Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tapenade and Tomato Canapés (egg free, dairy free, gluten free, vegan)

Glenda Bannington-Blythe sighed as she heard the crunch of tyres on her gravel drive. She placed the last of her yellow roses carefully into a vase, then turned away from the window;

‘Mr Bannington-Blythe is home Rosa, please bring the tray’.

Rosa started as she heard Glenda’s voice. She’d been completely engrossed in aligning the leather bound books on the bookshelves.

"¿Qué?… ¿perdón Meesis?’,

she looked hunted, scared. Glenda slowed down her speech,

‘Mr Bannington-Blythe is home, please bring the tray’.

Rosa squinted slightly,

‘Meester is home?’

she pronounced ‘home’ as if she were attempting clear a fish bone from her throat. Glenda bit her lip and tried again,

‘Yes Rosa, Meester- MR is home’.

Rosa nodded, performed a slight curtsy and hurried from the room. Not for the first time Glenda resisted the urge to cry with laughter, it barely seemed possible that a female Manuel could exist. The agency that had sent her Rosa had enlivened her life immeasurably.

She turned to watch her husband struggle out of his car. It was a sleek machine named after a large and powerful cat. She often pondered the mismatch as she observed how he had to lever himself out of the plush leather seats. His portly frame wedged against the steering wheel and he had to use two hands to wrench himself up, trapping his foot in the door during the process. He lumbered around to the boot and removed his briefcase. She noted his pinstripe trousers a little too short, and the mound of fat straining against his Jermyn Street shirt.

Rosa bumbled back into the room with a crash; it was a minor miracle that the decanter had remained intact during her six months of service.

‘Thank-you Rosa, I’ll see to the rest’.

Rosa nodded, tripped slightly on the thick rug and then was gone. Glenda removed the lid of the ice bucket and carefully dropped two cubes into a heavy crystal tumbler. As her husband entered the room she poured him three fingers of whisky, enjoying the crack of the ice cubes as they bobbed in the amber liquid.

‘Good evening darling’ she smiled, ‘how was your day?’

Roger Bannington-Blythe grunted,

‘Bloody awful, have you looked at our share price today? ‘

Glenda was used to this rhetorical question and assumed her usual sympathetic look. As Roger droned on about stocks, shares and the sheer incompetence of all those around him, she wondered if Cook would overdo the green beans for dinner. Glenda observed that Roger's monologue made no mention of his pert young assistant, Angela, although she was fairly sure that he’d spent a sweaty and heaving ten minutes with her sometime before lunch. The urge often seemed to take him when he was hungry, she’d noted. And he did have a terrible weakness for blondes.

When he’d finished, she cleared her throat,

Judy Wainscot called me today’

she announced brightly. Roger was shaking out the pink pages of the Financial Times, his overgrown eyebrows frowning at the headlines.

‘Hmmm? What’s that?’

he shifted position slightly and broke wind.

‘I said, ‘Judy Wainscot called me today, she..’

Telephoned!' he bellowed, 'She telephoned you! Good grief woman, did they teach you nothing at Roedean? On THIS side of the Atlantic, we say ‘telephoned’’,

he tutted and harrumphed as he gulped down his whisky.

It often happened around this time of day. Glenda - for a brief instant - floated up and saw herself from above. She saw the pearls he’d given her - ‘these were Mummy’s darling, if you are only half the woman she was, I’ll be happy’ - her cashmere cardigan, the neat a-line skirt and the sensible handmade leather shoes. She noted the red lipstick that she was sure he didn’t like, too tarty. As she watched, her perfectly manicured hand reached for the knife with which she sliced lemons for her Gin and Tonic. It was always on the tray that Rosa carried into the room. Her heavy diamond ring glinted as she crossed the room to her husband’s chair. As the knife plunged in just left of his windpipe, she noted with disgust that even in extremis he broke wind.

I’m so sorry darling, well as I was saying, Judy Wainscot telephoned me this morning, and they would be delighted to come to dinner on Friday. Do you remember you talked to Jeremy about it at the clubhouse? I’ll have Cook braise a leg of lamb, and we may have marinated peaches for dessert, it’s been so warm recently, I think a light dessert will be perfectly adequate’.

Roger looked up disinterestedly,

‘What’s that? Friday? Oh gawd, Jeremy is such a bloody bore, did I really invite them?’

‘Yes dear, don’t you remember? You’d just - what was the phrase - pulverised him on the golf course and in your delight insisted that they should come round to dinner’.

Roger shook his head,

Sorry, don’t think I can make it. John Peachy-Havington has demanded we have a drink at the club on Friday, I can hardly say no to someone of his standing now can I?’

He chortled at the very idea and clumsily rearranged his scrotum, belching as he did so.

