Sunday, 18 December 2011

Chocolate Marshmallows (vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free)

Not your typical snowman shape, I'll give you that

Before Children I had big plans for Christmas.  My offspring were going to be dressed in crimson coats with black Victorian boots.  December would mainly see us ice-skating with rosy cheeks and white fur muffs (steady), our faces lit by twinkling fairy lights.  Yes, I’d fallen hook, line and sinker for those whimsical Christmas card scenes.  

Somewhere during the shambolic (ok, drunken) Christmases of Since Children, my standards have slipped.  But apparently that’s OK because this year – the most disorganised one to date – the kids have been listing the family traditions that they love so much.  Predictably, the festive bits they love are either not of my making or have been born of necessity.

The first tradition is the Christmas CD.  When the kids were young, we played those ghastly children’s music CDs in the car.  I drew the line on December 1st, deciding that the festive month should not be killed by terrible music.  And so the strains of Fairytale of New York and Stevie Nicks warbling ‘Silent Night’ are Christmas classics played on a loop from December 1st.

The kids love these songs.  Two of the girls were dancing to Fairytale of New York the other evening and it was a heart-warming sight.  Although I did gulp a little when the six-year-old belted out:

‘You scumbag, you maggot/ you cheap lousy faggot/
Merry Christmas you arse/ I pray God it’s our last.’

Festive prettiness.  Who cares if you haven't sent any cards?

Another tradition is festive child-labour.  Because I’m so last-minute, the kids have to peel potatoes and sprouts, decorate the Christmas cake and make mince pies.  Oh and rustle up a chocolate log if I haven’t done it.  Apparently as long as said festive music is playing, they love it. 

Rule number 1 for Christmas morning?   You may not wake us before 7am.  So when the kids wake at silly o’clock they creep into eldest sister’s room  (I’m sure she has insomnia) where they are allowed to open one present.  And then they wait.  It sounds a bit boring to me, but apparently they love it.

There are other Christmas traditions in our house.  Like the one where I think champagne for breakfast is a good idea and lunch doesn’t get served until 4pm.  Not a problem because their Dad says they can fill up on chocolate.  What’s not to love?

So this Christmas, my message to you is relax, because it will all get done in the end.  Have a go at making chocolate marshmallows why don’t you?  There’s plenty of time, because life will all come together when you are looking the other way.  

 And remember; the Christmas card idyll is lies, damned lies.

Mallow Christmas! God, I'm so funny.

Chocolate Marshmallows

After all the build-up, you're thinking that I'm about to deliver a complicated, secret recipe where I tell you how to make the marshmallows, right?  Umm, no.  I'm using the term 'recipe' loosely when really I should be saying 'technique'.  Or even 'thing' might cover it because it certainly ain't cooking.  My peculiarly-shaped snowman is made with vegan marshmallows from Sweet Vegan and the other ones pictured are gelatinous mallows which my children love. And I do point out that they contain dead animal but I get the 'yeah, whatever' treatment. Sigh.

You will need:
Marshmallows, gelatine-filled or vegan
100g-200g Dairy free dark chocolate (how much you need depends on how many marshmallows you want to make)
Pretty, gluten free and wheat free decorations (Carnival Sprinkelz are good)
Oasis for holding the lollipop sticks, or a potato with holes in will do, explanation to follow

A word of caution: the vegan marshmallow are quite flimsy and have trouble staying on the lollipop sticks; they tend to slide down them which is pretty disheartening. Oh but I've just remembered, I did some melted chocolate trickery, so let's get back to the recipe! (Sorry, it's Christmas and I've had a festive tipple.)
  • To hold the lollipop sticks you will need either oasis, (available online or from a florists) or a few potatoes which you cut in half and then make holes in them with a skewer into which you will insert your lollipop stick.  Really hoping that explanation is crystal if it isn't
  • Melt the chocolate in a bain marie over a gentle heat. Take a marshmallow - vegan or non - and use a skewer to make a small incision in the base.  Then drip in a drop of melted chocolate and insert the lollipop stick (heavens! this sounds rude!) into the crevice.  Put the lollipop stick in the oasis or potato and leave to set while you continue with stick insertion with the other marshmallows ('Sentences you never thought you'd write.')
  • If the chocolate in the bain marie has solidified, gently re-heat. Then holding the marshmallow (on a stick) over the chocolate, ladle chocolate over until the marshmallow is covered.  Let excess choc drip into the bain marie, then put the mallow on the stick into the oasis/potato to dry.  Repeat until the marshmallows are covered
  • When the chocolate on the marshmallows has set slightly, add pretty sprinkles/decorations.  Leave until chocolate has set completely.  Serve and sing Christmas carols if you wish
  • To make the snowman.  The picture says it all but I'll do my best to explain.
  • Coat two marshmallows in chocolate and squidge them on top of each other.  Put them on a plate and leave until the chocolate is almost set, then grate white (vegan) chocolate over
  • Stick the silver eyes on using melted chocolate.  Use the end of a cocktail stick to drip some choc onto his tummy to make buttons and give him a chocolate smile.  Broken cocktail sticks make good 'arms'
  • Voila! Merry Christmas

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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Chocolate Marshmallows (vegan, gluten free, dairy free, egg free)

Coming soon...

