Saturday, 22 December 2007

Yule Log - Daring Bakers Dec 07 Challenge

This month's challenge was set by Ivonne @ Cream Puffs In Venice and Lis at La Mia Cucina and the challenge was a Yule log with decorative mushrooms. There are three stages to this recipe, the cake, the buttercream and the mushrooms. the original recipe is from Sources: Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
Serves 12

Firstly the cake

Which is a genoise, not something I have really done much but as it is based on whisked eggs and sugar for the rise I figured it at least wasn't to difficult to change to Gluten free. The original recipe was plain but we were allowed to flavour it so I added a little cinnamon as it's christmas.

Cinnamon Genoise:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup general gluten free flour mix - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off
¼ cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again (mine was slightly too small and the cake was a bit thick to roll easily.)

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200 C (400 F).
2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).
4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cinnamon and cornstarch.
6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Second the Buttercream

This should have been coffee but that would have given me a migraine also when i came to make it I realised the amount of butter was more than I had in unsalted form. I wanted to do a chocolate version as that kept it brown coloured and someone on the Daring Bakers group had suggested melted chocolate was better than coco powder. Never one to turn down melted chocolate I replaced some of the butter with melted chocolate and softened the butter by putting in the choc once it was melted which made everything easy to mix and cooled the chocolate mix down. I didn't have any curdling issues which others did so something in that worked. I've never done a marague based buttercream before and prefer it to the types I have had so will try to remember it for other times. The original recipe also had rum or brandy in it but being pregnant I'm not using any acohol at the moment.

Chocolate Buttercream:
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup melted chocolate

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Melt chocolate and mix with butter.
2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter/choc mix and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.

Making up the cake

Once the cake was cool I removed it from the pan and spread with about half the buttercream then rolled it up and refrigerated it while I made the mushrooms. The butter cream squished out of the cake rather but enough was still left inside to work. Once refrigerated the ends were cut off and one put on top to be a stump. The stump gradually worked it's way down the side of the cake so in the end it came out the side instead! The whole things was covered in the rest of the buttercream and roughly marked to look like wood.

We were given the choice of marzipan or meringue mushrooms and I chose the second which i didn't change the recipe for at all.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 100 C (225 F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

4.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

The finished result

The Yule Log turned out well, the cake itself was light and kept well for a couple of days at least after which it was all eaten. The buttercream was good, sweet but not sickly, I liked the slightly meringue texture of it. The mushrooms were surprisingly easy to make even if I did try and destroy them by tipping to much coco powder into the sieve to dust them with, lucky I only hit a few and there were plenty of spare.

At least one of the kids at the gathering I took it to refused to believe the mushrooms weren't real ones so wouldn't try them but other wise it went down well. If I had more time next time I would go slower in the decoration and use some dusting powder to add moss as well as possibly doing a second paler colour of buttercream so I could do more convincing cut ends.

Finally I had to do all the whisking by hand as I don't currently have a mixer. I'm hoping for one for christmas and if not will be looking in the post christmas sales. I don't suggest doing this recipe by hand but with a good mixer I think it is within the scope of most people to have a go if they just take one step at a time.

To see how others did and to get tips on any things like curdled buttercream check out the rest of the Daring bakers on the blogroll most should be posting up on either the 22nd or 23rd this month, being such a busy month we were given two dates to chose from so the posting will b a little more spread than normal.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Weekly Menu 17th - 21st Dec

Well even with a very basic menu I didn't stick to it fully last week. I don't even remember what we had Thursday It was the smalls first christmas play and by the end of walking there and back I had to put my feet up so someone else cooked but I know it wasn't sausage and mash. Friday we had eggy bread and bacon as we left to visit family late afternoon and wanted something easy and I had spare GF bread for mine which was cooked first.

Weekend away was good but it confirmed that walking is going to have to be significantly limited for a while. By the time we had ambled round London a while I was in noticeable pain and walking very slowly and laboriously.
Another very basic menu this week in the run up to Christmas, hopefully allowing me to do some baking and the like.

Monday - Sausage and Mash

Tuesday - omelets

Wednesday - stew

Thursday - pasta and sauce

Friday - I have a friend round to do costume design and sewing so possibly take away or going out to allow me to spend the energy on her not cooking. Also last day at school for small so he is having Christmas dinner that day instead of a packed lunch.

For other ideas, some of them gluten free look at menu plan Monday

Monday, 10 December 2007

Weekly menu 10 Dec - 14 Dec

Last week rather went out the window menu wise, in fact the only one I did was Monday. The rest of the week was easy stuff out of the freezer I could throw in the oven or get others to do.

This is because Monday after my GTT (glucose Tolerance test) I started to get pains while out shopping, when they had been continuous for over 4 hours I went to the labour ward and got checked out. The good news is sprogg is fine and so far staying where he is but I have been taking it very gently and spending most of the time with my feet up. Standing for any length of time has been uncomfortable. To be honest I think it is more to do with over stressing muscles re-organising the back room than anything more worrying and I have an appointment with the consultant tomorrow so will get another checkup. I fully expect them to say keep off your feet as much as possible so am planning to do as little as possible which unfortunately includes cooking, as such I have some meals planned that can be done by anyone and will be done which ever day suits.

Pasta and sauce

Chops and oven roasted veg

veg stew

sausage and mash

rice and stuff (ie throw together anything and everything that needs eating)

I do hope to do some baking to take to the in-laws for at the weekend becouse a) that means there will be stuff I can eat and while they try very hard and do well to be fair, it is still easier for me than them. b) home made baking is always nice this time of year for everyone.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Weekly menu (Dec3 - Dec 7)

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday - Pomegranates

This weeks ingredient is the pomegranate. One of my all time favorates, as a child one of my christmas treats was to have a pomegranate, one a year.. they still aren't cheap here but I generally manage more than one a year these days.

I edited last weeks post to say what actually happened rather than what was planned though the two were fairly close. I also did a couple of posts detailing recipes. Carrie, you might like to know we had your corn pudding which the boys loved, I thought it was nice enough but I think you've worked out by now I prefer my savory, well savoy and sweet dishes saved for puddings. I love pickles and other sour dishes though..

Dec 3rd to Dec 7th

Monday - I have to fast from 9pm tonight as I'm booked for a Glucose Tolerance test tomorrow, the wonders of being an older, over weight, pregnant woman, still useful to know if I do need to be careful for the sprogs sake.

Tomato and Egg (a sort thick tomato and veg sauce with eggs cooked on top and covered in cheese.. much nicer than it sounds, have a feeling it was originally a weight watchers recipe but I'm not certain)

Tuesday - Cauliflower and brocalli cheese (lots of brassicas in veg boxes now)

Wednesday - Home made chicken Kievs (this will be a first to try this), rice and feta and pomegranate salad.

Thursday - (out at the local christmas street party and light turning on)
Pre cooked finger food, probably some GF sausages, cheese and maybe flapjack or similar. Depends how adventurous I get.

Friday - stirfry and rice noodles.

