Thursday, 31 May 2007

Jam Tarts (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

It doesn’t happen often enough, but I really enjoy cooking with my children. Not the cooking whereby I am in the kitchen drinking wine and they are out in the garden, but the proper kind where we are all toiling and making a mess together. Bizarrely, I did it more when I had three children under the age of three and a half. I suppose if your life is in total disarray, you may as well add a messy kitchen to the mix.

Now, when we do it, I enjoy watching them squidge dough around, decorate Gingerbread in intricate ways and stir steaming pans; knuckles white with fear, terrified eyes fixed and staring. I think the latter is due to me being a bit graphic about the potential for third degree burns when playing near the stove.

A few years ago, my number two piglet helped me make a cake. I remember this being a guilt-driven cake. Her baby brother had arrived so soon after her own birth, I was concerned she would never have any Mummy left for her. So as soon as he was having a nap and the biggest piglet was at pre-school, we embarked on the cake.

We smiled happily and chatted to each other as she cracked the eggs, mixed, got fed up, I mixed, she poured, I mixed, she sieved, I mixed and finally it was all ready for the cake tin.

My bright little girl is very technically minded. She does all the pink stuff too, but has always, always wanted to know how stuff works and how it’s put together. She hovered near me as I started to pour the mix into the tin. At the crucial moment she found the answer to the question that had been bugging her. Just what is that lever for on the side of the tin?

In an instant the Mother-daughter smiling idyll was shattered as the lovingly prepared cake mix oozed from the cake tin and spread slowly over the table. We both stared in horror. She was the most horrified. I was the most vocal. As she ran sobbing up the stairs I frantically scooped the mix back into the tin with my hands and hoped no-one would notice.

We kissed and made up, but ‘the day L opened the springform tin’ has gone down in the annals of Porker family history as one of the more comic cooking moments.

I hope you have a small child to hand with whom you can make these jam tarts. They’re very easy, no levers involved, and all being well you can pass a happy moment together in the kitchen.

Happy Kitchen Jam Tarts (makes about 12)
I love the texture of this pastry. It's really moist and very easygoing, none of that cracking rubbish you get when using wheat flour. The sweet potato does give it a slightly orange hue, which doesn't bother me at all, especially not when it tastes so yummy.

145g sweet potatoes (weigh them after you have peeled them)
100g rice flour (plus some extra) (here's one)0.5 tsp gluten-free baking powder (here's one)
0.5tsp xanthan gum (here's one)
60g dairy-free spread (here's one)
60g caster sugar
About 15tsps of gluten-free jam of your choice

  • Peel the sweet potatoes, weigh out 145g, and then cook them in boiling water until they are soft. Drain them and mash them until they are smooth. Spread the mash out on a plate and leave to get cold in the fridge. You can make this up to 24 hours in advance. The mash needs to be really cold
  • Put the rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and sugar into a large mixing bowl
  • Add the dairy-free spread and rub it into the flour mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. It won't look like fine breadcrumbs, but don't worry
  • Add the sweet potato mash and using the back of a metal spoon mix and squidge it all together until it forms a dough. It could be that the dough is too wet and sticky to work with, so add more rice flour, tablespoon by tablespoon. Mix after each addition until you get a soft, pliable dough that isn't sticky. Chill the dough in the fridge for about half an hour, (you can leave it for longer if it suits you, I've done it for at least 4 hours and it's been fine)
  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / Gas mark 4 whilst the dough is chilling and grease your jam tart tray
  • Flour a smooth work surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 4mm. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough if the rolling pin sticks, adding extra flour doesn't seem to make any difference to the final dough
  • Using a round biscuit cutter cut out the rounds and place them into your greased jam tart tray
  • Put about a teaspoon of jam into each tart base, don't overload because it all bubbles up and out during cooking, don't fill more than half full
  • Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes or so, until the pastry is golden brown and the jam is bubbly and melted
  • Leave to cool in the tray and remove when cold
  • These are good for the school run, but take a pack of wipes with you

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Monday, 28 May 2007

Margarita Sorbet (dairy-free)

Tanya left the whirling room of dancers. Her face was flushed, her eyes were bright, but her heart was heavy. He was not there. She choked back a sob and stepped silently from the grand hall into another grandiose room. By stark contrast, this room was silent and cool, lit only by the chilled moonlight streaming through the open French doors. Tanya moved quickly to the balcony and leant wearily against the cold white marble.

Her mind thought back to their last meeting, a relaxed barbecue on the beach, a moonlit walk, his rough embrace and the passion with which he had crushed her lips. Then he had left, he had pulled away as if alarmed by the depth of his feelings. He had not called, and tonight he had not come.

Tanya turned to go and was startled to see a tall, broad-shouldered figure standing in the shadows of the room. In the dim light she made out his deep, smouldering eyes and the rugged thrust of his firm, square jaw. ‘Tanya’, he breathed.
Hugo, you came’ she said simply. ‘Of course’ he replied in his husky voice.

He moved towards her with strong and powerful strides, and swept her into his arms, almost crushing her in his manly embrace. They stayed locked together for many minutes, his breath hot and urgent. Then he stepped back and held her at arm’s length. His thick, dark curls had fallen across his face, his eyes were gleaming and he grinned with happiness.
‘Wait, wait, I’ve got to ask you something.’ He led her to the moonlit balcony, now his face became serious. Again he kissed her, cupping her face in his strong, masculine hands and tracing the outline of her fine features. He pulled away from her succulent lips, bent down and pulled a small object towards him that he must have hidden earlier on the balcony.

