parchment

* I brought in a safe set of baking equipment from home for my son and his group to use*


Makes 10 cookies

3/4 cup gluten free self raising flour (make sure it contains xanthan gum)

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/4 cup dairy free margarine

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 tablespoon rice milk

2 heaped tablespoons of dairy free chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 190 C (we had access to 2 ovens and were able to bake the cookies in two batches)

Line the baking trays with parchment

Measure out the caster sugar and margarine and mix well together (all the children took turns measuring and mixing. Some groups mixing skills were better than others but all the cookies turned out well)

Add the golden syrup and rice milk and stir well

Add the gluten free flour and mix till combined

Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks

Using one teaspoon to scoop and one to push the mix onto the baking tray measure out 10 cookies.  Each child placed two spoons of mix onto their group’s tray. Try to leave space between each scoop as the cookies spread in the oven.

The children wrote their group number in pencil on the baking parchment so they could keep track of their tray

An adult should then place the trays in a preheated oven for 10 minutes. Cookies on a lower shelf may need a couple of minutes longer.

The whole class were very enthusiastic about baking cookies and worked really well together. Despite fairly haphazard measuring and mixing everyone ended up with a lovely tray of soft style chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are best left till completely cool before handling.

The children wrote out the recipe as part of their extended writing which had a Christmas theme including baking cookies for Santa.

A huge thank you goes out to my son’s teachers for organising such an inclusive and fun baking session.

Self catering in Nerja Costa del Sol 

We weren’t very lucky with the weather on our Uk summer holiday this year so booked a week in Spain for the October half term in an attempt to find some sunshine before winter descends. This was only our third trip abroad as a family, my son has multiple food allergies, asthma & eczema and the the thought of travelling at all can be overwhelming so travelling abroad was a huge step for us. We had a successful trip to the Algarve last Summer and a week in the Costa Del Sol in October last year so we felt confident we could manage it.

When you are deciding what to pack and how many bags to pay for on your flight bear in mind how heavy emollients and safe toiletries/sunscreens are! We managed with two 22kg bags in the hold but it was a challenge! 

In preparation I baked up a storm (muffins, brownies, biscuits and wraps) I try and carry safe food for the length of the journey plus one extra meal and spare snacks. I also pack safe bread/rolls, cereal  and chocolate. If you have space a small cool bag in your suitcase with dairy free cheese is not a bad plan! Handy to have the cool bag on holiday for picnics. Be aware children always eat way more than you anticipate when travelling! Remember you’ll need safe options for the journey home also. 

My husband programmed all relevant destinations into the sat nav. For us that was the villa we were staying in, local supermarkets and the nearest hospitals in Malaga and Nerja. We had our allergen Spanish translations from our last trip. I’m now fluent in allergens in English, Portuguese and Spanish! When we shop I look for allergens on the packaging then when we get back to the villa (and wifi!) I google every single ingredient before we eat anything! 

Last year we flew to Malaga with Ryanair but the flight from Edinburgh gets in late in the evening on a Saturday when supermarkets are closed, they are also closed on Sundays and as there was a local festival on the main local supermarkets were also closed on the Monday!! Not good for any allergy mum’s sanity!! There is however a 24hr garage on the outskirts of Nerja where you can buy basic provisions for travellers without special dietary requirements if you do arrive late. 

There are also small touristy shops open in Nerja on Sundays which you can hopefully see marked on this map left for us by our holiday rep. 

Last year Ryan air were excellent with regards to our son’s nut allergy. They made a very clear announcement on board asking passengers not to eat any products containing nuts that they had brought with them and they did not sell any nuts or anything containing nuts during the flight. 