Extra baking
some form of cranberry cupcakes.. lots of options here
Cornflake Flapjack with dried fruit

Lots more menu ideas here, though most aren't gluten free - Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Moroccan Style chicken and Apricots with Quinoa

I finally made this on Sunday rather than Friday as it takes a while to cook and I wasn't organised enough on Friday. However that said it is easy to make and once preped just sits in the oven for a couple of hours.

4 very large chicken thighs (or 6-8 normal ones)
1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger and cumin
olive oil
1 onion ( my last one was soft so I used a leek)
about 5 cloves of garlic
1 large carrot
couple of hand fulls of dried apricots
about 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
chicken stock (I used a GF cube)


I deboned the thighs and chopped them in half but mostly because they were very large, if preferred you can cook them on the bone or use a different cut of chicken. Leave the pieces fairly large.

Mix the three spices together and sprinkle on the meat then rub in.

Heat oil in a oven proof metal casserole then brown off the meat. Chop the onion (leek), garlic and carrot and add to the pan and season with salt and pepper, cook off slightly. Chop apricots roughly and add to pan. Finally add enough stock to mostly cover the meat and vegs.

Place in the oven and cook for around 2 hours at 160C.

When the meat is falling apart prepare the Quinoa by cooking in twice as much water or stock by volume as the amount of Quinoa you use. Once pretty much all the water is absorbed add some sultanas and put the lid on to allow them to plump up a little.

The finished dish is thick and dark with the meat falling apart, most of the ingredients have combined to make a wonderful thick, soft sauce so it doesn't photograph that well but tastes great.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Soup and Cheese Scones

As planned on the menu this week we had soup and scones for tea.. planned and everything. This weekly planning thing really is helping as is feeling less sick than have been recent months, we will see if it continues as I get bigger.. for those who haven't caught on I'm past halfway of a pregnancy.

I've been thinking about posting the recipe for the scones for a while and at least one person expressed interest this week so I will put the whole thing at the bottom of this post. It is based on one from Delia Smith and as her recipe was originally half the size I make you could easily cut it down again should you wish to but we eat most fo a batch this size in a sitting between four of us and it's nice to have a few for the next day. They are very easy to make and best eaten warm with butter, as you can see from the picture we tend to go overboard on the amount of butter, my excuse is they were a bit cold so it hadn't melted as much as normal :) They rewarm quite well in a microwave for the next day too.

The soup ended up being pumpkin as I had half a one to finish up. This year has been really bad over here for things like pumpkin and squash as there was really bad rain and flooding mid summer.. with a lot less sun when it was wanted to ripen things. Other vegs did well I'm told such as beans however, next year we have all that to come with the new allotment. It was a bit bland once cooked probably because it was only pumpkin, onion, smoked garlic and stock but it tasted quite nice once I upped the amount of pepper and added a splash of cream :) I also added a little bacon as a garnish.

Back to the scones. The original recipe calls for half self raising flour and half wholewheat but obviously I can't use those so over the years the mix I've come to settle on is half a general purpose fairly nutrual GF mix and half Gram flour. This gives a nice flavour and good colour as without the gram flour they can look a little bleached. For general purpose I used Dove Farm, though of course you can use your own mix. I must admit to having a bit of a fondness for Dove Farm, their flours gave me hope at a time when everything else purpose made for a GF diet seemed substandard and gritty tasting.. The grittyness was a really problem for me early on, which is less evident now. I think it was from using rice flour that wasn't ground very fine but many of the early products over here were like that.

I seem to be making a habit of missing out the Xanthan gum from recipes at the moment and while this recipe does work without it adding a bit does help them rise a bit better I think.

A short story from the first year I was Gluten free, how many years ago that was I'm not sure but it was a few. Back then the supermarkets hadn't started doing free-from ranges but our local one did stock a few bits including Dove Farm plain flour and a flour from someone else I think Orgran, which is over five pounds a box. The Dove Farm one was much more reasonable price wise so we had used it a few times. Come christmas we decide to try and make a few bits like cake ourselves and went to buy flour but they had removed the small gluten free section to have more seasonal products and the only flour they had left was the more expensive one. We tried using it to make white sauce and it came out like wallpaper paste. I think that was one of the real low points for me. Luckily in this country it is now possible to get plenty of better products even if you have to use mail order so I hope no-one else has that problem this year. To be fair to Orgran they may well have changed the mix by now as many manufacturers have learnt a lot over the last few years and at least they were trying back then.

Gram flour Cheese Scones

(adapted from Wholewheat cheese-crusted scones in Delia Smith's Complete cookery course.)

6oz Gluten free general purpose flour mix
6 oz Gram flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp GF baking powder
4 tsp Xanthan gum
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
2 oz butter (room temp)
1 tsp mustard (Delia uses mustard powder, the old tin of colmans I had included wheat flour in the ingredients list but one line it seems to just list mustard flour now in which case you can use it)
6 oz grated cheddar cheese (or similar strongly flavoured hard cheese)
4 -6 tbsp milk
2 large eggs
extra milk to brush tops and a little more cayenne if you like them to have a kick.

Preheat oven to gas mark 7, 425F or 220C

Shift and mix the flours, salt, cayenne, baking powder, Xanthan gum plus mustard if you have a powder rather than a wet mix all into a big bowl.

Cut the butter into small pieces and rub in with your fingers till the mixture is crumbly.

Mix in most of the cheese, keeping back a little to use on the tops later.

In a separate bowl beat together the eggs and 4 tbsp of milk. Mix in the mustard if it is a made up variety. Add to the main bowl and mix until you have a soft dough. You may need to add a little more milk depending on the size of the eggs.

Roll out on a floured surface to a bit less than an inch then cut out rounds with a cutter. I vary how big I make them but about 2 inches or so is a nice size. Place on a greased baking sheet and brush the tops with milk then sprinkle with a little cheese plus more cayenne pepper if you like.

Bake for 15-20 mins towards the top of the oven unless you have a convection oven where it matters less. transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool till warm... eat with butter or more cheese or both!


I have also made these with half the cheddar and half small pieces of feta plus some chopped sundried tomatoes which is a nice combination.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

IKEA and Gluten free

We popped into IKEA for some bits at the weekend.. yea right like it's possible to just pop in for something, even if you only go to the item you want it will take half an hour of walking.! Actually on that score I am waiting very interestedly to see how the new Coventry store works. In some ways I'm dreading the possible traffic problems espacally round the time our two universities start their new years but in other ways it will be interesting to see how it differs from an out of town store. You see the Coventry one isn't just off a motorway junction like the rest it is slap bang in the middle of the city ! It is over several floors and I am really hoping they make it easier to just pop into one section rather than being lead by the nose as the other stores do.. I think they would be stupid not to as a lot of their potential trade is people on their lunch break and you can't brose a whole store in that time but we will see.

