Thursday, 17 December 2009

So here it is Merry Christmas...

Not long to go now dear readers.  Time for Pig in the Kitchen to sign off until next year.
See you in 2010,  I hope you have a wonderful festive season with plenty of what you love and lots of warm and fuzzy moments!

And lest you get withdrawal symptoms, I shall leave you with my little rant on the parlous state of the Nativity play in British schools.  Sensitive souls might not like what they read....;-)


© Pig in the Kitchen
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Gluten Free Christmas Pudding (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

If you're only here for the Christmas Pudding recipe, you just need to scroll on down.  If you've been wondering how Glenda has been since the last instalment, then read on....

Glenda Bannington-Blythe was feeling vexed. The Christmas party had been Roger’s idea, and he was nowhere to be seen. She had spent months planning this damn event at his request; drawing up the guest list, printing the invites and planning the menu. She’d made sure Cook was prepared, ordered a chocolate fountain, arranged the firework display, and even booked a juggler to perform in the ballroom as a surprise. ‘The very least he could do’ she fumed, ‘is be present at his own bloody party!’


Chandra moved across the back seat of the Bentley and nuzzled Roger’s neck, her hand moving up his thigh,
Are you sure Glenda won’t suspect?’ she purred in his ear
‘Hmm? What?’ he grunted.
Chandra frowned, she had noticed that most of the time he didn’t seem to listen to her. He said she was different, more special than the rest, but perhaps he was lying? Still, he did buy her anything she wanted, so maybe she was trying to intellectualise too much.
‘I said, are you sure Glenda won’t suspect?’
‘Good God no! Half the office will be at the party, including the popsies from the typing pool, she’ll just think you’re one of them’.

He knew instantly that he’d upset her. She stopped nuzzling his neck and turned away, pouting. Roger fought down his irritation, and thought quickly. They were just turning onto Bond Street, so he leant forward and rapped on the glass behind the driver,
‘Jerome! Stop the car! Miss Simpson and I have a little shopping to do’.
The grin that Chandra flashed him and the inappropriate fondle as they slid from the car told him he’d made the right decision. He checked his watch, he would have to do some fast talking to explain his lateness to Glenda, but - he glanced at Chandra’s long legs and her Louboutins – he felt sure it would be worth it.


Glenda’s eyes glazed as Charlie Bunton-Hissy launched into another anecdote about his skill as a commercial pilot, and the time he'd had a near miss over the Andes. As Rosa came within reach, she interrupted,
‘Oh do excuse me Charlie, I simply must check on something, Rosa! Rosa!’
Rosa started at her name, and instantly looked guilty,
‘What Mees, I done summing wrong?’
‘No Rosa, nothing wrong, but have you seen Mr Bannington-Blythe?’

Rosa panicked. She had seen the master arrive ten minutes ago. She thought it odd that he was using the back stairs, because they only led up to the guest rooms on the top floor. Rosa had gaped at the woman with him; so tall and with such enormous…,
‘Rosa! For God’s sake, it’s a simple question, have you seen him?’
‘I not see him go upstairs Mees.’
Glenda was baffled; she was beginning to think that Rosa was mentally sub-normal.
‘Oh never mind Rosa, I will look upstairs, but in the meantime, I want you to circulate with those little Christmas puddings that Cook has made’
‘Circ you hate?’ Rosa could make no sense of Glenda’s words. Glenda’s fists clenched.
‘You. Take. Christmas puddings. You. Give. To. Guests’
‘Yes Mees, Ok Mees, I do right now Mees’

Rosa scuttled off, vaguely aware that she had said too much about the Meester, but relieved that she had understood her next task.


Roger knew he was panting, but he didn’t care. It may have been climbing all those bloody stairs, or it could be that saucy underwear Chandra was wearing; it had been worth every Bond Street penny. He fumbled with his belt, trying to find the clasp under his overhanging belly. On the bed Chandra sighed quietly; she didn’t relish what was to come, but reminded herself that it paid for her lovely, red-soled shoes.  She caught his eye and writhed provocatively,
‘What’s keeping you Roger? If you are naughty and keep me waiting, I will have to spank you very hard...’
Roger hopped clumsily around on one foot, trying to free his leg from his trousers. At her words he gave an excited guffaw, lost his balance and landed with a blubbery thud on the floor.


Glenda could feel herself flushing with annoyance as she moved from room to room looking for Roger. Where the bloody hell was he? Over an hour and a half late, and not even a call from his secretary.
‘He treats me like a member of staff’ she muttered to herself, preparing to descend and rejoin the party. At that moment she heard a dull thud from the guest rooms overhead.


Chandra bit her lip and tried not to laugh. He looked so ridiculous struggling to get up from the floor. It reminded her of a turtle she’d once seen on its back, hopelessly flailing as it tried to right itself.
‘Chandra! I can’t get up! I’ve done something to my back’.
Chandra slid off the bed and straddled him.
‘Tsk, tsk Mr B, I’m going to have to punish you’
‘Noo! You fool, I’ve put my disc out again, get off me! Get me up!’ Roger’s face was grey with pain.
Chandra made a face, climbed off and held out her hand to pull him up. His fat, sweaty palm slipped straight out of hers as she pulled. God, he weighed a ton.
‘Harder you idiot, pull harder’ he groaned.
Chandra dug her stilettos into the Chinese silk rug, braced herself and heaved with all her might.


Glenda was creeping quietly up the stairs having armed herself with a brass candlestick. She’d heard of this kind of robbery. The Boswell-Jones’ on the other side of the river had been cleaned out during their last party, the thieves had even worn suits to blend in! ‘They won’t get away with it here’ she thought grimly. The noise was coming from the main guest bedroom, and raising the candlestick above her head, she gave the door a shove.

What happened next took them all by surprise. As Glenda shoved the door, Chandra’s well-toned quads and biceps propelled Roger upwards and forwards. The heavy oak door swung open, striking Roger squarely in the face and he stumbled. Glenda, seeing a wobbling semi-naked mass coming at her, did the only reasonable thing; she clubbed him over the head with the candlestick and Roger collapsed in a senseless heap.

Reader, you can imagine the mess there was to clear up. Someone from the party heard the commotion and before long the landing was filled with drunken guests all trying to photograph the scene with their Iphones, and get Chandra’s number at the same time. Charlie Bunton-Hissy was applying cold compresses to Roger’s broken nose, black eye and gashed head, and dear old Rosa was stumbling around with a silver platter giving out mini Christmas puddings. For a long while Glenda stood immobile by the door. She stared icily as Chandra dressed and fled, and she didn’t speak as Eveline Boswell-Jones twittered repeatedly that it must have been a bungled robbery attempt. Eventually, she pushed through the crowd and went down to the kitchen where she poured herself a large slug of Brandy and ate the remaining Christmas puddings (about 12). You see, even in that moment of emotional turmoil, her good judgement didn’t leave her; she knows a fine gluten free, egg free and dairy free Christmas pudding when she sees one.

This Christmas take a tip from Glenda; no matter what the party season throws at you, make sure you take time to make (and eat) this tasty pud. You’ll be so glad you did.

Coming in 2010, ‘Glenda & Roger Part 3; Beyond the Party’

Christmas Pudding
To date I've only made this egg free, dairy free and gluten free.  My strong hunch would be that if you replace the egg replacer mix with 2 eggs and use gluten free flour, you won't have any problems.  I'm 90% sure you can replace the gluten free flours with wheat flour if you need to. I will update the recipe when I can, but it's one of those lovely recipes that appears to love gluten-free flour, how marvellous.   

