Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Sugar Free Chocolate Brownies for Iota Manhattan (egg free, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, vegan)

I’ve written before about the addictive nature of blogging and my feelings about my own blog. What I haven’t written about is how I feel about other people’s blogs. The idea of blogging is that it’s a medium for you to express yourself whether in words, pictures, or both. And there are a gazillion blogs out there doing just that. Now if you imagine there were a gazillion people all gathered together, the chances are that not all of them would be your cup of tea. Chances are you might hate some of them. Some wouldn’t bother you either way, some might make you cry, some might make you laugh, some you would want to snuggle up to and kiss. With tongues. You see where I’m going with this don’t you?

Since I started blogging in 2007 (does that makes me a veteran blogger?) I have come across some truly awful blogs. Blogs whose content is so explicit it makes my toes curl. Blogs that are written so incredibly badly I wish I could find the delete button and put everyone out of the misery.

But the beauty of blogging is that some days you come across brilliant blogs. You hear a fresh, talented voice and it makes your heart sing. I can’t get enough of blogs like that. I sometimes turn into a comments box stalker and read all the back posts, leaving a comment on each one. I imagine the poor besieged blogger rolling their eyes and thinking, ‘God it’s Pig in the Kitchen again leaving smiley comments with lots of exclamation marks’. It’s the truly excellent blogs that make me love blogging and keep me coming back for more.

I can’t remember when I stumbled across Iota’s blog. I do remember reading this post about the differences between American and English enthusiasm levels, and chuckling. She’s a Brit living in the States and she blogs about life, like so many bloggers do. Her writing is witty and intelligent and always a joy to read.

Now I’m a fairly rubbish reader of other blogs and weeks can go by before I get around to visiting. I remember vividly the day when I thought,

‘I know, I’ll pop over and visit Iota I haven't been for ages’.

I remember feeling in a bright mood, ready to leave a faintly silly comment on her blog. What I read brought me up short and brought tears to my eyes, because in the weeks when I had been immersed in my own, carefree life, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She then went on to take the brave decision to have a double mastectomy to prevent it recurring. And in her unique, Iota Manhattan way, she decided to have a farewell party for her boobs, complete with cake. She has blogged about the whole process, movingly, funnily, breezily, honestly. I think she is remarkable.

I haven’t created this recipe for her in a schmaltzy, feel-the-love, fluffy blogger kind of a way, but because she asked me if I knew of any good, sugar-free recipes. Since her cancer she has revolutionised her diet and in particular is cutting out sugar. She handed me the challenge and after months of not getting around to it (such a good blogging friend), it turned out to be quite easy.

I will leave you with part of what she wrote on December 31st, 2009. I’m hoping 2010 will be 1000% better for her,

‘This year, I’ve faced things I didn’t plan to face just yet. I’ve looked into the jaws of my own mortality, and squared up with two things: how insignificant my life is, and how significant my life is. Both are burdensome truths. I’ve found that the best strategy to deal with them is to look them straight in the eyes, but not for long, and then turn away to get on with the fabulous reality of daily life’.

For you, Iota. Go wild!

Sugar Free Chocolate Brownies for Iota Manhattan

Iota and I both enjoyed this recipe, but alas, only some of our kids did. Well, none of hers liked it and only 2 of mine would eat it. We concluded that they are so completely addicted to refined sugar, this didn't even register on their taste buds as sweet. This would be a good one for toddlers though wouldn't it? Get in there with the healthy stuff for as long as you can before they have their first sugar rush and never look back.

For filling and topping:

90g dried prunes

90g dried apricots

3 medium bananas

100-150ml apple juice

3tbsps rice milk/milk

3 tbsps cocoa powder

For GF with Eggs:
2 eggs
110g dairy free spread
2 tbsps honey/agave nectar/maple syrup (more if you wish)
1 tbsp Ener-g pure rice bran or ground sunflower seeds (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarb of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbsps cocoa powder
approximately 80ml rice milk
For egg free, dairy free, gluten free:
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds
10g dairy free spread
¼ tsp xanthan gum
5 tbsps rice milk
110g dairy free spread
2 tbsps honey/agave syrup/maple syrup (more if you wish)
120g brown rice flour
¼ tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp pure rice bran or ground sunflower seeds (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarb of soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbsps cocoa powder
approximately 80ml rice milk

