Thursday, 29 October 2009

Dietary Specials frozen shortcrust pastry

When we were in Sainsburys at the weekend we checked out the frozen gluten free section as we don't get there very often and they stock a better range than most. I picked up a couple of things i haven't tried before including the shortcrust pastry from Dietary Specials.

I really rate most of the Dietary Specials products I have tried including their bread and pizzas though often I can only find the cheese and tomato ones in most places which is a bit boring.. I've just noticed on the website they have brought out a two fresh breads for ASDA, may have to pop down to ours and see if they have them!

Anyway on to the pastry. It comes in a pack which contains two separately wrapped packages of pastry. Each are weigh 200g and they say each packet will do one of the following.
12 jam tarts
7-9 mince pies
6-8 sausages rolls
18cm (7 inch) plated pie
19-20 cm (71/2-8 inch) flan dish
4 x 9cm (31/2 inch) tartlet dishes

I would say that is pretty accurate really which means a single packet (ie half a pack) is quite a reasonable amount to use at once and by having two in a pack if you want more it's there already.

I used both packets last night so I could give it a good try and out of the 400g I got 1 plated pie, 4 mini flans with decorative leaves on top and 4 jam tarts.. not bad really.

The instructions say once defrosted kneed the pastry for about 2 mins till soft and pliable. When I did this the pastry went from quite hard and crumbly to a very workable soft and pliable pastry. I was really very impressed by how easy it was to roll out. If you read this blog regularly you will know I have tried several pastry recipes from scratch and this was by far the easiest to roll out I've ever used. I was interested to note from the ingredients that it was pretty much starches and the only flour listed was rice flour right at the end of the list it certainly had a very smooth feel to it which reminded me of a home-made cold porcelain recipe I have which has a similar very smooth feel to it.

Once I had made up the tarts I filled them with various fillings. The mini flans got lots of pieces of roast pork and an egg and milk mix and a pastry leave for decoration. Served with home grown pink fir apple potatoes and a Japanese type of spinach from the veg box..

The larger pie was filled with feta cheese and of course the jam tarts got jam.. unfortunately the jam tarts got eaten too fast to be photographed.

The feta pie got topped with caramelised pear and some fresh pomegranate seeds once it had cooled a little.

The pastry held up well, it was quite short and a little crumbly but nothing more than many shortcrust pastries. It didn't burn as easily as some of the pastries I've made and while it was possibly a touch dry on the edges it stayed crisp not soggy under the filling even though I didn't blind bake it first. It was very easy to work and I will seriously consider keeping some in the freezer for occasions when I just want something easy. One of the best gluten free pastries I've ever had to be honest. Dietary Specials do it again... now if they can just do me some puff pastry better than the one I did recently for Daring Bakers they will have my undieing love!

And finally...... this is what happens when you stay up half the night because you are teething!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Daring Bakers go French

Strawberry and chocolate - White tea and rose petals

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This months challenge was French macarons, not the coconut macaroons we can buy fairly easily here, these are the French ones made with almonds, egg white and sugar to be found in multiple pastel colours in very posh looking shops. I've never had a real one made by a professional though I did try making them once before which were OK but rather too sweet for me.

Thank you Ami for giving me the incentive to try again !

This is a naturally gluten free challenge so for once I'm on a par with everyone else so no excuses for not doing as well! To see how I compared check out the other Daring bakers. Some of which are just amazing.

So this month I tried them a couple of times. The first was basically using the challenge recipe though to be fair I got a bit confused at one point about what I was adding where so that might account for them not working quite as well as hoped. I flavoured them with dried strawberries which I dried earlier this year when doing a previous daring cooks challenge. I also added a small amount of pink paste food colouring as we were warned not to add to much extra liquid.. I figured the paste colour was better than liquid.

They did get feet, the crinkly ring round the bottom of the cookie, but they spread too much which made them to flat and too delicate. They were also still a bit sticky so getting them off the sheet was 'interesting' However I sandwiched the ones that survived with a mix of milk chocolate, whipped double cream and fresh strawberries and they were very nice.. though they really needed eating with a spoon.

The second batch was made using Tartelelle's recipe which many people found easier to get good results with. This batch is flavoured with white tea and rose-petals.. basically teabags from The London Tea Company called Crimson Lush emptied into the food processor with the icing sugar and almonds then just a couple of drops of rose oil added. By the way the London Tea Company teas are worth getting just for their origami style boxes which use no glue at all.

Crimson Lush tea and my new Vanilla extract.

The other thing I did differently was age the egg whites by leaving them out on the side for nearly two days. This made the gloopy, jelly like texture of the whites break down some and is meant to help get the right constancy.

If anything they went the other way as some of them ended up with little points not nice flat tops but they stayed much neater little domes and apart from colouring in the oven slightly they look pretty good plus they came off the sheet fine as well.