Glenda’s hand twitched on the knife as she quickly and deftly pierced the flesh of the lemon. She added ice to her glass and a long slug of gin. There was no need for tonic today. She walked to the window and touched the roses in the vase.

Oh dear, well that is a shame. Judy was telling me that Freya is down from Cambridge for the summer. She thought it would be such a hoot if Freya came and served us canapés during the apéritif. She thinks that Freya is getting a little above herself, and it won’t do her any harm to do some menial work’, Glenda gave a short, little laugh, ‘Do you know she even suggested that Freya should wear a maid’s outfit, you know one of those short little black dresses, with a frilly white apron over the top. Mind you, Freya certainly has the legs for it, she’s been picked for the kick boxing team Judy was saying, and her thighs are rock solid. Well never mind, I’ll just telephone Judy and cancel, perhaps we’ll do it after the summer. Maybe we could invite…’

She turned when Roger coughed and spluttered. He was still rearranging his scrotum she noticed.

Do you know what darling? I think I’ll get out of drinks with Peachy-Havington on Friday. It would be bad form to cancel the Wainscots. And what’s the name of their girl, Freya you say? Good Gawd, I haven’t seen her for a long while…’

his voice tailed off and his expression became dreamy,

‘…yes, I remember her, last Summer wasn’t it? When we had that Wimbledon party and everyone came dressed up. Oh yes, she wore that little white outfit…’

He met Glenda’s steely eye and there was no mistaking the sneer that curled her perfect red lips.

Good!’ she exclaimed brightly. ‘I’ll telephone Judy tomorrow. And we’ll have Cook make some of those tomato and tapenade canapés, I’m sure Freya will simply love serving you’

Glenda moved away from the window, downing her gin in one smooth movement. She set the glass down rather noisily on the tray, and then reached for the small silver bell on the table. Rosa appeared in an instant.

Serve Mr Bannington-Blythe more whisky, Rosa’ she commanded, ‘I must just check that Cook hasn’t overdone the green beans’.

With that Glenda strode quickly from the room.

Now, perhaps we’ll never know the full details of what went on at the Bannington-Blythe’s dinner party. I‘m not even sure that Freya was ever really going to come; that may just have been Glenda‘s ruse to ensure she could spend a pleasant evening with the Wainscots. However, I have it on the best authority that the canapés were delicious.

Glenda Bannington-Blythe's Tapenade and Tomato Canapés

I know, I know, this is hardly cooking is it? More of a method...but if it's good enough for the Bannington-Blythe's, isn't it good enough for you?

For the toasts:

6-8 slices of gluten free bread (or wholemeal 'regular' bread if you can tolerate it)

a pinch of dried mixed herbs

olive oil to brush

For the tapenade:

200g black olives

50g capers

lemon juice to taste

2-3 tbsps olive oil

Cherry tomatoes to garnish

olive oil

ground black pepper

  • Start with the tapenade, which will keep up to three days in the fridge
  • Place the drained olives, capers, a squeeze of lemon juice and a tbsp of olive oil into a blender
  • Switch on the blender
  • Taste and add more lemon juice if required, if it's a little too thick, add some more olive oil
  • You know, to many people that might actually constitute cooking, mightn't it? I'm really not feeling so bad about my lightweight recipe now. Like I said, good enough for the Bannington-Blythe's...
  • Pre-heat the grill on your oven
  • Using a cookie cutter (larger than the one in the picture if you wish), cut out rounds from the gluten free bread
  • Mix the olive oil and dried herbs together, then use a pastry brush to brush the bread circles with the herby olive oil
  • Place the bread rounds under the grill until lightly browned and sizzling, this will hardly take any time
  • Remove from the heat, turn them over, then lightly toast again
  • Remove from the heat, then spread the toasts with tapenade and garnish with a cut cherry tomato
  • Add a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of ground black pepper ( I do believe I forgot to do that before I photographed my babies. Wow, I am human after all)
  • Wriggle into your short, tight maid's outfit, and shimmy out to your guests. Watch out for the old fart in the corner with hair growing out of his ears and a roving eye, that's Roger, and his hand will be up your skirt sooner than you can say, 'Listen fat cat, you might be rich but you're an ugly toad and your nasal hair repulses me'

© Pig in the Kitchen 2008

Monday, 1 September 2008

Raisin Buns (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan)

Have you ever had one of those days where you’re rolling along as usual and you think you know more or less how the rest of the day is going to go? Then suddenly, whoosh! Look! There goes what you thought was going to happen, and Oh, hello! Here‘s something completely random and unexpected. And when it‘s all over you scratch your head and think,
‘Huh, I did NOT see that coming’.
Ever had a day like that? I have. It happened a few weeks ago.