‘I have to ask you’ he said again, and slowly dropped to one knee. Her heart leapt within her breast, ‘I know it’s early and we haven’t known each other long, and I don’t know if you will…perhaps you don’t feel the same…’ his voice tailed off uncertainly. She opened her mouth but no sound came out. He gently took her hand and her eyes closed with emotion as she felt a cold pressure on her palm,
If it’s not too early, will you,’ he said, ‘have a Margarita sorbet?
Hugo's Margarita Sorbet
I can't understand why you wouldn't want a tub of Hugo's love juice chilling in your freezer. The alcohol content ensures it doesn't quite set and it has a delightful slushy consistency. I'm often tempted to creep down to the cellar, open the freezer, pop a straw into the tub and slurp away. Do remember to drink in moderation. I often forget that bit. And the best bit? Hugo is a man of simple needs and he doesn't require an ice-cream maker for this sorbet. God love him.
250g sugar
600ml water
135ml Tequila
90ml Cointreau
45ml fresh lime juice - about 2 limes- plus the zest
An extra lime for decoration
Coarsely ground salt
Hugo's rose petals of lurve(optional)
  • Put the water and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the water to the boil without stirring and then let it simmer without stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Let it boil for about 5 minutes, then set it aside to cool
  • When the sugary water is cold, grate the rind of the two limes into the saucepan. Squeeze the juice of the limes into the pan as well. If you have a reamer and can get some of the pulp in, so much the better. Scrape it out with a spoon if you don't have a reamer
  • Add the Tequila and Cointreau and stir it all up
  • Taste it and see if it needs more sugar, or perhaps a dash more of lime?
  • Divide the mixture between two or even three ice-cream tubs. You need a thin layer to get it to set as hard as possible. Place the tubs in the freezer and leave to freeze for at least 12 hours
  • When the sorbet has set, scrape it all out and put it into a liquidiser or blender. Blend it until it is smooth and then put it back into the containers. Put all the containers back into the freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours
  • The sorbet will go firm around the edges, but be lovely and slushy in the middle
  • To serve, grate some salt onto a small plate. Rub some juice from the third lime around the rim of the glass and dip the glass into the salt to form a lovely salty rim
  • Spoon in some sorbet and grate some more lime zest over the top
  • Add a petal of lurve if you are trying to charm your Tanya or your Hugo
  • Santé!

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Friday, 25 May 2007

Millionaire's Shortbread (gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free)

I feel a bit funny about ultrasound scans in pregnancy. With my first pregnancy I had a scan at 5 weeks. This tiny blob actually had a heartbeat! It was surreal. I couldn’t wait for the next one at 20 weeks, and grinned away happily at the screen, understanding almost nothing of the technology, just pleased to see that the baby only had one head and was waving the requisite number of limbs.

After being scanned almost to death during a complicated second pregnancy, I no longer associated the warm jelly and darkened room with delight and happiness. At the final decisive scan the tight-lipped radiographer would say nothing. It was left to the young Doctor to gently tell my sobbing self that really it was going to be fine, this baby isn’t that small, a bit petite that’s all, try not to worry, we’re just being cautious. This Doctor, still seated a metre from me, then reached for her phone, called her colleague and said,

‘Jim? Hi, we’ve got a REALLY small baby here, we need to get it out fast. Yeh, it’s WAY off the bottom of the scale, yep, yep, tiny, can you do it tomorrow?’ Maybe Doctors really do think that women go mad in pregnancy, and also lose their ability to hear at close range?

By baby number 3 they were still all over me with the scanner, it was getting a bit boring, and I wasn't sure I liked my baby being examined quite so often. At least this Health Authority would tell me the sex. I used to play 'test the radiographer', ‘would you mind telling me the sex?’ When the fourth one had said, 'Look, there's the penis and here are the testicles', I thought it might be an idea to start buying some blue babygros.

The other day I took my littlest girl to see the Cardiologist. As he lay her down on the bed, produced some warm jelly and dimmed the lights, I was not feeling too chipper. Yet as I watched the valves in my girl’s heart work in a perfectly normal way, I did produce a rather large grin.
Open shut open shut open shut open shut. All open perfectly shut normal.

There was some explanation in French medical speak as to why the other doctor had heard a heart murmur, but I just nodded and smiled and didn’t listen to a word of it.

Open shut open shut all perfectly normal.

So I came home and baked these by way of a celebration.

Heart Murmur Shortbread
For the base:
150g rice flour
25g maize flour
130g dairy-free spread (here's one)
70g caster sugar
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (here's one)

For the squidgy bit:
100g dairy-free spread
100g unrefined sugar or brown sugar
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1tbsp rice milk mixed with 1 tsp cornflour
For the chocolatey bit:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees C. Line a 20x20cm tin with baking parchment
  • Put the rice and maize flour into a large mixing bowl, add the xanthan gum and the sugar
  • Add the dairy-free spread to the bowl and rub it into the flour. It will not resemble fine breadcrumbs, more sort of chunks of sugary flour-covered fat. Keep going until it's as mixed in as it will go and then squidge it all together to form a dough.
  • Roll the dough out a little to get it as close to the size of the tin as you can and then lift the dough into the tin. Press it to the edges and use the back of a metal spoon to smooth it all off. Try to get it as even as possible, it will be quite a thin layer.
  • Prick the base with a fork (to prevent it rising up when you cook it) and place in the oven for about 12 minutes until it is golden brown. When it is cooked, remove and leave to cool. You could make this part up to 24 hours ahead if you wish
  • In a medium-sized saucepan melt the 100g dairy-free spread and add the sugar. Boil it gently, stirring all the time, for about 5 minutes. You want to try and get it as thick and syrupy as you can.
  • Add the 1/8 of a teaspoon of xanthan gum and stir vigorously. If it makes little lumps, don't panic, use a mini whisk and whisk for dear life until the lumps have gone
  • Add the rice milk and cornflour and keep stirring. Bubble for about 4 more minutes, stirring all the time, it should be thick and quite gooey
  • Pour the gloop over the biscuit base, spread it evenly and leave to cool
  • When all of the above is cool, melt the chocolate. You can do this either in the microwave on medium heat in a heatproof bowl (stir every 40 seconds) or in a small saucepan over a gentle heat
  • Pour the melted chocolate over the biscuit and squidgey stuff and leave to cool in the fridge
  • NOTE! Cut the shortbread into rectangles before the chocolate is completely set, otherwise the chocolate with crack when you try and slice it all up and your perfect creation will be ruined.
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Vegetarian Bean Burgers (Egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

My eldest girl is still young enough to want to tell me all about her day at school. A few weeks ago she came home and said,
Mum, a boy at school says there’s MEAT in Bolognese!’ She expected me to laugh along, but instead I felt a little uneasy. When my other big girl asked if she could go to ‘Old McDonalds’, I also worried a little. They really didn't know what they were talking about.

