Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Pizza Express new IPhone app

Pizza Express have a new IPhone app which allows you to book a table, check menus and even pay for your meal using your phone.  The one thing that is missing is information on ingredients.  It seems a real shame they haven't added either a full set of symbols next to each menu item, a searchable menu (eg show all gf) or at least a copy of their allergen table which shows which things contain dairy, nuts, gluten etc.  I wrote to them to suggest this should be added  Here is their response:

Dear Lois

Thank you so much for your email about nutritional information.

I have passed on your suggestion to our app development team who are
constantly reviewing any changes that can be made; they are grateful for
any feedback.

Once again thank you for taking the time to contact us.


Chelsey Horton-Fairbrass
Customer Experience Team

So, no idea if this will have an impact, but it would certainly be a useful tool, and perhaps encourage other restaurants to do the same.  

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Deep fried mushrooms - frozen and reheated

I tested a lot of recipes using the deep fryer. I froze samples of these foods.  The fish and chicken reheated in the oven very well.  I tried the mushrooms today - just gave them a quick blitz in the microwave.  They were surprisingly good, so this is another way to add convenience to your catering.  I expect they would have been crisper in the oven, but the garlicky succulence of the mushroom was very good.

Served them with giant Greek beans, salad and some excellent red pepper sauce, again from the freezer.

Almond and blueberry cookies

A vegan guest at a party, so a quick cakey biscuit.

tapioca gel made with 10g tapioca (1 tbsp) and 100 ml water, mix and cook until clear, cool
150g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
50g blueberries (dried)
50g vegan margarine
50g sugar
50g flaked almonds plus extra for the top

Mix flour into gel, mix in sugar and margarine, stir in blueberries, then carefully stir in flaked almonds.  Spoon small mounds on a lined baking sheet or spread in a tin to cut into bars. Lightly pat extra flaked almonds on top.  I made fifteen cookies from this batch of dough.

Cook for 20 minutes at 170C until golden brown.

Delicious cookies - definitely a make again recipe.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Slow Food Worcestershire Strawberry jam testing

The Worcestershire branch of Slow Food ran a strawberry tasting session last night, June 24rd 2011.  We had intended to do a comparative tasting of different varieties of fresh strawberries, but the early hot weather meant there were very few strawberries left in the local farms.  We spent the evening comparing strawberry jams - people were encouraged to bring their own jam and I expected lots to try.  However, only three people brought jam, so the blind tasting ran with these three and twelve bought jams.

To make things easier we just collected joint scores from five groups, rather than trying to add up responses from thirty people on fifteen jams by three scores...taste, texture and colour.

Tested jams

  1. Hartley's No-Bits
  2. Tiptree Strawberry Little Scarlett
  3. Tesco Value Strawberry jam
  4. Bonne Maman Strawberry & Wild Strawberry jam
  5. Streamline Strawberry Jam
  6. Hartley's Best Strawberry jam
  7. Tesco Finest Strawberry Conserve
  8. Mrs Darlington's Extra Jam Strawberry Jam ( bought at Clive's Fruit Farm)
  9. Tiptrees Strawberry
  10. Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve
  11. Duerr's Strawberry Jam
  12. Tesco Strawberry jam
  13. Strawberry Jam (home-made)
  14. Strawberry jam with a touch of rhubarb (home-made)
  15. Strawberry jam ( home-made)

Each group were given numbered pots of jam so they didn't know what each jam was.  They were given fragolinis - strawberry puree and Prosecco, buckwheat crepes and crepes made with my usual flour mix (urid lentil 40%, tapioca 40&, cornmeal 20%).

Each table chose a different favourite.

  • 13 home-made strawberry jam
  • 10 Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve
  • 15 strawberry jam  home-made
  • 6 Hartley's Best Strawberry jam
  • 12 Tesco Strawberry jam

The least favorite for each group was

  • Tesco Value Strawberry jam
  • Tesco Value Strawberry jam
  • 11 Duerr's Strawberry jam
  • 3 Tesco Strawberry jam
  • Hartley's No-Bits

We added up the scores for the home-made jams so as to be able to award a prize.  Number fifteen won.  This was made by someone who hadn't attended this evening.  His wife had brought it, scored it poorly in the blind testing, and apparently kept telling her husband he was making it wrong.  Unfortunately she took home the remains of the jar so I can't give a personal report on the jam - I was too busy last night to try the jams myself.

