Moroccan Black Bean Chicken on Seared Eggplant

This is such a simple meal – quick to throw into the slow cooker in the morning and then a few extra minutes to finish in the evening when you get home from work. But it is delicious and filling – I guess ‘hearty’ is a good way to describe it!!

It makes a large batch too which is great for big families and for the freezer 🙂

5 out of 6 thumbs up at my place (number 6 is waaay over tired and went to bed so I’m not sure that I’m counting his vote this time 😉 )

  • 8 chicken thighs, skinless & boneless (approx 1.2kg)
  • 2 tbsp Moroccan spice blend (I make this one)
  • 2 x 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 800g tin diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup hot chicken stock (Massel for store bought)
  • 1 rounded tbsp tomato paste
  • Eggplant (aubergine) slices, Approx 200g per person
  • Olive oil
  • Pink salt flakes
  • Grated cheese of choice to top

Place chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker, sprinkle the seasoning over the top.

Add in the black beans and tomatoes.

Stir together the tomato paste and stock before pouring it over the contents of the slow cooker.


Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Lift lid and use a couple of forks to shred the chicken.

Slice eggplants long ways (I cut a medium one into 4 slices) then pat dry of any water.

Spray with a little olive oil and place into a hot frying pan. Cook each side for a couple of minutes until soft and golden.


Sprinkle eggplant with a little salt, then transfer to a lined baking tray.


Top the eggplant with the slow cooked chicken mix and a little grated cheese (dairy or plant based). Put under a hot grill for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.



Serve immediately.

SO very full after dinner!

This quantity of chicken mix makes about 12 adult serves. If you’re not serving 6 like me, a half batch cooks exactly the same.

We portion out and freeze the left-overs ready for another easy family meal – just need to cook the fresh eggplant each time.

Full disclosure ….. 3 of my 4 kids cried on being told that they were having eggplant  – they had theirs on a little GF pasta instead!!!

P.S. I have been asked about the macros of this recipe – so if you need them: The serve as pictured above is 1/12 of the mix, roughly 1 ladle, with 2 x 100g slices of eggplant and 15g total of Tasty cheese. It is 282 calories, 10g fat, 30g protein and 20g carbs.

P.P.S I haven’t made a vegan version yet, but next time I intend to give it a go and I’ll update. I think I’ll use 2 cans of cannellini beans to replace the chicken and use stock paste or powder for the flavour, but not use the water.

Chocolate Seed Spread

My kiddos see their friends eating that famous store bought chocolate spread …. but since the first ingredient is refined sugar, followed by hydrogenated oil, it is not something I really want to feed them! So a couple of years ago I set about making a  sweet hazelnutty choc spread of my own – and it has been a winner (you can find it here).

However, as it is based on hazelnuts, to care for those kids who are allergic, I don’t want to send it to school. So more recently I have made a seed based version – and the kids didn’t even tell the difference! So here’s my healthy and lunchbox friendly chocolate spread – hope you like it as much as we do!

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa (or 1 flat tbsp cacao)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp flaked pink salt
  • 160 mls boiling water
  • 8 medjool dates (pick the big fat juicy ones!)
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp maple syrup OR coconut sugar

Roast your seeds first. I did mine on a tray under the grill (and watched them very carefully!!!), they only take a few minutes.


While the seeds are roasting, seed the dates and cover them with the boiling water. Add the vanilla and salt to the water.

Process the seeds for 10 seconds on speed 10. (This will take longer in a food processor). Their oils release best while they’re hot so if you’ve bought roasted seeds, place them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes first).

Add in the cocoa and sugar (if you’re using it) here. Scrape down sides and use speed 6 in 45 seconds intervals, scraping down in between until you get a paste like consistency.


Add the date mixture, water and all, to the seed mixture and process again until well combined (Speed 4 for 10 seconds in the gradually increase to speed 7 for 15 seconds, scrape and repeat until mixture is smooth and very well combines). Add maple syrup at the same time (if you are using it) as the date mixture.


Make sure any little helpers get to ‘clean’ the bowl!


Store in a clean, airtight glass jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


Enjoy 🙂

Pear Surprise Muffins

I love these muffins – sweet and fluffy, without being loaded with too much sugar – and the gooey, surprise middle makes my kids happy every time 🙂

Great for a lunchbox treat, or even served warm with some cream or icecream, as dessert.

  • 225g stewed/tinned pears (drained from their juices)
  • 50g olive oil
  • 170g milk of choice (unsweetened vanilla almond milk is fabulous here)
  • 1 medium overripe banana
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup OR honey OR coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 cups spelt flour (Half wholemeal) OR 1 1/2 cups GF flour mix plus 1/4 cup almond/seed meal
  • 2.5 tsp GF baking powder
  • pinch Himilayan salt
  • 100g dark chocolate of choice

Into your blender/processor/nutribullet/thermo cooker place the pear, banana, oil, vanilla, milk and syrup. Blitz until smooth (Speed 7, 10 seconds)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt and flour (and almond/seed meal if using).

