Friday, 8 October 2010

Gluten Free Goats Cheese & Red Onion Muffins

I've had a real urge to bake today.  It was just the way I wanted to spend the day, in and out of the kitchen as delicious smells wafted around.  Ideally, I wanted to make bread.  Soft loaves that were flavoured with some nice and savoury.  Marbled with pesto or dotted with cheese.  But gluten free bread is not the greatest (or easiest!) thing to pull off, and I didn't really want an imitation.  Just as my cravings started telling me that I wanted tomato soup for lunch a memory tugged at me.  Cheesy muffins.  When my son was little and starting on solids I would quite often whip up a quick batch of these gluten free cheese & onion muffins for lunch; they were quick and above all tasty.  Just the thing to answer the NEED for a cheesy savoury bake!

Todays muffins were a bit more sophisticated than those I made for a little boys first tastes (although he loved them at the grand old age of not-quote-four).  The recipe is a simple one:

Goats Cheese and Red Onion Muffins
5 ounces of plain flour (I used Doves Farm gluten free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
4 fl ounces of milk (I used Rice Dream)
1 pack of Capricorn goats cheese
1 small red onion, diced and fried.

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet and beat to a smooth paste (its quite a runny mixture).  Add the cheese and onions and stir to ensure they're evenly spread through the mixture.  Divide between 6 muffin cases and bake at GM6 for about 20-25 minutes.

Picture to follow once I've worked out why it won't upload!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Lentil soup with chickpea dumplings

Sometimes you've just got to have dumplings.  Yes, another day and another craving for comfort food - at least today I can admit the cause of the cravings is that I am 12 weeks pregnant :)  So yes, that's why the diet has been abandoned and my creativity in the kitchen took a bit of a dip whilst I was in the throes of morning sickness!  I'm now coming out the other side, but craving the stodgy stuff that would do nothing but pile on the weight.  So I decided to see if I could come up with a lower carb, wheat free equivalent to dumplings.  I was slightly hampered by not having any veggie suet in the house but it worked fine with regular margerine.

The soup is my 'whatevers in the fridge that needs eating + lentils' recipe; today we had two bunches of salad onions, carrots, celery and a green pepper which were fried in olive oil with a little garlic.  When they're starting to brown add a cup of red lentils and cover with stock then simmer for 20 minutes or so until the veggies are tender and the lentils are mushed.

Chickpea Dumplings
4 ounces of gram flour
2 ounces of veggie margerine
1/4 cup of rice milk
1/2 tsp of baking powder

Put the gram flour, baking powder and marg into a bowl and mix with your fingers until you get a breadcrumby texture.  Add enough of the rice milk to make a soft dough.  Spoon this onto the top of your cooked stew, cover with a lid and let simmer for another 20 minutes or so until the dumplings are puffy and solid.


Friday, 27 August 2010

Gluten Free, Vegetarian Toad in the Hole

Because of my dietry quirks, I sometimes end up making a dish with ingredients that are so far removed from the original that you wonder if you can really call it the same thing.  But tonight I really wanted to eat toad in the hole.  I craved the soft stodginess of the middle and crisp edges of the outside.  The salty flavours in the egginess of the batter.  Now I have made veggetarian toad in the hall quite succesfuly with Quorn sausages before, but that wasn't what I wanted tonight.  No.  Tonight I wanted roasted veggies.

I started with a past its best aubergine, half a butternut squash, some almost at the end of their useful life mushrooms, a few cherry tomatoes and a couple of onions that were chopped into small pieces, tossed in rosemary infused olive oil and then roasted for 30-40 minutes at GM7.  Whilst that was cooking I whipped up a batch of this Gluten Free Popover (US term for Yorkshire puddings) batter which I've used in the past.  Combined the two in a large baking dish, back in the oven at GM8 for 15 minutes, and then down to GM4 for another 10.  Meantime I whipped up a little batch of onion gravy to go with it - although my SO declared that the toad was better without as you got the full flavours of the veggies.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Blackberry bounty

The boys had been out blackberrying, and come back with a container full of the glistening, beautifully ripe and sweet fruit.  We still have some of last years epic Blackberry & Apple Jam so didn't need to make any more of that, and I've had a hankering to try making my own cordial for a while, so I looked for a recipe to do just that.  Most of the recipes I found asked you to soak the blackberries in vinegar for a week before making the cordial and I wasn't patient enough for that, so I used this one from the Independant although I'm not sure it shouldn't have been blackcurrant rather than blackberry!  It was simplicity itself to make, just simmering up the blackberries with sugar and water, and then straining it.  The resulting cordial was full of blackberry flavour and has gone down really well with everyone I shared it with.  I made 2 litres, and we're almost through that in just over a week!

There were a few blackberries left and I had a real hankering for a cupcake that captured that blackberry crumble and custard flavour.  In my mind I could envision soft yellow vanilla fragranced sponge swirled with blackberry goodness and after a little thinking I decided that my best shot at creating the effect was to use piping bags to swirl the two mixtures together in the muffin cases.

In practice this didn't quite work out how I'd hoped, and I could have got the same effect by adding alternate spoonfuls of mixture like a chocolate marble cake.  The end result were beautiful looking, amazingly fragranced and really delicious.  The balance of vanilla and blackberry created that perfect 'crumble and custard' flavour that I was aiming for.

