Monday, 21 June 2010

Essential Equipment for Allergy Cooking. Item #1: Fiona Hewitt's tins

                        
I have lost count of the times I've been doorstepped by CEOs who say 'Pig, we know you're jetting off to be the keynote speaker at another allergy conference, but do you have a minute to endorse this product for us?' 

The man trying to give me a free boysenberry Kitchen Aid once even followed me to passport control  at Charles de Gaulle, he was that desperate  to have the Pig in the Kitchen name associated with his product. 
 Un-be-lievable.  And I nearly missed my flight because of him, to Honolulu as I recall...

Of course it's flattering, but I have to be careful that this international brand I've developed doesn't get diluted and thus lose its appeal. 

However, just occasionally I come across a product that is so deliciously lovely, well I can't resist.  This Dumpling Dynasty tin by Fiona Hewitt is just such a morsel of scruminess.

I was wandering in the 9th arrondissement of Paris when I first saw it. You know that feeling when you see something that is so gorgeous your heart starts to flutter and you know that it has to be yours? I call that the 'Shopping Epiphany.' (S.E. for short.) Well I had an S.E. right there and then in the shop and it took only a flurry of Euros to make this tin my very own.

It didn't come with all those utensils stuffed into it, that is all my own mess. Fiona's tin comes with cake cases, that tiny wooden spoon you can see, candles, a mini rolling pin and a recipe card for 'Iced Star Cookies' and 'Fancy Cupcakes'. It is all very, uber-liciously cute.  Every morning before I mix up my allergic girlie's Nutramigen, I take my mini-whisk from my tin and feel happy.  I think any allergy cook worth their salt should have one. 

And just in case you really believed that waffle at the top about people really, really wanting Pig in the Kitchen to endorse stuff, well actually that, um, isn't true.  And Fiona Hewitt did not ask me to endorse her tin.  I'm bigging up her stuff because it is achingly gorgeous and well, I want to.

See more of Fiona's stuff at:  http://www.wuandwu.com/  (get ready for the kitsch Chinese music...) and http://www.fionahewitt.com/.  

And in fact, I loved that tin so much I made a special trip from Paris to Brighton to interview Fiona.  You can read that interview here.





© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Monday, 14 June 2010

Rice Salad, Tom Tom and the Jardin des Tuileries (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)



If you have even the most basic understanding of the French, you will know that they are genetically incapable of driving with any degree of safety. It is one great big, Gallic free-for-all when they hit the roads. Offensive gestures, wild Mediterranean gesticulating and uncontrolled Latin aggression are par for the course on any given day of the year. Leaning on the horn whilst in a gridlock is a national pastime.

It is no surprise then that I do not drive into Paris. I happily drive around my calm(ish) Parisian suburb but for trips into town I rely on the RER. I have spent four years not driving into Paris and it has worked well for me.

Then a friend and I were arranging her forthcoming visit and she asked if I would pick her up from the Gare du Nord. I agreed ‘Yes, yes I’ll meet you and we’ll take the train to my house.’ The silence that greeted my answer spoke volumes. My friend is travelling with a 1 year old and a 3 year old and is 14 weeks pregnant. ‘Don’t you drive in Paris?’ she asked (a touch snippily I thought.)

**********************************************************************************

‘Darling, we need a satellite navigation system’ I announced when my husband came home. Gadget man agreed ‘but I’ve been saying that for years!’
Yes, yes’ I replied, ‘but now I’ve decided that we need one...

So on Sunday, with my TomTom stuck to the windscreen I loaded 4 children and the dog into the bus. It was to be a test drive into Paris. My husband was away at the 24 hours of Le Mans and I reflected with trepidation that very soon I would be in my own personal Le Mans as I was shunted and bumped around Place de l’Etoile.

Our first destination was the 17th arrondissement to meet a shadowy, unknown figure with whom I’d done a legal, but dodgy-feeling deal.

En route there was a surprise.  ‘Oh!’ I exclaimed as I went down under the Arc de Triomph into a tunnel, ‘the Tom Tom is taking us this way.’
‘Please turn around when possible’ snapped the Tom Tom. All the children groaned.

But I sorted it out and soon we were in the 17th meeting my dodgy man.  He handed me the tickets I’d bought from him online. I had texted my exact meeting point to two friends in case he turned out to be an axe murderer. Thankfully he seemed quite pleasant and I think the kids and dog dispelled any depraved thoughts that he may have been harbouring.  So, woohoo! I’m off to see Florence and the Machine on Wednesday!

Then with a tip and a tap I told my new friend Tom to take me to Place de La Concorde. How absolutely thrilling to drive through perfect, cobbled Parisian streets knowing I’m not going to get lost!

We parked in a ‘f&*k me that’s expensive!’ car park and tripped off to the Jardin des Tuileries to meet my dearest friend Sandra, along with her lovely man and lovelier (sorry Ja) little boy.

We chattered away and unpacked our picnics. For me and my brood; Marmite sandwiches, carrot and hummus and a naughty bag of crisps.

Then Sandra started to unpack her very large bag. Out came a Spanish tortilla, still warm. Then a tomato and basil salad. Home-made hummus was next and lastly, a rice salad and a small bottle of vinaigrette.  'Fait maison', bien sûr.

For a minute I thought she was doing that bitchy oneupwomanship thing. I hate it when women do that. (Unless I’m better and I win, then I love it.) But this was Sandra; she is far too nice to play that dirty game.

‘Sandra’ I said, ‘what are you playing at? We said ‘a picnic.’ That means sandwiches and crisps. It’s an easy, guilt-free meal.’ She looked sheepish ‘I’ve been in France too long...’

Indeed.
Still, her rice salad was delicious, especially when served with a soft boiled egg that Ja kindly peeled for me. Ah, les français, they might not be able to drive but they know how to treat a lady...

When it was time to leave, we returned to the 'How much? Is that in Euros or Zloty?’ car park. As we drove up the Champs Elysées I chirruped happily to the children about how we were driving up one of the most famous streets in the world and wasn’t it absolutely amazing and beautiful and aren’t we really lucky and oh shit! we’re at Place de l’Etoile, hold on tight and nobody speak!

Rice Salad (serves 4)
3 medium carrots
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsps honey
1 clove garlic
195g / 1½ cups basmati rice
1 red pepper
20-30 green (or black) pitted olives
3-4 tsps of yeast flakes
fresh basil leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the vinaigrette:
2 tbsps gluten free Dijon mustard
about 3-4 tbsps olive oil
1-2 tbsps red wine vinegar
the innards of a juicy vine tomato
  • Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the rice as per the packet instructions (about 10 minutes).  Drain the rice then douse it repeatedly with cold water so that it doesn't stick together. Sprinkle over the yeast flakes, add the salt and pepper and stir thoroughly.  Set aside
  • Peel and dice the carrots and finely chop the garlic.  Put the carrots in a bowl and add the vinegar, honey and half the chopped garlic.  Stir and set aside
  • Chop the red pepper and olives
  • Mix all the vegetables into the rice and stir throughly
  • Prepare the vinaigrette by placing the mustard into a bowl.  Add the remaining garlic then add the olive oil and stir to combine.  You should have a thick, glossy mixture
  • Add the wine vinegar little by little, stirring to combine.  The vinaigrette will now taste quite sharp because of the vinegar.  Take your tomato and cut it in half, then hold each half above the vinaigrette and squidge until the innards of the tomato fall into the vinaigrette.  Satisfying, isn't it?
  • Mix to combine and yum, yummity yum, it's done.  Pour it over your rice, stir and eat
  •  Ridiculously, childishly easy.  A bit like driving around Place de l'Etoile...

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