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Preview: The Lilac Kitchen

The Lilac Kitchen

New Kitchen, time to start experimenting again. Gluten free, mostly organic and british. Plus now the Allotment too !

Updated: 2017-10-07T10:33:39.779+01:00


Combining into one blog for now at least


I'm not blogging much currently as life is very full so having more than one blog seems a bit pointless therefore until farther notice all posts will be on my main blog.

Time flies


I don't seem to be blogging much recently but life has been very full.

We have finished moving plots on the allotment and are trying to get fully caught up with the growing season. The garlic and shallots did pretty well given we moved them halfway through the spring and I now have bundles of garlic drying in the back of the house. The fruit bushes seem happier and the baby trees even have baby fruit though one of them has lost them all in the June drop. The established tree is a bit of a every other year cropper apparently but has a few here and there.

We put in some new flower planters at the front of the house instead of a wall or fence as it's a very small area but can you see something wrong with them?

The tomatoes and huge squash that seem to be growing on one of them were never planted. That's what comes from using the compost from the allotment !

volunteer squash, just what sort is it???

A closer look at the squash. I'm try to decide if I should dig it up and transplant it to the allotment or just leave it and find out what sort it is ! We have tomatoes and potatoes cropping up in various unwanted places on the allotment which surprises me as they are both tender here and we had the coldest December on record !

In more cooking related news I finally bottled up the apple 'beer' which turns out to be more like apple wine but very nice and I made 2 gallons of elderflower cordial.

 2 gallons of cordial in random mixed bottles.
Not sure how long this will last us but it was really easy to make so will definitely be doing it again next year probably in bigger quantities.

quick menu post


For the first time in ages I have a menu planned on a Monday so I thought I'd shock everyone and post it.!

This weeks gluten free menu swap is hosted by Celiac Family who chose celery. I don't have any recipes based specifically on it but there will be some in the leek and potato soup and I might possibly do braised celery later in the week as a side dish because Noddles wants to try it cooked.

Monday - Leek and Potato soup with cheese scones
(there are both leeks and potatoes left on the new allotment which are still edible so I think there may be a lot of recipes including them the next few weeks!)

Tuesday - Shrove Tuesday so there can only be one dish - PANCAKES !!

Wednesday - spare ribs and rice

Thursday - Pasta and sauce

Friday - Beef stew

Saturday - Treestump's third birthday so birthday picnic/tea and of course cake !

Sunday - Roast pork and all the trimmings.

Baking - cheese scones, birthday cake or cakes  might do decorated cupcakes. some sort of bread.

One thing I do need to do is sort out something automatic that I like for breakfast, I'm trying to get out to the allotment when I drop Noodles to school but need to have eaten before I go out and having re-tried bread using Xanth gum last week it definitely does me no good and makes it much harder to get going in the mornings so I either need to make bread or something similar so I always have some available or find something else I will happily grab and run as I have to be in the mood for cereal, that said I might try making my own granola as that is one I do generally like but is SO expensive to get the couple of types that are gluten free here.

Allotment News


I have decided to start posting allotment updates here rather than on a dedicated blog. I have failed to keep up the allotment one over the last year and now we have decided to move plots so the name isn't even right. Plus most of what we grow will end up on a plate so it seems sensible.

Anyway to explain the move a bit more, I like our original plot but it's been very hard work getting the compacted heavy clay into working order and much of our time has been spent trying to get a fence/hedge in and chasing Treestump around the site as our plot isn't secure. Last year it took us so long to prep and dig beds as the spring was so wet that by the time we got the potatoes in we were behind on everything else and most of it barely grew. Also with no hedge to mask us as most plots have and being right on the carpark we have been very much in full public view. We have not got as far as we would have liked due to a big learning curve, my physicality problems over the last few years and it just being a lot of work with little time and we didn't like feeling we were letting the side down particularity as it is the allotment sits 100th anniversary this year !

So move forward to this year and a plot just over the carpark comes free. It has been gardened by someone we know who is a professional gardener and I know has a similar outlook on many things to us and has put a huge amount of effort into getting i up and running properly. It is a lot of work to move all our stuff including the shed and greenhouse but once done we will have a plot that is fully up and running, all the beds are sorted and have been dug and had organic matter added and so on so it's a matter of keeping them weeded and planted rather than trying to get them going in the first place. Plus it has compete hedges so no more running off small person and far less on public view even though we are still basically in the same area. It even has an established apple tree !

Course there as some problems, it can be quite wet certainly it is at this time of the year but that can be worked round and some areas are worse than others and it's a standard problem in may parts of the site so would probably be something we had to deal with whatever plot we had.

So I spent a while getting wet today getting measurements but now have a plan of the plot and can start working out where the shed, greenhouse, soon to be rebuilt polytunnel and various baby trees are going to be moved to. Then all being well we will see how much we can move one day this week as we are pencilling in a full day of such things as half term will be over.

I have a few things started off in the greenhouse and some more in the house so hopefully by the time we get moved we should be into the growing season proper and can get a whole bunch of things into the ground directly as well.

Better than Awesome!