I don’t have a problem setting boundaries for my children, and I can be quite opinionated about certain subjects; don’t get me started on table manners. However, when it comes to beliefs and ideals I find it a bit of a grey area. I try to present both sides of each moral question that comes along, and then I tell them what I personally believe. Be it Education, War, Religion, Wearing Sandals With Socks, or Vegetarianism.

I believe that I don’t want to eat meat or fish. I believe that I don’t want to cook meat or fish in my house. What other people do or don’t eat doesn’t offend me, it is also their choice. My children say they are Vegetarian, but have they made that choice freely? From the moment they are born your children gaze up at you adoringly, and although they find convincing ways to mask the adoration, they’re still always gazing at you, watching, learning, copying. Of course they are going to do as I do.

I’ve always maintained that they should choose. If they are at a party or a restaurant and they want to try something, they should. This belief was sorely tested the day my little boy went to his first birthday party. He was three. During the tea he helped himself repeatedly to those little cocktail sausages that I suspect are hoovered up off the abattoir floor.

Isn’t he vegetarian?’ asked one of the other Mums. ‘Yes’ I replied, my smile a little too bright and shiny, ‘but of course he can choose’. I suspect my son is a meat and two veg kind of man.

I did correct my eldest daughter and explain about Bolognese. I did tell my other daughter exactly why we weren’t going to McDonalds and I make sure that they know which meat comes from which animal.

And when my uneasiness level rises too high, I cook them these burgers. It means they can hang out with their mates and say, ‘Yeh, I had burgers for tea last night too’. I mean, who wants to raise a freak?

Uneasy Bean Burgers (Makes 8 burgers)

The lovely Jane pointed out that I could make these spicy...I have missed a trick. Still, if you add 1 finely chopped green chilli, or lots of chilli flakes, when you fry up the veg, you'd be laughing. And your tongue will be tingling.

Half a large courgette

3 small cloves garlic

4 medium button mushrooms

a small handful of chopped coriander / other herb / big pinch dried herbs

Olive oil to fry and a little extra to drizzle

1 large tomato

1 tsp yeast extract (check it is gluten-free, here's one)

400g tin of kidney beans

1 tsp Dijon Mustard (check it is gluten-free, here's one)

1 tsp no egg egg replacer mixed with 1 tbsp water (you can buy 'no-egg' here)

2 tbsp linseeds (not ground)

1 tbsp gluten-free flour (I used Buckwheat flour, you could also use rice flour)

1 round pastry cutter, about 8cm in diameter. Or a smaller one.

(Note: if you only need to avoid eggs, you could use wheat flour in place of gluten-free flour. If you only need to avoid gluten, you could use 1 egg in place of the egg replacer, but you would need to compensate with more gluten-free flour. You are aiming for quite a stiff paste before cooking the burgers)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  • Finely chop the courgette, garlic, mushrooms and herbs
  • Place all of the above into a frying pan with the olive oil and fry gently. When the veg has softened but is not brown, slice the tomato in half and squeeze the innards into the frying pan. Discard the skins
  • Add the yeast extract and Dijon mustard to the pan and stir everything together. Remove from the heat and place into a large heatproof bowl. (This could be chilled in the fridge for up to 24 hours if you are making the burgers in stages)
  • Drain the tin of kidney beans and mash them on a plate. I use the back of a fork because it mashes in an irregular fashion and leaves bigger chunks, but you could use a potato masher. Add the mashed beans to the veg which is in the large bowl
  • Mix up the tsp of 'no-egg' with 1 tbsp water. Add it to the bowl
  • Add the linseeds and flour to the bowl and mix everything together. You should have quite a stiff paste, not too sloppy or it won't hold together
  • Put the pastry cutter round thing onto the baking tray. Spoon a dessertspoonful of the mixture into the pastry cutter and smooth round with the back of the spoon to make an even burger. Carefully remove the cutter, you should have a perfectly round burger, aren't you clever?! Continue until you have used up all the mix
  • Put your perfect little burgers into the oven and cook for about 15 mins (but keep checking)
  • After this time, take them out and drizzle them with olive oil. Put them back in the oven and cook for another 5 or so minutes, until the tops are lightly browned. I don't have the courage to try and turn them lest they all fall apart and I have to resort to a strong drink. But if you walk on the wild side, then try and flip them, dare you!
The burger in the picture is happily residing in an Archimedes' Gluten Free Bread Roll
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Mabel's Labels

I first read about Mabel's labels on the Vegan Lunch Box and got very excited about the mention of allergy alert stickers. A couple of emails later and some fairly painless internet purchasing, et voilà!

They are stickers that you can slap on lunchboxes, drink containers, etc. And if you are very geeky like me and own a laminator, you can laminate the labels onto paper, hole punch a hole and thread a ribbon through. This makes a tag for bags or zippers or...whatever you want I suppose. (The geeky laminated version is shown in the picture).

Two of my little piglets are now all labelled up and that is one less thing to worry about.

If you know someone who could use these, spread the word and make them and Mabel happy!


© Pig in the Kitchen
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Monday, 14 May 2007

Dairy free Chocolate Ice-Cream (egg-free dairy-free gluten-free)

They say that in the days of Cavemen and Cavewomen, the men went off to hunt. As a band of brothers they were a slick, fighting machine that brought home the meat for dinner.

