Monday, 29 October 2012

Lemon, ginger and cranberry gluten free cookies

I woke up with a sore throat this morning.  Best cure I know for feeling a bit glum is to bake something scrumptious.  I have a stash of dried cranberries that need using, so had a quick look to see if I could find some crunchy cookies using these.  The first few recipes were oats with cranberries and didn't look that interesting.  Then I found these lemon ginger and cranberry cookies.  Lemon and ginger sounds like a cold why not a cookie based on these.

The lemon flavour is the strongest when these cookies are freshly made.  I expect the ginger flavour will develop later - at the moment the ginger is just a lingering hint in the mouth after the cookie has been eaten. The cookie is crisp on the outside, slightly crumbly in the middle, and the juicy cranberries give a lovely contrast.  The whole house smells delicious - a bit of aromatherapy as well as the occupational therapy.

For people without a flour grinder, I recently asked the company I buy my urid lentils from whether their urid lentil flour still came with an advisory that it was milled in a factory that also handles wheat.  This no longer appears on the packaging so this should mean that they are safe for even those with extreme sensitivity.

The original recipe uses the creaming method.  I rarely plan ahead so don't have room temperature butter.  I rubbed in the butter to the flour by hand, but if you have a food processor just whizz until mixed into the dry ingredients.

200g flour (40% urid, 40% tapioca, 20% cornmeal)
2tsp baking powder (this is the mix I use as my standard self raising flour)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
80g sugar (add a bit more if you like extra sweet cookies)
80g butter
30g fresh ginger, grated
1 lemon, rind grated and juiced
2 eggs
100g dried cranberries

Set oven to 175C fan.  Line cookie sheets with baking parchment or use ungreased.

Mix all dry ingredients except the dried cranberries.  Mix in butter - rub in if cold, beat in if soft, or whizz in food processor.
Add in the eggs, beat, add in lemon juice and grated ginger.  Stir in dried cranberries.

Place on baking sheet in dollops.  I used two desert spoons for this, which gives  20 cookies about 7cm/3inches across.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges are browning.  If you like very crisp cookies you can bake for longer at a lower temperature.

These are really good cookies, and will be part of my standard repertoire from now on.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Aloo Gobi using Bhaji Man kit

When we spent six weeks travelling in our campervan around Italy, France and Spain we started yearning for curry.  There were plenty of interesting foods available, but the more exotic ones are based on the areas colonised by these countries and didn't include curry.  I could carry jars of curry paste - I like Patak's, but don't want to carry heavy and breakable jars if I don't have to.

I bought some curry kits when I bought my last batch of urid lentils for my flour.  They come as sachets of spices in a packet, and include all the recipe instructions and a shoppping list.  Normally I would look at these and think, what an expensive way to buy a few spices, and what a lot of air - big boxes, little sachets.  However, for travelling these might be perfect. The Bhaji Man packs come with a reasuring big label on the front saying gluten free.  One might assume that spices don't have any gluten in but it is good to know that the packaging and processing of these spices hasn't contaminated them.

I made the aloo gobi - potato and cauliflower curry.  The pack contained three sachets, which have to be added at different stages.  One spices in one sachet needed crushing, so I rolled the sealed bag with a tin can - there is usually something solid available that would work.

The curry took longer to make that the recipe said, but I usually find potatoes take a long time on the stove.  I served it with basmati rice, with a pinch of garam masala in the cooking water.

The curry was delicious.  It didn't taste like the aloo gobi we eat in restaurants, but it would certainly beat those curry cravings.  Not having to measure spices, not having to carry individual jars of everything I might need, make these little kits an excellent option.  I suspect I would repackage the sachets and the instructions into a smaller bag to save space/

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Guests to tea and no baking

I have been trying to give up my obsession with baking.  Doesn't feel the same in my tiny new kitchen and there isn't anywhere to freeze supplies if I bake in bulk.

I was having visitors yesterday afternoon and bought baked goods from M&S and my local speciality foods (allergy etc) store.   I was astonished that two of the biscuits from different manufacturers looked identical except for the colour (one was coffee flavoured) but was told this was perfectly normal.  I thought it suggested a single maker and branding - not that I object, was just surprised.

I was never much of a fan of ordinary shop-bought biscuits, especially after one Christmas where we went skiing in a hurry and left some foods on the table, coming back to find that the mice had managed to get up onto what we thought was a mouse proof zone, and had eaten all the biscuits that were like home made ones and the open tin of standard biscuits hadn't been touched,  I figure if mice think biscuits aren't food that is sufficient information for me to stay away.