I tried the three bought jams which scored highest:
Tesco jam - a good fresh strawberry smell, deep colour, fruity feel but an odd lingering aftertaste
Harlety Best - a rich dark colour, some strawberry fruit texture in a well gelled but not sticky matrix.  Quite a pleasant jam, but if I had made it I would have thought I had overcooked the fruit.
Bonne Maman Strawberry Conserve - a softer set with some seeping.  Less scented than the Tesco one.  A bright and mellow jam.

It was an amusing evening, and illustrates the importance of variety and not being seduced by packaging. We had a dozen commercial jams and only three home made one, yet there were two home made jams in the top five. On the other hand it is worth remembering that with a room full of people who care about food there was a surprising amount of disagreement about what was best.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Aquafresh, Senosdyne, Macleans - are these toothpastes gluten free?

There have been queries on one of the Facebook groups I belong to about whether toothpaste like Sensodyne are gluten free.  I use Sensodyne without any problems so I think this is fine, but what would the manufacturer say?

I checked their website.  There is no information available.  I wrote to the company - and got a very odd reply back.

"Thank you for your e-mail, and please accept our apologies for the delay in responding.

To the best of our knowledge, our Aquafresh, Macleans and Sensodyne toothpaste ranges are free from gluten.

Kind regards
Medical & Consumer Affairs Department
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare UK"

so I wrote to them again - "to the best of our knowledge" seemed like a very strange sentence from a company that makes many complex chemical products.  Was it just that that is what the consumer affairs person thought?  Was there any rigour to this 'best knowledge'?  I wrote again

thanks for yor reply - but that is an odd way to put it.  Is there anyone in your organisation that knows? 

This time I got an answer from a different part of the organisation:

"Hi Lois,

Thank you for your further email.

By saying to the best of our knowledge, what we mean is that whilst gluten is not an ingredient in the products, we cannot 100% guarantee that before the raw materials reach our factories, that they have not been in contact with gluten. Although this is extremely unlikely, we are unable to confirm this 100% as we, GSK, are not able to observe this part of the process.

Sorry we cannot be more helpful on this occasion.

Kind regards
Medical Affairs Department
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare UK
0208 047 2500"

This is a much more sensible answer.  I am pleased they replied, and I will take this to mean that these toothpastes are safe for people with gluten intolerance.  I know some coeliac support organisations think it isn't important what is in toiletries and cosmetics as they say you don't eat them, but if even a kiss from someone who has eaten gluten can cause extreme effects in some people then it makes sense to avoid all possible form of contamination.

Quite a few companies never reply at all, so thanks to GlaxoSmithKline for their responses.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Strawberry Blonde Brownie

Brownies made with white chocolate are soft and fudgy and sweet.  I wondered what the tang of strawberry would be like with them, cooked as a swirl through the white cake.

I made a standard batch of white brownie.  I took 75g of strawberry jam and 100g of fresh strawberries, chopped.  I put a layer of the plain batter in the cake tin first, to reduce the chance of the strawberries making everything too sticky to handle when eating.  I then lightly stirred the strawberry pulp into the rest of the batter and spooned on top.

125g butter
250g white chocolate
4 eggs
350g sugar
2 tsp vanilla
400g flour - I used 150g almond, 250g my usual mixture ((40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
75g strawberry jam
100g fresh strawberries

Melt chocolate and butter - 2 mins on medium in the microwave works for me.
Mix sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Check chocolate not too hot then stir into egg mixture.  Stir in flour.  Place in greased/lined tin and bake.

Cooked for 25 mins at 180C and 20mins at 160C, the brownie is crisp on the edge and squishy in the middle.  I think a bit more strawberry might be better, but served with some fresh strawberries this is very good.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Raspberry tarts with chocolate pastry

One of the highlights of skiing trips used to be stopping at the service stations on the way down through France, and buying a raspberry tart.  They were always delicious, with a crisp pastry, unctuous filling and firm tart raspberries on top.  The two I had each year were enough, but no, of course, I wont be buying them even if I do manage a trip to France.  I have been intending to make a version for myself, and now I need  the recipe for to complete my Fruit Pies, Cakes and Puddings recipe book, I am running some tests.

