Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Cranberry Rock Cakes (egg free, dairy free, gluten free, vegan)

I hate the way that death drops into your life. I imagine it’s rather like a HALO jump. It silently speeds towards you from a great height, bearing down on you as you go about your business. It gathers pace, harder and faster, then with great force opens its chute of doom over your life. Whilst you stare in disbelief at your life now in tatters, death gently drops to the ground, gathers up its chute and heads off for its next victim.

What I dislike is how unprepared we are. Unaware that the very next phone call may bring some horrible news. You are busy with life, bustling around, and then it happens. You walk briskly to the phone, and within minutes of picking up the receiver you see it. The brutal, jagged chasm that is snaking between your feet and widening with every word you hear. There isn’t a way to announce death, no words are appropriate, no emotion is seemly. Death is death, it casts a shadow and leaves a mess.

Now, given how awful death is, I bet you’re glad I’m going to say no more about it aren’t you? You can relax, I’m going to talk about the flip side of the coin; life. Now we’re a bit more prepared for life, but in many ways the news arrives in the same unexpected way. You wake in the morning, start your routine, and soon the egg timer in your head is warning you that it is no longer possible to leave the house, on time, with all PE bags, school bags, hats, swimming stuff, sun cream and water bottles in the correct place. You sigh, reach for the coffee and holler that it’s breakfast time.

And then it happens. ‘bip bip!‘ You walk briskly to pick up your mobile - wondering if it’s really necessary to comb everyone’s hair - and within minutes you see it; the text that announces that your best friend is in labour!

Suddenly the day is charged with possibilities. Before the hospital mobile phone police tracked her down, I managed to speak to her about the important stuff;
‘It’s the 14th today, is that an auspicious date for it to be born?’She pondered,
‘Well I’d rather it were the 15th, that’s a better date isn’t it?’It was 8am on the 14th.
‘Hon, think about what you’re wishing for, the next 16 hours could be very long’

The day ground on. For me: buying a birthday present, a class coffee, lunch, washing, phone calls. For her, what? I glared at my phone, ring, damn you.

She called me when I was embroiled in the hot afternoon school run. Things were not progressing, she was despondent and wanted to talk. I don’t think I was much use to her. All I could say was,
‘Get away from the road! Pick your bag up NOW! Oh hon, what have they said? Keep up! Ok, well you’re in the best place, try to stay calm. STOP hitting your sister! I’m going to have to call you later’.

By 9pm things were moving along and we had a brief and gleeful conversation, rudely interrupted by a contraction. I spent a sleepless night. I shall be useless when my girls are in labour; one of those drama queens à la Eastenders,
‘Tell me the worst Doc, is she going to pull through?’
I half hoped that the supportive text I sent at 3am might be answered, but nothing. Silence. My 9am phone call was met with voicemail. Do you think they were screening my calls?

By now - remember the sleepless night - I was getting a little irrational. Having had my share of birthing horrors, I had created multiple scenarios, none of them good. I started to feel that the phone might not bring the good news for which I was hoping. Large forceps loomed before my eyes, emergency dashes through forbidding hospital corridors, swallowed meconium, dropping heartbeats, emergency caesareans.

At the peak of bedtime horror, my mobile called me, and a tired but happy voice told me that a healthy baby boy had arrived! A date was fixed for my visit and when the day came I hopped on the Métro carrying the key essentials for visiting a newborn; savoy cabbage, a tripod, plastic cups, champagne, camera, biscuits, tiny pyjamas, homemade food and - durrr - chocolate.

I am happy to report that he is perfect. He does perfect screaming, perfect juddering sighs, perfect facial contortions and a very perfect moro reflex. I happily cuddled him whilst my dear friend ate huge amounts of food, ‘I’m so hungry’ she explained between fistfuls of bread, numerous biscuits, a cooked meal and a Pig in the Kitchen creation. She’d just done 36 hours of hard labour she certainly deserved the calories.

After lunch I insisted on setting up my tripod and was most happy to bag a lovely shot of Daddy and baby. My friend looked on approvingly, mouth still full, body exhausted, exuding pride and contentment.

This Pig in the Kitchen edible gift is for you Dorry, congratulations! And - er - good luck with the sleepless nights to come.

Newborn Cranberry Rock Cakes (makes about 22)
(I haven't done the measurements in cups...does anyone mind?)