A quick trip to M&S and I came away with an almond frangipan cake and some pecan, chocolate and caramel shortbread type biscuits made with cornmeal.  The frangipan good, moist and held together adequately, and had no odd ingredients.  The shortbread was gritty, as things made with cornmeal often are.  I do use cornmeal in a mix with other ingredients, but do find it difficult to find fine-milled cornmeal rather than course ground.  The general view was the topping was good but the grittiness was unpleasant.  I found the topping too sweet.  I would be happy to buy both of these in the future.

The biscuits were plain and coffee flavoured simple biscuits - the kind I think of as dull.  They were boring in flavour and texture, and they went to a slightly claggy paste in the mouth.  My gluten eater who gave me feedback said they were ok.  I suspect for people who want a biscuit with a cup of milky sweet tea they would be fine.

The lemon wafers were astonishing.  My gluten eater who gave me feedback said they seemed like a fishy lemon flavour.  I didn't notice the fishiness, but the lemon oil flavour was overwhelming.  I have bottles of oils for use in massage and these wafers were exactly like neat lemon oil which I sometimes use as a room scent if I need to concentrate.  So - too much like a floor cleaner is probably the easiest way to think of them. The texture was very entertaining, crisp then melted.  If your mouth is yearning for a wafer these will be a good purchase.

The weird flavours and textures didn't stop me munching quite a few of these over the course of the afternoon and evening.

So, a whole bit of text about food that I haven't made myself in my gf kitchen and so far no mention of guts.  Too late.  Spent a good chunk of the night on the loo, and feeling a bit ropey this morning,  No idea what caused the problem as these foods didn't have anything I know causes trouble, especially in small quantities.  I haven't been glutened as I don't have the fever and rash and all the other symptoms.  Perhaps I am just suffering from greed.

The amazing thing about this offering of cakes and biscuits is that it was possible, and I didn't even buy some of everything available.  There is now a choice of gf treat food available from normal high street stores, the packaging looks as if the manufacturers think of it as food and not DIY products, and the quality is acceptable.  If I had given up gluten recently rather than several years ago I would probably never have spent those hundreds of hours searching for an acceptable way to make baked goods.  I still think my flour mix is superior to the others available, and I still regret the industries liberal use of gums to provide cohesion, but things have come a long way.

the weird lemony wafers give me gut ache so won't be buying them again.  The other biscuits are just too uninteresting to be worth the house space...but if you don't like baking you could at least use them as the base for a cheesecake or make that muddled up thing with chocolate and marshmallows.  The cakes were the best of the lot.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tikka cod with lentil curry and mixed rice

This tasty meal is high in protein and easy to make.  Frozen cod fillets coated in tikka paste and lentil and vegetable curry made with Korma paste make this a simple meal to make and full of flavour. Start cooking the curry before you cook the fish as curry is very flexible on how long it can be cooked but the fish needs to be eaten as soon as it is ready.

For two people:

Coat two frozen or fresh cod fillets with  about 1 tbsp of tikka paste. I used Pataks.  Cook according to the fish instructions.  My frozen fish needed thirty minutes in a 180C oven.  Fresh fish could be grilled for a charred finish.  I have given up trying to grill food as the smoke alarm in my new flat goes off everytime I use the grill and the whole block of flats gets alerted!

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup orange lentils
1 tbsp Korma curry paste
2 cups water, more as needed
1 tbsp tomato paste

1 large carrot, sliced
2 tbsp peas
1 tomato, cut into large chunks

Cook chopped onion in oil until soft.  Keep the heat low so that the onions don't brown unless you prefer the flavour of the browned onion.
Add the lentils and stir over medium heat until the lentils are coated in the oil.  Add the Korma paste and stir. Add the water, tomato paste and carrots. Stir and cook until lentils and carrots are soft.
Add more water if needed.
Three minutes before serving add the frozen peas and cook.
One minute before serving add the tomatoes.  They should just heat through but not fall apart.

Use whatever rice you like.  I used a mixed rice with French Red Camargue, Italian long grain and Canadian Wild Rice because that was all I had.  Plain rice would have been more appropriate to go with the complex flavours of the curry and fish.  If I had served the fish with steamed vegetables rather than the curry the mixed rice would have been excellent as the different flavours and textures would have been more noticeable.

Serve the fish with curry and rice.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Best ever gluten-free ginger cake

I had all my embroidery chums visiting the other day and I know they are very fond of ginger cake.  I made one without following a recipe and decided it was disgusting.  A bit of research on the internet and I came across this review of ginger cake recipes from the Guardian.  I used the recipe Felicity Cloake recommended, just swapping my usual gf flour for the ordinary wheat flour.  My flour is a mixture of urid lentils (40%), tapioca (40%) and cornmeal (20%).

The cake was superb and the recipe demanded and made immediately.  This recipe is rich and complex.  The icing is ginger wine and icing sugar, which gives an easy but potent topping to this moist cake.  Choose a good brand of ginger wine as they do vary enormously.  I used Greens. The recipe suggested stem ginger to top the cake but I skipped this as I had forgotten to buy any.


