Friday, 27 April 2007

Sugar-Free Slice (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

A coffee morning made up of expat wives is an intriguing event. I don't go to many, but I went to one the other day.

An eclectic mix of be-jewelled women gathered in one room who perhaps only had two things in common; their children are at the same school and they are all marooned in a land that is not their own. For many this was not the first country in which they were obliged to struggle with an unfamiliar language and contend with eye-popping driving.

The coffee was great (thank-you Kathie) but the stories were better.

One lady told of the 'shoe sanitiser' that she'd had in her South Korean apartment. I love this idea. Apparently you place your dirty shoes in the device and with a swish and a whoosh (I'm guessing) your shoes are cleansed of contaminants. In my house you would need a shoe sanitiser to clean you up for your journey home.

Another lady told of the Singaporean School Bus. Your child wears a credit card-esque card around their neck which is swiped as they enter the bus. A message is sent back to Central Command so the whereabouts of your child can always be traced. Wow. Space Age or Big Brother?

I had to leave the coffee morning early to go and collect my boy, but I must say a big thank-you. In error, one of my experimental recipes ended up on the table and was mistaken for part of Kathie's delicious spread. I'd taken the slices as I was working on a recipe for friend. Yet all the ladies indulged themselves and their kind comments and advice were very useful.

I do hope they weren't just being polite.

Bless you ladies, these slices are for you, and see you at 3.45.

Expat Wives' Sugar-Free Slice

These are entirely free from refined sugar. They are thus friendly for those with Diabetes (Type I or Type II- but as with any food, these will have an impact on your sugar level, so please take that into account), and for anyone else who needs to restrict their sugar intake. They are also fiendishly good for you, so you can eat with impunity.

For the slice:
300g dried apricots
Some boiling water
250g dairy-free spread
Splash of alcohol if desired (Cointreau, choose)
150g ground sunflower seeds
100g ground linseeds
1 tsp mixed spice
90g rice flour
200g raisins/sultanas
a splash / 1tbsp rice milk

For the 'glaze':
100g dried apricots
Enough boiling water with which to blend apricots (I'll explain in a minute)
Dessicated coconut to sprinkle
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 27cm x 17.5cm rectangular tin (or improvise if you don't have one that size) with baking parchment
  • Use enough boiling water to blend the apricots to a pulp. I did this by putting them in a jug and using a hand blender to 'pulp' them. Use as little water as possible to achieve the pulp
  • Put the apricot pulp and dairy-free spread into a large saucepan. Gently heat the mix until the dairy-free spread melts.
  • Add the raisins to the saucepan and set aside (just a thought, you could add a splash of strong alcohol at this point, Cointreau? Cognac?)
  • Grind the sunflower seeds and linseeds by puting them into a liquidiser
  • Add the seedy mix, rice flour and mixed spice to the saucepan. Mix it all in.
  • If it seems very stiff add some rice milk.
  • Scrape the mix into the tin and level the top with the back of a spoon
  • Put it in the oven for about 20-25 mins (the cooking time may depend on your oven, mine is an eager beast and cooks very quickly)
  • The slices are cooked when the top is golden brown and they are firm to the touch. They are very moist so I'm not sure putting a skewer in would work...
  • Leave the slices to cool whilst you prepare the glaze
  • Add enough boiling water to the dried apricots so that you can blend them to a pulp. When you have a nice smooth mix, spread it over the cooked slices.
  • Sprinkle the dessicated coconut over the top to make it all look pretty
  • Leave it to cool completely and then cut into slices
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Chinese Rice (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

During my twenties, my hubby and I spent three years living in northern China. Prior to our arrival we had a few lessons of Mandarin, but we were working on the ‘sink or swim’ principle.

My husband was assigned an interpreter. I was not. Yet the little crowd of taxi drivers that gathered every morning at the hotel gates saw me as their personal project. They never ripped me off and always made sure I learnt a few words each day.

Chinese customs confounded me. I was very, very green and felt as though I were on a completely different planet. Everything I had previously held to be proper or acceptable or hygienic or edible or part of the highway code…all these ideas were challenged by an ancient culture very different to my own.

It was a pretty tough time. I had long blonde hair. I stood out. I was pointed at, shouted at, followed, and I was often fairly miserable. I drank a lot.

I loved the Chinese food. I loved the egg-fried rice. I loved the Snow Peas sautéed with garlic. I loved the dumplings. I loved the cucumber in sesame oil. I loved the spicy noodles. I ate a lot of Chinese food. And when I was sad I ate a lot of chocolate. I gained quite a lot of weight.