This new - ahem - 'recipe' which will buy me some time so that I can either write a new recipe, or do that 'oh gosh, look it's nearly Christmas, see you in the new year' thing.

Back soon.


Only 18 sleeps 'til Christmas!!
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Wednesday, 23 November 2011

German Friendship Cake - 'Herman' (gluten free and/or vegan)

The principle of a Herman/Friendship Cake is that you start with a big batch of sourdough/yeast enriched ‘starter’ and you ‘grow’ it for nine days, ‘feeding’ it twice during the nine days.  On the ninth day you split your batch of dough into four portions, you give three away and you keep the fourth part.  You feed a final batch of ingredients to your remaining portion, bake it all up and tuck in.

I like the idea.  It’s an edible chain letter with assertions in the instructions to keep Herman ‘alive’ or he will ‘die’.  Do you get the implied threat in those words?  ‘Do this or you will be guilty of cake murder.’

I don’t want to be guilty of cakeicide (you heard it here first) but when it comes to allergy-friendly Herman, how many Coeliacs or people with allergies do you know who live nearby?  How much are your non-allergic friends going to love you if you:
  1. hand them a tub of yucky stuff (Herman is pretty unattractive in his embryonic form)
  2. tell them they have to leave it festering on the side for 10 days
  3. ‘oh and I almost forgot’ you’ll need some gluten free flour, a packet of egg-replacer, a bit of xanthan gum and some rice milk (preferably calcium-enriched)

So here’s my plan.  Yes, I will give you the quantities to make a huge batch of Herman so that you may split him into four parts and give him away. (Disclaimer: I’m currently growing my second batch of Herman which was an offshoot of the first batch – keep up – and so I don’t know if the gluten free flour will perform for the second time. Update soon...)

But I will also give you the quantities for growing a smaller Herman and then baking the whole thing.  I’ll put the quantities for the small Herman in brackets.  You could even quarter the ingredients and you would still end up with a very large Herman.  Hope that’s clear!  Here goes:

Hold the front page: After making the GF Herman (pictured above) I split the mix again to try and 'grow' another Herman.  It could be that I'm a flake with a weak stomach, but after day four of the second batch, I gave it up and consigned Herman to the deep.  The yeast was no longer doing its thing, it looked revolting and I just couldn't go through with it. 'Hi, my name is Pig and I'm guilty of gluten free, egg free Cakeicide...'

Guten Tag, mein name is Herman.  I am a sour dough cake and I'm supposed to live on the worktop for 10 days without a lid.  You cannot put me in a fridge or I will die!  Mein Gott! Und andere bedeutungslose zufällige Wörter in Deutsch!  Do not let me stop bubbling or I will die!

For the starter dough:
460g (230g) Gluten and wheat free Doves Farm S.R. flour
500ml (250ml) rice milk
240g (120g) sugar
90ml (45ml) warm water
2½ (1¼ tbsps) tbsps dried yeast

Day 1:  Put the warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle over the dried yeast.  Leave for about 10 minutes
Measure the remaining ingredients into a VERY large bowl -bigger than a KitchenAid bowl if possible- and stir.  I used a KitchenAid bowl for my starter dough and on about Day 4 the whole lot grew out of the bowl.  Nice.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel

Day 2: Stir well

Day 3: Stir well

Day 4: Herman is hungry! (Look, just go with it; we have to pretend he’s a real person.) ‘Feed’ him the following ingredients, stir well and cover

115g (60g) Doves Farm plain gluten free and wheat free flour
225g (115g) sugar
200ml (100ml) rice milk

Day 5:  Stir well

Day 6:  Stir well

Day 7: Stir well

Day 8: Stir well

Day 9: Herman is hungry again.  Add the same ingredients as on day four.  Divide the mixture into four portions ( I did this by ladling Herman into four different bowls) and give 3 away with instructions.  Or if you have the mettle to brave another Herman, keep a portion to start another cake.  Herman number four stays with you and tomorrow you will bake him.

Day 10: Herman is ravenous, he is falling through his laceholes.  Stir well and add the following:

225g (115g) sugar
225g(115g) Doves Farm plain gluten free and wheat free flour
2 (1) heaped tsps of Orgran ‘no egg’ egg replacer
¼ (⅛) tsp xanthan gum
4-5 tbsps (2-3) rice milk
2 (1) heaped tsps of cinnamon
2 (1)  heaped tsps of gluten free baking powder
½ (¼) tsp salt
2 (1) apples, peeled, cored and diced
150g (75g)  sultanas/raisins/cranberries
approximately 100-200ml (50-100ml) rice milk; enough to make a workable mix rather than a stiff, gluey dough
  • Heat the oven to 170-180˚celsius
  • Add all the ingredients to the bowl - add the rice milk gradually - and place into a large rectangular tin (like a brownie tin).  If you have too much you can put it into a round sandwich cake tin, or other small tin
  • Bake for 30-45 minutes until it is cooked through.  If it is browning on the top but the middle is not set, cover with tin foil and reduce the heat for 10-15 minutes to give the middle time to catch up
  • When cold, cut into fingers.  As with a lot of gluten free cakes, this is best eaten within two days (is that really such a problem?!) otherwise the surface of the cake tends to go a bit soggy
  • Relax and give yourself a break before you bake another Herman!

