Saturday, 25 September 2010

I'm moving!

I thought it was time to make a move... but only elsewhere on the internet! When I started this blog, I thought Blogger was the way to go but Wordpress looks MUCH better - so that's where I am... please come too : )

Friday, 24 September 2010

Appley ever after

It's been a loooonggg week.

I've been late at work a few nights (only got to ride twice) and then I had to go to a council meeting last night. That's not unusual and this one finished fairly early at 8.15pm - I've had a few major ones run till 1am! - but that means not getting home till gone 9pm : (

Luckily, I had half a butternut-prawn-mushroom-spinach frittata-thing I'd made the night before so it was easy to heat it up and steam some veg to go with it.

But another thing I do most nights is make the next morning's breakfast - porridge! There's been a slight, er, theme running through this week's bowls...

In the words of Rolf Harris: "Can you guess what it is yet?" : )

Getting warmer...

All down to this...

The first picture is what I started with and had twice but forgot to photograph till halfway through the second bowlful! Oats and oatbran, cooked with 1tsp cocoa and water with a mashed-melted banana and 2tsp hazelnut butter mixed in afterwards...

The second picture is what made the third! I had some coconut oil chocolate (coconut oil, cocoa and maple syrup) in the freezer, so I cooked the oats without cocoa, then melted a little chunk of the chocolate with the mashed banana and stirred it in - so chocolatey!

I also tried, but forgot to photograph, cooking the oats/bran with 1tbsp ground almonds and the cocoa, then adding the banana. This was definitely the most filling.

And - the little non-chocolatey island of the week - this:

I'd stewed some apples and suddenly thought that was worth trying. I made the oats plain, then stirred in a big dollop of stewed apple with some almond butter. It was very nice but did NOT cut the mustard in such an otherwise chocolate-fest of a week...

The funny thing is, even though I know it's healthy, my brain refuses to accept that anything tasting of chocolate can be good for you in the morning! But I'll soldier bravely on on the same theme : )

I'm thinking coconut/chocolate in some form next or *sudden blinding flash of inspiration* a chocolate breakfast cookie...

To be continued!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Home-grown bliss

My dad is the best. Of course, I would say that! But as well as his general amazing dadlike qualities, he loves gardening; growing food and almost ordering people to eat it : )

I've been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of his labour for months; from asparagus to soft fruit, peas, beans, carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, you name it.

He's not into growing flowers but some of the veg, like this red cabbage and these unusual-looking but great-tasting carrots, are so beautiful, he doesn't need to!

But the part of his garden I've had my beady eye on for weeks is this...


As a serious butternut addict, this is the vegetable equivalent of some hard stuff... : ) 
And it's not just butternuts; he's sown loads of different seeds, with a "let's see what they are when they grow" approach, woop!

I don't really eat potatoes, as I can never be bothered to cook them! But recently, I've been using squash almost as a potato equivalent. This fact, and the fact there was some salmon in the freezer which needed eating, led me to last night's dinner - colouful fish pie...

350g-ish fish (I used 260g salmon and a random fillet of something white from my freezer! It was probably pollock, which is like cod, and probably about 90g at a guess. But more fish and of any type would also be great)
Few bay leaves, etc
About 450g or more veg (I used about 320g butternut and 120g carrot) cubed
Pinch of garlic powder
Plain yoghurt (I used about half a 170g pot of total 0%)
1tsp wholegrain mustard
1 egg yolk
Splash of milk
About half a leek

Preheat overn to about 180C. Spray a roasting tin with cooking spray and put the fish in, with the bay leaves. I also used some lemon thyme, given to me by my neighbour.
Cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until fish is cooked.
While it's in, cook the squash and carrots until tender.
Remove fish and put on a plate. Pour any juices into a bowl with the yoghurt, egg yolk, milk and mustard and mix.
Put fish back in the pan and pour in the "white sauce", mixing it in with the fish. Sprinkle chopped leeks on top.
Mash the cooked squash and carrots with the garlic and spread over the fish. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes, then grill at about the same temperature for another 5-10 minutes.

It was so nice! It was one of those recipes I thought might not work at all, as the mashed veg was obviously a lot less "solid" than potato mash but it tasted delicious! For more substance, I think a small potato or two mashed in would be great and actually I'd use a bit more mash next time anyway, as this amount made quite a thin layer.
It might also be nice to sprinkle on some grated parmesan before it goes in the grill, or to add some prawns and chopped hard-boiled eggs to the fish. If more fish/prawns etc was added, I'd use the whole pot of yoghurt too for more creaminess.
But definitely a winner overall. So much flavour and it looked much nicer than a boring white/yellow fish pie (in my humble opinion!) especially served with a rainbow of vegetables.