Once I had to attend a formal dinner with my husband’s Chinese boss and other Chinese staff. The boss held forth and we all listened politely. Suddenly the musical language was being directed towards me. I listened more politely. I waited as the interpreter did her stuff,
Mr Wang says you are looking very fat!’.
Everyone around the table nodded in smiling agreement. I felt a hand grasp my knee under the table. Very Hard. My husband’s pleading eyes and fixed smile said, ‘Shut up! Don’t speak! Nod in Smiling Agreement!’ I nodded in smiling agreement and gulped on some Tsingtao beer.

Apparently, for a certain generation in China, being ‘fat’ is a sign of prosperity.

I did manage to lose my fat. I went on a long backpacking trip. I got very ill in one country but was determined to do a 9-day mountain trek in the next country. I barfed my way to the top of the hill and I barfed back down again. I lost lots and lots of weight. It was wonderful.

Back home in China the new, svelte me had to send a fax from the hotel Business Centre. By now my Mandarin skills were fine, thank-you taxi-drivers. As I waited for the staff to send the fax, in walked another member of staff.
Have you seen?’ asked the first member of staff, ‘That’s Mrs X sitting there’.
The other staff member turned and looked at me. They were safe in their belief that foreigners didn’t understand Chinese.
She has lost so much weight!’ (I nonchalantly crossed my legs that were clad in short shorts.)
She really needed to, she was just getting fatter and fatter. She was just doing this…’ The first member of staff blew out her cheeks and slowly brought her two arms up to indicate a body shape resembling that of a barrage balloon.
Really fat she was. Really fat.’

Apparently for another generation in China, being ‘fat’ may be a sign of prosperity, but it is certainly not to be admired.

Please enjoy my Not Very Chinese Rice. But do watch your portion control. Too much rice can make you fat. Really fat.

Not Very Chinese Rice
About 2 cups of Basmati rice (rinsed in cold water)
1 dessertspoon of yeast extract (ensure it is gluten-free, here's one)
1 carrot
4 medium mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 large pinch of dried Herbes de Provence
4 medium tomatoes
1 tsp Dijon mustard (make sure it is gluten-free, here's one)
Olive oil to fry
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)
A handful of rocket
Half or all of an avocado (depending on taste)
2 green chillis
  • Put a large pan of water to boil.
  • Peel and finely chop the carrot.
  • Finely chop the garlic and the mushrooms.
  • When the water is boiling pour in the rice, the chopped carrot and the yeast extract and stir well to dissolve the yeast extract. As it boils, stir occasionally, Basmati usually takes about 10 minutes to cook.
  • Fry the mushrooms and garlic gently in a frying pan with the olive oil and Herbes de Provence.
  • Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze their innards into the frying pan with mushrooms, stir. Discard the skins. Add the Dijon mustard to the frying pan and stir it all around.
  • Drain the tin of kidney beans and add to the frying pan. Stir again and let it all sizzle quietly while you wait for the rice.
  • When the rice is cooked drain it and leave it for a few minutes so that most of the steam evaporates. Put the rice back into the saucepan and tip in the contents of the frying pan.
  • Mix it all around. Cover for a minute while you dice the avocado and finely chop the green chillis.
  • Place the required amount of chilli and avocado onto each serving plate and dollop the required amount of rice on top.
  • Throw a handful of rocket on top of the rice and then using your hands quickly toss it all together. Do it quickly or you’ll burn your hands.
  • Season with black pepper and decorate with a flower if you wish.
  • Do not eat the flower.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007Food & Drink Blogs - Blog Top Sites

Monday, 23 April 2007

Fridge Soup (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

When it comes to food shopping I’m a bit of a short-term planner. I can only really work a few days ahead. I have lots of ideas and buy the stuff I need, but then when that has all gone I’m a bit stuck. I find I have very little left with which to make a nutritious meal.

It happened again this week-end.

Some lovely, child-free friends came to visit. Geoff and my hubby talked fast machines with two and four wheels and Debs and I swapped recipe tips and drooled in the kitchen.

I love having child-free friends to stay. I live vicariously through them. When Geoff and Debs took a leisurely afternoon nap I sighed with pleasure as I remembered afternoon naps of my child-free past. As I cantered around the kitchen at kid’s teatime, they sat on a sunny bench in the garden, cuddled, drank beer and gazed into the pond. Another sigh for long-lost times.