Blackberry & Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 6)
4 ounces of butter
4 ounces of self-raising flour
3 ounces of sugar (I used light muscovado)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
About handful of blackberries, pureed and strained.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, then add the flour and eggs and beat until well mixed.  Divide the mixture into to parts, add the vanilla extract to one half and the blackberries to the other half.  Combine in the cake cases, then bake at Gas Mark 4 until golden.  Enjoy!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes.

I promise, I do bake other things than cupcakes.  It's just that for a variety of reasons I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately when it comes to the savouries and I've been reserving my creative juices for baking for events which generally means cupcakes.

First up, here are some vanilla cupcakes, topped with a white chocolate buttercream and Yorkshire Roses made from modelling chocolate that I whipped up for Yorkshire Day at our village hall.

The recipe for the buttercream was 280g each of butter and icing sugar combined, then 200g of melted white chocolate poured in.  I found this was a bit thin, and would have thickened it up a bit with some more sugar if I wasn't out of time.  The flavour was great though, very creamy!

Next up is a scarecrow cupcake cake.  My mother in law has bought Hello, Cupcake! and What's New, Cupcake?  and I think I found this design in the latter of the two and decided I wanted to try it out for Lammas.  We made it a family affair, my 3 year old baked the cakes, and we all decorated them together.  Lovely to be able to cook together and make something in honour of the harvest.

We made a slight adaptation in that I didn't use shredded wheat or crackers to mae the 'straw' and hate but instead used the modelling chocolate again.  I pushed it through a sieve to get the straw effect and used old fashioned modelling techniques to make the rest.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Alice in Wonderland cupcakes and gooseberry tarts

First things first!  Here are the toppers that I made with the modelling chocolate I blogged about recently.  Really pleased with them!  They are coconut lime cupcakes, with a coconut buttercream.  I sprinkled them with decorators sugar and edible glitter, then added silver & green dragees to match the wedding theme and finally the white chocolate toppers.  They looked great, tasted wonderful and garnered me many compliments.  They made an amazing display at the wedding together with some fantastic cupcakes from other bakers, a very eclectic and tasty mix!

Next, its the height of summer and the garden is producing its treats for us; this week we harvested gooseberries.   Plenty of them but tiny!  So it seemed only fitting to make them into miniature tarts.  I lined my mini-muffin tin with sweet shortcrust and baked them blind for about 10 minutes.  Spooned in a little quark mixed with an egg yolk and some more sugar and topped with gooseberries.  They baked for about twenty minutes until they were golden and delicious.

Biting into them, they were the perfect combination of tart gooseberries, sweet pastry with the quarky filling just bridging the gap between the two.  Delicious!  If you don't have quark then creme freche would do the same job.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Prizes and chocolate clay

Remember back in April I was joint winner at Home Baked's monthly competition? Here's the badge to prove it :)

It's been a while since I posted, mostly due to the fact that I've been dieting, which of course means far less baking. I've been following an adapted version of the Dukan Diet, and so far its working well for me - half a stone lighter!  There was also the small matter of being cookerless for a few days due to a grillpan fire!  However, with a few big occasions coming up I've been thinking cakes.  I'm on a mission to decorate cakes in things that people will eat; much as I love what you can do with modelled fondant, I don't like the taste of the stuff.  Whilst enjoying SeriousCakes videos on YouTube I came across Candy Clay (also known as chocolate clay or modelling chocolate) and decided I wanted to have a go.

It's ridiculously easy to make; melt 10 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler and when its all melted remove from the heat and add 4 ounces of glucose syrup.  Mix until it starts to seize and then put into a baking tray lined with wax paper or clingfilm and leave to set for 24 hours.  After that time you get a fairly solid mass, but break bits off and warm them in your hands and you have a pliable chocolate dough.  Make it with white chocolate, as I did, and you can colour it with food colouring to make all sort of shapes and colours.  As a rank amateur I've made some cupcake toppers for a wedding next weekend that I think are pretty amazing!  I will post pictures after the event, I don't want to spoil the surprise for the bride!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


I wanted something bread like but more suited to my low carb desires and wheat free needs, so I went in search of a recipe for bread made with gram flour (chickpea flour).  One of the results that came up was this video from Manjula's Kitchen over on YouTube.  I watched it, and it looked simple and sounded really tasty so I made a batch for lunch; and thus started an addiction!  We've now had this recipe three ways, with butternut squash, onion and the courgettes as recommended in the original.  They are /so/ good.  Really flavourful and they have a great texture that is all comfort food whilst they're still prety virtuous on the dietry front.  I am going to experiment and add some grated apple and cinammon in place of the cumin and see how they are as a breakfast dish.

Manjula's husband is on to something when he wants to eat these every day!

A dosa cooking, they don't hang around long enough afterwards to photograph :)

Friday, 28 May 2010

Salad Days

Our garden is lush and green right now, we have two patches of cut and come again salad and a pot of pea shoots (we just planted some dried peas, the kind you make mushy peas with, and cut them when we want  a salad or stir fry.  So good!) so on a warm day like today when you want a lunch idea salad is a real no brainer.  Our vegbox came complete with little gems, cherry tomatoes and juicy red peppers so I topped these with some Quorn pieces, added some mustard and honey to some mayonnaise and poured it over the top.  Delicious!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cupcake experiments - flat or domed?

I've been reading a lot of blogs and watching a fair few YouTube videos as I plan some of the upcoming baking projects that I have in mind and in one, which I do not know, I came across the suggestion that if you wanted flat tops to your cupcakes you should cream the butter and sugar first, if you wanted domes then you used the all in one method.  Intrigued (and still bored from being house bound!) my little boy and I set out to devise an experiment to see if this was true.  We made a 2 ounce mixture each (that is 2 ounces each of butter, sugar and self raising flour with 1 egg and a splash of vanilla), he used the all in one method and I creamed.  We used different colour cake cases to ensure we knew which was which and put them in the oven with high expectations!

