Thursday, 10 April 2014

Nut free, dairy free, gluten free Granola



As a child growing up in the 1970's, breakfast was dear to me. 

There was Ready Brek loaded with Golden Syrup, and that advert that showed the kid going to school surrounded by a warm (radioactive?) glow.

There was toast. And it was thick, white and dripping with salted butter. (Or even beef dripping. True story.) Oh and that chocolate sauce that you could get in a white plastic tub, remember that?

Porridge was around, but it was fine to lace it with cream and cover it with crunchy sugar. And Coco Pops were a joy because they turned the milk brown and you could even add a bit of extra sugar 'coz no-one cared!

There was the Frosties tiger bouncing around selling us sugary flakes of corn and although there was sensible Weetabix, you were still allowed to sprinkle it with (white) sugar.

Ahh, those were the days. No-one tried to get you to eat fruit for breakfast - unless you were at a fancy hotel and you had half a grapefruit with a cherry on, which it was ok to leave - and marmalade was practically a health food (all that fruit!)

And now, reader? What are we faced with?

Breakfast guilt, that's what.

If my cereal bowl isn't rocking chia seeds, quinoa and a sprinkling of goji berries, I feel as though I'm engaging in culinary self-harm.

If my bread doesn't look like a bunch of seeds squished together with amaranth flour, then I am just a tool of the great Chorleywood Bread Process Conspiracy.

I feel judged. I feel conflicted. And most of all I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to eat for breakfast.
For a while I thought granola was the way forward but then I checked the sugar content. Ouch!

And then it came to me. Why not make a healthy, homemade granola? Ha ha!

So I did.

It is OUT with breakfast guilt and IN with natural(ish) sugar. And I'm even starting to enjoy breakfast more, hurrah!

Nut free, dairy free, gluten free Granola
There are two ways to make granola; on a modest scale or on an industrial scale. I always favour the latter, but I realise that not everyone likes to spend hours wrestling with giant-sized portions. So I've given modest quantities that you can just double or triple as you see fit.

25g ground sunflower seeds
20g ground pumpkin seeds
25g desiccated coconut
25g ground linseeds
125g coconut oil
8 tbsp maple syrup (or agave syrup)
2-3 tsp vanilla bean paste
3-5 tsp cinnamon powder
Approx 60g dried fruit (blueberries, raisins, etc), or you can leave these out if you like
  • Line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside
  • Preheat oven to 180° Celsius
  • Grind the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds and place in a large mixing bowl
  • Add the gluten free oats, coconut and cinnamon powder and raisins/dried fruit if using
  • In a small saucepan, place the coconut oil, vanilla bean paste and maple syrup and heat gently until the oil has melted
  • Pour the melted oil into the mixing bowl and stir until all the ingredients are coated
  • Spread the mixture onto the baking tray and use the back of a spoon (or potato masher) to squish it all down (this helps the clumps of granola to form during baking)
  • Bake in the oven for 10-20 mins until the surface is lightly browned, but keep checking as the seeds can burn quickly
  • When the surface is browned, use a spatula to turn the mix over. Try to keep the granola in clumps as you do so
  • Bake again until the surface is lightly browned, then remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray
  • When completely cool, break off lumps of the granola and place into a storage jar. You might find that the granola doesn't stay in lumps, or only some of it does. This is the willful nature of Granola, what can I say?
  • Add fresh fruit, coconut yogurt, coconut milk...whatever you please and enjoy! Feel no breakfast guilt!


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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: The Allergy-Free Baby & Toddler Book by Charlotte Muquit & Dr Adam Fox


Allergy-free Baby & Toddler Book
If you have an allergic baby or toddler, buy this book

Recently, I was sent a copy of the Allergy Free Baby and Toddler Book to review. It's by Charlotte Muquit (mum to Zach who has food allergies and Coeliac disease) and Dr Adam Fox (all round paediatric allergy god).

Let me give it to you straight: I am a terrible reviewer because I forget that I've been sent stuff and then I wake up in a panic at 3am. 

So to prevent that happening with the Allergy Free Baby and Toddler Book, I left it on the kitchen windowsill so that it would remind me. 