First question - shall I stick to plain pastry or do a chocolate pastry.  I like chocolate with raspberries.
If chocolate pastry, then shall it be an ordinary shortcrust with added cocoa and sugar or shall I add some egg?  Shall I try my new coconut fat instead of butter?  How strong a chocolate taste? I can see myself with a sequence of about twenty pastries to try.

To start with, a simple enriched pastry, and if I don't think it works I'll try the other varieties.

150g flour (40% urid, 40& tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
100g ground almond
125g butter
50g caster sugar
20g cocoa
1 egg

Rub fat into flour, stir in cocoa and sugar, mix in egg.  Form into a ball, wrap and leave to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.  Don't put it in the fridge or you wont be able to shape it.

Cut pastry into four.  Press into small tart tins with removable base or whatever shape you have / like.

Bake for fifteen minutes at 180C

Leave until cold.  Fill with cold plain or chocolate pastry cream and top with raspberries.

You can make these in advance, freeze, and just make your dessert with bought pastry cream and raspberries for an almost instant fancy desert.

250ml milk
60g sugar
10g flour
3 egg yolks
tsp vanilla

This amount of pastry cream filled two tarts.  I put the others in the freezer for later.

A punnet of raspberries gave a single layer of fruit on top of each tart.

This was quite good, but the balance of pastry to cream to fruit wasn't quite right.  Either the pastry needs to be a bit thinner or I need to pile the raspberries up higher, never mind the elegance.  The pastry was a good texture, holding well but not giving much resistance when chewed.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Gluten-free Lemon Surprise Pudding

Years ago I had a pudding which was cake on top and lemony sauce underneath.  I had a go at the recipe, using  a recipe from UKTV as a start.  The BBC recipe needed more lemons than I had, and I thought it would be possible to test the structural qualities of the cake with the first recipe.


55g butter, softened
115g sugar
zest and juice of one lemon - I would definitely use at least two next time as very mild flavour
2 large eggs, separated
65g flour (recipe called for 55 but the mix was so sloppy I added 10g)
1 tsp baking powder
285g milk

Cream butter, sugar and zest until light
Add egg yolk, lemon juice, flour and baking powder and mix
add milk
whip egg white until stiff and fold into batter

Place in a buttered dish and bake in a 180C (fan) oven for 40mins.  Place the dish into a roasting pan and half fill with water to produce a gentler cooking environment.

This produced a pleasant, mildly lemon-flavoured, soft fluffy pudding.  It didn't really produce the separate sauce at the bottom that I remember.  I'll have to try it with less flour even though the batter looks as if it would never make a cake of any sort!  Two lemons with the same amount of the other ingredients may well be sufficient to give a zingy flavour.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Gooseberry, elderflower and almond cake

I have two gooseberry bushes, so, having picked the ripe berries I needed a recipe to use the with.  I looked on the web as usual, and found a couple of good looking gooseberry cake recipes.  Using these as a start I amended them to suit my taste.  Both of these have the gooseberries on top of the cake.  I wanted my gooseberries to be little pockets of sour flavour in the sweet cake, so folded them into the batter.  I used elderflower in the batter and with the flaked almonds on top to give an extra dimension to the flavour.

Inspiration recipes deliciousmagazine -moist-gooseberry-orange-and-almond-dimple-cake and waitrose gooseberry and almond cake.


250g gooseberries
125g butter (soft)
175g sugar
2 eggs
100 flour (40%urid, 40%tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
75g ground almond
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp elderflower cordial (75ml)

75g flaked almonds
20g butter
2 tbsp elderflower cordial

Set oven to 180C and grease/line a tin.  I used a 9inch square tin.  Total cooking time 40minutes.