Anyway back to our shopping trip. As it was lunch time we decided to go to the cafe and I was pretty much expecting to have chips or salad or maybe a cake as they do a GF one.. however as we waited in the queue we spotted the kids fish and chips had a big GF symbol on it but somewhat strangely the adult one didn't and neither did the meatballs which seemed a bit daff as most Swedish meatball recipes over here are GF.

Still we asked when we got to the counter and yes the kids fish was GF but the adults wasn't and neither was any other main meal! The fish was however at the far end of the counter meaning it was a lot less likely to get contaminated so I end up with two kids meals as it was cheaper than them trying to make up an adult one and I ended up with more chips! I am happy they are trying but I think I might chat to the cafe when they open in Cov and see if they could change the meatball recipe or at least do the adult fish GF as well. It was nice to have battered fish for once but the portions were very small even with two kids ones.

As to the actual shopping, we got the small one a place in the crèche much to his delight and so had 3/4 hour to look round. We got the cupboard doors and drawers to finish the units in the utility room and some new plates and bowls from their 365+ range.. we got 6 new bowls which will be good for soup, stew etc and then one each of the rounded off square dinner and side plates to see if they went with my Reflex Denby which is now discontinued. I think they will actually go quite well and we have been thinking of swapping our everyday china to white as the current black stuff can't really be mixed with the Denby. That wasn't the only things we picked up but the main ones of relivance on here I think.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Weekly Menu post

(Edited to add what I actually did)

Any Daring Bakers.. look for the next post down. !!

This week I remembered to post on Monday.. and after a weekend away as well how organised am I!!

Gluten Free Menu Swap Monday - Ginger

I will be linking to both the gluten free menu swap and Menu Plan Monday.

Unlike our friends over the pond we didn't have any celebrations last week so it was business as usual and I even pretty much stuck to my menu plan

I have decided in future bean stew will not have sausages in. It doesn't need it and just lost my nice expensive gluten free sausages in it..

The chicken noodle soup was a big success so much so we have bought a few more soup bowls from IKEA this weekend so we have plenty to go round.

We swapped Thursday and Friday. I wrote up the lasagna which is here and Friday we had cauliflower cheese with extra bits in it.

This weeks menu

Monday - Pizza because Jon found Sainsburys now do their own gluten free version so got me one to try. Everyone else gets ready made normal ones.

Tuesday - Pork chops and oven roasted vegs.

Wednesday - Lasagna, second one I made last week from the freezer.
(edit - also made Ginger Lemon Girl's corn pudding because I thought the small one would dislike the amount of green. The lasagna had gone rather soggy from being frozen so will try and only do fresh in future. The corn pudding went down very well with the boys, I liked it OK but I have less of a sweet tooth than they do.)

Thursday - veggy soup and cheese scones (edit - post added with scone recipe)

Friday - Moracan style Chicken and apricots with Quinoa (instead of cous cous.)
(edit did on Sunday in the end.. recipe posted here )

I'm not really doing anything with ginger but the soup might end up with some in depending what vegs are left by then. Also I just got a big bag of crystallised ginger to do baking with so that might happen this week if I have time..

Daring Baker Challange - Tender Potato Bread

So my third challenge and the second one involving yeast, however it's savoury this time which I was quite happy with. Our challenge from Tanna was for Tender Potato Bread from the book Home baking by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford. and you can find the recipe she challenged us with is here.

Bread is something I've toyed with since giving up gluten, I used to love kneading real bread before that as it was a great tension release but gluten free mixes tend to a) be wetter and b) don't have the satisfaction as there is no gluten to make it bounce back. I have made the occasional loaf for other people but if I'm not careful I find the skin contact can be enough to set my hands off and I like having the use of my hands.. I spent several years having to use both hands to pick up anything even vaguely heavy as I had so little strength in either one of them so I am wary about going back to that. One advantage I suppose of that symptom is that if I do accidentally eat something with gluten in I start to feel the ache across my knuckles in moments which stops me eating to much. Any way I digress back to Potato Bread.

I tried this recipe twice this month. The first time as close to the published version as possible and the second with a few more tweeks. I managed to forget to add Xanth gum both times but I think it will get made again and I'll report back if that makes much difference when I do.

Bread the first.

I used a generic baking potato as I didn't have a named variety of suitable type available and on the first try used about 14oz, we were told to use between 8 and 16oz. Flour wise I substituted my standard Dove Farm gluten free flour for the basic general purpose flour and millet for the wholewheat. I wasn't that happy about the millet but we were waiting on a bulk order of flour and other things and I didn't want to buy extra expansive bags in when I'd have loads in a few days. It proves I was intrigued enough to try it that I didn't wait till later in the month.

The dough went together well, being used to gluten free mixes the wetness didn't really phase me and I only added a couple of extra cups to the dough before it seemed stiff enough. I didn't knead it anyone than needed to incorporate the flour as this really serves no function without the gluten as the main reason for this is to develop the gluten chains. I left it to rise in the oven which has a special bread rising function as the kitchen was a little cold and after two hours it was wonderfully risen and full of bubbles as you may be able to see in the picture.

However when i came to shape it the dough was extremely sticky and pretty much poured out of the bowl so I added about another 2 cups of flour to get it workable. The shaped bread was put back to prove but it seemed to have run out of steam rather and only rose a small amount. I baked it anyway as I am fairly used to a mediocre rise on gluten free bread. Now I must admit to a couple of mistakes. I baked the focaccia to long and burnt the onion on it but much worse is I think I forgot to take the plastic wrap off first and that resulted in a plasticy glaze on parts of the bread!! We only eat a bit of it and from the underside to see what it was like then the rest went into the bin!

The loaf was better, rather heavy but quite edible though it had a distinctly bitter edge which was worse once it got a little more stale the next couple of days.

However it showed promise and after some discussion with knowledgeable members of the daring bakers I decided to try again. This time I decided to only rise the dough once as I was told that the second rise is mostly for developing taste and that as my flour has no gluten in it there would be less to sugars to feed the yeast.

Bread the Second.

This time I used a similar potato and cooked up nearly 16 oz. Instead of millet I used buckwheat as my flour order had arrived and indeed I added about 1.5 cups of that in total which gave the bread a distinctly wholemeal look. As I was only doing one rise this time I made sure I incorporated a bit more flour at this stage and in the end used about 6.2 cups out of the 8.5 max suggested in the recipe. I wouldn't expect a gluten free bread to use all 8.2 cups as most none wheat flours soak up more liquid than wheat does.

Once I had a nice dough I divided it into three. One third as put in muffin tins to make rolls, then one third was flavoured with tomato puree and a bit more flour added to counter the extra liquid. The final third as flavoured with cheddar cheese. These two flavoured doughs were roughly recombined so the two types swirled through the bread and then the whole lot was put in a bread tin. Both sets of bread were put to rise in the oven as before.
After two hours a good amount of rising had been done and after carefully removing ALL plastic wrap I cooked them, the rolls got about 30 mins and the loaf 50, the last 10 mins of which I removed it from the tin to allow the crust to develop all round.