I didn't plan to make mini Christmas puddings, but I came across some mini stainless steel moulds, and I had to have them.  On balance though, I think it's far easier to make one large pudding, so you should do that.  These puddings turned out really well, and have kept for a couple of weeks now in an airtight container.  I've even been feeding them with Brandy from time to time; I'm sure Glenda would approve.  Dear me, I hope she has some better luck next year.
100g dried cranberries
75g grated carrot
75g prunes
350g mix of currants and raisins
zest and juice of 1 lemon
zest and juice of 1 orange
Brandy, approximately 100ml
150ml port (or substitute with apple juice if you'd rather)
50g ground sunflower seeds
150g dairy free spread
150g dark soft brown sugar
2 heaped tsps Orgran 'no egg' Egg Replacer
20g dairy free spread
1 tbsp ground linseeds
¼ tsp xanthan gum
5 tbsps rice milk
3 tbsps black treacle
1 tbsp Golden Syrup
50g gluten free breadcrumbs (any kind of GF bread will do, bake it on a low heat until hard and then blend)
1½ tsps  gluten free baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsps mixed spice
1 tsp xanthan gum
150g Doves Farm Gluten Free White Bread Flour
(or you could use 100g brown rice flour and 50g chick pea flour)
  • Put the cranberries, carrot, currants and raisins into a large bowl.  Finely chop the prunes and add them too.  Add the zest of the lemon and orange.  Juice the lemon and orange into a measuring jug.  If need be, top up the juice with brandy (or apple juice) to 200ml, then add the liquid to the dried fruit and mix.  If possible, leave overnight
  • You can either make mini Christmas puddings, or one big bad boy.  For the latter you'll need a 1.5-2 litre pudding basin.  Using dairy free spread, grease either the mini pudding basins, or the large one, and cut a small circle of greaseproof paper to line the base.  I have to say that making one large pudding is much less labour intensive
  • To make the egg replacing mix, put the egg replacing powder, 20g dairy free spread, ground linseeds, ¼ tsp xanthan gum and rice milk into a bowl and mix with a mini whisk to remove lumps.  If using real eggs, ignore this bit
  • In a large mixing bowl, put the 150g of dairy free spread and brown sugar.  Beat together until well mixed.  Add the egg replacing mix (or real eggs) and beat well.  Add the soaked dried fruit and mix well.  Add all the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Put the mix into your greased pudding bowl(s).  Cover the top of the bowl in greased greaseproof paper and tie it on with string.  Trim off any excess paper
  • Place your bowl(s) into a steamer and steam for 1½ -2 hours until an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Check frequently that the steamer doesn't boil dry
  • When your pudding is cooked, remove it from the steamer and allow to cool in the bowl.  When cold, remove it from the bowl and wrap it up securely.  I wrapped mine in kitchen paper, covered them in tinfoil and then placed them in airtight containers
  • Not long now until the big day, I do hope you'll have more festive cheer than poor, wronged Glenda

© Pig in the Kitchen
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Thursday, 19 November 2009

Vegetarian Cornish Pasties & Cornwall (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

Long before it became a buzz word, my family sometimes, ‘staycationed’. Only we didn’t call it that. 30 (ish) years ago my parents called it, ‘Damn!  Business isn’t doing well, can’t have much time off. Don’t think we’ll go to France this year’. But now we have 'staycationing', we can pretend we are worried about carbon footprints whilst really thinking, ‘Damn!  The recession has hit; don’t think we’ll go to Tuscany this year’. So that’s good isn’t it?

If you lived in the South West in the ‘70’s, there really was only one destination for your staycation; Cornwall. How well I remember the tailbacks on the M5 just past Weston-Super-Mare. How the car vibrated to the vicious arguments as we got lost on some single track road on Dartmoor. How close was Mother to divorcing Father when we got a puncture in the rain just outside Newquay? Yes, Cornwall was the stuff of dreams.

Ok, so it’s picturesque. But when you’ve seen one cutesy fishing village, haven’t you seen them all? All the boats in the harbour look great on a sunny day, but the sun didn’t seem to shine much in the ‘70’s. And where there are boats and sea, there are seagulls. Seagulls are enormous, and in low light you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a Harrier jump jet coming at you. Cornwall has some of the biggest and best in the British Isles. Then, as now, they'd have the chips out of your wrapper before you could say, ‘Oi! I paid 15 quid for those!’

Cornwall is not warm. True, it is further south than Edinburgh, but that does not make Cornwall warm. It is still a very long way from the equator. I remember wearing a lot of jumpers on those ‘summer’ holidays. Some were bought in an emergency because Mum had only packed flip flops and shorts, such naivety! You see when the wind blows on those long, sandy beaches, it is chuffing freezing. And sure the sea looks gorgeous on the postcards, but here’s a news flash; Cornwall is sandwiched between the Atlantic and the English Channel. Icy cold on the one side, full of effluent on the other (the Channel side being noticeably warmer, hmmm, wonder why that is?). So bathing isn’t really an option either.

It’s hilly. And hilly means hours of slow walking back up to your campsite. Carrying all the buckets and spades because, ‘you carried them down, you can carry them back up’. Never mind that I’d barely got to use them because it had been so cold and windy on the beach that we’d spent hours sheltering in a cafe. No, I still had to carry them back up to the campsite, in my flip flops with the wind whipping through my layers of jumpers. I’m sure camping is a form of child abuse.

It’s tired. Cornwall has been doing the tourist thing forever, and quite frankly, it’s had enough. Every little shack on every winding track has a B&B sign outside. Try Googling ‘holiday cottage in Cornwall’ and you will get 768,000 hits. That’s far too many for a hilly, cold - albeit picturesque - peninsula. What it means is that from May to September it is heaving (particularly the cafes as everyone shelters from the bitter wind), and then from October to April, nothing. I reckon those desperate B&B signs haven’t made the owners enough to tide them over, I’m guessing there’s quite a bit of stressing about money in Cornwall. What it needs is a better industry. We should send in the French to build a nuclear processing plant. Then ask the Japanese to open a car plant south of Mevagissey, and you’ll see the economy pick up. We’re so over picture postcard tourism, start paying your way Cornwall!

I’ve been a bit rude haven’t I? I guess those childhood Cornish holidays have left deep scars. But there’s one Cornish thing you can’t fault. It’s the pasties. Delicious mounds of pastry filled with a tasty, peppery filling, guaranteed to warm you up on a freezing, windy day in summer. I’ve tweaked the recipe and made them gluten free and vegetarian, do you think that will upset the locals?

Vegetarian Cornish Pasties (makes 6-8 pasties)
I do like this gluten free pastry, it's got good consistency and my non-gluten intolerant children wolf it down without even realising.  I used the bread flour intentionally, it's not a typo.  My only complaint is; it doesn't really brown when it's cooking.  If you can eat eggs, then I think it would be good to use an egg glaze . Just beat an egg and brush it over the pasties before putting them in the oven. And if you're thinking, 'I think these would be good with meat darling, not just an egg glaze', well then simply find your fav meat recipe and use my pastry! 

For the filling:
75g puy lentils (weigh before cooking. Use more if you like, it depends how much you like lentils)
175g green beans
1 onion
3-4 medium potatoes
3 carrots
olive oil to fry
1-2 tbsps yeast extract

For the pastry:
500g Doves Farm White Gluten Free Bread Flour (Use wheat flour if you want/can)
250g dairy free spread (or butter if you want/can)
¾ tsp xanthan gum (omit if using wheat flour)
½ tsp salt
150-200ml cold water (approximately)
extra water / soy milk/ rice milk
flour for rolling

  • Heat oven to 170˚ Celsius and line two baking trays with baking parchment

  • Weigh out the lentils and cook them as per the packet instructions.  Drain and set aside

  • Top and tail the green beans and finely chop them.  Peel the carrots and potatoes and chop them into very small cubes (about 0.5cm x 0.5cm).  Chop the onion

  • Place all the vegetables into a large non-stick frying pan and douse with olive oil.  Gently heat until it's sizzling.  Cover and then keep stirring every 2-3 minutes initially, after a few minutes the steam will build up in the pan and they'll start to steam cook (sort of) and you won't need to stir as much. 

