Friday, 25 September 2009

The search for a naturally gluten free cupcake

Whilst drooling over the pictures on Sweet Sugar Sixpence's Facebook page, I saw that someone had asked if they did gluten free cakes.  They said they didn't.  Now I can see why, because these ladies make the most delicious, perfect, decadent cakes and why would they want to make a substitute that wasn't quite as good? (as GF cakes rarely are!)  Which got me to thinking about making a delicious, but naturally gluten free cake.  Not something made with crazy mixes of 'flours' but a cake that just didn't have wheat in it.

A few weeks ago I made a rather lovely apple and almond pudding, the topping for which was very cake like, so I used that as the basis for my first experiment.  2 ounces each of sugar, ground almonds and butter with one egg, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and a dash of vanilla essence.  This made enough mixture for 3 muffin cases, just enough for a small trial, and I baked them at Gas Mark 3 for just over 20 minutes.  I tried to take them out at about 18 minutes but they were still a bit wobbly, and they sank considerably as I dithered with the oven door open so might have stayed more risen had I been more patient.  What I hadn't considered was that in the pudding the butter had melted down into the apple and sugar to make a tasty caremalised sauce, but in the muffin cases there was nowhere for it to go.  As a result the pudding topping was a good deal more cakey than the muffins which are quite greasy.  They taste amazing though!

I think they're a promising start.  My next attempt will be made using cream cheese instead of butter, as I've noticed a lot of low carb/gluten free recipes use this quite successfully.  Watch this space!

Sunday, 13 September 2009


I'm trying to eat low carb at the moment, and though I knew I was going to totally abandon the diet for the picnic today (mmmm cupcakes!) I did want to do myself a high protein dish to fill me up so I wouldn't eat too much else, and I settled on a frittata.  I will admit I wanted to make this so I could use me fantastic new Le Creuset omelette pan too!

I checked out a few recipes on the web but ended up winging it.  This is the rough recipe:

1 medium onion thinly sliced and caremalised.
1 red pepper, roasted and diced.
1/2 courgette, fried until brown.
A couple of large achocha, fried until brown.
A few slices of tomato
2 ounces or so of grated chese
6 eggs, beaten

I laid the tomato slices out in the bottom of the pan (the idea was to make an attractive top when the frittata was turned out) then mixed all the other ingredients together in a bowl and poured them on top.  I baked it in the oven at Gas Mark 4 for about an hour until the top was golden and it was nice and set.

Unfortunately when I turned it out the bottom hadn't browned at all, and it didn't look anywhere near as appetising as the top, so I flipped it back over before slicing.  In future I will start the cooking on the hob to brown the bottom too!  I'd also save the cheese for sprinkling on the top to make a cheesey layer as the flavour got a bit lost in the main dish.

Onion Bhajis

I was a little stuck as to what to make for a savoury offering to the picnic we attended today, but decided I've have a go at onion bhajis.  I googled, and the first recipe I came up with was Chef Jorjeena's baked bhaji's made with buckwheat flour.  Allergy friendly too, what more could you ask for?

I cook with my netbook on the worktop in the kitchen beside me, and I found it a bit tricky to keep scrolling up and down between recipe and instructions, so keep this in mind when you give it a try!  The recipe was fairly straight forward and easy to understand though some of the advice like "Cut the onions in half then cut into slices, not too thick nor too thin." were a bit imprecise.  Nevertheless after a short while I had a batch ready for baking.  It didn't /look/ promising, being rather dark brown and gloopy but I had read a comment on the blog where another reader had found their buckwheat flour was a different colour, so I ploughed on.  After the stated cooking time they still looked a bit pale, so I flipped them and cooked them for the same amount of time again; probably 20 minutes on total.  Fresh out of the oven they were tasty.

We also had them the next day, cold at the picnic and they were good.  I'd definitely give this recipe another go, although I might try it with gram (chickpea) flour instead as I wasn't convinced the buckwheat added anything.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Oh but these cakes are divine.  I first had them when a lovely colleague of mine, when I was working out of The Healing Clinic, brought them in to celebrate her birthday.  Pure indulgence, moist, intensely chocolatey with the sensual treat of chunks of cherry floating around.  Mmmm.  The friend mentioned that they were a Nigella recipe, so the next time I needed to make something fabulous, I googled and lo, my google fu was mighty and I found the recipe on Nigella's webiste.

Fabulously easy to make, they can be put together with a single saucepan and minimal faff.  Within the hour you have the most incredibly tempting cupcakes calling "Eat me!  Eat me!" from your cooling rack.  A little while longer and they are topped with an indulgent ganache and anointed with cherries.  Sinful!

The only negative aspect of the cakes this time around came from the Green & Blacks cooking chocolate that I used for the frosting.  A huge amount of oil separated from the ganache and had to be poured off; I've never had this problem using cooking chocolate before I can only put it down to the brand.