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Herman Friendship Cake (gluten free and/or vegan)

So it IS possible to make yummy gluten free, vegan Herman Friendship Cake!

Recipe coming very soon...

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Status update: Herman the friendship cake (gluten free and/or vegan)

If you are my friend on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter, you have heard me going on (and on) about Herman.

Herman came into our lives 10 days ago when my son bounced home clutching a little tub of...sick.  There’s no kinder way of putting it.  A tub of bubbly sick.  And then he told me we had to grow the sick for 10 days in the kitchen until it would miraculously become a beautiful cake.

The teachers are clever at his school because just an hour before the ‘we need to grow the bubbly sick’ announcement I had attended the school assembly.  The teacher had served a delicious cake with cinnamon and apple.  Herman! I had been fed Herman!  It was a very Derren Brown moment; all smoke, mirrors and neuro-linguistic programming.

Anyhoo, we started to grow my son’s sick/cake and my allergy baking head started to whirr.  It turns out Herman is well known in recipe blogland and all the reports are favourable.  You ‘grow’ the cake for 10 days covered with a tea towel but on day ten you divide it into four portions and give them away.  The lucky (?) recipient then grows Herman for 10 more days, gives ¾ away, etc etc.  Sort of like an edible chain letter.

 Of course I wanted to try a gluten free, egg free, dairy free version, but what if after 10 days of growing it didn’t work?  Worse, what if it just went mouldy?

I stupidly mentioned it on Twitter and @Ruebellesmoon egged me on.  ‘Do it!’ she said secretly thinking ‘Yep, you grow the sick and I’ll only give it a go if I know it works.’  She’s not just a pretty face that Ruebellesmoon. 

And so I let Herman into my life.  He is definitely the weirdest friend I’ve had.  I had doubts about how the gluten free flour would perform, so right at the last minute I casually threw in an extra ½ tsp of yeast.  Oh foolish move.

Within a day Herman grew too large for the mixing bowl.  So I transferred him to my KitchenAid bowl.  The next morning it was like Aliens meets the Magic Porridge Pot; he’d grown out of the bowl and dripped down onto the worktop.

It is now Day six.  Herman seems to have found his rhythm and is contained but the smell of yeast is overpowering.  ‘Beer!’ splutters my daughter when I do my daily Herman stir. ‘Sniff sniff sniff’ says the dog excitedly.

Only four more days to go and the tension is mounting.  We’ve baked my son’s cake using wheat, eggs and milk so I know what it should taste like.  Will my allergy-friendly version turn out brilliantly?  Or will Herman let me down when I need him most?

By popular request on Facebook (well, one person) I did a photo shoot with Herman yesterday.  He comes alive when you stir him, bubbling ferociously – it’s almost alarming – and then he calms down and is ready to grow again.

You’re right.  I am talking about Herman as if he’s a person.  I will be sad to see him go.

If you want to be friends on Facebook click HERE.  Come say hello on Twitter HERE

And if anyone is going to Bite ‘n’ Write on Saturday and wants a share of Herman to grow...just let me know!  (I can't promise how he will turn out...)

I'm going in...

'Hesssssss' hisses Herman a la Harry Potter

'Silence Herman! Get back down!'

Peace.  Until tomorrow Herman. I love you.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pickled green chillis

When life gives you a chilli...

I’m sure that in a former life I was a rabbit caught in headlights on a very busy roundabout. I know this because freezing and staring fixedly into middle distance is my default position when life gets a bit stressful.

At the moment life is a bit stressful.

In addition to the usual washing/school run/extra school run because someone forgot their lunch/extra extra school run because someone else forgot their bus pass and was refused entry (don't even get me started), there is adjusting to a new life. 

Well, I say ‘new life’ as if that implies I have one.  I’m currently in a sort of limbo state where I get up and keep the house and kids afloat, but then what?  Creating a ‘new life’, making friends and feeling settled in the UK after five years abroad apparently does not happen overnight. 

So I have reverted to my rabbit-in-headlights-on-busy-roundabout state and have checked out of doing anything meaningful.  Instead I’m in random land where I might decide to tidy my playlists in iTunes or check out the latest horticultural therapy blog.

Or pickle some green chillies.

I took these chilli pics in August when I guess life was stressful because I was about to move back to the UK.  I must have been feeling pretty desperate because I actually took photos of me slicing the chillis.  I'm sort of amazed that I had that much time on my hands.

And last week I pickled some more chillis because life is stressful (query lonely?) now that I have moved back to the UK.

You know, pickling is really therapeutic and if you are feeling the pressure of life, it's probably time to pickle.  Vegetables I mean, not your liver. 

And of course life is going to pick up, it always does.

Until the next time my lovelies...

Pickled Chillis

These are a great way of livening up food, but they do need to sit for a few weeks in the jar to reduce the power of the chilli.  If you eat cheese, your sandwich will love you for adding some chillies.  Avocado and tomato on toast?  Whack on some chillies and your lunch will be sublime.  And I know I shouldn’t mention the C word, but these are very handy during the festive season for adding zing to pretty much any meal.  But don’t put them on your porridge.  That would be nasty.