  • When the vegetables are cooked (approximately 15 minutes), add the dairy free spread and stir until melted.  Add the yeast extract and mix.  If for some reason your veg mix is too runny, add some cornflour (or you could probably get away with any other GF flour) to thicken, but not too much; you want your pasty innards quite juicy.  Set aside

  • Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the xanthan gum (if using wheat flour the xanthan is not required) and salt.  Mix together with a mini whisk

  • Add the dairy free spread, and rub it into the flour.  If using gluten free flour it will be quite sticky, but keep going trying to break up the big lumps of fat

  • Gradually add the cold water, the measurements are only approximate.  You want to bind the mix together to make a soft pastry, but don't make it too wet and sticky.  You could now wrap the pastry in clingfilm, put it in the fridge and make the pasties later.  Otherwise...

  • Flour a work surface with gluten free flour and break off a chunk of pastry.  Roll it out to about 3mm thick.  Use a cereal bowl or small plate to mark out a circle and cut out the circle

  • Place the pastry circle onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment, wet the edges with water/soy/rice milk.  Spoon some pasty filling into the middle of the circle, then fold it over until the pastry edges meet and you have a pasty shape.  Press and pinch the edges together

  • Repeat until all the pastry and pasty mix is used up

  • If you want to glaze with eggs, then go ahead.  Otherwise, despairingly brush your pasties with rice milk or soy milk and plead with them to brown as they cook.  I'm sure they won't listen, but it's worth a try

  • Bake the pasties for about 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them, you don't want them to burn.  Some of the filling juice may ooze out, but that all adds to the charm

  • Serve these bad boys on their own with a dollop of brown sauce (so classy) or with roast potatoes ( a carbo-loading extravaganza) or just a light green salad (so virtuous). 

  • Try to expunge all memories of Cornwall from your mind.  If that doesn't work, it might be time for therapy...

© Pig in the Kitchen
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & New York (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

In a minute I’m going to say two words to you. I want you to listen carefully and then close your eyes. Then let all thoughts that are triggered by the two words, swirl around your head.  Do not try to control the thoughts, just sit back and let your mind run amok. When I say 'that's enough' you can open your eyes again.  There are no right or wrong answers.

Are you ready?

New York.







That’s enough.

So what did you think of? Anything? Nothing? Well let me throw out some general ones to see if they match with yours:

Friends (I know, a bit lame as my first one)

Central Park

King Kong

'Start spreading the news…'



The Empire State Building

The Twin Towers

Al Qaeda



'You want Fame.  Well fame costs and right here is where you start paying...'

I know.  My list is distinctly lacking in lofty cultural associations, but has plenty of, well, trashy ones.  Your list is probably much better isn't it?  But the point is, everyone has heard of New York and everyone has an image of New York.  Up until recently I'd seen many images of New York, but I’d never actually been there.

But what’s this? A return ticket to the Big Apple? Pig going out of the kitchen, on her own to the Land of the Free? Can this be for real?

Damn straight, girlfriend! (I picked up some of the lingo when I was there). I touched down on a Thursday night and met up with the fragrant Anna at the airport. On arrival at the hotel, there was an excruciating moment when we dithered over how to tip a doorman who had wheeled our cases 5 metres. We had a wallet full of 20’s straight from the airport ATM, but surely 20 was too much? The doorman was not budging without his tip, and as we giggled in horror, he asked deadpan if we needed to make change. He ended up with a 10 dollar tip because we were too embarrassed to ask for more than 10 dollars in change. Brits - 0, Yanks - 1.

Then in swept sassy Marie, an American born and bred, and from then on we left the tipping etiquette and all other confident American etiquette to her.

The next three days were a whirlwind of absorbing the New York buzz. Everyone spoke in such glowing terms, I was expecting a beautiful place. But it’s not beautiful in the way that Barcelona or Florence are beautiful. In fact (whisper), it’s pretty ugly isn’t it? Huge great blocks of concrete, towered over by even taller, thinner concrete creations.

There was plenty of walking during our trip, a fair amount due to us being completely unable to map read. I mean, we got lost. But we saw Chinatown, Little Italy, Tribeca, Broadway. And then a bit more Broadway and Chinatown as we looked for Soho. Tramp tramp tramp went our feet, wide wide wide went my eyes and snap snap snap went my camera. The Lady of  Liberty was looking good, and as we crowded the deck of the Staten Island ferry for a good view, a group of 20 somethings suddenly burst into beautiful harmonious singing as she hove into view.  Ok, it was a bit cheesy, but still rather wonderful.

And on it went, The Rockefeller Centre, Saks, Bloomingdales, Central Park, Soho, Noho, the Meatpackers district. Of course it’s not possible to do a city justice in 3 days, but it’s possible to have a pretty good go. And as we wandered through Greenwich Village, Marie (who needs help for that caffeine addiction) ushered us into a Starbucks. She bought us some pumpkin bread and for a New York minute (sorry), the world stood still. How delicious is Pumpkin Bread? I was transfixed.

Marie did promise me her Mum’s Pumpkin Bread recipe, but darling, I’m still waiting. So I’ve had to improvise. Even though I’m not a big fan of Halloween, I do think it’s a good excuse to cook, and in these days of pumpkin excess, what better but to cook this moist babe of a cake?

If you can eat this whilst soaking up the atmosphere of New York, so much the better. If not, never mind, it’ll still taste lovely.

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Bread
This bread is sort of like Autumn in a cake.  All those warm, aromatic spices, they fill the kitchen with a lovely fragrance.  I didn't use canned pumpkin (couldn't get it here), but I reckon you could.

1. All versions:½ tsp dried yeast
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground cloves (I had to grind my whole cloves in the blender)
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
120g sugar
110ml oil
150g golden syrup
200g pureed pumpkin
2tbsps sugar
50-100ml hot water

Egg free, dairy free, gluten free version:
All of the ingredients in 1. above, plus:
175g brown rice flour
75g brown (or white) Teff flour
¾ tsp xanthan gum
For the 'egg':
1 heaped tsp Orgran 'no egg' egg powder
¼ tsp xanthan gum
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds
10g dairy free spread
4 tbsps rice milk

Gluten free with eggs version:
All of the ingredients in 1. above, plus:
175g brown rice flour
75g brown (or white) Teff flour
¾ tsp xanthan gum
1 egg

Egg free, dairy free with wheat flour version:
All of the ingredients in 1. above, plus:
250g plain flour
For the 'egg':

1 heaped tsp Orgran 'no egg' egg powder
¼ tsp xanthan gum
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds
10g dairy free spread
4 tbsps rice milk
  • Make the pumpkin puree (which can be frozen).  Chop your pumpkin in half, scoop out all the gubbins and discard.  Cut the pumpkin into sections, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin.  Chop quite finely, then place in a large saucepan with 2-3 tbsps of water.  Cover and heat gently, stirring occasionally until you have a pumpkin pulp.  The pumpkin releases a lot of water, so don't be tempted to add too much water at the beginning.  Add the 2 tbsps of sugar and set aside
  • Heat the oven to 170° celsius and line a 22x11cm loaf tin with baking parchment
  • For all versions, place the yeast, bicarb of soda, baking powder, all the spices, the flour you are using (either rice & Teff or wheat flour) and the xanthan gum (GF versions only) into a large mixing bowl.  Use a mini whisk to ensure it is all well mixed
  • If making an egg free version, place the 'no egg' powder, xanthan gum, linseeds, dairy free spread and rice milk  into a bowl.  Whisk well with a mini whisk until combined
  • For all versions, put the sugar into a large jug or medium bowl.  Add either the 'no egg' mix or the real egg and whisk vigorously.  Maybe put on a little music and wiggle your hips, what do you think? (I like 'The Way You Make Me Feel' by M.J. (R.I.P)
  • To your egg/'no egg' mix add the oil and whisk again ('Hey pretty baby with the high heels on...)
  • Add the pureed pumpkin and golden syrup and whisk again ('You give me fever like I've never, ever known...')
  • Now pour the egg/no egg liquid into the bowl with the flour and spices and mix until combined.  Add the hot water, GF versions will need 100ml, the wheat flour one maybe a bit less.  Mix and mix ('You're just a product of loveliness...) until it is all combined.  It will be quite a liquid mix
  • Pour it into the loaf tin and bake for about 20 mins until well risen and browning on top, but still squidgy in the middle.  Cover with tin foil and then bake for a further 20-30 mins or until an inserted cake skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin
  • Now get out your dvd of Breakfast at Tiffany's or if you're crass like me, a box set of Friends, make a cup of tea and tuck into that cake
  • Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing & Cultural Acceptance (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

Are you familiar with John H Schumann’s Theory of Acculturation? No? Well let me enlighten you.