And talking of vegetables and home-grown joy, I couldn't end without sharing this dude, dug up last week.

Childish - but very entertaining! : )

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Chocolate for breakfast - twice!

Last week was pretty rubbish, all things considered! I had a horrible cold/flu/weakness lurgy, which lasted from Sunday till about Friday : (

So I planned a chilled weekend, but then remembered Dave and my friend's horse were due to be shod yesterday. The farrier never gives an exact time; he just said "after 11am". So I got there at 11.15 and he turned up about 12.45pm. Grrr.
By the time he'd finished, it was nearly 3pm so my friend and I got on the school to ride - and Dave threw me off! I've never known him do anything like it but he stood right up on his back legs, jumped and spun sideways and I landed right on my backside. Not impressed.

So when I woke up today, I felt realllly stiff and bruised and, as any good doctor will tell you, the only cure for that is chocolate. And fast.

So I made chocolate pancakes.

I mixed:

2 egg whites
2 tbsp oat bran
2tbsp water
1-2 tsp cocoa powder (I only used one but two would have been better)

I just mixed it all together, then cooked them in the omelette pan, sprayed with cooking spray, over a medium heat and flipped. These quantities would have made three crepes but I forgot to re-spray the pan after the first one so the second did NOT work : )

I then filled them with my all-time favourite - a mashed, microwaved banana and 2tsp amond butter *drool*

Granted, this picture does not make them look impressive AT ALL! But just think - chocolate, with oozy, almond-buttery banana. Could breakfast get any better?!

And also, the rubbishness of Saturday doesn't really give me an excuse for that morning's chocolate breakfast - oats, cooked with 1tsp cocoa powder and then mixed with half a mashed/melted banana and 1-2 tsp hazelnut butter but hey, who's asking? : )

Have a great week.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Bean there, done that!

Let me introduce a friend of mine, the Bamix:

We've known each other a while now. It started a year or so ago, when I went through a phase of making cakes which replaced flour and butter with ground nuts. My mum kindly lent me her own Bamix but, after I'd stolen borrowed it a few times, she got so sick of it was so keen to spread the joy, she bought me one for Christmas.

Since then, I've used it A LOT. The sharp blade fits on a spike in the mill, then you slot in the handset and away you go; it grinds those nuts, ahem, like no one's business! Then, I started using it to blend more and more different things and all was rosy.

But all relationships have their downsides and my only slight issue was the small capacity of the mill. Whenever I wanted to blend larger quantities, I had to burrow deep into the cupboard and haul out my old "food processor", handed down from my mum, HUGE and very heavy : (

Then, the other day, I realised I'd been having a very long-standing blonde moment. I was at my mum's and she was using hers - but without the mill! It turns out *confession time* it's actually intended as a hand blender. The mill/blade is only for grinding and had I looked in the box and read the manual, I would have realised there are loads of different attachments, perfect for blending, pureeeing, you name it! So when my mum stopped laughing at me, I got back home, found the attachments and have since been mixin' with the best of them.

It was perfect timing too. A thought had floated into my head a while ago that blended beans would make a great porridge. As I've got a head like a sieve and couldn't be bothered with the prehistoric blender, the thought floated straight back out again but Katie's recent recipe reminded me of it. She's also currently running a giveaway of Larabars, for anyone who's interested : )

So... Into the blender went:

60g cannelini beans
Splash of vanilla extract
Splash of milk.
Half a mashed, microwaved banana
Tiny pinch salt

I blended away and then stuck my finger in. And it was really nice! Creamy, smooth and banana-y but the beans give it a great texture and kind of depth (if that doesn't sound too poncy!)

I mixed in 1tsp almond butter and a drizzle of maple syrup and it made the perfect breakfast! would have made the perfect breakfast if I had been less greedy : )

Thanks Katie!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Autumn is here


That's my reaction to the weather; I'm not impressed. After a wet and miserable August, September is proving to be, wait for it, wet and miserable! Hmmph.

But Sunday was beautiful I suppose, so I can't moan too much. I took Dave out jumping and although it was his first show inside for months and I'd hardly had time to work him last week, he was a star, only knocking down one fence in the jump-off (although I was struggling with a slight braking issue total lack of control by that point!)