And again I must say that if you've found this post because you are looking for someone to make cupcakes for your, for your celebration please take a look at the website of the lovely Sweet Sugar Sixpence ladies.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Carrot muffins with orange topping

What's not to love about carrot cake?  It's moist, sweet, packed with nuts and raisins and aromatic spices like nutmeg and cinammon.  And we all love cupcakes too, the decadence of a muffin case full of cake that's just for us topped with lashings of frosting.  Mmmm.  But so far I've been disappointed by recipes that claim to combine the too.  Until now!
In my vegbox this week from Riverford Organic, came a recipe idea for carrot muffins with orange topping.  Having a bit of a carrot glut I decided to give these a bash with a view to taking them to the 4th annual pagan picnic in Rowntrees Park, York tomorrow. I'm glad I did!  Just had a sneaky test cake (well the box I was going to take them in only held 9 cakes so we had one each!) and they're delicious.  Miniature carrot cakes, just sweet enough that even with a healthy dollop of cream cheese frosting they weren't too cloying.  The recipe is available here on the Riverford website.
Talking of cupcakes, if you've come across this blog looking for someone who can make you the most heavenly cupcakes for your wedding or other celebration, then can I point you to the beautiful (on the inside and the outside) ladies at Sweet Sugar Sixpence?

Friday, 11 September 2009

Poor old trout

My father in law knows a fisherman who sometimes has a lucky day on the river and gives us the extra trout.  I defrosted one this morning for dinner tonight.  Now, usually, I'm pretty good at filleting fish.  Not professional, but pretty good.  But tonight?  Oh dear.  My filleting knife could have done with sharpening I think; I had real trouble sliding it along the spine and ended up with fillets plus extra bits that I trimmed off afterwards.  Not a very tidy job!

I popped the trout in tin foil, drizzled the fillets with honey (local honey from near Scarborough) and added a few flaked almonds before popping in the over at Gas Mark 6.  Meantime I steamed some new potatoes, carrots, leeks and runner beans to go with.

To add insult to injury to the butchered trout I then overcooked the trout and the runner beans were too woody to eat.  Oh dear, not my finest kitchen hour but it was edible!

Food for free

We've been Riverford Organic customers on and off for years now; I say off, because when we first made the move from the beautiful south to Gods own country they didn't deliver in our area and we had to wait a couple of years for normal service to resume.  The boxes are the best quality from many different companies that we trialled, the food is always top quality and usually inspires me with oodles of ideas as I unpack the box on a Friday morning.

They also include a leaflet with the latest news from the farm, keeping you in touch with the problems facing farmers and the seasonality of food.  Today's leaflet was an interesting one.   In short, they think they're going to have too much food to go into the veg boxes this autumn, so they're offering customers the chance to purchase a box that will make dinner for 6-8, for an £8 donation to charity.  Full details are here.

I've asked on Facebook for dinner guests, got a few interested so far.  Should be a fun night, and a good way to try out vegbox cooking!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Blackberry & Apple Jam

My in-laws were kind enough to buy me a jam pan for my birthday last year, which didn't get a lot of use in 2008 (other than some rather awesome beetroot chutney which I promise to blog about some time) but in 2009 it has been more often on the hob than off. I made batches of lush strawberry jam for Haxby Memorial Hall's Family Garden Party in August, and some Cherry Plum & Damson jam from fruit we'd found in the hedgerows (and damsons we bought from a roadside stall).

Whilst out geocaching, my other half had found a great brambling site just outside York, and so we decided we'd have a Sunday afternoon stroll to gather some fruit and make some jam. We duly brambled, with out little boy eating his own bodyweight in blackberries and still wanting more, and came home with just under 4lbs of the luscious fruits ready for jamming and a few elderberries to make up the weight. As we were getting out of the car our neighbour called out to us and spotting shortcakes blackberry face, offered us some cooking apples to go with them. One of the things I love most about living up north is the increased interaction with neighbours and the community.

My Grandmother used to work for Sphere books, and so as a child I grew up with the 'Good Housekeeping Family Library' cookbooks as my sources. Knowing my new found love of all things to go with boiling sugar (I also dabble in making home made boiled sweets), my Mum had passed on the 'Jams & Preserves' title from the series and I turned to this for a recipe. There I found one for Blackberry & Apple Jam. Perfect. A little preparation and boiling later and we had ourselves 10lbs of what looked like beautiful jam.

I tried it on toast for the first time today. Oh. my. gods. It tastes like a blackberry & apple crumble, full of fruity sweetness but with that delicious mouthfeel that only comfort food has. This is not M&S Jam, this is the best jam ever!


Pick over and wash 4lbs of blackberries, put in a pan with 1/4 pint of water and bring to the boil then simmer until soft. Peel, core and slide 1lb 8oz of cooking apples, put into a separate pan with 1/4 pint of water and cook until its pulpy like apple sauce. Add this to the blackberries, and put in 6lbs of sugar. Stir until dissolved as it comes to the boil, then boil at around 220 degrees until you reach the setting point (use the saucer test).

Get out and pick your berries before the season is over!