He argued (circa 1978) that there are 4 stages of Cultural Shock when you move to a different country. I’ll simplify;

The Euphoric Stage
This is the bit when you arrive in the new country and say,
The people are so gentle and lovely and the food is gorgeous!’ (Thailand)
or, ‘Fwoorr! All the girls are tall, slim, blonde and gorgeous!’ (Sweden)
or ‘Omigod! I can buy 500 litres of wine for £3.50!’ (France).
In short, everything is lovely in the new country during the euphoric phase.

The Hostile Stage
Suddenly, you HATE the place.
Eeew! There’s a huge gob of green spit on the pavement and a rat is eating it!’ (China).
All right, so I have blonde hair and my top is a little tight, will you stop freakin’ staring at me!’
(Tunisia/Morocco/large swathes of Africa/anywhere south east of Turkey),
Just chillax Hans, so I put my glass bottle in the wrong bin, don’t have a cow’ (Germany). During this stage you might get depressed, or even aggressive towards the natives of the host country.

The Acceptance Stage
You reach an equilibrium, learning to accept the differences between the host country and your own.
What a bother. I have in my hand a ticket for a train trip to Bordeaux, but I won’t be able to use it because the SNCF has gone on strike. Oh well, it is their democratic right to strike for spurious reasons, so I shan’t complain’ (France).
Well, would you look at that! The man in the Ferrari has just shot across 3 motorway lanes and nearly killed us. Oh well, I expect he's in a rush' (Italy).
Hmm, I really wish they hadn’t just beheaded my dog and fed it to me, but the tradition of eating dog is an ancient one’ (South Korea). (No dogs left in North Korea)

The Reverse Culture Shock Stage
You get home and realise that Britain/wherever has changed since you left, and you might find it hard to fit back in.
Hmm, I didn’t realise that large parts of London are now as dangerous as Helmand province, how did that happen then?’ (Peckham, Brixton, Tower Hamlets).

I find Schumann’s theory rather interesting. If it’s to be believed, when we moved to China, I skipped the Euphoric stage and stayed anchored in the Hostile stage for the entire 3 years. I’ve lived in France a few times over the last 18 years, and although I make progress each time, I think ‘hostile’might best describe my attitude.

During this last 3 years of living in France, I have certainly been hostile to their driving every, single, crazy, Highway code-disregarding day. But driving aside, I may finally have reached the Acceptance stage. I realised this recently at my eldest daughter’s birthday party.

She wanted to go swimming with a few friends. We arrived at the pool and I asked where I could sit to watch.
Her: ‘From here in Reception’ (pool only visible through misty, bullet-proof glass)
Me: ‘But I want to sit by the side of the pool, I need to keep an eye on them’.
Her: ‘You can only do that if you’re in a swimming costume’
Me: ‘What, even if I’m just watching?’
Her: ‘Yes’.

With four girls champing at the bit and desperate to swim, I sent them off to change hoping there weren’t too many
paedophiles lurking in the changing rooms. I waited a while and then approached the woman again.

Me: ‘Can’t I go and sit outside and watch them?’ (There’s an area outside for sun loungers)
Her: ‘But to get outside you would have to walk through the pool area.’ (a distance of 20 metres from changing room
to outside area)
Me: ‘Yes, yes I would’
Her: ‘But you can’t do that because you’re not in a swimming costume. Rules must be obeyed.’

And it was then that my cultural acceptance kicked in. I knew that getting cross with the ridiculous rule would only irritate her, and I would lose. (I think a lot of latent anger still lingers about The Hundred Years War)

Me: ‘Hmm, good point, so what can I do?’
Her: (thinking hard) ‘Ok, here’s what we can do, but I’m making an exception. I’ll lend you a towel so that you can walk across the pool area.’
For one awful moment I thought she meant that I get completely naked and sit outside wrapped in a towel.
Me: (panic in my voice) 'What, take everything off?'
Her: (talking slowly to simple foreigner) 'No! All you need to do is wrap it around your clothes and walk across the pool area. Then when you get outside you can take it off’.

She was deadly serious.

So, I solemnly wrapped myself in a towel whilst fully clothed, with skirt protruding underneath and t-shirt showing above, and walked the 20 metres to the outside area. I then removed the towel and watched my daughter swim with her friends. When it was time to go, I carefully wrapped the towel around me again, walked the 20 metres back, and returned the towel to Reception whilst thanking her heartily for being so kind and making such an exception. She
smiled modestly in a sort of ‘oh you’re very welcome, but next time bring your swimming costume’ kind of a way.

18 years ago I may have strangled her. But in my new found acceptance of all quirks French, I giggled all the way home and prepared lunch, which included this Gingerbread with Lemon Icing.
If you make this gingerbread, do pause just before you eat it, and dedicate it to the irascible, passionate, impatient, marvellous, bewildering, bad drivers who are the French.
It IS worth making the effort to accept them.

Gingerbread with Lemon Icing
Some recipes are not keen on gluten free flours, no eggs and no dairy. They moan a bit and make me work hard. This recipe lay down, rolled over in complete submission and said, 'take me'. I love it when that happens. I think it's because of the Teff flour that I got from Innovative Solutions, the people there are helpful, friendly and passionate about their product. I love it when that happens too.

It can be made three different ways, egg free, dairy free, gluten free. Egg free, dairy free with wheat flour, and gluten free with eggs and dairy (or dairy free). Keep up.

All versions:
150g dairy free spread (or butter)
125g dark muscovado sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsps fresh ginger, grated. (freeze it beforehand, then peel it with a veg peeler and grate it frozen. Bingo)

GF with eggs:
2 eggs
300g brown Teff flour (you could try white Teff flour too, I reckon it would do the same job)
¾ xanthan gum
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
300ml of milk or rice milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsps of warm water

Egg free, dairy free with wheat flour
300g wheat flour
For the 'eggs':
2 heaped tsps Orgran 'no egg' egg powder
20g dairy free spread
¼ tsp xanthan gum
2 heaped tbsps ground linseeds
8 tbsps rice milk
250-350ml rice milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsps of warm water

GF & egg free & dairy free
300g brown Teff flour (you could try white Teff flour too, I reckon it would do the same job)
¾ xanthan gum
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
For the 'eggs':
2 heaped tsps Orgran 'no egg' egg powder
20g dairy free spread
¼ tsp xanthan gum
2 heaped tbsps ground linseeds
8 tbsps rice milk
250-350ml rice milk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tbsps of warm water

For the icing:
180g icing sugar
2-4tbsps lemon juice (maybe more)
1 tbsp warm water
  • Preheat the oven to 170° celsius Grease and line a 30x20x5cm tin (or two 17x27x3cm worked as well)
  • If making this egg free, melt the dairy free spread, then add the 'no egg' egg powder, the xanthan gum, ground linseeds and 8 tbsps of rice milk. Use a mini whisk to mix it all up and try to remove the egg powder lumps. Set aside
  • All versions: Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. For GF versions, add the xanthan gum and whisk through gently with a mini whisk
  • In a large saucepan melt the dairy free spread (or butter), with the sugar, golden syrup, treacle, grated ginger and cinnamon
  • Take it off the heat, add the milk or rice milk, the real eggs or the no egg mixture and the bicarbonate of soda mixed with the water (it will be a sloppy mix)
  • Pour it into the tin(s) and bake for 45-1 hour(ish) until risen and firm to the touch. It remains sticky in the middle. Leave to cool in the tin
  • When cold, prepare the icing. Seive the icing sugar and add 2 tbsps of lemon juice and a splash of the water. Play it by ear, but you may need more lemon juice, a tad more water, you are after a thick icing. But don't worry if you end up with a thinner one, it will just sludge slowly down the side of the cake and you will want to kiss it
  • Spread the icing over the cake and leave it to set, then cut it into squares
  • Eat slice after slice, especially if you are still in the Hostile stage
© Pig in the Kitchen 2009

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Buy a Flirty Apron!