I love my square casesI didn't realise I haven't posted here at all this year ! Sorry I've been busy and Treestump has discovered the cbeebies website and thinks my computer should be for him to play games on! While they are educational I don't think someone under 3 should spend all day on the computer so am trying to limit the time he is on the computer and indeed the time I spend on it as it's all about setting examples isn't it!Anyway one thing I decided recently was to cut gums form my diet as I have been struggling rather and am fairly sure it is connected to me eating more premade breads and so on which are loaded with Xanth gum. As it happens Shauna (Gluten free girl and the chef) has also decided to do the same which is great news as I was reluctant to try some of the baking recipes in her book purely due to the gum. Now her and Danny are converting all their recipes to be gum free and sharing that process on their blog !One of the things they have found is that you can convert gluten recipes by weight much better than by volume which maybe why I have had an easier time converting our old favourites than many Americans I know because our recipes are all based on weight.Anyway one of the recipes they posted recently was for wholegrain muffins. It's a great recipe and I have since made multiple versions both whole grain and using Dove Farm mix. I've even made savoury versions and they are all good !Apple muffinsFirst off we tried apple muffins, just Dove Farm flour instead of mixing our own and big chunks of apple. They were really good and the boys demolished then in short order. Then we tried pear and dried peach they were to quote Noodles,  "Better than awesome!!" No photos of those they went to fast!!Cheese and sundried tomato spread with butterThen I decided to try savoury and did some wholemeal cheese and sundried tomato ones using gram flour (which I love with cheese) and buckwheat as my main flours. These were also pretty good though less of a hit with the smaller people but they just love their fruit ones too much I think !Stilton and red onionI'm sure we've tried more but today's were stilton and red onion. I sweated off the onion and then added some honey and a small knob of butter and cooked them down till very soft. Really good !So go on pop over and get the basic recipe then try your own versions![...]

Apple cake


We have a new favourite for a quick, easy and tasty tea time treat

This is based on a recipe from the Be-Ro Baking book which is a legendary British baking book in its 40th edition, however theirs is a different fruit and used butterscotch not syrup plus obviously not gluten free.

I've made this twice in the last few days. The first time the apple disappeared into the cake and while it tasted great it didn't look very interesting. This second one I put apple purée behind the apple slices and that helped stop the cake enveloping the apples slices.

The recipe is very simple really. It is made like a Tart Tatin ie put the apple in the bottom of the pan and add the cake on top then turn out to serve upside down. In this case the cake is a basic Victoria sponge mix.

The syrup used can be a simple sugar syrup you make yourself with sugar and water or a bought one. We used some I made a few days ago which was a failed attempted at "compost jelly" from the River Cottage Preserves book. It is a jelly made from apple peelings and orange skins, tastes great but I didn't let it boil long enough and it failed to set so we are using it as a syrup instead.

Apple Cake

Apples - enough to cover the bottom of the tin once sliced - I used 4 smallish ones
Apple puree or apple sauce, a small bowl or jar full. This is optional but helps the slices stay visible
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Syrup
8oz Sugar
8oz Soft marg or butter
4 medium eggs
8oz of flour (Dove Farm GF Plain flour)
2 tsp baking powder

Peel core and slice apples, lay in a pretty pattern over the bottom of a cake tin. Pour over syrup and cover with purée if using. Sprinkle on cinnamon.

Mix flour and baking powder together.
In a bowl cream sugar and marg or butter until pale and fluffy.
Add one egg at a time with a little flour each time, mixing well before adding the next egg.
Add the rest of the flour.
scoop mix over the apples gently spreading it out to completely cover it.

Cook at 180c for 30 mins or till set and slightly browning.

Allow to cool slightly then turn out on a plate. Eat warm with cream or even better with dark chocolate sauce and cream !!

Book review - Gluten-free girl and the chef


I've been rather tardy about posting this one but that is partly because I love it so much I've been wanting to try out more recipes before I post about them but other things keep getting in the way.When I got a email asking me if I would review this book I jumped at the chance, it was already on my wish list to buy and I have followed Shauna's blog for years back before her and Daniel married and had their wonderful little girl so I knew I'd love the style of writing. Actually I love it even more than I expected. I'm the sort of person who reads cookery books like novels and this one has so much to read! The recipes sound amazing and make you want try them out there and then but there is much more in the book than just recipes. This book is part recipe book, part biography about how Shauna and Daniel live their lives, it is mostly written in Shauna's 'voice' but with occasional additions from Daniel which works really well.The extra stuff includes lots of tip bits about why you do certain things in recipes, information about ingredients and what it's like being a chef as well as a huge amount of enthusiasm and love of life anyone who reads the blog will know well.One of the tips I can really relate to is that it is much easier to get a recipe to work if you sort out all the ingredients first, weigh them out and so on, that way you aren't trying to prep the next ingredient while the first stages overcook !  Something I may possibly have done more times than I like to remember. I am determined to get my kitchen better organised so I get ready before I start actually cooking !So what about the recipes? Well I've tried several recipes from the blog in the past and they have all worked out well so while I haven't tried as many as I'd like as yet I am pretty confident they will be good when I do get to them.One I did try is Apple and rosemary muffins. I've been doing a lot with apples recently as I have a couple of generous friends with apple trees.Can I eat them yet?As you can see I was trying out my new square silicon  muffin cases which I just couldn't pass up when I saw them in Aldi,  I now have 3 dozen silicon muffin or cupcake holders, though one dozen are a little floppy to use on their own. They were very yummy and one of the reasons I chose them to try was the teff flour. I thought the flour added a lovely depth to them and the rosemary was really good in them too. Next time I will cook them just a little more as they were still a bit to gummy in the middle but that was very much me being impatient not the recipe !I like that not all their recipes that need flour use a mix with sorghum in, while I totally understand why it is so common in american recipes it isn't a flour we can get a reliably safe version over here at all easily.We also tried the garlic flans which had Tom considering what changes he might make to take some to the next camping event so I think that counts as a success !I keep meaning to try the pickled apples too as I love pickled anything! The blue cheese cheesecake with fig crust is on the list, then there is the gluten-free crackers! There are many more including more complicated main course dishes that I plan to try later as well.You never know I might get the Kindle version too so I can keep the printed one nice and clean ! You can find both versions on Amazon (the link here is for the UK but it's easy to fine on the American one too)Thanks Shauna and Daniel for an inspiring and uplifting book and may you have many happy years together with your lovely little girl![...]