Are you ready for the – ahem – recipe?
  • Wash a suitable jar.  Warm it in the oven at about 170˚ Celsius for about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool
  • Buy a load of green chillis
  • Buy a bottle of white, pickling vinegar
  • Chop chillis
  • Put chillis in jar
  • Pour vinegar over chillis
  • Stroke jar, smile and feel homely
  • Tidy iTunes list and see what the horticultural therapists have been up to
  • Smile J

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

Freddy meets Isobel - the mouse who was allergic to milk

I spend a lot of time ignoring the fact that my daughter is allergic to milk, eggs, nuts, mustard, dust mites, horses and a bazillion pollens.  It’s quite easy really.  I make sure her food is safe, I bake cakes for her, I carry medication around and I spend a lot of time going ‘lalalalalalala.’


Because it is painful facing up to her allergies and the fact that she shows no signs of outgrowing them.  Every time she can’t have something and looks sad I feel a little bit depressed. 

When children shout across the playground, “You can’t have this because it’s got milk in!” I want to take them by the throat and snarl: “Do you have any idea how insensitive you are being?”     

Instead I give a yummy mummy smile laced with severe thoughts that might involve voodoo dolls and waterboarding.  

But although I try to ignore the allergies, I was really excited to read about Josie Warburton’s series of children’s books about food allergies.  Then I wondered if they would be macabre in some way.  Cartoon depictions of swollen eyes and a fairy wielding an auto-injector?

The answer is no to the swollen eyes and although an auto-injector is featured, it is called ‘magic medicine’ and looks nothing like an injector.  It’s also administered by the topless Mermaid Doctor who is actually pretty hot if you can get past his tail.  I would not mind at all if he showed up in an emergency.

I am digressing.

Josie kindly sent me a copy of ‘Freddy meets Isobel – The mouse who was allergic to milk’.  It tells the story of Freddy and Isobel going to the beach for the day and after an incident involving a mermaid – I won’t give away the plot – Isobel suffers an anaphylactic reaction and the Mermaid Doctor (fwoor!) is called.  There is no mention of anaphylaxis, but the story explains Isobel’s symptoms and thanks to the quick-thinking of both Freddy and the Mermaid, disaster is averted.

I had every intention of sitting down with my six-year-old and reading the story to her.  Instead as soon as I showed her the book she grabbed it and ran off to read it.  She came back looking very thoughtful.

“What do you think?” I asked. 
She smiled, “It made me feel happy because I’m not the only one with allergies.”

She then spent the next hour making a poster that showed Freddy and Isobel and we read the story again at bedtime. 

The following day she took the book to school and the teacher read it to her class.  Her classmates then asked questions about her allergies and the teacher felt it was a really useful discussion which allowed the children to discuss allergies in a natural, positive way.  My daughter was thrilled with all the attention and the opportunity to speak about her allergies and how they affect her.

And since then?  

All I’ve heard is:

“Mummy, when can you buy me ‘Freddy meets Ginger – The fox who was allergic to eggs?” 

“Mummy, have you ordered the Freddy book yet?”

“Mummy, have you done it yet? I really want the other Freddy book.”

Thanks for that Josie.

I love Josie’s book and how special it made my daughter feel.  I love that it is another step to raising allergy awareness and that it presents allergies as serious, yet manageable.  The book is a brilliant way for parents and teachers to talk openly about what it means to be allergic in a non-threatening, playful way.  

Stellar work Josie!

The book is available through  or via Josie's site: where international postage is available.  Josie has also written Freddy adventures that cover nut allergies, fish allergies and flying with allergies.

Do you want Josie to write another one? Contact her with your ideas via

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Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Christmas Cake (Vegan, Gluten Free)

I'm going to cut right to the chase.  None of my usual wordy flannel, no fancy metaphors and I won't even swear.

Although some might say that Christmas is a seasonal swear word so does that negate the 'I will not swear' thing?

So - with absolutely no sugar-coating - here goes.  It is high time we made our Christmas cakes.  And yes I am talking to you Pig in the Kitchen as well as all you lovely followers.  Some might say we are already too late.

Shall we just get on with it now and then it's done?  I'm already not ready for Christmas.  Groan.

Click HERE for the recipe.

Go on, you know it makes sense.

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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Parkin (gluten free and/or vegan)

I went to university in Bradford.  

Ah, your mind has gone to a bad place hasn’t it?  You’re thinking ‘hotbed of Islamic fundamentalists’ and ‘race riots’.  Well, maybe sort of yes.  But four years in Bradford was good for an innocent southerner...  

In my second year we had a power cut so we dashed to the shambolic corner shop for candles.  It was quite a surprise to hear chickens screeching followed by a dull thud and then silence.  Oh look, how – err – cultural.  The man is killing chickens in the corner shop and that cleaver is looking none too clean!  No wonder it stinks in here and that’s why the cat is prowling around.  But hey, who am I to judge?  If it’s good enough for Islamabad... 

 Throughout October and November there were nightly explosions.   Mostly they were fireworks in celebration of first Diwali and then Bonfire Night.  But one night we heard an enormous bang and the kitchen glowed orange.    

“Wow!” gasped Rachel, “That was a massive firework!”  “Nope” said Muna looking out of the window, “They’ve set a car on fire by our gate.”  We rolled our eyes and got back to the washing up.  It was just another Diwali/Guy Fawkes November night in Bradford.

There was never any need to go to a firework display because fireworks were being launched from every terraced house on our road.  The trick was not to get hit by one on the way back from lectures. 

