Friday, 20 June 2014

Pig is leaving the Kitchen (at least for now)

Pig in the Kitchen is heading for the champagne bar
Hasta luego my lovelies, I grant you licence to drink champagne in my absence
Because I'm such a sporadic allergy food blogger, you might think that me deciding to stop blogging will make very little difference.

Ah but you are wrong. It will make a huge difference.

To me that is.

I will no longer be carrying on with my life thinking 'shitshitshitshitshitshitshit I really need to create another recipe for Pig in the Kitchen'.

I will no longer be carrying on with my life thinking 'have I really got the drive to self-publish?' (Suspect the answer is 'no'.)

And I will no longer be carrying on my life thinking, 'I'm not even sure my recipes are any good, why am I bothering?' (I have a little bit of a self-belief problem.)

So, I'm taking a break.


Well in my real life, I'm a freelance copywriter and I really should be working at it more than I do. So even though I rarely write allergy food recipes anymore (see above) the whole Pig in the Kitchen thing takes up space in my brain which could be diverted into more profitable channels. In other words, my day job pays me, my blogging doesn't.

Hmm, think I just unmasked myself as dirty, greedy capitalist. Ah well...

So, that's all folks.

Of course I'll probably (maybe) renege on this at some point in the future. But for now...

It's goodbye from me

Snort snort from the pig (also me)

And big air kisses in your direction for reading, commenting and sending me loving tweets, messages and emails.


Mel / Pig

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Monday, 12 May 2014

Vanessa Kimbell's food photography course, Northamptonshire - review

Vanessa Kimbell's food photography course
My favourite shot from the day
If a Hollywood director were to build a set for the film, 'The Lives And Loves Of A Food Stylist/Photographer' - stay with me -  it would look exactly like Vanessa Kimbell's house.

From the flourishing kitchen garden, past the gleaming range cooker and on to the rustic wooden dining table, every corner is a visual feast of casually styled prettiness. You could point a camera in almost any direction and be sure of bagging a shot that exudes vintage, artful chic.

Which is exactly what I did last Friday. 

Food photography with Vanessa Kimbell

 I'd signed up for Vanessa's food photography workshop because no matter how often I pored over blogs like Cannelle et Vanille, or bought vintage material, my photos just weren't cutting it.

Vanessa Kimbell, food stylist and photographer
Vanessa in action
Arriving at Vanessa's house in Northamptonshire, I was greeted by Andrea Norrington (our photography expert for the day) and shown into the kitchen. 

food photography course

Vanessa and the rest of the group were assembled around the central island staring at a plate of patisserie and, bizarrely, a tin of Brasso. (Vanessa explained that she's not the tidiest person and the Brasso hadn't quite made it back into the cupboard. I found this fact immensely reassuring.)

And then we were off. 
Food photography course, Vanessa Kimbell
A scene from rural Northamptonshire
 Vanessa had explained that the day would be full on, and it wasn't a lie.

We galloped through an outline of the day and some basics of food styling and then Andrea took over to explain the technical camera stuff (aperture mode, changing depth of field, etc). I loved how she used an old film camera that she flipped open to show us how the shutter and the lens work.

food photography pig in the kitchen

Then it was outside for some staged food shots and working on adjusting the depth of field in a photo. I didn't need to work on this so much, so I wandered happily around the garden, taking shots of prettiness. 

Vanessa and Andrea flitted between groups giving creative direction,"Shoot those doughnuts on the table from above, it's going to look lovely!" (Vanessa), and dispensing advice about when, or whether, to use filters (Andrea). 
doughnuts piginthekitchen
She's right, the doughnuts did look lovely!

food photography course, UKVanessa Kimbell's garden

Back inside, Vanessa produced a pre-bought risotto. Opening the packet to show us, she declared that although it looked less than appetising, ("It looks like the dog just threw up, doesn't it?"), she was sure that she could make it look mouth watering within minutes.