I’d just driven back to France after three weeks in the UK. Six hours in the car made sitting in the sun outside my house even more delightful. The children were scampering happily in the garden when from nowhere I had a positive and confident thought.
‘What if,’ went the thought, ’you just stopped worrying and tried to enjoy life? Just enjoyed the opportunities that come your way, stopped stressing about whether it’s Right to live in France, and gave up the idea of having a stomach like an Olympic gymnast?’

Well. It’s very unlike me to have a grown-up thought like that, and I was still processing it, when along came another,
‘Fat! That’s what it needs, Fat!’

Lest you think I’ve become a little unhinged after my summer break; here’s some background for you. I’ve not yet mastered an egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free fairy-cake/bun type of a creation. Muffin-type cakes go well, big chocolatey cakes are fine, but the little bun that you want to serve for birthday parties or hand out after school, has not materialised in my kitchen. Oh they might look enticing and positively pumped in the oven, but as soon as my back is turned they slump, or just level off. In addition, they haven’t quite got the springy texture I’m after. So I’ve been mulling about how to get them to work for ages, and on that sunny evening it came to me,
‘Fat!’ I would add some extra fat into my egg-replacing concoction in the hope that it would more perfectly mimic a real egg, and ta-daaaa! maybe it would work.

With that happy thought in my head, I cooked tea for the children, crowbarred them into bed and switched on the oven with every intention of trying out my new fatty fake egg idea. Then I heard the thunder of small feet heading my way. In burst my son looking ashen, and yelled;

‘E (youngest child) has swallowed something!’

You can always tell when children are scared witless. There’s something in the timbre of the voice that sends your feet running up the stairs and sets your heart racing. I found my littlest retching and struggling to vomit. She was drooling, heaving and in a panic.

‘What have you swallowed?’’
‘Money’ she groaned.

For a minute I was stumped. My Mother’s Mental Compendium of Unexpected Medical Ailments (Volume 2) didn’t appear to have a chapter on ‘What to do if your two year old swallows some money’. I tried a bit of fingers down the throat, a bit of a drink of water, a bit of a multiple choice guessing game - ‘Look, here are some coins. Which one did you swallow, was it this one?’ - and then I ran out of ideas. So I dialled the emergency services and they told me to take her to A and E.

All of a sudden my evening was really not going to plan. I did what I often do in moments of stress; called my husband - two hours away in Paris - so that I could rant at him. And when he is not the subject of my rant, my husband is really rather good at helping.

‘Why?‘ I frothed, ‘does this happen to me? I’ve done the choking, the meningitis, the operations, but WHY is it always me with a medical dilemma involving children at night, on my own?‘Husband speaks a little-known maths / engineery patois that I find quite soothing,
‘Well, it’s really just numbers. It’s four children, ergo, it’s trouble to the power of four’.
Oddly enough that did the trick and calmed me down.

By the time we reached A & E it was late. Too late to be dragging four pyjama’d children around. I was seen by a kindly doctor, then sent along to Radiography. Give them their due, my children do rally in the face of a night-time trip to hospital; the three older ones sat outside in the corridor, and the youngest -a lot chirpier now - giggled at the great big lead apron I had to wear, and puffed her tummy out for the x-ray. Sure enough, there it was, a huge-looking coin. The doctor peered at it, then peered at me,

‘Are you sure that it was just a 5 centime coin that she swallowed?’

 Neglectful, shameful Mother who allows her small child access to harmful coins shook her head. She thought it best to not say anything else or he might start to wonder where the Father was and start checking all the other kids for bruises and cigarette burns.

When we finally rolled home and I'd put small people to bed, I was far too wired to sleep, so decided to crack on with the buns and my fake fat egg idea. Would you believe that they worked first time?

Huh, I did NOT see that coming.

Addendum: 48 hours after the coin-swallowing incident, Pig and the piglets were absorbing the sunset on a beach. Mercifully, most people had gone off to have dinner. ‘Mum’ called L, ‘E needs a wee’. I wafted down the beach in my sarong and gently lifted my poppet for a harmless wee.
For too long.
Just a wee’ I whispered urgently, ‘just do a wee, don’t do a poo’.
‘Aggghh, just gotta poo’ strained my littlest as I looked on in horror.

Waves of shame washed over me and I summoned my eldest to help. Between us we gathered plastic bags, wipes and a bright coloured spade so that I could remove the mess and hope no-one had noticed. I bent down to clear up, and then stopped.

Huh! Look M! There’s the coin!’ M bent down for a look, ‘Oh wow!’ she exclaimed, ‘shall I get the others?’

And so it was that we were all witness to the coin evacuation, and in case anyone is interested…a 2p piece, not 5 centimes.