But although it was a bit rough Bradford holds a special place in my heart.  After all, if it weren’t for Bradford, I wouldn’t know the meaning of good curry.

Curry is to Bradford students what formal hall and gowns are to those ‘up’ at Oxbridge; a hallowed tradition.  For the ‘Bradfodian’ (you heard it here first) this meant regularly winding up pissed in a curry house in the early hours after the student nightclub. 

It meant cheering when the thick, spicy broth arrived and scooping it up with soft, doughy chapattis.  It meant lots of Tiger beer.  It also meant waking up with a garlic-breath hangover, fingernails stained with cumin and a doggy bag on the bedside table bathing you in pungent fumes of congealed ghee. 

Curry was the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Forever and ever, Amen. 

Ah but I miss those days when I could handle my drink, dance ‘till the early hours at Club Rio Campus and top it all off with a dopiaza. 

Every bonfire night I think fondly of Bradford, curry, the burning car and the time some youf drove onto the pavement trying to kill a group of my friends.  It IS grim up North, but curry is the redeeming factor and at least they know how to make Bonfire Night go with a bang.

I hope you have a wonderful bonfire night.  If you can’t get to Bradford for curry, why not make some Parkin instead?!

Parkin means oats and for so long oats were a no-no for those with Coeliac disease because of cross-contamination.  Now there are a range of GF oats available (see here).  However there was a recall of certain brands of oats in the UK recently, please check HERE for details.   

Non-GF recipes for Parkin state confidently that it gets better the longer you leave it and don't cut it for 'at least' a week.  As you might suspect, GF flour doesn't act in the same way as wheat flour.  I made a batch on Monday and today (Thursday) it is past its best.  So this means: make it then eat it, Yay!  

All versions need:
1 tbsp ground ginger (I added more :-)
a big pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon 
100g dark muscovado sugar
175g golden syrup
175g black treacle
125g dairy free margarine/butter
a few twists of black pepper (optional) = ½ tsp 
approximately 100ml of milk/rice milk/soya milk/coconut milk/etc

Gluten free:
225g of Doves Farm Gluten Free self-raising flour
200g gluten free oats (I used Bob's Red Mill GF oats from Waitrose. I had to grind them because they were very big. For other GF oats see here)

Egg free:
1 heaped tsp Orgran 'no egg' egg replacer
2 tbsps of ground linseeds
1 mashed banana
a big pinch of guar gum or xanthan gum
6 tbsps rice milk

With eggs:
Use 1 beaten egg in place of the above egg-replacing mix

With wheat flour:
Use 225g of plain wheat flour

  • Grease and line a 20cm square tin
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170˚ Celsius 
  • If using the egg-replacing mix, put all the ingredients into a bowl and use a mini whisk to get it really smooth.  Set aside
  • In a large mixing bowl put the oats, gluten free flour/wheat flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon, salt and the black pepper if using
  • In a medium saucepan melt the dairy free margarine, treacle, golden syrup and sugar 
  • Pour the syrupy mix into the flour mix and stir. Add the beaten egg or egg replacing mix and mix until smooth
  • Add about 50ml of 'milk' and stir it in. How does it seem? You are aiming for quite a sloppy mix because the oats and the GF flour will absorb liquid during baking.  So add as much as you see fit.  If using wheat flour you can reduce the liquid slightly.  If it ends up quite squidgy after cooking, it's not the end of the world, Parkin can get away with squidge
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, lowering the temperature if need be to ensure that the middle cooks but the top doesn't brown
  • When the parkin has risen and an inserted skewer comes out clean, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.  When completely cool remove from the tin and slice into squares
  • Now grab your woolly hat  and sparklers; it's time to act like a five-year-old again! (Note: if you're in Bradford, watch out for stray fireworks and blazing cars.)

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Parkin (gluten free and/or vegan)

Coming soon, screeching in just ahead of the November 5th Parkin recipe.

Prefaced by a little ditty about studying in Bradford and why cars on fire outside the kitchen window were just a regular evening occurrence in November.

Bet you can't wait, can you?!

I love Bonfire Night!

Pig x 

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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Halloween Cake Bites (gluten free, vegan)

Halloween and I don’t get on because it involves people knocking repeatedly at my door.  I am fairly welcoming, but only by appointment.  People dropping by unannounced give me hives.

When we lived in London I almost never answered my doorbell.  It was London.  It could only be a murderer or rapist at my door, or worse, one of those tedious people conducting a Mori poll.  I only made that mistake once and forced the guy to do the survey on the doorstep.  I couldn’t let him in because of the London-murderer-rapist thing.

Then we moved to the suburbs and it was worse.  Neighbours actually wanted to speak to us and appeared willy nilly at my door.

It all reached a peak one Halloween night.  Kids in rubbish costumes came and chanted “Trick or Treat” in a bored, lacklustre way.  It was only because their anxious Mums were loitering at the end of my drive that I didn’t make them do it all over again and this time with feeling.

By the third or fourth round of kids, it was getting late and I had reached my limit.  So had my son who had done a spectacular crap in his nappy and needed to be in bed.   I opted for changing him in the hall and my poppet started his usual nappy change routine of full throttle screaming and kicking.

