Friday, 31 July 2015

Spicy peanut butter and vegetable stew

Its cold outside and I am wrapped in a blanket, is it really the last day of July!? I need food that is warming and delicious but it is not really the time of year for meaty, slow cooked stews and casseroles, with plenty of root vegetables, it feels a bit wrong, not to mention many of the ingredients are out of season.

The sweet potato and chickpeas make this a substantial meal and the whole dish provides plenty of different textures, a good meal to feed those people who think a meal without meat is not a meal.

This recipe is warming, hearty and delicious, comfort food that nourishes from the inside out, a dish that can be eaten all year round. 

I love that this recipe contains both spice and peanut butter! The spice level can be adapted to suit our own palette.

Spicy peanut butter and vegetable stew 

serves 2, easily doubled

1/2 red pepper, diced
stick of celery. diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
pinch of cayenne
100ml of vegetable stock
2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin of chickpeas
good couple of handfuls of spinach or kale

brown rice to serve
yoghurt (soya if avoiding dairy) and chilli flakes to finish (optional)

In a nice big casserole pot sauté the pepper, celery and potato in a 1/2 tbsp of  oil of your choice (olive, coconut, vegetable, whatever) for 5-10 minutes, add in the spices and cook for a minute more. 

Combine the peanut butter and hot stock , just whisk to combine with a fork, and add this along with the tomatoes to the pot. Give it all a stir and pop on  lid, leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Check on it after 15 minutes, give it a stir and add a splash more stock/water it it needs it.

After 30 minutes add in the chickpeas and kale/spinach and cook, without the lid, for 5 more minutes.

Serve with brown rice, if you like, and a dollop of natural/greek yoghurt and sprinkle of chilli flakes.


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sausage and fennel carbonara

This dinner is a revelation. It came about after a busy day and raiding the kitchen for ideas. I normally plan every meal I am going to have in a week and then do the shop but this week got a bit out of sync.

I had a couple of leftover GF sausages, a third of a fennel bulb and as usual my cupboards contained pasta, eggs and garlic, there was even some parmesan in the fridge, so the dish made itself

I simply put some GF pasta on to cook, removed the two sausages from their skins and broke up the sausage meat into a pan and cooked until brown, continuing to break up the sausage meat as it cooked. I added some chopped fennel and garlic to the pan with the sausages and continued to sauté for a few minutes longer.

When the pasta had finished cooking I drained off most of the water and added in the sausage fennel mix. I also threw in a few frozen peas at this point as I felt the dish could do with more vegetables. I put the pan back onto a low heat, stirred in a couple of eggs, seasoning and a handful of grated parmesan.

This is a really flavoursome diner that I would actively chose to make again, its amazing what you can come up with after rooting through the freezer/fridge cupboards.

I try not to waste food but I suspect many of us could make a number of meals from what we already have stashed at home instead of buying new ingredients. Its worth thinking about when carrying out your next shop.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Orange and raspberry polenta sandwich cake

Polenta is an ingredient that appears a fair amount when reading about gluten free baking. It is not an ingredient I had tried in a sweet dish and I was interested. 

I saw recipes for sandwich cakes that contained polenta and thought they looked pretty good, just like a Victoria sandwich and I am a BIG fan of the Victoria sandwich.

My husband is a big fan of raspberries, and as Scottish ones are in season, they were an obvious choice for the centre of the cake. But what to pair with them? Lemon and raspberry is a classic combination but for some reason I did not want that, I decided to move onto another citrus fruit, the orange.

I also used lactose free cream to sandwich the cakes together, to make the cake completely dairy free you could use soya cream or it is possible to whip cold coconut cream beautifully.

This cake turned out really well and is so delicious. It may look like a Victoria sandwich but the texture is different. It is a heavier cake with a fabulous stickiness, possibly from the orange. The lightly whipped vanilla cream and raspberries pair beautifully with it. I cannot see this cake lasting very long in any household but due to the cream it will need to be stored in the fridge until you have finished devouring it!