They say that the Cavewomen stayed closer to the Cave. As a giggle of sisters they were a nattering lot and would forage around for tasty morsels to enhance the evening meatfest. The wee cavebabies would potter around close to Cavemummy.

They suspect that this ancient heritage explains why men nowadays find it seemingly impossible to focus on more than one task at a time. They also say that it explains why women have an insatiable appetite for gossip, are quite good with the small folk and are very good at bringing home sparkly trinkets and lots of little packages.

I am very tempted to guffaw at these notions, and race off down the well-trodden route of male-bashing. "Oh for goodness’ sake, how hard can it be to cook a meal, listen to the radio, unstack the dishwasher, help with homework, change a nappy, check your email, text your mate AND clear up afterwards?" I’m tempted to do some male-bashing, but I’m not going to.

This is because I have given the matter some thought. Imagine it’s true, and that the band of brothers really did have to go out and kill big hairy animals for their dinner. You would have to be pretty focussed on that task. Taking your eye off the mammoth and debating the pros and cons of spending a weekend in Cornwall could easily result in a tusk through the jugular. So I guess it really was in their interests to keep quiet, get irritable with any interruptions, wear headphones and only think of one thing.

Now let’s consider the Cavewomen. If they really did go out and just forage for little titbits with their offspring in tow, it would be pretty mind-numbing wouldn’t it? They’d have to gossip. They might even get a bit side-tracked and pick out a pretty flower for their hair. Or two. Or perhaps three, oh, and one for that lovely fur that her man promised her next month.

So all these male and female differences are beginning to make sense to me.

Given that it is now clearly proven that it is in our very bones to shop, may I recommend browsing for an ice-cream maker? They are not very expensive and if you say ‘la-la-la’ as the cashier tells you the total, you will barely feel it. I’m sure this expense could come under ‘Household Expenditure’.

If you have a child with a milk or an egg allergy, then we could even argue that it is akin to neglect to deprive them of ice-cream. Maybe that’s going a tad far, but really, a machine that helps your child and makes you look like a culinary goddess…what are you waiting for?
Chocolate Forager Ice-Cream
200ml rice milk
0.25-0.5 tsp xanthan gum (gluten-free, here's one)
100g dried apricots
80ml warmed rice milk
2 tbsps dairy-free spread (here's one)
170g sugar
180g gluten-free dark chocolate (here's one)
3 tbsps coconut cream (here's one)
2 tbsps Cointreau
  • Heat the rice milk gently in a saucepan, sprinkle the xanthan gum over as it warms and whisk like mad. There may be a cunning trick to adding xanthan gum to liquid, I don't know it. It went in to small lumps, but with whisking and warming it all came right. Phew. NOTE: the consistency you are aiming for is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add a quarter of a tsp of xanthan gum first and add the other quarter if needed. It seems to be quite tricky stuff this xanthan gum
  • Add the dairy-free spread to the rice milk mix and stir through until it has melted
  • Add the coconut cream and sugar to the saucepan and stir through
  • Put the dark chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds or so, add to the saucepan and stir through
  • Warm the 80ml of rice milk and add to the dried apricots. Using a hand blender or liquidiser, blend it to a pulp.
  • Add the apricots to the saucepan
  • Add the Cointreau. Add more if you want!
  • By now the mix should be cool enough to put into your ice-cream maker, but if it isn't, you could chill it for an hour or two in the fridge. When you feel the time is right, put the mix into the ice-cream maker and leave it to churn happily
  • When it is thickening and starting to go icy (about 40 minutes depending on the machine - do check the handbook), pour it all into a freezable container and place in the freezer
  • Freeze at least overnight, but 24 hours is better
  • Because of the xanthan gum and the apricot pulp (at least I think that's why), this does not freeze rock hard like most home-made ice-cream. This means you can get it out and serve it straight away. Hurrah!
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Friday, 11 May 2007

Righteous Ruler’s Mint Tea

My globally-warmed garden is doing amazing things at the moment. All a bit early it seems, but hey, it looks really pretty. As I was pottering around with the children in tow, we found some mint. Lots of mint. They wanted to know if they could eat it, or make perfume with it. Whilst they made the ‘perfume’, I made them some mint tea to try. I handed my husband his cup and we both drank at the same time. We stared at each other as the memories flooded back…"Tunisia! Righteous Ruler!"

During my final year at University, we went on holiday to Tunisia. We drank mint tea for a week. We stayed in a secluded beach resort. It was a beautiful place. We had a little bungalow and a smiling man bought breakfast to our terrace every morning. There were unspoilt white beaches. There were lazy mornings and candlelit dinners. There were lots and lots of men staring. I found that rather difficult, I had to face the wall for those candlelit dinners or the feminist in me got really irritable.
Our holiday came to an end and we commandeered a taxi to take us back to Tunis. Our driver drove like one possessed. Whatever possessed him had not passed its driving test. During a white-knuckle overtaking manoeuvre into oncoming traffic, he had to pull back in smartly. As he pulled back in he pranged the car on his inside that was seemingly performing an undertaking manoeuvre. It was all very confusing.

We all gulped. My husband-to-be and I exchanged looks. What, with the delay whilst they exchanged insurance details, there was a good chance we might miss our flight back to Europe. Scarcely had we verbalised this when the G-force pinned us to our seats. It was the G-force of a car accelerating away from the scene of an accident.

A glance through the back windscreen confirmed that we were involved in a car chase. The wild-eyed, gesticulating prangee was chasing the deadpan pranger, the latter refusing to meet our eyes. I suddenly felt like an extra in a bad action movie. I kept my head low in case our tail had a gun. I kept waiting for the bullet ricochet as we wove wildly across the highway. I wanted my Knight in backpacker garb to produce a gun, lean out the window and fire at our pursuer’s tyres. One look at my man dispelled that idea, he also had his head down low.