I was wandering around cyberspace recently, in a bit of a dreamy daze, when I read a sentence that bought me up short. And then I had to sort of wander away nonchalantly, whistling and pretending...

It said something like,

'Do you remember the days when Mummy blogs were good, before they got lazy and just became product reviews and giveaways?'

You see the reason I felt a bit sheepish was because of that photo above. And the one below. Because at the very moment that I read the sentence, I was in possession (lawful) of the photographed freebie. A freebie I really liked and wanted to tell you about. But then I read the sentence and the panic set in, am I lowering my standards by telling you about the cool thing I was sent? Have I become lazy? At this very minute are my arteries furring up with congealed, solidified badness making me a good-for-nothing, couch potato of a blogger?

No, I don't think so either.

So now we've established that I am not lazy, shall I tell you about it?

It's an apron. A Flirty Apron.

Oh no, don't go. Look, I know, like you know, that aprons are tools of male domination. They are shackles from the 1950's, a cynical invention, an attempt to keep us subservient in the kitchen. I know all of that, but I also know that when you need to wipe a smudge of Valentine's Chocolate Pudding of Love from your hand, well, an apron is a good thing. And especially this apron.

For a start they come in loads of different designs. I read the kind email offering me to choose any apron my heart desired, then clicked to their site. My daughter came to help as I dithered; there were so many pretty aprons. I was tempted by the cupcake one, but my daughter curled her lip in disgust and shook her head. She didn't quite say, 'act your age Mum', but I reckon she was thinking it. She sensibly took charge and picked out the sophisticated black and white one.

With a wave of their magic American wand, the good folk at Flirty Aprons sent the apron to me. (They do ship to us European mortals, another plus point).

It's fab. Not heavy and serious like the chef apron I once bought, but gay! light! fun! It has a cutesy frill and really long straps that wrap around twice and are tied in a chic bow on the side. Those straps are kind to the fuller figure, they don't pull you in half at your lardiest bit, a key selling point I feel.

And it's a bit like a fashion accessory. When you arrive frazzled in the kitchen to start cooking, still filthy from your mountain biking in the woods, you can pull on your little item of prettiness and look like you dressed for dinner. Kind of.

I have bought quite a few aprons in the past. They have all, er, disappeared. But for my flirty apron, I even put a hook on the wall for it, and I wear it often.

I do only have one tiny moan about Flirty Aprons, and it's not the product. It's one photo on the site that annoys the hell out of me. It shows a woman wearing MY apron, smiling happily to camera, chopping a carrot in her kitchen. That's fine. Normal kitchen behaviour, usually carried out by the female (pause whilst I gnash my teeth).

However, behind the woman is a man. He's not doing anything except lounging against the kitchen counter. Is it me or does he look a little proprietary? Is that a key he's got in his pocket? To the ball and chain that's attached to her ankle? Why isn't he doing anything? Why is he simply standing there whilst she does the work? Why isn't he wearing one of the men's aprons and doing a bit of chopping, or whipping up a souffle, or just making a cuppa? Is that too much to ask?

Does being the main wage earner really excuse him from picking up his socks, putting on the odd load of washing and bathing a few children?
Does he really think that one afternoon of DIY gives him dispensation from daily housework drudgery for the next month?

Am I a bit hormonal, or does that photo reinforce the gender stereotypes, just a weensy bit?

Ahem. Anyway, back to the point.

These aprons are lovely. You should all buy one, and also buy one for your Mum and your daughter and definitely your Mother-in-law. You probably don't need to buy one for your husband, because really, how much use will he get from it?

Thank-you flirty aprons, I love your product, and when it comes to the next photo shoot, ditch that bloke in the background.


My photos are really not doing my apron justice. But my wild flowers look cute, don't they?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Pear and Chocolate Tart for the Home (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

When it came to buying my wedding dress, I approached it like any other purchase. ‘Important to shop around’, I thought. So I did. In the first shop I tried on a couple, and then with my loyal friend Sandra in tow, we trailed all over town with me undressing and dressing with flagging enthusiasm.

Finally in one boutique as I hummed and harred over yet another dress, the rather formidable Madame turned to me,

‘Have you already seen ze dress that you lurrve?’ (we were in France)

I nodded meekly, (it had been in the first shop).

‘Zen why are you ‘ere? Ze dress is like ze lurrve of your life, once you ‘av found ‘im you do not go trying more men, no? Now, you go back to ze uzzer shop and you buy your dress, ok?’

I nodded meekly again, went back to the first shop where I dropped some serious cash on my wedding dress. Well, she told me to, right?

Her words came back to me years later when husband (same one, she was right about the lurrve of your life thing) and I were hoping to buy our first house. We viewed lots of houses, and then we found The One. No matter that the kitchen looked like a 70’s acid-induced mistake, no matter that the bathroom had green bamboo wallpaper, and no matter that the DIY-challenged previous owner had tried to construct a built-in wardrobe. Badly. None of that mattered, because I loved the house. Husband loved the house. We bought the house.

We moved in September, and for the first few weeks, enjoyed sun, country walks and pints in the local pub. The mature garden flourished for us and gave us apples and pears a-plenty. We picked blackberries with the children and I made apple and blackberry crumble. Who knew that the Garden of Eden could be found just 10 miles from the M25? We had arrived in Paradise. I will gloss over the mouse infestation, the leaking ‘conservatory’ roof and the potholed drive. And the rusty guttering, and the windows that needed replacing. And the cracked paving stones that made up the patio. Never mind all that because we enjoyed those blissful days in September.

By a strange coincidence, only 5 years later we were to buy another house. In September. It happened all over again. The fruit trees, the blackberries, the baking, the delight. There must be something about buying a house in September. And we were even more deluded about our latest purchase; only the downstairs was really finished, from parts of upstairs you could see through the ancient timber to the fields beyond. Like I say, no matter, we loved the house.

3 years on, we still love the house, and the fruit trees in the garden have gone into overdrive. Too many pears and too many apples. I’ve tried to palm them off on a neighbour so he can make cider, but he was having none of it.

And then I remembered our first house, and a moment husband and I had shared in the very rickety ‘conservatory’. The Sunday Times had arrived in the morning and in it, a recipe for pears. Oh happy day! I plucked pears off the trees, did all the right things, and by late afternoon we were sitting in the lean-to (let’s call a spade a spade) drinking coffee and eating poached pear tart. In our very first house. It was very thrilling.

And as yet another September rolls on, I have pears, I have a house, and I have bastardised the Sunday Times recipe so that it’s fit for those with allergies. So with no further ado, I give you Pear and Chocolate Tart. Enjoy this in your falling down lean-to that you grandly call a conservatory, and be thankful for all the good things that are yours.

Pear and Chocolate Tart (makes 4 tarts)
You will need to poach the pears about 6 hours before making the tarts, as they need to cool down. Don't be put off about needing to poach the pears, it's very easy to do, and once poached, you can freeze them in the juice until you need them. You can poach pears even if they are too hard to eat/unripe, now isn't that cool?