This year we flew from Newcastle with EasyJet. I was very impressed with the service pre flight, we had informed them of our son’s nut allergy, you can do this on their website before travelling,and there was a clear note on their system documenting it. I spoke to the stewardess  in charge when we boarded and she reassured me she would make an announcement and that they would not serve nuts. Interestingly they seem to offer two options. Not serving nuts in your immediate vicinity and not serving nuts. We went for not serving nuts. Unfortunately despite all this the cabin staff ‘forgot’ and sold snack boxes containing cashew nuts. The woman next to my husband bought one (same row as my boy, other side of aisle) and he overheard the stewardess realising she shouldn’t have sold it and the steward answering that he had also been selling them. When I went to the front of the plane and brought it to the senior stewardess attention she rushed back and asked the woman next to my husband not to eat them then looked looked me straight in the eye and said it was ok, she had heard the announcement and just eaten the seeds. Clearly not aware my husband had watched her eating them!! Now in this situation we were fine, my son did not come to any harm but it is not ok to say you’ll do everything in your power for a safe flight for a passenger then ‘forget’. Appalling. I’m pleased to report our flight back was managed much better. Different crew who could tell me exactly were my son was sitting and ensured it was a nut free flight. They did ask if he had epipen before they decided to go completely nut free. These are the snacks available on board that contain nuts…

That was our only stress thank goodness. We arrived in Malaga at lunchtime, picked up our hire car and drove to the Eroski supermarket in the El Ingenio shopping centre in Velez Malaga which was about half an hour’s drive from the airport and halfway to our Villa. We did a big shop, if you plan to buy lots of groceries while also carrying all of your luggage hire a big car!! We knew the kids wouldn’t be keen to go back out once we reached the villa and the pool and luckily we fit everything in. 

If you are dairy and soya free your options are limited. You can buy rice, almond, oat  and coconut milk and dairy free spread but yoghurts and desserts were all soya based or lactose free.  The only cheese option I spotted was lactose free but still contained milk. Lactose free seems much more common and widely available than dairy free. Take care even with soya yoghurts as the natural own brand yoghurts I bought in Eroski (for me) had a may contain traces of nuts and milk on the label. 

It’s quite a challenge to find cooked meat that does not contain milk or soya. I recommend buying a couple of packets if you spot a safe option! These are some that we found. 

Eroski stocked some gluten free baked goods including Schar baguettes but no safe biscuit options for us. They had Gullon Maria biscuits which are free from gluten, milk, egg, nuts and soya but alas contain pea which my son is allergic to. 

We bought enough for 3 nights simple meals. We keep it basic on holiday, meals like  grilled meat, salads and baked potatoes and packed lunches of rolls, crisps & fruit. We bought Lays salted and salt & vinegar crisps which were ok for us. 

Our villa was up the hill from Nerja on the outskirts of Frigiliana and it was gorgeous! We booked through Villa plus as we have used them before and have been very impressed with the service and quality of accomadation. It had a lovely modern well equipped kitchen and a large fridge and freezer which was ideal for our needs. I travel with my own chopping board and we wash everything before we use it and avoid any kitchen equipment I don’t like the look off! Our villa was a Very villa plus so came with a starter pack, we knew this but shopped anyway as we have very specific dietary requirements! 

Starter pack

Lovely kitchen

Our second shop later in the week was at the Mercadona in Nerja. This is a fairly small supermarket compared to the big U.K. Ones but we were able to buy what we needed and they sell basic gluten free products. These are not in a dedicated section but spread out throughout the store. 

Again quite an emphasis on soya but there were other dairy free milks available. We bought this dairy free spread which was available in both supermarkets. 

They had one loaf of gluten free bread. No good for my son as it contained egg. 

We were staying at the quieter end of the Costa del Sol. The busy more tourist orientated end is a whole different story! We visited the Sea life centre in Benalmadena (about an hour’s drive from Nerja) on our one rainy day and despite not needing groceries I asked nicely to pop into a supermarket for a nosey. Oh my goodness. The Carrefour supermarket in Torreminolinos is amazing!! My husband just laughed at my excitement! Says something that checking out a supermarket is something I’d do for fun on holiday. Anyway, check out the highlights! 