It stared at me for a month in an accusing way.

But then one Saturday morning I took the book along to the crazy early swim session that two of my children attend.

Reader, from 0715 to 0915 I was transfixed by this book.

It contains a wealth of clearly explained, practical information to help parents understand the confusing world of food allergies.

I particularly love the quotes from parents explaining how they dealt with food allergy-related problems and how they felt about the attitudes of medical staff and well-meaning family members. It reminded me vividly of how hard it was to have a toddler with food allergies and in particular how hard it was to get family members (and doctors) to take the allergies seriously. I wish this book had been available at the time because it would have helped enormously.

And I'm so ditzy, I'd completely forgotten that Charlotte had asked me to contribute a quote to the book.

On page 93 I started to read a quote by a mum saying how cool Medibands are for younger children. I think I even nodded because I loved Medibands when my daughter was younger...and then I got to the end of the quote and saw my name.

I know. Truly ditzy. But it's probably worth buying the book just to have my words in print, right?!

There are too many sections to list in a review, but with chapters on Anaphylaxis, Everyday Allergy Management, Asthma, Eczema, Allergic Rhinitis and more, this really is a one-stop information source for parents of children with food allergies. If your child has just been diagnosed, then it's a must-buy.

There's even a recipe section at the back of the book featuring egg free, dairy free, nut free and gluten free goodies. (Although that part did make me come over all competitive...)

And for when you're experimenting with your child's diet and excluding allergens, there are useful charts in the Resources section to help you monitor your child's symptoms. These would also be handy on the website as printable pdfs...just saying!

The book is released tomorrow, April 2nd, 2014 and you can order it at Amazon, and Waterstones and the website is at: http://www.allergyfreebabyandtoddler.com/

You can also like Charlotte's page on Facebook.

Good luck with the book Charlotte!


*worshipful bow in general direction of Dr Adam Fox* 





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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Cooking with a Potjie Pot - vegetarian chilli


vegetarian chilli recipe
Indulge me with this 'off topic' blog post; I haven't had time to bake... 
Way back when, I spent five months travelling in South Africa. Ahh to be 18 again, young, free, single and enjoying the beauty of the Garden Route!


Every girl needs a Potjie Pot
My little sojourn in SA introduced me to the joys of the Potjie Pot, (pron: 'poy key').  It's a cast iron cooking pot that you 'cure' with oil and then light a fire and get going.

Vegetarian Chilli Recipe
Prepare your ingredients (wine is essential)
Potjie pot cooking
Inhale the aroma

 It is the perfect way to  connect with your inner cave woman slash witch.

Vegan food

And the pot takes on the 'taste' of what you cook and thereafter all food tastes rich, garlicky, smoky and just truly delicious.


Also, when you have friends over in the Summer and everyone is chilling in the garden with a glass of rosé, you don't have to be indoors slaving away and feeling resentful. You can be outdoors too! (Slaving away and feeling resentful.)


If the fire starts to die down, whack on some pine cones to boost the heat (you see, it was worth collecting all those pine cones).

Potjie Pot recipe
I can see the attraction of being a witch.

 Click here for my vegetarian chilli recipe, or you can even cook risotto in it (prepare for lots of stirring).

To buy a Potjie Pot, have a look here (note, they don't come cheap, but it will last for years).

And when half term is over, I'll be back with more allergen free baking recipes!

Double double toil and trouble...


© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Valentine's Day gluten free love heart cookies


Looks cute, but I'd rather someone put on a load of washing for me...

I would love to wax lyrical about the beauty that is Valentine's Day. 

I'd like to say that I adore the old 'solitaire-diamond-in-a-champagne-flute' proposal trick, or even the 'aeroplane-pulling-a-banner-saying-Marry-Me' stunt (although that's a bit tacky), but I don't.

What do I find romantic? Ummm, not sure.

In fact now that I'm thinking about it, I think I hate the whole concept of romance. It seems to encourage an unrealistic view of the world whereas I'm much more into gritty realism and lots of help with the housework.

That said...

Husband, I'll take a surprise two week skiing trip to Whistler any time you're ready!

But for those of you who do favour love tokens in biscuit form, please enjoy my Valentine offering...