Cream butter and sugar thoroughly.
Add egg and beat.
Add flours and baking powder and beat.
Add elderflower cordial.  If you don't mind tasting raw batter check that you can taste the flavour of the cordial in the batter - if you want it stronger add a bit more.
Stir in the gooseberries.
Put mixture in tin and bake for 25 minutes.

While this is cooking, place the flaked almonds and butter and cordial in a small pan and heat until butter is melted and mixture coats almonds.

After 25 minutes lower oven temperature to 160C

Carefully sprinkle the flaked almonds on the cake and return to the oven for fifteen minutes.  Check that the cake is fully cooked by inserting a knife - but you need to find a bit of cake that isn't gooseberry to be sure!

This tastes superb.  It is tangy and sweet and quite delicious. The crispness of the almonds on top is a good contrast to the moist gooseberry cake.

This makes a cake that is more like a pudding - it doesn't hold it's shape very well because of the gooseberries.  If you want a more controlled cake you could bake a bit of the batter without the berries and then put the berried batter on top for the rest of the cooking.  It would also be good set into a pie crust, a bit like a Bakewell Tart.  I recommend you serve it in a bowl with a spoon, perhaps some of Just Rachel's excellent gooseberry and elderflower ice cream to accompany it.

Gluten-free scone test

I have a Slow Food strawberry celebration in a couple of weeks.  I thought I would spend a bit of time testing scone recipes, so I used one based on Delia Smith's recipe and one based on a recipe from BBC Good Food.

Delia's scone recipe

225g flour
3tsp baking powder
75g butter
40g sugar
1 egg
5tbsp yogurt - to get to soft dough (swap with water and squeeze of lemon if not using dairy - not tested)

rub fat into flour, stir in sugar, mix yogurt and egg and stir into flour.  You should have a dough which holds well together and feels quite soft.  Pat out onto a floured board and cut circles or other shapes.  Place on a floured baking tray and cook at 200C for ten minutes.

too sweet for my taste but probably right for strawberry jam and cream

less sweet:
BBC Good Food scone

tried again - more baking powder and more liquid

200g flour
4 tsp baking powder
100ml yogurt/water mix  -2 tbsp yogurt topped up with water.  Use what is needed to make wet dough.
1 egg
40g butter
25g sugar

Whisk baking powder into flour, rub in butter.  Stir in sugar.  Stir egg and yogurt together, add half the water to this mixture.  Stir into flour mix.  Add more water as needed to make a wet dough.  It should look too wet to be able to cut out.  Dump dough onto a floured board and pat into shape.  Using a floured cutter make whatever shape you want - I did ten round scones.  Just squish dough together and re-pat as needed until dough is used up.  Bake 200C for about ten minutes.

Both of these taste fine, and are hard to tell apart.  Using the lower fat, lower sugar scone recipe makes sense as they are so similar when baked.  

TT likes them better than normal wheat scones as they don't stick to the roof of the mouth.  They don't rise as much as the scones I used to make, but are good to eat.

I'll freeze some and see how they respond.  When I first gave up gluten I made scones with Doves Farm flour - they were fine eaten immediately but did the sandy thing when frozen and de-frosted.

My mother's recipe (on a tiny piece of paper I have from when I went to university in 1979):

1 lb flour, 1/2tsp salt, 2-3 oz margarine, 2level tsp bicarb of soda, 4.5 level tsp cream of tarter, half pt fresh milk OR 4-6 level tsp baking powder and 1/2 pt fresh milk

So, I grew up with scones that were served with soup, which is probably why I think these first two scones taste too sweet to me.   This recipe also has a lot less fat.  I grew up in India, and buying bread wasn't easy, so plain scones / soda breads were a staple part of our diet.

Here are instructions for making your own gluten-free baking powder mix

Sainsbury Celiac / coeliac leaflet

TT brought home a leaflet for coeliacs from Sainsbury's the other day.  He was disconcerted by it as it gave a list of substitutes but had the direction of substitution going in the wrong directions.  I wrote to the company.

Thank you for you efforts to make things easier for coeliacs.  However, your leaflet has a basic error.  Under Gluten-free alternatives you have got the word 'for' instead of with so that you are in effect telling people to eat wheat instead of rice etc
eg"Substitute wheat flour for potato".  This error is in all of these sentences except for your Sainsbury's own brand cereals.