Our driver managed to lose the car behind, with some very fast, very horrible driving. I fell out of the car as we stopped and almost kissed the ground. By now the giggles had set in. We insisted he let us photograph his car. It was bedecked with badges and insignias. Presumably they were from the cars that hadn’t been so lucky. I peered closely at the badge that had pride of place on the bonnet.

It was a picture of a bold and fearless eagle, and it said ‘Righteous Ruler’. How apt. This tea is for you Righteous Ruler, wherever you are.

Righteous Ruler’s Mint Tea (1 cup)

A bit of a complex recipe, you might want to build up to this one. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right first time.

Enough boiling water to fill a mug of your choosing
About 5 big mint leaves
1-2 sugar cubes depending on your taste.

  • Fill the kettle and put it on

  • Whilst it is boiling, put the mint leaves into the bottom of your cup

  • When the kettle has boiled pour it into the cup, filling to the desired level. Tip: you may want to top it up with cooler water so it is not too hot to drink

  • Add sugar if you like

  • Stir

  • Enjoy

© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Gluten Free Carrot Cake (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

The day after the day the Grim Reaper leant over your shoulder, and watched you struggle to save your child’s life, is a day to celebrate. The day after his fetid breath filled your nostrils and he raised his scythe in readiness, is a day to forget the chores and to buy ice-cream. As you try to erase the residual shock and hold that child tight, it’s a day to go to the beach. Or just sit down and play the games they want, all day.

I have three girls. Only one of them has the distinction of being an older and a younger sister. She is the one I was struggling to save.

She was a tiny dot, born at 36 weeks weighing 1.96kg (4.3 pounds). They told me she would go to the SCBU, they told me I wouldn’t be able to breast-feed her, they told me she might not be very well at all. They reckoned without my feisty girl. Although her tiny, furled up body seemed too small to be in this world, she drank the first drink of formula they forced on her, then turned to me for more. She had no intention of going to the SCBU. She has an iron will.

At 6 months we bought her a soft little teddy. She grabbed it from us and has still not let go. She kissed and chewed and sucked the teddy; it is now a shadow of its former self. As soon as my baby could talk she christened the teddy, ‘Bear bear’. We all love Bear Bear, he is the seventh member of our family.

At 25 months she had her brush with death. During an afternoon with friends, a grown-up game of ball got a bit close and a grown-up fell on top of her with all his weight. She had been eating cake. As they passed her to me, the warning bells were chiming very loudly.

Her teeth were bared like a wild animal’s. Her eyes were open but they had rolled up inside her head, I could only see the whites. She was rigid. She wasn’t breathing. I called her name and her eyes rolled back and drilled into me. Her pupils were dilated to maximum and her eyes were like deep black holes. Then she went limp in my arms.

They say that in moments of extreme danger, time slows down. I concur.
My baby was choking and the ambulance was not going to get there in time. They don't tell you that when a jaw is locked shut you cannot prise it open and therefore you can't clear the airways. It took long agonising minutes before she would breathe again, and it was much much later in hospital that she came out of the subsequent deep sleep and was my little girl again. The terror of brain damage could finally leave.

Amazingly, the doctor told me that at her age she could have done six minutes underwater in a swimming pool, and not have sustained brain damage. It's a comforting thought but I think perhaps I won't be putting his theory to the test. Please, know your basic first aid.

My girl has always loved carrots. From carrot purée to carrot sticks through carrot salad to carrot cake, she loves it all. ‘I will always be able to see in the dark Mummy because I eat so many carrots.’

Bear Bear and Carrot Cake are two of her favourite things. She is one of my three favourite girls.

Bear Bear's Carrot Cake

175g grated carrots
1 medium apple
75g brown rice flour
75g maize flour1.5tsp gluten-free baking powder125g sugar
2 tbsps ground linseeds (grind whole linseeds in a blender, sooo easy)
3tbsps rice milk
2 tsp cinnamon
a good scraping of whole nutmeg or 0.25tsp
50g raisins
70ml vegetable oil

For the icing:100g dairy-free spread (here's one)175g gluten-free icing sugar (here's one)
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, Gas mark 4
  • Line a 19cm x 19cm tin with baking parchment
  • Mix the linseeds with the rice milk and set aside
  • Grate the carrots and peel, core and finely grate the apple
  • Put the sugar, linseed mix and oil into a large mixing bowl and beat together using a wooden spoon
  • Add the apple, carrot and raisins. Grate half of the lemon zest and half the orange zest into the bowl, and mix everything together
  • Add the maize flour, rice flour, baking powder and spices and mix everything agin
  • Scrape into the tin and level off using the back of the spoon
  • Place in the oven for approximately 25 minutes. Depending on your oven, it may take shorter or longer, start checking after about 12 minutes. The cake is cooked when it is firm and slightly springy. The top may look a little cracked which is not a problem
  • Remove the cake from the oven and leave it in the tin to cool
  • For the icing: Put the dairy-free spread into a large mixing bowl and sieve in the icing sugar. Beat it all together. When smooth, add the lemon juice. The icing is quite loose, you might want to add a little more sugar if you see fit
  • When the cake is cold spread the icing over the top. Grate the remaining orange and lemon zest over the top to make it look pretty
  • I like to keep this cake in the fridge, but perhaps cold carrot cake is weird for you. Do what you think is best. :-)
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Asparagus Salad (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

What aspect of the lesson plan led the Nun to tell the class of Primary School children that male urine is more odorous than female urine? Especially in the morning apparently. It begs the question, how on earth did she know? Perhaps this Bride of Christ was not all she seemed. I have wracked my brain to try and remember why she told us, but I can’t. Yet I have retained this fact from my strange years at the convent.

In their polyester habits, the Nuns rustled as they walked. Some had large motherly breasts, others were dwarfed by their navy blue tent. Interspersed with the Nuns were the ‘secular’ teachers, I often wondered how the banter went in the staff room.