Valentine's Day Love Heart Cookies

I WAS going to just make my Gingerbread Mates recipe and cut it into heart shapes, but I'm probably incapable of not tweaking recipes. So I trialled an egg replacer using garbanzo bean flour and I'm quite excited. If you haven't got garbanzo bean flour, you know, just hanging around your cupboards, then use 1 tbsp of Orgran 'no egg' Egg Replacer. It's best to leave time to chill this dough in the fridge as it's easier to work with.

The 'fully free from' version
(free from: eggs, dairy, gluten, wheat, soya, nuts)

225g Plain Doves Farm gf flour
125g gf buckwheat flour (I used Infinity Foods)
⅛ tsp xanthan gum
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps ground ginger
125g dairy free margarine
135g caster sugar
175g golden syrup

For the egg replacer:
1 tbsp garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tbsp ground linseeds
Coconut milk to mix

Dark chocolate to decorate & gf, df, ef decorations

Gluten free (dairy free) with eggs

 225g Plain Doves Farm gf flour
125g gf buckwheat flour (I used Infinity Foods)
⅛ tsp xanthan gum
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps ground ginger
125g butter or margarine
135g caster sugar
175g golden syrup

1 egg, beaten

Dark chocolate to decorate & gf, decorations

Egg free with wheat flour

350g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps ground ginger
125g butter or margarine
135g caster sugar
175g golden syrup

For the egg replacer:
1 tbsp garbanzo bean flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tbsp ground linseeds
Coconut milk to mix

Dark chocolate to decorate & ef decorations

Dairy free with wheat flour


350g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsps ground ginger
125g dairy free margarine
135g caster sugar
175g golden syrup

1 egg, beaten

Dark chocolate to decorate & df decorations






















Method

If using an egg free version, put the garbanzo bean flour and ground linseed into a small bowl and whisk in some coconut milk/milk to combine. Set aside. It will thicken up, so don't add too much liquid to start with, you can always add more later.

Put the flour(s), xanthan gum (if using), ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the butter or dairy free margarine and rub in, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir. Add the beaten egg or egg replacer and golden syrup and start to beat. It's quite a stiff mix, so you may find it easier to get your hands in and start squidging it all together. If it's far too dry, add a tbsp of coconut milk or milk, but the best way to gauge the dryness is by using your hands. If the mixture is too wet, you can sprinkle over a little more flour.

Put the dough into a freezer bag and leave in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. 

When you're ready to start rolling, line a few baking trays with baking parchment. Dust the work surface (or a large sheet of baking parchment) with flour (gluten free flour if using) and break off a chunk of the dough. Gently roll it out, picking it up after the first few rolls and flouring the surface underneath again to prevent it from sticking. Roll out to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a heart-shaped cutter to stamp out the hearts and place them onto the baking trays. Repeat until the dough is used up, or you get bored and decide to put the remaining dough into the freezer for a rainy day.

Heat the oven to 180°Celsius and bake the biscuits for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Now here's the thing, if you are using gluten free flour, the biscuits will be fine at this point, but they will be a little soft. So if you want to crunch them up a bit, when they are cool, put them back in the oven at 140°Celsius for 15-20 minutes, then leave them to cool completely.

To decorate: melt the chocolate (either in the microwave or in a bain marie) and dip the end of the biscuits into the chocolate, place on baking parchment and cover with sprinkles/sugar roses/whatever you like. 

You can also paint them with the melted chocolate, just use a clean paintbrush! And I also used some BettyCrocker icing mixed with red food colouring which I piped around the outside to emphasise the heart shape. Maybe I am romantic after all...!



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Monday, 10 February 2014

Free From Food Awards 2014 - one food judge's story


Free from food awards 2014
On your marks, get set, sample!
Breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess, dine like a woman on the bread line.
That is how the old saying goes. 

Except it doesn't does it? Because history is so rarely about herstory. So in the interests of swinging the pendulum the other way, I thought I'd rewrite the old saying to include the other 50% of the population. 


And why would I start rewriting idioms? Well, because I want to tell you about being a food judge for this year's Free From Food Awards and I wanted a nice, breakfast-based idiom to start the piece and got a bit annoyed at the male bias. Anyway... 