There were loads of people there too so I was starving when I got home but had loads to do. First up was making something to take for lunch this week. After months of crackers, crepes and crispbreads of various types, I was struck by a craving for sandwiches. I recently made some of my gluten-free wraps but, although they taste great and have a nice chewy texture, they're a real pain to make because the dough's soooo sticky!

Then two thoughts drifted into my head. One was a fat-free banana bread I've made hundreds of times. It's gluten-free (and delicious) and, although it has the texture of cake more than bread, it holds together well, which ain't common with gluten-free loaves!

The other thought was a vision of the ridiculous size and number of courgettes taking over my dad's vegetable patch - they're HUGE!

So, I present to you.... courgette bread sandwiches!

Apologies in advance for using a nasty word but the bread is moist *shudder*, holds together and tastes nice! The only slight problem, and the reason I'm not going to put the recipe up yet, is, that is a very small side plate - the loaf is tiny!

So I'm looking on it as a "work in progress" : )  Updates to follow, if I can improve it. If I never mention it again, you know why!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Inspiration, creation, salivation!

But before that, a word about a mental week! Back to work, editing, a reporter off, a completely uninspired work experence kid... aargh! At least, I thought as I left the office on Friday, it's the weekend...

But that night, my laptop had a SECOND argument with a cup of tea (I'm such an idiot!) and it came off worse. So I had to buy another one yesterday : (

Then, a group of us went out last night for one friend's birthday and another one's "welcome back to the world" after having a baby. But the manager of the restaurant we'd picked said they couldn't guarantee anything on the menu was safe for me to eat. So I ended up with a bowl of olives for dinner! It didn't matter too much though as I made up for it when I got home. Possibly 1am wasn't the best time to shovel down baked squash custard with almond butter, followed by Cadbury's chocolate raisins but it definitely hit the spot...

Anyway - cake!

As well as my official job, my unoffical role at work is that of office cake-maker, which is fine with me!

It was our photographer's birthday at the weekend and I knew he'd be in today so I started thinking about what sort of cake I wanted to make and chocolate was the clear winner : )

I've made butter, flour and oil-free ones, using ground nuts, but suddenly wanted to see if I could make a completely fat-free chocolate cake...

And there it is!

I knew kind-of what I wanted to do but couldn't find a recipe anywhere so I guessed, estimated and hoped - and it worked...

Preheat oven to 180c and grease and line two 9-inch loose-bottomed sandwich tins

4 eggs, separated
95g flour (I used 60g rice flour, 35 cornflour and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
120g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder

Sift flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and cocoa powder together to make sure well blended and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. In a separate bowl, beat yolks and sugar together till creamy. Gently fold in the egg whites, in about four goes, then gently fold in the flour/cocoa mixture, taking care not to over-mix. Pour into tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are starting to shrink away from the sides. Leave to cool in tins, then gently turn out on to a wire rack.


15g dark chocolate
100g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Extra Light)
125g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Tiny pinch salt

Melt chocolate in the microwave and beat cheese till creamy. Add melted chocolate and beat again. Add vanilla and salt and blend, then stir in sugar and blend. Spread over the top of one cake and sandwich the two together.

WARNING: I used this recipe and it was A.Mazing. But it makes much too much for a cake this size and if you can resist shovelling the rest straight from pan to mouth, you've got much better self control than I have : )
I think 3/4 or 2/3 these quantities would be plenty and still leave enough for the cook to, erm, sample it...

85g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
4 tbsp evaporated milk (I used Sainsbury's own light version)
185g icing sugar

Put milk and chocolate in a thick-bottomed pan and stir over a low heat. Once chocolate has melted, stir in icing sugar until well blended, then pour over cake. It'll set to an amazing shiny finish...

(Obviously these toppings make this gluten-, fat- and dairy-free cake not dairy free at all! But I think blended silken tofu would make a brilliantly creamy filling if used in place of the Philadelphia. Also, I think coconut milk would make a perfect, and delicious, substitute for the evaporated milk)

Well, what can I say? The boys in the office are hard to please when it comes to cake but all of them said it was the best cake I'd ever made (although that could just mean the others were rubbish!) And not a piece was left...

Monday, 6 September 2010

And now for something completely different...

Ok, so in the interests of accuracy, I need to point out that "slightly different" would be better than "completely" but how often do you get the chance to use a Monty Python quote?!

And "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy" just wouldn't have worked as a title for this post... : )

Anyway! Does anyone else ever get the urge to make/eat something you haven't had for ages, if ever? That's what I had on Saturday; a compulsion to make polenta porridge for breakfast (weird).