Right in the middle of it, the doorbell started to ring.  My daughters pranced around in crazed excitement, “Ooo Mummy!  Answer the door! Give them sweets!”  My son screamed repeatedly, kicking and splattering shit everywhere.

And still the door kept coming.

Up to my elbows in child dung, I looked up from the nappy and gave the primal scream of a woman giving birth to triplets in breech position.

“GOOO AWWAAAYYYY!!!  I WILL NOT OPEN THE DOOORRRRRRR!”  I held the final note for a long, satisfying time, until my voice cracked.


I waited for the dog turd to come through my letter box or the brick to shatter my window.  Nothing.  These Trick or Treaters are all face paint and no action.

And miraculously the doorbell did not ring again.  For years.

This Halloween will of course be different.  We have just moved to a teeny village and I’m all jazz hands and smiles with the neighbours.  Although I did decline an invitation to a two course lunch with the vicar.

So I will open the door and hand out sweeties.  I’m really hoping the costumes have gone up a gear now that we are importing cheap tat from Bangladesh.

And if I’m feeling generous, I may hand over one of these Halloween Cake Bites.  But I suspect I shall keep them all for me.   I will need something to help me recover after hours of smiling fixedly while crappy kids repeatedly ring my arsing doorbell. 

Happy Halloween to you all.

Halloween Cake Bites 

These are riffing off my Christmas cake bites, you can see how the inside looks by clicking here.

All versions will need:

130g dairy free spread/margarine

120g sugar

110g golden syrup or honey

60g GF, DF cocoa powder

150 ml rice milk / dairy milk (for GF versions, remember liquid measurements are approximate. Always add liquid gradually, using more or less as you see fit)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

GF version:

50g cornflour
100g brown rice flour

25g buckwheat/quinoa/tapioca flour
¾ tsp xanthan gum

1½ tsp GF baking powder

Egg version / Egg free version

1 egg OR:

1 heaped tsp of Orgran no egg Egg Replacer

1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds

⅛ tsp xanthan gum (that’s half a ¼ if you’re as thick as me...)

2 tbsps vegetable oil

4 tbsps rice milk/dairy milk/

To make these with wheat flour:

Use 175g wholemeal, self-raising flour

To bind the cake balls:

3-4 tbsps gluten free apple sauce (a GF apple sauce for weaning babies would do)

(If you can’t find a jar of apple sauce, use 2 eating apples, 2-3 tbsps sugar, squeeze of lemon juice. Peel, core, chop apples and put them in a saucepan, add sugar, lemon juice and a tbsp of water. Cover and simmer until apple is cooked. Blend with a hand blender, add a tsp of cornflour to bind it all together, blend again to remove any lumps)

To coat:

Sugarpaste in halloween colours

• For egg free versions: mix the Orgran no egg powder, ground linseeds, xanthan gum, oil and rice milk together using a mini whisk. Set aside

• Grease and line two 18cm sandwich tins with baking parchment

• Pre-heat oven to 170˚celsius

• Put the fat and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat together
• Add either the egg or the egg replacing mixture and beat again

• Add the flour (GF or wheat), baking powder, xanthan gum (GF versions) and cocoa powder to the bowl and beat until incorporated

• Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the warmed 150ml of rice milk/dairy milk and gradually stir in to the mixture. For GF versions you may need to add more milk to get a soft, dropping consistency

• Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and bake for about 20-25 minutes until risen and springy. Remove and leave to cool completely

• When the cakes are cool, crumble them into a large mixing bowl. Add the apple sauce and combine until you are able to squidge the mixture into balls, you may need more apple sauce

• Lovingly roll little balls of cake in your hands and set them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Repeat until all the mixture is used up. Place the baking tray in the fridge for up to four hours

Roll out your sugarpaste and decorate your cake balls.  As you can see, not much skill is involved and you can pretty much do what you want.  For the ghosts I covered their nether regions with a small circle of sugarpaste, then laid a 'cloak' of icing over the top and squidged it all together.  It does help to have some confectioner's glue to stick eyes, hats and noses, etc.  At a pinch you might get away with apricot jam

If you make a real mess of it all, don't worry, the kids will love them (these ghosts were demolished within minutes of the photo shoot) and once you've eaten one and got the sugar rush, well you really won't care 
Good luck, with the decorating and Halloween...

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Halloween Cake Bites (gluten free, vegan)


Are you scared?

These are coming soon.

Mwah haa haa  haaaa.

Creeeeaaaakkkk (that was a ghostly door being pushed open slowly. And creaking.)

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Gluten free and vegan Teabread

My dear friend Katia recently asked me which drugs I am on.   It turns out she was referring to my manic demeanour and inability to relax.

Although I’m not pin thin and twitchy à la overactive thyroid, inside my head it buzzes and I’m not too good at sitting still.  Which is why I was baking a cake for Katia after going for a walk in the woods with six kids and just before I cooked a vegetable chilli over the fire in a pot.

In my defence I’m much better than I used to be, because when I had three kids under the age of three and a half, I still thought I could be a lovely Mummy.  Oh novice error.

One memorable morning I think there was painting with sunflower pollen and blackberry juice.  Does that make you want to vomit?  And one year I made my Christmas decorations.  To avoid the housework there were outings to the beach, the park, the zoo, the playground...

Be. Quiet. White. Noise.