Orange and raspberry polenta sandwich cake

225g dairy free spread (I used Pure sunflower)
225g caster sugar (I used golden)
4 medium eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract
zest of an orange
50g plain GF flour (I used dove farm
175g fine polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

250ml of lactose free cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract/paste
200g raspberries

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5 and grease two 20cm sandwich tins, lining the base with baking paper. If. like me, you do not have two tins simply bake the cake in two batches. 

In a large bowl, beat the butter and 225g caster sugar together until creamy and light, I used my stand mixer to do this but an electric hand whisk or good old fashioned elbow grease would work too.

Gradually add the egg, little by little, until all the egg is worked in and the mix is pale and fluffy. If the mix looks like it’s starting to split, add 1 tbsp of the flour, then carry on. 

Beat the vanilla paste/extract and orange zest into the mix, then fold in the dry ingredients. Spoon half the batter into each tin and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took 25) until risen and golden.

Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. 

When the sponges are cold, whip the cream with 1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract until it holds a firm peak. Use to sandwich the sponges together along with the raspberries. I put about of the third of the cream onto the bottom cake, top with raspberries, then add the rest of the cream. 

This provides a more stable base for the second cake and prevents the fruit bleeding to much into the sponges, I hate it when they go soggy because of this! This cake would look beautiful with a light dusting of icing sugar but I had completely run out.

Spaghetti with sardines, tomatoes and olives

Take a look at the ingredients below.

How many do you already have in your cupboards/fridge? Even if you had none of them, (really?) to buy them all is still cheap. 

Oily fish are so incredibly good for us and it is recommended that we have one portion a week. If you are uncertain about sardines, mackerel etc. Then trying them in a pasta dish is a good way to introduce them to your diet. Need more convincing? These two tins of sardines in water cost 80p. Not each, together.

These ingredients come together to make a truly delicious dinner in little more than 15 minutes. It may not be much to look at, seriously trying to get a decent enough photo and eat my dinner while it was still hot was a challenge, but I promise the taste is excellent.

Quick, cheap, tasty and good for you, what are you waiting for?

Spaghetti with sardines, tomatoes and olives

serves 2

150-200g Gluten free spaghetti
2 tomatoes
12-15 pitted green olives
2 tins of sardines in water
1/2 lemon
pinch of sea salt
pinch of chilli flakes (optional, if you can't tolerate any spice leave them out)
oregano, fresh or dried (optional, if you have it great, if you don't and will not use any in another recipe do not buy it specially)

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan large enough to hold your pasta. Cook pasta according to packet instructions. 

While the pasta is cooking chop the tomato and olive into small diced pieces. 

When the pasta is done drain most of the water leaving a couple of tablespoons worth in the pan. Place back over a very low heat. Add the tomatoes and olives and flake in the sardines. The bones are edible, they kind of crumble and break up over heat, if you prefer you can remove the large spinal bone. I tend to do this. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add the salt and chilli if you are using. Give everything a good mix to make sure everything is evenly distributed, sprinkle over the oregano if using and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Chocolate fudge cake

This deliciously oozy cake is gluten and lactose free, it also contains one and a half avocados. Now I love avocados, I truly do, but wondered what they would bring to this cake. 

Well the cake is moist and fudgey and the frosting... oh the frosting. I could literally eat just this by itself. Its obscene how much did disappear into my mouth whilst assembling the cake... but hey avocado and dark chocolate are good for me, right?

This cake keeps well in an airtight tin, if it is warm in your kitchen I would suggest keeping it in the fridge and allowing slices to come to room temperature before serving. 

The recipe is adapted from one in bbc good food magazine.

Chocolate fudge cake

Cake ingredients

150g lactose free butter (I used arla)

150g avocado flesh
275g light brown sugar
350g plain gluten free plain flour (I used dove farm)
1\2 tsp xanthan gun (I used dove farm)
50g cocoa powder (I used green and blacks)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
400ml lactose free milk or unsweetened almond milk (I used halk and half simply because it was what was in my fridge)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla paste

Frosting ingredients

80g avocado

90g lactose free butter
125ml lactose free milk
30g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate (check to make sure its dairy free)
250g icing sugar

First preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins or, if like me, you have one simply bake the cake in two batches.

