9 Feb 2012

I have moved...

I have jumped ship and started a brand new, sparkly site dedicated to gluten free eating.

Naturally Gluten Free will be packed with reviews of books and restaurants, interviews with gluten free champions, and taste test of gluten free foods. Come see us!

27 Nov 2011

Stir Up Sunday Christmas Pudding

I rather enjoy tradition. Even more so when it comes to Christmas. As children my brother and I expected to open our stocking on mums bed, eating posh chocolate biscuits for breakfast. Even at 18 years old. Nowadays, I am creating new ones for our little family. For example, Jack and I both LOVE chipolatas wrapped in bacon and feel they are lost alongside the turkey and trimmings. So last year decided to make a feature of them in the Christmas meal with our chipolata starter and dips to whet our appetite for the main event.

That's the beginning covered, but to end our meal this year, I wanted something we could all eat together. A rich fruit pudding that was free from wheat, barley, rye, oats, eggs and dairy is what's required. I can’t imagine creating a Christmas feast for we three and Oliver missing out on my favourite sweet treats - and his first Christmas lunch! So for the first year ever I have made a christmas pudding and it is gluten, egg and dairy free. Our family recipe is laced with stout, breadcrumbs and flour and really doesn’t lend itself to easy adaptation. Luckily I found a great base recipe via BBC Food website. In my usual style I supplemented some of the dried fruits for what I had in the cupboard and on sunday I steamed my pudding for hours after each member of the family had a stir. This new tradition in my home is based on the Christian ritual from the opening prayer for Advent. It called churchgoers to ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord‘  who then returned home to prepare for Advent with making puddings and mincemeat on what is now known as Stir Up Sunday.

I have to admit I didn't go to church. But I did stir things up a lot since I made my Christmas cake as well - also dairy, egg and gluten free. It now sits along side the maturing pudding waiting for its weekly glug of brandy.

Dairy, Egg and Gluten Free Christmas Pudding 
(based on the BBC Food recipe)

100g raisins 
100g sultanas 
50g cranberries
50g prunes chopped 
50g dried apricots chopped
25g dried mixed peel 
50g flaked almonds or, if you cannot eat nuts, sunflower seeds 
150g fresh pear, puréed in a food processor, with the skin on 
1 level teaspoon each of ground ginger and cinnamon
25g vegetable or meat suet
2 heaped tsp baking powder
100ml apple juice
50ml brandy
50g gram (chickpea) flour
50g rice flour

Mix all the dry ingredients together.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry fruit and mix well.
Fold in the flours very thoroughly
Spoon the mixture into a pudding basin and cover with 2 layers of greaseproof paper and secure with string or rubber band,
Put the basin in a deep pan, pour in water to halfway up the bowl, cover the pan tightly and simmer for 4-5 hours, checking the water level periodically.
Remove the basin and allow to cool. Replace the greaseproof paper and store in a cool larder.

To serve re-steam for 1-2 hours or microwave for 3-5 minutes.

21 Nov 2011

Bambuni Deli and Coffee Shop, Nunhead

Before I had my boy, we lived in the top of a victorian house between Nunhead and Peckham. Technically we were Queens Rd Peckham, but like some “borderline’ areas it depended who we were talking to as to where we admitted to living. I loved urban living though, being only 6 minutes on the train from London Bridge with direct access to Borough Market, Tate Modern and the lovely Monmouth Coffee. 

I used Monmouth at Borough Market like my local coffee shop. Extreme I know, but the establishments of East Dulwich were so inaccessible by public transport, that ten minutes door to door seemed reasonable. This is the logic of living in London I think? Anyway, we didn’t have a local cafe and Jack and I both LOVE coffee, so it was a good solution for the three years we lived there.

But had we stayed a little longer we would have had something within walking distance. Up on Evelina Rd in Nunhead, Bambuni has just opened. A cafe and deli stacked with well sourced products and running the seasonal coffees from Volcano, its a great addition to the independent Nunhead mix.