The result?  You really couldn't see any difference between the two methods.  The creamed is on the left and the blue on the right in the above picture.  They all tasted good though :)

Poorly party cakes

My little boy has had chicken pox this week, so we've been housebound and entertaining each other with lots of painting, crafts and of course baking.  On Friday some friends were due to come over with their 1 year old in the hopes of infecting him, so I decided we'd make some cakes for the 'poorly party'.  My boy decided he wanted vanilla cakes, and I had some orange buttercream in the freezer that I got out for the occasion.  We covered each cake with a little layer of the buttercream and then coloured some blue and some green for decoration.  We used spotty cake cases, and our plan was to decorate the cakes in spots too however artistic license and 3 year old enthusiasm took over when we were actually icing them - piping bags are FUN!

Aubergines in honey and almond sauce

The photo really doesn't do this one justice!  We had a couple of aubergines to use up, and I really fancied making it with the Al'fez Honey and Almond Tagine Sauce that I adore but the cupboard was bare.  Doh!  Not to be deterred, I thought back to the vegan carbonara sauce that I'd tried a while back and though that I could probably do something similar here.  The result was just what I was looking for.  Almondy with hints of honey, cinammon and nutmeg.  We had it with quinoa for a low carb, high protein feast for the senses!  Here's how I did it...

Heat some sunflower oil in a pan and add a cinammon stick, fry until the flavour is released and then add a chopped onion and the aubergine, cook until soft adding water if necessary.  Meanwhile in the blender whizz up 1 cup of almonds with 1 tbsp of peanut butter, a clove or two of garlic and a couple of tablespoons of honey. Take 300ml of stock and add just enough to get the nuts blended, then when its houmousy in texture add the rest of the stock.  Pourt this onto the cooked aubergine and onion, cook through (it will thicken up when heated) and then add grated nutmeg.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Banana and peanut butter muffins

I watched a few more of SeriousCakes videos on YouTube this morning. That woman can do things with buttercream that just leave me in awe, truly. If you have a few minutes take a look at the Carousel cake or the Hydrangea cupcakes (going to be trying that technique sometime this week, time permitting). I made the mistake of watching before breakfast, and of watching her decorate a peanut butter cake; and that was it. The craving for peanut butter began.

Google turned up quite a few peanut butter muffin recipes, but The Goddess's Kitchen had a nice recipe from Rachel Allen for Banana and Peanut Butter muffins. They looked great in the picture and so I set about making them. They were quick to put together, I made a half a batch which should theoretically have been 6 muffins but ended up making 12! I added in some chocolate chips for additional nomminess (my new word for the day) and subbed vegetable oil for melted butter because, after a week of constant colds and headaches I'm behind with my washing up and didn't have a spare pan just to melt butter *insert blushing smiley here*

I'd expected them to be quite heavy between the peanut butter, the oats and the banana but actually they were incredibly light! The flavour was a great balance between the peanuts and the banana, and the chocolate was a good addition. We had two each for brekkie. Delicious!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Maypole Cake

It's Beltane!  As a (neo-)pagan, I like to celebrate the sabbats with food.  We usually have a special meal, with incorporates themes for the season, but I also like to make a cake.  As Beltane approached and I pondered what to make for the season, a thought kept popping into my head - a maypole cake.  I mentally planned it and started scouring YouTube for howto videos to help me with the techniques I'd need to learn.

I started off yesterday by making my first ever bactch of Swiss meringue buttercream, which came together really well (although I used a butter substitute so the flavour wasn't great).  I used this recipe, and made half the quantity.

This morning I started the day by baking Delia's Squidgy Chocolate Log, not least because its a flour and dairy free recipe and so friendly to my dietry foibles!  Once it was cooled, I filled it with about 1/3 of the buttercream mixture and, with a prayer to the Gods of the kitchen, I rolled it.  Success!

I split the remaining buttercream into two large portions and one tiny which I coloured red, white and green with paste colours.  Then I went to work with the techniques I'd picked up on YouTube!  I used a 'basket weave' technique to represent the ribbons coming down the cake.  Piped a mess of green around the top for a  garland and then, with more prayers to the Gods of the hearth, I tried my hand at buttercream roses.  I have to thank SeriousCakes for their YouTube Video 'Buttercream Roses, 3 methods' which was an immense help!

Nothing went horrendously wrong, and I was really pleased and proud of the cake once it was done.

If you're interested in Maypole cakes, then HomeBaked blogged their take on the idea yesterday!

Friday, 30 April 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms

We got our weekly vegbox from Riverford Organic today.  It's always good and packed full of things to inspire me in the kitchen during the week and today was no exception.  There they were, three beautiful, perfectly fresh and delicious looking chestnut mushrooms just asking to be stuffed.  I took the stalks out and peeled them, then popped them under the grill to start cooking down as I made the stuffing.  Onions, the stalks, peppers, and tomatoes were fried until cooked and the liquid was gone then mixed with a chopped ball of mozarella and a tablespoon of wild garlic pesto that my SO made a few weeks ago.  The mushrooms were topped and popped back under the grill until the cheese was golden and then we enjoyed them with some rocket and cherry tomatoes.  Excellent!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Not quite Naan Bread

Naan bread is one of the things I miss about being gluten free.  There's something very special about dipping chunks of warm, flavourful, buttery bread into curries and delivering it to your tastebuds.  Wonderful!  Now this recipe is a very happy accident.  It came about when I was trying to make my frying pan corn bread and wanted to go lower carb so tried using gram flour in the place of the polenta.  It came out great and slightly naan bready in flavour, so the next time around I tried it with just gram flour.  It's not quite a naan bread, but if you're on a gluten free diet, or just going low carb, this is a great way to almost get a naan bread.