Right until the time of going to press these were called cookies. My husband however, is adamant;
'There's a minumum ratio between thickness and radius which is not respected by those so-called cookies. The ratio clearly falls into the rock cake category. And even though we have our ups and downs I still love you'.
Hmm, his last sentence just about cancelled out the affront I felt at being called on the naming of my culinary creations. Call them what you will, they're very wholesome.

*To make these with wheat flour, replace the gluten free flours with 125g wheat flour
125g dairy free spread
125g sugar
1 tsp Orgran 'no egg' egg replacer
a tiny pinch of xanthan gum
2 tbsps rice milk
125g ground sunflower seeds (put them in your blender and grind them to a rough powder)
75g ground linseeds (put them in your blender and grind them)
50g chick pea flour
75g brown rice flour
150g dried cranberries (you can use raisins if you wish. Or chopped apricot)
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
40-60ml rice milk
Approx 50g dairy free, gluten free chocolate

  • Put the 'no egg' and small pinch of xanthan gum into a small bowl. Add the 2 tbsps of rice milk. Set aside
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170° celsius, and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  • Put the dairy free spread and sugar into a large mixing bowl, beat with a wooden spoon until creamed together
  • Add the 'no egg' mixture and beat again
  • Seive in the flours (GF or wheat flour), baking powder and cinnamon, and about 20ml of the rice milk
  • Mix together. It will be quite stiff - try not to worry - but go ahead and add the sunflower seeds and linseeds
  • Add another 20ml of rice milk and mix
  • Add the cranberries and mix
  • Now add enough rice milk to get a loose mixture, but one that you can still dollop onto a baking tray into rock cake shaped shapes (I still think they're cookies). Fret ye not if you think you've added too much rice milk, all that will happen will be that your 'rock cakes' will spread and then they really WILL be cookies
  • Carefully measure out small spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, leaving room for them to spread a little
  • Bake in the centre of the oven for between 10 and 15 minutes until they are risen and golden
  • If you are using the dark choc option (it's always my option), remove the baking tray from the oven and vigorously grate the chocolate finely over the cakes. Grate with gay abandon, be lavish and marvellous
  • When the cakes have cooled slightly, place them onto a cooling tray. You may now lick the baking parchment to clean up all that messy chocolate. Please ensure that you don't burn your tongue or lips; scabby lips are a very bad look
  • These are perfect for welcoming newborns into the world, they also go down a treat at the school gate. Perfect your humble - 'oh these? Yes I rustled them up earlier, it really was no trouble' - demeanour to enrage the yummy Mums at the gate

© Pig in the Kitchen

Food & Drink Blogs - Blog Top Sites


gillie said...

For birth of number one Darling Husband arrived with 1/4 bottle of champagne, unpasteurised goats cheese, gin and tonic and home made bread (it all went a bit belly up after that but the thought was there !). I'm not plannning on late additions to the family, but if I were, I think Cranberry Rock Cakes (free of dairy, egg, gluten or not) would be jolly welcome. I seem to recall that carbohydrates (...and a tad of alcohol) were what I REALLY wanted!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

gillie, wow, darling husband is CLASSY!...and so not up to speed with what postpartum women need! Carbohydrates are the only way forward.

jeanie said...

There is nothing wrong with rock cakes - great for eating, great for carbs - and no doubt great for throwing at husbands when they say the wrong thing!

Naomi Devlin said...

They're biscuits damn it - and I don't mean in the American sense of biscuits that are really scones. Cookies, that's what I meant, they're cookies.

Cookies and sparkling booze are the very thing when you've just done a marathon like that. But then you would know, being a veteran and all.

Nice combination of flours and nut meal - sunflower seeds make the most delicious cookies don't you think? Apparently the seeds are made more digestable if you blanch and roast them first, but I have yet to experiment with this particular extra process to see if seeds can be rendered less wind inducing in this house.

Have you tried chestnut flour? You should be able to get hold of it easily in Paris. In a recipe like this you could replace the rice flour with chestnut for something lighter and chewier.

Beautifully written as always.

x x x

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Ah, a new life, how lovely and definitely meant more reading it after your intro. Congrats to the best friend.

I think cranberry rock cakes - it just sounds cool and they look tasty.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Jeanie, a very good point, I had not thought of their potential as missiles. You might want to bake them a little longer in the event of use as a missile.