This time round the texture was much better and the gluten eating members of the household actually asked if they could have some several times over the weekend meaning I didn't have my usual problem of worrying it was going to go off before I finished it. The cheese and tomato bread was espacally good and will be done again I am sure.

One final thing I decided is I want to develop my own general flour mix as my mum would have liked to try the bread but she has similar arthritic reactions to maize as I do to gluten and Dove farm's mix has maize in it. I like maize flour for some things but in a generic mix I could happily do without especally as there are becoming more flours available.

You can see how other Baring bakers got on by checking out the blog roll, out of something like 400 members I only know of two other who are gluten free they are Naomi at Straight into bed Cakefree and Dried and Sheltie Girl at Gluten a go go

Friday, 23 November 2007

Spinach, ricotta and pumpkin Lasagna

Inspired by posts on Ginger Lemon Girl and Book of Yum I decided to do a lasagna. I had several packets of gluten free pasta sheets and love spinach and ricotta lasagna so adding pumpkin sounded a idea worth a try.

The basic ingredients were as follows (for one tray, I made two so I have one for another day). I'm afraid I can't do exact measurements as I do much of this by eye.

1 packet of gluten free lasagna sheets (boiled for 2 mins to make sure they were nice and soft.)
1/2 a packet of frozen spinach, thawed
1 tub of ricotta
1/4 a largeish pumpkin, roasted and mashed to a puree.
About 1 pint of fairly thick white sauce made from gluten free flour, milk and butter.
parmesan cheese

I flavoured the white sauce with a little nutmeg and the pumpkin with a shot of roasted pumpkin and sunflower seed oil.
Then I layered it as follows, a little sauce, a layer of pasta, layer of pumpkin and a tiny bit more sauce. More pasta, layer of ricotta, layer of spinach, more sauce, pasta then a good layer of sauce. Finished off with a topping of parmesan cheese, then cooked till golden.

The dish tasted very good, was just right moisture wise and was very filling however the pumpkin got rather lost against the spinach and ricotta, next time I might try pumpkin with something else but it isn't a veg we cook much so I'm not sure what might go well. This is the one meal the small one hasn't eaten with us this week, partly as he was hungry when he came in from school and partly because I knew he would not like the green part!

(edit, pasta goes rather soggy when frozen. still edible but much better fresh)

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

The weeks menu

Well I've be organised to sort a menu but not organised to post it in time for the Monday round ups.. However I think it's a start and as we are all under the weather with colds I will let myself of. In future I want to join in the Gluten Free Menu Swap and if I'm doing that I might as well do Menu Plan Monday as well. The Gluten Free menu swap has an ingredients of the week. This week it is mushrooms, I do have some in the fridge and will probably do a mushroom side dish but one of the family as mild problems with them and as he is under the weather I will not be adding them to the main dishes as when his system is low the tends to react to them badly.

So this week the menu is as follows.

Monday Pasta and mince.
Gluten free pasta of course and mince means something more like a bolognase sauce than straight mince, so some vegs, tomato etc and in this case a little bacon that needed eating to supliment the mince as I was feeding more than expected.

Tuesday Sausage and bean stew
A few gluten free sausages, lots of black eye beans, chickpeas, potatoes, parsnip, carrot, an onion and two tins of tomatoes. Plenty left for lunches.

Wednesday Chicken noodle soup from Use real butter because it sounded wonderful.

Thursday either veggy stew or mixed roast vegs with either cauliflower fritters or cauliflower cheese. (Thursday is the day the veggy box is delivered so it depends what is left from this week's box by then)

Friday Lasagne possibly with pumpkin like the one Ginger lemon Girl did but certainly with ricotta and spinach because I love that combination.

Looking at that, all the meat is at the beginning of the week and it's quite a few pasta dishes but we haven't had much pasta recently as we had mostly run out. We got a new bulk order from Suma last week so I am making the most of having a selection, all gluten free of course.

So far this week we have eaten the evening meal before the small one's bedtime which means we can eat together. This works better when Tom is on an early shift but he is this week and next so will make the most of it by eating at the table.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Choc Sponge Pud

I love British puds and traditional food in general so when I found out about a new blogging challenge called the Great British Pudding Challenge I had to consider joining. The first challenge is a chocolate sponge pudding. Such a hardship !

I haven't made many sponge puds since I stopped eating gluten and the few I have were done by the microwave method which while it is fast didn't give me that good a result. However when I started cooking gluten free anything resembling the real thing was good enough so they filled a gap but now I am more picky as the flours are available to do better than that and my confidence has grown to try adapting recipes.

This recipe is done by the traditional steaming method which takes much longer but all the best things take time and once the mix is made up all you need to do is make sure the steamer doesn't run out of water so can be getting on with other things which in my case was cooking tea, we had lamb chops with a salad. For a steamer I used a large pasta pan, one of those with an internal pan like a colander which can be pulled out to drain the pasta or in this case to lift the pudding basin away from the steam.

The original none gluten free recipe is here. All I did was to replace the flour with a gluten free general flour mix and it worked very well. The mixture is easy to make up and the resultant pudding is very chocolaty indeed. I used Bornville Chocolate for the chunks as I love dark chocolate. The texture was very good and light though I think from seeing pictures of a couple of others mine might be a little more crumbly than a gluten version but not so much it spoilt the feel in the mouth.

We all ate it with cream though I suspect had Tom not been feeling low with a cold he would have made custard to go with it as well.

My small one insisted on being pictured with the pudding as well sorry it's rather dark it was getting close to his bedtime so I wanted to get it served up.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Quince Apples and menu planning

I have got a lovely box of fruit off Freecycle yesterday. The lady referred to them as quince apples, having looked on the internet a bit and smelling them, which is a wonderful smell, I think they are real quince.. there is a variety called apple quince which look very like these. Either way I plan to make them into jelly, though I might use a few with some apples to make a pie or similar because the fragrance is wonderful.

I have also decide I really need to get back to doing weekly menu planning. I did do this quite regularly before I was feeling sick all the time and it is a good thing to do. The best day to do it is Friday as we get the veggy box Thursday evening and planning the meals round that is a good idea.

There is a weekly gluten free menu swap which I would like to join in with and a bigger general one, Menu plan monday run on orgjunkie which has lots of people joining with all sorts of eating styles. Angela, from Angela's Kitchen uses the monthly menus at which look worth considering. I don't think I'd use them all the time as I need to use the vegs we get and so forth but at least they are mostly based on basic ingredients not mixes and such like some I have seen.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Should food choices be made for us?

This is a subject that has been coming up regularly recently at least around here. There was the news articles about a report saying we should all be buying UHT milk, then a discussion with friends about if we should be only sold the 'healthy' options to counter the growth in obese people and now this article which suggests supermarkets should be encouraged to make choices for us.

My first reaction is No way I don't want someone else making such choices for me but when I think properly about it that isn't totally true. Ideally what I want is all the facts so I can make an informed decision and if a shop was making the choices the way i wanted them made I'd have no problem with it. Currently, for instance I get vegs from a local organic shop because I want organic veg and I know and trust the shop owner, even if I didn't know him organic means something specific which I can pretty much know will be attired to if it is labelled as such here.