On Monday, I waved them off after a late breakfast, and they sailed away in Geoff’s open-topped sports car. His car only has two seats. They had enough time left before their ferry to check out the D-day beaches, have a calm and peaceful lunch and sip thoughtfully at their coffee. I stood transfixed for a minute or two as a very different life drove off into the midday sun.

Then I realised it was lunchtime. And all my creative recipe energy had been used up over the week-end. Eeek. Debs had talked to me of soup, and how she often makes soup. Soup, I thought. I shall make soup. I shall make… fridge soup. I shall call it fridge soup because I am taking all that remains in the fridge and putting it into a soup.

This soup does not look so pretty, but it is warming and wholesome and got me out of a hole.

Fridge Soup (serves 2 adults or 1 adult and 4 children…with small appetites)
Half a sweet potato
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 carrot
1 big handful of rocket leaves
2 big handfuls of lamb's lettuce (?! it's called mâche in French. Spinach would also work)
4 small potatoes
700ml boiling water
2 vegetable stock cubes (dairy and gluten free)
0.5 tsp yeast extract
Olive oil to fry
  • Peel and chop the onion, carrot and garlic and place into a saucepan with some olive oil. Heat gently.

  • Peel and finely chop the sweet potato and add to the pan. Fry for a while until the onion has softened. Add the rocket and lamb's lettuce (or Spinach), cover with a lid and let it sweat for a minute or two.

  • Boil the kettle. Mix the stock cubes with 700ml of boiling water and pour it into the pan.

  • Add the yeast extract and bubble it all until the carrot is cooked.

  • Use a hand blender to blend whilst it’s in the pan. Or put it in a liquidiser, although that does make more washing-up.

  • Meanwhile peel the four potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Place them into the blended soup in the saucepan and boil until the cubes are cooked.

  • You can add more liquid if need be.

  • Enjoy.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Sunday, 22 April 2007

Chocolate Cheesecake - Gluten free, Egg free, Dairy free

The foundations of our marriage have been rocked on a few occasions, and always by the same thing. Not by extra-marital dalliances, nor by money, but by…the washing-up.

In The Early Days of marriage, smug wives told me of the OCTOWU principle. They spoke happily of this easy and simple formula for marital bliss. One Cooks The Other Washes-Up. I thought this sounded marvellous and decided we should implement OCTOWU without delay.

Alas, OCTOWU was a non-starter in our house. I would hold up my end of the bargain and enthusiastically cook tasty dishes (it was The Early Days). Yet when it came to keeping up his end, the bargain tottered and fell down. He agreed in principle, but argued that a completion time for the washing-up had not been specified. He thought it was OK to wash-up the next day. Yet he would arrive home AT dinner time, so I would have to wash-up in order to cook dinner. Remonstrations, debates, glass-smashing, nothing would prevail on Monsieur to wash-up directly after dinner.

We didn’t resolve the problem. We skirted round it, patched it up, tried again, pretended it didn’t really happen and that it wasn’t that bad. We even bought new toys to try and spice things up, but dishwashers don’t wash everything, and the washing-up is always there.

Over the Easter weekend I put the children to bed and husband ‘did’ the kitchen. I eventually stumbled down to find the sink full of pots and pans. I was too tired to control my reaction and launched off.

We don’t really do shouting, we flick razor-sharp barbed comments at each other in a very nasty way. The spat escalated and I had my final parting barb balanced on my thumb ready to flick in his direction. I was going to launch it and then retire to the bedroom. What happened next was very unexpected. HIS barb hit me just above the ear, and then HE left the room and went to bed. He never does that, and now I had nowhere to go.

So I made some truffles. The furious whisking was cathartic. And as I whipped the glossy custard I realised I could probably add some ‘eggs’ and make a ‘cheesecake’. So here is my ‘cheesecake’. I hope it doesn’t have a bitter and cross aftertaste. It is Raspberry Coulis on the plate, not my husband’s blood.

Cross CheesecakeFor the base: (this step can be done at least 24 hours in advance)
200g sunflower seeds
100g (+ 2 extra tbsps) linseeds
100g rice flour
175g dairy-free spread
200g sugar

For the filling:
350g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids, gluten-free, here is a good one)
250g dairy-free spread
5 tbsps cognac
2 tbsps ground linseeds
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
5 egg equivalents (I used Orgran ‘no egg’ egg replacer. I only mixed in 9tbsps of water instead of the 10 that would normally be required)
A few tbsps of sugar, use your judgement and tastebuds.