Not quite naan bread
1/2 cup of gram flour
1/4 cup of milk
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp ghee or ground nut oil

Heat a small frying pan and add the ghee or oil.  In a bowl mix the other ingredients together to make a smooth batter.  Pour into the pan and cook on a medium heat until the bottom is golden, then turn and cook the other side.

We've had this plain and we've had this Peshwari style, by adding dessicated coconut, raisins and flaked almonds to the pan once the bottom has started to cook and patting them down into the mixture.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cauliflower 'rice'

I'm still experimenting with a low(er) carb diet.  Not Atkins or South Beach or anything like that, just trying to eat lower GI foods than I generally would, and increase the protein content.  Whilst looking for recipes I came across one for cauliflower rice which sounded intriguing.  Now, cauliflower and I used to be best friends.  It was my favourite vegetable.  I loved it with white sauce particularly, and a good buttery cauliflower soup was a real treat.  Then I got pregnant.  For some reason cauliflower became my nemesis.  At one point if someone even said the word to me, I was sick!  Even now I just don't enjoy the flavour any more, so when I read that this cauliflower rice didn't really taste of cauliflower I wondered whether this would be a good way to wean myself back on to the stuff that I used to adore, both cooked and raw.

To make cauliflower rice, you just cut a head of cauliflower into pieces and grate it in the food processor.  The result is a rice-like mixture that just needs a little cooking.  Most of the recipes I found used a microwave but not being a fan of the thing that goes beep, I decided I'd try a fried rice approach instead.  I sauteed an onion in some vegetable oil, then added the cauliflower and cooked over a medium heat, turning regularly, until the texture was rice like.

The result was very light and tasty, like the fluffiest of rice.  You really weren't aware you were eating cauliflower, and it was a great partner to the vegetable curry I had made to go with it.  I have to say, I'm a convert!  I'm really looking forward now to trying this 'rice' in some of my favourite recipes, including Paella.

Wild Garlic and Soft Cheese Gnocchi

Home Baked blogged about wild garlic and ricotta gnocchi a few days ago, I mentioned this to my SO and said it sounded good and so the next time he came across a patch of the stuff he brought it home for me. Wild garlic is wonderful stuff. All the aroma of the 'real' thing with none of the heat, it has a subtle flavour and wilts like spinach into any dish you care to put it in. Soup, stew, stir fries, curries; you name it, it tastes good in it.

We didn't have any ricotta in the fridge, but we did have a tub of soft cheese, so I checked out a few ricotta gnocchi recipes and adapted to come up with this:

Wild Garlic and Soft Cheese Gnocchi (serves 3-4)
1 1/4 cups of plain flour
8 ounces of soft cheese
1 egg
A bunch of wild garlic, finely chopped

Mix the ingredients together to form a dough, adding extra flour as needed until you can work it into small balls.  Make your sauce.  Boil some water and add the gnocchi, cooking for 2-3 minutes.  They will rise to the top during cooking but leave the in for the full time to ensure they are cooked in the centre.  Eat with the sauce!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Coconut Lime Cake with Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

I've become a regular reader of Home Baked, a blog about baking and home educating.  Whilst I don't plan to home educate my son, I'm not ruling out the possibility that we might end up doing it; and in any case there are some great examples of activities to do with bright and active kids which are always handy to have.

Each month the blog has a competition, I entered last months on fantasy food with a bath of my Pop Biscuits, though sadly for me I missed the deadline!  I was determined not to repeat the mistake this time, although when I first read the theme of 'Spring Greens' I didn't have the slightest bit of inspiration.

And then it came to me.  Coconut Lime cake.  I've been wanting to have a crack at this Delia recipe for a while, and this seemed the perfect opportunity.  We had a fresh coconut in the fridge so I grated that up to go in, but unfortunately didn't have the coconut milk powder (or any Malibu to add coconutty-ness). It smelt heavenly as it baked, and my three year old was tempted to steal a piece as it cooled.  Cheeky!  I thought it might go well with a cream cheese frosting, so googled until I came across this Key Lime Frosting recipe, and made that with my rather mundane bottle of lime juice.  I tossed a little dessicated coconut in Apple Green food colouring and scattered it over the top.  Voila!  A spring meadow that only wanted for a few sugar flowers to make it perfect.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Lavender Cupcakes

With Ostara coming up my thoughts turned to what I could bake that would really encapsulate the essence of spring.  Now when I think spring, I think that warm sunshine on your face, the emergence of the first green and spring flowers.  But how to put that into a cake?  Well, a few months ago I was reading Sweet Sugar Sixpence's blog that they had been making rose and lavender cupcakes.  The idea stuck in my mind and popped out again for this baking conundrum, and so I did some googling until I found a recipe that looked like a good contender on the Homes and Property website.  I have a huge bag of lavender seeds in my craft room that have been hanging around for a while, bought for making fragranced wheat bags and now sitting waiting for something else so that wasn't a problem to find.