I think the problem comes for me when the choice is taken from me completely or if it is being made by people or groups I don't fully trust and that includes the government. After all how can I trust a government who is meant to represent the people and yet is determined to allow GM crops to be grown here in 2009 even when the vast majority of the people of the country are against it and they said not so long ago they didn't have any plans to allow it in the foreseeable future. I'm not going into that particular subject any farther in this post though.

So back to choices. In principle I have no problems with retail companies having guildlines about what they will and will not buy if it is things like only buying from fair trade sources or so forth. That as a principle is something I can support and encourage, if it is to improve the lifes of others or to stop an animal being driven to extinction such as a ban on ivory.

I think the problem comes for me when it is things like telling me what I can and can't eat. Inform me fine, educate everyone fine and something we need to do more of but choosing for me that I will only be able to buy UHT milk no thanks, yes I know the argument about UHT is it will cut down the amount of energy needed for refrigeration (ie ecological) but I buy milk direct not through a supermarket so the equation is very different for me. In the discussion with friends someone asked why they sold several different types of the same margarine one lower fat that the other why didn't they sell only the healthy one. I think that hits the point for me.. they were very much assuming the lower fat one was more healthy become it was lower fat where as I don't believe it is that simple. Lower fat options are often higher in sugar, more processed and so on which can be as bad. Many drinks targeted at kids here proudly state they are sugar free BUT they have sweeteners in them which my son reacts badly to so if these so call healthy drinks were the only option what does he drink?

It is the nanny state attitude I worry about.. the view we the consumer don't have the ability to make the right choices ourselves so rather than taking the harder but ulitmently better path of educating people it is similar to make the choices for us but one choice is not always right for everyone. I do want more information and more accountability however.. a pipe dream? possibly but without dreams nothing worth wild ever happens.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Curried Cauliflower Fritters

We have had these twice in three days and I've had no complaints and several compliments about them. They are a lovely different way to serve Cauliflower which I find can be a bit bland. The most common way we eat it normally is as cauliflower cheese often with a bunch of other things added such as tomatoes, spring onions and possibly bacon or similar. These fritters however are totally different, they are as crisp and cauliflower cheese is soft and spicy to it's smooth flavour.

Cauliflower is a form of brassica with a large flower head which is the part you eat. It is normally white but a seed catalogue I was reading today had green ones, purple ones and even a bright orangy yellow. I believe the changes in colour effect the nutrients in it but I don't know how well the colour stands up well to cooking however they are certainly interesting to look at. There is a really un-usual green type called Romanesco which has spirally fractal like heads.

The recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver's new book "Jamie at Home" His instructions are much longer than mine but i hope you get the jist.

1 Cauliflower, cut into similar sized florets. wash and dust with flour and put aside.


1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black mustard seeds
good shake of chilli flakes (Jamie uses 2-3 dried red chills)
1 tsp black peppercorns
200g GF flour (Jamie used Self raising flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
350ml water (Jamie uses beer but I'm not using my GF beer when I can't finish the bottle because I'm pregnant)

Crush the first four spices in a mortar and pestle, mix with flour and turmeric, pour in most of the water and whisk, you are aiming for a batter the thickness of double cream. season with salt.

The fritters are deep fried at 180C, heat your oil to the right temp. Dip each floret in batter and fry a few at a time till golden then drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt.


These need to be eaten straight away as they soften down otherwise.

Next time I plan to try some or all the flour as gram flour (chickpeas) as I think the flavour would work very well.

Very good and morish. I did a small bowl each the, as a side dish, first time round and was told they could eat more. The second time was with a roast dinner which worked very well too.

I plan to try the same batter with some white fish as I think it will work and I've been craving battered fish. It's a British thing, fish and chips is a comfort food but very much not gluten free.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Marmite and pickles

The picture is of one of the rolls I talked about last time, the ones that seem the same under different names at ASDA and Morrisons. It is topped with marmite, Philadelphia cheese and pickled beetroot which is a combination I love.

Marmite is one of those things you either love or hate, no-one ever seems to be ambivalent about it and I've found it very rare for someone to like it if they weren't given it as a small child, so I have made sure the small one had it in his diet from and early age and he is already a pro at eating it.. to start with you should have a tiny smear on some buttered bread, anything more and you will definetly not like it as it is extremely strong. Those of us hardened marmite lovers however have it thicker and have even been known to eat it neat. You need something like butter on the bread first or you can't spread it properly.

One of my fathers favourite sandwiches was buttered bread with marmite, salad cream and black pepper ! In a way that is similar to my roll today because salad cream is quite vinegary, so you have a similar, salty, vinegary, creamy mix.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Premade bread products

If you aren't gluten intolerant you take bought bread for granted but when I found out I couldn't eat gluten, which was a few years ago now, there is pretty much no pre-made bread available. Well there was a bit but only on prescription and it was frankly disgusting, dry, hard and not at all like bread.

Gradually that has got better though it is still hit and miss and some of it is frankly terrible even today and pretty much all of it is expensive. However some companies stand out and the good ones are getting more common by the day. Dietary Specialists was one of the first that made stuff that could be considered edible and their pizza is a staple in our freezer.

There are others who make individual products I like though often it is hard to find them as most shops here carry a very limited range. I keep meaning to start using mail order but as yet haven't been organised enough or indeed felt the need, however this pregnancy I have been eating more as it is easy and brainless to have a sandwich and I have found I need more carbs than normal. It is testament to how much better the bread is that I can do that because however tired and off colour I was four years ago with my last pregnancy I would not have considered it, the bread was just too bad.

One of the biggest changes is that nearly all the supermarkets have Free From ranges now, sets of products that are free from not just gluten but things like milk and eggs as well. I'm not a huge fan of supermarkets, I'd much rather buy from local shops and do try to but it is true it is easier to go to a supermarket and we have quite a few within easy reach. One we don't have however is Waitrose which i really wish we did because they are the only ones who do fresh gluten free products.. yes fresh and good too. However we can get them through Ocardo which is a delivery only supermarket which works in partnership with waitrose and sells their products. It really threw me the first time as I was used to long use by dates but fresh is better in many ways.

Tesco's and Salisburys have had their own ranges for ages but the ones near us carry a very limited range. I know the range is much bigger as I've seen it when I've visited other cities but Coventry is a bit of a blackhole in many ways.

Asda and Morisons are the two we go to most often and till recently they were both very sparse on such things but recently seemed to have upped their game and I'm fairly convinced they are using the same manufacturer. Morrisons is branded as thier own free from range but Asda are selling them under the Livwell brand. Their rolls certainly seem to be the same product, they have a good taste and are less dry than most though they do suffer a little from falling apart.

If I am feeling slightly less lazy I like the bread mixes sold by Lakelands, they come all the way from Australia and I'd like to see a similar British product but they make good bread. It is very strange the first time you make it as it is very liquid and has to be cooked in a tin but it rises well and has a good texture.