Menu - week starting 29th Nov 2010


This week's gluten free menu swap is hosted by Gluten Free Goodness and they picked sweet potatoes as the ingredient of the week. I really like sweet potatoes but they aren't a desperately common veg here as they are too tender to grow in our climate without extra heat, however if I get time I may well pop into the market where there are normally some being sold and sometimes more than one variety of similar root veg as we have a reasonable sized African community here.

I have been very busy recently as I signed up to train as a climate change champion or as it should be called a climate change awareness champion as I have no plans to champion climate change :)  This takes a day out a week plus homework and I'm busy doing all the normal things as well as trying to blitz our house so we can host a big family get together at Christmas.

I also have a new toy!  I have final succumbed to all the good reviews on the various preserving groups I'm on and got an Excalibur dehydrator and it is everything people say! I love it. I'm still in the trying things out stage but I am in awe of those people who run more than one of these things at a time, it takes a lot of prep to fill all 9 trays!  I have done several different types of apples friends have given me and it is interesting to see how the flavours differ both between apples and between the fresh and dried of the same apple. 

The Boys think fruit leathers particular apple/pear or banana are fantastic !

I have also been making a few preserves including one called compost jelly from the River Cottage Preserves book which is made from the peeling and cores of the apples I've dried along with orange skins from oranges I juiced !  Very nice it is as well, though my first batch hasn't set as well as I'd like so I'm trying to decide between using it as a syrup or reboiling to thicken it up !

On to the menu for the week.

Monday - lamb chops, peas, baked potatoes served with garlic egg flans from Gluten Free girl and Chef (watch here for a review later this week)

Tuesday - Class day unless it is called off because of the snow currently falling! So pasta and sauce (nice and simple probably just a pre-made tomato and basil sauce)

Wednesday - Bean casserole.

Thursday - I'm at a low carbon conference all day so again something simple - tomato and eggs

Friday -  Fish pie  (mixed fish and sweetcorn in a while sauce topped with mashed potato and oven baked)                                       
Baking - Thinking of trying a treacle tart but replacing the golden syrup with compost jelly syrup.

Pancake time


Star, giraffe,  treestump, spiral by Tom as well as broken egg and horn by Noddles

A few days ago Tom decided to have a go at some pancakes after I pointed him to the blog Jim's Pancakes.

All of these pancakes are made with a combination of plain batter and one coloured with chocolate milkshake powder !

I think he did pretty well for a first attempt!

Daring Donuts


The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.Lori did give us a link to a gluten free donut but having just picked up a bunch of pumpkins from a local farm I decided to just try the pumpkin donut recipe she gave us using Dove Farm's gluten free plain flour mix which is really very good at pretending to be wheat flour particularly in cakey, baking powder raised recipes and they have other mixes for other uses anyway.Lori found the pumpkin doughnuts are at Bon Appétit.I have put the recipe at the bottom of this posts as well.The pumpkin I used was a crown prince I think, it has a grey skin and a very very orange flesh. Really nice flavour when baked which I did before mashing it up for the recipe. We also had pumpkin risotto last night!Rather than rolling out shapes I made small balls and flattened disks, one big mouthful or a couple of nibbles and there were very nice indeed. I'm going to freeze some of the dough as the recipe does give you a fair size bowl full so we will see how it works after freezing later one. They did crack as they fried hence the slightly strange shapes but that didn't really matter and they tasted good, the spices and pumpkin were evident but subtle and the insides a noticeable rich orangey colour.Recipe Pumpkin Doughnuts: Preparation time:Hands on prep time - 15 minutesChilling time - 3 hoursCooking time - 10 minutesYield: About 24 doughnuts & 24 doughnut holesIngredientsAll Purpose Flour 3.5 cup / 840 ml / 490 gm / 17 ¼ ozBaking Powder 4 teaspoon / 20 ml / 24 gm / .85 ozTable Salt 1 teaspoon / 5 ml / 6 gm / .2 ozCinnamon, ground 1 teaspoon / 5 ml / 6 gm / .2 ozGinger, ground ½ teaspoon / 2.5 ml / 3 gm / .1 ozBaking Soda ½ teaspoon / 2.5 ml / 3 gm / .1 ozNutmeg, ground ¼ teaspoon / 1.25 ml / 1.5 gm / .05 ozCloves, ground 1/8 teaspoon / .6 ml / ¾ gm / .025 ozWhite Granulated Sugar 1 cup / 240 ml / 225 gm / 8 ozButter, Unsalted 3 Tablespoon / 45 ml / 42 gm / 1.5 ozEgg, Large 1Egg Yolk, Large 2Pure Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon / 5 mlButtermilk ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon / 135 ml /Pumpkin 1 cup / 240 ml / 285 gm / 10 oz (Canned pure pumpkin or fresh cooked and pureed pumpkin – DON’T use pumpkin pie mix!)Canola Oil DEPENDS on size of vessel you are frying in – you want THREE (3) inches of oil (can substitute any flavorless oil used for frying)Powdered Sugar Glaze: (I didn't do this bit)Powdered (Icing) Sugar 2 cup / 480 ml / 250 gm / 9 ozWhipping Cream (About 32% butter fat) 4 Tablespoon + more if needed / 60 mlDirections:Whisk together the first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until blended (the mixture will be grainy and not smooth). Beat in egg, then yolks and vanilla. Gradually beat in buttermilk; beat in pumpkin. Using rubber spatula, fold in dry ingredients in 4 additions, blending gently after each addition. Cover with plastic; chill 3 hours.Sprinkle 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with flour. Press out 1/3 of dough on floured surface to 1/2- to 2/3-inch (12 mm to 15 mm) thickness. Using 2 1/2-inch (65 mm) -diameter round cutter, cut out dough rounds. Arrange on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough in 2 more batches. Gather dough scraps. Press out dough and cut out more dough rounds until all dough is used.Using 1-inch (25 mm) diameter round cutter, cut out center of each dough round to make doughnuts and doughnut holes.Line 2 baking sheets with several layers of paper towels. Pour oil into large deep skillet to depth of 1 1/2 inches (40 mm). Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 365°F to 370°F (185°[...]