Much, much less delicate though you still wouldn't want to throw them about. I am not sure if it was the recipe change or the egg whites or just whisking to the right constancy better but these were a definite improvement.

The taste is quite delicate so I went with a cream cheese filling just adding a little icing sugar and vanilla extract so as not to over power the rose and tea flavour.

Neither of these was so over-poweringly sweet as my previous try which I think was my mistake for over sweetening the filling. Don't get me wrong they are sweet but if you make sure the filling is appropriate to the shells you can moderate that quite well. One or two Daring Bakers even did semi savoury ones which I must admit is tempting to try. The strawberry ones were a hit all round but I think the rose ones are a little more adult a taste however I might be surprised. I made them last night after smalls were in bed so they haven't tried them yet. I try not to feed them to much sugar first thing in the morning ! (edit - Noodles, age 6, liked the tea and rose ones until i told him what was in them, he guessed ginger, at which point he wouldn't eat any more and said "Ohh Yukky!! petals are Yukky!" )

Challenge Recipe
(Tartelette's various wonderful versions can be found here )

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons. Esther's note : I agree with this assessment.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Pears and this weeks menu

I never did go scrumping due to Jakey dieing and as it is half team this week we can't go this week either as the area isn't really safe for small people even if it's just the nettles being too high. However before school finished I did get round to picking some of the pears with a few of the kids. There are still huge numbers on the tree though and after the first dish with them i want to go and get a whole bunch more. Unfortunately I can't give them to the kids unless they have a signed letter from their parents agreeing! This will be done when we get the veg garden up and running but has not been done yet so the pears are going begging. If I do pick a bunch more I think the teachers will get some goodies at least! I don't want them going rotten like they did last year if I can help it seems such a waste.

We decided the pears are really cooking pears and indeed they poached wonderfully as the picture above shows. I poached them in a sugar and water mix with some spiced winter fruits cordial by Belvoir added. I served them with vanilla cream for the young ones using some new vanilla extract we just got which is fabulous.

For the adults I made crème brulle, actually the smalls got some the next day it was just to late in the day for them the night before by the time they were made. As you can see from the picture they had a bit of a skin on them straight out of the oven but it was easily removed. Next time I will cook them a little lower I think.

One with a skin, one without.
Anyway on to the menu. As it is half term I will just list the dishes I plan rather than specific days as that will depend on weather and what we end up doing each day. I treated myself to a couple of recipe magazines so a few dishes might be from those too. I got Donna Hay which I hear much about but very rarely see here and Country Kitchen which is a British seasonal based cooking magazine but haven't finished reading yet..

I also picked up some frozen gluten free pastry I've never tried before so watch this space.

1) Baked Potatoes with various fillings

2) Fish pie with sweet potato topping.

3) Polenta terrine from Donna Hay

4) Pear and feta pie.

5) Veg stew with suet dumplings.

This weeks gluten free menu swap is hosted by Celiac Family and the chosen ingredient is cilantro which we call coriander. I do like coriander and might get some from the local Indian shop as a coriander pesto might go very well with the terrine. Go there to check out more gluten free menus.

There are also a lot more menus, some gluten free at Menu plan money at Organized Junkie.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Weekly menu 19th to 23rd October 2009

This week Celiacs in the house is hosting the menu swap and has chosen squash as the weekly ingredient. I like squashes but they arn't as common over here as they are in the states and the slugs ate pretty much all the ones I grew.. from the photo she sent to my phone my mum has had much more luck though.

That said I might get one on thursday in our veggy box and if we did I will tyr and remember to post how I ended up cooking it.

Didn't get much cooking done last week because of all the stress round Jakey dieing but we managed. I want to do more this week and to get on with sorting the allotment befoe it gets to cold.


Monday - beef stew.

Tuesday - mince based bake.. like a moussaka but possibly with corgettes rather than abergines.

Wensday - Pho

Thursday - moroccan aubergine and chickpea salad , roasted califlower with pork chops

Friday - Possibly something sqaushed based if we get one.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Interesting Fact of the day

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and they don't digest digest bread well so bread and milk is not good for them.. leave out meat based (not fish) dog or cat food for them, preferable chicken !

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Daring Cooks make Pho

Argg I'm a couple of days late I completely missed the posting date but i was rather distracted as our three legged cat was found seriously hurt in a neighbours drive Wensday morning. We have had to have him put to sleep, he had been savaged by a dog and was just too badly hurt to keep going, any one of the things wrong with him would have been sortable but all together they were just to much for him.. We will miss him greatly and whoever's dog is responsible is very lucky I don't know who they are!