Polenta, or fine cornmeal, was promoted to me a lot when I was first diagnosed coeliac but I'd only ever used it in a couple of cakes (to good effect; it gives a nice sandy texture). But it's a very versatile ingredient. You can use it as flour, bake it as a bread (and then saute the slices for a toast-like effect, serve it as a pasta or rice substitute - or cook it on the stove, like you would oats.

Its nutritional stats aren't as impressive as those of oats - for almost exactly the same number of calories, 100g polenta has about 3.5g less protein and about 7.5g less fibre but I thought adding a bit of oat bran would make up for that.

Following the instructions on the packet, I measured out 30g polenta (with 15g oat bran) and heated 150ml water in a saucepan.
Once it was boiling, I poured in the grains and started stirring. It was clear straight away that MUCH more water was needed so I grabbed the nearest mug and sloshed loads in - about a small mugful, if that helps : )

You then just have to keep stirring, almost whipping, until you reach the consistency you want, which takes much less time than cooking porridge. You do have to keep stirring though, to break up any lumps of polenta.

When it had cooled down, I added my favourite mix-in, a mashed-to-oblivion, microwave-melted banana, and 4tbsp coconut milk... and it was delicious! Soooo creamy and the coconut/banana flavour was perfect...

Banana/coconut creamy polenta porridge

Another bonus was that it kept me full for ages. This may have been partly owing to the mix-ins rather than the polenta but this breakfast is definitely a winner! This picture doesn't do it justice either, it was a beautiful primrose yellow too : )

Saturday, 4 September 2010

A day of culinary creativity!

I was struck by a real need to cook yesterday...! Apparently, the making of the Spanish omelette wasn't enough to satisfy it so I got into the kitchen on a bit of a mission...

First up... meringues! But not just any old meringues...

Chocolate meringues! (I don't know why this picture is the wrong way round; it's not saved like that!)

I used 80g of sugar, about 55-60g golden caster and 20-25g soft light brown for a toffee-ish effect. I stirred them together with about 5g cocoa powder.
Then, beat egg whites to soft peaks stage and start adding the chocolatey sugar, a spoonful at a time. Once it's all mixed in, the mix should be at the stiff peaks stage.
Dollop it on to a lined baking sheet and cook for at least an hour and 20 minutes. I preheated my fan oven to 100c but a normal oven would be slightly higher.

After that time, they weren't quite ready but I had to go out! So I turned off the oven at that point but left them in and hoped for the best - and it worked! Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside (remember that Dime bar advert?!) and a lovely chocolate flavour. Next time, I might up the proportion of brown sugar and maybe add a bit more cocoa. I might also try to make them flatter and more cookie-like and then sandwich them with almond butter-maple sauce and banana slices *drools at the thought*

But they also went well with my next creation....

Jam! (kind of)

My dad had thoughtfully planted three different types of raspberries, early, midsummer and late varieties... and those late ones were calling my name!

I also had some bargain strawberries from Sainsbury's so mixed-berry jam was the way to go.

I put the raspberries, about 450g of them, into a big pan with about 300g chopped strawberries and heated them with 5 tbsp sweetener.I let the mixture boil for a few minutes, during which time it turned into a beautiful crimson mass...

But it looked a bit thin so I added about one and a half tbsp cornflour, mixed with the same amount of water, stirred that in and kept heating until it thickened. Once it had cooled, I put it in jars (except some which may or may not have found its way on to one of the chocolate meringues. Mmmm...)

And the "jam" gave me an idea for today's breakfast. I may have gone on and on about mentioned my obsession with fondness for the melted banana trick in the past and it's still the way forward but, having eaten it A LOT recently, either mixed into porridge, or (blended with some almond butter while it's hot which is even better!) on a breakfast cookie, I thought it might be time to try something else : )

So I cooked some porridge last night (I always do it the night before. I know it's weird but I don't like hot porridge and I'm too greedy to do it in the morning and wait for it to cool down!)
As normal, I cooked 40g oats and 20g oat bran with about 1 cup water on the stove, stirring all the time. Then, instead of just chucking it in a bowl like normal, I carried on stirring after I took it off the heat. I gave it a good whipping with the wooden spoon for ages and then poured it into the bowl. I gave it another couple of stirs as it cooled and it really made a difference - so much creamier!

Then, in the morning, I took about 80g of the jam, heated it in the microwave and stirred it in.

It looked so good; check out that colour! And it tasted great too; the jam is tangy and not too sweet. Definitely a winner...