ND, thank-you! They are biscuits aren't they?! That sounds a bit of a faff to blanch the seeds 'n' all.
And chestnut flour - here's an irony for an allergies blog- I made some lovely chestnut flour brownies when I first embarked on my blog. Tasted lovely, but i had to keep sampling for texture, etc (of course)..bugger me if I'm not allergic to chestnut flour! I had terrible hay fever for the rest of the day. So, much as I wanted sophisticated chestnut flour brownies with a lovely chestnut puree, it was not to be.

a@lf, new life is lovely! I saw him again today and he's gorgeous. He did me some more moro reflexes, a few kitten mewls and lots of facial contorting;perfect. Life is much more fun than death. (you can have that tip for free).

Grit said...

thank you for this brave post; when our three were born, three died. that terrible symmetry stays with me... but i am hugely glad there are things in life to love, and glad to be reminded of it, too.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh god Grit, how hard for you. I know from personal experience that no words can soothe death, I'm happy that you have found a way forward, sometimes that's the hardest thing to do.

Akelamalu said...

I'd much rather have the second text than the first!

Elsie Button said...

Ha, it's funny you mention savoy cabbages... my lovely, wonderful well-meaning husband turned up at the hospital when Betty was a day old (he'd obviously been there before this, at her birth in fact, but had gone home to sleep) with a savoy under his arm. he handed it to me, looking all chuffed with himself, but i burst into tears and threw it back at him, and told him to f**k off. I remember it so clearly. And so does he. It was because at that time, Betty couldn't get the hang of breast-feeding, my milk hadn't come in, i was feeling like a failure and my boobs weren't sore, so to be given a savoy at that moment in time felt like the biggest case of rubbing my nose in it.

Anyway, that was a brilliant post - i hope your friend reads it and keeps it - it is very touching.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

akelamalu, so true!

ElsieB, oh and he was trying to be such a new man. I love the hormones that told him to F off and threw it back at him! Breastfeeding is a tricky area, nothing worse than the first few days when you're coming to terms with the state of your body and your previously sexy assets (i'm talking about yours, not mine) have suddenly acquired a very unsexy function!

Sheltie Girl said...

For the birth of our second child, the doctor was telling my husband to go and buy some nice dark beer. He said it would help my milk to come in. My husband thought that was so funny...a doctor telling us to go drink.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Lisa said...

I'm so glad this story had a happy ending. As for this treat, it is exactly the kind of thing I like best. I will have to try this.

Lowood6 said...

Congratulations to the proud family! Such lovely rock cakes - perfect for the occasion and I wish someone had baked me some!!!
This really was so easy to make - as usual! - and fabulous to look at & to taste! I hope I'll have some left for the preschooler at pick-up time - here goes another attempt at weight loss out of the window...

Naomi Devlin said...


Please don't worry that you dropped in on something private at my blog! My heart is right there on my sleeve at the moment and I always value your comments.

x x x

GoneBackSouth said...

Oh that's wonderful news. At the start of your story I was feeling all scared and imagining the silhouette of the grim reaper standing behind me. But no ... all happy stuff in the end ... horray! Big smoochy e-kisses to that baby boy. x

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Thank you - tip well noted and underlined. x

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

oh and you inspired me to make rock cakes which I hadn't made since I was a child. We did cinnamon and raisin.

Mya said...

Cracking post, Pig. You scared the bejesus out of me at the beginning with all that death mallarkey. I'm afraid any rockcakes I have ever attempted have been just that - rock. But I'm sure if I follow your orders, I mean recipe, they will be sublime little nuggets of crumbly perfection.
I'm afraid the savoy cabbage thing has me confused - can you explain to a dimwit, please?

Mya x

Kitty said...

Having someone close in labour is awful, isn't it? You can't help wondering - constantly - what's happening.

A bit Wrinkle 'welcome to the world' to your friend's son - I hope he has a very happy, healthy life.


Potty Mummy said...

Are you and Elsie Button in cahoots in the 'making the rest of us feel inadequate' game, Pig? (I refer to her last PR posting, very amusing, as I noticed you thought too.). They look delicious in any case, rock cake OR cookie.

rilly super said...

My husband brought me a bottle of champagne after the birth of our first, the after the second a magnum, and after the third I see so little of him I can only assume he's bought the whole pub.

it does sound like you are part of the french government's plan to increase the birth rath though. It must be worth having a baby just to get a visit from you and your hamper.

Miriam said...