For decoration and for the raspberry coulis:
About 50g dark chocolate (minimum 74% cocoa solids, gluten-free,)
2 x 250g punnets of fresh raspberries
1-2tbsps icing sugar depending on taste

For the base:
  • Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
  • Grease and flour the base of a 26cm springform cake tin.
  • Put the sunflower seeds and linseeds into a liquidiser and whizz until they are ground. It doesn’t matter if there are lumps and bumps, it adds to the final texture.
  • Put the linseed mix into a large mixing bowl. Remove 2 tbsps and place in a separate bowl.
  • Add the flour and sugar to the linseeds and stir.
  • Melt the dairy-free spread in the microwave and stir it into the linseed mix. It should form a stiff paste.
  • Press the paste into the base of the springform tin, squidge it around until it is all even. You can use the back of a spoon to smooth it and make it even.
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 10 mins. Parts of it may rise up, but don’t worry, you can just push it back down. Aim for a pale golden colour on top and then remove it from the oven. It can cool for 24 hours if it needs to.
For the filling:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. (Put a small amount of water into a small saucepan. Place a large heatproof bowl on top. Heat the water until it boils. Put the chocolate into the bowl and stir until it has melted. The water shouldn't come into contact with the base of the bowl, but if it does, it's not the end of the world
  • When the chocolate has melted and is glossy, take it off the heat and mix in the dairy-free spread. Beat until it is smooth.
  • Add the Cognac, then add as much sugar as you feel it demands.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the egg replacers until they are frothy and have increased in volume. I did it manually, you could try an electric whisk, it would save your arm.
  • Fold the egg replacers into the chocolate mix. Add the 2tbsps of linseeds, the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Mix until it is smooth.
  • Pour the chocolate mix onto the biscuit base and place in the oven. It may help to put the tin on a pizza tray, it makes it easier to get in and out.
  • Bake the cheesecake for approximately 40 minutes although it may need slightly longer. It is cooked when the edges feel firm-ish and the middle is still a bit wobbly, don’t worry it all tightens up as it cools. It will rise around the edge during cooking and may sink as it cools. The surface may well go wrinkly and look a little too dark. Fear not, it can all be hidden as you shall see…
  • Cool the cake and then chill in the fridge, overnight is fine, it will probably need at least 4 hours.
  • Run a knife gently around the edge of the cake and release the springform tin. You’ll have to serve it on the base of the tin as the biscuit base is quite tricky to remove.
  • When ready to serve sprinkle the grated chocolate over the top of the cake and press it in slightly so that it adheres. Add more if required.

    For the raspberry coulis:
  • Either whizz the raspberries through a juicer, or liquidise them and then strain them through a sieve. (This takes ages, thankfully someone else did this bit for me. Debs, you’re a doll!)
  • Add the icing sugar and stir through. Arrange in pretty patterns on each plate, and have the rest in a jug on the table.
  • Leave the washing-up for someone else.
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Pig’s Holiday

Pack my bag – check

Pack their bags – check

Pack his bag – check

Pack sleeping bags – check

Turn heating off – check

Leave strategic light on – check

Pick up husband from airport –

Many hours later, the bleary-eyed pig was travelling west along the A13. She glanced in the mirror at her slumbering family. They looked beautiful.

Yet Pig can’t shake that niggling feeling that some detail has been overlooked, did she turn the heating off? Did she pack the…oh. The husband. Forgot to pack the husband.

Pig thought of the many kilometres the excited, holiday bus had already travelled. She thought of how long it had taken for all the piglets to fall asleep. She thought of them all waking up as she turned the bus around.

Then she thought of her poor, beleaguered husband in his crumpled, jet-lagged suit. She thought of how many countries he had visited in the last 7 days. She thought of his week-end away with his mates. Pig knew she had to do the right thing. She reached for her mobile.

"Hey hon, I think you’re going to have to get a train…".

Have a happy Easter with your loved ones!
Pig will be back sometime in Aprilx

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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Chocolate Bowls (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

It is a complete no-brainer. You have some spare time, you have some balloons, you have dark chocolate. Why would you NOT make a chocolate bowl?

How soothing to play with melted chocolate for an hour or so.

A word of warning. Do ensure that the chocolate you smear on the balloon is of ambient temperature. If not, in an instant your kitchen will be covered.

