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.

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

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.

© Pig in the Kitchen All Rights Reserved

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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