4 pears
30 cloves
2tsps ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
8-10 tbsps sugar

Chocolate Filling
300g dark chocolate (make sure it's gluten free and dairy free)
75g dairy free spread (or butter if you can)
3 tbsps of golden syrup
water or Grand Marnier (surely a no-brainer?) to thin the sauce for 'drizzling'

300g Doves Farm plain white gluten free flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp guar gum (or another ¼ of xanthan if you don't have guar)
(or 300g flour with gluten if you can eat it, omit the xanthan and guar gum)
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
½ tsp salt
150g dairy free spread (or butter if you can)
140ml (ish) cold water
  • To poach the pears: peel the pears, but leave the stalks in situ. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the pears. Add the cloves, and spices and sugar and bring to the boil. When the water is boiling, immerse the pears, and leave to bubble for about 40-60 mins. You can check to see if they are tender by inserting a skewer or tip of a sharp knife. When poached, leave them to cool in the water. You can store them overnight in the fridge in their juice covered with cling film, or you can freeze them in their juice at this point
  • To make the pastry, put the flour, gum (if using) and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the dairy free spread (or butter) and rub it into the flour using the tips of your fingers, until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then gradually add the cold water until you have a workeable dough, not too sticky. Disappointingly, the dough does crack a little even at this stage, but it can be smoothed over with rice milk/milk to even out before baking. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 30 mins whilst you...
  • ...turn on the oven to 180° celsius make the chocolate filling. Heat a little water into a small saucepan and place a large pyrex bowl on the top. Break up the chocolate and add it to the bowl, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't stick/burn. When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and add the dairy free spread (or butter) and golden syrup and mix until blended. You might need to whack it back on the saucepan again to get that dairy free spread to melt. Set the chocolate mix to one side and dive back into the fridge for your pastry
  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and flour a chopping board/work surface with the Doves Farm gluten free flour, and break off half the dough. Roll out the dough to just less than ½cm, and cut out 4 rectangles that are just bigger than your pears (have a look at the pic to see what I mean)
  • Transfer two pastry rectangles to the baking sheet. Carefully spread chocolate sauce over them, but leave at least a centimetre gap around the edge. Dampen the edges with rice milk/milk. Cover the chocolatey rectangles with their 'lids' and press the edges together, trying not to let any chocolate ooze out from the sides
  • Now, take one of your cooled poached pears, and carefully slice it down the middle, including the stalk. If you can dig out some of the core from each half then do so, if not, let your guests dig it out with their knife and fork, people expect to be spoon fed these days don't they? A bit of backbone is what this country needs, they can dig out their own core, it won't do them any harm.
  • When you have sliced the pear down the middle, place it onto the 'lid' of the tart, and gently press down. Using the point of a sharp knife, carefully cut around the pear following its contours, just piercing the top layer of pastry, not the bottom
  • Now, wet the pastry all over with rice milk/milk and place it into the oven at 180° celsius for about 20-25 minutes
  • Whilst it's cooking away, turn your attention back to your chocolate sauce. Fire up the saucepan again and place the bowl on top to re-heat the chocolate sauce. When it is warm, gradually add some water or Grand Marnier to thin the sauce. In fact, you should probably start with water, then add just a touch of liqueur at the end, I don't want to accused of giving the green light to your drinking. When it is nice and liquid, for 'drizzling' (oh how I hate that word, it makes me wince), remove it from the heat and twiddle your thumbs whilst you wait for the tarts to finish
  • When they are done and out of the oven, place them onto your serving plate and 'drizzle' (bleurgh) away with the chocolate sauce, do fine flourishes around the edges of the plate and make it look marvellous
  • Serve to your adoring husband/other

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Glenda Bannington-Blythe's Sauté Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

(If you haven't had the good fortune to meet Glenda before now, you might want to do a little background reading to bring you up to speed)

‘The thing is,’ rasped Roger as he reached out towards the willing, nubile Blonde, ‘No-one ever needs to know. It will be our dirty, filthy, torrid little secret’. The blonde giggled and fixed him with adoring eyes,

‘Oh Roger’ she breathed, ‘you are soo gorgeous and rich with such a big…’

ROGER! Roger! Why are you pawing at me? I asked you a question’.

Roger jerked awake from his afternoon nap in the hammock. He pushed up his boater and blinked at his wife Glenda.

‘What’s that?’ he snorted, ‘What? Did I say anything? Did I touch you?’ he added, guiltily.

‘No, well, you were muttering something about secrets and trying to grab me, another of your little fantasies was it dear?’

Glenda’s eyes were cold and her smile frosty, in contrast to the warmth of the bright summer afternoon. Roger chose not to answer and shifted a little in the hammock.

‘Well what is it woman? What do you mean by waking me?’ He eyed his wife with distaste. He could tell she had been doing menial work again for she wore a gardening apron with garden tools stuffed in the pockets. Why did she persist in doing the Gardener’s job? It was such a lack of breeding. Mummy had been right, he really was too good for her…

Glenda clicked her tongue impatiently,

‘Well, I’ve just had Adolphus Boswell on the phone, blathering about coming for apéritifs this evening with his new bit of Russian fluff, did you invite them?’

Roger frowned, still trying to dispel the image of his Blonde. Had he invited Addy? Oh yes, he’d invited Addy and his Russian girlfriend… Anya was it? He’d lucked out there, although of course she was only after him for Indefinite Leave to Remain, but still, good luck to Addy, the dirty old dog.

‘Ah yes, I did darling, didn’t I tell you? I think it was just an informal thing, you know, bit of champagne, maybe some Pimms, light finger food, that kind of thing, get Cook to do it. God knows we pay her enough, tell her to put her fat old backside into it’
He harrumphed and picked up the book lying in the grass by the hammock.

Glenda snatched up the book and hurled it into the lobelias, barely able to contain her venom,

‘The thing is dahling,’ she hissed, ‘it is August, and I’ve given Cook the afternoon off. There is no-one here to make some light bloody finger food except me, oh and of course, you!’ the snort of derision spoke volumes.

‘And furthermore, Adolphus informed me that Tanya is picky! Can’t eat gluten! Can’t eat eggs, or milk or nuts! She’s Russian for god’s sake, didn’t they spend years queuing for bread and starving under Stalin? You’d think she’d eat anything she can get her hands on! Fussy bloody Foreigner…’ and Glenda stomped off in the direction of the kitchen.

‘It’s Anya! Not Tanya! Seemed rather nice as I remember...’ called Roger, then ducked as a well-aimed pair of secateurs narrowly missed his head.

Glenda reached the kitchen and gently placed her forehead onto the cool granite work surface. She fingered the garden knife in her apron pocket and for a second imagined piercing Roger’s bloated belly with it. What a waste of a life this is, she thought, then jumped as she heard someone enter the kitchen.

‘Meesis! Hoh my Gohd! Meesis you is illness? I call ze doctorr?'
Rosa bounded across the kitchen and wrenched Glenda’s head off the granite, her troubled eyes scanning her employer’s face. ‘I call a ze doctorr?’

Glenda broke away from Rosa,
‘That’s enough Rosa! Calm down! You are sweet to worry, but really I’m fine, just a little fatigued’

Rosa’s eyes widened in delight, her hand flew to her mouth,

‘Oh Meesis! You a little fattee? You getting a tummy? You expecta da baby? Oh Meesis! Is good news! I thinka many time a baby woulda be a good in a da house!’ she beamed.

‘Pardon? Expecting a baby, wha..?’ Glenda was flummoxed, replaying the words in her mind, what on earth had Rosa misunderstood this time?

‘Oh I see Rosa, no, not ‘fattee’, ‘fatigued’, it means tired’.

Rosa nodded, concentrating,

Yes Mees, is becoz of da baby no? It make you very many tired’.