Anyway after that rather big downer to something all together more tasty.

the Daring Cook challenge this month was Pho by Jaden of Steamy Kitchen.. I used her full length recipe which can be found here on her blog. We have been asked not to post that recipe in full but we were given a shorter one from her up and coming bookcalled The Steamy Kitchen cookbook which will be on other Daring cooks blogs if you wish to look.

I very much recommend this recipe, it was flavourful and very comforting without being overly hot, all of us including the smalls liked it which isn't always true with soup. Even the long version isn't hard it just needs some time around the house rather than sitting over the stove and it's naturally gluten free to!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Menu 12th to 16th Oct 2009

Several colours of beetroot from the allotment.

I didn't get through all the recipes I listed last week but that was because I did other things instead rather than just snacking, if anything they were more healthy and veg based. That included a really nice beetroot and goats cheese side dish one night.

This week Gluten free Goodness is hosting and has picked apples. I'm hoping to go scrumping this week.. ie collecting apples on land I don't own.. to be fair I plan to raid the abandoned allotments not other people's gardens which is the more traditional scrumping target. If the council get their way the trees in those allotments will not be there many more years as they want to build an incinerator on them! I really hope the plan never goes through for more reasons than I can count but top of it is that if we got our act together here and recycled as well as many places (and indeed likely to be forced to by national legislation) are heading for the thing will be a big white elephant we as council tax payers will still have to fund for 30 years to come due to the way they plan to finance it and that I'm very much not happy about as I don't think it is the right thing to deal with our waste and I don't think the way things are going it will be needed either.

Anyway away from politics if I manage to get a bunch of apples I may well be doing a whole load of baking for the freezer as well as making chutney and other such items.

(Edit to add)
Scrumping - (UK phrase, possibly only southern England) To steal apples, normally off the tree. Generally done by young boys taking a pocket full and involved climbing over orchard walls and other such risky behaviour. General considered to be a childish prank rather than a real crime. Probably related in some manner to the drink scrumpy which is a strong, generally cloudy version of cider also form the south west..

The trees I am planning to check out are on effectively waste land and certainly not fruit anyone owns or plans to pick.

Monday - Something aubergine based as per last week as I didn't do that. In answer to a question last week no I haven't tried the curry but it sounded fantastic so I would like to.
Meringue, cream and raspberries from the allotment for pudding.

Tuesday - Sausages with Colcannon potato cakes.

Wednesday - veggy stew with dumplings. Again failed to do this last week but used the vegs for other things :) see below for quick dumpling recipe.

Thursday - Courgette, bacon and brie gratin. I love the sound of this recipe which is rice based.

Friday - Kipper flan with an apple salad.

Dumpling Recipe

To make dumplings mix 4oz flour, 2oz suet, seasoning to taste, some finely chopped onion which has been sweated off a little to soften and some herbs if you like. Add enough water to bring the mixture together, which will not be a huge amount. Shape into small balls and place on the top of the stew about 20-30 mins before it finishes cooking.

I use veg suet purely because I can easily get a gluten free version and the easy to get meat version has wheat flour in it (to keep the strands separate)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Menu 5th to 9th Oct 2009

Where has the year gone? Still it does mean that at the end of this week I get to go on a perfume making course !! It's my birthday treat. I also need to decide what to do about my Kenwood mixer which is playing up. The dealer says it is the motor which is faulty and will cost nearly as much as a new one to fix.. I've only had it 18 months and Kenwoods are meant to last years so I'm not impressed currently but plan to contact them direct this week and see what they say.

Anyway to more interesting things.
The allotment is very much wound down for the autumn but in terms of work we are doing more tidying up and planning for next year. I failed on winter greens this year but plan to get onions, garlic and maybe a few other over wintering things in the next couple of weeks. We did finally clear the brambles off the plum trees on the side of the plot and there was a lot of brambles on that poor tree or should I say trees as there are several there actually.

Saturday's meal the only thing not off the allotment was the protein which was nice.

This week the gluten free menu swap is hosted by Asparagus thin who challenged us to use 10 of her listed superfoods so I have put them in brackets in each day.. how will i do?

Menu for this week

Monday - Swedish meatballs, green beans and rice. (beans, assuming fresh ones count too)

Tuesday - Something aubergine based as we have several from the greenhouse possibly Aubergine parmigiana or charred aubergine and coconut curry. (aubergine otherwise known as eggplant, tomatoes, garlic at least)

Wednesday - Sausage casserole (Greens as a sidedish, garlic and the related onion in the casserole)

Thursday - veg stew with dumplings. (garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans at least)

Friday - pasta and sauce (not sure what sauce as yet)- (probably tomatoes and/or red wine)

Baking - Peanut butter cookies to use up an old jar.
Plus something using raspberries and/or blackberries as we have both from the allotment and well as strawberries and blueberries from the shops (all super foods)

I drink tea everyday as well :) and we regularly have yoghurt as a snack or breakfast or pudding.