It’s quite a way from my new home in East Dulwich. However a brisk walk will be had to select from their range of Kent and Fraser gluten free biscuits, refill wine, olive and rapeseed oils, plus the scoop section of loose ingredients such as rice, ground nuts and popping corn (and for the gluten consumers there is a great selection of flour including 00). I love the lack of packaging with refilling bottles and loose food, plus of course the financial savings. Friendly staff make up a mean flat white so we can top up the caffeine levels for the return via Peckham Rye Park. It sounds like a nice way to do some rather boring food shopping. And I am always up for that.

17 Nov 2011

Temptation of Brockley Market

Me, back in the day at Acton Farmers Market
I am a stay at home mum. I am saying this out loud. It has taken some getting used to, but I am much more comfortable with how it sounds. My son recently turned one, and I am lucky not to have to return to work. It was always the plan, however my answer to the inevitable party question “what do you do for a living” fills me with dread. But, the up side to this (I am a half full kind of person) is that I get more time than most to potter around in the kitchen cooking things from my Cooking Project List and batch cooking family meals.

It isn’t the idyllic picture I paint though. Constant washing up, emptying the dishwasher, refilling the tupperware drawer that my little man has emptied for entertainment has a certain repetitiveness to it. But I am growing to enjoy this new rhythm. I spend a lot of time at home and locally then escape for precious me time at the weekend usually to a food market.

As a past employee and longtime customer of London Farmer’s Markets, I am extremely loyal. As one of their auditors I know how strict the standards are for stallholders and find the loose definitions of ‘local’ at some farmers markets only serve to confuse the already confused public. Where can you grow olives in the UK? But any weekend we are in London I love to take time out from being a mum and immerse myself amongst the stalls of seasonal goodness. This is a time I like to get my brain going thinking about what to eat in the week and choosing a seasonal application for my Cooking Project List.

Normally, I make a beeline for the heaving stands of Blackheath Farmers Markets, heading straight for staples from known stallholders. However I have been tempted away. A little closer to home over in Brockley a new food market has sprung up in Lewisham College car park. It’s closer and it’s on a saturday. I used to do my market shopping on a saturday back when I ran Acton farmers market and then spent most of the sunday cooking, braising and baking. It was my natural rhythm of the week. But there is no decent farmers market in South London at the start of the weekend so I have shifted my shopping and cooking to a sunday. But the temptation of a new bunch of food businesses to peruse closer to home excites me and so this weekend I am going to see what it’s like. I am expecting great things and hope to be roasting, baking and slow cooking for the rest of the week. As well as picking up the tupperware from the kitchen floor a few times too.

6 Nov 2011

The Cooking Project List

I am forever tearing recipes from magazines, scribbling them down from websites and bookmarking recipe books, adding to the already massive collection of things I want to cook. So, a while ago I decided to bring a little order to my cookery wish list and created the Cooking Project List.

The search for a gluten, egg and dairy free birthday cake for my sons first birthday was my first project. He has dairy and egg allergies and I am coeliac. Luckily, Daddy can eat whatever he likes. He is also at the mercy of my food fascinations and was chief free from cake taster (since he was the only one in the house who knows what real cake tastes like).

Luckily for Jack one of my more longstanding interests is meat. So project 2 was meat preservation including rillets, pate and duck confit from ’Hugh’s’ (obviously Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall!) meat bible. Jack didn’t protest at this tasting!

So, this is how the Cooking Project List currently stands. This is a hard edit, and suits my seasonal mood. It will evolve for sure as I move onto other food obsessions, but I will endeavor to update it here and hopefully I can gradually work through all those lovely recipes I have drooled over for so long.

Cooking Project List: Nov 2011
Corn Bread
Basmati spoon bread  (Phil Vickery’s GF Cookbook pg 44)
Potato farls
Polenta Traybake (Phil Vickery’s GF Cookbook pg 162)
Gluten, egg and dairy free Christmas cake
Gluten, egg and dairy free Christmas pudding
Beef brisket chilli (from Jamie Oliver's summer TV show)