Autumn and sunshine


Mixed apple jelly

Autumn is definitely here, the trees are turning fantastic colours and starting to drop leaves in droves which is several weeks earlier than last year when I began to think the leaves would just gradually die on the trees and not give us any show at all ! We had a very wet and prolonged spring this year and so the summer growing season has seems very short. However the last few days have included some really quite hot spells so the sunshine isn't quite over yet !

I hope to use the next few weeks to get the allotment up to speed so come the spring we don't need to be doing lots prep to start planting with our clay soil we need to prepare in advance as it's to sticky to work when very wet!

The slugs eat all the winter brassicas I tried to plant but I have shallots, onions and garlic to put in to replace them and some broad beans and peas which can over winter as well. Plus various things that can be started in the greenhouse and coldframes.

For now though it is a season of using up as many apples as I can get for free ! I don't have apple trees that give me fruit as yet but several people I know do and I also know several places they grow on waste land so I really need to get out and grab some more while they are still available.

I do have some already which we have been eating fresh and I have made lovely apple jelly as you can see in the photo above. I have a few more jars but that was as many as I was risking carry outside so I could show you to glow through them! It is mixed apple jelly because it has four different types of apple in it including the few crab apples from our tree. I basically used all the apples that didn't look like they would last long plus some cooking apples.

This weeks theme from the celiac family blog for the gluten free menu swap is potatoes, something I will definitely use this week. We are still digging them from the allotment though we need to get the last ones up and stored before the ground gets to damp and cold.

So the menu

Monday - As I didn't do it last week. Braised Lamp shoulder with greens and Anya potatoes straight from the ground (very nice they were to)

Tuesday - Not sure Mum is coming to visit so it depends what we end up doing.

Wednesday -Potato bake. Potatoes layered with tomatoes (from our greenhouse) and covered in a egg and milk mix with a little cheese.

Thursday - Rice and Stuff. Basically our version of something similar to fried rice, rice with lots of bits added to it to make a one pot meal.

Friday -Dosas or salmon and veg if I fail to make the Dosa

Baking - Pear and raisin muffins, cheese scones.
Fermenting - I want to have a go at Dosas which includes fermenting the mix first. Make Sauerkraut and start a batch of ginger beer.  Can you tell I've finally got the book Wild Fermentation which I've been considering for ages :)  All these things I was planning to try anyway but it's just that extra push to do so.

October Unprocessed and this weeks menu.


Carrie over at Ginger Lemon Girl is joining in the October Unprocessed challenge and committing to at least one unprocessed meal a day. The challenge originates from Eating Rules who defined unprocessed as
"Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients."

Which doesn't mean you have to make everything from scratch but that everything you do eat should be possible to make in a home kitchen so no weird chemistry lab ingredients. So I will still buy things like sausage and pasta which I can make but can't be bothered when others can do it better for me!

The original challenge is to eat unprocessed for the whole month, now we don't eat that many processed foods anyway but I'm still not sure I can do none at all for a month or at least I'm not sure my boys would want to however committing to one meal a day seems very possible so that's what I'm going to do as well as taking a good look at what we all eat and if we can cut back on the bad and increase the good.

The other thing I want to concentrate on is different, quick, easy and not to brain taxing things for breakfast. I'm trying to stay away from the pre-made bread I still have a stash of as much as possible and currently cereal isn't appealing but I need something I can make with little enough effort I get round to it before lunch time ! Any suggestions very welcome.

So onto the menu for the week.  This weeks Gluten free menu swap is hosted by Celiacs in the House who has chosen brussels sprouts. These veg get a very split reaction in our house, some of us love them, others hate them. I sit rather in the middle, I don't hate them but I don't go out of my way to get them either. My attempts at growing them failed due to me not getting round to planting the baby plants out.. oh well next year ! We haven't had any in the veg box as yet either so any dishes involving them will have to wait a bit I'm afraid.