The recipe was an easy one to follow, so long as you remember to put your flowers into the milk to infuse in plenty of time the rest is child's play.  The mixture smelled divine, the aroma as they cooked was a warm meadow and once they were frosted and ready to eat?  Moist, fragrant, heaven.  My SO, not really the sort to resort to purple prose dubbed them 'like eating part of spring'.  The lavender flavour was perfectly balanced, it wasn't subtle, there was no doubt that you were eating a lavender cake but it also wasn't overpowering.  They were, in a word, wonderful.

Thoughts of rose cakes were abandoned for now (perhaps for one of the summer sabbats!) and the lavender has been declared the official cupcake of spring.

Just a note, the recipe made 12 cupcakes, not the muffin size cakes, and the frosting volume could probably be halved unless you want a really thick layer.  They looked so pretty topped with a sugar flower (even if the frosting split because I used dairy free spread!).

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Banana Muffins

Bananas.  We love them, and yet there always seems to be that few that go brown and don't get eaten (especially as I myself like my nana's barely ripe, there's like a 24 hour window in which I will actually eat one before the flavour gets too ester-y for me and I give up on them.  However brown bananas give us opportunities for bakery, and necessity is the mother of invention.  So when I have a few brown nanas I either bake up some sugar free banana bread (I will blog this one day, it so good you'd never know it was sugar free), make banana pancakes or banana muffins.

Scouting around for a new nana muffin recipe to try I came across this one on the BBC Good Food site.  It looked simple and tasty, and didn't have a high sugar frosting to it so was more suitable for the bevy of under 5's I was planning on feeding them to!  A simple walnut adorned the top.

They rose beautifully, the recipe says it makes 10 but it easily made 12.  Their surprisingly light and the banana isn't overpowering.  I'm sure they would taste awesome with a cream cheese frosting, or served with creme freche as the recipe suggests, but they were also really, really good plain!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Garlic spiked aubergine

I love aubergines. I love moussaka, Imam Bayildi (the Imam fainted, who can't love a dish that's so good it makes a holy man swoon!), I love it stuffed in a veggie curry or chilli, or just grilled in great slices until its soft and flavoursome. I'm always looking for new ways to cook them though, and when I came across a recipe for Garlic Spiked Aubergine I just couldn't resist. Its from Catherine Mason and Elda Abraham's Vegetable Heaven cookbook, although in that they top it with a breadcrumb crust which I ignored for the sake of my gluten free needs (Orgran make gluten free breadcrumbs and whilst theses are great for bulking out burgers etc. they are far too dry for a crust of any kind). This recipe basically called for halving the aubergine, making deep scores in it into which you put thin slices of garlic (a clove per half), brushing with olive oil and then baking in a medium oven in an oiled dish for about an hour. The top was toasty, the flesh was soft and the flavour was wonderful! So simple and so good.

To partner this, I made up a quick chick pea and tomato dish, frying onions and garlic before adding a tin of each of the main ingredients and letting it simmer for a while. I served this with a side of corn bread, not the muffins that I have previously blogged about, but my pancake style recipe which is so quick and easy its untrue.

Pancake style corn bread
1/4 cup of polenta
1/4 cup of plain flour (works great with Dove's Farm Gluten free!)
1/4 cup of milk (works great with Rice milk)
1 egg
1tsp Baking powder
2 tbs oil

Heat a pan over medium heat, and warm up 1 tbs of the oil. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl. Add to the pan and cook until the bottom is brown (in my omelette pan the top is still liquidy at this point but it depends on the circumference of your pan!) Flip over and cook until both sides are brown. Serve!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sweetcorn Fritters

I love El Piano in York. It's a vegan, gluten and nut free restaurant and is the one place in the world (other than their branch in Spain) where I can eat everything on the menu without thinking about it twice. Which would be great in itself, but when you add in that the food is tapas style, spans the world in its influences and the setting is a funky, upbeat and casual restaurant you have a recipe for a very happy me. On a recent visit with non-veggie, non-coeliac friends who love the place too, my SO bought me the El Piano cookbook. Glee! It's a great book for cooks (it assumes you know how to make basic food already) packed full of simple recipes for some of the tastiest food on the planet. Since I've had it, I've made dinner from it multiple times but its been so good I haven't paused to take pictures or blog about it! We ate butternut squash curry and coconuty dhal, we've had aubergine bake (with tomato, pepper and fennel sauce) and today for lunch we had sweetcorn fritters.

Like the other recipes, this one is nice and simple. You whizz up a tin of sweetcorn, in its juice, in a food processor then add chilli, chopped onion, sugar (which I think you could probably cut down on the recipe quantity) and polenta to make patties which are deep fried til golden. We ate them with a salad and some sweet chilli dipping sauce which was a great combo. I was scaling down the recipe and guestimated the amount of sugar, but think I would probably drop it a little lower next time around as they were a bit too 'cakey' in their sweetness for my taste. Made in less than 20 minutes though!

The book itself is bright and colourful, and written in a casual style. Each page is a recipe which is written in a step format rather than the usual ingredients then method style. Most recipes are 4 or 5 steps. One thing I love about El Piano is how packed with flavour all their dishes are, and looking at the recipes has taught me a few new techniques that I've already taken elsewhere.