I’m wiser now because I know that benign neglect is the way forward.  If my fourth child wants to paint with blackberry juice, well she knows where the bush is.

But one thing I learnt from the ‘Crazy Years’ is the art of making cake on the hoof and sort of in my sleep.  Impressive, no? 

Teabread is the manic mum’s best friend.  Weigh the ingredients the night before, let the fruit soak in tea overnight and if you get up at 5am you can have it baked in time for the school run.  I should call it Mental Manic Teabread.  And very good it is too with a slick of vegan margarine.  I made this for Katia in the summer and she approved.

So go forth and bake like revved up ecstasy heads my lovelies, relaxing is for the afterlife and teabread is for today.

It is so satisfying to have teabread in your life.  It works for breakfast, for lunch, for an afternoon snack... it just works.  And it can be made without refined sugar if that is your thing. 

All versions
175g raisins
125g sultanas
50g dried cranberries/chopped dates/chopped apricots
175g soft brown sugar OR 150g honey
300ml tea (black tea, green tea, camomile tea)
1 tsp mixed spice
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100 - 150ml Rice milk/other milk

Egg free, dairy free, gluten free
Egg replacing mix:
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds
2 tbsps oil
¼ tsp xanthan or guar gum
3 tbsps rice milk
Either: 225g Doves Farm Plain Flour
Or: 125g rice flour + 50g potato flour + 50g tapioca flour

Gluten free with eggs
Use 1 egg in place of the egg-replacing mix

With wheat flour
Use 225g of plain wheat flour

Sugar to sprinkle on top

  • Make 300ml of tea and squeeze out the teabags so that you have a strong brew.  Place the fruit and sugar/honey into a large mixing bowl and add the tea.  Mix to combine, cover and leave overnight
  • If using the egg replacing mix, combine all the ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps, set aside
  • Grease and line a medium loaf tin (1 litre/ 2 pint ish) with baking parchment and heat oven to 170˚celsius
  • Add either the egg or the egg-replacing mix to the bowl of fruit, sugar and tea and stir
  • Add the flour(s), bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and mixed spice and stir.  Add enough rice milk/milk to give a loose cake mix.  Pretty vague description I know, but not really stiff, quite soft, will drop relatively quickly from the spoon.  This would be so much easier to describe if I had my own TV show
  • Sprinkle the surface of the cake with extra sugar if you wish and place in the oven and bake for 45 mins to an hour.  Or it may take longer and you may have to cover the tin with aluminium foil to prevent the top from burning and to make sure the middle is cooked.  Ovens are weird, aren’t they?  It is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean
  • Is my grammar lapsing? I might have been drinking red wine
  • Leave cake to cool in the tin and then eat great big wedges of it as you try and do five things at once
  • But don’t do painting with blackberry juice and sunflower pollen.  That will make me heave

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Sunday, 16 October 2011

'Don't Kill The Birthday Girl' - The winners are...

The list randomizer has spoken and the winners of the 'Don't Kill the Birthday Girl' giveaway are...





Please email me at:, with PITK in the subject line, giving me your full postal address and the good people in NYC will send the book straight to you.


And for those who are genuinely interested in what I was wearing when I made the draw?  Some slightly shabby Cath Kidston pyjamas and - ahem - a blanket.  Look it's early and I'm cold!

Thanks for participating and if you didn't win, well the next thing you should do is head over to Amazon!

The Teabread recipe is coming next.

Wednesday 26th October 2011
Because Jan is now lost forever (it seems) in cyberspace, I have drawn again and the winner is Kylie! Please email your address to me at:  Thank-you!
© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Boob Cakes for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (gluten free and/or vegan)

Don't forget to enter the fabioso giveaway to win a copy of Sandra Beasley's book "Don't kill the birthday girl" but while we're waiting for that to finish, let's talk boobs.




And yuck I hate this one: Funbags.

Big, small, pert or droopy, they have the capacity to annoy us, get us noticed, give us pleasure, feed our children.

Oh and kill us.  Bastard boobs, why do they do that?  Anyway, I'm only mentioning boobs and breast cancer because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Ladies and - this is weird - gentlemen, you should all be checking for lumps, every month, month in, month out, for the rest of your boob-bearing life.  (Actually guys, you probably don't need to do it each month, but you know, just be vigilant.)

And so, because it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and because I am a shameless self-promoter who will use any vaguely relevant hook to link to some old content...why don't you go and take a look at my Boob Cakes?  

Here's the link:

The recipe is fab, but the story that goes with it, is better.  You'll see why when you read it.

Results of the giveaway will be announced over the weekend!  Squeeee!

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Friday, 7 October 2011

Win a copy of 'Don't Kill the Birthday Girl' by Sandra Beasley

“Those with food allergies aren’t victims.  We’re people who – for better or for worse – experience the world in a slightly different way.  This is not a story of how we die.  These are the stories of how we live.”

And with those goose-bump inducing words Sandra Beasley launches into her book about living with allergies.

What do you get from this kind of book?  Just page after page of poor little me?  A bit of brave-faced ‘It’s tough, but I manage’ overlaid with a weak smile?

No.  You get a book that you can’t put down. 