Monday - by special request fish and chips ie battered fish and chips, chipshop style, very much made from scratch.

Tuesday - Butternut squash risotto.

Wednesday - Sausage and mash with onion gravy, a good old British classic. The sausages are bought in but made with basic ingredients.

Thursday - pasta bake

Friday  - Braised Lamb shoulder, served with green veg and oven roast root veg.

Baking - cheese biscuits, some muffins for breakfast and lunch boxes
Processing - lots of free apples !  Apple butter, apple jelly (using the few crab apples from our tree and some cookers), dried apple rings and apple beer.

Daring Bakers do iced Sugar cookies


The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

She asked us to use a theme of what September means to us.  Well as I said in the last post September is when Noddles has his birthday parties and indeed when my own birthday is so it takes no guessing to work out I made football biscuits.

As well as the normal recipe Mandy gave us a bunch of alternatives and I decided to use the one from Gluten Free Girl. They worked out very well indeed and went down a storm with the small boys who came to the party.

I made two teams of players and a ref as well as a bunch of footballs. Sorry it's so short a post but check out the Daring Kitchen as all the many and wonderful different versions the Daring Bakers made will be up there shortly.

Menu - 20th to 25th Sept 2010 and birthdays


As you will see from the tickertape at the top of my blog Noddles was seven a month ago but over here that is at the same time as the August bank holiday which is one of our main national holidays and we have learnt his friends all tend to be away so we schedule his party for after school gets back. Therefore last weekend we had a football party !

 The cake was iced by Noddles himself with a little help and we have a football game between the girls and the boys with a adult ref ! For those americans in the audience that is real football or what you call soccer :)

For the cake I used this easy vanilla cake from BBC good food and just subbed in a gluten free flour mix, I didn't even add any Xanth gum or similar and it was great. Good texture and quite moist. Has lasted well too though Treestump feels the way to eat it is to lick the icing and jam off it and then try and pass off the actual cake to someone else !

 Blowing out the candles.. which made him jump as the additional ones were sparkler candles but they didn't really get going till he tried to blow them!

Today in contrast is my birthday which I am spending quietly at home waiting impatiently for my Kindle which I have treated myself with to turn up.. trouble is it isn't due to be delivered for a week or so yet which is a down side of buying the new hot product !

Now the next question is do I spend the rest of my birthday money on a dehydrator?

Anyway on to the menu which is late this week.
Oh I should also mention it is British Food fortnight so I may possibly have a few extra traditional British dishes this week such as Chip shop fish and chips and dumplings :)

Monday - boys had chicken dippers, smiley faces and peas, I had Dietary Specials sausage rolls instead of chicken dippers. I know not a great meal but the boys love chicken dippers !

Tuesday -Home made chip shop style Fish and chips cos I love then and it's my birthday :) Again very unhealthy but yar boo to that !

Wednesday - cauliflower cheese (which generally involves more vegs than just cauliflower)

Thursday - Chicken noodle soup

Friday - Nice big veg and bean stew - exact ingredients to be decided later ! Served with dumplings.

Baking - cheese scones and I am really tempted to try and make squashed fly biscuits otherwise known as Garibaldi biscuits.

Weekly menu - 6th Sept - 10th Sept


Beach huts at Hengistbury Head.
Taken on summer holiday.

This weeks Gluten Free Menu swap is being hosted over at Gluten Free Smiles who has chosen peaches as this weeks ingredient. As you will see below we tried a new dish last week using peaches and it was good enough to add to my list of dishes to do again. There are also reasonable priced fresh peaches available currently, possibly not actually cheap but they don't actually grow here or at least not outside walled gardens and the occasional other sheltered private house. If anyone grows them for sale in the UK I've never come across them. As a result they aren't something we eat much fresh but we do treat ourselves to a few punnets over the course of the season or nectarines which in some ways I like even more which we almost always eat straight or cut up with berries and cream. As a result we normally only cook with tinned peaches.

So on to the menu
Firstly what we actually had last week.
Monday  using up leftover mince
Tuesday - Lamb chops
 Wednesday -  Pork with peaches and black bean salsa, serve with rice. Quite liked this would do it again. Many people said they used a full tin of black beans and next time I probably will to.
Thursday - Sausage and potato wedges
Friday - Battered fish and boiled new potatoes from the allotment.  Slightly healthier than chips but spoilt but using the remaining batter to do battered mushrooms later that evening !

Rather more meat on there than I like to plan so this week is going to try and balance that out.

Monday - Beef stew (OK the balancing comes later in the week the beef needs using up I am actually planning to cook that Sunday night to eat Monday)

Tuesday - Potato bake (potatoes, egg, milk, onion, possibly a bit of bacon baked in the oven) served with greens.

Wednesday - Salmon stir-fry with noodles

Thursday - Tomato and eggs.

Friday - out and about all day so it will be a grab and run day. I will try and bake some easy to eat bits and pieces in advance.

Baking - cheese biscuits, apple muffins, banana bread.

Dinosaurs ate my tomatoes !


Exhibit one - the tomatoes.

As you can see there are clearly teeth marks on a couple of them. So Treestump who was hovering suspiciously around them was asked. "Are those your teeth marks in the tomatoes?"

Answer " No not my teethmarks !  Dinosaurs !!! "
So there you have it must be true my two and a half year old says so Dinosaurs ate my tomatoes !!