Dear Lois
Thanks for your email.  I’m sorry our celiac leaflets have a basic mistake on them.  I can understand your disappointment, especially as you appreciate our efforts to make shopping easier for anyone who has to follow this specialised diet.
I’ve spoken to the relevant department and they’ll make sure this information is updated to avoid any confusion.
We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and look forward to seeing you in store again soon.

Kind regards

Patricia McGovern
Customer Manager
It will be interesting to see if they change this - anyone that spots a revised leaflet let me know!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

IsitinIt? shopping made easy with Food Angel- cease operating

Got this email- haven't tested the system to se if it has stopped as only got it to see how it worked

I suppose it is a very data intense activity to keep everything up to date and they couldn't cope.

Dear subscriber,

It is with regret that I write to inform you that yesterday evening the directors of Food Contents and Allergies Limited made the decision to cease trading with immediate effect as a result of the Company's financial position.

Financial assistance has been sought from a number of sources recently but unfortunately, last night, the final possibility was exhausted and assistance has not been secured which resulted in the immediate closing of the isitinit service and the decision to cease trading.

We regret that as a result of the Company's position we are not able to refund prepaid subscriptions.

Yours sincerely,

Kind Regards,


Caroline Baker – Customer Relations Manager
Tel: 01953 859707

FCAA Limited, 9-11 Penfold Drive, Gateway 11, Wymondham, Norfolk,  NR18 0WZ

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Gluten-free Granary style bagels and bread - tapioca free experiment

bagel-shaped rolls   baked only

So, the challenge is on to produce a range of foodstuffs without tapioca as well as without gluten.  I thought I would try a wholegrain style bread, using brown rice flour instead of my usual tapioca.

I was aiming at a warm toasty sort of flavour.

I made up a dough using my usual technique, intending to make bagels.

I made one small loaf to test the flavour, without the egg, and it worked very well.  It produced a bread that sliced easily, made a cheese and tomato sandwich without disintegrating, and tasted rather like a brown sourdough loaf but a bit damper.

I then added the usual egg and some more brown rice flour to the batter and left it to rise.

risen dough

When I came to shape the bagels the dough was a lot softer than it would have been with the same amount of tapioca flour - tapioca doughs seem to dry out and slightly set when left.  I ran out of the rice flour so just made very soft bagels, which would have held together in the boiling water if made with tapioca. Tapioca gelatinises on contact with the boiling water and the rice flour doesn't.  I should have used some cornflour to produce this effect.  I'll try that next time.

bagels disintegrating

I scooped the disintegrating bagels out of the water and baked them in a giant puddle.  I figured they would do well for producing breadcrumbs if nothing else.

The remaining dough was baked in small rolls (bagel shaped- the ones that hadn't made it into the water) and loaf tins.
texture of the egg-free bread

When I get a tapioca-free recipe to work I'll post it.

500g brown rice flour
400g urid flour
50g pecans - ground
50g quinoa flakes
50g ground almonds
80g sprouted buckwheat flour
20g sprouted linseed flour
30g sunflower seeds - ground
2 eggs
1 tsp cocoa
2 tsp date syrup
2 tsp yeast
water to make a dough that just held its shape

So, as a loaf, this works very well.

As bagels - definitely doesn't hold its shape in the water.  Further tests required.

I have run out of the sprouted buckwheat flour I made and probably wont make any more in the near future.  It is a very flavoursome flour, with a sweet taste.  If you have been missing malty tastes this would be worth your trying as it is easy but takes time for the buckwheat to grow and then dry.

Cherry and beetroot cake

Cherry and Beetroot cake

I had left over roasted beets, bought from the local grocer, locally grown, young and tender.  I had the last of last year's bumper harvest of morello cherries to use up before this year's crop.  I wondered about combining them.

Putting cherry and beetroot into Google produced a spicy streusle cake by Dan Lepard.  I figured it was worth trying a simpler version of this to check out the basic flavour combination.