The recipe book is available from their website or the restaurant itself.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Cute bread rolls

On Saturday we set off for a return visit to the excellent Imbolc Fire Festival in Marsden, West Yorkshire.  Although it celebrates the pagan festival of Imbolc, its actually a civil event that's put on by the local council.  They arrange activities over a couple of weeks including a lantern making workshop, singing and more besides.  It's a great even to attend with a torchlight procession through the village that culminates in a fire circus, fireworks and an epic battle between Jack Frost and Jack o'the Green to ensure we've seen the last of winter!

This year we decided that we'd head over to Marsden early, grab a couple of geocaches and something to eat, and then do the lantern walk.  Unfortunately we didn't manage the caches, but we did find The New Inn and had a really excellent meal.  They had some really nice ideas that I hadn't seen before, one of which was a 'kiddicino'; a cappucino without the coffee for the kids!  My three year old was thrilled to be able to have one.  But the thing that I am blatantly stealing for my meal tonight is: bread rolls baked in a muffin tin!

Such a simple idea, but so cute!  One batch of fresh bread dough was enough for 12 of these delightful little bready morsels.  The perfect size for a dinner rolls with a beautiful domed top.  Who could resist?  I'm serving them tonight with a vegetarian moussaka which I will blog, if I remember to take a picture before we eat it - unlike last time!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Pop Biscuits

I was an avid reader as a child, particularly enjoying fantasy stories like CS Lewis' Narnia series, and Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree series.  Those of you familiar with Blyton will likely remember as fondly as I do that every story involved food.  Whether it was fresh bread, warm milk, cakes or lashings of ginger beer, the characters always indulged themselves in something that really tempted the senses.  One tidbit that always stayed with me were the 'Pop Biscuits' that Silky the fairy made in the Faraway Tree books.  Biscuits that popped when you bit them, and oozed a liquid honey centre.  They sounded fantastic.

So when it came to planning the Imbolc baking this year, I knew that the milk and honey oriented temptation I would offer to guests had to be pop biscuits.  Had to be!  My first port of call was of course, google.  Someone had to have done this before, right?  Right.  I came across a blogger who had used Brooke McLay's recipe over on Tongue-N-Cheeky to make some little shortbread biscuits with a hollow centre that went pop when you bit into them.  So 50% there.  Had the pop but not the delicious honey centre.  I tried a batch but didn't get the hollows; what I did get however was a particularly hard but tasty little shortbread button.  Which got me thinking.

What about making shortbread, rolling it, and using it to line a little tart tin?  Mince pies, but with shortbread in place of the pastry and honey in place of the mincemeat?  If you baked the shortbread low enough and for a short enough time then that might work, I thought.  So I tried it.

Pop Biscuits Recipe
175g of plain flour (I used Dove's Farm gluten free)
100g of butter
50g of sugar
Set honey

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3.  Cream the butter and sugar until soft, slowly add the flour until you have a stiff dough.  Knead until its sticking together well, then roll out as thin as you can without it tearing and use to line a yorkshire pudding tray.  Add about 3/4 of a teaspoon of set honey to each, then top with a shortbread lid.  Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, leave to cool before removing from the tin!

I had one still warm from the oven and ooooooh my goodness.  Heaven.  That warm honey centre is such a treat.  When they were cooled they were almost as good though, a crisp shortbread biscuit with a gooey honey centre.  A real treat.  They went down very well with the guests who stopped by soon after!

I think with a little experimentation the biscuit could be improved though, perhaps adapting the Tongue-N-Cheeky recipe a little to get a real 'pop' when the biscuit was opened.  Watching the cooking time and perhaps chilling the honey first could all help contain it (it had leaked in places from this batch).  But honestly? That's just being pernickety.  These were gooooooooood.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Marzipan and Hazlenut Cookies

Remember back in December I was looking for my Marzipan and Hazlenut Cookie recipe and I found a Cherry and Marzipan one instead?  Well, a little post festive sort out had me reunited with my recipe folder, which I sorted into a new expanding file and amongst the mess was the original Waitrose recipe card.  Hurrah!

The perfect excuse to make them was to go visiting a friend who is expecting a baby very soon.  I made a batch and found them as excellent as I remembered - but unfortunately forgot to get any photographs before they were delivered and eaten!  Here is the recipe though:

Marzipan and Hazlenut Cookies
175g of butter at room temperature
175g of caster sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
75g of hazlenuts, chopped and lightly toasted
100g of plain flour
100g of self-raising flour
75g of Marzipan, roughly chopped
75g of dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.  Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy.  Add the flour to the bowl, then add the other ingredients before you mix it all in together.  Shape the dough into 16 balls, place on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.

These are an incredibly indulgent cookie, beautifully chewy with crunchy hazlenuts acting as a counterpoint to little pockets of marzipanny delight and the warm, chocolately goodness.  I will bake some more, soon, and will do my best to take some pictures before they're all gone this time!

Red Onion Tarte Tatin

A friend of my SO's sent him a message to ask for French vegetarian dishes.  He asked me.  I thought about it for a moment or two and suggested a red onion tarte tatin, and then flipped through the nearest cookbook to come up with a gratin recipe.  But the idea of a red onion tarte had worked its way into my brain, and I wanted to make it.  So I looked through a few online recipes and found one on Delia Smith's website which looked like what I wanted.  Except...well I sort of had a feeling that some goats cheese melted on the top would be divine.  The next recipe I looked up was a Jean-Christophe Novelli that was more complicated, but had goats cheese added at the end!  So I decided to marry the two things up.

