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?