In more likely news I am ridiculously pleased with my baby parsnips which we will have roasted for tea possibly drizzed with honey. Why? Because they are the thinnings from the allotment and I have a good bunch more nicely growing bigger for later in the year. Parsnips are often difficult to get to grown and I have failed on many things growing wise but potatoes and parsnips it seems I can do !

Baby 'Snips, still muddy from the ground.
Also I have a lovely present from a friend.

A purple knife ! What could be better? Cuts nicely too and the cover fits very tightly meaning it could be taken camping and be both safe and unlikely to get it's edge ruined.

The Great British Bake Off


I don't normally post about TV cooking programs after all we have so many these days but I am really enjoying the Great British Bake Off. It is so well... British !  Baking is such a part of our culture and this program somehow has an element of the WI (women's institute) or country shows. I'm not sure why because neither of them normally have people actually doing the cooking but they do both have very good and competitive cake displays and competitions I suppose. One thing I'm very like about this program is they are much more reasonable and down to earth about giving out results, none of these long pauses and trying to out psych the contestants which has become to common in many competitive cooking programs.

You can find the program to watch here though I don't know if none Brits will be able to access the shows . I hope you can.

The program started with ten hopeful bakers from all walks of life and each program they do three baking sessions before the lowest ranked two are knocked out. We have had two episodes so far in both they have started with a signature dish ( week 1 cake, week 2 biscuits.. cookie for americans), then they have been given the ingredients but not instructions for a very classic British dish which they then needed to use their knowledge and skill to bake it correctly. Victoria sponge last week, then this week scones, both of which are in my image at the top.. Finally they had to bake a specific dish but using their own recipes.. so week 1 was chocolate cake for a celebration and this week was three petifores - meringues, macaroons and cho pasty.

There has been a huge variety of dishes even within those limited groupings and a good few historical titbits from the presenters and useful tips from the two judges. Mary Berry is a women famous for her cookbooks and baking and Paul Hollywood is a top flight baker and both have given some great tips for instance adding a little salt to egg before you use it as an egg wash as it breaks down the egg making it easier to spread and don't let it dribble down the side of a scone because it hardens and stops it rising.

Obviously most of the baking has gluten in it and I think anyone however good would struggle to compete with the contestants on most of the challenges if they did it gluten free but it would be fun to try and see how close we could get to most of them.

Next week is bread, which will be interesting but far less applicable to gluten  free cooking than cakes and biscuits as gluten free bread is just so different in technique and how the flour reacts.

So far I am planning to make a version of one of the cakes - chocolate brownie with meringue on top and see if I can use some of the tips on scones to improve my basic scone recipe. Some of the biscuit recipes sound really interesting too and the comments about how changing the balance between flour, fat and sugar effects the type of biscuit is worth remembering.

Weekly menu -30th Aug - 3rd Sept 2010


With luck my run of illness has finished and all  of a sudden we are nearly at the end of the school holidays !  I'm going to make a concerted effort to get back into some semblance of organisation and menu planning very much helps with that so here goes.

Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness is hosting the menu swap this week and has picked water melon. This isn't something that we eat much of as it doesn't really grow here but when we do get one it always goes down well.

So the plan this week is as follows, it is most quite easy and very British dishes this week. The weather is not brilliant of this time of year and as the evenings get darker I naturally turn to such dishes.

Monday (a Bank Holiday here) - using up leftover mince, probably served simply with new potatoes straight from the allotment and some other veg.

Tuesday - battered fish and chips.. I haven't had battered fish for ages and fish and chips is a British past-time but I can't go to the fish and chip shop like most people.

Wednesday - Trying this recipe for Pork with peaches and black bean salsa, serve with rice.

Thursday -  Veggy soup with cheese scones

Friday - Toad in the hole - sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter.

Book Review - The Fat Duck Cookbook


As I mentioned I've not been to well recently and so have ended up sitting far more than I would like. However that has meant I've had a chance to catch up on some "light" reading.I think I mentioned back along I got a couple of books by Heston Blumenthal for Christmas, well the bigger one as in real big tome is the Fat Duck Cookbook which is basically the cookbook of his restaurant but much more than that really. I have been fascinated by Heston since he started doing TV programs. The combination of showmanship, science, fantastic cooking and the idea of using all the senses is very appealing. I have loved watching his experiments even if they are obviously just the final set-up bit for the program. I'd love to be famous enough to be one of the guests on his shows ! I think a more sensible wish would be to have the cash to book a table at the Fat Duck and try the tasting menu. The website specifically states they will tailor the dishes for allergies if you ask when you book and  anyway many of the dishes are naturally safe for Celiacs.So what is the book like? Well even if you get the budget version I got it is physically HUGE I can't read it on my lap without a big cushion to prop it up, really sitting at a table is more sensible. However once you have licked the whole actually being able to read it problem it is a hugely fascinating book. The first 130 or so pages are about how he got into cooking and how his restaurant and cooking style developed and evolved. It seems very much written from the heart and he is obviously a man with a huge passion for what he does. I really love the fact that he has managed so much on basically just being really, really curious. He is neither a trained chef or a scientist but has managed to span both and convince many very eminent people he is worth working with in both fields.  He talks quite a lot about the many "truths" of cooking which just arn't really true or are true but for different reasons than we think and there were many things that had me noding and thinking yes of course while reading. Probably the biggest being the one he co-wrote a paper on which is that the middle bit of the tomato (the bit many chefs tell you to throw away) is the bit with most of the flavour. I never understood why I should be throwing that bit out as it was the bit I liked best and had the real tomato punch but it took someone like him to look at it analytically enough to work it out and go against traditional chef "wisdom". That isn't to say he throws out everything traditional far from it. He stresses time and time again that it is just as important as the science and newer things he does. I must admit he has me hankering after a kitchen that looks as much like a lab as anything but then it has never taken much for me to want to play with dry ice, liquid nitrogen and dehydrators ! Most of his recipes take days to do and have many many components but as he says in the run-up to the recipe section you don't have to do the whole thing, take a single sub-recipe and play with that, use it on it's own or with other things you already know how to do. Not all recipes need special equipment, though some obviously do, most do need a willingness to be organised and start preparing sometimes days in advance but if you are willing to do that they sound perfectly possible to do at home.I can honestly say that Heston makes me as fascinated as my mum's copy of Escoffier did when I was a teen. That book opened up a whole new way of looking at food for me use as I was to good but traditional English cooking. Esco[...]