Add the dry mix to the wet and mix to combine (Speed 4, 10 seconds, scrape down and repeat). Don’t over beat. I often just tip the wet mix into the bowl with the flour mix and combine by hand.

Line a standard muffin tin, then spoon fill to about 2/3 capacity.

Place some broken chocolate in the middle of each muffin, then add approximately another heaped teaspoon of muffin mix to the top of the chocolate.


Place in a preheated moderate oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until well risen, golden and they spring back when gently touched.


Sometimes some of the surprise escapes!

Transfer to a rack to cool (mostly …. the chocolate surprise is especially good if it still a bit gooey!)


Makes about 14 and they freeze well.

P.S. I have also made these with a white Chocolate filling by Sweet William – so delicious but no longer soy free.

P.P.S These are also really yummy if you replace half of the pear with very ripe strawberries. Mmmmm!!

Enjoy 🙂

Chocolate Hazelnut spread

So, after recent skin prick tests and blood tests came back showing that my biggest boy’s reaction to hazelnuts had decreased, he was booked in to the children’s hospital for a food challenge.

Scary but exciting. We were asked to bring along some Nutella … not something we have ever had in our house. So I dutifully bought it and Will ate it with great gusto! He was absolutely delighted to have a new food – especially such a sweet treat one – in his diet! Thankfully he passed the challenge and now needs to include hazelnuts in his diet at least once a week for the next couple of years.


Given that the first ingredient in a jar of Nutella is refined sugar, then followed by oil, it is not something I really want to feed to him on a regular basis! So I set about making a  sweet choc nutty spread of my own, without all of the added extras.

  • 2 cup hazelnuts (toasted and skin off – or follow the instructions below)
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa (or 1 flat tbsp cacao)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp flaked pink salt
  • 120 mls boiling water (or up to 160 if you want a thinner spread)
  • 8 medjool dates (pick the big fat juicy ones!)
  • Optional: 1-2 tbsp maple syrup

If you bought raw nuts, roast them first. I did mine on a tray under the grill (and watched them very carefully!!!)

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While the nuts are roasting, seed the dates and cover them with the boiling water. Add the vanilla and salt to the water.


Process the hazelnuts (after rubbing them in a towel to remove skin) for 10 seconds on speed 10. (This will take longer in a food processor). Their oils release best while they’re hot so if you’ve bought roasted nuts, place them in a hot oven for a couple of minutes first. Scrape down sides and repeat.

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Add the date mixture, water and all, to the hazelnut mixture and process again until well combined (10 secs on speed 8, scrape and repeat twice).

Depending on the level of sweetness you enjoy add the maple syrup here and process again to combine well (Speed 7, 10 seconds).

Store in a clean, airtight glass jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Yep –  you can eat this one by the spoonful too!!

Enjoy 🙂

P.S. If you enjoy cheesecakes, leave about 1/3 of a cup of this mixture in your processor and blitz it together with 200g of your favourite plain biscuit (we used LEDA arrowroots) to make a great crumb base. It heads to the freezer until needed!


Hot Cross Buns

These are a more traditional version of those yummy Easter treats. They are a little quicker and less complicated than the ones I posted a couple of years ago but they aren’t gluten free because of the spelt (You can find the other version here). Or check out the my simple coeliac version after the recipe.

These are delicious and my whole family scoffed them (… well, Ellie did, after I picked out her fruit 😉 I guess I’ll be making another batch that is fruit free). And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more rapid response of ‘more more more!’ from George!!

Bun mixture

  • 280 g luke-warm water
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 500 g spelt flour (I do half wholemeal – and this year I’ve use half Khorasan)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar  (optional, but it works as a bread improver)
  • 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt
  • 40 g coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp mixed spice
  • 30 g Nuttelex/Vegan butter/melted tasteless coconut oil
  • 200 g sultanas or mixed fruit
White cross mixture
  • equal parts plain GF flour and water.

Mix together until smooth and place into a piping bag (or a freezer bag with a hole cut in the corner).

Sugar Glaze mixture (optional)
  • equal parts water and sugar

Place both ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir regularly and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.


Place all of the bun ingredients, except the fruit in a large food processor, in this order: water, sugar, yeast, flour, spices, salt, oil/butter, vinegar. Pulse until the dough is roughly brought together. (speed 5 for 15 seconds followed by speed 2 for 1 minute)

Tip onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. (just bring it together if you’ve use a machine kneading function)

Tip the fruit onto the dough and knead again until the fruit is evenly distributed. OR if you’re using a machine with a knead function – tip the fruit in gradually through the top opening during the start of the kneading.