And so she did.

Vanessa Kimbell
Vanessa, taking the 'dog' out of dinner
She flitted to the garden for some fresh herbs and flowers, fished out a tablecloth from a box in the dining room, produced a pretty plate and with some seemingly effortless primping, the 'dog's dinner' risotto was transformed.
lilac sugar
Lilac sugar, who knew?

And she did all of that while maintaining a mile-a-minute monologue about what she was doing, why she was doing it, what you definitely shouldn't do and why it's a really good idea to do this. The whole process was fascinating, informative and well, kind of jaw dropping. 

She just selected  a few key props, quickly shuffled them around a bit and there it was, an amazing scene for us to photograph.

lilac sugar

 Vanessa reproduced this hands-on, watch-and-learn display throughout the day in various rooms of her house. And we had plenty of time to roam around and take photos, while asking technical camera questions of Andrea.

 At the end of the day, when I was nearly dead on my feet and my brain was buzzing with info, we had a debrief in Vanessa's study, where she and Andrea critiqued some of our photos and gave suggestions for improvements.
food styling course Vanessa Kimbell

 I left Vanessa's house feeling slightly dazed. Over the space of six hours, she and Andrea had dispensed a torrent of incredibly detailed, useful information.

But there was something else.  

food styling tips

In addition to exuding a passion for her subject, combined with obvious talent and a string of practical tips, ("Go home and don't ever put your camera away again! From now on it lives in the kitchen and you need to use it every day!"),Vanessa also imparted a joie de vivre and can-do attitude that was infectious.

food photography

While I don't think my house will ever look like Vanessa's/the-set-of-a-Hollywood-film-about-food-styling, I did leave her home feeling that styling and shooting beautiful food photographs was within my grasp.

food styling and food photography

And for that feeling alone, Vanessa Kimbell's photography course was worth every penny.

food styling course, Vanessa Kimbell

 Find out more about Vanessa's food photography courses here.

And if you want to see all the pictures I took, view the album on Facebook.

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Baking for allergies - how to substitute ingredients (with the Allergy Adventures baking substitutions sheet)

baking for allergies, how to substitute ingredients
Make your recipes allergy-friendly with some simple substitutions

I recently had the pleasure of working with Hailey from Allergy Adventures on her 'Simple baking substitutions' sheet.

With Hailey at the helm, I joined the Allergy Adventures ship to give 'creative input' along with fellow deck hands, Julia (alimentary bites), and Nia (carrots and maple syrup).

Through many stormy waters did we sail as we were tossed about on the confusing seas of allergy baking.

Waves of doubt crashed over the boat as we looked at the brands we could recommend; are their 'gluten free' oats REALLY gluten free? Are those linseeds for replacing eggs REALLY free from nut traces?

There were many dark nights wrestling with the rudder (running out of ship metaphors now) and fighting with the mainsail.

And I know for a fact that when Julia, Nia and I were snuggled down in the fo'c'sle, Hailey was still on deck throughout many a long night, being lashed by hurricane winds, Storm force 5, Dogger Fisher German Bite.

And yet, after the storm, came the calm.

Because Hailey has produced a kick ass sheet showing how to make simple substitutions when baking, so that recipes are suitable for allergy sufferers. 

The sheet is for aspiring allergy bakers and can also be given to school teachers to help them make cooking classes a bit more allergy-friendly.

So jump into your dinghy and row your way over to Hailey's, where you can print off the Allergy Adventures Simple Baking Substitutions Sheet.

Ahoy me hearties!

And please share the link to the sheet on FB, Twitter and with your child's classroom teacher.

(Why did I use a nautical theme for this post? It has no relevance. Sometimes my fingers just run away with me...)

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

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!

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

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:

You can also like Charlotte's page on Facebook.

Good luck with the book Charlotte!

*worshipful bow in general direction of Dr Adam Fox* 

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

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


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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