Sorry for being AWOL


Not been much in the interesting food recently because I've had several weeks of what feels like reaction to gluten but i can't work out what from. This obviously means I've been rather safe and boring with my diet and one of the effects is very little energy. Then to top it all off I've had a bad case of Tonsillitis so no food at all for a good section of this last week !!  I hope normal service will resume currently but at the moment I'm not even managing Daring Kitchen Challenges.

I'm late. I'm late !!! - Daring cooks do Nut Butters


Opps missed the reveal date for Daring Cooks this month. Sorry!!Better late than never I hope.The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.Margie and Natashya challenged us to make some more un-usual nut butters and use them to cook. I loved the idea and planned to do more than  did but then ended up clearing out the freezer which limited what I was cooking rather. I will however be making more of my own nut butters from now on as it's is very easy and one of my boys quite likes the flavour of nuts but hates the texture so this is a great way to get more into his diet! With school holidays coming up I can see lots of nut flavoured cakes and things on the horizon. I have also just got a grain mill so am hoping to do a whole bunch of flours to try as well !Anyway to the challenge recipe I tried one of the our hosts they gave us which was Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing the recipe for which at the end of the post. I managed to fail slightly in that I had no ginger when I came to make the sauce.. something I always have in the fridge ! But even without the ginger it was still really nice. I really liked how simple it was to make and it reminded me to do more dishes with uncooked vegetables which is a good thing. I didn't have any shrimp so I cooked some bacon till crispy and used that. The vegs we had were carrot, cucumber, tomato and mushroom along with some cress for garnish which worked very well with the sauce.The Cashews made a great change from peanut which is the only nut I'd normally think to use in such things and I will definetly do using more different nuts in future.Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) DressingYield: 4 servingsRecipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and slivered carrots would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter. We tested the dressing with nut butters made from salted cashews & peanuts with good results.Ingredients:Cashew Butter:1 cup (240 ml) cashews*Cashew Dressing:½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) waterHot sauce to taste (optional)Noodle Salad:1/2 pound (225 g) linguine or thin rice noodles1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)Lime wedges (optional)Directions:Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)Prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend[...]

Weekly menu - 29th June 2010


 We are still trying to use up the contents of the freezer and the weather here in the UK has been pretty warm so to much cooking has not been high on the agenda. I have a big stash of gluten free bread rolls I got cheap so have been to a large extent been living on salad sandwiches with lots of mustard and cress which I have a really like of currently. I'm waiting on a bunch of seeds to turn up so I can try a whole range of micro salad which is really just the same as mustard and cress just different plants, basically sprouts allowed to grow so they have leaves as well.

This weeks ingredient for the gluten free menu swap was picked by Celiacs in the House and is cabbage. I must admit we mostly eat cabbage in the winter but I do like it cut up thin and fried with a bit of sugar in other words what Chinese takeaways here call crispy fried seaweed ! The recipe she has posted sounds very good as well and I may have to try more things like stuffed cabbage it sounds like a good plan to me.


Monday - roast chicken with boiled new potatoes direct from the allotment (the potatoes not the chicken, we haven't started keeping chickens yet though I would like to.)

Tuesday - Rice or pasta with chicken from Monday.

Wednesday - Hotdog sausages stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon served with creamed savoy cabbage from the IKEA a recipe a day cook book.

Thursday -see what is left to eat up and base something on that.

Friday - Tomato and Eggs.