I don’t think the education would stand up to the rigours of an OFSTED inspection. I remember Sister Humphrey telling us in very racist terms about a tribe they had been ‘helping’ in Africa. The air that pervaded the school was that the main business was God’s business and the education was an exasperating afterthought.

We were once allowed to visit the Nuns' quarters. It was a very quiet place, I remember feeling very reverent. I think we were allowed to see one bedroom, and there was a carpeted chapel with a prominent statue of the Virgin Mary. I found the idea of the Nuns living here fascinating, it seemed a quieter, more holy version of Malory Towers.

I was not a good student. With a troubled home life, I was the child that was too loud, attention-seeking and disruptive. I would hate to have me in my class. I think lots of the nuns hated to have me in their class.

Sister Pauline was no exception. A stern-faced brunette with pointy features, she would take no messing. She was such a challenge to me. She had a slightly arty streak, more Jackson Pollock than Monet.

She once commissioned a large, religious-themed painting for the wall. I was in charge of doing the sky. I knew Sister Pauline would have some strange colour ideas, so asked her advice. She got quite animated, her creative smile broke through, ‘use lots of different colours!’ she exhorted me. With a giggling friend, I set to work. Dark purple, orange, lime green, they all had their place on our canvas. She was not impressed. What should have been a pretty sky, looked a bit like a bad car crash.

It was the only time I managed to break her. She completely lost control, shrieking and quivering, her pointy nose drained of all colour. As I took my place outside the Head Nun’s office, I smiled quietly to myself. What a horrible child I was.

I hope Sister Pauline would enjoy this salad. Alas, be you male or female, if you eat it, your wee is going to smell bad.
(Names have been changed to ensure I can never be sued)

Sister Pauline's Asparagus Salad (serves 2 adults)

8 small new potatoes
12 asparagus stalks
6 cherry tomatoes
3 tbsps dairy-free spread
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
about 8 sprigs of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1-2 tbsps lemon juice (I used the cheating stuff from a bottle)
1-2 tsps Gluten-free Dijon Mustard (here's one)
Salt and Black Pepper

  • Melt the dairy-free spread in a small saucepan. Add the chopped garlic and finely chopped coriander. Let it all heat gently until it is sizzling, but not brown
  • Add the mustard and stir through. It may be helpful to use a mini-whisk
  • Add a tbsp of lemon juice, whisk and taste. You might find it tastes fine, you might want a bit more lemon juice or mustard. Adjust as you see fit
  • Add salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside
  • Wash the new potatoes and chop them into small cubes
  • Put a large pan of water to boil. When it is boiling, add some salt and put the potatoes in. They should cook for about 12-15 mins depending on the size of your cubes
  • Trim the ends of the asparagus and steam (or boil) for about 10 minutes. This will leave them quite crunchy, you may prefer them softer, if so,leave them for a bit longer
  • Whilst everything is steaming and bubbling, halve the cherry tomatoes and put to one side
  • When the potatoes are done, drain them and allow them to steam for a minute or two
  • Put a little of the dressing into a large bowl and put the potatoes on top. Mix it gently round to lightly coat the potatoes. Arrange the potatoes in the centre of your plate
  • Take the asparagus off the heat and arrange them in a star pattern around the plate (see picture)
  • Arrange the cherry tomatoes in between the asparagus stalks (see picture)
  • Using the remaining dressing, drizzle around the plate and on top of the potatoes
  • Enjoy!
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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Sunday, 6 May 2007

Chocolate and Apricot Truffles (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

I have always had a bit of a thing for running. In my early teens when my friends were getting sweaty behind the bike sheds, I was getting sweaty running up and down the netball pitch. Then I graduated to cross-country running, which I loved. There’s nothing like getting down and dirty in some wet and slippery mud, clad in a wrapover miniskirt and big blue gym knickers.

The school put a team of us forward for the County trials. In the bus on the way to the trials, I looked at the girl sitting next to me. Her legs were three times as long as mine and just one of her strong, muscular thighs was the size of my waist. I recall that her nickname was the ‘Jolly Green Giant’. I’m sure that must have hurt. Yet as I contemplated the competitive run ahead, I felt she deserved every mean syllable.

I came 52nd. There were 52 runners. It was not a sprint finish. I did the last lap of a sun-drenched field on my own. Crying. Actually I wasn’t quite on my own, a marshal took pity on me and ran along with me for a time, holding my hand. Then her friends told her to stop in case I got disqualified. That kind of wasn’t the issue by then.

People vary in their reactions to running, many can't seem to fathom it. Perhaps they have never had an endorphin high. If you run for long enough you suddenly get a huge buzz. It makes me grin and I feel as if I can fly. If I am running down a country lane with no-one around, I often bounce up and down and wave my hands in the air; it gets me very excited. Why pay for the hard stuff when you can put your trainers on, do the hard stuff for free and still get high? And no nasty downer the next day.

The other day I ran to music. I had loaded some new tracks onto my funky little clip and the running order was a surprise. What a fab run it was. Along came the Communards, the Wonderstuff dropped by and I caught a glimpse of Hot Chocolate. I whizzed past the Mock Turtles (they were very slow) and nodded to Bryan Adams. I’m pretty sure I saw Steppenwolf and even Robbie was there. I was a bit embarrassed when Leo Sayer showed up; I pretended I hadn’t seen him. As I ran up to my car at the end, poetic licence would have me say that I was listening to this. In fact it was this.
And after all that running and grinning and getting high, I needed a sugar rush to top it off. So I made these. Mmmmmmm!
Apricot Running Truffles (makes 45. Forty-five! That's got to be good)
I was rather startled when these turned out to be so delicious (no false modesty here). The centre is so squidgy and naughty I wondered if I'd lapsed and slipped in some hydrogenated fat. But no, it is all good stuff. With all the dark chocolate and the dried apricots, these bad boys must be rich in iron. Drink them with orange juice for the maximum iron hit.
175g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, gluten-free, here's one )
100g dried apricots
Plus 50g dried apricots
some warm rice milk
125g dairy-free spread
3 tbsps Cointreau (or more if you wish)
4 tbsps sugar
Cocoa powder for dusting, about 4 tbsps
200g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, gluten-free)
Pretty serving cases