Thursday, 2 September 2010


One of the (many) great things about visiting different places is, obviously, trying a whole new range of food, which I forced myself to do in Spain : )

While I was there, I really enjoyed the Spanish omelettes, especially a spinach one, and came home determined to try to recreate it... after yesterday's Easyjet  travel nightmare, I got home and cooked myself something fairly boring but that I knew I liked - and it was horrible! The vegetables sprinkled with cider vinegar, the garlic carrot chips, the tuna... none of it tasted good at all! I was worried I'd been spoilt by the brilliant foreign food and would no longer enjoy my own weird unique style of cooking *gasp*.

So this evening, I was a bit more creative. After a chilled day food shopping, riding and doing my first "official" (but short) babysitting for my beautiful five-week-old goddaughter, I came home, rolled my sleeves up and created Spanish omelette a la Eleanor...

The traditional recipe is, I think, just eggs, potatoes and random other stuff so it's not that different (fairly similar to a frittata too)

I started by dicing and steaming 100g spaghetti squash. While it was cooking, I heated a pan with cooking spray and added half a small, finely chopped onion and a few chopped mushrooms with some garlic powder.
Once they'd browned, I added the cooked squash, chopped very finely, and let it all saute together.
I then added a big handful of baby spinach, torn apart.
Once it had wilted, I turned down the heat and added an egg and an egg white, beaten with about 1tbsp parmesan.
Like cooking a frittata, I then stirred it round a bit to try and make it fluffy, then left it to cook for a minute or two on the low heat. Once the bottom was set, I transferred it to the grill, set to medium heat, and left it for 5-10 minutes.

While it and the garlic carrot chips were cooking, I made some multicoloured coleslaw, using red cabbage, red onion, carrot, extra-light mayonnaise and some fat-free vinaigrette. I much preferred this to normal white cabbage/onion coleslaw, if only because it looks so lovely!

I also steamed some green beans, runner beans, leeks and broccoli with some more of the red cabbage, resulting in a huge plate of food which, if I do say so myself, tasted amazing! Wow, there's nothing like one horrible dinner to make you appreciate a nice one : )

And the best bit is, there's still half the omelette left AND some coleslaw, which means tomorrow's dinner will be great too so thumbs-up for inspiration from foreign food.

Of course, one of the other great things about going to different places is the need to carry out extensive and in-depth research into local pursuits of entertainment, which we managed to force ourselves to do!

(This is the start-of-night pic, the later ones are slightly less presentable!)

Back home

And it's really good to be back, strangely!

I had a lovely almost-week away, relaxing, enjoying some sun, (I'd almost forgotten what wearing shorts feels like!) trying new food, relaxing...

The villa is lovely. I'd been there before but years ago when building work hadn't finished on it. It's a bungalow, right up in the Spanish mountains so there's a stunning view. All you can see at night is the stars and all you can hear is the crickets... beautiful. This is the morning view from the terrace:

It's near Marbella, on the southeast coast, so it's only an hour's drive to Gibraltar, which we did on Monday. I'd imagined just a big rock, which is obviously there, but it's also a tax haven, which means there's also a really tacky town full of cut-price alcohol and tobacco shops (did manage to get a really cheap new camera though!)
But when you drive up to the rock itself, it's well worth going. The view of Africa, from above the clouds,  is amazing. The monkeys which live there are very friendly and so cute, especially the tiny baby who seemed to enjoy showing off for us!

On top of the rock (I'm on the left)

How cute!

There are also some stunning natural caves on the rock. The cave of St Michael is full of stalagmites and stalagtites and has evidence of use by humans in the Neolithic period. It was like walking into a cathedral; the rising natural sculpture reminiscent of organ pipes, and the overwhelming feeling that this was created over thousands and thousands of years by nothing but water. Amazing.

Sadly, my old and slightly rubbish camera couldn't quite cope with the light inside the cave so this gives no idea of how beautiful it was!

I was also so impressed by how well I was catered for in terms of food. The supermarket had a big "sin gluten/coeliacos" section and all the other products were well-labelled, even for a non Spanish speaker like me. I also got a friend of a friend to write down the Spanish for "must eat foods without gluten". As soon as I showed waiters this, they let me know exactly what was safe, returning after each course to reassure me. In one restaurant, they even brought out, without me asking, warm gluten-free bread - wow! You don't get looked after like that here...

I had an amazing seafood risotto, grilled swordfish with prawn sauce, creme caramel and some very nice red wine (although not all at the same meal :) )

And it is nice to be back home, despite the ten-hour travelling nightmare to get here (thanks EasyJet, appreciate it!) And it's even sunny here again, hooray!