Such a thrill finding Moo free chocolate bars! I didn’t see any other dairy free chocolate on holiday. I also bought these biscuits which my son loved!

We didn’t eat out on holiday, I’m still working up the courage to do that and the language barrier scares me. I need to work on my Spanish! We did buy ice lollies out and about. 

We had a lovely break and the sunshine and scenery was gorgeous!  Nerja is at the quiet end of the coast and October is low season but my kids are content with a pool to play in and books and their electronics. Burriana beach is a lovely spot but the sand is very gritty/stony for tender footed (fussy!) children. Did I mention the scenery?

Nutribrex biscuits 

I’m on a mission to come up with a plain biscuit style snack for my son to take to school for a play piece. Something a little more nutritious than just flour, sugar & fat. I’ve been using the basic shortbread recipe I like and mucking about with the ingredients. I really liked the ones I made with oatmeal and Sunbutter in them but alas he did not. Today’s effort was made using Nutribix. I’ve only made these once! I’m sharing at special request but I think they turned out pretty well.

Nutribrex biscuits

Makes approx 24 depending on size of cutters


50g Nutribrex (3 pieces)

175g plain gluten free flour

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan gum

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

75g soft brown sugar

150g Stork block


Preheat oven to 180C

Blitz 3 Nutribrex in a food processor (or crush in a bowl) until fine

Add gluten free flour, xanthan gum, flax and sugar to the food processor and combine on a low speed (or stir well)

Chop Stork block into small squares and add to mix along with the vanilla

Blitz until breadcrumbs form and then pulse till the mix comes together (or cut into mix then knead gently till it comes together)

Turn mix out onto a well floured surface, I use baking parchment and squish together into a ball. Divide ball into two and squash down with your hand then roll with a well floured rolling pin (or just use the palm of your hand)

Cut out shapes and place on a baking tray. You may want to line your tray with baking parchment, I didn’t and a couple of my biscuits stuck! I made two trayfuls.

Bake for 8 minutes then rotate the tray and bake for a further 8 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack. My hearts worked better than my stars as the points of the stars got a little crunchy.

Remember you’ve made them for your children and don’t eat them all before they come home from school!

Banana & avocado muffins

Banana muffins/loaves are a staple in our house. Great for breakfast, after school snack or with dairy free custard for pudding. This is a twist on my regular recipe in an attempt to get some healthy fat into my kids. We are a nut and butter free house which leaves our options limited. I’m a great believer in ‘if we’re not allergic to it we should try eating it’ unfortunately when it comes to avocado my kids point blank refuse. Honestly one bad experience with a ‘healthy’ avocado chocolate mousse….

Anyway I’ve discovered if I blend it so no green bits show my kids will cheerfully if unknowingly eat avocado. Just not in an unsweetened chocolate mousse. If your kids are fussy you need to blend it silly till completely smooth or they’ll spot that one teeny bit of green and freak out. 

Banana & avocado muffins

Makes 12 large muffins


2 cups plain gluten free flour.( I used one cup rice, 1/2 cup potato starch, 1/4 cup sorghum & 1/4 cup Teff but Doves farm plain gluten free flour works too. If you want to use self raising flour which often contains xanthan gum just omit it and the raising agents) 

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

2 ripe bananas

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cup sunflower oil (have also used coconut oil before)

1/2 cup Apple purée (I use baby fruit pots)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

Dairy free spread for greasing the tin

If desired –

1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips 

1/2 cup chopped dates 


Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 12 hole muffin tray

Measure flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda & cinnamon and sift into a large bowl. Whisk to combine. 

Chop the bananas and scoop out the avocado and blend together in a food processor (can mash together if green bits not an issue)

Once smooth add the oil then the apple purée and then the sugar. Finally mix in the cider vinegar. 

Pour wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and stir well. If using mix in the chocolate chips and dates. 