Glenda bit hard on her lip,

‘Rosa, I need some help…what’s that you’re carrying?’

‘Zees? Is ‘erb from ze ‘erb garden. In a Espain we call eet ‘tomillo’. My Mama she hot cook ze patatoes, den a she fry wiz ajo, in engleesh, is garlick, no?'.

Glenda nodded, smiling at this unexpected answer to her dilemma.

‘Well that sounds perfectly lovely Rosa, I would very much like to try your Mama’s, er Mother's dish. Please be so good as to make enough for four and have it ready by 7pm, do you understand?’

‘Yes Mees! I make it very good like my Mama! I make extra for you and da baby, you musta eat a very good!’

Glenda shook her head in amusement and headed for the cellar to find champagne.

‘I think we’ll drink vintage tonight’ she thought to herself, ‘I deserve it for the short notice and the special dietary requirements. Can’t eat gluten indeed!’

And shaking her head she descended into the cool, musty dark of the cellar.

Glenda Bannington-Blythe's Sauté Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic

Well! Who would have thought Glenda would be so intolerant of food allergies? I had her down as quite a pleasant person, but clearly she’s under a lot of strain being married to that pig of a man. We’ll have to cut her some slack this time I think. Anyway, the potato dish is tasty, a cinch to rustle up in a hurry, and although clearly not haute cuisine, will get you out of a hole when those unexpected guests descend on you. Serve as a nibbly dish with some chilled (vintage) champagne if you wish, or a light Prosecco if you’re feeling the pinch.

1-2kg potatoes depending on how many guests (more if you're cooking for a family of 6)

3 cloves of garlic and extra for garnish

a good handful of fresh thyme and extra for garnish

Olive oil to fry

Salt and black pepper

  • Set a large pan of salted water to boil, then peel and chop the potatoes into medium sized cubes

  • When the water is boiling, put the cubes in and leave to bubble for about 5 minutes, you want them firm, not soft

  • Drain the potatoes and leave them to steam for a minute or two. Cover the base of a non-stick frying pan with olive oil and let it heat over a medium heat

  • Carefully place the potatoes into the oil, stir briefly with a spatula, then leave them whilst you

  • Finely chop the garlic and fresh thyme (fresh really is best if you can get it, my sweet sister-in-law gave me some to grown in my garden, I'm so like Glenda really), reserving a little for the garnish

  • Grind some salt and black pepper over the sizzling potatoes, then turn them with a spatula, they probably won't even be golden yet, not to worry

  • Sprinkle the garlic and thyme over the potatoes, and leave for another 4 minutes or so

  • Now the game is to keep turning the potatoes every so often, but not too often or they will go mushy. You do have to leave them be so they can do their golden thing, this could take about 15 minutes (or perhaps more)

  • When the pots are done, place them into a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining garlic and thyme

  • Serve to the beastly Adolphus and his surgically enhanced Tanya, grind your teeth and heal your pain with vintage champagne. It works for me.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2009

Now this isn't really a main course is it? Perhaps a little light for a starter, but might do for a quick lunch? Shall we start a whole new category on my sidebar? Shall we call it, 'Lunch ideas and Assorted Sumptuous Stuff?' Oh I like that, good idea.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Homeschooling Bean and Polenta Vegetarian Sausages (Egg free, Dairy free, Gluten free)

Every now and then I think that I might quite enjoy home schooling my children. I fancy that I would adhere to a wide-ranging, liberal curriculum that would take the form of light seminars designed to equip my children for life. The emphasis would be on self-discovery, tolerance and giving Mummy plenty of time to herself.

Last Summer I decided to do a home schooling dry run. First up was a trip to the bakery (‘Life Skills; Buying Provisions‘ and ‘Language Acquisition Module 1; French‘). In the true spirit of home schooling, bucking trends and fostering autonomy, I decided to let the three elder children go in on their own (‘Cutting the Cord; Never Too Young For Independence’). When they reappeared with the baguettes, my eldest was smiling broadly,
‘Look Mum! With the change I’ve got exactly the right money to buy four lollipops at 30 centimes each, that’s a total of 1 euro 20 cents, can I go and get them?’

I beamed. Here was home schooling in action, times tables being used in a real life application. It had meaning and relevance, it was how education should be. I dispatched her to buy the lollipops forthwith. The lesson on ‘Tooth decay; You Can Never Brush Too Much’ would come later.

Next up was a trip to the wood (‘Physical Education Tom Sawyer Style’). It was hot and I’d forgotten all the water bottles and the pram for the 2 year old (‘Humans and Fallibility; What That Means to Me’). Still, we got off to a flying start as all four children watched moorhens (’Nature in Action; Moorhens’), examined animal footprints (’Nature in Action 2; Animal Footprint Detection’) and played Pooh Sticks (‘Random Forces of Nature; Currents and Swirls’).

But the rot set in on the return journey. We were hot and tired, the two year old was demanding the pram, I had lost all enthusiasm for walking four children in the woods, and the thought of home schooling and doing this day in and day out seemed ridiculous. I was very glad to get them all home and park them in front of the telly. (ICT; Why Television is Invaluable‘).

A bit of lunch revived me (‘Medicinal Benefits of Red Wine at Lunchtime; One Woman’s Theory’) and we decided to play Snakes and Ladders (‘Socialisation; An Introduction to Turn-Taking’). I thought I might work in some simple adding and subtracting with the die, and focus on ‘Learning to Win - and Lose - With Grace‘.

Yeah well, that idea didn’t fly. The two year-old drained the last reserves of my patience by taking everyone’s counters, the eldest sulked when she wasn’t winning, and the remaining two bickered incessantly. In the end it was home schooling Mum who threw her toys out of the pram and refused to play (Humans and Fallibility 2; Puerile Behaviour in The Adult’). Within minutes the telly was back on, I was in front of the computer, and we were all enjoying home schooling a lot more. (Life Skills 2; How the Path of Least Resistance Can Work For You’).

I did rally later in the day, by letting the children go in the swimming pool (‘Physical Education 2; Gross Motor Skills’ and ‘Voice Therapy; Shrieking’). The sun shone down on us, the children were happy, and home schooling Mummy thought that if every day were like this she’d be tanned and tranquil. Alas the complacency was short-lived, one of the children assaulted another with a boogie board (Introduction to Crime; GBH and Beyond), and I ordered everyone out (Proverbs and Idioms; Pride Comes Before a Fall’).

I decided that home schooling was for mugs and set about making tea whilst fortifying myself with red wine (‘Stay at Home Mums and Red Wine; Sowing the Seeds of Alcoholism’). I figured that ignoring the children was the best policy and I engrossed myself in trying a sausage recipe that had been wandering around in my head (Pig In The Kitchen; The Inspirational Story of My Life, Vol I‘).

Astoundingly, my idea worked, and during my time in the kitchen, somehow the children had stopped bickering (’Radical Parenting Part 1; Ignoring Your Children Really Works'). We ate outside in the sun, and they ALL wanted more sausages. I was rather ecstatic at this point because it is so rare for all four children to like my trial recipes (Radical Parenting Part 2; Like it Or Lump It - The Food Approach That Really Works’).

Later that evening when my poppets were all in bed (Radical Parenting Part 3; It’s OK to Scream At Bedtime') I had a long, hard think about home schooling, could it be for me? I weighed up the pros and cons, and decided that I was quite simply not up to the job
(Life Skills 3; Know When To Stop’). Mainly because I love it when they are at school and I have space in my head for me, me and me (‘Confessions of a Selfish Woman, Part 1’), and also because they are lucky enough to thrive in mainstream schooling (‘Mainstream Schooling; It Worked For Me’).