  • Line two baking trays with baking parchment

  • Using a hand blender (or liquidiser?), blend the 100g of dried apricots with enough warmed rice milk to make a paste. Use as little rice milk as possible

  • Chop the remaining 50g of dried apricots into small pieces. I used scissors to chop them

  • Break the dark chocolate into small-ish pieces and place in a 'bain marie'. For the bain-marie: fill a small saucepan with about 5 cm of water, place a large bowl on top. The bowl shouldn't touch the water. Heat the water until it boils, it will melt/heat whatever is in the bowl

  • Melt the chocolate in the bain-marie, stirring from time to time so it doesn't stick. When it has melted remove from the heat. Add the dairy-free spread and beat until smooth

  • Add the apricot paste, the apricot pieces and the Cointreau

  • Add the sugar, use more or less depending on what your tastebuds are telling you

  • Whisk/beat the filling. I did it for about five minutes then got fed up and went and did something else. When I came back the mix had set and was ready to be rolled. Fantastic!

  • When the chocolatey, apricotey mix is squidgeable, sieve the cocoa powder onto a plate

  • Take a teaspoonful of the mix and roll it into a ball. You might want to dab your hands into the cocoa powder before rolling so that the mix doesn't stick to them

  • Place the balls onto the baking trays. Repeat until all the mix is used up

  • It's best to chill them overnight, but if you can't I would say at least two hours...

  • When you are ready to coat them. Melt the remaining chocolate in the bain-marie. When it has melted, remove from the heat

  • Using a spoon and your hands (only lick when you've finished), plop each ball into the melted chocolate and coat it generously. Place the coated balls back onto the baking trays. The excess chocolate will run down and give the truffles a flat bottom. (Sigh, it's what I dream of)

  • Chill for as long as possible, again, overnight is best

  • When the chocolate has set, use a knife to scrape off the excess chocolate at the base of the truffles. Or leave it on if you prefer, but they dont really fit into pretty cases unless you nip and tuck

  • Place the truffles in pretty serving cases and wow your friends. Or keep them for after your run. Or don't run, sit in front of a good film and eat as many as you wish.

  • © Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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    Thursday, 3 May 2007

    Sugar Free Rock Cakes (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

    I have recently learnt about the Ketogenic Diet. This is not some new fad from over the pond, but a diet that is sometimes used to treat children with Epilepsy. It is used if they are not responding to conventional treatment.

    I learnt about this diet from the lovely Fiona. Fiona’s RP vowels are to die for and her son Harry, is in the same class as one of my girls. Harry has epilepsy and spent a year on the Ketogenic Diet. The Diet has transformed his and his family’s life, he has not had seizures since the end of the diet.

    There is a British Charity called Matthew’s Friends which fund-raises for, and promotes, the Ketogenic Diet. Some of the stories make for tough reading. They bring home to me how fortunate I am that my children have only had to deal with minor health issues. Great Ormond Street Hospital ran a trial period of the Ketogenic Diet. The trial period is over. So now it’s over to Matthew’s Friends.

    Fiona ran the Paris Half-Marathon to raise funds for the charity. She raised over a thousand pounds and the money paid to put a child on the Ketogenic Diet. Her husband is planning to climb Mont Blanc this summer and if the Gods are willing, he should raise enough money to put 15-20 children on the diet. What an inspirational couple. If you wanted to send some spare coins (the kind that crumple and fold) to this charitable climbing endeavour, have a look at:

    Fiona and I started the Paris Half Marathon together. We puffed along for about 7 kilometres when a man with a large pole attached to his back passed us. At the top of the pole there was a pink balloon with the inscription ‘2h 10’. Fiona and I cogitated about this and then realised that if you were planning on running the race in 2 hours and ten minutes then you’d better stick with this man.

    ‘Shall I go for it?’ asked Fiona. My rasping ‘eeerrrggh’ and nod conveyed that she should. And off she went. I simply could not keep up. She chased the man with the pink balloon, she passed him and she finished the race in 2 hours 10 minutes. Damn that Fiona and her lovely, RP vowels.
    These cakes are for Harry as he steers well clear of refined sugar in his post-Ketogenic Diet life.

    Harry's Rock Cakes

    160g dried apricots
    100g golden raisins plus 100g
    80ml warmed rice milk
    100g ground sunflower seeds
    50g ground linseeds
    2 tsps cinnamon
    125g dairy-free spread
    1.5tsp gluten-free baking powder
    4-6 tbsps rice flour

    • Line a baking tray with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
    • Put the warm rice milk into a wide mouthed jug and add the apricots and 100g of the raisins. Using a hand blender, blend it all to a pulp
    • Put the dairy-free spread into a large saucepan and add the apricot mix
    • Heat it all together gently until the dairy-free spread has melted. Set aside
    • Grind the sunflower seeds and linseeds in a liquidiser and add it to the saucepan
    • Add the cinnamon, baking powder and the remaining raisins. Mix it all together
    • Add enough rice flour to make quite a stiff paste. You don't want the mixture too wet
    • Using a teaspoon, dollop large dollops onto the baking tray. I do love the word dollop
    • These babies cook really quickly, they only took about 13 minutes. Check them after about 6 to make sure they're not browning too quickly. If they are, turn the oven down

    © Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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    Wednesday, 2 May 2007

    Potato, orange and rocket salad (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

    My husband and I once suppressed our mocking giggles throughout a very pompous speech. The speech was made by a Very Big Corporate Wig in my husband’s then company.