For wheat flour & egg free 
Use the same ingredients as for egg free, dairy free, gluten free, but replace the rice flour with
120g wholemeal flour
omit the ¼ tsp xanthan gum

  • Heat oven to 160˚celsius and grease and line a brownie tin with baking parchment. My tin was 29x4x23cm, and was almost too big. 24x24 would be ideal or something similar
  • If using 'no egg' put the 'no egg' egg replacer powder into a bowl with the ground linseeds, xanthan gum, 10g of dairy free spread and 5 tbsps rice milk
  • Put the prunes, apricots, banana and apple juice into a pan and heat gently. When everything is squidgy, blend to a paste with a hand-held blender. Add the rice milk and cocoa powder, stir and set aside
  • Put the dairy free spread and honey into a bowl and mix until beaten together. Add either the real eggs or the 'no egg' mix and stir. Add the flour, (&rice bran & xanthan gum if using GF flour), spices, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, rice bran/sunflower seeds if using and cocoa powder and mix. Add the rice milk and stir. You might need more milk, aim for a slow dropping consistency, but not too soft
  • Line the base of your tin with half of the flour mix. Then carefully spread half of the fruit mix over the top, it sticks a little to the flour mix, but don't worry too much. If it's really very thick, add a little more rice milk to loosen it up so that you can spread it
  • Put the rest of the flour mix on top of the paste, and spread it out so it's level
  • Bake for about 20 mins (keep watching) until it's risen and springy
  • Remove from the oven and spread the rest of the fruit paste over the top. it will harden slightly as it cools. Leave to cool completely, then place in the fridge, it's much yummier kept in the fridge
  • Cut into brownie-shaped pieces and tuck in. You could even eat these whilst blogging, they are very healthy after all

© Pig in the Kitchen

All Rights Reserved © Pig in the Kitchen
All Rights Reserved

Monday, 8 February 2010

Beetroot Cake, Tidy Fridges & St Valentine's Day (egg free, dairy free,gluten free, sugar free (optional)

with swirly 'butter' icing
A friend of a friend once spent time photographing the inside of people’s refrigerators, because apparently the inside of your fridge says a lot about you. I find that kind of theory a bit unsettling because I know what’s coming next; tidy fridge = tidy mind.

Tidiness has always been a problem for me. I can still hear my Mother’s frustration at my untidy room and feel the sense of failure as I didn’t meet her tidy standards. She wasn’t alone in her belief that being tidy is important, it’s the majority view;
‘Tidiness Is Next To Godliness’
‘A Tidy House Is The Sign Of A Tidy Mind’
‘Be Tidy Or Be Forever Damned And Reviled By Society’.

I may have made a few of those up, or misquoted them, but you get the point. Faced with this tidiness moralising, there is really only one way for the truly untidy person to respond; by being bullish.

How many times have I mock shuddered at freakishly tidy homes and said things like, ‘Eeew, so neat, I bet they are crap in bed’. I know that’s not logical but it makes me feel better to be really mean. Or I might shake my head and say in pseudo-psychiatric tones, ‘It’s just not healthy to be that tidy, it’s clearly undiagnosed OCD, they’ll be on Prozac before they’re 50’. Yes, my bullish stance is a textbook reaction to a subject (tidiness, not OCD) that goes to the heart of my feelings of inadequacy.

You see, really, deep down, I wish I could be tidy. I wish I had the sort of house where people gasp in delight as they enter. Have you noticed that people only do that in tidy homes? In untidy homes they say things like, ‘Oh your house is so homely, it’s so....cosy’.

I also wish I could be bothered to tidy. It’s a myth that naturally tidy people do it effortlessly, they don’t. They spend hours ordering their lives and thinking about where stuff should go. Having a neat house is a priority and they do things like finish one job before they start another. They actually allocate blocks of time to organising, rather than doing it when they can no longer see the sofa.

However, there is a school of thought that maintains that untidy people do have systems to organise their lives, it’s just that the logic of those systems is not visible to others. Let’s take an example; I want you to think about the last bill you received. Where is it? If you are a tidier, it’s probably filed neatly somewhere. If you are a muddler, you might not have filed it, but you have a rough idea of where it is, don’t you? It’s in a pile somewhere. You might not be able to put your hand on it instantly, but after muddling around for 10 minutes you’ll get there won’t you? So perhaps a rigid filing system is not necessary. You either invest loads of time setting up the system at the outset, (and then more time nagging your husband to get him to adhere to it), or you use that time to do fun stuff and when push comes to shove, rummage around swearing under your breath until you find the car registration document/whatever.