So anyway, Big Respec’ to you fabulous Home Schoolers, and when you’re not doing Kumon Maths and visiting art galleries, maybe you’d like to try making some Vegetarian Home Schooling Sausages? In fact, whether you home school or not, do have a go at my sausages, they will thrill your heart.
(‘In the Footsteps of a Guru; How Pig In The Kitchen Changed My Life).
Homeschooling Bean and Polenta Sausages (Makes between 15 and 20 sausages and you can freeze them) The mix is best made a couple of hours before you need to use it.

I do so love Polenta. In fact I love any food that you can mould and shape, it’s like using edible play dough.

I’ve made these often since the home schooling débâcle, you can slip in any finely chopped or grated veg you fancy, so branch out and stray from my recipe (Experimental Cooking Part 1), but just don’t blame me if it all goes wrong (‘Bucking Modern Trends; Refusing to Accept a Litigious Culture’).
200g polenta
1 can red kidney beans
1 small courgette
1 small carrot
2 cloves of garlic
2 mushrooms
Olive oil to fry
1 medium potato/ 1 small sweet potato
2 tbsps yeast extract
1 tbsp mixed herbs / thyme/ whatever you like
50-100ml red wine (or a bit more, up to you)
Between 350 and 500ml boiling water
  • Finely chop the carrot and potato and put into a large frying pan or saucepan
  • Roughly chop the courgette, mushrooms, garlic and herbs and add to the pan
  • Douse with olive oil and set to fry over a medium heat
  • Whilst that’s doing its thing, drain the kidney beans and boil the water
  • After about 5 minutes, add the drained kidney beans, red wine, yeast extract and about half the water to the pan. Stir and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes
  • Turn off the heat, and use a hand blender to whiz it all up into a paste. Either put it all into a jug and do it safely, or tilt the saucepan/frying pan this way and that until the blender is submerged and you can blend without spattering hot stuff everywhere (Living on the Edge; Cooking Like a Nutter Part 1)
  • When the vegetables and the beans are blended, turn the heat down low and add the polenta. It will be way too thick and you’ll need to add some liquid pronto. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens and the polenta starts coming away from the edge, about 10 minutes (maybe more, taste it, it shouldn‘t be gritty). Add more water as you see fit, but you’ll need quite a stiff mix for the sausages, so do it gradually
  • When the polenta mix is cooked, remove it from the heat. Be warned, during the next part you’ll probably scald your fingers (Living on the Edge; Cooking Like a Nutter (Part 2) and Loving It)
  • Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment
  • The best way to do the next part is to use a piping bag with a sausage sized nozzle. If you don’t have one, cut a sausage-sized corner off a plastic bag (don’t think of nasty chemicals in plastic reacting with your warm food)
  • Spread a big dollop of your polenta mix onto a cold plate, and brush the surface with olive oil. Then either using your hands (ouch!) or a spoon, scoop the mix into your plastic bag and ‘pipe’ your sausages onto the baking tray. You can also make the sausages by allowing your polenta to cool some more and rolling the mix in your hands to make sausage shapes, that’s the really fun way, but you have to work quickly so that your mix doesn’t set before you’ve used it all up
  • If the mix is a bit warm, the sausages might ‘sag’ a little and not be perfect and cylindrical. Don’t worry too much, as they cool down the mix sets and you can re-shape them a bit
  • When you have used up all the mix, leave your sausages to cool completely. Although at a pinch you can cook them straight away, it has been done before
  • If you want to freeze them, you can do so at this stage, just layer them with baking parchment
  • Cover the base of a frying pan with olive oil and heat it. When it is hot, carefully transfer your sausages to the pan and let them sizzle. They can be a bit fragile and temperamental, so it is best to leave them to fry and go brown rather than keep turning them. When one ‘side’ is done, roll them over and do the other side until they are crispy and brown
  • Remove from the pan and place onto a plate covered with kitchen towel (to drain off excess oil)
  • And there you have it! Sausages! That’s marvellous isn’t it? And all because of home schooling. Sort of.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2009

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Star Solution of Hope #1: Engevita Yeast Flakes

In many ways, the medical diagnosis of a child’s food allergies is not the starting point. The starting point probably came weeks or months earlier, when it was clear that something didn’t agree with your child.

In the case of my daughter, it was eczema and skin infections from 2 months old, and recurrent chest infections. It was noticing that her cheek came up in hives when one of her siblings gave her a buttery kiss. It was her point blank refusal to have yogurt or cheese spooned into her mouth, and most damningly, it was a Doctor’s letter to a Consultant headed,
'9 month old infant girl, failure to thrive’.

It’s almost a relief when the skin prick tests and blood tests show a food allergy. It means you can march up to that sceptical husband/Mother-in-Law/Yummy Mummy, wave dramatic blood test results in their face and say,
'See! I told you my Mother’s instinct was right!’

But, when I received that firm diagnosis, the future looked very bleak indeed. What was I supposed to feed my 9 month old? What was I supposed to feed my breast-feeding self to ensure my milk remained allergen free?

To keep me allergen free, I scrabbled around eating lots of hummus and rice cakes, and on one memorable evening a thick custard made with water, sweetened with golden syrup and enhanced with cocoa powder. Yum. Now 3 years on, I mercifully don’t have to worry about breast-feeding. This is because on the eve of her first birthday, my littlest finally consented to drink a bottle of what we kindly and tactfully call, ‘stinky milk’ (Nutramigen formula milk). As she glugged down her first bottle of stinky milk, I did shed a tear because it was the end of my breast-feeding career. And having wiped away the tear, I poured myself an enormous glass of red wine, because hey, I’m no longer poisoning the baby, right? It was quite a joyful moment.

However, 3 years on, I do still have to worry about providing a balanced vegetarian diet for a child with egg, cows milk, goats milk, brazil nut and mustard allergies. And before you hop around trying to mount your high horse whilst berating me for not feeding her meat or fish in the face of such a restricted diet… I would throttle veal for her if she would eat it, but alas, she’s a bit of a picky one.

Oh, and all you vegans now galloping away on your horrified horse…I wouldn’t really raise veal for her and slaughter it with my own bare hands. That’s just a turn of phrase.

So, a very small pool of ingredients from which I may fish, how on earth am I going to keep this child healthy? By the seat of my pants is how I do it. Whilst my other three hungry children are wolfing down eggs on toast, or cheese, tomato and onion on toast, (a ‘Nanny Toasty’), I am scrabbling around in the cupboard for the last tin of beans for, beans on toast.

When I’ve served Lentil Bolognese (I really must post that recipe), and the other three children are gaily sprinkling the Parmesan, I move her chair carefully out of the cheese zone, and instruct the others not to touch her. And on bad nights, when I’m exhausted and everyone is eating pasta, oil and cheese, I close my eyes to the blanket of ketchup that she has lovingly laid over her meal.

Which is why, I am always so delighted when I find something that might make my life a little easier. And in Engevita Marigold Yeast Flakes I have found a friend. They are described as having a cheesy or nutty taste, and they have…a cheesy or nutty taste. They are also packed full of B vitamins. No I don’t really know what B vitamins are good for either, but I know they are vitamins, ergo, they are good. Vitamins are what my girlie needs. These little flakes melt when they are warmed, so I merrily sprinkle them into soups, beans, Lentil Bolognese, and I mix them with olive oil when I’m doing that trashy meal of pasta and oil that I mentioned earlier. I think Vegetation at The Veggie Patch might have a recipe for a ‘cheesy’ dip for tortilla chips as well, I’ll have to pop over and ask her for it soon.

Of course they are not going to solve the restricted diet problem, but they are a little nugget of hope. Which is why I mentioned them. If you have allergies or cook for someone with allergies, then you know that a little hope goes a long way. As does an enormous glass of red wine.

Yeast flakes are available from Goodness Direct and if your health food store is worth its salt, they should have them too. If they don’t have them, they should order them for you. And if they don’t order them, think evil thoughts about them, and order some online.

Pssst, do you like the new 'Star Solution of Hope' Series?? I've got a whole host of them, some more random than others. Stay tuned...

© Pig in the Kitchen 2009