Cakes and biscuits I do buy a few of but I'm more likely to make those from scratch. While we do still have normal bread in the house for everyone else we don't tend to have any normal flour for cooking and the bread is kept in it's own area outside the kitchen proper. The price would have to come down more before I bought gluten free bread for everyone and to be honest the size of the loaf and the quality would still need to improve more as well. That said my four year old claims to prefer my bread to the real stuff though he eats the normal stuff much more than mine, I can't see why anyone would prefer gluten free to fresh bread from the bakers and we don't tend to buy they cheap sliced plastic stuff. The slice size is good for him where as my husband claims a full size loaf has four slices !!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Bostini Cream Pie

This months Daring bakers challenge.

I really liked the sound of this one and planned to make it early, as it was I bought cream three times before I did!! Still struggling to cook anything that feels hard work though in the end it was really quite easy.

The pudding comes in three stages. First I made the cake which is one where you used whisked egg whites to give it air, first time I've ever had a chiffon cake to my knowledge . It does have some baking powder in but is designed for cake flour which is low in gluten for wheat flour and so is less of a change for gluten free. I just used Dove Farm general purpose as I wanted something fairly neutral flavour wise and some of my other flours have a distinct taste. The cake came out wonderfully light though it wasn't cooked in the middle. I cooked it all in one big cake pan not small molds as I didn't have any and it was getting too cooked round the edge but hadn't quite cooked enough in the middle. However as I made the whole amount of cake and only 1/3 of the custard it was easy to work round the uncooked bit. Next time I'll try muffin tins or similar.

With the custard as I already mentioned I only made 1/3 of the recipe, it was a huge amount of cream to make the full amount and from what others had said it was far more than we would eat, though for a party it would be a different matter. It was quite easy to make though I nearly killed it twice, first I tried to measure the cornflour in cups not tbsps which would have been interesting! Then I got distracted while cooking it because the timer went off for the cake and I nearly got scrambled egg.

The chocolate sauce however was a 10 second job, I used unsalted butter (thanks those who mentioned using salted by accident otherwise I would have too!) and Bornville chocolate as we like dark chocolate but I wasn't using the Green and Black !!

I chilled the custard and then placed a room temp circle of cake on top and smothered with chocolate sauce. I divided the custard into 4 which was still good size portions even though it is smaller than the suggested serving size. Loved the cake and sauce, personally found the custard a little eggy but himself loved it. It was something between a thick normal custard and a set egg custard. He polished off all his and half of mine as I was already quite full from fish pie earlier.

Original recipe
Bostini Cream Pie
(from Donna Scala & Kurtis Baguley of Bistro Don Giovanni and Scala's Bistro)
Makes 8 generous servings



3/4 cup whole milk
2 3/4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 whole egg, beaten
9 egg yolks, beaten
3 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream (I used double cream as I'm in the UK)
1/2 vanilla bean (I used vanilla extract)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

Chiffon Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour (used Dove Farm gluten free)
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 1/3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil (used basic veggy oil)
1/3 cup beaten egg yolks (3 to 4 yolks)
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Chocolate Glaze

8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces unsalted butter


To prepare the custard:

Combine the milk and cornstarch in a bowl; blend until smooth. Whisk in the whole egg and yolks, beating until smooth. Combine the cream, vanilla bean and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard and pour into 8 large custard cups. Refrigerate to chill.

To prepare the chiffon cakes:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray 8 molds with nonstick cooking spray. You may use 7-ounce custard cups, ovenproof wide mugs or even large foil cups. Whatever you use should be the same size as the custard cups.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Stir until smooth, but do not overbeat.

Beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the orange batter. Fill the sprayed molds nearly to the top with the batter.

Bake approximately 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when lightly pressed with your fingertip. Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove the cakes from the molds. Cover the cakes to keep them moist.

To prepare the glaze:

Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan and heat until it is just about to bubble. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and stir to melt. Pour through a strainer and keep warm.

To assemble:

Cut a thin slice from the top of each cake to create a flat surface. Place a cake flat-side down on top of each custard. Cover the tops with warm chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Monday, 15 October 2007

some random cooking

I finally got round to some none vital cooking today. I've been finding that while I am keen to try recipes when I read them in the sitting room when I get into the kitchen my stomach rebels, however the morning sickness seems to be abating a little now finally.

First I made flapjack. This is what I always had as flapjack as a kid but it has cornflakes in which most flapjacks don't something I didn't realise for many years as a kid. The recipe is from the Be.Ro cooking book, a book that has been around in various editions since time began..

100g marg or butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
100g sugar
50g oats
50g self raising flour
75g crushed cornflakes

Heat oven to 190C and grease a baking tray
melt butter and syrup together. Mix other ingredients in a bowl. Mix together. Put in tray and bake for 15-20 mins till just firm. Cut into fingers while hot.

Oh I added some sultanas too.
Of course it helps if you remember the sugar. If not it turns out like this.. It didn't hold together at all but with some added sugar I think it will work as a topper for stewed apple or something.. Oh well!

Then I thought I'd try cornbread. I used this recipe. I'm not American and don't think I've ever had cornbread made by someone who knows what it should be like so I just followed the recipe as well as I could, subing the flours for a general gluten free one.

I also made this broccoli and cheese soup from One Hot Stove as it sounded nice. I am not really sure the two went together that well so will review each separately. The photo isn't wonderful colour wise I'm afraid.

The cornbread first. It rose well, and the texture seemed good, though very much like a cake. I don't know if that is normal or because it's gluten free. My first thought on tasting it was wow that's sweet. Small one seemed to like it though he asked if he could not eat the crust,after he had eaten most of it! I liked it but might try it with a bit less sugar next time as is was sweeter than most cakes I make.

The soup was nice. I was a little light handed with the cheese as the one I had was a strong cheddar but next time I'll add more and probably more broccoli too.

Milk mayham

Another day another report about brilliant ideas to save the world. Just in case you are wondering I'm being sarcastic.

Today I am greeted with a news report that the Government want us all to start drinking UHT milk as it will cut down on green house gasses as there will be less refrigeration from all the fridges in the shops.

Here are two version of the story. The one from the Beeb and one from the Times.

I haven't been able to find a copy of the report all this is based on and as it is described as a leaked report it probably hasn't been formally published yet so I always take such articles with a pinch of salt until I can read the actual document.. The government is saying it's just a discussion document but we all know how discussion documents suddenly morph into law.

Now if a French person is reading this they are probably thinking, what's the problem with UHT milk, because nearly all the milk they use is UHT but our diets are very different and while the French normally have great taste in this I feel they fail somewhat. In this country we drink and use a huge amount of milk, we drink Tea with milk, have cereal for breakfast again with milk, we drink milk on it's own, as milk shakes, make lots of dishes based on white sauces and other milk based ideas and that's before you get onto cream which while it isn't mentioned would surely come under the same umbrella?.