100g butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour (100g of my flour mix with 1tsp gf baking powder.  Flour is urid (40%) tapioca (40%) and fine cornmeal (20%)
4 tsp ground ginger (if you don't use ginger often buy some new as it does lose its punch)
175g golden syrup
3 tbsp ginger wine
2 free-range eggs, beaten
Walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
150g candied ginger, finely chopped
75g icing sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C and grease and line a 23cm loaf tin. 
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Sift together the flour and ground ginger. 
  3. Pour in the golden syrup and 1 tbsp wine and mix to combine.
  4. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, then gradually mix in the flour. Finally, stir through the fresh and candied ginger and spoon into the prepared tin. Level the top and bake for about 50–60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  5. Allow to cool in the tin. It will tend to fall apart if you try to take it out when it is hot.
  6. When it's completely cool, make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and remaining ginger wine and drizzle over the top of the cake. 

This cake would probably be very good for several days but you probably won't get a chance to find out.

Cod with pine kernals

A really easy meal made special with some storecupboard staples.  This cod is topped with stir-in tomato and garlic pasta sauce (Sacla) and mayonaise and then topped with whole pine kernals, then baked until the fish is cooked.

I used two cod fillets (frozen, packaging says sustainable sourced).  On top of each fillet I put one teaspoon of pasta sauce and one of mayonnaise.  I find mayonnaise an easy way of adding creaminess without having to worry about my dairy intolerance.  I find the little jars of 'stir-in' pasta sauce very useful for all sorts of things as they keep for a fortnight once open, and are great for pizzas as they are not too sloppy.

I was going to pulverise the pine kernals but as I no longer have a food processor I just sprinkled the pine kernals on top of the fish.  I think this was fine and don't think I would bother chopping the pine kernals in future even if the kit was handy.

I baked the fish in the oven for thirty minutes as instructed on the packaging, and served with potato wedges, roasted carrots, and steamed broccoli.

Nakd nut and fruit bars

I had an unexpected pleasure the other day.  I was asked if I would review Nakd Gluten Free Foods cold pressed nut and fruit bars. There is supposed to be an accent over the 'a' but I havent figured out how to add one.

 I had never tried them before as I tend to make my own handbag foods, or if I need to buy something I have always bought the Eat Natural fruit, nut and seed bars.

A mixed box of bars arrived shortly after.  I didn't try them straight away as I was a bit glutened, then I had to go and look after a sick grandchild, caught her germ...anyways, today I tried the whole range.

I got sent an astonishing range of different flavoured bars:
cocoa orange
berry delight
cocoa delight
cashew cookie
rhubarb and custard
ginger bread
caffe mocha
cocoa mint
cafe mocha
pecan pie

They all say "Yummy raw fruit and nut bar" and are gluten, wheat and dairy free. Most of them are made with dates and cashews and a few other things like cocoa, spices, pecans and unspecified natural flavours.

The packs are a neat small size, and would be good to keep in a pocket or handbag for munching while out.  I found them quite difficult to open, but eventually figured that you have to open out the seam and grasp firmly at the middle and tug. I haven't tried it with chilly fingers at an outdoor event, or with gloves on - they would be good on skiing trips so maybe I'll test this aspect next season. They do have the advantage that the writing is clear and easy to read - the Eat Natural bars, in contrast, are not all gf and you have to open the seam flap and peer carefuly to check each flavour.

My first impression was 'how weird!'.  They are smashed nuts and fruit squished together.  I thought, 'why eat smushed fruit and nuts rather than a handful of whole nuts and fruit?' - I still have reasonable teeth.  Then it occurred to me that this is a tidy way of eating nuts and fruit and it can be done without having to touch the food.  This is always a useful aspect when trying to avoid gluten contamination. They are also quiet to eat, so if you are munching in a library or other spot where discretion is useful they would be very suitable though the packaging itself makes a bit of a noise.

The first two bars I tried didn't seem to have much flavour difference, but today I opened one of each and tried them one after the other.  Some of the flavours are totally weird, like the rhubarb and custard, but I reckon that this means that everyone could find at least one flavour they liked.

The bars are vegan, have no added sugars or syrups, and each one gives you one of your portions of fruit for the day.  Handy little things - if you try one and don't like the flavour try a different one.  They certainly have a wider flavour range than any other snack I have encountered that can be eaten by coeliacs and others with gluten intolerance. And if you lose all your teeth you won't have to find someone to chew your food for you!

throwing the box away I noticed the text on the bottom:

"Hello, Gorgeous.  Fancy meeting you here.  You are aware, of course, that you have this box upside down.  We salute your curiosity and suggest better reading can be found at EATNAKD.COM"