I used a large loaf tin lined with parchment.  Set the oven at 180C

150g morello (sour) cherries, drained
150 cooked beet, grated
150 butter, softened
150 sugar
150 flour - I used 75g almond, 75g my mix (40%urid, 40%tapioca,20%cornmeal)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs

Cream butter and sugar together.
Add eggs and beat.
Add flour and baking powder, beat.
Add cherries and beetroot, stir in gently.
Put into greased and lined tin and bake for about 45minutes until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cherries and grated beetroot
This is a brightly coloured, moist cake. It would look amazing if you used the cherry juice to make bright pink icing.  it is soft and sweet, with only the occasional hint of beetroot; TT doesn't eat beetroot generally, except occasionally borscht, and he was happy to eat this.  If making it again I would add a bit more spice and some vanilla. or possibly a teaspoon of cocoa powder.  The texture is good, and it holds together well.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Luscious gluten free strawberry lemon tarts

gluten free strawberry lemon tarts
One of the blogs I follow had some delicious looking strawberry lemon bars strawberry lemon bars.  This blog has some exquisite photography, so if you want ideas on how to portray food this would be a good place to look.

Starting with his recipe, which uses wheat and measuring cups, I made my own version.  I didn't make any attempt to do an accurate copy, especially since he was making a showcase of a particular type of lemon.

I made two small tarts, using fluted tins with removable bottoms.  This would serve four generously.

100g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
50g ground almonds
50g butter
50g sugar
40ml water

Whizz crust ingredients (except water) in food mixer or rub in by hand.  When like fine crumbs, mix in the water.  Add as much as you need to get the dough to hold together without crumbling or being claggy.  This will vary a bit depending on the weather, your  almonds etc so use your judgment.

Press into the tart tins.

press crust into tin

Bake at 180C for about 12 minutes, until just tinged with brown.

Turn the oven down to 140C when you take the tarts out.

75g strawberries,
1 tsp sugar

2 eggs
50g sugar
10g flour
juice and rind of a lemon

Slice strawberries and sprinkle tsp sugar on to sweeten and draw juices.
Mix the rest of the filling ingredients

When pie crust is ready, lay strawberries in the bottom, add any juice to the filling, and pour carefully over strawberries.

Cook filled tarts for 15 minutes until set but still slightly wobbly in the centre.

Cool.  Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving if wanted.

If you have a loose bottomed tart the easiest way to get the tart un-moulded is to rest it on a narrow glass and gently easy rim down.   Then carefully run a knife under the base crust if needed.
getting the tart out of the tin

luscious lemony filling, strawberries and rich almondy crust

This tart is very delicious.  The crust is tender and rich, the filling luscious and lemony but bursts of bright strawberry.  Definitely one to make again.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Self- publishing Cookbook - The Gluten-Free Deep Fryer on Lulu.com

 I spent yesterday learning to use the self-publishing site  Lulu  I have put my recent crop of recipes using the deep fryer into book form.  It was an interesting struggle to try to decide how to format the book.  Cookery books are usually tightly structured, with columns of ingredients, one luscious photograph to entice but not inform, and very little chit-chat.  Very different from blog-style.

I tried to work with the cook book wizard, but soon dropped out and made a standard word document that I then uploaded.  As I generally write straight into blogger I had to get the text from here, photos from my file, and reassemble a structure that would work without extra information or nipping off to another blog.

I hadn't realised until the end that you were not supposed to include the title information at that stage as you get a separate Cover Wizard, but I figured information twice is better than no information at all.  I could have revised the document and then uploaded it again, which for any future book I would do. The other advantage of this type of publishing is that you can amend the book whenever you want, as they only print on demand.

With this one I am just keen to get my hands on a physical book so that I can start thinking properly about issues like paper quality, binding and size. When I do the next one I will make used of the learning from this time around.

I was pleased with how cheap the book will be.  I last ordered a full colour book full of photographs years ago, a little picture book about Halloween to help my grand-daughters learn to read.  The price has come down a lot since then, making these cookbooks a realistic prospect.

So, I have ordered three copies so that I can see how it could be improved for next time.  Now all I need to do is find some volunteers with a deep fat fryer to give me feedback on how easy the recipes are to follow! Any one out there willing?