UHT milk tastes crap and some nutrients like folic acid are damaged in the process. Actually I'd happily drink un-pasteurised if I had anywhere to get it. I did for most of my childhood and was spoilt by having a jersey cow of our own.

I'm not saying that they arn't right about the amount of energy used by the fridges and the report only looks at the supply chain for milk so they haven't looked at the fact many shops have much bigger fridges full of fizzy drinks which could be easily got rid of without those drinks being damaged.. though of course cold coke is far more important than fresh milk! Then there is all the per-prepared meals and the amount of excessive cold air spilling from all those fridges into the shops.

As I said I haven't seen the report so don't know if they have suggested any other options but the obvious one seems to have the milk delivered straight from the farms to the consumer, fresher, less refrigeration needed (as we arn't going to stop having home fridges even UHT still needs one once you open it).. I get my milk that way already, well it's from Dairy Crest so not straight from the farm but it's the best i can find here. However it is in glass bottles and even though it is still pasteurised I like it better. The full fat has cream that settles out at the top something supermarket milk never does. Milkmen used to be the normal way to get milk but they are much less common now and we have only recently started using one again.. if fact it is the first time I have had one since I was a kid.

Another thing mentioned is the suggestion the dairy industry should cut it's methane output by 60% in the next few years. The only obvious way to do this is have less cows so perhaps the idea is make us drink UHT which most of us hate so we drink less milk so don't needs so many cows.. alternatively we could keep fresh milk and use the methane constructively as a fuel to run the refrigeration in the vans to deliver the milk direct.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Daring Bakers - First time

For those that don't know this is a monthly challenge where everyone cooks the same recipe. No changes unless you are allergic or similar. The challenge is kept secret till the end of the month and everyone posts on the same day.. I have sort of failed on that already because here in the UK it's gone midnight and just remembered I hadn't posted. I blame being pregnant.. OK I'm as bad when I'm not but it's a good excuse. Still the day isn't finished everywhere so hopefully i will be excused.

As it's past 1am I will fill in more details like the recipe and all later though if you go to the Daring Bakers blog roll I am sure others are more organised than me.

As I'm celiac I was allowed to change the flour to one without gluten. As those who know anything about gluten will know this does course problems with bread recipes as gluten is the stuff that makes bread dough stretchy and helps it rise. As the challenge is to do the recipe exactly I just replaced normal flour with Dove farm Gluten free bread flour without adapting the recipe otherwise.

The dough worked fairly well and even rose thought once I'd made i into rolls and left ti to prove again it didn't expand by twice as it meant to but it is expecting rather a lot of gluten free flour. I made half the recipe as cinnamon rolls exactly as the challange but didn't try the sticky buns ( we were allowed to do one or both) I cheated a bit in that I used the other half of the dough to make chelsea buns ie added fruit inside the rolls with the cinnamon sugar.

They taste quite good a bit more cakey than bread like but then gluten free bread is often like that. I think I made the icing a little thin and if I'd used all of the suggested amount they would be swimming in it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Smells, food, pregancy and allotments

As you might guess from the title I'm pregnant and for the last couple of months have been feeling sick much of the time. My sense of smell seems overly sensitive though at least most food doesn't smell bad apart from freshly baked bread which as I don't eat it isn't too bad. Others in the house do however. A friend of mine who is recently pregnant says she can't stand raw meat and rich cheese and hot chocolate smell unpleasant poor girl.

Personally it's things like plastic, many of my perfume oils espcally mixed up (I can't open my bpal imp box at all at the moment), strong chemical smells and the like. Being outside seems to help with the sick feelings so the fact we have just acquired an allotment is probably a good thing.

The small one says we have to grow ALL the fruit so I will be sourcing several fruit bushes etc in the next few weeks as over winter is when they should go in and small one and I are both getting apple trees as birthday presents.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Involtini di Pasta e Polpette

Otherwise know as Spaghetti and meatballs wrapped in aubergine.

Saw this recipe on Taste at lunchtime a couple of days ago. You can find the original recipe here. By Gino D'Acampo

I didn't have the right cheese so we mixed cheddar and parmisan which worked quite well, I didn't use mozzarella either as we didn't have any. The meatballs were very easy to make and having no breadcrumbs in them didn't need any tweaking either. The cheese in them was very well received and the pasta, sauce and meatballs made a meal on their own and indeed one of our lot opted for that not being fond of aubergine. The aubergine wraps were very nice and the suggested serving of three each was plenty, in fact not being very hungry last night I had two left for my lunch today, hence the picture in a storage container. While there are several stages to making this it really isn't difficult and I think the meatballs may well become a regular feature here.

The exact amounts of ingredients in the meatballs was probably not quite right as i used the amount of mince I had which wasn't 250g and then roughly adjusted everything else.

250g beef mince
100g fresh grated Pecorino Sardo cheese (used cheddar and parmisan)
1 white onion (finely chopped – gently fried in olive oil until soft)
2 eggs
3 tbls flat leaf parsley (chopped)
2 tbls Italian extra virgin olive oil
200g 00 flour (used Dove farm gluten free plain flour)
5 tbls Italian olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
300g spaghetti
500g Italian tinned chopped tomato
100g fresh grated Pecorino Sardo cheese (again used a mix of cheese)
2 whole aubergines
5 tbls olive oil
1 clove garlic (chopped)
2 mozzarella balls (didn't have any of this)
Fresh basil (and forgot this)
Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix together the beef mince, eggs, cheese, olive oil and cooked onions. Sprinkle the parsley, season with salt and pepper and mix well using your hands.

2. Rub some olive oil into your hands and very gently roll a small amount of the meat mixture creating lots of little meatballs the size of a chocolate malteser. Gently coat them in the flour and fry in pre-heated olive until sealed (approx. 5 minutes). When cooked – drain on some kitchen roll and allow to cool.

3. Slice the aubergines (length ways) approx. 1/2 cm thick. Place in a large sieve adding salt and then drain allowing the excess water to flow out for about half an hour. Take each slice and make sure they are dry by placing them in some kitchen roll or towel. Grill them on each side for approx. 5 minutes and allow to cool. (He used a griddle pan in the program as did I and it didn't take as long as 5mins each)

4. Gently fry the garlic in the olive oil – once golden add the chopped tomato and salt to taste and allow to simmer for approx. 15 minutes. Take off the heat, add the basil, the meatballs and a couple of pinches of pepper and leave so the sauce becomes tepid.

5. In the meantime cook the spaghetti in hot salted boiling water until very al dente and then drain and mix into the tomato sauce allowing the spaghetti to absorb the flavours.

6. Put a slice of prepared aubergine on a baking tray and place a handful of the pasta in the middle. Add a slice of mozzarella and roll the aubergine keeping it in place with a toothpick. Repeat the process until your baking tray is full. Sprinkle lots of the Pecorino Sardo on top and bake for approx. 10 minutes at 200C.

7. Take out of the oven once cheese has melted – drizzle a good quality Italian extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately.