I halved enough red onions to cover the bottom of my Le Creuset omelette pan, melted some butter and added a little sugar to it, then lay the onions in cut side down and cooked them for a few minutes.  I added a dash of balsamic vinegar and cooked them a little longer, then popped them in the over at Gas Mark 4 for about half an hour (they were small onions, larger ones will take longer!).  Back on to the hob to reduce any onion juices, and I topped them with some gluten free shortcrust pastry I had found in the freezer and baked them for another half an hour until that was golden.  I flipped the whole tarte onto a baking sheet, dotted with goats cheese and popped it back into the oven to melt.  Delicious!

Low carb pancakes

So I am working on losing the half a stone that I somehow (I have no idea how!  It can't have been all the rich food and chocolate, surely?) during the festive season.  One way I've found effective in the past is to eat a high protein, lowish carb diet.  I'm not talking Atkins, as I think that approach is too extreme, but upping the protein content significantly and substituting other things for rice and potatoes.  I lost a reasonable amount of weight doing this last year, so I'm hoping I can do the same again this.  Plus of course, it brings with it a whole range of cooking challenges!

Now, I am not really a breakfast person.  It tends to take me at least an hour after I've woken up before I can face food, and when I can it needs to be something sweetish.  Danish Pastries, pancakes, muffins...and yes, you will see the pattern there that they are all carbs!  So this is my variation on a low carb, gluten free pancake.  You know what?  They're surprisingly good and very filling!

Low carb pancakes
1 tbsp yoghurt (I use Sojade Soy yoghurt)
1 egg
3/4 cup of mixed nuts and seeds (my mix today was linseed, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews.

Blitz the ingredients together in a blender until they're as smooth as they'll get.  Add to a frying pan that's been greased and cook over a moderate heat, flipping when one side gets brown.  Enjoy!

And yes, I know the maple syrup isn't low carb.  So sue me ;)

Monday, 11 January 2010

Chickpea fritters with tikka sauce

I love chickpeas.  They're substantial and comforting, warming and filling and go well with the other flavours I like to eat.  Tomatoes, aubergines, garlic, harissa paste.  Mmmm.  So when I was leafing through the New Cranks Cookbook this was one that popped out at me for trying.  Now chickpeas aren't a problem, because I love them they are ever present in my store cupboard in both dried and tinned forms however I didn't have any soy yoghurt for the tikka sauce.  I did however have a jar of Meridian Dairy and Gluten Free Tikka Massala sauce so I decided to use that instead.

The basic recipe was for 6 so I halved quantities but it still made enough patties for 4 (unless you're a very big eater!) served with pilau rice.  It was a good meal but would I think have been better paired with some pitta bread and a green salad.  I soaked 4 ounces of dried chickpeas overnight in water, then blitzed them in the food processor for about 15 seconds until they were grainy, then transferred them into another bowl.  I then put a (drained and rinsed) tin of chickpease into the processor with the juice of a lime and a tablespoon of the tikka cause and whizzed them until they were mostly mushed.  That went into the bowl with the dried chickpeas, some diced red onion and it was mixed together and left to stand for 20  minutes to let the flavours mingle. I then formed patties (it made about 10) which I shallow fried on a mediumish heat for a few minutes a side until they were golden brown.

Oh but these were good!  Deliciously crisp and nutty on the outside, and temptingly soft on the inside.  The tikka sauce was a great match (though home made would be a million times better!) and with the rice it was a filling meal.  They were also great cold the next day!  Not so dry as a falafel but not quite a veggie burger either.  They're a part of my repertoire now!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Roast Salmon, Braised Fennel and Wild Rice Pilaf

We're a mostly vegetarian household, but every once in a while we like to eat a bit of fish.  My 3 year old is particularly fond of salmon.  We had some steaks that needed using up tonight, and some 'mini-fennel' that I wanted to braise.  I knew I wanted to make rice the accompaniement, and remembered reading a nice pilaf recipe on Cafe Karma, so refreshed my memory with it and rustled that up too.

I didn't have a wild rice mix, or any spinach, and used a combo of chestnut and oyster mushrooms but otherwise I stuck pretty true to the recipe as it appeared on Cafe Karma.  The fennel was browned in olive oil then popped in a medium oven for about half an hour until soft.  The salmon was topped with freshly ground pepper and a bay leaf and roasted in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.  It was a really great combination!  The rice was nutty and the cranberries added a real burst of flavour, and the whole thing worked together really nicely.

Fresh Bread

You really can't beat the smell, taste or texture of fresh bread, straight from the oven. It's something I really miss about not being able to eat wheat. However my SO and my son are both good with wheat, and if they're going to eat it then I'd rather they were eating good quality ingredients made with care so, when I have the time, I bake bread for them.

I've heard a lot of talk over the years about baking bread being hard, or time consuming or generally too much trouble. I don't agree. The result that you get is so far removed from a loaf of supermarket polystyrene pap that you can't really compare the two things at all! Real bread is crusty on the outside, soft in the middle and packed with flavour. Yes it takes a couple of hours from starting the loaf to finishing it, but you don't need to stand over it all the time! You can just set it to rise and go do something else.

My basic loaf recipe, for a 2lb loaf tin is:

8 ounces of flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 pint warm water

Put the dry ingredients into the bowl then add the water gradually, depending on the flour you're using you may need more or less than the 1/2 pint. Stir some of the water in and mix with a knife until you have a craggy dough, then add the oil, mix some more and start trying to work it into a ball. Stop adding water when the dough comes together into a ball. Knead in the bowl for a while, then transfer to a well floured worksurface and knead for a few minutes before returning to the bowl and leaving in a warm place to rise for an hour.

Take the risen dough (it should have about doubled in size) out of the bowl and knead it well again, then shape it or pop it into the tin and leave it to rise again for about another half an hour. When that's done, it goes in the oven at Gas mark 7 until its brown and crusty (about 45 minutes). To test if its done, turn it upside down and tap the bottom, if it doesn't sound hollow them pop it back in the oven upside down for a few minutes until it does.

Mushroom and Goats Cheese Risotto

Risotto is one of my standby, last minute lunch or dinner ideas.  I admit I don't make it 'properly'.  I usually don't have time to stand there stirring in a little stock at a time, so I tend to bung it all in at once and let the rice cook.  It tastes good, but I will make it the proper way one day just to see if there's a difference :)  Today I was still revelling in the delicious goodies that had come from Ocado, and wanted to use the chestnut and oyster mushrooms I had in the fridge.  Had I been more organised I'd have pre-soaked some dried porchini for that extra mushroomy flavour but...I didn't.

Mushroom and Goats Cheese Risotto
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
About 250g of mushrooms, best if a couple of varieties are used
1 cup of risotto rice
Vegetable stock
Soft goats cheese
A little olive oil

Add oil to pan and heat, then gently cook the onions until transluscent before adding the mushrooms and garlic and cooking for a while.  Then add the rice, stirring well before pouring in the stock (you need to have about a thumb nails height above the level of the rice in the pan).  Cook until all the water is absorbed then stir in the goats cheese and serve!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Potatoes with Red Onions & Tomatoes and Filled Aubergine Rolls

Last year for Christmas I asked for a copy of The New Cranks Recipe Book by Nadine Abensur.  Cranks was a chain of wholefood restaurants that pioneered veggie cuisine, but sadly closed in 2001.  I can't remember where I came across the book to ask for it, but Santa bought it for me in 2008 and it has sat unopened on my kitchen bookshelf ever since.  We get a vegbox delivery, so can't order in specific things for recipes usually, and when I do want to try something different I usually google for a main ingredient and pick something from the list.  My recipe books are therefore sadly neglected but I wanted 2010 to be a year of experimentation and so, as we were having to order from the wonder Ocado this week, I chose a few recipes I wanted to try from Cranks.

I picked two dishes that were recommended to go together; Potatoes with Red Onions and Tomatoes, and Filled Aubergine Rolls.  The potatoes were tossed in olive oil with crushed garlic, salt and pepper, had slices of tomato and red onion nestled between and popped into a low oven for an hour.

Whilst they baked away nicely, the aubergines were halved and the flesh taken out, then the shells were baked at gas mark 6 for half an hour until they were soft.  Meantime the centres were sauteed with garlic, tomatoes and a touch of balsamic until soft.  Fennel and peppers were quick fried next (the recipe called for courgettes which I didn't have).  The recipe also called for a can of kidney beans, but I could see I was going to have way too much filling anyway so just tossed in some edamame and mixed all the veggies together.  The aubergines came out of the oven, were spread with pesto, topped with thin slices of smoked cheese and topped with the veggie mix before rolling and securing with toothpicks.

Then back in the oven surrounded by the rest of the filling, this time with the potato dish now with the lid off.  A quick blast of heat to get it all crisped and melty.  The aromas wafting from the oven were incredible.

Unfortunately as it was getting late the potatoes were a little less cooked than I would have liked, but it was still a really flavoursome meal and a nice change of pace in the midst of winter and its roots and squashes.  Mmmmm!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Corn Bread and lentil pate

Ah Christmas.  Lovely gifts for using in my kitchen.  This year I got a pretty Ciroa Miniamo Cupcake Stand and some of their silicone cupcake cases too.  Unfortunately I also got on Wii Fit Plus and found out I'd piled on 1/2 a stone in the last few months between comfort eating and celebrating, so making cupcakes was out of the question.  Doh!

I've been inspired lately by reading Cafe Karma which is the blog of the wife of an online friend of mine.  She makes some incredible vegan food and has recently posted about cornbread which reminded me how easy and delicious it is to make and suitable for my gluten free diet!  I sorted out my printed out recipes yesterday and found a few cornbread recipes I meant to try, and some of the lentil pate recipes I used to make quite often for lunch so when my SO asked me today "What's for lunch?" I had an immediate answer!  But more exciting was the prospect of using my cupcake cases to bake the cornbread.  Yay!

Cornbread muffins
2 cups of cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups of milk (I used rice milk)
2 tbsp of vegetable oil.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 8.  Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and wet in another, then mix together.  Pour into muffin cases and bake for 10-15 minutes until they're golden and pulling away from the tin slightly.  Makes 12 muffins.  You can also bake this in a 9inch cake tin and cut into slices.

Lentil Dip
1 tin of lentils
1 onion
Butter or margerine
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp tomato puree
Balsamic Vinegar
Mushroom Ketchup

Fry the onions and garlic gently in a little butter or margerine until caremallised.  Add to the blender with the lentils (drained and rinsed) and the tomato puree and blend until smooth.  Add dashes of vinegar and mushroom ketchup until you have the taste you want.

The cornbread popped out of those muffin tins leaving them squeaky clean, wonderful!  The lunch was enjoyed by all of us, especially my 3 year old who had great fun working the food processer with me and 'tasting' the dip!  I am sad to report the loss of my Global mini-cleaver though, which broke into two pieces on being dropped today.  It was a great knife, but at least I now have an excuse to go knife shopping for the first time in a decade - those Global Knives are sheer awesome.