Regular readers will know that I had the honour of being a judge last year too, but here's what happened in 2014...

Free from breakfast cereals
Nom nom, time for breakfast

This year I was judging 'breakfast foods' and 'scones, sweet tarts, sweet biscuits and cookies'. (You see why I started off by mentioning breakfast and rewriting the saying, etc?!)

Free from food judging
Judges hard at work
First up, there were 25 breakfast cereals to judge.

So it was eyes down for some silent tasting (we're not allowed to influence each other with either beatific expressions or violent retching), then we awarded each product a mark out of 10, and battled it out to choose a shortlist. 

free from food judging
It's not all sweetness and light, we argue vehemently!
The debating bit is the most lively part and it clearly illustrates that there is truth in the saying 'One woman's éclair is another woman's kale chips.'  

And of course I can't reveal any of the decisions that were taken...

gluten free breakfast cereals
Lots of yummy gluten free oats
Then it was time to start on more breakfast foods, which involved breads, plant milks and plant yogurts. There were certain products that were delicious. So delicious, that whereas most of the products are just nibbled at, at this session we were fighting over the very last scraps and begging Michelle to bring out some more! Again, can't say a word but remember to look out for the shortlist... 

Free from yogurts
Devastation caused by food judging
And finally, after lunch it was on to scones, sweet tarts, sweet biscuits and cookies.

Hmm. Well the operative word in this category was SWEET, because it seems that when manufacturers choose to exclude gluten, dairy or egg, they panic and heave in a ton of sugar instead. Umm, to make it 'taste better'?
2014 free from food awards
Where were the dairy and egg free biscuits and cakes?
And while I'm having a rant, where were the dairy free and egg free products? One of the other food judges, Sarah from Sugarpuffish, is intolerant to dairy and of the 19 products, she could try just two.

TWO! What is that all about? One of the gluten free biscuits (not pictured) that is a copy of a 'normal' (dairy free) biscuit, had even  included dairy just to, you know, make it 'taste better'?? 

Free from food judging 2014
Harsh comments were reserved for some products...
 Let's just say that certain free from brands need to understand that the way to a girl's heart is through her stomach, but only if the food is free from ALL the main allergens.

 Thanks again to Michelle Berriedale-Johnson (pictured below!) for inviting me to be a judge, and remember to look out for the 2014 Free From Food Awards Shortlist, which will be published here on Wednesday, 12th February, 2014.
Michelle Berriedale-Johnson hard at work

All photos subject to copyright, please contact me if you want to use them.

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten free)

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese (vegan, gluten free)


It's very hard to make 'wet' food look irresistible methinks
It's a brave (Anglo-Spanish) woman who will square up to a meat-eating (French) man and declare that it's time to become more vegetarian.

Yet this is what my plucky friend, Sandra, announced to her partner, Ja, shortly after Christmas.

There was a pause while Ja - a measured man - considered his response.

"The trouble is," he ventured, "is that your vegetarian cooking just isn't very tasty."

Gasp! It's enough to plunge Anglo (Spanish) - French relations into crisis isn't it? That inflammatory phrase could have annihilated the shaky entente cordiale that's existed since we won the war and saved them from the Nazis! (I always find it helpful to mention the war.)

And Ja wasn't finished yet. "If your cooking tasted more like Mel's (me! that's me!) then it might be OK," he conceded.

Wow. We're back in Hundred Years War territory here! How would Sandra respond?

Thankfully, she is also measured. She sighed, "Yes, good point. I'm just going to have to douse every dish in red wine."

Ja nodded and the fragile peace was restored.

And of course Sandra is right; red wine is de rigueur if you're cooking sans meat and it's pretty much all I use to cook with. Simply drown any savoury dish in some vin rouge and add garlic, salt and black pepper. With a shot of Tabasco thrown in for luck.

Because there is nothing, repeat nothing, worse than bland vegetarian food. It is the hallmark of a lazy chef who can barely conceal his disdain (it's always a he) as he serves up insipid dishes that a dog would find offensive.

Seriously don't even get me started on the jibes I've listened to over the years and the muck I've been fobbed off with as 'food'.