Raisin Buns (makes 10-12 regular buns, more if you use mini cases)

I've not yet had a go at icing these cakes, I wonder if that would work? And I know the list of ingredients is daunting...I'm sorry about that, this allergy cooking malarkey isn't easy is it?
Update, Jan 2009. Have now iced the buns (see below), and also discovered that they work with HERE for the rambling explanation of the banana addition. If you do use banana, the buns have a bit of a muffin look to the top of them, if you don't like it, just cover it up with icing.

Egg-free, Dairy-free, Gluten-free version:

110g dairy-free spread (or margarine if you don't have a milk allergy)

110g raisins (or omit raisins, and add 1 large banana mashed, or 1 and half medium bananas)

½ tsp mixed spice

1 tsp baking powder

120g sugar

10g cornflour/ cornstarch

1 tbsp rice bran

¼ tsp xanthan gum (yes it is a second ¼ tsp of xanthan gum)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds (grind whole linseeds in a blender)
4 tbsps rice milk

Gluten-free with egg version:

Use the first 10 ingredients listed above, then

½ tsp xanthan gum

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tbsp rice milk or dairy milk

Egg-free, Dairy-free with wheat flour version:

Use the first four ingredients listed above, then

110g sugar

110g wheat flour

2 heaped tsps Orgran 'no egg' egg replacer

20g melted dairy-free spread

¼ tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds (grind whole linseeds in a blender)

4 tbsps rice milk
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170° celsius
  • Line your bun tin with pretty cases, or sober and sensible white ones if you prefer
  • If making a 'no egg' version of these cakes, then in a bowl mix together the 2 tsps Orgran egg replacer, the 20g melted dairy free spread, the ¼tsp xanthan gum, the vanilla essence, the tbsp of ground linseeds and the 4 tbsps of rice milk. Whisk it well with a mini whisk and set it aside to work its magic
  • For all versions: cream the dairy-free spread/margarine in a large mixing bowl until it is well blended and a bit paler in colour
  • Add either the egg replacer mix or the 2 eggs, and beat well. If making with eggs, add the vanilla essence at this point
  • Add the raisins (or mashed banana if you wish) and mix
  • For gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free version: Add the four types of GF flour, the mixed spice, the baking powder, the rice bran and the ¼ tsp of xanthan gum and mix well.
  • For gluten free with eggs version: Add the four types of GF flour, the mixed spice, the baking powder, the rice bran and ½ tsp of xanthan gum and mix well
  • For egg-free, dairy-free with wheat flour: Add the wheat flour, mixed spice and baking powder and mix well
  • Ok, now who isn't confused at this point?
  • To recap, you should now all have in your bowls, dairy-free spread, sugar, egg - either real or fake, raisins, vanilla essence, GF or wheat flour, mixed spice and baking powder. Some of you will have xanthan gum, some of you won't, please try not to squabble
  • Is it time we had a drink yet?
  • Make sure everything is mixed up then add a tbsp of rice milk or dairy milk if you are not allergic to dairy products.
  • Mix again and give a gentle magic blow over the ingredients in your bowl, it really helps. Please don't give a magic blow if you are suffering from Tuberculosis, that might not be such a good idea
  • Now, let's fill up your cake cases. Always a tricky moment this, do I err on the side of not-quite-full-enough-but-I-know-it-won't-droop-over-the-top, or do I go for, dollop-it-in-you-can-never-have-too-much-cake-even-if-it-has-drooped-over-the-top. I generally go for just over half full and hope for the best (although when making these with banana, it seemed better to slightly overfill them)
  • Place your babies in the middle of the oven for approximately 15-25 minutes. It depends on which mix you're using and on your oven, just play safe and watch intently
  • They are cooked when they have risen, are a pale golden colour and an inserted cake tester or skewer comes out clean
  • Place on a cooling rack and leave until completely cold; all versions of this are better when they are cold. Don't be having a sly bite when they're still hot and then feel really disappointed because it wasn't the spongey babe of a cake you were hoping for, just be patient, they're better cold.
  • If serving these to small children, please ensure that all surfaces are clear of coins of any denomination

Now then, now then! For the occasion of my littlest's 3rd birthday, I did get around to icing these buns (see above). I used a glace icing and sprinkled with lavender sugar, get me! Oooo and they were good, the icing sets and yum, yummity yum. I'm not good with glace icing measurements, but roughly....
200g icing sugar (sieved) (maybe a bit more?)
a few tbsps of water
  • seive icing sugar into a large bowl, add the water very, very gradually and mix until you have a thick icing. You may prefer thin, runny icing in which case add more water. If it all goes too runny, sieve in more icing sugar
  • Dollop the icing onto the cold buns, and spread/coax it to the edges. Sprinkle on the lavender sugar, quick! before it sets, or add another pretty sprinkly topping of your choice. Carnivel Sprinkelz are fab, pretty, dairy and gluten free, and you can get them from Dietary Needs Direct
© Pig in the Kitchen 2008