Champagne and those biscuits/ rock cakes would be temptation enough to consider another labour ward marathon..well not quite but almost. Isn't it the sweetest (excusepun) thing to bring a new Mum something so delicious! I Don't know any new Mums, so guess I'll just have to eat them myself, mimi

Miriam said...

A colleague brought his 5 week old daughter into work today. Was holding her, wishing she was mine(she was one of those lovely cuddly babies who just totally melt into you, and I'm not even her mother!) and then I could get some of your lovely cranberry thingies as well. Life is very, very tough! mimi

Pig in the Kitchen said...

SheltieGirl, I was told the same thing! I rushed out to get the Guinness, but because I am such a lightweight girlie (ahem), I had to dilute it with lemonade. I'm not sure my husband has ever got over the sacrilege.

Lisa, yes, life is better than death, and these cookie/rock thingys are good for celebrating that fact. HOpe you enjoy...

lowood6, oh you are so lovely, you've made them already! I hope everyone enjoyed them. Don't feel so bad about the weight loss plans; these are fairly healthy aren't they?! A good source of omega oils from the linseeds. At least that's what i'm telling myself.

Naomi, oh phew, I've only just stopped blushing. But what a lovely poem, awwwww!

gbs, indeed, all happy stuff! And you know I'm so happy it's my dear friend doing the sleepless nights. I keep breezing in to see her with little treats, then breezing back to my comparatively sane life.

A@LF, so glad you made rock cakes! I made them in home, glace cherries and raisins, I might have to make them too!

mya '...if I follow your orders, I mean recipe, they will be sublime little nuggets of crumbly perfection...' oh stoooopp! I've gone all shy. What do you mean orders??!
I didn't ever use the savoy cabbages personally, but i think they are supposed to soothe the engorged mammary (!) and stop you looking like a porn star. altho god knows that's the last thing you feel like at that point. well, the last thing that I felt like, perhaps you did?

Kitty, it's so easy to be blase about your own labour, but when it's someone else's...I was very glad when he arrived safe and sound.

Sweet PottyM, if you saw the pitiful dregs of self esteem that I have to work with, you would know that I NEVER try to make anyone feel inadequate. I keep all the inadequate feelings all to myself. Elsie B on the other hand... ;-)

Sweet Rilly, it's a curious thing isn't it, the way the more bairns a man has, the more time away he spends. Think I'd better stop at 4. I am secretly working to undermine the bling bling french government, but we'll keep that to ourselves, ok?

Miriam x2, i'll do you a deal, if you have another, I'll make you some cranberry thingys! Oh and coo coo over the 5 week old! Did her head smell beautiful?! Sometimes I wobble and want another, but then I have a stiff drink and say 'epidurals! scalpels! stitches!' a few times and all the broodiness dissolves.

Elsie Button said...

I love to make people feel inadequate - it makes me feel so special

Pig, please can you do me a favour and put a comment on the latest post on my blog written by Tom - he is very sensitive about no-one commenting - and i know he respects your input... no pressure, but you'd better make it good! haha

Pig in the Kitchen said...

ElsieB, done it. I trust it meets your high standards, I feel so inadequate....

Elsie Button said...

you more than exceeded expectations in that comment - apart from calling me trashy...

It's funny as before Tom had even looked at his comments he said 'i wonder if i will get a comment from PITK'.

Frog in the Field said...

Hey Pig!
just catching up (sniff!), I thinkn you should start sendin gout free taster samples to all your avid fans..I'm hungry and too tired to move!

Anonymous said...

Dear Pig !

You can't imagine how much it has meant to me that you were there, always with the right words and things (lovely Cranberry Rock cakes that kept Ja and I going; cabbage leaves...I don't think I would have survived without you !!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Sweet lovely anonymous,

Every so often when I'm wallowing in the very depths of despair, along comes an email. Or a comment. Or someone asking to buy a photo (well, ok, that's only happened once). and today, as I wallow in some despair - anaesthetised by a little red wine - along comes a comment. That has made me smile, resolve to not stop blogging (yes, I'm THAT close to giving up) and to think, you know life is really ok, and I should probably carry on. You know, with life, blogging, drinking red wine, that kind of thing. So thank-you very very much.

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Just catching up and so lovely to read about a new, perfect little life. Congrats to your friends. And some great new recipes too. Must get cookin'. Margot xx

Stay at home dad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.