Inhale through the nose. And out through the mouth.

Ok. I'm ok.

So, in a bid to ease Ja and Sandra's pain, I'm sharing my recipe for Lentil Bolognese. It has been a staple of my diet for the last 22 years and it is perfectly ok to use at least a quarter of a bottle of red in the making. (And also fine to drink the rest while the bolognese simmers.)

Who knows, it may even help to bring about some rapprochement between our splendidly isolated isle  and l'hexagone!

Bon appétit!

Lentil Bolognese (serves about 6, freezes well)

As with most of my cooking (not baking) the measurements are approximate. I'm much more of a chuck-it-all-in gal than a precision artist. Although it pains me to write this, if you're cooking this for children and squeamish, you could probably leave out the red wine. But my four babes have been raised on this and only three of them have an alcohol addiction. Ha ha, of COURSE I'm not joking about alcoholism. None of my children is alcoholic.

Ingredients:
Approximately 150g Puy lentils (aka green speckled lentils)
1 onion
4 cloves of garlic (très French, non?)
2 carrots
3-4 mushrooms
1 green or red pepper (not featured in the photo)
sweetcorn if liked (or substitute with a pepper)
2 tins of plum tomatoes, chopped (I insist on chopping myself - I have a weird thing about tomato skin - but feel free to buy pre-chopped)
1-2 GF, dairy free stock cubes
1 tsp yeast extract (optional)
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1-2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
Approximately 200ml of red wine (or more, up to you )

Cook the Puy lentils according to the packet instructions, then turn off the heat and leave them in the water. Chop the onion, garlic and mushrooms and place into a large, non-stick saucepan (large enough to cook the whole meal in). Glug over some oil and warm over a medium heat until it starts to sizzle. Add the mixed herbs and chopped carrot and pepper and stir. Fry gently for about five minutes, then crumble in the stock cube and stir.

Scoop the lentils out of the saucepan with a slotted spoon/spoon and add them to the frying pan, set the liquid aside. Stir in the lentils and sweetcorn (if using), then add the chopped plum tomatoes and stir again. Glug in some red wine and half the lentil liquid, stir and then leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If the sauce seems dry, top up with more red wine and lentil liquid. Add the yeast extract, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste. Simmer some more, it really doesn't matter. Taste again, add more wine if you want.

Serve with your choice of spaghetti (gf or otherwise). Raise your glass to vegetarianism and the French.
Vive La France!



© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Gluten free vegan recipes from the archive


Recipes for allergy sufferers
Dogs are lucky. They get away with Christmas bingeing
It is January and perhaps, like me, you are getting flashbacks to the gastronomic atrocities you committed over Christmas. It seemed so easy didn't it? As if no one would ever know and the price would never have to be paid.

Alas, the piper is always waiting for his cheque. Which means that the foodie free-for-all has to end.

Well, at least for a week or two.

So I've delved into the archive and found you some healthy, gluten free, vegan stuff to eat. I hope you enjoy!

And if you're still fighting the 'back to normal eating' routine, well get your gnashers around this and all power to your mandible!

First up: Polenta. Comfort food and naturally gluten free. Yes please.

Gluten free polenta cakes (and a ditty about moving)
Black Bean Soup. Go heavy with the Tabasco because spicy food raises your metabolic rate, did you know that? (I think I've got that right...)
Black Bean Soup, gluten free
Black Bean Soup
(and a return to my fictional character of Glenda Bannington-Blythe!)

Fried potatoes. Umm, are they healthy? Probably, maybe.

Sauté potatoes with rosemary
(and MORE Glenda Bannington-Blythe!)
Lentil Stew. Lentils are nature's - ahem - digestive aid. I'll say no more.


Lentil stew
(and a story about balancing Appetite & Exercise)
Vegetable Chilli. And you get to eat it with crisps!

Vegetable Chilli
 (and a moan about January)
Is that enough healthy stuff for one day?

Look, while you get on with cooking all of that, I'll get on with creating another recipe, do we have a deal?

Wishing you a happy, prosperous and healthy 2014 and see you back here soon!



Fat dog image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/Free Digital Photos

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