Veggy Box contents

We get an organic veg box from a wonderful shop called Wild and Free in Rugby. This is actually in the next town over and there is an organic shop in Coventry who does boxes but I know the owner of Wild and Free and he delivers in the evening where as the Coventry shop delivers in the day and when we started we were all out at work that day.

Anyway thought you might like to see last weeks box. We only get vegs currently because we found we didn't eat the fruit. We have started to eat more again so maybe we will go back to some of each at some point. I would like to point out the pepper in the front.. yes the PURPLE thing in the front is a pepper.. I didn't know they came in purple till we got that one.

We also get milk delivered by a milkman, yes they do still exist and his round finally has enough takers we can get all the milk organic though it costs more. We have been getting organic full fat since the start but he was waiting on enough takers for skimmed as he has to order it is set amounts. We sometimes get broken biscuit boxes of him too and may start ordering a few more bits like fruit juice and yogert though I want to sort a box to go outside so it isn't obvious from the road, no need to tempt people to help themselves after all.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007


Small one finishes nursery on Friday and has his forth birthday party on the Saturday. It is traditional for them to take sweets in for the remaining kids on the last day but I want to do something for the staff as well so plan to do chocolate brownies, which will be gluten free as they come out as good if not better than gluten ones.

I also have THE birthday cake to make. Sponge not fruit cake as he isn't keen on fruit cake which means I have less time to play with as I can't start days in advance. He wants pooh, piglet and tigger on it otherwise he hasn't specified so I could probably get away with the three figures on the top of a normal cake and it would be easier as he also said he wanted strawberries on it. However that seems rather boring to me so I am currently planning to do Pooh's house (which is a door in the roots of a tree stump on a mound) with the three of them standing or sitting on a log outside. Basic idea is round cake with a chuck of the side cut out and piled on top. shaped a bit so it looks like a tree stump on a mound then cover in icing, mould tree roots, door etc in more icing and cover the rest in spiky soft icing to look like grass. Make figures from fondant and log either from fondant or choc mini rolls. It may have strawberries round the base if he insists.

I used to do a lot of decorated cakes but that was 15-20 years ago so I'm a bit rusty. Keep fingers crossed it works. I'm fairly sure the figures will be fine so fall back is a new cake with strawberries. cream frosting and the figures on top.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

New buys

Matalan - home of cheap but vaguely reasonable clothes and scoring surprisingly high on ethical issues.

They also do homeware.

Today we went to find me a new swimming costume and as well as finding one that fits we picked up a pink enamelled colander for a fiver and several Kilner jars, which are hard to get hold of and often expensive, at 2 pounds for a smallish one and 3 pounds for a large one we got several. We also got various other bits and pieces.

The colander doesn't match the units exactly, that would be amazing as they are un-usual colours but it does tone well which i hope you can see in the picture here. It is hard to get both unit colours together as this is the only area of the kitchen where they met. The pinky/purple is a more dusky, purpley colour than the colander but in the same range and the bluer colour has come out quite well in this picture.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Kitchen Cleaning

We spent a good half a day cleaning the kitchen today. One of those top of cupboards to floor type cleaning sessions. Which was very satisfying and also got rid of the bits and pieces that were threatening to stop me having any work surface left.

I even remembered to put the extractor fan filters in the dishwasher though we need to get bulbs for the lights built into that as they both blew recently. I think that is because they are on the same circuit as the socket the kettle was plugged into and that kept tripping the circuit breaker. We now have a new kettle too.

Re-organised a couple of drawers and moved all the biscuit cutters to a tin which now lives on top of a cupboard. We have a LOT of cutters though I seem to have lost most of my normal circular ones. Plenty of letters, numbers, dinosaurs, christmas shapes and ginger bread men though. Can you tell there is a small person in the house?

More worrying we seem to have lost most of our kitchen knives. We are guessing they got taken to a camping event recently and have either gone home with someone else or are packed in a box somewhere.

I think I want to rationalise the baking tins. I have some loose bottom tins which were my gran's and I really think it's time to get replacements however much sentimental attachment I have to them.

Plus a nice stand in the sink type colander. Time to see if Lakelands are still doing enamel ones in colours that will go with the kitchen.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Thai Duck Curry

Long time no posts but I am determined to cook better currently.

I have just joined to keep an eye on what I eat a bit better. I like it cos I can add the stuff I actually eat rather than having to guess the american and/or gluten filled versions.

Anyway on to the cooking. Made a very nice Thai duck curry from a magazine called Fresh, the September issue and it isn't even August yet!. Used green thai paste and it came out very mild and flavoursome. Did some baby corn, borocalli, and peppers with garlic, chilli, fish sauce and soy as an extra and I did a rice noodle, chicken, cucumber and seasame salad in case the smalllest one didn't like the curry. As it was he was too tired to really want to eat anything especially as he had eaten an apple earlier to keep him going. plus of course rice. Apart from the small one not being interested it went down well and there is plenty left for lunch tomorrow.. such a shame :)

Forgot to take pictures.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


First attempt at macarons. Used the recipe from Tartelette. Worked quite well. made a filling from creame fresh, sugar, a bit of lemon juice cos I put to much sugar in and some rose oil.. tasted like turkish delight. Think it was a good first attempt, possibly should have whipped the egg a touch more so they were a bit less flat. I want to experiment with other more stable fillings as I would like to make several batchs so we can fill the cake stand in the previous post and serve them at the next maelstrom event.

Saturday, 23 June 2007


Yoink - to aquire an item of friends or family that they had sitting around which you feel would be better off living with you.

In this case a cake stand which did belong to Tom's sister.

It is actually a lot closer to the colour of the kitchen units than it seems in the picture, possibly one shade different at most but the shiny cupboard compared to the matt finish on the cake stand combined with a flash changed the colour balance quite a lot. The colour of the cake stand is the more accurate one.

It will come on roleplaying events with us to hold biscuits and flapjack and the like and also be used at home i am sure. I think i need to get or make one to go with it which has flat layers too so we can have cupcakes and the like which would do less well in the basket style this one is..

Plum and Walnut bread

Got a couple of punnets of plums from the market at closing time so they were going cheap. I was going to make banana bread but the bananas were to far gone even for that so i decided to use Plums.

Found this recipe so tried it using Dove Farm gluten free flour.

Very nice. the texture was a bit crumbly and it's really a teabread/cake. cake itself is fairly sweet but the plums added a tartness to it and the walnuts added texture.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


Experimenting with Cheesecake as himself promised to make one for work and there is at least one gluten free person there.

That said there is really only the base that needs changing. This one is a biscuit base with a cooked top. Looks great though very homemade, partly cos the tin is very old so i lined it to stop sticking.

Looks great. tastes OK.

The base was nice though I couldn't really taste the cinamon even though it looked loads when we put it in. Biscuits were a GF rich tea which worked well. The top was nice but a little bland. Texture good though so should be easy to improve the taste by adding a little more lemon or some vannila or similar.