Sometimes I wake up with a recipe idea in my head that I quickly need to act on. Today was one of those days and after coming back from the school run and a dog walk I got stuck into creating a plant based brownie cake.

I admit I find this new way of baking a bit daunting. I went from baking with eggs and butter to dairy and egg free baking and now I am determined to crack even healthier baking without oils and as little refined sugar as possible. You can make a fabulous vegan muffins or cakes but that doesn’t mean these are healthy if you still use white flour and sugar, and replacing butter with oil or margarine. Plant based eating goes another step further.

Hence my challenge. An experiment. When the cake was in the oven I was anxious. To be honest I was expecting to pull out a flat dry mess of a cake. To my surprise I had a moist light chocolate cake thing...

There is a secret ingredient that made all this possible. Wait for it.....
prunes.They are soaked, pureed and serve as an astonishingly great replacement for fat. Believe me you won’t even know that this iron and fibre rich fruit is in the cake. Kids were certainly surprised!

Here is the family verdict:
My son: 7/10 ( he is not keen on chocolate cakes)
My daughter: 10/10; 20/20; 100/100 ( she got a bit carried away)
My husband: 8/10 (9/10 if it was sweeter)
I thought it went fabulously with a cup of tea!

Not bad for an experiment!

The prunes I used were organic as these have no added preservatives. I also used 3 Tbs of maple syrup, use 4 if you want a sweeter cake.
I flavoured mine with orange zest but next time I will try vanilla extract. I am also thinking dairy-free chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds.... treat this as a base recipe.

1 (140g) cup organic prunes (not the soft ones)
1 cup (250ml) almond milk (or other dairy free milk)
zest of 1 orange or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs cider or rice vinegar
3 - 4 Tbs maple syrup
1 1/4cup (160g) whole wheat self-raising flour
pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa
1/2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)

prune puree

  1. First soak the prunes in boiling water for about 20min or until they soften.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C (I had my fan oven on 160).
  3. Put the prunes and about 80ml-90ml (1/3cup plus 1 Tbs) of the soaking liquid into your blender or food processor. Start with less liquid, process into a thick smooth puree (see photograph), if too thick add more water. Set aside.
  4. For the wet ingredients, in a medium bowl, mix the almond milk, zest (or vanilla extract), the vinegar and maple syrup. Stir in the prune puree.
  5. For the dry ingredients, in a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa and bicarb soda.
  6. Add the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir together. You will get moose like cake batter.
  7. Line a 10 x 6 inch baking tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the batter, spread evenly.
  8. Bake for 20 min or till cake springs back when pressed with your finger.
  9. Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy.


After extremely warm December the winter has finally arrived, temperatures dropped, grass has a lovely frosty hue shimmering in the wintery sunshine. It is absolutely gorgeous ! Weather like this is perfect for something warming, comforting, something that will fill your house up with irresistible aroma. What can be better than winter veggies, warming spices, rich sauce slowly simmering on the stove...I am using up some of my dried fruit stash, chickpeas (again), the other half of squash leftover from making the hummus and lots of different spices from my spice cupboard. It may not be North African weather here, but the gorgeous smells sure do evoke a Moroccan souk.



The quantities of individual vegetables depend on what is in your veg drawer, my butternut squash made about half of the mix, purely because I wanted the use it all up. This dish will freeze and reheat well. You can use mild or hot paprika whatever you prefer, I went for the mild version making the dish more kid friendly. Preferably do not use smoked paprika for this dish.

Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice mix, each mix is slightly different as traditionally this is a special mix from each individual spice shop. I love mine to contain rose buds to lend the dish lovely but not overpowering fragrance.If you cant find ras el hanout, use any Moroccan spice mix or omit all together.

When preparing parsnips it is a good idea to cut out the middle core.

Serves 4 hungry people

900g mix of carrot, parsnip and butternut squash, cut into large chunks, about 11/2 inches (4cm)
1 large red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
2 tsp ras el hanout or moroccan spice mix
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 heaped Tbs tomato paste
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of chickpeas
100g dried apricots
100g dried prunes
2 Tbs honey or dark agave syrup
2 1/2 c (725ml) vegetable stock
1 cup of barley couscous

  1. In a large pan on medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil till soft about 10min. Add the garlic and cook for further 1 min.
  2. Add all your spices, stir into the onions. Tumble in all your vegetables and quickly stir in to coat with the spices.
  3. Next add the tomato paste, let the cook about 30sec before adding the tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, dried fruits, agave (or honey) and the vegetable stock.
  4. Bring to boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 1 hour, or till all the vegetables are tender and sauce is thick and rich. Season with salt if needed.
  5. Cook the couscous according to package instructions.
  6. Serve the tagine with couscous.