It will look as though you have nicked the jugular of one of those cute chocolate bunnies that are everywhere at the moment.

Remember, ambient temperature.

Or spend an extra non-soothing hour scrubbing your ceiling.

Chocolate Bowls
For 2 chocolate bowls:
100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, gluten-free)
2 balloons (thick ones are good, it’s worth paying a bit more!)
Strawberries to fill

  • Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. (Put a small amount of water into a small saucepan. Place a large heatproof bowl on top. Heat the water until it boils. Put the chocolate into the bowl. The water shouldn't come into contact with the base of the bowl, but if it does, it's not the end of the world

  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool. It can almost be ‘set’ and still spreadable. Wait until then

  • Blow a little air into the balloon until you have achieved the kind of size you want your bowl to be. Knot the top of the balloon. This will prevent air escaping (sorry, I’m very tired, it makes me silly)

  • Line two baking trays with baking parchment

  • When the chocolate is very thick, use the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate around the base of the balloon. Try to keep it even, but it’s only going to get eaten, so don’t stress too much

  • When you have a good bowl-shape, dollop some extra chocolate on the base of the balloon and set it all down onto the baking tray. The extra dollop will spread out and harden to form the base to the bowl. Isn’t that clever?

  • Leave to harden.

  • When the chocolate has set, pinch the top of the balloon near the knot, use scissors to cut a small hole in the balloon, it should deflate gradually, releasing the chocolate bowl as it deflates. It may need some coaxing towards the end

  • Before serving, chill in the freezer. Remove and fill with strawberries. Try and get the bowl so cold that it condenses when you serve it - I have not yet acheived this
  • You may only serve this dessert with champagne. I think that is probably a law of physics or a rule of the universe

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Sunday, 1 April 2007

Apple Crumble (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

It’s so tempting to try and pretend that you don’t have children. Their needs and demands are so constant and all-consuming that sometimes the urge to slope off is overwhelming. I like to sneak off to the kitchen and cook. Today, I thought I had the ideal opportunity.

The post-breakfast Activity Meeting had adjourned and the decision was unanimous; they were to play ‘Swing Sofa’. This riotous game involves two children holding hands and pulling each other round and round in the middle of the lounge. At the critical moment the ‘puller’ lets go and the ‘swinger’ gets catapulted onto the sofa, much to everyone’s merriment.

As the game commenced I crept out of the room and headed for the kitchen. I had just reached up for the weighing scales when I heard the undulating, siren cry of children in lots of pain. The swinger had collided with an onlooker and bumped heads. It was time for me to focus.

My husband is away at the moment on a jolly (another free week-end in the bag for me). I was on my own with four little piglets and they needed some attention. We bundled the baby into the push-along trike and headed for the forest. The first little piglet made a house of twigs, the second little piglet pushed the smallest piglet in her trike, and the Pig chased the boy piglet round and round the forest.

On the way home, I couldn’t resist buying some apples from the market. The tired and happy children didn’t begrudge me my afternoon foray into the kitchen, and they did enjoy this Apple Crumble.

Apple Crumble

50g ground linseeds (grind the whole seeds in your liquidiser)

50g ground pumpkin seeds (ditto)

50g ground sunflower seeds (double ditto)

125g rice flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

0.5 tsp ground nutmeg

140g dairy-free spread

150g sugar

4 medium/big eating apples

1 extra teaspoon of cinnamon

2 extra dessertspoon of sugar

Extra sunflower seeds

  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease your crumble dish. My oval dish measured 30cm in length, 19cm wide

  • Peel and core the apples and cut them into slices. Place the apples in the base of the dish. Sprinkle a teaspoon of cinammon over the top and a dessertspoon of sugar. Mix it all in with your hands. Set aside

  • In a large mixing bowl put the ground seeds, rice flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix together

  • Put the dairy-free spread in the bowl, and using your hands, rub the fat into the seed and flour mix

  • Add the 150g of sugar and mix well

  • Sprinkle the crumble mix over the apples and press down. You might want to rough up the surface a bit with your fingers to give it a 'crumbled' look. Sprinkle sunflower seeds over the top and another dessertspoon of sugar. Cover with tinfoil (or the sunflower seeds will burn before it's cooked) and place in the oven.

  • Cook for about 25 minutes covered. You should be able to hear the apples sizzling by the end

  • Remove the tinfoil and cook for another 10 minutes to brown the sunflower seeds

  • Remove from the oven and enjoy

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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