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Form dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.

Knock the dough down with your fingers and then break into 12 even pieces and place on lined baking tray.

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Leave tray in a warm (breeze free) area for about 45 mins to rise.

Pipe the cross on to the buns and then place in a pre-heated 180C oven for 15-18 minutes.


If you wish to use the glaze, gloss them with the sugar glaze using a pastry brush as soon as you remove the buns from the oven.

Serve warm with you butter of choice.

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No glaze here – but half are choc chip.

Makes 12 buns.

To make a coeliac friendly version: replace the spelt flour with 2 cups of a plain GF flour mix plus 1 1/2 cups of almond or seed meal (I make my seed meal from a equal combination of milled sunflower, pepita and flax seeds). GF breads only get one rise (without the gluten there isn’t the same structure for the CO2 ,formed by the yeast, to get trapped), so once you have made the dough, bring it together (skip the kneading step as there isn’t gluten to develop!) and break into 12 pieces of even weight, place on a tray and cover, allowing to rise for about 45 mins to an hour. (place them a little closer together than I did here, to encourage them rising up, instead of out!). Apply cross and bake following normal recipe. As with all GF products, they are best eaten fresh, but if you freeze them in an airtight wrap and bag, whilst still warm, the defrost and rewarm quite well.

To make these a chocolate version (an anathema to me, but my kids have begged for them!), add handful of vegan choc chips. Don’t put the choc chips in the food processor, as they’ll get shredded. Rather add them in at the same stage you would have added the fruit. Then pipe with a chocolate cross (the normal cross mix, but remove 1 tsp of the flour and add 1 tsp pure icing sugar and 1/2 tsp cocoa).

Enjoy – and I hope that this year your Hot Cross Buns will remind you of the joy and hope that the Cross of Jesus has brought 🙂

Hot Cross Buns and Chocolate

Easter is pretty special – a time for us to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, and as with most celebrations, there is special food to go along with it.

Sadly, when you have food allergies it can feel like you miss out on the food part of some of these special celebrations … but not this year in our house!!

I have finally found a great Hot cross bun recipe – so good that even my husband (who has no dietary restrictions!) came out to sneak more of them off the cooling rack 😉

There are a lot of ingredients and it does take a little while – but the result is most definitely worth it, lovely and dense and none of your typical gluten-free crumble!

This was adapted from Quirky Cooking, you can find the original here:

Rising ...
Rising …
  • 150g brown rice flour
  • 200g white rice flour
  • 160g arrowroot flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp guar gum
  • 2 heaped tsp instant yeast
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 200g coconut cream
  • 200g water
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 50g nuttelex
  • 2 eggs equivalent of no egg OR 5 tbsp aquafaba (liquid drained from a can of chick peas)

    All ready to eat
    All ready to eat
  • 150 mixed fruit
  • 1 tbsp additional Nuttelex, melted

In the large bowl of your mixer, add together the flours, gums, sugar, salt, yeast and spices and set aside.

In a saucepan place the coconut cream, water, vinegar and nuttelex. Cook over a low heat for about 2-3 minutes. You do not want to mixture to boil, it only needs to reach 37 degrees C (a candy thermometer is helpful here).

Add the well beaten ‘no egg’ mixture (or aquafaba) to the wet mix in the saucepan and whisk until well combined.

Add the wet mixture, zest and dried fruit to the dry mix and mix until well combined.

Use about a heaped tablespoon of mix and place them in a lined baking dish. Then leave in a warm place for about 30-40 minutes to rise. They don’t rise hugely.

Just a little bit excited by her first taste!!
Just a little bit excited by her first taste!!

Heat the oven to 200C while they rise.

To make the icing crosses, I used 3 tbsp of pure corn flour, mixed together with about 4 1/2 tbsp water. I don’t have a piping bag, so I used a freezer bag with the corner cut off.

Before placing them in the oven, brush the tops with the melted Nuttelex – it helps to give a lovely golden shine.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden all over.

Then as they came out of the oven I brushed their tops with a sugar syrup (1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 water brought to the boil and simmered while it reduced for 5 minutes … don’t reduce for too much longer or it’ll be too sticky).

Best served warm with some Nuttelex.

This mix made 16 buns which I froze once we’d all had one  (or maybe two!)… mainly to stop myself from continuing to eat them all 😉 They have defrosted and rewarmed well.

If you also would like to be able to share in the chocolate on Easter Sunday, I’ve been told by many that ‘Loving Earth’ make a really lovely dark chocolate that is vegan suitable too … but if, like me, you just can’t deal with dark chocolate, I can highly recommend these chocolates:

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(They are organic and Fair Trade too!). I ordered mine online from BioMed Cafe.

Hope that you enjoy these treats as we remember our new life in Christ over Easter!