Daring Bakers do Chocolate Pavlova


The June 2010 Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.This recipe is gluten free without any adaptions which is a really nice change from most Daring Bakers recipes. However Audax explained to us the difference between the recipe we were given and a traditional Australian Pavlova and his description of the meringue made me very much want to try his version. I have had pavlova a good few times, after all it can be the only dessert I can have at many places.. well that or icecream, however they are nearly always with fairly crispy meringue not the sort he described. The challenge recipe was much more like the ones I'm used to so I decided to use his way of doing it to see the difference. Audax said "Aussie pavlova has a very thin crust that is dry and crisp while the inside is soft and chewy like the lightest marshmallow you have tasted."  The difference is mainly in the cooking method.I made my meringues as individual portions using the sort of rings you use to shape rosties and so forth, like a big biscuit cutter though the pudding is so rich we ended up sharing one ! I didn't make the pouring sauce to go with it, well I started and made the custard a few days ago but then hot weather and grumpy kids meant I didn't get round to the rest and it went off :(  We are having very hot sapping weather currently, well for us anyway I know from some places it would just be average but us Brits don't do heat !I really liked the soft middle of the meringue and will certainly consider doing them again like this rather than the crisp meringue I'm more used to so thanks Audax for showing us the difference.. see his post for a look at what the inside of a big Aussie Pavlova looks like it's so different to a standard meringue !The mousse is fabulously rich and I still have lots in the fridge so do be aware the recipe below makes quite a lot. I don't believe it is possible to have to much chocolate mousse but if you only want enough to top a 3 egg pavlova you might want to cut the recipe in half! Recipe - Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone MousseChoc meringueInstructions are mostly Audax's adapted to make it chocolate as per the challenge recipe.To get crisp meringues as per the original recipe cook at 200º F (95º C) degrees for 2-3 hours and leave out the cornflour and cream of tartar.3 large egg whites½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar2 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch)Preheat oven to 200°C (395°F). Dust lightly with 1/2 teaspoon cornflour a sheet of baking paper place on a baking tray. Place a 8” (20cm) x 2.5" (60mm) springform cake tin without a bottom as a container to hold the whipped egg whites on the floured baking paper (This size form is for 6 egg whites so you would need a smaller one for the 3 egg whites this recipe is for. I use three smaller rings to get individual ones.)2. Using an electric mixer on the highest setting, beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a narrow deep bowl until soft peaks form (using a narrow deep bowl ensures the beaters are well into the whites and will build up the greatest volume). Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating const[...]

Weekly menu swap starting again


 A small but very fragrant posy from the allotment

It's been ages since I posted a weekly menu or participated in the Gluten Free Menu swap and while our food planning is better than it was I have noticed we are slipping a bit again on using things up at the right time and so on and so I am going to start again !

This weeks host is Gluten Free Goodness and she picked raspberries which we love. The ones on the allotment are just starting to colour so we might have a few this week if we get them before the birds or finally finish the fruit cage so we can cover them properly! It is very nearly done now.

I'm working through our freezer at the moment to clear it out so a) we eat the things that we never get round to and b) it can have a proper clean, these things need doing every now and then after all.
As a result the menu is based mostly on that and rather more meat based than I would normally do  as I try to do several vegetarian or very meal light meals every week but most of what we have left in the freezer to eat is meat now.

Monday - Pasta and mince

Tuesday - Omelets

Wednesday - Beef stew

Thursday - Fish pie

Friday - Roast Chicken with vegetable terrine

Daring Cooks - pate


I only seem to be doing posts for Daring bakers and cooks currently. I am going to try and get back into other posts I've just been busy so on the computer less and off actually doing things more which can't be a bad thing really.So on to the challenge !Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.The various recipes covered most options and we love pate here so I was determined to try at least one. The vegetarian version I've made before and in fact made several to help cater an event late last year so I decided to make the Three Spice Liver Pâté: adapted from Ravenous Couple, which was inspired by White on Rice Couple.I will copy the recipe below and like most pates it is really very simple to make.  I did make one or two adaptations. We dislike totally smooth pates so I kept back some of the pork belly and added it towards then end so it was roughly chopped not pureed smooth like the rest of the mix. The second adaptation was a mistake ! I totally forgot to add the egg but honestly it was great without it and still held together well which is very useful to know as we have a friend who can't have egg. I cooked the pate in several tiny loaf tins which made very good individual portions and I must admit we just eat the bacon with the pate.. never did get this whole discard the bacon lark it's the best bit.!A tiny loaf tin with sewing thread as a size gauge !The pate was really good and definitely a recipe to go in the keep file. I'm really sorry I didn't do a bread. I did have a plan of what to do but then we had a freezer incident and had to cook up and eat a lot of things all at once and that rather threw all my plans out. The pate got made mostly because i had just bought the liver when we realised there was a problem, instead I served it with salad, and home made chutney which was lovely. our coarse version -cos we prefer it this wayThree Spice Liver Pâté Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan1 lb / 454 grams pork liver (or beef or combination)1/2 lb / 227 grams ground pork1/2 lb / 227 grams pork fat (or pork belly)2 cloves garlic2 shallots1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk1/2 tsp / 2 ml cinnamon1/2 tsp / 2 ml coriander (ground or crushed)1/2 tsp / 2 ml cumin3/4 tsp / 3 ml salt1 tbps / 15 ml coarse freshly cracked peppercorns2 tbps / 30 ml cognac2 bay leaves1 package of baconPreheat oven to to 350ºF (180ºC).Cut liver and pork fat into small pieces and add to food processor. Add ground pork, garlic, shallots, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Grind until smooth.In mixing bowl, incorporate the meat and liver mixture with the cognac and eggs.Line bottom of baking or ceramic pan with overlapping pieces of bacon. Place a bay leaf on the bottom and then fill with meat/liver mixture. Cover top with another bay leaf and then overlapping pieces of bacon.Place in oven in the larger baking pan and add enough water to cover 2/3rds of the pan containing the meat/liver mixture. Bake for about 1-1.5 hrs.The pâté will contract and the juices will be on the bottom. Allow to cool and soak up the juices. Remove any excess bacon and discard the bay leaves.[...]