Distribute the mix evenly between the 12 holes. I find an ice cream scoop works really well for getting 12 even sized muffins. If you’d like a more rustic look you can spoon the mix in. 

Bake for 18 minutes and once the tray is cool enough to handle transfer the muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely. 

We like to eat ours cut in half with some dairy free spread. They’ll keep for 3 days in an airtight container and also freeze well. 

Egg free flavoured meringues

The discovery that you could use the water from a tin of chickpeas as an egg replacer has been life changing. I had assumed as my son has a severe egg allergy that he would never get to taste meringue but aquafaba has changed that! My first successful attempts at egg free meringues were with this recipe from Lucy’s friendly foods and my kids were thrilled with the results. I’ve made them a few times now using flavoured icing sugar which works really well disguising the faint beaniness of the aquafaba. I made these ones as part of an afternoon tea using half the water (1/3 cup) from a tin of chickpeas for chocolate mousse and the other half for the meringues. The mousse is another of Lucy’s recipes and I highly reccomend it!

Egg free flavoured meringues


1/3 cup aquafaba (drain the water from a tin of unsalted chickpeas)

Pinch cream of tartar

Pinch xanthan gum

3/4 cup Sugar and Crumbs black cherry icing sugar sifted (I’ve also used pink lemonade and strawberry milkshake)

Generous squirt of gel colour ( I used Dr Oetker violet)


Preheat oven to 120C

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment

Place the aquafaba in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the cream of tarter, xanthan gum and gel colour and whisk on the highest setting until it’s lovely and fluffy (can take 10 minutes). You could try it by hand but it would take a lot of whisking!

While still whisking add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time and whisk till it stands in stiff peaks

Either pipe or spoon the mix onto the baking trays with a little space in between to allow for spreading in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 120C then reduce the temperature of the oven to 90C and bake for a further hour. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven until it’s cooled completely. I sometimes make them before bed and leave them till morning. 

Store in an airtight container. Best eaten within a day or so. Gorgeous dipped in dairy free chocolate and served with whipped coconut cream but eat quickly before they go smooshy!

Cafe Lauderdale Dunbar

I’ve been wanting to visit Cafe Lauderdale for some time so when we found our selves with no plans and a drizzly damp day today I suggested a road trip to Dunbar. It turned out to be an excellent plan as while only an hour away it was five degrees warmer and dry in Dunbar! The cafe is run by and is open daily during the school holidays and at weekends during term time, remember Scottish holidays can be different so double check the Facebook page before visiting.

It’s a small cafe in Park Lauderdale which I can totally reccomend if you have kids as it has an excellent play area. Also a nice spot to visit minus children as the play area is far enough away from the cafe not to cause too much noise pollution and the park while small has beautiful flowers. There is ample parking.

Everything baked on site is free from gluten, egg, milk and nuts. There are soya products in the kitchen but all allergen information is available for the goodies on sale. The dairy free ice cream on sale is Iced delight. There were regular fresh scones and sausage rolls available but these are ordered in and stored completely separately from the allergen free baking. I can’t comment on the lunches as we just had tea and cake. Can you imagine going into a cafe as a family and ordering safe chocolate brownies for all of you? They looked so good it was really hard to believe they were completely allergen free! (For us that meant milk, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nut, pea and lentil free) *Always check the ingredients to ensure food is safe for your needs*.

I’ll admit to a little chest pain ordering one for my son as we have never had safe baking from a cafe before but the proprietor’s daughter has severe allergies and if you can trust anyone it’s an allergy mum! (But always check to make sure you  are happy!).

Wow. Moist fudgey chocolate brownies. We all enjoyed them including the allergen eaters amongst us. I could have eaten a second bit no problem but I have excellent self control……kidding! I didn’t have a second bit though I had a mini lemon loaf instead, also delicious, I’m needing the recipe book used here!

So if you’re in Dunbar or frankly if you’re in Edinburgh it’d still be worth the drive, visit Cafe Lauderdale. We’ll be back.