Because here is a book telling you what it’s really like living with multiple allergies.  In addition to the anecdotes about her life, there is historical information about how allergies have developed, a discussion of how allergies are diagnosed, a chapter on peanut allergy, a rousing tirade against the portrayal of food allergies in the media and more, lots more. It is part information manual, part autobiography, very good read.

Oh and can you really be allergic to weddings?  Apparently so.  

I didn’t expect a book that recounts repeated anaphylactic episodes to make me smile, but it did.  And I wasn’t expecting to cry, but she got me there too. 

Her descriptions of how it feels to be the child who is different were hard to read.  I realised that it’s what my daughter feels.  My breezy assertions of ‘No, my daughter never misses out on cake, I just bake her a special one!’ don’t really make it all OK.  Of course my daughter misses out on ‘real’ cake and of course she notices that everyone tiptoes around her, sort of freaked out by what might happen.

Sandra's book doesn't sugar coat the problems of living with food allergies, it just tells it how it is.  With humour, eloquence and plenty of attitude.  It is 226 pages of fascinating, compelling read.

"My job is to center on staying safe in this world, but my job is also never to assume the world should revolve around keeping me safe.  We have more important things to worry about.  Don't kill the birthday girl.  The gifts are wrapped and the piñata is waiting.  We have a party to get to."

Sandra has agreed to give away three copies of her book on my blog. I know!  I’m trying to look cool and grown up but I’m wagging like a weeing little puppy.

All you have to do is leave a comment to be entered into the – drum roll please - first ever Pig in the Kitchen giveaway (I may buy a new outfit). 

The competition is open for a week from the date of posting and I’ll announce the winners very soon afterwards.  You then send me your address by email and the books will magically arrive at your house. 

It’s that simple.  

The books can be posted worldwide, so you readers in the Perhentian Islands, don’t hold back.

Leave your comment now!

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten free and/or vegan)

Just putting the final touches to the exciting giveaway coming VERY soon, but in the meantime, here's the choc chip recipe and a little ditty about my Wake.  What? I think it's totally fine to talk about funerals on a recipe blog!  What is wrong with you?!

The weather did crazy things in the UK last week and people North of London saw the sun.  This usually only happens between 3 and 4pm on August the 12th every other year.  And it was proper hot sun: “UK warmer than Portugal!” screamed the headlines.

As I hustled my kids out of school on Friday afternoon - it was definitely rosé O’clock – a black stretch limo drove into the village.  A sight almost as rare as the sun in these parts.

It was the funeral cortège for a young local man killed in a car accident last week.  I ached for the mourners as they gathered outside the village hall for the Wake.  What a cruel contrast for them; the glorious day mocking their black, heavy grief.  I hate death.

On the way home the kids quizzed me about the limo and the accident and we chatted about the crazy concept of a Wake where people feel depressed, eat sandwiches and drink bad wine.   

I know about Wakes because my Mum died when I was 14.  Teenage angst coupled with enormous grief did not a happy Wake make.  And Aunt Olivia got drunk and cackled loudly.  She is so off my list.

So last Friday I laid down some ground rules for my Wake and I scared the kids into agreeing.

I’m going to share them with you in case the kids weren't really listening.  Ready?

At my Wake, black is forbidden.

For my Wake everyone must buy a new item of clothing.  It must fall into the ‘I love it but I can’t really justify it’ category.  It must be brightly coloured and make you feel happy.

You must toast me with champagne while laughing through your tears at the brilliance that was my life. 

You must drink enough alcohol to wake up with a massive hangover and then you can curse me for a week.

And the sun must shine as brightly as it shone last Friday. 

So, those are my Wake rules done, just another thing ticked off the list.  What about you?  Got any rules for your Wake or are you going for the laid back ‘I won’t care because I’ll be dead’ approach?

You’re right.  This is a weird thing to be talking about.

Why don’t you just eat the choc chip cookies and ignore me.  That's what my children did :-)

Chocolate Chip Cookies  (makes about 15, probably more)
No egg replacer or eggs required for these. Yippee!!

For all versions:
280g dairy free chocolate chips (you could also just chop up some dairy free chocolate)
100g ground sunflower seeds
100g ground linseeds
280g dairy free margarine (butter if you wish)
250g sugar

For gluten free:
150g rice flour
50g potato flour
½ tsp xanthan gum or guar gum
(or use 200g of Doves Farm plain flour and omit the xanthan gum)

To make with wheat flour:
Use 200g plain wheat flour and omit the xanthan gum

  • Heat the oven to 180˚Celsius and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper
  • Put the ground sunflower seeds and linseeds into a large mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and either the gluten free flours and xanthan gum or the wheat flour.  Stir to combine
  • Add the dairy free margarine and chocolate chips and mix it all together until it is a sticky mass.  Using your Kitchen Aid makes this a whole lot easier!
  • You can now refrigerate this for up to 24 hours (although probably more, give it a go!) and I reckon you could freeze it, although I’ve never tried
  • Ideally chill the dough in the refrigerator for about an hour, but if you’re up against it move straight onto the next point...
  • Using a large spoon or an ice cream scoop, place dollops of the cookie dough onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.  Flatten the cookies and shape them to make them look cookie-esque.  Remember, they won’t rise when they’re cooking
  • Repeat until all the dough is used up
  • Place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are looking golden.  Remove and leave to cool on the baking tray
  • Yummy, now go shopping for that Wake outfit I talked about!

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved