Tuesday, 25 January 2011

haddock with roasted peppers and feta

Haddock with roasted peppers and feta

I have always liked baking and never much liked the kind of cooking where you were supposed to taste things and adjust them as you cooked.  Being useless at following recipes doesn't help. However, I decided it was time I increased the variety of our meals and bought a bunch of magazines.

Tonight I cooked, on Tolerant Taster's request, a recipe from the BBC Olive magazine for Haddock baked with roasted peppers and feta Olive mag recipe.  I even went and shopped for the ingredients, though I did have some feta in the freezer.  I find I can never use feta up when I buy it fresh as I have to keep my dairy consumption low, so keeping the leftovers in the freezer means I can add this to breads or other foods where it having been frozen won't matter.  The hardest part was trying to find any fish with Marine Stewardship or other sustainable ratings.

The recipe is very easy to follow and to make.  You just need to get a portion of fish for each person, put it in a dish with roasted peppers from a jar, and top it with a crumble made from bread, feta, garlic and parsley.  I had run out of my usual Lazy Bread so used a bit of a bagel, but I am sure it would be very good with pine kernels to add the crunch instead. Bake it for however long your bit of fish needs cooking and you have a vivid and easy-to-eat dish that has a festive air.  I am intending to add this to my normal repertoire, particularly when I have guests coming, as I am sure all the preparation could be done in advance and the dish baked when needed.

I served this with sweet potato chips and broccoli.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Warburtons new gluten and wheat free range

Warburtons new gluten and wheat free bread

I had a highly amusing time on Friday (Jan 21st 2010) at the Warburtons product launch of their new gluten and wheat free range http://www.warburtons.co.uk/ .  This was held in association with Phil Vickery Vickery.tv and the Coeliac UK Society http://www.coeliac.org.uk/  at a hotel in Covent Garden.

The first shock of the day was being presented with a tiered cake stand full of bacon sandwiches (Phil Vickery's own happy pigs), salmon twiddly things and a variety of other little savories.  I know I was at the launch of a gluten free range, but it still took a lot of courage to even approach this food as I have had to refuse anything from a mixed display of this sort for nearly three years.  This reaction wasn't what I expected, and is an interesting demonstration of how restricted my eating behaviours have become. Even when invited to a gf launch I still carried a stash of my own energy bars in my handbag.

The Warburtons range is made in a dedicated gluten and wheat free factory in Newcastle.  I have had an invitation to go and look around it, so sometime I'll combine it with a visit to my sister in Scotland (Newcastle is 250 miles away, which is a long drive for the UK even if a mere jaunt for the USA or Australia).

They have made white and brown sliced loaves, fruited teacakes, crumpets and sub rolls.  I did try several of these, and wrote a brief report for Foodstufffinds http://www.foodstufffinds.co.uk, who I was representing at the launch.  I made french toast with some of the bread and found that it soaked up the moisture well, gave a crisp edge and a succulent middle with no weird textures.
french toast made with Warburtons gluten free bread

I did intend to buy the nearest competitors breads, Genius and Marks & Spencer's, and do a full product comparison.  However, having eaten about four small slices of the bread and two small teacakes over a twenty four hour period I spent the next day maintaining close proximity to a toilet.

The major manufacturers all use xanthum / xanthan gum in their products to produce cohesion and elasticity in their gluten free ranges.  This is well known to be a laxative, but they say the doses are small enough not to be a problem (the 'they' includes the Coeliac Society).  I have never yet seen any studies which show that people with already compromised guts can tolerate the amount of this gum you would eat if you had a normal diet based on manufactured gf breads.  I have met enough people who are rigorously gluten free and still worry about travel, and have noticed an increasing trend in other people trying to manage their gf lives without these gums, to be sure that this isn't just me.

So, well done to Warburtons.  Their range should make it easier to cater for people with gluten and wheat intolerance, and, in particular, should make it easier for cafes and restaurants to be able to feed us something.  I am getting tired of being turned away from restaurants who say there is nothing on their menu that I can eat safely.  Being a wholely gluten free factory means you don't have to worry about product recalls for accidental contamination/ substitution (c M&S fruit cake a while ago gluten free blogger  food.gov) or even the low levels of possible contamination from the general environment.  I don't buy things  which say 'made in a factory which also handles wheat', as I react to even minuscule amounts of gluten)

If you are less sensitive to xanthum gum than I am then rejoice.  The bread may be a long way away from the artisan breads and homemade sourdough I used to eat, but the fact that a major baker has put this amount of effort into a gf range is great news for people with food intolerances in general.  It will raise awareness, increase convenience, and remove excuses.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Energy Bars - gluten free, dairy free

I spent some time trying to make a flapjack without oats, but was disappointed by the texture and appalled by the amount of butter and sugar needed to hold the ingredients together.  I watched nutritionist Ellie Krieger make energy bars on TV and thought her recipe would adapt well with gluten-free ingredients.


 She did use oats and wheat flour; here is a version using buckwheat and my usual flour mix of urid lentils (40%), tapioca (40%) and cornmeal (20%).

These bars are sweet without being cloying, hold together well and can be eaten without crumbs getting anywhere and, for the person that said they wanted quiet food to eat in the library, make hardly any noise at all.

Elie wrapped hers in clingfilm and stored them in the freezer so that she always had a wholesome snack to put in her bag when she was in a hurry.  Otherwise, she suggested a week at ambient temperature.

I have tried to produce a complete nutritional breakdown but had to use a combination of pack backs and websources, so data on all the minerals, amino acids etc. are not available.  Actual figures on the vitamins and minerals should be higher.  However, you can see that these little bars are good for protein, fibre, and iron.  They are also packed full of slow-release sugars so will be good for combating hunger for longer.

Ingredients (substitute whatever fruits and nuts you have in your store-cupbard.  Next time I will try cranberries and lemon zest for a sour flavour).

125g pumpkin seeds
125 sunflower seeds
230g apricots
110g blueberries
125g dates
100g whole buckwheat
100g whole almonds
125g flour (gluten-free mine is urid, tapioca and cornmeal)
3 large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
150g maple syrup

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor and whizz until it starts forming a paste.  I had to do this in two batches.  You want some of the fruit to pulverise so that it holds the mix together, but some bits to be large enough to notice what you are eating.

Add the egg and maple syrup and stir until evenly mixed.

Place on a greased baking sheet.  I lined mine with baking parchment just to be sure that it wouldn't stick. Press down to make a flat top so that things will hold together.

Bake at 170C fan for about 20 minutes until it just begins to go brown.

Cut into slices while still warm and place on rack to cool.

Nutrition Data

20 slices from batch (I made 40 but regarded two of these as one serving for this calculation).  Percentages are approximate RDA for adult female.

219 calories
Total fat                 10g                15%
Saturated fat            1 g                 6%
Sodium                  14mg              1%
Total carbohydrate 30mg            10%
Dietary fibre            3 g               13%
Sugars                   17g
Protein                    7g                  14%

Vitamin A  6%
Vitamin C 1%
Calicum 4%
Iron 11%

Have a look at  this website for useful help with analysing recipes - www.NutritionData.com

If you want to make these a more complete protein source add some powdered milk as Elie did - I kept these dairy free because I am mildly lactose intolerant.  Being made with nuts and lentils and buckwheat makes them pretty good as they are.

Monday, 10 January 2011

IsItInIt? shopping made easy with Food Angel

I just bought an application for my smartphone called IsItInIt Food Angel from


It is available in the UK.  I don't know if there are equivalents elsewhere.  You can try this for free for a week and then it costs £10 per year.  It says that it works in Sainsbury's, but since it scans the product barcode and not a specific store barcode it will work anywhere.  I checked it out at home on some pasta sauce and some beer, and it told me the pasta sauce was safe (which it was) and the beer wasn't safe(which of course it wasnt, being ordinary beer made from barley).  You just open the app, make sure the barcode is in the rectangle on the camera screen which pops up, and it gets the information for you.

I have carried extra strong glasses with me since I realised I had to avoid gluten.  Type is often very small, and people use a whole variety of words to describe ingredients that have gluten in.  This should make shopping for new products much easier.

They don't seem to have entered data on non-food items, so you will still need to read the labels on toiletries if you are avoiding gluten in these as I am.  I get migraines if I use toiletries with gluten in so am very careful about these as well as food.  As for stories of gluten in the glue in envelopes...get the self stick ones.

JUNE 8 2011 - just got an email to say this service is closing due to funding problems

Friday, 7 January 2011

olive crackers

olive crackers

I posted a recipe and method for rosemary and olive oil crackers a little while ago.   Today's version is using up a jar of olive tapenade  This is quite a salty cracker but excellent served with some lactose free cream cheese and a dollop of the charred red pepper sauce.

150g gluten free flour ( 40% urid lentil, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp olive tapenade
1/4 tsp salt (I would leave this out next time)
1 tbsp olive oil
water to form stiff dough

Mix all ingredients except for water until evenly dispersed.  I just whizzed it in the food mixer.
raw ingredients mixed except water

Add water slowly until the dough just begins to go into claggy lumps.

water added while stirring

If you pick it up in your hands it will compress into a firm dough.

cracker dough

Wrap in cling film until ready to use.

I use my pasta roller for crackers as it saves a lot of hard work.  Make a flat patty of dough and put it through the pasta roller several times at the widest setting.  To begin with it will fracture and fall in little bits.  Just collect them together and keep putting through until the dough forms a smooth sheet.  When it is making a sheet start making the roller narrower until you have dough the thickness you want.  I tend to put the dough through a few times in the in-between settings, folding the dough and putting it, fold first, through the roller.

Otherwise knead until flexible and roll as thin as you want and have energy for.

Cut to size, put on a un-greased non-stick baking sheet and cook at 170C (fan) for 7-8 minutes.

uncooked crackers

The crackers should just be tinged with brown.  Put on a rack to cool.  Store in an air tight container.  These crackers are very crisp and keep well.

I put cream cheese and red pepper sauce on a couple of these and left them out.  An hour later they still held their shape but were just beginning to get a bit soft.  This would make them suitable for pre-loading at a party.

loaded cracker

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

empty cupboard vegan gluten-free minestrone

minestrone with rosemary crackers

I need an easy supper after all the complex meals I have been making and I haven't been grocery shopping. I fancied a minestrone and thought the River Cafe winter minestrone looked good.

Of course I lacked a lot of the ingredients, so here is my version.

250ml left-over vegetable gravy made with vegetable stock and caramelised onions.  Otherwise, slow cook an onion and then add stock or a stock cube.
250ml water
1 garlic clove
pinch black pepper
1/2 red pepper, chopped - I like the long pointed ones.
1 can tomatoes, chopped, pureed or whole- but then smash a bit.
1 can borlotti beans -  put half in soup whole and the other half blitzed with some of the stock to make a puree to thicken soup
1/2 tsp tamari ( gluten free version of soy sauce)
chunk of savoy cabbage, chopped
handful flat-leaf parsley
handful gluten free pasta - I used Tesco Organic shells - they hold their shape well.

Put all the ingredients except for half the parsley, the cabbage, the pureed beans and the pasta to cook.  The flavours will improve if you can leave this simmering for twenty minutes or so.  Then add the cabbage, pasta and the rest of the parsley.  When the pasta is nearly cooked add the pureed beans.  If you put the pureed beans in earlier you will have to stand over the pan stirring as they will tend to stick to the bottom.

If you have other vegetables that you want to use up add as you think fit.

If you like and can tolerate dairy, grate some Parmesan on top.  Alternatively, drizzle some pungent olive oil on and serve with my rosemary crackers, toasted pine-kernels, or Lazy Bread spread with garlic and toasted.  An easy, nutritionally balanced and warming supper that will be good to eat tomorrow for lunch if there is any left.

cranberry muffins: dairy and gluten-free

inside - bright berries and loose muffin texture
Busy cleaning out the fridge following the post-festivities gluttony.  There is still a lot of cranberry sauce - I like to make too much as it is depressing to serve a tiny portion and terrible to run out.  The vivid colour does a lot to counteract grey skies and low light levels.

What to do, what to do...invent a recipe for for cranberry and chestnut bread? Sounds a bit serious, so I'll try that later. The last of my carrot muffins got used up yesterday at Tolerant Taster's writers party, so I thought I'd try some cranberry muffins.

I found this recipe - very simple    http://www.cranberryrecipes.org/cranberry-muffins.html

and then read up in Alton Brown's 'I'm just here for More Food' baking book, which I am working my way through at the moment.  A bit of both and a bit of well that'll do produced these muffins.

300g flour (my mix is 40%urid lentils, 40% tapioca and 20% cornmeal)
9g / 3tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1tsp cinnamon
zest of one orange

100g sugar
1/2 cup / 120ml veg oil
3 medium eggs
1 cup / 240ml juice.  I used 3/4 apple and 1/4 orange  (remember - I am tidying the fridge really)

1 cup 240ml cranberry sauce.  I didn't worry about the sugar or water in the cranberry sauce, muffins are quite forgiving.

Mix the dry ingredients together - either whisk, blitz in food mixer or sieve
mix  oil, eggs and sugar together
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together roughly and stir in the cranberries.

raw muffin batter- only just mixed
Put into paper muffin cases or greased muffin tins.  If you aren't very accurate and get some blobs of mixture on the tin just regard that as a way of finding out what a cookie made from the batter would be like.

Bake about 20-22  minutes at 170C fan or 180C.

I find muffins in general freeze well both cooked and raw.  If you freeze them raw you can bake from frozen or let them defrost, just make sure they are cooked all the way through by inserting a thin knife or skewer or using a temperature probe.  The interiors should reach 210F or 100C.

Flip them out onto a cooling rack so that they don't get soggy bottoms

cooked golden muffins

These are quite an interesting muffin, with the sourness of the cranberries and the hit of orange zest.  If you want a milder flavour leave out the zest.  If you are ok with dairy you could swap the fruit juice for plain yogurt.  You could add a bit more cranberries - next time I would put at least another half cup of the cranberry sauce in so that each bite had a cranberry in it.

So I was cleaning the kitchen....but now the sink is full of dirty dishes.  At least the house smells good and the fridge is a bit emptier.