Gluten Free Vegan Raw Carrot Coconut Balls

3 cups of sweet potato, cooked and mashed
3 cups coconut
5 tbsps coconut milk
1/2 packet apricots
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shredded or grated carrots
a grating of nutmeg
a pinch of ginger
1 pinch of mixed spice
grated zest of an orange
And 2 cups coconut to cover

Mix all the ingredients together. Use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut. Leave in the fridge overnight before serving.


For the pastry
250g flour
115g butter
80g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp tangerine zest
2 tbsps milk

For the filling
150g dried figs
1 tbsp honey
50g raisins
100g dates
Zest of a tangerine
120g almonds, I used skinless untoasted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
35g grated dark chocolate
2 tbsps dark rum
2 tbsps juice of a tangerine
1 tsp oats

1 cup icing sugar
3 tbsps milk
Few drops clear vanilla extract
Coloured sprinkles

These Sicilian cookies are a change from mince pies. You may find recipes for Cuccidati that require cooking the filling with added sugar. I have not added any sugar to mine and whizzed the filling to produce some amazing textures.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, zest. Mix. Add the eggs and start to bind the pastry. Add the milk, a spoon at a time until you have the right consistency. Add more if necessary as the temperature and humidity levels of where you live make a difference to how much liquid the pastry needs.

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use a handheld blender to whiz into a paste. Place in the fridge for an hour.

To assemble:

Divide the pastry into two pieces. Roll out into a long strip on a floured surface. Place the filling in a long strip in the centre.

Roll it and seal it with a brush and some water. Cut the log into the size of your choice. I made mini rolls here but you can make longer ones and shape them into a crescent which is another traditional shape. Place the cookies on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 20 minutes. If you do not intend to ice the surface, remember to brush them with egg wash before baking.

Mix the icing sugar with the milk and vanilla extract until you get a smooth paste. Drizzle over the top of the cooled down pastries. Immediately top with some sprinkles or dip them for a more intense colour.

All-in-one Almond Cherry Cupcakes

100g Mascarpone
50g brown sugar
3 eggs
100g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon honey
the seeds of 1/2 pod vanilla

This has been my most popular recipe of the month. Mascarpone produces great results in baking as an alternative to butter. 100g of Mascarpone has around 435 calories as opposed to 717 calories for every 100g of butter.

Simply place all the ingredients in a large bowl and use an electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients together to a consistent soft and smooth paste. Once your mixture appears even, stop beating and spoon into a muffin tin lined with paper cases. Top with half a cherry and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for 20 to 25 minutes.

Easy Amaretti Morbidi

1 cup flour (or gluten-free flour)
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 eggs (or 4 egg whites)
1 tbsp candied oranges
grated rind of an orange
1 cup icing sugar sift and keep aside and extra for dusting after baking
Vanilla seeds from a quarter of a vanilla pod if desired

These cookies must be barely cooked to retain that softness of marzipan that nearly melts in your mouth. If you are using pure ground almonds, there is no need to add essence as it sometimes overpowers the natural taste of almonds. With this method they are ready in a flash and much more economical than buying them ready made.

Mix all the other ingredients (except the icing sugar for dusting) together and mix. Beat the eggs and use it to bind the almond mix. Many similar recipes require beaten egg whites but this recipe works just as well.

Form into balls and then press them so that they are an irregular shape. Roll in icing sugar and place on a baking tray covered with baking pager.

Heat the oven to 160ºC. Bake the amaretti for 12 minutes, not any more. Remove from oven, dust lightly with icing sugar while they are still hot. Allow to cool then remove from tray and roll in moreicing sugar.

Gluten-Free Tropical Coconut Balls

3 cups mashed potato
3 cups coconut
5 tbsps honey
1/2 packet of dried pineapple
1/2 vanilla pod
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
a pinch of cinnamon
2 cups coconut to finish off the balls

Mix all the ingredients together. Blend to a pureé using a hand blender. Leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut. Leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before serving.

You can watch Lea cook every afternoon on TVM2 and follow her blog

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us