    The setting for the speech was sumptuous; a moonlit Italian castle overlooking an Italian lake. We’d walked up an Italian path to get there, the path had been lit by flaming torches. It all scored pretty high on the wow-o-meter. Maybe it was because they knew we had to endure the after-dinner speech and they wanted to soften us up.

    Anyway, I thought I’d introduce my salad in a rather pompous way as an homage to that very dull Italian Speech.

    "Those of you who know me well don’t need to be told that I enjoy salad. Salad satisfies me on many, many levels. When I espy a colourful mixed salad on a pure white plate, I don’t mind telling you that I rejoice.

    The salad we are talking about today boasts a myriad of colours.
    Notice how the vibrant green is enhanced and improved by the sombre noir of the olive. The succulent new potatoes jostling for space with the avocado. The exquisite contrast of sweetness and acid as the orange and vinaigrette compete for the affection of your taste buds.

    Reader, let me continue no further. But I exhort you to enjoy this delightful creation. Now let’s raise a glass and drink to….my ego’.
    Pompous Italian Salad (Serves 1 very hungry adult or two lunching ladies)
    4 new potatoes (diced)
    About 10 pitted black olives
    1-2 oranges (if orange in a salad is too weird for you, you can leave it out, or replace with sweetcorn)Big handful of Rocket leaves (or other green leaf that you like)
    1 avocado
    Fresh mint (about 6 big leaves)
    1 tbsp dairy-free spread
    Salt and black pepper to taste

    For the Vinaigrette, click Here
    • Put a pan of water on to boil and dice the new potatoes
    • Cut the black olives into rounds and put aside
    • Peel and dice the avocado and put aside
    • Peel the orange(s) and cut into small cubes removing the pith, or rip into chunks if you don’t mind the pith
    • Chop the mint leaves very finely
    • Put the potatoes into the boiling water and boil until tender, about 10-15 minutes
    • Make the vinaigrette
    • Drain them and let the steam evaporate for a while
    • Put the potato pan back on a very low heat and add the dairy-free spread, mint and seasoning. When the spread has melted, put the potatoes back in the pan and stir them until they are coated in the mint mixture. They can relax in there for a while, to soften the edges. Just remember to stir every now and then
    • On a serving plate, put the handful of rocket. Put half the olives and half the avocado on top
    • When the potatoes are gently sizzling, take them off the heat and put half of them onto the rocket plate.
    • Toss it all together with your hands. Quick, they are after all hot potatoes.
    • Arrange the rest of the olives, avocado and the orange decoratively on top of the salad. Add the rest of the potatoes. If there are any left over, eat them later, cold with a sprinkling of salt.
    • Dollop some vinaigrette around the salad, and put the rest on the table.
    • Have something chilled to drink.
    © Pig in the Kitchen 2007
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    Tuesday, 1 May 2007

    Guacamole (egg-free, dairy-free gluten-free)

    We have a problem with moles. More specifically my husband has a BIG problem with moles.

    Every time he goes into the garden I see the curly vein in his temple start to throb. He paces up and down and starts to mutter.
    Look at it! Look at the mess they are making of the garden. Little furry wa… he catches sight of a passing child …wasters.’

    When it comes to mowing the lawn, the molehills cause him to lurch up and down on the ride-on lawnmower. He stops occasionally, gets off the mower and stares intently at the piles of earth. He is thinking very bad thoughts.

    Without wishing to annoy you with my political views, my husband and I do not believe in war. We believe that there must be other ways. At least, I still believe that. I have watched in horror as my husband declares war on the moles. Perhaps this anti-war stuff has been a front. Perhaps all this vegetarian, animal-loving stuff has also been a front. He has embraced the combat as one who has always wanted his moment at Sandhurst.

    He started off with barbaric metal traps. He would lie face down in the grass, legs wide apart, and with stealth and cunning carefully place the device in the mole’s trench. He would then wriggle backwards, still flat on the ground, using his elbows to propel himself. His face streaked with mud, only the whites of his eyes visible.

    The traps didn’t work and the moles’ inexorable advance continued, the Maginot Line now well behind them.

    The other day I heard a commotion and saw my husband sprint past the back door. Adrenalin had lent his legs a surprising speed and his face was set and grim but his eyes were excited. He glanced at me, and I promise you he yelled,
    Fire in the Hole!’ He had turned to poison gas. A little later he appeared at the back door and leant weakly on the jamb. I half expected him to fall to the floor, clutch himself and groan, ‘I’m hit’. Turns out he’d forgotten to don his anti-chemical suit and had got a whiff of gas.

    I have tried to point out that when you live in the country, perhaps you should live and let live. It seems that is now akin to appeasement and look where that got us in 1939. Just because we live in the land of the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, there is apparently no longer any need to embrace their politics. He wants some Freedom fries with a bit of smoked mole on the side.

    I have retreated to the home front. I sit at home and worry. I occasionally knit blankets and socks. I write, I think of those poor creatures in the war and I cook. Thankfully avocados have not been rationed.

    Cheeky Guacamoley (Serves 2 hungry adults)

    Because of the chilli flakes, this has quite a cheeky kick to it. I'm sure the moles would approve.

    2 large Hass avocados
    0.5 tbsp lemon juice (plus a little extra depending on taste)
    1 small clove garlic
    Salt, black pepper, chilli flakes
    Tortilla Chips ( ensure they are gluten-free) to serve

    • Cut the avocados in half, remove the stone (put it to one side, don't throw it away) and scoop out the flesh onto a large plate
    • Use the lemon juice to cover the avocado flesh
    • Crush the garlic using a crusher (or chop it very finely), and place on top of avocados
    • Grind some salt and black pepper over the top and add as many chilli flakes as you dare
    • Using the back of a fork mash it all up together. I like to leave mine quite lumpy, but you mash as you see fit
    • Sample and adjust the seasoning to taste
    • Serve with tortilla chips
    © Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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