So all of that brings me rather circuitously to my latest recipe and the state of my fridge. You’ll be happy to know that my fridge is a true reflection of my creative, colourful, vibrant personality. Yeah, it’s a mess. And sometimes even I get fed up of the mess, so the other day I cracked and tidied it. In doing so I found the pack of beetroot I bought a while ago to try out a beetroot cake idea. With only days before its sell-by date was up, I decided to give my recipe a whirl.

Et viola le r├ęsultat; pinky beetroot cakes of love, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Hey, I tell you what; I bet St Valentine was a messy bugger; all throbbing passion, clothes strewn everywhere but full of life-affirming lurrve. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Beetroot Cake (makes 24 cupcakes or a 20x25cm traybake)
 By some curious process, all the beetroot disappears into the cake and you can't see it.  Re: the icing, I do love the look of the swirly icing in the first photo, but I'm not that keen on butter icing.  So I had a go with glace icing too (2nd photo); you must choose whichever one is right for you.  I tried making this with agave nectar a couple of times, you can do that or use 'normal' sugar.  And finally, this is an eggless cake; they are just not needed in the recipe.  If you are desperate to add eggs, let's see, try using 2 eggs instead of the ground linseeds, and please report back; I'll shower you with praise!

All versions:
275g pre-cooked beetroot (in that plastic, shrink-wrapped packaging)
3 tbsps ground linseeds
4 tbsps rice milk or other milk (maybe not breast milk...)
180g sugar OR 10 tbsps of Agave nectar
110ml oil (I used sunflower oil)
100g dried cranberries or raisins
½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp ground cinammon
¼ ground ginger

GF version:
195g brown rice flour
30g ener-g rice bran
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsps GF baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml rice milk/other milk

Wheat flour version:
230g wholemeal wheat flour
¼ tsp xanthan gum (in an emergency you can probably scrape by without it)
2 tsps GF baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150ml rice milk/other milk

For swirly butter icing:
100g dairy free margarine (or butter if you can)
3 tbsps agave nectar
3 tbsps maple syrup
(or about 70g icing sugar, sifted, if you don't want to use nectar and syrup)
3 tbsps beetroot juice

For glace icing:
150g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsps of lemon juice
2 tbsps of beetroot juice
  • Heat oven to 170˚ celsius and grease and line your tray bake tin with baking parchment, or put your cupcake cases into the cupcake case tin
  • Carefully remove the beetroot from its packaging, reserving the juice. Finely grate the beetroot and place in a large mixing bowl
  • For all versions, add the linseeds, rice milk/other milk, sugar/agave nectar, oil, cranberries/raisins and spices to the mixing bowl and stir until combined
  • Add the flour (GF or Wheat), baking powder and bicarbonate of soda alternately with the rice/other milk and mix to combine.  You are looking for a mixture that will drop slowly off your wooden spoon, so add some more milk if you need to
  • Either painstakingly dollop the mixture into the individual cupcake cases, or put it in the traybake tin and level the top
  • Place in the oven and leave to cook for approximately 20-25 minutes until it is risen, golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out more or less clean (it's quite a moist cake, it may leave a bit of residue on the skewer, but not big gloops of mixture)
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  • If you want to use butter icing, using a hand whisk, whisk the dairy free margarine/butter with the syrup (or icing sugar).  Add the beetroot juice and feel happy at the pretty, natural colour you are beholding.  If the icing seems a bit stiff, add a tbsp of rice/other milk or a tbsps of beetroot juice
  • Use a piping bag to pipe around and around and up to a point.  Don't worry if you make a complete hash of it, no-one will mind because it looks so pretty.  And your Valentine definitely won't mind, especially if you pipe any remaining icing over strategic body parts (his/hers or yours)
  • If you want to use glace icing, sift the icing sugar and add the lemon juice and beetroot juice.  Add more icing sugar or more juice until you achieve the consistency you desire.  Mine was a tad runny, I probably should have added some more icing sugar.  Spread the icing over the cake.  Spread any remaining icing wherever you wish
  • And if you've got any doubts about using beetroot in a cake, look here at all the health benefits
  • Happy Valentine's Day!
With glace icing
© Pig in the Kitchen

All Rights Reserved