Put the avocado and the sugar in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Transfer to the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl with a hand held mixer ready. Add the rest of the cake ingredients to the bowl and whisk until a velvety liquid batter is obtained. 

Divide between the tins and bake for 30-40 minutes (I have a cool oven mine took the full 40 minutes) or until fully risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean

Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

When the cakes are cool you can make the frosting, begin by melting the chocolate, over a bowl of hot water, then let it cool for a few mins. Bring the milk to a simmer then whisk in the cocoa powder, also set aside to cool for a minute. 

Beat together the avocado and lactose free spread with electric beaters until creamy and smooth. Into the avocado mix tip in the melted chocolate, milk/cocoa mix and icing sugar and mix until you achieve a thick shiny frosting. I beat my frosting for ~5 minutes then I had to leave it for about 20 minutes at room temperature to thicken up a little. 

Use the fudgey frosting to sandwich your cakes together and cover the top. I did not decorate it but for a celebration this cake would look impressive with some sort of decoration on top.  

The beginning

Welcome to my new blog! Although this blog is new I am not new to blogging. I have/had another blog which I started in 2012, a baking blog (let them eat cake), filled with 234 posts on delicious baked goods, but after much soul searching have decided to retire this blog.

So why the change? Two main reasons have promoted this change. Firstly my health. I started suffering gastrointestinal symptoms and was very quickly informed that I could not have lactose. Fine I thought, I can still bake, with a few substitutions here and there. But then more symptoms appeared and I was told to stay off gluten, better, yet still the symptoms persisted. Baking was a little trickier but by no means impossible. Polyps were found and removed, better, yet symptoms persisted, 8 months later another polyp removed and many biopsies of my colon taken. I am now awaiting biopsy results to see if the cause of my symptoms can be identified. I feel better with non processed home cooked meals and treats than processed food. Lets be truthful even without my symptoms I suspect most people do!

The second reason is not as dire, simply my interests have changed, I still love baking, I made my own wedding cake a couple of months ago!When my now husband and I first moved and got our first jobs post university money was tight. Main meals had to be something that fit a budget and that I knew worked, mistakes would be too costly. One area I could experiment was baking, if a cake went wrong we may not have had cake but we would not go hungry. A few years into working and our financial situation is better, I can experiment with new ingredients, new cooking techniques and I find myself wanting to experiment with everything, savoury and sweet.

So my new blog will showcase food that I love, and that friends and family love. Some will be simple, some will be extravagant, some will be savoury and some will be sweet but one thing is for sure, it will all be food I find delicious.

Nowadays many blogs have 'a thing', a niche. They cater to a certain diet or lifestyle choice. I do not wish to force this blog to do that. I am not a vegetarian or vegan but enjoy this way of eating so plant based dishes will feature amidst meaty plates. Its true I cannot have lactose so will use substitutions, some of these substitutions are still dairy so please do check if you are dairy free. Right now I have been told to stay off gluten but should I be allowed to reintroduce it please be prepared for an onslaught on freshly baked bread recipes!

I do not seem to fit into a specific diet plan niche, so what do I believe?

I believe in non processed food. I believe in fresh nutritious food prepared  at home. Though I am no saint... the occasional processed food stuff is going to sneak in. And so what. If the majority of your diet is unprocessed your body will cope just fine. Trust me.

I believe food should provide energy and vital nutrition to our bodies, when I say nutritious I do not necessarily mean low calorie. No, I mean food full of vitamins, good fats, protein, fibre and carbohydrates.

And  I believe treats should be treats. I am all for making them a smidgen healthier if they still taste indulgent BUT sometimes I just want that warm chocolate chip cookie from the oven, and you know what that's ok too!

So welcome to my blog, full of nutritious meals and indulgent treats that will hopefully have you inspired in your own kitchen.